It’s a long haul to get from the state of Alabama in the US to New Zealand. A great many hours on planes interspersed with a bit more sitting in airports. To make it considerably more enjoyable – and to see one of my most favorite people in the whole world – we stopped off in Hawaii.
We landed in Honolulu in the early afternoon, already beat from traveling. After just three flights, BHM → IAH → SAN → HNL, and an overnight layover in San Diego, we were ready to dive right into our transit vacation.
We decided to splurge and rent a car after reading that the Oahu public bus was not totally reliable. I found a very affordable rental place, A-1 or Economy rentals, depending who you ask. We hopped a 15 minute shuttle to the very off-airport location and happily headed off in the direction of our AirBnB in our cherry red Jetta, disappointing “The League” fans everywhere. Sorry Taco.
We settled into our room on the outskirts of the city and headed towards the tourist catch that is Waikiki. Overpriced, mediocre food and souvenir shops abound and Chinese, Japanese and American tourists slop it up. It doesn’t really feel like Hawaii unless you eat at some cheesy restaurant whose claim to fame is that it’s been around (and hasn’t been updated) since the 1960’s.
We landed on Duke’s, a well reviewed restaurant on the beach. Unsurprisingly, we were disappointed. The food was pricey and nothing special. The drinks were astronomical in price but delicious (especially considering we added a dark rum “floater” to each one). The worst part was probably being seated in the dining room, unable to enjoy the view. If you must go, I ABSOLUTELY suggest sitting on their beach patio. The patio menu is less expensive, albeit pub food, and you have the beach right in front of you.
After dinner we sat on Waikiki beach, enjoying the fact that we were in such a “famous” place, and relishing the fact that we knew we would never be there again.
This morning we got up with every intention of snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, but that plan got derailed early.
For breakfast we went to Blue Tree Cafe. Probably my favorite place we ate on Oahu. They have all these wonderful organic goodies: green juices, homemade almond milk lattes with local honey, açai bowls, vegan cookie dough balls, and more! SO DELICIOUS! We ate there and used their Wifi waiting for the Patagonia store to open because someone forgot his bathing suit when moving to the South Pacific in the summertime.
It was at the Patagonia store that we changed our plans. The store clerk mentioned that we should really get to the bay before 9am if we wanted to snorkel because the lot usually fills up by then. With our plan out the window, we headed East to Kailua beach. J tested out his new Mavic – footage to come! – and we spent some time in the water, just enjoying the views.
Lunch was another overpriced disappointment from a well-reviewed restaurant, Buzz’s. We have got to start listening to our instinct and avoid these places! After lunch, we drove along the coast a bit, but the weather started to turn ugly. We stumbled upon a movie theater, and ended up seeing Hidden Figures.
As we walked into the theater we passed an indoor glow-in-the-dark putt putt range. We have had a bit of a putt putt rivalry ever since the first time we played and I whooped his ass. Ever since then I have had misplaced confidence. I say misplaced, because I’m fairly certain I have lost every other game we’ve played. The game we played after the movie was no different. I lost by 3.
On our third day out we visited the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. This was Jason’s first time visiting, and my second. Still a very somber experience. It is a place that heeds great reverence.
On a side note, if you are visiting in the future, don’t type “Pearl Harbor” into Google Maps. It will take you to the active military base at least 30 minutes away from the USS Arizona Memorial, which is where you want to go. Not that we did that, or anything.
We spent most of the day at the memorial site. We arrived early enough to get into the 8:45a showing for the USS Arizona, consisting of a short documentary and boat ride to the memorial. Next stop, the USS Bowfin, the Balao-class submarine on view at the memorial that was launched exactly one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is an absolutely beautiful ship with all the brass polished to an immaculate shine.
After the submarine, we boarded a shuttle bus to take us across the bay to Ford Island where we boarded the USS Missouri battle ship. It was massive and I was quickly losing steam. There was so much to see, but I managed to rally interest at the spot where the documents declaring the Surrender of Japan in 1945 were signed.
We grabbed lunch at Nico’s on Pier 38. We had insanely fresh fish and a nice view of the water. Then we headed back into the vortex of tourism that is Waikiki to go to an ice cream shop recommended by my Mother-In-Law, Gina. Totally worth it. Lappert’s is a Hawaiian-based ice cream shop that has several locations and lots of flavors featuring Hawaiian produce, like coffee and macadamia nuts. I don’t remember the name of the flavor I got, probably something with a K. But it did have coffee and macadamia nuts and chocolate. It was delicious.
Still not totally adjusted to the time difference, we went back to the house to take a beat. Jason napped and I journaled. As I wrote about our time in Hawaii so far, I was reminded that up to this point, I had not been very impressed with our meals. I became determined to find a fantastic place to eat dinner.
I am conflicted about using the internet for travel research. It is a fantastic tool and it can create an absolutely wonderful experience. You can research every activity you do and restaurant you eat at and make sure every experience you have is guaranteed by the reviews of previous patrons. I feel like it takes the fun out travel, a bit. If I already know everything I am going to do, then I leave no space for spontaneity or finding that little hole-in-the-wall. On the other side, when I do leave it up to chance and am disappointed, I beat myself up for not preparing better. This is a dilemma I have frequently.
In this particular instance, I researched the shit out of it, and I am so glad I did. We ended up having dinner at this little bar/restaurant that serves the most amazing kimchi fried rice. Yes. KIMCHI FREID RICE! And really delicious pan-fried pork chops. And the portions were huge.If you are in Oahu, go to the Side Street Inn and order both of these dishes. Also, come hungry. We were able to bring enough back to the house for our dinner the next night. Score one for research.