Friday, March 20, 2015

Aloha – Coming and Going – Reviews

Diamond Head from Waikiki
I have always enjoyed the Hawaiian Islands. I like the climate, the plants, the beach, the mountains, hiking, swimming, scuba diving, the food, the culture and the people. I’m comfortable spending the day in sandals, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts, with little to do but enjoy whatever comes along. But this trip to O’ahu was bittersweet. Perhaps it was the time of year or the amount of road construction, but I don’t remember that the traffic was ever as difficult as it was this trip. I also don’t remember the large numbers of homeless people (locals and foreign) nor the regularity with which we encountered the obviously habitually inebriated (either through drugs or alcohol); for the first time I did not feel particularly safe walking just a block off the tourist areas. The environment seemed tired (for want of a better word), with litter in the streets, along the beaches, and even in some of the out-of-the-way places we visited. The local population of all of the Hawaiian Islands continues to rise as does the tourist population; perhaps population stressors are finally having a visible effect. Would I return to this island? Yes, but only to visit the few places I have not seen and to eat at one or two favorite restaurants. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Where we stayed…
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The White Sands Hotel (431 Nohonani St, Honolulu, HI 96815, 808-954-7429) is not far from beaches, places to eat, and shopping. It’s an older property, but the rooms are clean
L to R: Bathroom, Twin room
and relatively large. We had a table, three chairs, a small refrigerator and a microwave. The bathroom was average size, but with little room to set anything, such as toiletries or hair brush. There were two trash cans, which was a plus, and plenty of facial tissue. Although there is parking onsite, it is $25 per 24 hours; across the street in a public lot you can park for $15 per 24 hours. Neither parking area is secure, so we opted for the public parking. Both of these lots are tiny, so your only parking option may be metered spaces, which are free between 9:00 PM and 7:00 AM, but an empty one may be several blocks away from the hotel. There is a nice pool area with plenty of tables and chairs. The internet is free and speedy, but only if you are in the lobby or pool areas. Their website is out of date; there is no internet in the room, free or otherwise. People at the desk are friendly, although rather uninformed about public transportation, tours, and nearby restaurants.

What we drove…

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We rented a car from Economy Car Rentals because they had the best rate. They were
New and old used cars
very good about changing the time we were to pick up the car, and made sure that we had a ride from the airport since their van didn’t run after a certain point. We were a bit surprised to see that the van delivered us to a used car lot. However, the gentleman who checked us in was happy to give us a smaller car and reduce the price. Everything was lovely until we drove the car; it was terribly out of alignment. We brought that car back the next day and got a different one. Before leaving the lot we asked to have air put in all four tires. It took a substantial amount of time to get this car (paperwork completed and tires inflated). A couple of days later, the car shifted into Park but wouldn’t shift into another gear. Over the phone, one of the gentlemen from the rental company told us how to fix this issue; we took that car back. Once we got to the lot, it shifted quite nicely, so they didn’t want to give us another car. While we were there, another group brought a car back because they had gotten a ticket for having a substantially out of date inspection sticker. So my advice is although these folks are nice, their cars are not maintained well. Rent from someone else.

What we did…

Wakiki Beach and surf boards
There’s a lot to do on O’ahu. You can spend your time at the beaches, visit a number of museums, wander through gardens, do all of these or none depending on your mood. Since I have trouble sitting still, I tend to spend the least time at the beach although I do enjoy having a meal and a cold drink while watching the waves lap against the shore. On this trip we certainly didn’t explore all of the sites that make O’ahu such an interesting place, but we did go to quite a number.

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Waimea Valley (59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa; 808-638-7766) is a wonderful garden with a lovely waterfall and swimming hole. There is an entry fee. (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

The USS Arizona Memorial (1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu; 808-422-3399), located at Pearl Harbor, is a must see stop. If you take time to read the information boards and watch the movie you get an in-depth understanding of the attack and its ramifications. Free (In ‘Honolulu Happenings’ blog)

Punchbowl Crater and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (2177 Puowaina Dr, Honolulu; 808-532-3720) is another historic site that should not be missed. Free (In ‘Honolulu Happenings’ blog)

 Byodo-In Temple (47-200 Kahekili Hwy, Kaneohe, HI; 808-239-8811) is a wonderful place to go for a peaceful, relaxing interlude. Inexpensive (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)
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The Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa (2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu; 808-949-4321) is my favorite ‘knock around’ place. I can spend hours looking at the sculpture, enjoying the gardens and animals, poking in and out of shops, and snacking my way through the restaurants. Free unless you park; parking is expensive (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)

Puʻu o Mahuka Heiau State Historic Site (see map) is off Pupukea Homestead Road from Kamehameha Highway 835 on the North Shore. Not only are the views of Waimea Bay and Waimea Valley wonderful, but you also get a sense of the way the ancient Hawaiians lived and worshiped. It is well worth the drive to enter a much less ‘touristy’ area. Free (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)

Nuʻuanu Pali overlook (off the Pali highway; see map) is beautiful. The winds can blow so hard that you think that you’ll come off the top. There are a couple of hiking areas that are interesting if it’s not too damp. You must pay for parking, but it’s reasonable. (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Mokoliʻi (viewed from Kualoa State Park, 49-479 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe) is also known as Chinaman's Hat. The small park is quite nice with a large parking area and plenty of places to have picnics. Free (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Koko Crater Botanical Garden (7491 Kokonani St, Honolulu; 808-522-7060) actually sits down inside the crater. There is nothing to eat or drink, so bring what you’d like to keep yourself hydrated.  Free (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Dole Plantation (64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa; 808-621-8408) has gardens, a train, a maze and shops. Parking is free; entrance to the grounds is also free with fees charged for specific activities. (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Diamond Head hike (off Diamond Head Road; see map) is great fun if you take your time. The views from the top are wonderful. Free (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu; 808-847-3511) is a complex of museums that will keep you entertained, while educating you, for most of the day. At the time we visited, there was not a place to get anything to eat so either bring your own food or plan to take a short trip to one of the nearby restaurants. Entry fee (In ‘Honolulu Happenings’ blog)
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The Royal Hawaiian Hotel (2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu; 808-923-7311) is probably the loveliest complexes in Honolulu that retains the feeling of 19th century Hawai’i. Free unless you park; parking is expensive (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)

The road around Tantalus crater (see map) is free to drive and a good way to get your trip started. It can take from an hour to several depending on how many times you stop to take pictures. Begin at the corner of Tantalus Drive and Krauss Street; follow Tantalus away from town and up the mountain. You’ll wind through residential areas, then find yourself on a steep road with numerous switch-backs once you enter Puu Ualakaa State Park. There are a couple of hiking trails within the park if you need to get out and stroll around for a few minutes. Tantalus eventually becomes Round Top Road. Round Top takes you down the other side of the crater, ending at Makiki Street. Free other than the cost of your rent car, gas, snacks, etc. (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)

Saints Peter and Paul Mission (59-810 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa; 808-637-4040) is a pretty little church; the big draw, however, is its proximity to Three Tables Beach and Waimea Bay. One of their fundraising activities is to provide parking, so take advantage of their lot. If they happen to have a festival going on, it’s also fun to sample homemade snacks. Inexpensive parking fee (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)
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The Queen Kapiʻolani statue is actually in the Sans Souci State Recreational Park off of Kalakaua Avenue (see map). The park is also a good place to wander around if you need a break from sun and sand. Free unless you park; parking is at meters (In ‘Honolulu Happenings’ blog)

The Moana Hotel and Waikiki Beach (2365 Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu; 808-922-3111) is a lovely hotel. The most interesting part is the historic second floor. It does open out onto Waikiki Beach. Depending on where you are on the beach, you may or may not be cheek and jowl with a bazillion of your closest friends. However, it is a beautiful place to watch the waves. Free unless you park; parking is expensive (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)

The Lāʻie Hawai’i Temple (55-600 Naniloa Loop Laie; 808-293-2427) has beautiful grounds. They also have a visitor center from which you can access family history files; people looking from genealogical information will find the service very helpful. If you’re here, anyway, take a quick drive to see the Hukilau Café (55-662 Wahinepee St, Laie; 808-293-8616) where Kekuku invented the steel guitar. Free (In the ‘Old Time O’ahu’ blog)

The King Kamehameha statue in front of Aliʻiolani Hale (King St., Honolulu; see map) is one of the ‘sights to see’ in Honolulu. There is parking in the area so you can actually stroll the Capitol grounds. Free unless you park; parking is at meters (In ‘Honolulu Happenings’ blog)

The Duke Kahanamoku statue (2424 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu) is on Waikiki beach and has the added draw of a webcam so that you can call your friends back home, letting them see what a wonderful time you are having. Free unless you park; parking is at meters (In ‘Honolulu Happenings’ blog)

Hālona Blowhole is about 13 miles from Honolulu on Highway 72 (see map). There is a very nice parking area that may or may not be full depending on whether the water is spouting high. Free (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Peacock Princess’ statue is on the edge of her estate in Waikiki (Kuhio Avenue, Honolulu; +1-800-464-2924 for Tourist Information; see map). If you are in the area, this is a very pretty statue and the plaque beneath it is quite informative. Free unless you park; parking is at meters (In ‘Honolulu Happenings’ blog)
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Kaneana (Maku) Cave (near Makua Beach about three miles (4.8 km) after Makaha and two miles (3.2 km) before Kaena Point State Park; see map). The cave is across the road from the beach; watch for the concrete road barrier in front of the cave. Parking is across the road. The cave doesn’t have much to it, but if you’re in the area, why not stop. Free (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Chinatown (1120 Maunakea St Ste 200, Honolulu; 808-524-3409) can be great fun, particularly during the Chinese New Year festivals. The Maunakea Market square is a bit difficult to find if you don’t know where you’re going.  Look for an opening between the vendors as you walk along Pauahi Street, or ask one of the locals just where to turn. We actually like this area better than Hilo Hattie’s. Free, but parking is at meters (In ‘The Vog and other Scenic Events’ blog)

Where we ate…
There are lots of places to eat on O’ahu, from walk-up stands on the beach to lovely
Harvesting Taro
restaurants with linen tablecloths and fine silver. While we still haven’t tried the shrimp stands that we vow we will try ‘next time’, we did visit some new places as well as three of our favorites. We generally look for local establishments rather than chains and, because of our locale, we wanted to eat fish or shellfish for most of our meals. 
Dave and Vince did try some of the traditional Hawaiian breakfasts while I stayed with more common fare.

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Uncle's Fish Market & Grill (1135 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu; 808-275-0063) is down near
Clockwise from top: Restaurant decor, chocolate cake,
Ono in mushroom-sherry sauce, Seafood Alfredo,
Fish and chips
the docks next door to NOAA but that doesn’t mean that it’s low class. This is a nicely decorated restaurant with happy, efficient staff who are willing to let you take your time enjoying your meal. Vince, still on the search for the best fish and chips in the world, had Today’s Fish and Chips that turned out to be ling cod, battered with panko, along with a plate of fries and a bowl of coleslaw. He said that the fish was outstanding; the fries were good, but still not the world’s best. Dave had Fresh Seafood Pasta; this is fish, shrimp, scallops and mushrooms in an Alfredo sauce. He’s still wondering how they managed to keep the shrimp and scallops from being over-cooked. The sauce was rich, but didn’t overwhelm the flavor of the seafood. I had the special: Ono (a.k.a. Wahoo) in a mushroom-sherry sauce with fresh steamed vegetables and rice; it was the best dish I ate this trip. The chocolate cake wasn’t overly sweet, allowing the flavor of the chocolate to dominate the dish; there was more than enough to share. This is one of the places we will visit again. There are several things on the menu we would like to try. The prices are good for the quality of food and service.

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Jameson’s by the Sea (62-540 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa; 808-637-4336) is literally across the bridge from Haleiwa Joe’s. Although the outside sitting area allows views of the
Top, L to R: Bacon-cheese burger, Chef's salad,
Taro bread
Bottom, L to R: Pub, Mushroom burger
street and part of the bay, it’s still nice to sit in the open air. This was one of the few times none of us had fish. Dave had a Bacon Cheese Burger with twice-fried potato wedges; Vince had the Mushroom Burger. They both waxed poetic about the freshness, the tasty bun, the high-quality meat and those crispy fried potatoes. I had the small Chef’s Salad which was altogether lovely, particularly with the purple Taro Bread that is slightly sweet. Jameson’s has a very nice bar area and a funky gift shop with traditional Hawaiian crafts, jewelry and clothing. Our waitress had a great sense of humor, as well as being efficient. The cost of a meal here isn’t out of line for the quality of ingredients and the setting.

I wanted to eat one of our evening meals in a place that was up-scale, so I chose the Blue Marlin (364 Seaside Avenue, Honolulu; 808-922-5552). We went by in the afternoon to take
Clockwise from top: Mahi Mahi, Clam Chowder,
Calamari, Ahi Tuna, Mango ice cream
a look at the menu and were warmly greeted by the bartender who told us a bit about the restaurant. When we came back for dinner, he made sure that we got at least two drinks at happy hour prices. He was also quite good at explaining the menu and giving us options. The menu is interesting in that the chef is pairing fish a variety of sauces, as well as providing items that are from off-island. We started with Kona Longboard battered calamari which was well prepared, but with the traditional marinara sauce. Dave had a bowl of Clam Chowder New England Style that was creamy with an excellent flavor and quite a few clams. Vince and I had Pan Seared Ahi Tuna that was perfectly prepared and literally melted in your mouth. I’m not at all sure what the white vegetable served with it was, but it was not offensive. Dave had Pan Fried Mahi Mahi that was also well prepared, with a good flavor and excellent texture. Vince and Dave had sauces that they said enhanced the flavor of the fish without over whelming it. Two things disappointed me: Dave’s Sweet Potato Fries never arrived, so we didn’t get to taste those and the chef could not or did not want to take the time to prepare a simple sauce without onions to go with my fish. How hard is it to make lemon butter sauce? For dessert we shared a scoop of mango ice cream with fruit. The ice cream had a rich, pungent flavor of mango and the berries selected to accompany it was fresh and sweet. Actually, I didn’t share much of this dessert. This place is expensive since you must purchase each dish separately, but I would return again because what we did eat was excellent. I would suggest that a touch of green for a garnish would relieve the white of the dishes and the vegetable on which the fish is served.

Haleiwa Joe’s (66-011 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa; 808-637-8005) is on the North Shore and is one of our go-to places for good food and time spent watching the water. Since we
Top: Fish sandwich
Bottom L to R: Ceviche, Luau Lumpia
were planning to have dinner that evening, we all decided that we’d have ‘something light’. I had the Luau Lumpia which is pork and taro leaf in a lumpia wrapper, fried and served with pineapple and sweet chili dipping sauce. This was exceptionally good and although it looked like a small serving was really quite filling. Vince had Island Ceviche Fresh. This dish is made from fish marinated in lime and cilantro, then topped with avocado and served with tortilla chips. Vince said it was okay, but lacked the pizzazz he expected from a ceviche dish. The Fish Sandwich uses lightly breaded and deep fried local fish that is with sundried tomato aioli and steak fries. Dave said that this was very good, particularly since the fish was fresh. The service was good, although this is a very busy place. The prices are a bit high, but the quality of food is good.

Aloha Tower Marketplace on the Honolulu Harbor is home to Gordon Biersch Brewery
Top: Fish and chips
Bottom L to R: Salmon, Seafood Cobb salad
(1 Aloha Tower Dr Ste 1123, Honolulu; 808-599-4877). Aloha Tower has changed considerably since the last time we visited. It’s been purchased by the University of Hawai’i; they are going to turn this area into student housing with a few restaurants and shops that. Those restaurants and shops will serve the general public as well as the students. We had a wonderful dinner sitting out on the deck watching the sun set. Dave had Beer-battered Fish and Chips; he said it well prepared with firm, fresh fish and very tasty coleslaw. Vince was thoroughly pleased with his Wild Alaskan Salmon and fresh asparagus; the salmon had no fishy odor or taste. The Seafood Cobb Salad that I chose was amazing, particularly because of the large amounts of crab and shrimp. Service was good; this isn’t a cheap place to eat, but you get what you pay for.

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Wailana Coffee House Cocktail Lounge (1860 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu; 808- 955-1764) has been around forever. Since it is near some of the large hotels, it’s always crowded with
Top: Corned Beef Hash and eggs
Bottom: French toast, Waffle
people looking to get good food for better prices that the hotels offer. We have yet to go there when there wasn’t at least a short line; most times the line will be out into the street. However, these folks know what they are doing and the line moves quickly. I think that the longest we’ve ever waited is about 15 minutes. The food is simple Hawaiian and good. Dave had corned beef hash topped with warmed bananas and eggs. He said it was all really good; the bite of banana I had was lovely. Vince had French toast with bacon and eggs; it also was good. However, his favorite part of this meal was the giant bottle of Tabasco sauce; he loves putting that on his eggs (and pretty much everything else). I had a crispy coconut waffle with coconut syrup; I wish I could find that syrup in Keller. The service is friendly and fast; the prices are very good.

The Seaside Bar and Grill (2256 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu; 808-922-8227) isn’t by the sea, nor
Top: Pancake sandwich, French toast
Bottom: Bacon and eggs, Coconut pancake
can you sit at their bar. However, this was our favorite place for breakfast. Service was fast and efficient, even if some of the staff were quirky; the prices were very good. We found this place the second day we were in Waikiki and returned to it almost every day after that. Vince and Dave both liked the Pancake and Egg Sandwich (eggs between two pancakes). The bacon and eggs breakfast was good, also, but you have to ask for wheat bread or you may get whatever the cook reaches for first; in this case it was plain white bread. Not bad, but I prefer wheat bread. Dave also had the Coconut Pancakes, which were not only covered with flakes of coconut, but served with coconut syrup ~ that syrup could be addictive. The French toast and the ‘regular pancakes’ were well prepared; all of these come with eggs and bacon. You can get Spam or Portuguese sausage rather than bacon. Dave tried the Spam and
L to R: Shrimp and Calamari, Mai Tai drinks
Vince liked the Portuguese sausage. Since they had $5.00 drinks at happy hour, we came in one night for drinks and appetizers. The drinks were full-sized, but the alcohol content was rather low. The appetizers, coconut shrimp and calamari, were very good and enough to serve as a main dish if you didn’t share. During breakfast we met a British couple who were visiting O’ahu for the first time since their honeymoon, 20 years ago. They had eaten at the Seaside then and were happily surprised to find it still in operation after all that time.

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One of the other places we had breakfast was away from Waikiki. Anna Miller’s (98-115
Top: Macadamia nut pancakes
Bottom: Portuguese sausage and eggs, Eggs Benedict
Kaonohi St, Aiea; 808-487-2421) is in a suburban area and evidently always has a breakfast crowd. We waited about 20 minutes before being called to our table. We had been waiting a while when the waitperson turned up. My macadamia nut pancakes were doughy with only a few nuts inside the cakes. However, Dave really liked his eggs Benedict with smoked salmon instead of Canadian bacon. Vince thoroughly enjoyed his Portuguese sausage and scrambled eggs. This was one of the busiest restaurants we were in and the service was slow and distracted; prices were high when compared to other places we’d eaten.

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Kenny’s Restaurant (1620 N School St, Honolulu; 808-841-0931) reminded me of a Denny’s. Located near the Bishop Museum, this is a nice enough place to drop in for lunch.
Top: Reuben sandwich
Bottom: Porky Boy sandwich 
We were there in the afternoon, around 2:30 PM, and the place was all but deserted. The waitresses were cleaning, re-stocking condiments, and getting ready for the dinner crowd; although they were friendly, service was very slow and not particularly attentive. Dave and I had Porky Boy sandwiches on standard buns with anemic looking lettuce and tomatoes. The pork appeared to be ham steaks that had been boiled, but were coated in a nicely flavored sauce. Neither of us was particularly pleased with our sandwiches, but the French fries were good. Vince had a Reuben sandwich with potato salad; he said that both were very good. He commented that the Reuben was made with traditional ingredients that had lots of flavor. It depends on what you order, but I thought the prices were too high for what we were served.

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The last time we were in Honolulu we ate at a Zippy’s Restaurant and thought it was pretty
Top: Restaurant
Bottom L to R: Spam and eggs,bacon and eggs
good. Much like a Denny’s, there was table service and a rather extensive breakfast menu. However, this time we were very disappointed. The Zippy’s (98 – 180 Kamehameha Hwy, Aiea; 808-483‑2510) we went to was actually in a food court in a mall. If we hadn’t been hungry we’d have walked out. Once we decided what we wanted we ordered from a young lady who didn’t quite get things right; that was okay, since the server didn’t quite get things right, either. When Dave went up to correct our order, the server was very surly. Vince and I had bacon, eggs and rice (lots of rice!). The food was what you’d expect in a food court – institutional. Dave had Spam, eggs and hash brown potatoes; his food had the same institutional flair. From their website, it appears that Zippy’s is moving away from a service model to a fast food model. If that is the case, we won’t be trying their restaurants, again.

Orchid and Ginger

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