Ahhh… Hawaii! Aloha and welcome to our 2018 visit to paradise. As a Canadian, it’s been difficult to justify visiting America while you-know-who is president. However, since Hawaii is really only part of the US because they forcibly overthrew the rightful Kingdom of Hawaii and how they didn’t vote for you-know-who in the last election, I feel slightly better about it.
Our stay was at the newly renovated Alohilani Resort in Waikiki. Previously, this used to be the Pacific Beach and is right across the street from Kuhio Beach (next to Waikiki Beach). We initially booked early in the year but only found out shortly before our visit that they had their grand opening the week before we arrived. There was apparently a lot of pomp and circumstance and Iron Chef Morimoto was there to open his two new Waikiki restaurants in the hotel (more on that later.
Arriving late in the night, there was practically no one around. They did a really nice job with their renovations. The front desk area has a large coral display which emulates a reef setting.
Just outside the entrance on Liliuokalani is a outdoor seating area meant for tourists waiting for their charter bus/taxi rides. The large and imposing columns have a stylish weaved wood pattern which feels like it pays homage to a simpler time.
When we visited, some of the shops had still not moved in yet so decorative touches were at a minimum.
Since we arrived so late in the night, we were originally planning on grabbing a quick bite at the nearby MAC 24/7. However, when exiting our hotel, we noticed that Momosan was still open. Located on the ground floor on the corner of Kalakaua and Liliuokalani, Momosan is one of Iron Chef Morimoto’s two new restaurants in Waikiki. A fairly casual setting which serves up delicious bowls of ramen and grilled kushikatsu, we took this opportunity to try them out. We liked it so much here that we wound up visiting 4 times in total. Make sure to check out our blog post on Momosan to check out the food we had there.
Heading back inside the Alohilani Resort, the O Bar area which has their 2-storey Oceanarium as a backdrop, was empty. This area is located between the taller Seascape Tower and the shorter Beachside Tower (the tower closer to the beach).
Also located between the two towers is their 5th floor saltwater infinity pool and deck. At night, the lights create a nice glow.
We happened to arrive in Waikiki on Mother’s Day weekend so we were a bit worried that it might be difficult to find a place to have a good breakfast. Opting for The Veranda at the Moana Surfrider, we wound up having their special Mother’s Day Brunch. On this visit, they were serving the brunch under the large Banyan tree in the adjoining Beach Bar.
No visit to Waikiki Beach would be complete without taking a picture of the “Duke” Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku statue. This cool crown flower was right outside our hotel and had an interesting alien look to it.
Heading back to our hotel, we took our first daytime look at the pool and patio area. It’s really gorgeous up here! The patio area has plenty of lounging areas (in addition to cabanas that you can rent) as well as a bar area. From the infinity pool, you can see the beach. I was surprised at how quiet and serene it was up here however I think that was because the resort had just opened and not everyone has heard about this place yet. While we had the place to ourselves on this morning, we’d later find out that it got busier later in the day and also when some conventions were being held here.
Infinity pool at the Alohilani Resort.
View of the beach from the 5th floor infinity pool.
Is it just me or does that cloud look like a donut?
Next to the infinity pool is a hot tub and a separate kiddie pool area.
Heading out to the nearby Ala Moana area, we came across some tropical flowers. The first was a peacock flower right outside the Ala Moana Center parking structure while the next was a dwarf bottlebrush right in front of Piggy Smalls in the Ward Village area.
On, did I mention Piggy Smalls? Yup, we came back here for a snack after visiting Hakubundo (a Japanese shop which sells those neat pens that you find in Japan).
Walking back to Ala Moana Center, we made a beeline to the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk (a unique dining area which houses a multitude of different Japanese food stalls) and grabbed some tasty tempura as a snack before heading back to our hotel.
Our room in the Beachside tower of the Alohilani Resort was nicely renovated. I was surprised that they only had a shower in the bathroom and no bathtub. The toilet was one of those fancy Japanese-style toilets (although not as nice as the ones we had when we were in Japan last year). The bathroom was fairly nice but I didn’t like the placement of the bathroom door and how it swung into the bathroom (a sliding door would have been less intrusive).
Our view of the ocean from our room.
We ate poke during our visit… a lot of poke. Coco Cove is a grocery/deli that’s located on Kalakaua and has a wide selection of poke dishes available. Perhaps not as good as some of the hole-in-the-wall places but it’s really convenient and the poke is good here (better than what you find in Vancouver).
For dinner, we decided to try Iron Chef Morimoto’s other restaurant in Waikiki, Morimoto Asia Waikiki. Located on the 2nd floor of our hotel, it’s a bit more upscale when compared with Momosan.
Our first sunset at the beach during this visit. The sun sets pretty quick in Hawaii and it’s usually hit-or-miss whether you’ll get a nice sunset since the clouds always seem to roll in at the end of the day.
The Moana Surfrider is a historic hotel in Waikiki which is often known as “The First Lady of Hawaii”. If you have nothing better to do in Waikiki, make sure to sit in the wooden rocking chairs located in the front of the hotel. It’s a great place to people watch and see all of the wedding parties taking pictures in front of the hotel. Tip: the wooden rocking chairs here aren’t really that comfortable… if you’re looking for better rocking chairs, head up to the second floor of the International Marketplace.
Breakfast on this day was at the Surf Lanai at the Royal Hawaiian. We had a lot of trouble finding this restaurant which is located in the back of the hotel. They’re known for their Pink Palace Pancakes and Royal Bake Shop Banana Bread French Toast.
A view of Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the distance.
The large Banyan Tree on Kalakaua has been cleaned up a bit since our last visit as many of the aerial roots have been cut back.
This large tree is the home to numerous birds which you can see take roost here. Nearby is the Waikiki Grass Shack Bistro. Since it was fairly close to our hotel, we were hoping to get some garlic shrimp here during our visit but the place never seemed like it was open.
There’s a small entrance to the Beachside tower of the Alohilani Resort on Kalakaua Avenue. We actually found it more convenient to enter through the attached ABC Store because it had a rear entrance which brought you right to the hotel elevators.
On this trip, we decided to walk southeast and check out the rest of the beaches past the Honolulu Zoo. Something about this scene reminds me of Baywatch.
Halfway between the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium is a large breakwater that you can walk out on. The area is home to a number of sea critters and we could see some Humuhumunukunukuapua`a (also known as reef triggerfish) as well as a sea eel hidden in the rocks.
Walking out on the breakwater, you can get a better look at Diamond Head.
Just further past the Waikiki Aquarium is the dilapidated War Memorial Natatorium. This place once housed a swimming pool but the whole area has been closed off for years.
After walking off some of our breakfast, we headed back towards Waikiki. There’s plenty of local flowers (such as this hibiscus) just growing on the side of the streets.
Along Kuhio Avenue, we came across a food truck area next to the Food Pantry. This turned out to be one of our best finds of our trip as it was unexpected and the garlic shrimp here turned out to be really good.
On our first visit here, we tried out Da Spot Health Foods and Juices. We were impressed with the shrimp here (along with the saffron rice) but the tomato-based sauce wasn’t really like the garlic shrimp that we were expecting.
More hibiscus along Kuhio Avenue.
On our last visit to Hawaii, they were just finishing up the new International Marketplace. When I heard that they opened up a Modo Hawaii in the Mitsuwa Marketplace on the 2nd floor, I knew that we would wind up coming here to try their mochi donuts. If you’ve never had mochi donuts before, believe me that you’ll fall in love with them. They are very similar to the mochi donuts that we had at Mister Donut in Japan.
Since Coco Cove was so conveniently located, we wound up grabbing some more poke before heading back to our hotel.
Right outside our hotel, there were some beautiful white Plumeria. These trees tend to be quite tall so you can’t see the flowers very well but we managed to find a short one which gave us a better view.
Another place that was on my radar for a while was Banan – a shop which sells soft serve made from bananas. Since our last trip to Hawaii, they opened up a more convenient location in the heart of Waikiki, along the beach access between the Outrigger Waikiki Beach and The Cheesecake Factory: Banan Waikiki Beach Shack
With all of the excitement of the Uncle Tetsu’s which was opening up in Metrotown while we were away, we decided to stop by the Uncle Tetsu’s located at the Royal Hawaiian Center. Loved how there was no lineup here and how they had honeydew cheesecake.
Where else but Hawaii could you find a bunch of orchids growing unceremoniously in a shopping mall?
The T Galleria by DFS is a popular shopping destination for tourists in Waikiki. We came here mainly for the food… you can get lots of free samples of Honolulu Cookie Company as well as Big Island Candies. I’m actually liking the shortbread and goodies that you can get at Big Island more and more (they also have a store in Ala Moana Center).
Maguro Brothers is a popular Japanese seafood place that has their main store in Chinatown. We were lucky enough that they recently reopened a small take-out shop in Waikiki. The poke and sashimi at Maguro Brothers is so good! But they don’t have any seating so you have to get your food to go. We wound up taking our food back to the little food truck area on Kuhio as they have plenty of covered picnic tables there.
And, of course, while we were there, we decided to try the garlic shrimp from Blue Water Shrimp and Seafood. This turned out to be the best garlic shrimp that we had on our trip this year (and we tried 5 different places, including the ones on the North Shore). I think we wound up having the garlic shrimp at Blue Water 3 times during our stay. Still missing this!
Later in the night, we headed back down to Momosan for some more casual eats. The food here, including the duck tacos, are so good.
While we’ve hiked up Diamond Head a few times in the past, we thought it would be nice to head up again on this visit. The hike isn’t very long and you can find some great views of Waikiki from the top of the crater.
Before you get to the trail head, however, you have to go through a narrow tunnel to get into the crater. As there are lots of large tour buses going through here, you need to pay close attention to the traffic (pedestrians walk on the very small edge of the tunnel that hugs the tunnel wall. Once through, it’s a short jaunt to the entrance gate (fee is $1 for walk–ins). After the obligatory picture of the marker, you start the trail on a short but well-paved path. Within no time, the paved path will give way to a dirt trail that leads up to a well-worn but uneven path carved into the inside of the crater.
When you reach the summit, take in a view of the inside of Diamond Head crater.
On the oceanside of the crater, you can see a small lighthouse as well as the houses that line the coast.
Up at the top of Diamond Head is a pillbox left over from the war where you can see a magnificent panorama view.
Although the hike up Diamond Head isn’t very tough, many people run into trouble. We lost count of how many times a chopper had to fly in to rescue someone from the trail. It was kind of exciting, however, to see the long-line rescues. During our short hike, I think we saw at least 4 rescues.
After returning down the crater, make sure you stop off for some shave ice at the bottom of the park… this was lilikoi and watermelon.
And check out some of the flowering plumeria behind the information center/washroom area.
On our way back from the hike, we decided to get some food. There’s a lot of great places along Kapahulu Avenue including traditional Hawaiian food at Da Ono Hawaiian Foods. This tiny hole-in-the-wall outlet is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. It was previously known simply as Ono Hawaiian Foods but they closed down last year and then reopened with the new name and updated interior (long gone are the countless pictures on the walls).
Speaking of hole-in-the-wall places along Kapahulu… there’s also Ono Seafood which serves up fresh poke. The menu is very limited but if you like Hawaiian poke, you’ve got to try them out.
Not too far away is long-standing Leonard’s Bakery where you can pick up some nifty malasadas (donuts). I prefer the ones with tropical fruit cream filling like guava and pineapple.
And since we were in the area, we also stopped by Da Hawaiian Poke Co which is another great poke shop. This one is easier to find as it’s right in front of the Safeway.
Afterwards, we headed for a quick pit stop at our hotel.
As it was a Tuesday, we were headed out to the Waikiki Farmers’ Market (which is located at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki) to pick up some fresh fruit. The lychee weren’t as good as the ones we had the previous year but the papaya was pretty good. We also grabbed some Mochi Ice Cream from Lawson Station to cool down from the warm weather (passionfruit, lychee, mango, and strawberry).
For dinner, we decided to try one of the many restaurants located on the top of the International Marketplace. Eating House 1849 is one of the restaurants by Roy Yamaguchi.
After dinner, you can relax and take in the atmosphere of the third floor of the International Marketplace. Heliconia (lobster claw) and bougainvillea.
We followed this up with another sunset at the beach.
The Alohilani had rotating nightly entertainment at the O Bar. Some of the performers were better than the others though. Sometimes, it’s just nice to chill out and relax to some Hawaiian music at night.
After retiring to our room for the night, we started to hear popping noise coming from outside. We took a look from our balcony and realized that there was an unplanned fireworks display right in front of our hotel. We quickly headed down and managed to catch the last bits of the fireworks display. No one (including the hotel staff) seemed to know why there were fireworks (the weekly fireworks display is held on Fridays at the Hilton Hawaiian Village). It was probably a private function that paid for it. Either way, it was a spectacular display and we were lucky to catch it.
We decided to rent a car on this trip so we could head out to some other parts of Oahu. But first, breakfast! The day started out okay but by the time we drove past the Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout, it was pouring – hard! We finally reached our first destination… Cinnamon’s in Kailua. We’ve been to their location in Waikiki before so we were looking forward to their Guava Chiffon Pancakes.
After breakfast, we headed to the nearby Valley of the Temples. fortunately, the rain let up but the dark and imposing clouds were still hanging around.
At the end of the cemetery is Byodo-In Temple which is a replica of a 900 year old Buddhist temple in Kyoto.
There’s quite a bit of wildlife at the temple including tons of large koi fish in the pond as well as some black swans that were gifted from Australia.
Inside the main structure is the stunning two-ton, seated Buddha statue.
Make sure you take time to ring the large bell as you enter the temple. There’s also some nice flowers here such as this gardenia.
Behind the temple, you can find a small waterfall (just watch out for all of the bugs).
This small white flower is a crape jasmine (pinwheel). We also noticed a lot of cats wandering about the temple grounds. There were a few sleeping cats that were “guarding” the bridge area.
Afterwards, we drove to nearby Kualoa Regional Park to take in the sights.
The imposing mountains here are part of the Koʻolau Range. A lot of movies were filmed at the other side of this ridge including Jurassic Park, Kong, and Godzilla.
From Kualoa Regional Park, you can make out the appropriately named yet politically incorrect Chinaman’s Hat (now known as Mokoli’i). After taking some pictures where we pretended to be wearing the “hat”, we left to visit some shrimp trucks on the North Shore.
First up was the overrated Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp. This rated at the bottom of our list this year as the small shrimp were overly salty and oily.
For my money, I much preferred Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck which is just a stone’s throw away from Giovanni’s. This was the best garlic shrimp (also garlic squid) that we had on the North Shore and was only behind Blue Water Shrimp and Seafood (which is located in Waikiki).
We had plans to stop by Romy’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp but were turned off at the hour-long wait at Romy’s so we just skipped this place. Seriously? An hour? What were they doing? Shrimp should only take a few minutes to cook so I’m not sure why the wait was so long.
Instead, we decided to stop at Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp. This turned out to be a good choice because the garlic shrimp here was pretty good. It seems like they have a lot of tour buses that stop here so we were lucky to arrive before the next bus came by.
One of the other great things about Fumi’s is that they had Dole Whip! You can see in the picture that people carve their names in the large leaves of the tree next to the picnic tables.
We spent a bit of time at Sunset Beach. The hot and fluffy sand at the beach here made it quite difficult to walk through as your feet sank in the scorching sand very easily.
Afterwards, we wanted to try and see some sea turtles so we drove to Laniakea Beach. This is the area where you have to park on the opposite side of the road and manage to cross the highway without getting run over. We did see a group of sea turtles here but there were way too many tourists which were scaring the turtles so they stayed away from the beach. Really wish that those tourists would give the turtles some more room.
Heading back into town, we stopped off for at the Honolulu Farmers’ Market in front of the Neal S. Blaisdell Center so we could find Mochi Lab. We first came across Mochi Lab a few years ago at the Waikiki Farmers’ Market but haven’t been able to revisit since then because our timing was never right. This place makes the best butter mochi cupcakes that I’ve ever had. Seen below is the lilikoi cheesecake, purple sweet potato, strawberry cheesecake, and matcha chantilly.
This farmers’ market has quite a number of food stalls so we grabbed a quick bite from Olay’s Thai Express at the Honolulu Farmers Market before heading back to our hotel.
We were just in time to catch the sunset view from the infinity pool at the Alohilani Resort.
And as if we didn’t eat enough on this day, we decided to stop off for some late night eats at Momosan.
Our following day started off with another attempt to visit the Nuʻuanu Pali Lookout (the intense rain kept us from getting out of the car the day before). The whipping wind here is intense. In some spots, you can feel as if you’re about to be swept up into the air.
We decided to take it easy today and went to Kailua Beach to enjoy some beach tine. I love the beach here as it’s less crowded than the beaches in Waikiki and the sand is so fine and smooth. It’s also firmly packed which makes it very easy to walk on.
Although the clouds were looking very ominous on our visit here, the rain stayed away for the most part.
I could get used to this.
We headed back towards Honolulu for a brief lunch at Young’s Fish Market. Similar to Da Ono Hawaiian Foods, Young’s mainly serves up traditional Hawaiian items such as laulau.
They’re actually located in the same industrial-looking mini mall as Kamehameha Bakery so we knew we wanted to pick up a couple of donuts from here. Unfortunately, they were all sold out of the poi glazed donuts by the time we visited (around noon). The donuts that we did try, however, were just as good.
Next on our stop was Lyon Arboretum which is in the upper end of Mānoa Valley. You have to drive through a lot of residential streets just to get here and, towards the end, there’s single-lane streets that makes you wonder if you’re heading in the right direction.
This yellow iris was in their parking lot and this bromeliad was near the entrance.
Upon entering the arboretum.
We saw this fiery spike (aphelandra aurantiaca) in a number of shady spots throughout the arboretum. Although the weather was quite sunny and hot when we first entered the arboretum, by the time we started to make our way up the trail to the waterfalls, it started to rain. We wound up taking shelter under some large plant leaves until the rain changed to a light shower.
Siam rose (etlingera corneri).
Indonesian wax ginger. Not sure what the purple flower was.
Pink ginger flower and white begonia.
At the end of our walk, we arrived at the small waterfall. There were lots of bugs here. I usually don’t get bitten but I must have been bitten at least 4 times.
Heliconia and lobster claws.
The one on the left reminds me of something that you might buy at a night market while the one on the right reminds me of birds (perhaps a heliconia)?
Gardenia and acanthaceae.
A young spiral ginger and pink flowering bananas.
Some type of magenta flower and a blue ginger flower.
Shrimp plant and an interesting thing that almost looked like a pineapple.
More hybrid rhododendron.
A view of the Manoa Valley.
Flower at the top of Inspiration Point and another picture of a blue ginger that’s started to open.
The flowering Talipot Palm and the Walking Buddha statue. Apparently, their 55-year old Talipot Palm (Corypha umbraculifera) was finally flowering. A native to India and Sri Lanka, these large palm trees are monocarpic which means they will only flower once in their lifetime and have the world’s largest inflorescence. Sad to say that these trees die soon after flowering and bearing fruit.
Jewel of Thailand and pink begonia.
Bees buzzing around the agapanthus (Lily of the Nile).
After our visit to the arboretum, we headed to Fresh Ahi Off The Boat to grab some food. They serve both Japanese food as well as having a make-your-own-poke-bowl option.
After returning our rental car, we decided to grab some dinner from Maguro Brothers. We picked up the Chirashi Combo with Spicy Ahi Mayo and then walked over to nearby Blue Water Shrimp and Seafood for some more delicious garlic shrimp.
We were initially hesitant to try the breakfast buffet at Lychee, located in our hotel, due to the price tag but I’m glad that we eventually tried them out.
The food here was well worth the price tag.
After our 2-day road trip, we were looking to relax a bit and decided to spend some more time at the infinity pool at the Alohilani Resort.
After a while, we decided to do some more exploring of Waikiki and walked over to Henry’s Place to pick up a POG Sorbet ($5.75) made with real passionfruit, orange, and guava and served in a styrofoam cup.
The Fort DeRussy area of Waikiki has some beautiful palm trees.
I heard that they recently opened a location of Tim Ho Wan in the Royal Hawaiian Center. This popular dim sum chain is well known because some of their locations have garnered a Michelin star… making it one of the cheapest Michelin star experience you can have. While I’ve never given Michelin stars any credence, the food here was pretty good and on par with most of the better dim sum places in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, back at the Alohilani Resort, we decided to spend some time at the patio area which adjoins the infinity pool.
This was a great place to spend a few hours watching the clouds fly by.
It wasn’t long after, however, that our hunger pangs showed up again so we went back to Modo Hawaii to pick up some more of their amazing mochi donuts.
No to mention some more of the poke from Coco Cove.
One of our favourite restaurants in Waikiki is Sansei Seafood Restaurant so we made a point to revisit.
As it’s located on the 3rd floor of the Marriot, you have a view of the sunset if you dine on their patio. Just make sure to make a reservation as this place fills up quickly.
Another sunset at the beach. The clouds were a bit darker this night but the crepuscular rays breaking through the clouds were cool.
Friday night fireworks at the Hawaiian Hilton Village. It’s a short display but fun nonetheless.
The following morning, we decided to revisit Eggs ‘n Things Waikiki Express since it was so close to our hotel. The blueberry pancakes topped with a mountain of whipped cream were amazing and you had a nice view of Kalakaua Avenue and the beach.
This was the entrance to the Beachside tower of the Alohilani Resort off of Kalakaua Avenue. Considering that opened up onto the main street, I would have thought that it would be a bit more substantial.
As this was our last day in Hawaii, we had to make sure to get in some more of our favourite foods… like the garlic shrimp at Blue Water Shrimp and Seafood.
Followed by some more Japanese cheesecake at Uncle Tetsu’s.
We also finally managed to see the fish feeding at the Oceanarium at the Alohilani.
One last view of from our hotel room.
It only seemed appropriate that Momosan Waikiki was both the first and last restaurant during this trip to Hawaii.
Last sunset… for now.