Ahhh… Hawaii! More specifically – Oahu aka “The Gathering Place”. Oahu has been our go-to vacation to paradise for a number of years now (5th consecutive year in a row and 7th year overall).
Just last year, we stayed at the newly renovated Alohilani Resort (previously the Pacific Beach) in Waikiki and we actually wound up back at this hotel in 2019. One of the nicest things about this place is the beautiful lobby. Just like our visit a year ago, the front desk was fairly dead by the time we checked in.
Of course, the other stunning thing about this place is their 5th floor infinity pool. After being open for a year now, the hotel (and the pool area) is noticeably busier than on our first visit.
By the time we finished checking in and stowing away our stuff, it was almost midnight and we were looking for a snack so we dropped by Mac 24/7 for their Ahi Poke Stack. We’ve been here before and, although they market themselves as being open 24/7, they never have a full menu offering whenever we show up late at night.
The following morning, we stopped by the Alohilani pool area to check things out before our road trip. When this place is quiet, it’s very tranquil and enjoyable. Too bad they’re a victim of their own success.
They’ve installed some new murals at the Alohilani since the last time we were here. This one of a ghettoblaster is in a stairwell off the pool area. You wouldn’t really see it unless you were looking for it or if you saw it from your hotel balcony.
Infinity pool views with Waikiki Beach in the distance.
Palm trees and clouds from the Alohilani pool.
The view from our room in the Beachside tower plus the best shrimp chips ever. We came across Ono Giant Shrimp Chips years a few years ago and fell in love with them. So glad that you can find these chips in more places now (ABC Stores, Safeway, etc…).
Greetings from Hawaii! All I could think about when taking this pic was “don’t drop the phone – don’t drop the phone – don’t drop the phone”. You can find this large mural painted on the western size of the hotel but it’s best viewed from above.
After picking up our rental car, we headed out for breakfast at Liliha Bakery. Make sure you check out our blog post for a more detailed description of our meal here.
While we’ve been to Oahu many times in the past, one of the things that we’ve never done before is check out the leeward (west) side of the island. And to be honest, we really didn’t know much about this side of the island other than the fact that the Disney resort (Aulani) is located in the Ko Olina area. We briefly thought about trying to check out the famous Ko Olina lagoons but, after reading that there was virtually no public parking in the area, we decided to skip it and instead start our road trip at Kahe Point Beach.
Kahe Point Beach is located just north of the Ko Olina area and has some spectacular views of the surf pounding the rocky cliffs.
In the background, you can see the Hawaiian Electric Kahe Power Point stacks.
Looking north along the leeward coast.
Hawaiian Electric Beach – Just a little bit north is the appropriately named Hawaiian Electric Beach. This is a fairly small beach but it’s supposed to be known for the snorkeling in the area.
Kalaniana’ole Beach Park – About a 10 minute drive north and you’ll arrive at Kalaniana’ole Beach Park, also known as Nanakuli Beach. Unlike the earlier stops, this beach/park area is quite large and has picnic tables, a playground, and restroom facilities.
One thing that struck me was the different appearance of the mountain range on the leeward side. Created from the remains of an ancient shield volcano, the Waiʻanae Range has a distinctive eroded appearance which makes you almost forget that you’re in Hawaii.
They have a lovely sandy beach here and it was fairly quiet during our visit on a Monday.
Impressive mural on the back of the washroom facilities.
Keawaula Beach – Although there are many beaches along the leeward coast, we decided to head straight north to Keawaula Beach, also known as Yokohama Bay. A little further north is Ka’ena Point (the most northwesterly point of Oahu) but you have to hike up there and the road doesn’t connect to the North Shore due to the mountains. A lot of tourists don’t head up this far because it’s so remote.
In fact, along the 30 minute drive from Kalaniana’ole Beach Park, we started to feel a bit uncomfortable. There’s not many cars that head up this far north and we started to see more and more homeless encampments along the beach (I don’t really blame them… I wouldn’t mind waking up to the view of the Pacific Ocean). As we continued further north, we saw more and more abandoned and stripped vehicles along the roadside. It almost felt like we were driving through some post-apocalyptic world. However, we finally made it to the beach and it was captivating.
The beach is quite large and it’s nowhere nearly as crowded as the beaches in Waikiki.
The weather was perfectly sunny but there is no shade here so make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen and water.
If you look up along the Waiʻanae Range, you’ll notice the Ka’ena Point Satellite Tracking Station and the golf-ball shapped radones.
The thing about visiting Keawaula Beach is that it’s a long way back to civilization (guess that’s the appeal). After spending some time soaking in the rays, we decided we wanted to check out some parts in Central Oahu. The problem is there’s no quick route there so you’re basically back-peddling all the way.
Tamura’s Market Kilani – We had originally planned to check out Wahiawā Botanical Garden (basically smack dab in the middle of Oahu) but after the hour long drive from Keawaula Beach, we realized that the rain was just coming down too hard in Wahiawa. So things weren’t a complete loss, we stopped by Tamura’s Market for some poke. Make sure to check out our blog post about the poke here.
Garlic King Crab Poke and Tamura’s Special Ahi Poke.
After grabbing the poke and heading over to the outlet mall for a little last minute shopping, we decided to head back towards Waikiki but stopped off at Ala Moana Center. And, of course, the first place we headed to when we got there was to the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk. I’ve mentioned previously that this is an amazing food court at Ala Moana (actually separate from the regular food court) and has a near-endless number of stalls serving up a variety of Japanese delicacies.
What could be more Japanese than Hello Kitty? If you’re a fan of Hello Kitty, you might want to head over to Kulu Kulu Ala Moana where you can pick up some Hello Kitty shaped mini waffles (they actually have an outlet in the Royal Hawaiian Center in Waikiki).
We also grabbed a few tempura pieces from Tempura Fuji while we were here… squid, oyster, shrimp, veggie, and chicken.
And if you’ve never had it before, you should really stop by the Honolulu Juice Factory stand to try their Deep-Fried Sweet Potato. It has a crisp exterior but it’s light and chewy like mochi.
Since it was getting close to sunset time, we decided to walk out to nearby Magic Island as it’s known for having some good sunset views. Magic Island is a man-made peninsula adjacent to Ala Moana Beach Park.
Unfortunately for us, the sun was playing hide-and-seek behind some large clouds on this night.
When the sun did decide to reveal itself, it was sensational tho.
You can get a pretty unobstructed view of Diamond Head from Magic Island so this is a very popular spot for people looking to take that Instagram-worthy shot. Sure enough, there were plenty of bikini-clad women that were trying to strike various poses to capture that perfect golden hour pic.
The clouds above the buildings turned into cotton candy as the sun set.
Beautifully large tree with the sun setting behind it at Magic Island
Afterwards, we headed back to Ala Moana Center to get some dinner. On our visit last year, we came across this great food truck in the heart of Waikiki called Blue Water Shrimp. That food truck location isn’t around anymore but Blue Water Shrimp has opened up a stall at the Ala Moana Center food court. Make sure you try this place out as it’s one of the best garlic shrimp places in Waikiki (on par with the garlic shrimp you get at the North Shore).
Seriously, where else but Hawaii can you get food court food that tastes this good and is decorated with an orchid flower?
We ended our night with a visit to Momosan Waikiki. Since this is located right on the ground level of our hotel, this was a no-brainer. On our trip last year, we visited Momosan 4 times (they had just opened) and were captivated by their skewers.
We started with some non-alcoholic drinks… the Mint Yuzu Spritzer and the Momosan Blueberry Ice Tea along with the Zuke Maguro (marinated raw tuna) which is similar to poke.
Then we moved onto their Duck Fat French Fries. I know they don’t really look like fries due to the spirally shape but these are really good. They’re light and puffy and the slightest hint of a crisp on the outside but soft and tender on the inside. And no trip to Momosan would be complete without an order of skewers… Salmon Belly (so melt-in-your-mouth good), Chicken, Asparagus and Fatty Pork, and Duck.
The next morning, we were aiming to try and see the sunrise. The problem being is that, when you’re staying in Waikiki, it’s difficult to see the sunrise since the sun rises on the windward (east) side of the island. This means you have to drive out somewhere to get a good view. And morning rush hour traffic doesn’t appeal to me. Not to mention the fact that you have to get up fairly early in the morning and spend at least 30-60 minutes driving somewhere. As it turns out, we didn’t really wake up very early so we decided to try going somewhere close.
Lanai Lookout is pretty close to Waikiki (about a 20 minute drive) and just past Hanauma Bay. It’s just a small pull-off from the highway.
We probably missed the sun rising by about 30 minutes but it was still a sight to behold the large, shiny, yellow orb hanging above the Pacific.
There’s some interesting stratification in the rocks in this area (probably due to erosion from the waves and wind).
Found this little hole in the wall which framed the rising sun perfectly.
The morning sun reflecting off the Koko Head crater was pretty. There’s a hike that you can take up Koko Head which can give you a really nice view but it’s a rather steep climb up some railroad ties (and sounds a bit dangerous in the dark… especially for people that are as clumsy as us).
Just 3 minutes down Kalaniana’ole Hwy, you’ll find Halona Beach Cove which was famously depicted in the 1953 film, From Here to Eternity.
In the morning time, it’s fairly quiet but it is rather popular and gets crowded later in the day. There’s no real path down to the beach so you have to hike down the rocks from the highway if you want to check it out.
Right next to “Eternity Beach” is Halona Blow Hole. The waves weren’t very strong on this morning so the water jetting out of the lava tube wasn’t too spectacular. The sun, on the other hand, was quite beautiful.
In the distance, you can see our next destination…
Sandy Beach Park is known for… having a very sandy beach. Well, what did you think (I mean, it’s right in the name)?
Koko Crater in the background.
This was one of our favourite visits on this trip. Sandy Beach was fairly quiet in the morning and the beach had super soft sand.
Sandy Beach is also known for having some serious shore breaks so you’ll find people bodysurfing here.
Further up the beach, you can see some black lava rock which creates little tide pools along the shore.
While they have some lifeguard stations here, they weren’t stationed when we visited so I took the opportunity to play Bay Watch… just missing the red can.
A bigger view of the black lava rock.
After chilling on the beach, we continued on our road trip. Just past Makapu’u Point, which has a very scenic hike that we’ve done previously, there’s a pull off for Makapu’u Beach.
From here, you’ve got a view of Rabbit Island as well as the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse on the cliff.
You really need to look closely to see Makapu’u Lighthouse in this pic. You can see a much better view of the lighthouse if you take the paved trail up to Makapu’u Point.
Looking for some breakfast, we headed over to Koa Pancake House in Kaneohe. This particular location was a bit difficult to find. It’s located in a semi-industrial area and the name on the signage says “Kaneohe Pancake House” so we weren’t sure if this was the right place or not. There’s also not a lot of parking in the area – all of the street parking was packed (probably from all of the people working in the area).
The interior had an old school vibe going on but not entirely sketchy. Expect to find classic breakfast items here.
We wound up ordering a Short Stack of Chocolate Chip Pancakes ($8.95), Turkey Sandwich ($9.50), and Pork Links ($5.95).
These were pretty good pancakes… large and fluffy with lots of chocolate chips in them.
After our hearty breakfast, our next stop was Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. I first heard about this place after seeing some stunning pictures on Instagram.
The entrance to the Hoʻomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu, with the backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountain Range, is the shot that everyone seems to come here for. The gardens and the 32-acre freshwater lake were built in 1981 with a large earthfill dam for flood protection of the Kāneʻohe area after massive floods devastated the homes located there in 1965 and 1969. I had heard that the guard that’s stationed at the front gate will discourage you from stopping and taking a picture at the entrance (party poopers!) but he seemed to be busy talking to someone else on our visit so we were able to take a quick pic at the entrance. As you can see in the pic below, they’ve added some yellow cones on the side of the road for some reason (maybe to piss people off when taking pics). They do detract a bit from the natural beauty of the mountains.
This is a rather large botanical garden (approx 400 acres) so you really need a car to get around the area. The gardens are split up into different collections (ie. Hawaii, India, Africa, etc…) where you can see different plantings based on the various themes. Each section is well-marked and has a parking lot so it’s easiest to just drive from one section to the next.
The first stop is the access to the man-made lake and the visitor centre. During our visit, it was really quiet and not many other people around. I think one of the reasons it’s not overly popular is because, despite the size of the gardens, there really weren’t that many flowers in bloom during our visit. Perhaps we showed up at the wrong time of the year. It’s a nice, peaceful garden with lots of picnic tables as well as bathroom facilities so it seemed very underutilized.
If you get closer to the lake, you can see the large koi that live in the lake. They also have numerous feathered fowls that you can find along the lake shore.
Okay, the thing to know about these gardens is that it’s a drive-in/drive-out kind of place. Once you reach the very end of the gardens, you’ll reach a dead-end where you’ll need to turn you car around to head back out the same way you entered. But take a moment at the end because you’ll have another chance to see the backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountain Range in front of you. If you’re looking for a botanical garden with more flowers to look at, I’d suggest Lyon Arboretum.
After our visit to the gardens, we decided to head up to the North Shore to get some garlic shrimp. There’s lots of stands along the North Shore where you can find garlic shrimp (and there are more and more non-shrimp food trucks as well). One of our favourites is Famous Kahuku Shrimp which is just past Giovanni’s (personally, I find Giovanni’s overrated and overly salty).
We were a bit disappointed that the Penny’s Malasadas truck (which was next to Famous) wasn’t open 😦
The Garlic Shrimp here is $12 for the plate and comes with the requisite rice and mac salad. If you get a chance, try out their garlic squid (you can get a plate of half garlic shrimp and half garlic squid). We had it when we visited the previous year and it was quite good.
Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp is just a minute away from Famous Kahuku Shrimp and is well known for having large covered picnic tables which makes it the perfect spot for tour groups to stop by.
The Butter Garlic Shrimp ($14) here is pretty good (not as garlicky as Famous) plus they also have Dole Whip. The main problem with this place is that it’s super popular with tour groups (some of which order aread of time) so if you wind up coming in at the same time as a tour group, you might be in for a wait.
One of the popular free spots to see turtles is at Laniakea Beach. Of course, it’s way too busy here with all of the tourists. It’s really just a tiny patch of beach here with all of the cars parked across the busy highway in an unpaved, makeshift parking lot. Traffic pretty much grinds to a halt in this area as cars and pedestrians scurry across the highway.
Something that I noticed is that the weather in this one spot always seems overcast and threatening to drizzle when we visit here. The weather could be bright and sunny 10 minutes away, but once we get to Laniakea Beach, it’s always a bit gloomy. Perhaps it’s a coincidence or maybe that’s what draws the turtles here.
Okay, here’s the thing to anyone out in the big, vast, interweb who’s reading this… “DON’T TOUCH THE TURTLES!!!” That means YOU! Seriously, keep your distance and don’t be a jerk. There was some stupid tourist who walked right up to one (looking like a idiot) and started to pick it up. Nevermind the fact that it’s illegal to disturb or harm these creatures… it’s just a dick move. Nobody thinks you’re funny. Women won’t find you attractive for being an a**hole. Don’t be a dick!
Actually, this small, rocky beach would be kind of nice… if there weren’t so many tourists.
After our road trip, we finally made it back to our hotel. Up until now, we really haven’t spent much time here so this was actually the first time we got to see the view from our 12th floor room during the day.
From our balcony, it looked like they were busy building an extension to their pool and lounge area.
Waikiki Beach, although busy, makes for some pretty sunsets.
I know it’s easy to be mesmerized by the large, glowing orb in front of you… but make sure to turn around and see how beautiful the palm trees bask in the golden hour.
Silhouettes for days…
We’ve been fans of Uncle Tetsu in the Royal Hawaiian Center ever since we first tried them years ago. I know we have one back home now (in Metropolis at Metrotown located in Burnaby) but I’m not crazy enough to lineup for hours… There’s usually no lineup at this Uncle Tetsu and they usually have some different flavours that you can’t get elsewhere.
On this visit, we tried some of their mochi donuts… I have to say that I wasn’t really impressed with these as they pale in comparison to the ones at MoDo. Still, the cheesecake here is super.
Of course, no day in Hawaii would be complete without some poke.
The great thing is that you don’t even have to go far to get poke here… we picked up a half pound each of Limu, Californian, and Hawaiian poke from Coco Cove. I’ve noticed, especially on this visit this year, that there seems to be a ton more tourists in Waikiki. There was a huge lineup of Japanese tourists trying to order poke here… Guess I can’t blame them… but it’s not as enjoyable now with so many crowds.
On our way back to our hotel, we decided to hit up Momosan again. This time ordering the Tetsunabe Pork and Chive Gyoza ($12) with ginger scallion sauce, Kauai Kushiyaki Shrimp ($4.50) and Salmon Toro ($5).
If you come to Momosan, make sure you try out their gyoza and salmon belly.
On our previous 6 visits to Oahu, we were never in town for Lei Day (held on May 1st of each year). So we were looking forward to this visit since we were going to be able to catch their 92nd annual celebration. This year, Lei Day was held at Kapi’olani Regional Park which is right next to the Honolulu Zoo.
Opening ceremonies at Lei Day.
Nice little photo op with Diamond Head in the background..
We decided to take advantage of the lei making courses that they had at the Alohilani. The first was the Haku Lei which is worn on the head. This isn’t the first time that we’ve made leis before… we’ve made them from shells and the usual orchid flowers. We even made them from ti leaves which, until this day, I thought was the hardest. But the Haku Lei was really difficult (well, at least for me). I still have phantom finger cramps thinking about how long it took to make these and how much dexterity is needed.
While my fingers were healing, we headed to Momosan to grab some lunch. When we were here last year, they weren’t open for lunch service. This is a nice location for lunch as it’s right across the street from the beach.
Unfortunately, they don’t do their grilled skewers during the lunch service (which is their best items). We wound up ordering their Lunch Set ($19) which includes your choice of a small bowl of ramen (I picked tonkotsu), small donburi, and pickled veggies. I added the steamed gyoza for an additional $4. The tonkotsu ramen comes with pork chashu, aji-tama (soy marinated egg), takana (mustard greens), kikurage (wood ear mushrooms, scallions, toasted nori, garlic oil and soy. Overall, I found the broth to be on the salty side. Meanwhile, the gyudon was much better with thinly shaved beef marinated in a sweet soy sauce.
The Teishoku Lunch Set ($19) included Hoisin Glazed Sticky Ribs which were fall-off-the-bone tender, mashed potatoes, gyoza, and a bowl of hot and sour soup.
These were some of the leis that were on display at the hotel during Lei Day. They were holding a contest but we never found out who won.
Still feeling a bit peckish, we headed over to the International Marketplace and went straight to Modo which is located on the 2nd floor at the very back of the Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace.
Trust me when I say that you’ll want to get some of these mochi donuts. They’re similar to the pon de ring donuts we’ve had at Mr. Donut in Japan and they have amazing flavours. These were their Blueberry and Black Sesame Mochi Donuts. Each bite is so light and airy but still a bit chewy.
We also had to pick up some Mochi Ice Cream from Coco Cove. You can find these at a few locations around Waikiki such as Lawson Station and Coco Cove (they have a large selection of flavours) but if you’re around the Koko Marina Center area, check out Bubbies which is pretty much a mecca for ice cream mochi.
It must have been all the yummy food because I blocked out the pain in my fingers from making the haku leis earlier in the day and we headed back to the Alohilani for the next lei making session.
This time around, we were making Ilima Yarn Leis. Relatively easy compared to the haku leis but my fingers did cramp up again.
We first came across d.k steakhouse about 4 years ago. It’s located on the 3rd floor of the Waikiki Beach Marriott and is the sister restaurant of Sansei (which is a great seafood restaurant).
Arriving a bit before 6pm, we managed to score a seat on their patio which overlooks Waikiki Beach. A few things to note about the patio is that it can get a bit hot out here but the view of the sunset is worth it. Also, the palm trees have grown so the view of the beach is partially obscured depending on where you sit.
We started by sipping some drinks… the Strawberry Yuzu Pop ($14.5) made with strawberries, lychee, lime sour, simple syrup, yuzu citrus and Ty Ku soji as well as the Hibiscus Lemonade ($6). To tide us over until our dinner arrived, they brought out some complimentary crusty bread with an amazing garlic aioli butter made with tarragon and a bit of cayenne pepper. I could eat this all day!.
The Shrimp Scampi Tenderloin comes with an 8oz filet mignon tenderloin and plump jumbo shrimp.
On a previous visit, I had their 30-day dry aged rib eye steak and it was the best steak that I’ve ever had. On this visit, they had a special offering of 60-Day Dry Aged Rib Eye ($65) so I went for it. It’s much leaner than the 30-day dry aged (to be expected) so they accompany it with foie gras butter to add back some of that fatty goodness. This is a thick-cut steak and it has a more intense flavour but the leaner meat almost has a jerky-like texture. it’s definitely something that’s an acquired taste. I’m glad that I tried it but I might just stick to the 15 or 30-day dry aged steak next time.
After our meal, we enjoyed the sun setting from the patio.
Twilight doesn’t last long in Hawaii due to the proximity to the equator but it sure does make for a nice atmosphere.
A few years ago, we came across Cinnamon’s at the ‘Ilikai and their amazing breakfast dishes. Last year, we checked out their location in Kailua but we still prefer the location at the ‘Ilikai hotel in Waikiki. If you sit at the bar seating in the back, you get a nice view of the Ala Wai Boat Harbour while you enjoy your breakfast.
And this is what breakfast is all about here… their famous Guava Chiffon Pancakes! Normally, I’m not much of a pancake fan (I prefer waffles over pancakes), but these fluffy pancakes are amazing and shouldn’t be missed. This is actually their short 2 stack ($9.25) and it’s so filling but so worth it.
Another thing to check out here is their country-style tots… super crispy! I know it might not sound that exciting, but these are the best tater tots I’ve had. What you see here is the Kalua Pork Benedict ($12.50 for 1) plus a spinach and tomato super combo ($3.25). While you can 2 bennys on your dish, I like that you have the option for a smaller portion… it gives you room to add the pancakes! That perfectly poached egg with a runny yolk!
As I mentioned, you have a view of the Ala Wai Boat Harbour from the restaurant and it makes for a nice walkabout after your meal. I’m a big fan of Gilligan’s Island so it’s neat seeing the harbour which was where the S. S. Minnow launched from in the opening credits.
Along the walk from Cinnamon’s to the Hilton Hawaiian Rainbow Tower, we cam across this Bougainvillea.
The iconic Hilton Hawaiian Rainbow Tower which you’re sure to see in any movie or tv show that’s based in Hawaii. The lagoon and Diamond Head in the background make for the perfect shot.
After breakfast, we walked over to Ala Moana Center (It’s a relatively short walk from Cinnamon’s – just past the Ala Wai Canal). We were pleasantly surprised to find a Moonmin shop here. We first came across the cute Finnish characters when we visited Japan a few years ago.
Since we were at Ala Moana, we figured we might as well grab some more fabulous garlic shrimp from Blue Water Shrimp in the food court. This time, we ordered the Seafood Combo and added a small order of garlic shrimp. OMG, there was so much seafood in this combo… clams, mussels, shrimp, squid, crab, salmon, mahi mahi…
After a bit of shopping, we took the bus ($2.75 one-way or $5.50 for an all-day pass) to Ono Seafood. This place epitomises the hole-in-the-wall poke shops that you can find in Hawaii.
Originally, we only ordered the Hawaiian Ahi and Ono Shoyu Ahi but we later went back in to grab some Miso Ahi as well. If you’re feeling a bit hungry, you can also get the poke on a big serving of rice (which is good to soak up all that yummy sauce).
There are a few different farmers markets that you can visit in Oahu but the Waikiki Farmers Market held every Tuesday and Thursdays at the Hyatt Regency from 4-8pm is probably the most easily accessible if you’re staying in Waikiki. Countless vendors fill the street-level inner courtyard of the Hyatt and you can pick up lots of freshly baked products as well as fresh fruit (such as these mangoes and papaya).
The infinity pool of the Alohilani can make a nice place to check out the sunsetting over Waikiki Beach. Unfortunately, the clouds weren’t cooperating with us during this visit. Plus, as I’ve mentioned previously, this place has gotten super busy since our initial visit the previous year.
The good thing about checking out the sunset at the Alohilani is that it’s a quick skip away from having dinner at Morimoto Asia. We first checked them out during their grand opening and one of the dishes that we kicked ourselves for not trying was Chef Morimoto’s Special Roast Duck.
As it turns out, we were seated at a table that had a large picture on the wall showcasing their roast duck… serendipity?
At $60, it’s not exactly a cheap dish but what you do get is a beautifully presented dish of carved house-roasted duck with apricot sweet chili and hoisin miso sauces.
It’s easy to draw comparisons to Peking Duck but it’s best to just enjoy it for what it is… the roasted duck had the lightest amount of crispness to the skin and the apricot chili sauce reminded me a bit of plum sauce. There were about 30 pieces of sliced duck (and 8 steamed flour pancakes) and the waitress demonstrated their method of hand-folding the duck inside the wrapper. I actually like the way they showed us how to wrap the duck and I’ve since used this method when I’ve had Peking Duck back at home. Overall, the duck was a bit oily owing to the fat but that’s a bit to be expected from roast duck.
We also ordered the Beef Carpaccio ($18) which wasn’t as good as it was during our first visit and the Hamachi Tartare ($15) served in a dashi broth. The hamachi (or yellowtail) was quite tender and just melts in your mouth.
For dessert, we opted for the POG Sorbet ($4) consisting of passionfruit, orange, and guava. It has a similar consistency to Henry’s Place and was slightly tart but refreshingly good.
After dinner, we took a stroll along Kalakaua (walking past the Grand Old Lady).
Of course, we wound back at Modo and picked up some more mochi donuts… churro, cookies and cream, white chocolate, and lilikoi.
I remember what the International Marketplace used to look like with all of the small souvenir stalls that lined up under the banyan tree. It’s nice that they were able to keep the tree and integrate it into the new shopping center. This Don Ho statue is located near the Kalakaua entrace under the banyan tree.
A right of passage when visiting Waikiki is to drop off your leis at the Duke Kahanamoku statue on the beach.
Afterwards, we headed over to The Veranda at the Moana Surfrider for a Brunch Buffet ($37).
We came here for their buffet on a previous visit but their veranda was closed so we had to eat by their pool area. This time around, we managed to get a table on their famous veranda. The food here is particularly good and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the guava, pineapple and papaya jams.
So much food… from super plump sausages, crispy bacon, mahi mahi, fried rice, the list goes on…
They also had a omelette station and fresh fruit. Papaya in Hawaii is something that I look forward to.
There’s a large contingent of Japanese tourists in Hawaii so it shouldn’t be surprising to find a miso soup station.
And that view from the veranda… sigh.
After that rather filling breakfast buffet, we took a stroll along Kalakaua until we wound up at the Waikiki Wall (a stone boardwalk that extends out into the ocean between Kuhio Beach and Queen’s Beach).
From out here, you can get a good view of Diamond Head to your left and Waikiki Beach to your right.
Palm trees and lifeguard stations.
Beautiful billowing but somewhat ominous clouds over Hawaii.
Located just across from Kapi’olani Park, Waikiki Aquarium is just a short walk from the beach.
Opened in 1904, it’s the second oldest public aquarium in the US.
You can see the War Memorial Natatorium from the aquarium (but there’s not much to see there as it’s closed and has been in disrepair for many years).
This aquarium isn’t very large and some of the exhibits were closed when we visited. Still, it’s nice to be able to see the local fish up-close-and-personal.
You can also get a good look at the different types of coral without having to don scuba gear.
They had some strange creatures in some of the tanks…
I think my favourite were the jellyfish.
Again, some really strange creatures in some of the tanks…
Trees along the Sans Souci State Recreational Park.
After a busy first few days during our trip, we finally had a chance to rest and relax so we headed up to the infinity pool at the Alohilani.
As I’ve mentioned, it’s gotten busier up at the pool area since the Alohilani opened up last year. I kind of miss having this place all to ourselves like we did the year before but I get it… it’s a nice view.
Some more leis that we made at our hotel. These are the easier, classic orchid leis that you usually see tourists receive at the airport.
We’ve always thought about trying Roy’s Waikiki in the past but things just never worked out. We found ourselves in the area and looking for some light snacks so we stopped by their patio for happy hour.
Their covered patio makes for a cool refuge from the hot sun. We ordered their signature Crab Cakes ($24) with a chili sesame butter sauce. While the crab cakes are small, they’re encased in a crispy shell with lots of real crab on the inside. We also ordered their Original California Roll ($10) with snow crab, tobiko, cucumber, and avocado. I’m not sure how “original” it is because I thought the California Roll originated by Vancouver-chef, Hidekazu Tojo. In either case, the California roll here was quite good… probably all of that fresh snow crab meat on the inside.
Last up was the Frying Dragon Roll ($12) with a sweet ginger and wasabi beurre blanc sauce and a decadent filling of unagi, avocado, and misoyaki butterfish. Loved the crispy crunchy outer coating on this roll.
Anyone who’s been to Waikiki and has heard of the freshly made ice cream served in styrofoam cups has probably heard of Henry’s Place. This hole-in-the-wall is known for their large freezers full of ice creams, gelato, and sorbets made with fresh fruits. We were so looking forward to coming here given how hot it was.
We were actually surprised that there wasn’t a lineup outside of Henry’s Place but when we peered inside their freezers, we figured out why… almost all of their shelves were bare (again, I’m chalking this up to the hoards of tourists in Waikiki during our visit). Fortunately, we found a Mango Ice Cream that was hiding on the top shelf… Score!
After polishing off the ice cream, we walked over to Fort DeRussy Beach Park. They have some beautiful palm trees here.
Walking a little further past Fort DeRussy Beach Park, you wind up at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s actually quite a large complex with a number of shops and eateries.
One of the places that we’ve been looking forward to revisiting was Maguro Brothers in Waikiki. While they have a shop in the Chinatown district, their Waikiki location is only opened in the evening.
We wound up ordering their Sashimi Platter ($20.98 for small) which included some super fresh fish… really liked the ahi and hamachi in this plate. Note that they don’t have seating here so it’s all take-out.
I think the Hawaiian Limu Poke ($10.50 for small) was one of the best poke bowls that we’ve had on this visit.
After dinner, it was back to the pool at the Alohilani to check out the sunset.
The classic way to end the work week in Waikiki is to enjoy the Friday Fireworks put on outside the Hilton Hawaiian. It’s only a 5-minute show but it’s free and it’s on the beach.
Saturday was actually our last day in Waikiki but our flight back to Vancouver wasn’t until the nighttime so we had plenty of time to still enjoy in Waikiki.
Tim Ho Wan is a chain known for having outlets that have earned Michelin-stars in the past. We visited the one located at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center last year but they didn’t have their full menu when they first opened.
The Braised Chicken Feet in Abalone Sauce were tender but lacked flavour. I think they would have been better with a more traditional black bean sauce. Of course, you can’t visit without trying their signature Baked BBQ Pork Buns. These are really good! The light and flaky topping resembles a pineapple bun and the filling was nice and meaty.
Steamed Shrimp and Chive Dumpling and Sweet Osmanthus Jelly with Goji Berries.
The Steamed Beef Balls with Bean Curd Sheets were nice and bouncy when you bit into them. The item that we really wanted to try was their Steamed Beef Rice Rolls as they didn’t have them on our last visit. These rice rolls were really good with a nice filling encased in velvety smooth rice rolls. The only downside is that they forgot our order and we had to ask for it.
Our last food visit was to the newly opened Ramen Ono-Ya located in the Waikiki Yokocho Gourmet Alley under the Waikiki Shopping Plaza. Similar to the Shirokiya Japan Walk in the Ala Moana Center, the Waikiki Yokocho Gourmet Alley has a collection of Japanese eateries clustered together.
We wound up ordering the Shoyu Ramen with Gyudon ($15.25) as well as the Ono-Ya Mazesoba ($12.25 ) with a side order of Gyoza ($5.95).
The thick and chewy noodles here are addictive. We were looking forward to the gyoza but they forgot to put in our order and, by the time we mentioned it, the gyoza that did arrive to our table lacked any crispness to the skin.
One more stop at Modo for some mochi donuts.
We were a bit surprised that there was an impromptu street festival that broke out on Kalakaua. This is one of the major streets in Waikiki so shutting it down is kind of a big thing. Too bad we were full from the ramen and mochi donuts because there were plenty of street food vendors lining the street.
The requisite pic of our haul from our trip to Hawaii.