Turtles. Pineapple on the beach. Garlicky shrimp. Shrimp trucks. Poke. Kava. Kona coffee. Rainbows. Waterfalls. The Hula. Luau. Surfing. Waimea Bay. Waikiki. Leis. Stand up paddle boarding. Snorkeling. A local wedding in front of our beach shack. Angry political reggae shows. Angry people. Magnum PI. Sunsets. So many beautiful sunsets I had to make a separate album for them. This to me is Hawaii. Well, this was the Hawaii of our first visit.
When we arrived, we stayed in the Holiday Inn near the beach in Waikiki for the first night or two, before moving over to the north shore of Oahu. It was Stan’s surfer childhood dream to go and surf the north shore of Hawaii. Our hotel room had a fabulous view and we ate McDonalds on the beach every morning, because no matter what you ordered from McDonalds, you get the sweetest Hawaiian pineapple with every meal. Not that it happens often, but every time I eat a sausage McGriddle, the smell and taste take me back to Waikiki beach.
We ate a lot of shrimp from the trucks that are everywhere and with each shrimp dish came an ice cream scoop full of fragrant steamed rice. Oahu didn’t love us at first. We wanted to experience the culture and booked a VRBO cabin far up on the north shore of the island. Here the wind nearly blew us away, the locals treated us with suspicion and the surfing was horrible. Our shack was on stilts right on the beach and every night the fisherman would come sit underneath our deck and yell until the early hours of the morning. There was never a good night’s rest.
What appeared to be rocks at first were turtles. They lined the beach, and I was happy to see the abundance. Every morning I ran three miles and went and swam in the ocean with the turtles after the run. Bliss.
We rented a jeep and drove around the island. The beauty is spectacular. There is great contrast between agriculture and natural beauty. We ate fresh seafood at Haleiwa Joe’s Seafood grill and we fine-dined on the beach at the Marriot and Turtle Bay.
I was excited to hear that there was a live reggae concert at Breakers Bar on one of the nights during our stay. This turned out to be Roots reggae and the band was angry at the establishment. They were singing about the oppression of the Hawaiian people. This didn’t feel like a place that was good for us to stay in, yet I enjoyed the rhythm and the cocktails, and we stayed. It wasn’t long before we left as we got accosted for money at the bar and I felt a sudden scam coming up. Time to head back to the cabin on the beach.
We saw seals and waterfalls and hiked in rain forests. There were all kinds of unique birds and lizards and a rainbow appeared on the horizon every day. This could very well be the rainbow islands. Every night we ate dinner on the deck, drank some wine and watched the spectacular sunsets and some mornings we drove to the remote west coast where there wasn’t a soul on the beaches. We saw surfers at Pipeline on a stormy day, hiked to the lighthouse on the northern most point of the island where there is a strong military presence. We snorkeled and drank local beer.
The island is a contrast of aridness, tropical beauty, wonderful beaches such as Waimea Bay and then of course the Pacific Ocean.
We arrived in May 2011 and the wild Pacific Ocean was unexpectedly cold and we needed wetsuits. We left Hawaii deciding not to return, but Hawaii had other plans. We returned in August 2019. It was my birthday and a reunion between my husband and his brother. This time our experience was spectacular. There was breakfasts and lunches on the beach at the Barefoot Beach Grill. A local eatery, Mahina & Sun’s gave us the final evening of our lives with a beautifully presented, flavorful family style meal that had me aching for another night. There was steamed Hawaiian snapper with local herbs, ginger and soy, taro, rice, fiddle head salad, roasted roots, avocado tacos, octopus beignets, reggae, local musicians and strong cocktails. Some of us surfed, we paddle boarded, we snorkeled, we visited Nahauma Bay and drank cocktails at Tiki’s Bar & Grill while eating traditional smoked kalua pork with a view of the beach. At the Reef Grill on the beach, we ate ahi tostadas, fish tacos and grilled steak and shrimp bowls. The coconut rum was strong, and the pineapple juice was ice cold.
Hawaii has two distinct desserts. Shave ice is sold all over the island and the Hawaiian pineapples are the sweetest I have ever tasted, so keep an eye out for my book Have Food Will Travel for a traditional Hawaiian pineapple upside down cake as well as a recipe for shave ice.
There are shrimp trucks all over Oahu and my Hawaiian recipes wouldn’t be complete without a garlic shrimp recipe, so it is included as a bonus main recipe together with the traditional kalua pork in the above mentioned book, which should be published by Christmas 2019 if all goes according to plan.
Our experience was different this time. We were tourists, family and friends. Ohana. We reunited after ten years. We ate. We drank. We had a beautiful view from our lanai. Our conversations went deep and touched on controversial life and death issues. We celebrated both life and death. We will always remember that this vacation had a deeper meaning. It solidified our relationships and it ensured that we will return to each other sooner to keep these relationships alive. Mahalo nui loa, ohana!