We recently returned from a two week Hawaiian vacation and I knew I would do a blog post but did not just want to post beautiful (but probably boring to others) photos taken on the trip. As we were finding our way around Oahu (we spent the entire time on Oahu) and finding things to do I decided that perhaps just sharing some things that we found to be good tips and suggestions might be the best post. We had not been to Hawaii in many years and not been to Oahu for more years than that. Besides the growth which one can argue good or bad, the other thing that we noticed is that because of this growth and more business that the difference paid for goods and services in Hawaii vs the mainland has narrowed considerably. Good news for the tourists!
Before my first trip to the islands in the early 80's my sister gave me some good tips and one of them was that to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center it is a must for the first time visitor - she said something like "everyone needs to go once." We decided to go back and my oh my what great changes they have made. Their mission is to teach about all the cultures across Polynesia (a living museum) not just the Hawaiian. Tip: It's on the North Shore so plan on making a day of it, wear comfortable shoes and be sure and stay for the evening show (wonderful). Book your tickets 10 days in advance online and save 15%. We had the prime rib dinner and I think if I had it to do over I would opt for the buffet.
You might want to combine a trip to Waimea Valley Botanical Garden on the day you go to the Cultural Center as they are both on the North Shore. Plan on arriving at the Cultural Center right after lunch. I took these photos of just some random beautiful plants and then at Waimea Falls. Open daily from 9:00 to 5:00 and located at 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, Hale'iwa. Adults $15, children and seniors $7.50. They do have a limited food menu in a walk-up window but for me if you are on the North Shore go find a shrimp truck. Tip: Quite a way back to the falls but for for $4 (round trip $6) you can take a golf cart ride. If you have the time ride back to the falls and then take your time walking back.
We were very fortunate to be in Honolulu at the very end of The Lion King run. The Blaisdell concert hall is in downtown Honolulu and just going there you will see many Honolulu icons, it is very near the most famous statue of King Kamehameha in the front of the Hawaii State Supreme Court which is across the street from the Iolani Palace the residence of the last two Hawaiian monarchs and the only Royal Palace on American soil. Dress is as you would guess, casual (at least for the matinee) and lots of vendors selling reasonable snacks which you can take into the theater and the seats are very comfortable. A real electric mix of entertainment goes on here from Broadway plays, opera, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra to Bruno Mars (home state boy) and the Harlem Globetrotters. Tip: Easy to purchase tickets after you arrive the ticket booth is just around the corner from the Blaisell at 777 Ward Avenue. Blaisdell Concert Hall address is the same.
Truth in advertising here....this is my best shopping tip if you have not been here. Doing research before the trip the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet kept coming up as a place to visit. It is easy to find (using the freeway) and you can't miss it when you get near - BIG stadium - if you are not a football fan the University of Hawaii plays here and the Pro Bowl is held here each year. The Swap Meet is held each Wed-Fri-Sat 8:00-3:00 and the admission is $1.00 per person and no charge for parking. The vendors are not in the stadium but all around the stadium. Even though we went three times I saw only a fraction of the booths. I was looking for gifts to take home and fabric and maybe, just maybe a hand quilted item.
First day I found fabric - 100% cotton fabric and I visited two different vendors and paid $4 and $4.50 a yard for this beautiful fabric. They had much more of cotton/poly if you would be interested in that fabric.
Here is a view of the cotton fabrics in one booth. She does have a website (on card) but only sells fabric at this booth and in the store itself.
I think my heart skipped a beat (the thrill of the hunt) when I came upon the vendor with the hand quilted items. I fell in love with Hawaiian quilts the first time I went to Hawaii. It is a true craft and the applique patterns are so beautiful and are evocative of Hawaiian items like breadfruit, etc. They (as they should be) are extremely expensive as they are works of art. I spoke to the vendor and she advised that they are made in the Philippines and that the vendor's company provides them with the 100% cotton fabrics and the Hawaiian quilt patterns. These two items pictured are pillow covers and I have two different ones of the brown and white and will frame for my laundry room (will be a post I am sure as we are adding some bead board to the laundry room). This vendor had quilts, purses, runners, etc. The pillow covers were $9 each and sell at her Ebay store for 2/$49.50. Purses (I bought three for gifts) were $18 and I saw them elsewhere for $50.
There were vendors with backpacks, umbrellas, tee shirts and everything else you can think of - all the same things that you see from the expensive hotels to ABC stores and tourist shops but all at a very reduced prices. I am sure I missed a great deal of items but I went to purchase items to take home as gifts and fabric and I was happy-happy. Stadium address: 99-500 Salt Lake Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96818. Tip: Be sure and go here if you are a bargain hunter!
We were in Hawaii celebrating a big anniversary and we have a history of my dear husband buying me a plumeria lei when we have visited Hawaii in the past. It was very important to him that for our anniversary (I was so touched) that I have a "special" lei. We stopped at a florist shop in the downtown area and he asked where to go to get a fine lei and he was told where to go and we went there and ordered and told her our anniversary was that Friday and she said "come back Friday afternoon, I will wait and make the lei after lunch so it will be fresh." This photo does not do the lei justice (and sadly you cannot smell the fragrant plumeria) it was a double lei and so beautiful. The cost? $25, including tax. Single leis are available in many places at prices ranging from $10-$30 but this was so special. Tip: Cindy's Lei & Flower Shoppe, 1034 Maunakea St., Chinatown, Honolulu, 808-536-6538, website: www.cindysleishoppe.com. Parking is a problem so probably best to let someone out to make purchase, drive around the block and pick them up again.
We learned many years ago that for us anyway, that eating where the locals eat was what we liked. Not only is the food fabulous but it is also much less expensive. We search out the lunch plate which typically will consist of either chicken, pork or fish with (2) scoops of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad or if you want Spam (we NEVER want) which the Hawaiians love so much. Cost varies depending what you have but about $8-$12 range and if you are near your condo (to take back to room) or have a fridge in your hotel room, we always had leftovers as the portions are very generous. The North Shore is famous for it's shrimp trucks and a little messy but so good. Costco, Safeway, etc. have found a home in Honolulu. We had lunch at IchiBen in Pearl City and they had a seasoning that I loved and I inquired and was told to go to Don Quijote (pronounced like Don Quixote) grocery to find this item. The prices were much less than Safeway and it was a little bit like Japanese grocery meets American grocery meets variety store. Found Kauai Kookies there for $2.50 and we ALWAYS bring Kauai Kookies home for gifts. They are $3.50 or more elsewhere. We also went to a Farmer's Market and had dinner and bought beautiful papayas and limes for breakfast. Speaking of breakfast we found Saint-Germain Bakery at 1930 Dillingham Blvd., Honolulu. Nice bakery, you enter and get a tray & put down a little sheet of bakery paper and get a tong from the tong stand and help yourself. Lovely savories first and then the sweets, then the breads. I purchased a few things and then at the check out I look down and, be still my heart, was a container of that luscious, given to us by those butter-loving Breton's, my favorite, hard-to-find, the queen of all pastries the KOUIGN-AMANN! No pun intended! They were only $1.75 each and when put into a hot oven to warm them (while they still remained crispy) they were so good. Smaller than most and still good. But for my money the BEST Kouign-Amann is at the Les Madeleine's Bakery in Salt Lake City and she ships. Williams-Sonoma also ships a product that you bake at home and they are good but the best are in Salt Lake City. With the exception of anniversary dinner at Ruth's Chris in Honolulu we ate all meals in the condo or local. Our first and last dinner was at Uncle Bo's - ignore how it looks (inside is very nice and bigger than it looks from the outside) - wonderful food, great service and very reasonable. Hawaii as long as I have been going there has been known for delicious hors d'oeuveres, called Pupus. Two or three of these are a meal. Spicy Uncle Bo's Dynamite Shrimp in Honolulu town ($9) gives Bonefish Grill's Bang-bang shrimp ($11.20) a run for their money. To my way of thinking fresh shrimp is so succulent compared to shrimp that has been frozen. Everything we had at Uncle Bo's both times was just delicious and very reasonable. Parking is across the street (have to pay) or there is a lot right beside the restaurant (pay there too). Uncle Bo's only open at night open 5:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. Here is a quote from a newspaper: "Uncle Bo's may be part American bistro, part local-Asian bar and grill, part neighborhood watering hole, part city café, but somehow it all works..." Tip: Make reservations, 808-735-8311. Eat local, buy local produce, enjoy.
A fine surprise....
Coincidentally at this last meal at Uncle Bo's we had the same waitress that we had our first night. When she brought the check she said something like - weren't you here a couple of weeks ago? We told her yes, that that night had been our first night and this was our last night - as my hubby was taking care of the check (we did not order dessert) she came with this complimentary plate of yum! Taro beignet's (watch out Cafe Du Monde in NOLA) with vanilla ice cream and lemon sauce. You guessed it - we decided we did want dessert and this was heavenly!
Last and final tip: My Faye Bud asked that I stop by a Starbucks and get her a rechargeable Hawaii card. Since you can transfer from other cards and recharge this one, great idea Faye. So I picked up one for her, myself and my DIL's. I was told by the girl behind the counter very popular item. Just a little aloha memory every time you use your Hawaii card back home on the mainland.