You’re going to Hawaii.
Oh, I don’t know when: I’m not a psychic, damnit! But I know you’re going. It’s your birthright as an American. You’re going when you graduate medical school. Or finish your MBA. Or get that promotion. Most likely, you’re going when you get married. Yeah, the Hawaiian honeymoon may seem timeworn and trite, but believe me, it will take your breath away.
When you get their, first of all…”Aloha.” Get used to the word. It means hello and goodbye. People are polite in Hawaii. You’ll hear it and say it a lot. That, and “Mahalo,” which means “thank you.” These are the Hawaiian essentials. Whatever else you learn is up to you, but you must learn this much of the old language.
Next, do not shun the nearby ABC store. In Honolulu, ABC appears to mean All Blocks Covered. But don’t let this put you off. This kitschy little treasure is where you will buy the Kona coffee, macadamia chocolates, and Pali sandals your friends and family absolutely expect you to bring home. Cheap tee shirts too.
Now get yourself a classic Hawaiian shirt or dress. You need this. And you know you want it. But you’re afraid of looking like a dick. I get it. That’s why you must go old school. Try a classic hibiscus print, or a vintage Royal Hawaiian. Think Elvis, not Animal House, and you’ll look fine in those photos you’ll still be seeing when you’re sixty.
Finally, rent a Jeep. Oh, you’ll see. Now you’re ready…
Speaking of Elvis, if on Oahu, go have breakfast at his table at Duke’s in Waikiki. You can, you know. And that’s pretty cool in and of itself. Duke’s breakfast buffet is a bargain: all the traditional American and Hawaiian food you can eat for only 17 bucks! And the King’s view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head is spectacular.
Duke’s is Duke Kahanamoku’s restaurant. It’s also kinda his museum. He’s the guy who brought surfing to the rest of the world from Waikiki. He invented surfboard water rescuing and still holds some of surfing’s world records. You can see his 16-foot skeg-less koa board there. And lotsa other memorabilia. If you shred, you should go.
Now get yourself a classic Hawaiian shirt or dress. You need this. And you know you want it. But you’re afraid of looking like a dick.
Hey, I’ve got you downtown already, so stroll around a bit, then head over to the Royal Hawaiian. The pink stuccoed grand dame of the islands. Stroll the lobby and grounds as Clark Gable once did. Oh, you’ll give a damn. Frankly, you’ll be fascinated. Then go grab a Mai Tai at the bar where, truth be told, it was not invented: the Mai Tai bar. Just one. Fresh fruit juices and three types of rum. Pricey. Worth it.
You didn’t listen. I said just one. So sober up by taking a stroll along Waikiki Beach, then head on up to the Capital. Check out the statue of King Kamehameha there. Use YouTube to watch Barbara Eden bringing that statue to life on “I Dream of Jeannie.” Laugh your ass off. Then drive south past the Ala Wai Boat Harbor, berth of the S.S. Minnow and home to Gilligan and the Skipper. Laugh that ass off again. Then stop touring old TV show sights. Or look to the right at the Ilikai, point up,and say “Book ’em Danno.” Your call.
I wish I could send you to see Don Ho. But, unfortunately, he has passed on. His show was a cheesy delight. Tiny Bubbles, indeed. But the ‘grip and grin’ photoshoot you could participate in before the show was even better. He grabbed my wife’s butt at ours, giving new meaning to the phrase ‘grip and grin,’and giving me one of my prized possessions! The camera snapped just at the moment my wife grabbed the hand he had planted on her butt! Both their facial expressions in the photo are priceless.
Now get outta Honolulu. You didn’t come here for Manhattan on the beach. On the way out, stop at one of the culinary icons of Oahu, Leonard’s, a Portuguese bakery just north of Diamond Head, for a dozen malasada puffs. You may wait a bit, but not too long, and you’ll be glad you did. Because this is not your neighborhood jelly donut. It’s lighter, crispier and more flavorful. Get a variety. Save some for later, if you can.
If you’re wracked with guilt over eating all those donuts, double back and go hike Diamond Head, if you’ve packed your sunscreen. Even though Kurt Vonnegut did not advise you to wear it, you really must here. The trail is wide open and steep and long, and now you’re gonna’ bake like those donuts!The view, the dormant volcano and the old fort are such a thrill to see, however, you’ll feel well rewarded in the end. And the donut guilt will then be history.
If you’re not guilt tripping, save this hike for another day. Maybe combine it with a Pearl Harbor and Hank’s Haute Dogs run. Don’t miss either. Pearl is solemn and historic and enlightening. You’ve gotta go. But the food there stinks. Hank’s is nearby. And it’s playful and irreverent and also enlightening. Who knew you could make hot dogs so many ways? Anyway, it’s a ying/yang thing. Try to do both. But let’s get back to today.
Get on the H-3 anyway you can. Yeah, I know…where am I taking you? I don’t even know where your staying. Doesn’t matter. You want to drive this road almost end to end anyway. Because I am taking you through the Garden of Eden. You will see lush green foliage, steep mountain slopes, rivers, waterfalls and, if you’re lucky, rainbows. My wife saw monkeys cavorting about! You will drive into and out of torrential downpours. And you will drive through the base of an ancient volcano, and right through a mountain! Like a Road Runner cartoon tunnel through that mountain. As strange as it sounds, this drive refreshes your very soul.
Back at your hotel, do one of two things:
- Move to a room far away from the pool, if this is a trip with the guys/gals. Kids start frolicking really early in Hawaii, and if you’ve been out all night frolicking in a more adult fashion, you will not welcome the wake up call.
- If you are with your beloved, get a room with a private balcony. Go for the bucks involved. During one of the inevitable mini-typhoons that come nearly every late afternoon, make love on that terrace. Listen to the dashing rhythm of the falling rain; feel the warm wind; see the flashing lightning; anticipate and experience the thunder. Watch every motion; pay attention to your partner’s breathing. I guarantee you the most truly sensual experience of your life.
You must be hungry by now. You’ve got a lot to choose from. If you’re up for a Luau, head to Paradise Cove in Ko Olina for the night. Wear that retro Hawaiian shirt/ dress. Bring your camera, charge your phone. Participate in the Shower of Flowers, go see the Hukilau on the shore, and for god’s sake, don’t miss the Imu Ceremony. That’s where they dig a big pit in the sand, line it with fiery coals, spice-up a whole pig and wrap it in banana leaves, then bury it to cook. Instagram everything! Then chow down on Kalua Pork and fresh fish. And then haupia, the coconut pudding you’ve always dreamed of. Don’t try the poi: it’s a pretty purple, but it tastes like wallpaper paste. If you’re intend on eating something purple, have the delicious taro bread. But if you’re still doing old TV show schtick, do ask someone to “please pass the poi,” as Fred Flintstone once did. Then stay for the show. Hula dancers, fire eaters, story tellers, ukulele. It’s really fun.
Maybe you think you’re too cool for all this, but you aren’t. No one is. Give in to your inner child and enjoy yourself. Take goofy pictures. Keep them for when you’re old.
Ok, hungry, but unconvinced? Unrelentingly cool? Head up to the North Shore instead. In Kahuku, you’ll find Giovanni’s shrimp truck tucked into the back of a dark tree-covered yard. Delicious, fresh garlic shrimp. Scrumptious scampi. A Travel Channel favorite. But my favorite is Macky’s, right down the road. King-sized red prawn painted on the side of the truck. Picnic tables under cocoa canvas tents. And chickens running around everywhere! Don’t feed them: They’ll never leave you alone then. Just kind of dig the kooky dance they do when they get near your feet. Macky has the same menu as Giovanni but gives you bigger portions for less money. And a great view of the green velvet mountains off in the distance.
By now night has fallen, and you’ve had some day, heh? Look up. Have you ever seen that many stars before? I’ll bet not. And now your day just got even better!
You still have a lot to do. But slow down. You don’t want to keep this pace up your whole trip. Take a catamaran and snorkel on the lush windward coast. Keep your eyes off the boat boys/gals if you’re with your spouse. Hike Waimea Falls Park, then swim out to the falls and let them wash over you. Brrrr! You can dry off napping on the black stone bleachers. But be careful…the rocks by the lake are sooo slippery. If it’s winter big wave season, go up to Ehukai Beach and see…and hear, the Banzai Pipeline. Because a 50 foot wave is something not to be missed.
Finally, relearn how to nap. On the beach, poolside, on a park bench. Wherever. You are on vacation. And if this is your honeymoon, get back to that balcony as much as you can.
Next week, Kauai.