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Friday, May 25, 2012

Honolulu - The Disney World of Hawaii

Last month, I got the opportunity to go to Hawaii for 5 days. Malibu Ken was there taking part in a conference for his field. He actually was a presenter, which is pretty fancy when it comes to these types of conferences because you have to first do research on something only smart people would know about. Then you have to write a paper on some really nerdy topic, and then you have to be chosen to present it  (don't ask me what the topic was about, cause I have no clue)... So proud of him! Anyway, on the last day of the conference, I rescued him from nerdom, and we stayed an additional 4 more days in Honolulu. 
We did a lot of research before our trip, and so we figured this out early on, but if you're going to Honolulu, just expect to be a tourist while you're there. Honolulu is very tourist-y... Just embrace it... go with it.   Everything from 3 Coach stores all within a 1 mile stretch to mega hotels along the beach to the ABC stores (like 7-11) selling Hawaii trinkets on every single block lets you know you this place caters to tourists. Overall we ended up having a really great time, but I think it was because we came prepared to both be a tourist and also to "go off the grid", if you will, for a part of the time when we'd had enough. 
So here in no particular order are the must dos when you find yourself in Honolulu. 

A Luau
We chose Germaine's Luau from learning that it was featured on Diners Drive Ins and Dives through our internet research. This was the activity where I most embraced my inner tourist. First of all,  a gigantic tour bus comes to pick you up from your hotel, and you along with the other 75 tourists on your bus are harassed entertained by your tour guide named "Kali" who is quite possibly the worst comedian ever. But you roll with it because you are being held captive on your way to the luau, so you just laugh at with him. 

Here we are on the bus
Once you get to the Luau, you take in the view of the ocean cause golly it's real nice. At that point, you are forced to get your picture taken by the luau queen. And then (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT), you then ask another nice couple to take your picture with your camera in that same position because it is a real nice picture. And also because the picture the luau queen took for you will be printed out in an 8x10 and presented to you for purchase for $20 on the return ride home. Since you have already gotten the same picture with your own camera, under no circumstances should you feel enticed to purchase an 8x10 picture of yourself on the beach... What is this the Superman ride at Six Flags?! And seriously, who needs an 8x10 of this?

Then you sit down to the community table and meet your new friends! Did I forget to mention this luau has about 500 tourists in attendance? We were lucky to be sitting across from some temporary natives (a military guy and his wife), so obvi we take the opportunity to ask them about the hot restaurants in Honolulu... How could I have known that was a recipe for disaster?  Because we were pointed to (and I quote) "a real authentic Italian restaurant, called Buca Di Beppo". No I'm not kidding. 

Here's our table. How much do you dig those necklaces?
Okay moving onto the food... it's what you came here for right? Wrong. No, you did not come here for the food cause if you did you would be seriously disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it was fine. Fine. We'll get to Hawaiian food later, don't you worry. The luau people do however cook the pig in the ground with a bunch of hot stones, and they ceremoniously unveil the roasted pig (and also remove the burning coals with their bare hands, without the aid of so much as an oven mitt)... that part was cool. What you really want to come here for is the show. It's sort of like being on a cruise, but I'd say the level of entertainment is better. Impressive actually. At one point there was a fire dancer... And those Hawaiian dancers, I don't know how someone moves their hips like that. The show was definitely worth it. 

And that's all I have to say about Germaine's. 

Real Hawaiian Food
I alluded to good food in the last section. If you want to know what good Hawaiian food tastes like, go to Ono Hawaiian Foods. It's a little off the beaten path (we had to take our rental car there), but it's sooo worth it. It's the kind of place where a line queues up outside, and the waiter sticks his head out every so often and is like "I'll take the next 2". You get inside, where there's less than 10 tables, and you basically just eat what they bring you, love every minute of it, pay with cash, and then get the heck out of there so some poor chump that's been waiting outside can have his turn. We learned about this place from Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Go there. 

Acai Bowl
This stuff is like crack. I ate it 3 out of the 4 mornings I was there. I wouldn't have tried it unless Malibu Ken suggested getting the most healthy thing on the coffee shop menu (love that hippie). I'm so glad I did though. It's basically the acai berry (which has some kind of unicorn powers and cures cancer or something) blended up with strawberries and other goodness into a thick smoothie consistency and topped with sliced banana and granola. I literally could. not. stop. eating these things. 
Also, I had mine with a delicious macadamia nut latte... BEST BREAKFAST EVER.
Helicopter Tour of the Island
My boyfriend is sent from heaven as an angel of love and got this for me for my birthday. It rocked my socks off. Everyone should get the chance to experience this in their lifetime. 

This is Malibu Ken's 'boyfriend of the year' face and I am happy because I'm in a helicopter

Go Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay
Everyone (even the Buca Di Bepo lady) says Hanauma Bay is the place to go snorkeling. It's basically an inlet that has tons of coral reefs and lots of wild life. A lot of tourists go there, but the park people do a really good job of keeping the park clean and the waters pristine. We saw bunches of colorful fish and would have probably seen more if I didn't get scared of scraping myself on the coral whenever we got too close. It's definitely a great experience, and I highly recommend it as a must do. 

This is the bay
Here we are on the beach where you do your snorkeling. Look at that water!
Watch the Sunset
We finally were able to enjoy the sunset on our last night. We were so busy doing other things the rest of the time that we missed it on every other day. We watched it from the pier on the Hilton Waikiki resort property. It's just one of those things you must do. Let the pictures tell you why. 

You should also schedule a sunset watch because you'll have really good lighting for pictures of yourself and your handsome boyfriend.

In the end, I'm glad I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii. It was a first for me, and it's sort of a once in a lifetime thing, and hey, it may be my last. You never know... I'd definitely like to visit Maui or one of the other islands if it works out. I hear it's not as touristy, which is more our style...

Peace, love, and Mia Tais,

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