Hawaii: Day Seven

On our last day on Oahu we woke up to a beautiful sunny, mild day (OK it was still dark, but it looked promising!). Because the previous day had been so rainy, I convinced James to go on a sunrise hike with me, so that we could check one more off the bucket list. At 6:30, we piled in the car and drove off to the Makapu’u Lookout trail on the Eastern part of the island.

The Makapu-u trail is paved and well kept (when we were there, someone from the state was actually clearing off the mud and debris from the previous days storm). It’s about a mile to the top, and while there is definitely an incline, this is doable for those who are not as active or pushing a stroller (which I saw a lot of tourists unsuccessfully try to do on other trails).

At sunrise, there were only a few other people on the trail, making this incredibly peaceful and quiet. Once high enough up, there are a few binocular stands to look out across the ocean. If you’re lucky, like us, you might even spot some whales! The end of the trail exposes a lighthouse that’s built into the side of the cliff and amazing views of the island.

We made our way back down and swiftly returned to the AirBnb to clean up, pack our last remaining articles of clothes and rinse off the mud and sweat of our hike. Saying goodbye to our faithful little apartment, we headed into Honolulu for coffee and tea.

Earlier in the week, we stumbled across a public market area with lots of shops and food vendors. Arvo, one of the places we had coffee previously was around the corner, so we decided to give this area a go again. I grabbed an espresso tonic from 9Bar HNL and a matcha mochi bar (gluten free and vegan – and delicious!). James grabbed another chai latte from Arvo.

From here we made our way to the Honolulu Art Museum, where our tour of Shangri La would take off from. James and I were definitely the youngest couple on the tour by about 30 years, but it is fantastic!

Shangri La is the home of Doris Duke, a incredibly wealthy woman who traveled the world and became enamored with Islamic art and culture. Her Hawaiian vacation home was built in the style of Islamic art – and took influence from Iran, Egypt, Turkey and many more countries. It was stunning.

A tour guide brings you through her home, pointing on fabulous work that she either bought or had commissioned. In 1939 the house cost $1.4 million, a pretty penny then. The property overlooks Diamond Head and Doris Duke ensured easy access to swimming and surfing. I highly recommend – and if you’re worried about spending indoor time when it’s sunny out, fear not, the tour actually has a decent amount of time in her gardens.

Upon returning to the art museum (which you do receive free admission to if you book the Shangri La tour), we headed out to find our final poke bowl. We ended up at a make it yourself poke bowl shop and then drove around until we found a little park we could stop at and eat.

Our rental car was due back at 2 pm, so we headed to the airport after this. It was a good thing we would be at the airport so early, because that horrendous trip to Hawaii? It was repeated on the way home. The JetBlue attendant who refused to close out the transaction in New York caused a freeze on our tickets and no seats on our return home. We made it on the plane with a matter of minutes to spare. And in case you’re wondering, Honolulu’s airport is partially outdoors, which means that when you change into your winter clothes once you make it through security, you will definitely be sorry as you run through the airport to your gate.

Hawaii: Day Two

In true fashion, I woke up super early because time zones and jet lag and I just generally am an early riser. Luckily I had made cold brew coffee to tide me over until breakfast. We made reservations at Hau Tree Lana, which is famous for their breakfast. The restaurant is literally on the waters edge, dripping in pink table cloths and filled entirely with Japanese tourists. I ordered the seafood omelette and James had the Hawaiian breakfast platter which consisted of poi pancakes, sausages, eggs and half of a pineapple. Breakfast was good, but we both agreed that the day before was better.

Following, we headed down to Waikiki for James’ surf lesson. Since we were early, I decided to go for a swim. I wouldn’t say that swimming on Oahu is easy. The currents were definitely more manageable, and the water was not nearly as cold as Kailua Beach, but the coral. The coral is everywhere. Sharp and scary. I swam for 20-25 minutes, but would often have to stop because suddenly I was on top of coral, despite being way over my head. It was definitely an experience!

We headed over to Ty Gurney’s surf school, where I had booked James a two hour private lesson. After signing a waiver and getting fitted for a rash guard, we headed down to a small “private” beach area. I planted my butt down in a chair that the surf shop loaned me and spent the next two hours enjoying the sun and reading. James officially loves surfing, reported he was able to stand up a few times on waves (I can’t confirm as he was literally a speck on the ocean from my viewpoint) and left ravenously hungry.

These are the best coffee cups.
These are the best coffee cups.

We had packed a picnic, but since we are in the land of poke, and it is a new found obsession (thanks to the sushi burrito place that just opened in Somerville!), we decided to try it where it’s common fare. We looked up the closest place with the best poke, and set off on a 1.5 mile trek. We did take a slight detour to Olive & Oliver, a delicious coffee bar inside a hotel slash swim club (if I was here on a girls trip, this would definitely be a pit stop, but I am nice and spared James of a day at a secluded pool with a coffee bar).

After walking through the parts of town tourists definitely don’t go through, we arrived at Fresh Ahi Off the Boat, which was settled next to a strip club and across from a McDonalds. The poke bowls were amazing, and worth every painful step in my flip flops. I had the spicy ahi bowl on black forbidden rice. James had the ahi poke bowl on sushi rice. Both were served with miso soup.

There are roosters EVERYWHERE
There are roosters EVERYWHERE

Lunch was followed by a hike to¬†Manoa falls – about 15 minutes outside of Waikiki. There is a small parking fee (so don’t be turned away by the no parking signs! There is a lot at the end!). We changed into our hiking boots and took off into the rain forest. The trail is muddy, slippery and super cool. We walked through bamboo groves and up steep terrain, to be greeted by a very cool and steep waterfall. Our descent down might have been even more difficult than up, given how slippery it was, but we made it, and raced home for desperately needed showers.

James was definitely tired after his surf lesson, but he made it.
James was definitely tired after his surf lesson!

For dinner I made reservations at Alan Wong’s – which is one of the famous, must try restaurants in Honolulu. I emailed ahead about gluten free, and they were quite accommodating (though when the waiter asked me how the gluten free bread was, and I replied “it’s definitely gluten free” he was a bit crestfallen – apparently this is the best gluten free bread on Oahu. Pretty sure it was Udi’s!). I ordered the goat cheese salad and the red snapper. The red snapper was made specially for me since it’s not usually gluten free (usually covered in panko!) but oh my god, the sauce that they serve it with was amazing. Definitely my favorite part. It was a miso ginger sauce, and I must learn how to make this at home because it’s going on everything. James had poke tuna tacos and short ribs. His favorite part of the meal? Dessert. Instead of shaved ice, they freeze a pineapple and shave that instead. It’s served on top of a vanilla panna cotta and also boasts a lot of ginger.

I was surprised by the total cost of the meal – two courses each, plus one drink and one dessert came out to be around $70 each. I had expected a far higher bill – so something to keep in mind if you go!