Hubster and I got away for a few days of R & R recently, and we chose Oahu. We both love the Caribbean and Europe, and I especially love Greece, but Oahu is so.....simple. Easy. Simply beautiful, simply relaxing, simply wonderful in every way. Easy to get to, easy to get around. (Rent a car if you plan to leave the city.) People love to say things like: "Oh, man, you should go to Kuai! It's the cool new place to go." Or, "I just got back from Maui and I am so over it. They have totally sold out. I can't stand it anymore. Everyone goes there. Next time, I'm going to the big island." Or even, "Hawaii is so cliche. I prefer Fiji." Hubster and I go against the grain of fashionable opinion and return to Oahu (as well as the other Hawaiian islands) frequently, whenever we need a place for quiet peaceful pleasure. Great food, gorgeous inspiring nature, friendly locals, pleasant climate (cool temps by Texas standards) and never a worry that your bank will cut off your credit card even though you told them you were travelling overseas (which actually happened to us – at the start of a 3 day weekend, naturally- once in Italy.), no need to struggle in a foreign language, drive on the other side of the road, or make sure you have the right currency. The electrical outlets don't need chargers. If you know me at all, you know how I love exotic travel – Greece, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Caribbean are all places I have been and will return to. Give me a falafel and a beer in Tel Aviv anytime. But sometimes, life is overwhelming with responsibilities and you just need someplace to vacation that is easy- where you don’t have to worry about drug cartels, terrorist bombings, figuring out train schedules or airport terminals, avoiding hurricanes, where to find coca-cola, or avoiding those post-Ramaden jihads. There are always plenty of new things to see and do in a favorite place, no matter how many times you have visited, and Oahu is no exception. Here are a few from our latest journey:
Why not have one, or both?
Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore Oahu
I have loved this place ever since my kids and I saw “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and decided we had to go there. Yes, it is pricey. I save all year so I can afford it. But it is worth it. One of the most beautiful places in the world, and a really pleasant 4 star hotel, too. Resort amenities such as a spa, restaurants, golf, tennis, as well as lessons for all kinds of things – scuba/padi cert, parasailing, whatever your pleasure. Day trips to tour various local sites. Not only is there the hotel, but there are beach cottages which you can rent if you want to bring the entire family. It used to be that TB was full of the usual honeymooners and old folks, but this trip it was over-run by young couples with babies. I just wish the resort could adapt to these changing trends and have two pools: one that is for little kids only, and one that is 12+ adults only. Somebody brought a toddler into that gorgeous pool, and the baby had a bowel movement in the water, which meant the pool was closed for 24 hours, afterwards. This is NOT what I paid a lot of money to come experience. Wasted two whole days of tanning time. However, still plenty of lovely other things to do on the North Shore.
North Shore Food Trucks
While I love fine dining, I also love mom-and-pop diners, dives, drive-ins, road food, and local comfort food. The best vacation for me balances both ends of the dining spectrum. To that end, sampling the North Shore food trucks is a fun adventure. Giovanni’s is purportedly the best; while many tourists seemed skeptical of the more exotic offerings, sticking with teriyaki chicken, husbster and I went full-on exotic taste adventure and ordered the spicy shrimp and some calamari and sushi appetizers. It did not disappoint. Important caveat: get there early before they run out of shrimp (before 6pm) or all items entirely (7-7:30pm). I mean really early, like 5-5:30pm. My snooty New York friends who make disparaging comments about dining before 8pm would find the food trucks shuttered and dark if they tried that here.
Hawaiian Shave Ice
Shave Ice – not shaved ice – is also incredible. I don’t know how they do it but it’s better than anything you’ve ever had in the mainland states that claims to be shaved ice. Available at multiple North Shore locations. Those wacky colors are exotic flavors like coconut, pineapple, and li hing mui, a Chinese salty-sweet plum flavor.
A typical plate lunch - this one with teriyaki chicken, fried fish, rice, and macaroni salad
I make a pilgrimage to Ted’s Bakery every time I am on Oahu. When I first started going there, it was “undiscovered” and relatively quiet. Now it has long lines, but is still worth it, for the pie alone if nothing else. That’s some damn fine pie ! The plate lunch – a common menu item at most local, mom and pop, food truck or small café establishments, has a bargain price (for Hawaii) and the food quantity is tremendous. Two ladies or 3 or 4 children could easily eat their fill sharing one plate. This is not the time to go on a diet – these meals are carb heavy. Do your dieting 6 weeks before you go, and eat your fill while you are there. (Although, it must be noted, I hiked so much while in Hawaii that I ate all I wanted and still came back a few pounds less.)
Picture-book quaint, this is where you want to go for restaurants, shopping, bars and beautiful sunsets.
This is a state park- you drive in, park, then hike in and up the hillside to the water falls. Along the way, you can see all sorts of tropical flora and fauna. A beautiful day spent in nature with an easy, paved hike. There is also a go-cart to take you up or down if you are disabled, old, or fat, like me. (I walked up, rode down-bad knees.)
North Shore Things to do -beaches
There is only one road, often only 2 lanes, that traverses east to west along the north shore region. It will have stop-and-go traffic, be mobbed with cars and people along the famous “Banzai Pipeline” section, but is generally uncrowded elsewhere. By all means, everyone should visit the Pipeline beach area at least once in a lifetime, and my teen sons had surfing lessons there years ago. If, like me, you prefer more secluded spots away from the crowds, you can find that too. Just note that many beaches, while free and open to the public, do not have lifeguards or restroom facilities.
Parking/Driving conditions near banzai pipeline