Valentine’s Day is coming up — and you all know it.
While I’m not big on over-the-top romance, I am a fan of Feb. 14. (Don’t believe me? Read last year’s blog on it.) And lucky for us, it lands on a Saturday. Which means, you’ve got a lot of options out there.
But if you’re planning to impress a woman who’d prefer to watch a sunset from the top of a mountain than at an oceanfront table, then I’ve got five ideas for you. (Anyway, most of the best restaurants are already booked on Saturday.)
Don’t wait. Plan now. And I’m giving you all the info, so no excuses!
1. Tour a farm
There’s nothing cooler than a farm, especially one sells smoothies using ingredients grown just steps away.
That’s what you get when you take the Smoothie Tour at Kahuku Farms, just off Kamehameha Highway on the way to the North Shore.
You ride a tractor-pulled wagon through a 5-acre, scaled-down commercial farm with groves of apple banana trees, rows of pineapple, orchard of starfruit and liliko‘i fruit trees, and fields of eggplant. After this 20-minute educational tour — I’ll be honest, I learned something new about papaya and banana trees! — you head over to the quaint café that sells fresh fruit smoothies, grilled paninis and roasted vegetable soup using ingredients grown at the farm. (The Smoothie Tour comes with a fruit smoothie at the end.)
The café is a great place to buy something for your valentine. It sells caramel toppings, body lotions and an awesome liliko‘i balsamic salad dressing — all using ingredients from the farm. My pick, though, is the grilled banana bread topped with housemade ice cream (left). To die for.
Kahuku Farms, 56-800 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, O‘ahu. Cost is $12 for adults for the Smoothie Tour, $10 for children ages 5 to 12, free for children 4 and under. Grand Tour costs more. Call 808-628-0639 or visit www.kahukufarms.com.)
2. Kayak to the Mokulua Islands
Catching the sunrise from Moku Nui, the largest of the Mokulua Islands in Kailua, is a sight you won’t quickly forget.
So imagine if you’re there — with a bottle of champagne and your GoPro. Valentine’s in the bag!
I’d recommend launching from Lanikai Beach. It’s a much shorter — and more direct — route to the islands than if you’re departing from Kailua Beach. It will take about 30 minutes to get to the island, where you can land your kayak and explore.
The backside — and it’s not super safe, so wear protective footwear and be careful — features a protected cove where you can frolic. (Folks like to jump into the cove from the cliffs overhead. I wouldn’t do it, personally.) And you get a great view of the smaller of the two islands, Moku Iki, which is off-limits to the public. Both are state seabird sanctuaries.
But go early. The water is calmer, conditions are better, and it’s far less crowded in the early hours. And you get to see the sunrise, too.
Rent a kayak from Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks, 130 Kailua Rd., Kailua, O‘ahu. It costs $59 for half a day for a single kayak, $60 for a double kayak. Call 808-262-2555.
3. Sleep in, eat brunch
I’m a big fan of brunch.
And I would be your biggest fan, too, if you let me sleep in first.
So consider this option: Spend Friday night doing something fun and adventurous. Maybe hit the surf at sunset or spend the evening watching a “The Walking Dead” marathon.
Then get up and get brunch.
My recommendation: Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop in Chinatown, where you can feast on breakfast items like stuffed French toast with strawberries, Nutella and whipped mascarpone (above); smothered biscuit sandwich with a housemade chorizo patty, jalapeño-cheddar eggs and smashed taters; or the popular “Milk & Cereal” pancakes with Frosted Flakes in the pancakes and sweetened milk in the syrup. And top that off with a kim chee Bloody Mary or Tang mimosa cocktail.
Hey, she deserves it!
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop, 1030 Smith St., Chinatown, O‘ahu. Call 808-536-1669 for reservations or visit www.scratch-hawaii.com.
4. Take a hike
I love being surrounded by trees.
Better yet, surrounded by trees at a summit with a great view.
I can’t imagine a better Valentine’s morning than hiking through thick groves ironwoods or inhaling the smell of eucalyptus and reaching a summit that overlooks the most beautiful mountain range (in my opinion) in the world.
Better if that trail is fairly easy and short — and gives you enough time to head back home and barbecue.
I like Pu‘u Pia Trail in Mānoa, really a trail for everyone. It’s only about 1.5 miles roundtrip, across easy terrain on a well-worn path, with a view of the majestic Ko‘olau Mountains. And it’s easy enough that, if you want, you can backpack with a bottle of mocasto d’asti and maybe some salami and cheese and have a picnic at the top.
It’s a very gradual climb to the lookout point, where you will be surrounded by native koa (left) and ʻōhiʻa trees. Despite the relative ease, the view of Mānoa Valley and the mountains are pretty amazing — and if you’re the only ones up there, it can be very romantic, too.
Directions to the trailhead: Head towards the back for Manoa by going to the end of East Mānoa Road. At the end, make a left on Alani Drive and go to the end of the street to where it intersects with Woodlawn Drive. Park along the road in this area. Follow the sign on the road to the trailhead.
5. Ride a horse
I went on my first horseback ride in December — thanks to my very sweet husband — at Kualoa Ranch. And loved it.
The ride was fun, the scenery unbeatable, and the whole experience relaxing and memorable.
Established in 1850 on the northeastern side of O‘ahu, Kualoa is a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch, stretching from the Ko‘olau Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. There’s a ton of activities here, from ATV tours through its scenic valleys to catamaran rides of picturesque Kāneʻohe Bay with views of Mokoli‘i Island (Chinaman’s Hat) to a glass-bottom boat ride to the secluded Secret Island.
But one of the most popular ways to explore the ranch is by horseback — and that’s what I’d recommend you book for Valentine’s Day.
The two-hour tour takes you deep into Ka‘a‘awa Valley, where films such as “Godzilla,” “Jurassic Park” and “50 First Dates” were filmed. You ride single file — led by a seasoned guide — and never faster than a quick walk. So it’s not scary or intimidating.
And you’ll earn extra points if you pack a picnic lunch for later, too.
Two-hour rides at Kualoa Ranch in Kualoa, O‘ahu cost $99 per person, one-hour rides (to the southern half of Kualoa and the ranch’s 800-year-old Hawaiian fishpond) are $69 per person. To book a horseback tour, call 1-800-231-7321 or 808-237-7321 or visit www.kualoa.com.
Happy Valentine’s Day!