Tag Archives: Oahu

#FieldTrip: A walk on the west side

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It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been out to the westernmost point of O‘ahu.

So when some friends and I were discussing different trails to tackle this past weekend, I tossed in Ka‘ena Point as a suggestion.

And to my surprise, one hadn’t been there in a decade and the other two had never been there at all.

So it was unanimous, we were going to Ka‘ena Point.

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We got to the trailhead on the Wai‘anae start of the hike by 7 a.m. And to be honest, that was a little late. This isn’t the kind of trail that you want to be still on when the sun is high in the sky. It’s dry, it’s brutally hot, and you won’t find any relief from the heat.

If you follow the highway to the end of the road, you will hit the start of the trail. There are places to park, trash cans for rubbish and signs everywhere telling you what you can and cannot do. For example, no dogs. I made a special note of that one.

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Ka‘ena Point is one of the last intact dune ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands. Located on the westernmost point of O‘ahu, at the end of Farrington Highway, this wild and rugged lava shoreline with sweeping views of the vast Pacific Ocean in every direction is nothing short of magical.

You can feel a kind of purposeful spirit here, walking the uneven 5-mile dirt trail from Makua on O‘ahu’s western coastline to Mokulē‘ia on the North Shore. This is the place of Hawaiian lore, where souls of ancient Hawaiians would jump off the point and into the spirit world and meet the souls of their ancestors.

That wasn’t in our plan.

We just wanted to walk the wild coastline dotted with tide pools and sea arches, talk story, and breathe in the beauty of this sacred place.

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The trail leads to Ka‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve, a remote and scenic protected area harboring some of the last vestiges of coastal sand dune habitat on the island, and home to native plants and seabirds. Whales frequent this shoreline during the winter months, and sometimes you can see spinner dolphins playing in the waters offshore.

Back in 2011, a 6.5-foot-tall predator-proof fence was installed to keep out invasive species that have been devastating the populations of native and endangered plants and animals. Animals like dogs, cats and mongooses have killed ground-nesting seabirds and rats eat their eggs.

Since this stainless steel, marine-grade fence — a dark brown to blend in with the natural surroundings — went up, wedge-tailed shearwater fledglings increased from 300 in 2010 to more than 1,700 last year. Laysan albatross fledglings went up 25 percent this year. Native plants such as ‘ōhiʻa and sandalwood are now covered in fruit.

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We were lucky enough to see a nesting wedge-tailed shearwater (above).

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Once you pass through the predator fence, the landscape changes. The volcanic rock coastline softens into sandy dunes lined with naupaka.

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To walk around this area is like a visual lesson in Native Hawaiian ecology. The coastline is dotted with native plants such as ‘ilima, naio and hinahina kū kahakai, with 11 species that are federally listed as endangered ʻāwiwi, puʻukaʻa, dwarf naupaka and ʻohia. And the point, a nature reserve closed to motorized vehicles, is home to rare and endangered coastal plants and seabirds. The critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal and green sea turtles are regularly spotted resting along the coastline.

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Closer to the shoreline, we found small tide pools, little marine ecosystems bustling with fish like lama (baby goatfish), alaihi (squirrel fish) and sergeant majors.

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We got to the point in about 90 minutes — and that’s with stopping to shoot photos.

It’s not a challenging hike at all. In fact, it’s a well-traversed trail with hardly any incline save for one spot where the original road washed away. But we didn’t go there for a workout. We went to see the stunning scenery and marvel at the native ecosystem that’s alive and thriving.

And that’s exactly what we got.

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Your favorite happy hours on O‘ahu

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Last night I met a girlfriend for pau hana drinks at Bevy, a fairly new neighborhood bar in Kaka‘ako. It’s got a solid happy hour menu, with a new selection of tapas, that we had wanted to check out. Items like house-made goat cheese creme on smoked beets with candied pecans. Or cod-and-caper croquettes served with a sweet chili aioli. Or the popular oysters on a half shell (above) with a papaya salsa and ponzu sauce. (And for $1 each, no less!)

It got me thinking about happy hours.

Anyone who has worked in Hawai‘i knows how much we love our pau hana. We love discounted pūpū and drinks — especially if they’re as delicious as the tidbits we feasted on at Bevy.

But what makes a good happy hour?

I say the following:

1. Great drinks. You can’t have a happy hour with lame, watered-down cocktails and a very limited offering of beers. (Unless you’re Shirokiya and you’re serving cold beers for $1.) We want good, solid drinks at a decent price. I’m not going to pay $8 for a colorful cocktail, even if it comes with a sprig of rosemary.

2. Tasty bites — and size doesn’t really matter. I want to say I appreciate the huge portions some bars dole out, even at happy hour. But I don’t care that much about the quantity as long as the food is crazy-good and reasonably priced. I’ll eat a small plate of food if the dish is absolutely delectable — and the price is right.

3. Fun, lively atmosphere. I might be in the minority when I say this, but I like a happy hour to be fun and lively — not dark or drab or dreary. I don’t need to sit in a cave and eat food I can’t see. If I’ve been sitting in a quiet office for the past eight hours, the last thing I want to do is be in a quiet space after work. I want laughter, I want conversation, I want to swear and dance and toss my head backward in a contagious fit of laughter. Period.

4. Parking. OK, maybe this my 39-year-old self coming out. But I hate having to circle neighborhoods for parking or walk several blocks in heels. I’m just too old for that. Give me valet.

I like places like Brasserie Du Vin in Chinatown, located closed to a cheap municipal parking lot. It boasts a robust happy hour menu like baked Brie, beef sliders topped with caramelized onions and a share-able cheese-and-charcuerie platter. Or Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar near Ala Moana Center, with its late-night menu of contemporary Japanese dishes like unagi rice and sukiyaki bibimbap and sukiyaki kim chee pizza. Or Holoholo Bar & Grill in Mo‘ili‘ili with its take on bar classics like a Hawaiian version of poutine and deep-fried pork ribs.

So, according to that criteria, where are your favorite spots for happy hour?

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Your favorite breakfast spot

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Last night Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe in Manoa hosted a breakfast at night event, featuring spiced banana pancakes, huevos rancheros and a breakfast bruschetta with applewood-smoked bacon and aged Vermont cheddar cheese.

Got me thinking — naturally — about breakfast.

I hear this complaint a lot from friends who want to meet up for breakfast — not brunch — during the week: they can’t find a lot of variety out there.

Sure, there are the 24-hour regulars like Anna Miller’s Restaurant in Pearl City and Zippy’s with locations all over the island. And yeah, there are coffee shops and fast food places that serve breakfast.

But I’m talking major breakfast dishes, more along the lines of meals than just bacon and eggs.

Here are three of my favorite breakfast spots on Oahu that boast delicious dishes, great coffee — because that’s important — and the kind of ambiance that makes you want to linger a little longer:

Sweet E’s Cafe (Kilohana Square, 1016 Kapahulu Ave., 808-737-7771) is a quaint little breakfast and brunch spot — with its only downfall being parking. Its menu features signature items such as banana and blueberry pancakes, French toast stuffed with blueberries and cream cheese, and kalua pig eggs benedict (shown above). Breakfast and lunch is served until 3 p.m. daily.

Moena Cafe (Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, 808-888-7716) opened last year by husband-and-wife restauranteurs Eric and Nicole Chang in Hawaii Kai — and it’s been my go-to breakfast spot since. This charming little eatery features items like fried rice, eggs benedict, sweet bread French toast and Belgian waffles. But worth trying are its more signature items like the short rib loco moco, the cinnamon roll pancakes, and the homemade scones. Moena Cafe has lunch items, too, including sandwiches, salads and burgers. Lots of parking is a plus.

Cinnamon’s Restaurant (Kailua Square, 315 Uluniu St., 808-261-8724) is a popular breakfast spot in Kailua with classic morning items like omelets and pancakes. But it also serves up specialities like crabcake eggs benedict, open-face frittata, red velvet pancakes and homemade cinnamon rolls. Huge menu, so you can keep going back.

So what are your favorite spots?

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We love a good storm

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What is it about storms that get us out of our houses and to places where we probably shouldn’t be?

Case in point: the last tsunami warning drew dozens of people to Waikiki — even in the surf — despite calls for evacuation.

And today, when weather officials warned people about flash flooding, road closures and possible danger surf caused by Tropical Storm Flossie, what do we do?

We all head out to look for it.

At least that’s what I did.

I can honestly say I enjoy a good storm. And I prefer to see it for myself, then wait at home for the impending thunder claps. (I’m actually not a fan of that.)

I’ve jumped in my car to see lighting storms — even while I lived in Chicago — and went down to the beach almost every time there’s been a tsunami warning.

And let’s not forget how Melissa Chang and I braved the streets of Taipei City during Typhoon Soulik.

I’m not one of those storm chasers or crazy people who think they can outrun a tsunami or brave monstrous surf. I’m way too chicken for that. But I like to see unusual weather patterns, I enjoy a good lighting storm, and I love seeing the rain roll in over the ocean.

And I’m not alone.

When I drove to the Halona Blowhole earlier this evening, I almost couldn’t find parking. Lots of people gathered at the lookout on the southeastern shoreline of Oahu to witness Flossie, now downgraded to a tropical depression. It’s still packing a punch, though, with winds and rainfall hitting the Big Island and Maui and now heading to Oahu. Wind gusts are still expected to be fairly dangerous, reaching up to 40 miles per hour by tomorrow.

So what are your storm plans? Going to work? Braving the surf? Heading out, like me, to Instagram?

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What’s happening to the North Shore?

Awhile back, I had written a post that was never published on how much Waikiki had changed since I was a kid.

It was aimed to run after the $115 million renovation to the Royal Hawaiian Center, which, in June 2008, transformed the more than 310,000-square-foot shopping and dining complex along Kalakaua Avenue. It’s got a decidedly Mainland feel, with huge storefronts for such retailers like Apple, Bebe, Tourneau and Bvlgari, just to name a few.

I was conflicted at the time: the streets were cleaner, the landscape more inviting. But it didn’t feel like the Waikiki I remembered growing up. And I couldn’t see the ocean.

But it’s Waikiki. It’s a playground for visitors to Oahu, with rows of hotels, restaurants and shops lining Kalakaua Avenue on both sides. It’s supposed to be tourist-friendly, accessible and self-contained. I get it.

But the North Shore?

The changes out there have been even harder to accept, with Haleiwa looking more like how Disney would interpret Hawaii for Disney World. You can’t rebuild old plantation-style structures and turn-of-the-century buildings. It just doesn’t feel sincere or authentic.

So when I heard about Kamehamehama Schools’ $12.6 million plan to redevelop four acres in this historic town, I didn’t know how to feel, exactly.

The plan calls for demolishing four of nine existing buildings — including the one that houses Aoki’s Shave Ice — and restoring two. The famous (particularly with visitors) Matsumoto Shave Ice will be spared.

It pits two long-time, family-owned shave ice stands against each other, and that makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

Talking with owner Stanley Matsumoto, there has never been an unfriendly rivalry between the two shops. They have coexisted for more than 30 years, offering similar but different flavors and goods. And both have devoutly loyal followings.

So it’s no surprise the outpouring of support for Aoki’s when several media outlets — and the shop’s own Facebook page — reported it would be closing up shop.

It’s hard to watch the North Shore turn into this visitor destination, though I know it was only a matter of time.

Folks are lured to this area primarily for the massive winter swells. But over the years, shops and restaurants have seen increases in traffic during the flat summer months, with visitors flocking here because of its reputation. The beaches are pristine, the snorkeling stellar. And now, thanks to development, there are lots of shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes to patron.

It’s a hard balance: you want businesses on the North Shore to survive (and thrive!), but you don’t want to change its appeal and charm.

And building new and more shops and buildings may not be the answer.

What’s your take?

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