Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mainland Girl Island Tour - Part 2 {Kaneohe to the North Shore}

Continuing on with the self guided tour: Start from Kailua/Pail Lookout (See Part 1: From Waikiki to the South Shore) or take Highway 3, the Likelike Highway or the Pali Highway to get to the Windward side.

From Kailua or the Pali Lookout take the Kamehameha Highway toward Kaneohe. Golfers can try their hand at one of the hardest golf courses in the U.S. at the Ko'okau Golf Course. Even if just to practice your swing, it's one of the most beautiful ranges I've ever seen--the view is spectacular. (And sure beats golf ranges in Korea which I thought were urban eye-sores). Located close to where the Kam Hwy/Pali Hwy meet.Stop off at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Gardens (45680 Luluku Road) which is one of the few botanical gardens that you can actually drive through. You can also go on hikes and camp there, but I just like to do a slow drive to the top where I picnic with a book or journal and admire the lush green Ko'olau mountains. (Admission free, 9-4pm daily). Prior to the gardens, I like to stop at the Okazuya on the corner of Kam Hwy and Luluku to pick up some bentos.

On the Kam Hwy you can stop off at the Windward Mall across the street to pick up other necessities and grab a Starbucks or Jamba Juice treat. Other lunch/dinner spots in the area: El Mariachi is one of the best Mexican food places I've tried (quite authentic for Hawaii) located at 451151 Kam Hwy (808.234.5893) and the Vietnamese shop next door is good too. Deluxe Pastry Shop is said to have the best donuts and long johns (i.e a long custard donut in mainland-speak) at 45-1042 Kam Hwy, 808.247.4235.

Next stop: Byodo-In Valley of the Temples (47-200 Kahekili Hwy). From the Kam Hwy, take Haiku Road to the Kahekili Hwy (route 83) and pass the cemetary. The Temple offers a calm respite of the day, and is scenic spot and transport to another world. This replica of a 960 year old temple in Uji, Japan (near Kyoto) takes me back to my travels in Japan. Beautiful archetecture, a bell, koi pond (buy fish food at the on-site gift shop), bamboo garden, and one of the largest wooden Buddah statues in the world, make this a lovely stop and great photographic site. The Kaneohe temple was built in the late 1960s to memorialize the 100th anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii (roughly 1886). ($2 admission; 8:30-4:30pm)
Keep driving down the 83...and enjoy the relaxing view. You'll find a lot of vendor booths along the way selling fresh fruit and local artisan crafts. Do stop at the fruit stands...they cut up a fresh pineapple for you or grab some fresh mangos or papayas for a refreshing treat on your island drive. You'll also see a number of competiting shrimp shacks (or trucks) along the way. Stop along the road...or wait until you get to the Haleiwa in the North Shore for a popular one called Giovanni's.

Ka'a'awa Valley
One of my favorite Hawaii moments, was taking a day trip through the Kualoa Ranch in the Ka'a'awa Valley. It was an absolutely beautiful and breath taking opportunity to ride through the open area of greenry--lush mountain ranges...ocean views. Life just couldn't get any better than that. Simply amazing. The Kualoa Ranch is where movies such as Jurassic Park, Peral Harbor and Godzilla were filmed. I have yet to process the photos I took while there. It felt like I was a million miles away from the city, a little protected haven from the world.
After a long drive you'll come to the northern tip of the island at Laie. Here, you'll find one of the most popular tourist attractions: the Polynesian Cultural Center. (55-370 Kam Hwy; 808. 293.3333). A field day to learn about Pacific Isander culture from Tahiti, New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Marguesas, and Hawai'i. The "theme park" is divided into different islands where you can learn about the dance, rituals, food, language and culture of the various groups with audience-participation. If you haven't been here at least once, I think it's worth a stop. Some critique that the Cultural Center is a comodified colonialized cultural production...which it may be...but for tourists and locals alike, it's one of the few spaces in the U.S. where Americans can learn about the Pacific Isander history and experience in an experiential way. Do plan to spend the whole day here to take in the richness of each theme park island, the IMAX shows, and luau. And at the very least, attend the luau for one of the best shows on the island. You'll get a good variety of Hawaiian food here (tempered for the mild non-local taste bud) and the show is pretty fantastic--colorful, representative of the different cultures, and the BYU kids who work here do a great job of entertaining. {You can also just stop by the gift shop and park in the green stalls for 30 minutes for free. Just tell the person at the booth when you enter the parking lot.}

Bringham Young University. Tours are held at the university, one of the largest Morman private schools outside of Utah. There's a nice garden, Morman church and cemetary next door as well (55-600 Naniloa Loop). Interesting tid-bit: You can rent clothes from the temple if you're not appropriately dressed.

The North Shore

The North Shore has become synonymous with surfing. For a nice yet casual outdoor lunch/dinner on the beach, stop by Turtle Bay Resort's joint, Ola (57-091 Kam Hwy, 808.293-0801). Great food and nice outdoor relaxing atmosphere, set apart from the resort giving you a nice feeling of secultion and relaxation right on the beach. I think it's a hidden gem (well, not that hidden) but one of the best places to eat on any beach I've been to (even better than eating on the beach in Nice, France). This might be the best meal you can get until you get back into town. The hotel resort itself is really nice, and there's a public beach part and a resort part of the grounds. Large turtles do swim in the area (hence it's name) through I personally haven't seen one. A small spa at the resort (disappointing really) but nice pool area for cocktails on lounge chairs under the sun with an ocean view. Really nice actually. {Some good angels to take surfing photos too due to the break close to the resort grounds.}

Next drive to Waimea Bay, to see some of the largest and most dangerous 30foot waves on the island (particularly during the winter). It gets really crowded on the two-laned windy road during peak season--cars parked anywhich way to catch a view of the tides...and surfers that dare to scale them. It's also the home of Death Rock (or Jump Rock, more subtly) which I didn't dare to do...and where only the brave take a leap into a deep hole and back out into the ocean. The beach is home to the Quicksilver surf competition. Some of the best orange sunsets can be seen here in November.The Pipeline reef near the Ehukai Beach is said to have the hollowest and biggest barrel on the North Shore. The shape of the waves (like long pipes) give this area it's name. The Triple Crown Surfing competition is held here. Only 25 parking stall on the road, so during the winter, be prepared to hitch, walk, or be creative.Stop by Haleiwa town to eat, shop and get a snack. One popular place here is Matsumoto's for some good Shave Ice. The long line and wait is worth it. The impatient head across the way to Aoki's which they say is just as good. For me, I'm loyal to original shave ice king.

Folks like the mexican resturant in the main shopping plaza--it was okay. On another occassion I tried the popular Giovanni Shrimp Shack (59-618 Kawoa Pl) and that was okay too. It's fresh shrmip caught from the North Shore, deep friend and drizzled with garlic and butter...with a side of rice. It was rich and I got tired of eating shrimp after shrimp. The best part is sitting under the trees and eating with your fingers with good friends. The truth is, I have a really hard time thinking of a good place to eat in Haleiwa.
There's a monthly Art Walk in Haliewa every last Sat of the month (6-9pm) with music, artists and food booths. One of my favorite surf artists, Heather Brown, sells her work here (as well as in Chinatown). There's also a Surf Museum and other botiques and shops to stroll through--one of the few custom bikini stores I've encountered, some hippy type shops, Hawaiian Island Creation store, and other casual finds.

This is an off-the-beaten path type of district in the North Shore. What I like most, is the historic Sugar Mill that hosts a farmer's market (Sat 8-12:30) with a funny blue food truck that I just had to photograph, surf shops, and a soap factory in the towered mill which was a fun place to take photos (posted later). I also bought little wooden magnets (shaped as slippers) here. The largest warehouse in the back has vintage type furniture and clothes, and a small Wailua Coffee shop stand that serves Shave Ice with syrup made from 100% natural fruit juice (lilikoi, guava, etc). It was good but the ice still chunky. After that shave ice run, I still went to Matsumoto for another shave ice that same day. The area is also known for bottling Waialua Soda Works.

And for the day's last stop: Take the Kam Hwy (99) to Waihiwa and stop off at the Dole Plantation. (64-1550 Kam Hwy). Here run around the world's largest maze, take the platation train tour, and walk around the varieties of pineapple growths. There's history to be learned about the plantation workers--they have black and white images of Asian American laborers cut outs posted throughout the pineapple fields. But I think the historical aspect gets lost on the commercialization of Dole products. The gift shop is large...and has 2-3 restroom areas (the main reason to stop by). People come here for their pineapple ice cream (check coupon books for buy-one-get-one-free). I went here on three occassion to try their ice cream but they close promptly at 5pm. Finally got to try it on my last visit...where I dropped my cone as I tried to take a photo. :( I guess the "pineapple whip" was okay, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

From there, take the H2/H1 back to Waikiki...or continue on with "Island Tour - Part 3: West and Central Oahu."

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