I've only been back in Rome a week and I am already having serious withdrawal symptoms. I'm missing everything about Honolulu, from the perfect temps of the calm turquoise sea, to the overload of local tropical fruit and flowers. I admit that there is plenty of tourist hustle around Waikiki Beach, but it's the natural beauty, smiling locals and relaxed culture that you take away with you. I feel like it's a place where children can still walk down the street on their own (or at least down to the beach). Everything just seems brighter there!
If you read my previous post, you'll know I have a soft spot for the Moana Surfrider. If you didn't see it, read it after this! The Moana is my sentimental favorite thanks to my parents' long history of visiting here and our wonderful family vacations together. Waikiki is a fabulous area to use as a base for first-time visitors to the Island of Oahu. I've been to Hawaii several times and I always come back to Waikiki. We're creatures of habit - though I'll admit after a previous trip to the big Island of Hawaii, I'm very keen to explore the other islands. All we need is another month of annual leave every year! Anyway, getting back to the Moana... She is an institution in Waikiki and the go-to place for photos for every newlywed in Honolulu. I've never seen so many brides in my life! You have no excuse to be bored at the Moana with all the guest activities included in the resort fee. You can also just chill and people-watch from the fabulous rocking-chairs on either side of the hotel, or spend the day lazing on a sunbed at the beach or by the pool. I happily did this, but only after some sort of workout, usually a run (with Jen the guide) along the beach and around Diamond Head. Allow yourself to dream looking at the beachside houses at Diamond Head. And then come back to reality with a massive post-run breakfast at the Moana Beach Club. Real life is also pretty good!
Honolulu is definitely the place for some retail therapy. You may even need to take an empty suitcase. In any case ladies, if you take up the Westin's offer of workout gear, you only need to pack a few bathing suits, dresses and sandals for Hawaii so you should have plenty of room left in the luggage for outlet shopping at Waikele. There are regular shuttles going to and from Waikiki which also include a book of discount vouchers. If you take a taxi or an Uber there, just tell them at the desk that you came in Charlie's Taxis and they will still give the book of vouchers. You're welcome!
If you want to shop in Waikiki, you won't be disappointed with the range of brand names along the main street, interspersed with local craft shops. And I'm saving the best news for last... the Ala Moana Shopping Center, only a few minutes in a taxi from Waikiki, is the largest outdoor shopping center in the world. You might need a day or two to get around the 340 shops!
If you're looking for an easy (and pretty) breakfast, head to the Hawaiian Crown Plantation cafe for an acai bowl-to-go served in a pineapple! Then head to the beach, take a seat in the soft white sand and enjoy while looking out over the sea. Bliss!
If you want to spoil yourself for lunch or afternoon tea in Honolulu, experience the veranda at the Moana's Beach House. I would take the crab cakes every time, but I'm told by a reliable source that the scallops at dinner are even better. Here you can be as decadent or healthy as you like. Just look at this tomahawk steak and mash - which isn't too decadent until you add on the carrot cake!
More than a few times when we enjoyed lazy beach days, we simply opted to go to the local ABC Store (across the road from the Moana) and pick up salads or sushi, and finish off with an ice-cream from the hotel pool-bar. Nancy is always so friendly that you want to see her every day to get ice-cream. Isn't that right Mum?!
At dinner time in Waikiki there are lots of tourist traps where you'll wait a long time for a table and be less than impressed with the huge serving of bland food placed in front of you. A little bit of planning goes a long way. We booked the following two restaurants a day ahead and were very glad we did when we saw the number of people being turned away at the door.
I've always loved Bills in Sydney for brunch so I jumped at the chance to try Bills Hawaii. You have to remember I'm an Aussie living in Rome, so anything Australian is always good. Bills certainly lives up to its name. My family raved about the pastas - prawn and chilli linguine, and pappardelle with veal and pork ragu - but right now I'm craving their avocado and tuna poke with brown rice, cherry tomatoes and sea asparagus. I won't be finding that in Rome any time soon, nor their ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter. Dying!
The only thing better than a great restaurant, is a great restaurant situated upstairs from a boutique. Welcome to Tommy Bahama's Restaurant, Bar and Store. The server didn't leave us alone for more than two minutes but every dish and cocktail was exquisite. I highly recommend the Thai shrimp and scallops on almond rice accompanied by their signature pina colada and I also have to mention the lump blue crab and avocado salad which my father (normally a meat and potatoes man) devoured. Our fave cocktail of the evening was one of their daily market cocktails with rockmelon in the name but none of the fruits or spirits was rockmelon-based. We don't know how but it tasted exactly like rockmelon! The barman was obviously happy we liked them, because the next ones were much stronger. Tip: ask for a table near the window when booking.
Every visit to Waikiki means a visit to Saint Augustine by the Sea Church. It's architecturally stunning and standing-room only for Sunday morning Mass. I love that the community is so welcoming to visitors and that they are always celebrating couples' 20, 25, 30 years (and more) wedding anniversaries. Mahalo and I hope we're there in 20 years celebrating ours!