One of the downsides of traveling to so many different locations is that it becomes difficult to be impressed as one remembers a similar place that somehow was more unique.
It is hard to empathize with Louis Jourdan’s Gaston in “GiGi,” as he sings about being bored in Paris, but I know that even a magnificent locale like Hawai‘i can cause me ennui after so many visits. One solution is to see it through new eyes, so when Pollywog, my 11-year-old granddaughter, expressed a desire to visit, it was a no-brainer. I told her I would take her since she is my favorite granddaughter. Her reply, “Papa, I’m your only granddaughter.” Picky, picky.
I rented a three-bedroom house in the Ewa area through AirBnB for around $85 a night. I have had some good luck using them and also some terrible experiences. Worse, they don’t seem to care about rectifying any complaints, so if you use them, caveat emptor.
We had a fairly nice place, but my daughter and her husband said it was too warm for them at night and the place had no air conditioning. I mentioned that in the review of their place and got a scathing response from the owners.
My parents were born in Hilo, but my mother’s family moved to Honolulu where she attended McKinley High School. She used to tell me stories about working at the old Dole Pineapple Cannery near Honolulu Harbor for 10 cents an hour, but with so many of her classmates working at the same time, it was like a social hour. When I first visited Honolulu years ago, I made it a point to take the tour of this cannery where free samples of incredibly sweet slices of pineapple were offered, along with pineapple juice. The factory closed in 1991 and was replaced with a retail complex that includes a movie theater, Costco, Home Depot and other offices. I understand that there are posters, memorabilia and exhibits scattered about describing its past history.
I thought about my mother during our first day spent at the Dole Plantation. It is located in Wahiawa town and Dole is capitalizing on attracting paying tourists to take a train ride to see how pineapples are grown, and learn about various species of pineapples found around the world. Another paid attraction is the pineapple maze that’s billed as the world’s largest maze. Pollywog cajoled me into accompanying her on this puzzle, allowing her parents some free time together. The fastest finishers receive a prize, but her goal was enjoying running through the different paths while exhausting me, so I said, “Let’s look at the map and figure out a plan.” At every hidden locale, a stencil is provided to confirm that you were there.
Soon, we filled our eight treasure spots and exited. As a reward, I bought her a pineapple slush in a souvenir cup shaped like a pineapple. Her parents let her pick an oyster and she found a pink pearl.
Next, we stopped in Haleiwa for shaved ice. Long lines form at Matsumoto’s, since it is the oldest and most famous, but I convinced everyone to try Aoki’s because there was no line. They serve almost the same shaved ice, and I later heard that Aoki’s was to be torn down to build a large shopping center.
The Souvaly Thai truck was nearby, so we had a late lunch there. The owners are from Laos, which borders Thailand, so the food and language are very similar. Unfortunately, the pad Thai, satay, spring rolls and green curry were just average. Yelp reviewers had given it 4.5/5 stars … Really?
In the evening, we found Ohana Drive Inn near our rented home that really is more for take-out. It is in an uninviting place in a strip mall, with low prices for typical Hawaiian/Chinese food that was average tasting.
Shopping at Safeway for breakfast provisions, we got sticker shock at prices like $9 for two pounds of strawberries and bacon for $9 a pound. Too late, I learned that locals prefer Foodland for lower prices, plus they sell a card to get further discounts.
The next day, we visited the USS Arizona Memorial. It is advisable to make reservations in advance online, since tickets may sell out, especially in the summer or if cruises are in port. The whole complex has been renamed as the “World War II Valor in the Pacific” national monument, and has expanded to include outstanding docents, audio tours, movies and exhibits featuring the USS Bowfin submarine, the USS Missouri battleship and the Pacific Aviation Museum. It is easy to spend the whole day, as we did, viewing all the exhibits.
A fortunate majestic sight was seeing the aircraft carrier, USS John C. Stennis, entering the harbor with all hands on deck as we stood next to some crew members’ family and friends holding signs welcoming them home.
That night we had dinner with distant cousins that I had never met, but in the true aloha spirit, they treated us to dinner at Restaurant Kunio in the Waipahu area. I felt it was over-priced for average-tasting food.
Our third day was spent at Hanauma Bay snorkeling. Here’s a money-saving tip: Buy two snorkels and masks for $12 total at the ABC Store, whereas beach rentals cost $12 each. Buy a beach mat for $3 while you are there, too. Renting fins ($5) is reasonable rather than purchasing. This is a sheltered area and it is fun to see all the sea life. Someone said prices might even be less at Walmart.
We drove around the island in the late afternoon and stopped at Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp truck in Kahuku. The owners are now Chinese since my last visit a few years prior and prices had increased. It’s good food if you are in the area, but not worth a detour.
The following morning, Pollywog took surfing lessons from Hawaii Fire, which consists of off-duty firefighters at Barbers Point. Participants ranged in age from 8 to 40. After the lesson on the beach, Pollywog paddled out with the group and on her first attempt fell off. Back she went and on the second try she was standing up all the way in and on every wave thereafter.
Did she have fun? Guess who was the last one out of the water. Hawaii Fire has sold their surfing lesson business since our visit.
I wanted to visit Doris Duke’s former home Shangri La, which is now part of the Hawaii State Art Museum because my mother’s cousin was Duke’s maid and had given my mother a tour when Duke was out visiting. Alas, all tours were booked, so plan B was touring ‘Iolani Palace. Their Website was so poor that we couldn’t complete purchases online. As others experienced the same problem, we were able to purchase tickets on-site. They offered a nice tour by docents, although they shied away from discussing the overthrow of the monarchy and allowing missionaries to profit.
We ran out of time before visiting the Polynesian Cultural Center that I enjoyed taking my kids when they young and believe it should be on everyone’s list when first visiting Hawai‘i. It gives me an excuse to bring Pollywog and my grandsons back to Hawai‘i in the future.
The last afternoon was spent having a delightful but incredibly expensive lunch at the Moana Surfrider’s restaurant on Waikiki Beach. Pollywog loved swimming at Waikiki for hours. On my first visit to Waikiki years ago, one could see Diamond Head majestically silhouetted, but now there are so many distractions such as buildings all along the beach right up to the slopes of this extinct volcano.
All good things must end, and as much as I enjoyed Pollywog’s first taste of Hawai‘i, returning to the Ninth Island (Las Vegas) was just as welcome.
The Kaeru Kid lives in Las Vegas and hopes readers will send him comments at KaeruKid@yahoo.com. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.
Las Vegas Tidbits
I recently had lunch at the Kitchen Table, 1716 Horizon Ridge Parkway, Suite 100, Henderson, Nev. (702) 478-4782; http://www.kitchentablelv.com. It is located next door to Shabu Shabu Paradise. Kitchen Table only serves breakfast, brunch and lunch. I had the bacon and egg bagel that featured jalapeño bacon, and it was tasty. My companion had the pastrami sandwich that co-chef (with Javiar Chavez) and owner Antonio Nunez told me are made by them on the premises. Katz’s Deli (of “When Harry Met Sally” fame) in New York is known for their pastrami, but we both thought it tasted better here, even though no pickle was provided and that is a major omission for my taste. Prices are slightly higher than usual for this type of food but the quality of the innovative dishes (see the extensive menu) make a visit here worth the trip.