Tag Archive | "Honolulu"

Aloha Kahala! Celebrating 50 Years of Aloha at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu, Hawaii

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The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

By Linda Hayes

Honolulu, aptly referred to as ‘The Heart of Hawaii,’ never ceases to amaze me. In Waikiki, tourists perusing the chic designer shops along Kalakaua Avenue, the city’s version of Rodeo Drive, contrast sharply with the casual beach culture just a block away. Beyond that, a burgeoning cultural community mixes with high-rise office buildings and a busy seaport. Verdant inland peaks rise in the distance.

Although I often stay at one of the landmark hotels – The Royal Hawaiian or Halekulani, for instance – that dot Waikiki’s famous, two-mile stretch of beach, this time I’m returning to a place of which I’m particularly fond, the historic Kahala Hotel & Resort, located about ten minutes away in Kahala, the Island’s most exclusive residential neighborhood. And this time, rather than with my husband, I’m traveling with a girl friend who loves The Kahala as much as I do.

We arrive mid-morning on a perfect Honolulu day. The Kahala’s Grand Lobby is just as we remembered it, the picture of classic Hawaiian elegance with Thai-teak parquet floors, Italian fused-glass chandeliers dangling from the 30-foot-high ceilings and lava-rock walls planted with cascading orchids. All things mainland begin to drift away on the balmy breeze as we drift off to our rooms.

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the 338-room Kahala has been an Island escape for a veritable who’s who of celebrities, athletes, royalty, politicians and performers since its opening, a fact that once inspired former Honolulu Advertiser columnist Eddie Sherman to refer to it as “The Ka-Hollywood.” Signed photos of many of these famed guests are hung in the hotel’s Wall of Fame.

Resident dolphins at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Resident dolphins at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Book a room on the Dolphin Lagoon, a centerpoint of the resort, and your time there will be enhanced by the resident dolphins’ playful squeals and splashes. High corner rooms in the tower facing to mauka, or ‘toward the mountains’ in Hawaiian, and over the Waialae Country Club often feature views of eye-popping rainbows. And rooms facing to makai, or ‘toward the sea’, well, you get the picture. (Note these terms. They’ll come in handy when the taxi driver you call after a trip into Waikiki asks whether he should pick you up on the makai or mauka side of the street).

Our goal of spending as much time at The Kahala’s private cove of a beach as possible made our packing simple. Bathing suits, board shorts, flip-flops, or ‘slippers’ if you’re a local, sun hats and lots of tanning cream. (Should you overdo it in the sun, the luscious Kahala Spa offers a healing cold stone and Ti leaf massage.)

When we weren’t putting our chaise lounges to good use, or chatting with the friendly beach boys from Hans Hedemann Surf Adventures, who were there to offer good-humored advice about handling the resort’s fleet of Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boards and sea kayaks, we were in the water.

One morning, we took a private SUP Yoga class with Matt Meko, an easy-going instructor from the resort’s CHI Health & Energy Fitness Center. After anchoring our boards so we wouldn’t drift away, we spent an hour practicing down-dogs and triangle pose and even headstands with little ripples lapping at our boards. Matt explained that the ocean was our kumu, or teacher, and it was moving and changing all the time. Our job was to keep our vibrations calm. We didn’t fall off once.

Passing over the little bridges that cross the Dolphin Lagoon, we were instantly charmed by the antics of Hoku, Kolohe, Liho, Lono and Nainoa, the five male Atlantic bottle-nose dolphins who call the natural, 26,000 square foot lagoon (a.k.a. “the bachelor pad”) home.

Run by Dolphin Quest Oahu, the official Dolphin Quest experience includes various ‘encounters’ (not shows), during which you get to swim, touch (never push, pull, or ride) and play with the dolphins. But the most fun is simply watching the trainers, who consider themselves part of the dolphin family, go through their daily routines – feeding, training and caring for the gentle creatures. A simple whistle or hand signal will send Hoku, who was born at The Kahala and whose name means ‘star,’ spinning, diving and generally hamming it up with his buds.

Feeding time for my friend and I was entertaining as well. Lunch was typically balancing salads from the Seaside Grill, served up in bento boxes, on our knees at the beach. Pupus like spicy ahi poke, fish tacos and edamame tossed with red Hawaiian salt (with Mai Tais and Kona microbrews, of course) at the Plumeria Beach House bar were perfect sunset-watching fare.

Room at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Room at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

But breakfast was our thing, specifically the vast ‘Rise & Shine’ buffet on the Plumeria lanai, during which plates were piled high with custom-made omelets, Portuguese sausage, macadamia nuts muffins, juicy papaya and my favorite, crisp waffles with coconut syrup and sweet butter. Throw in a Bloody Mary made with Hawaiian vodka and sea salt, and we were more than ready to tackle the day (or, more likely, the beach chairs).

Our stay coming to a close, we’d added yet another layer of experiences to our visits to The Kahala. Charmed by the ubiquitous spirit of aloha, one thing had become clear. We might call the mountains of Colorado home, but we were Hawaiian Island girls at heart.


The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Avenue



Linda_Hayes_Headshot-150x150 Linda Hayes lives in land-locked Old Snowmass, Colorado, where she keeps a closet full of “aloha” wear ready to pack at a moment’s notice. She has been a long-time contributor to Luxe Interiors & Design, SKI, Association News, Aspen Magazine, Mountain Living, Stratos, genconnect.com and gardenstotables.com, and has written for Western Interiors, Elle Deco, Hemispheres, Hawaiian Style, Robb Report and others. When she’s not on the road, Linda makes her home in an architect-designed, modern straw bale house with elk and deer for neighbors, with her husband, Kelly J. Hayes (a wine writer and spotter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football).


When the Going was Good: Our 30 Favorite Trips in 2013

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The incredible team that puts together Everett Potter’s Travel Report every week is a well-traveled bunch. So asking our contributors about their favorite travel moment in 2013 produced joy, angst and lengthy answers, as well as the inevitable,  “Just one?”

Herewith are some highlights from our travels in 2013.



Riding a horse out of dense Brazilian rain forest and into a clearing where the Atlantic came into shimmering view, during a modified version of the horseback-and-hiking trek between two of my all-time favorite hotels, Fazenda Catucaba and Pousada Picinguaba. I was with the owner on a scouting mission for what will eventually become a two-day trip from the mountains to the sea (he’s hoping to get it going next year), with stops for gourmet picnics with the fazenda’s homemade cheese and breads and a night of glamping in a safari-style campsite, though virgin UNESCO-protected forests so untouched that we walked much of the way behind state park guides wielding machetes to break a path. – Ann Abel




I’d never really thought of going to one of the country’s biggest cities to unwind by a pool until last winter. My husband, daughter and I wanted to fly off to a beach for a relaxing winter getaway, but her UChicago break was too short. Our solution: we booked a mini-suite at the Four Seasons Chicago and promised ourselves we wouldn’t let the fact that all of Chicago was at our doorstep entice us to get into urban mode. Happily we kept our promise. The hotel’s Roman-columned pool, with a huge Jacuzzi and light streaming in through the skylight and floor-to-ceiling window wall let us forget how cold the Chicago winter was. We ventured out once to walk to one of the museums and take a shopping stroll down Michigan Avenue. But mostly our weekend consisted of lazing on the lounge chairs, swimming in the warm pool, and sipping cool drinks in the graciously-sized Jacuzzi. Oh yes, and enjoying room service. Pina colada anyone? - Geri Bain




By far it was taking my first solo trip with my son to New York City. For his birthday if there was anywhere he could go in the world, where would it be? “New York City,” he said and pointed to it on the map next to his bunk bed. “It’s my favorite place in the universe.” We spent one epic day and night in the city — stayed at the fun and funky Ace Hotel in Midtown (“What’s a record?” he asked while playing with the turntable), hit the NYPL’s Children’s Literature Exhibit, the Nathan Sawaya Lego Art exhibit, rode the subways (“Better than a rollercoaster!”) and had a fancy dinner downtown at Chef Ryan Hardy’s Charlie Bird. And to celebrate the big day? An appearance in the Today Show crowd, a stroll through the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center, lunch and gelato at Eataly and “The Lion King” on Broadway. Even the train rides in and out of the city were a hit. More importantly we got to share our love of travel, discovery, food, people and art  together! – Amiee White Beazley 




Just back from my best travel experience this year–sailing out of my home port, New York City at night (a thrill!) and cruising up the Atlantic coast to Canada on Regent’s Navigator.  All of the stops were fun–Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saguenay, Quebec and Montreal, but the real surprise was visiting familiar close-to-home places like Newport and Bar Harbor that I’ve loved on land but found a treat seen from a new perspective, as ports of call.  - Eleanor Berman




Out on the road, every year has its special moments.  The Belgian province of Flanders, just beyond the center of Ypres, is where some of World War I’s bloodiest fighting occurred and where many events of the Great World War I Centenary will be celebrated in 2014.  Standing in Essex Farm Cemetery, beside the mossy bunker of the medical station where Lt. Col. John McCrae, a doctor, penned his poem, “In Flanders Fields,” I gazed out at the lines of headstones and could almost see those long-ago battlefields and hear his famous words: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the headstones, row on row.”  – Monique Burns


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My best travel story of 2013 was staying up Little Woody Creek Valley with a recently-sited mountain lion, in a guest house once visited by Margaret Thatcher. The former Prime Minister happened to die while I was staying there, so each time I went for a walk, I imagined the mountain lion might appear and I’d suddenly find myself having tea with the Iron Lady in the ever after. - Melissa Coleman




One of the most memorable moments of our family trip to Northern California last summer took place during a guided sea kayaking tour of Monterey Bay. Just at a spot where the winds got strong and paddling got a little rough, a rollicking band of sea lions and harbor seals swarmed around us and started clowning around for what seemed to be our amusement.  Seals were playfully nudging our kayaks and diving in between us.  Sea lions pups were leaping out of the water and striking funny poses midair.  It was hard to take our eyes off of them.  Talk about the greatest show on earth! -Jessica Genova




The Andean Explorer, PeruRail’s luxury train service between Cuzco and Puno, is the greatest surface transportation trip I have ever taken in Latin America — and certainly the best choice for traveling to or from Lake Titicaca. The journey is not short — a full day, in fact — but the 10 hours go by quickly. One reason is the excellent entertainment: two different bands and dance troupes, featuring music and folklore from both the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Andean plateau, perform in the morning and afternoon. A leisurely lunch consisting of regional specialties is included in the train fare, as is afternoon tea. Following lunch, the talented bartender in the observation car gives lessons in mixing Peru’s classic cocktail, the pisco sour. The scenic highlight of the journey — best enjoyed from the open-air rear car — is watching the sunset over Lake Titicaca, framed by the majestic peaks of the Bolivian Andes.  The staff provides friendly and attentive service throughout the journey; and given the international make-up of the train’s passengers, there are many opportunities to strike up interesting conversations with fellow travelers from many different countries. Cuzco and Machu Picchu are deservedly the leading tourist attractions in this part of the world; but Lake Titicaca — the highest navigable body of water in the world, and home to the fascinating people who live on the lake’s artificial floating islands — is a very worthwhile excursion. Especially since getting there is now half the fun. – Buzzy Gordon




Return to Brazil – from the toucans flying overhead, monkeys rustling the trees and up-close mists of Iguazu falls from our base at the newish Orient Express Cataratas – to the chic cobblestone streets, stylish boutiques, great dining and fabulous beaches of Buzios – to the always touristy but for a very good reason Christo in Rio, along with climbing up the base of Pao de Acucar / Sugarloaf Mtn. Bring on the Olympics and World Cup! - Cari Gray




You’ve just marveled at Alaska’s great receding Mendenhall Glacier and have heeded the ranger’s suggestion to head to a nearby stream. Even forewarned, you’re still startled by the sight of the bear pushing purposefully through the high grass toward the shallow water.  As if scripted, she enters the stream. Snatches a slow moving, spawning salmon.  And drops it in the grass maybe 15 feet from your privileged perch on a fenced, raised boardwalk built expressly for this moment. Her two cubs join her, but get little of this catch, as the sow bites hungrily into the fish.  You’re so close that you hear the salmon bones crunching.  - John Grossmann




Mall of America…where else can you ride a roller coaster, see a movie, eat in any one of 60 restaurants, witness a wedding in a Vegas-style marriage chapel, shop for Chanel, buy naughty lingerie or a hockey stick and have any part of your body pierced? Minneapolis itself was an eye-opening experience for this admitted New York City snob.  - Shari Hartford




While checking out the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, my husband and I ventured up to the hillside cactus and succulent garden on the campus. Pretty wonderful we thought. And then we discovered the “po.e.tree,” a virtual tree of poems written by visitors and clipped onto a hodgepodge of branches. (See if you can find mine in the pic.) Best part, though, was spotting Moriso Teraoka, a 100th Infantry Battalion Vet who founded the garden in ’88 with a donation of plants and still helps to maintain it with a battalion of volunteers (that’s him hiking up the stairs). Sweet guy for such a prickly project. - Linda Hayes




I’m not one for life-sized, wax replicas of historical figures. But in the Yusupov Palace on the Moika River in St. Petersburg, the waxen likenesses of the men who attempted the murder of Rasputin– and of the infamous Siberian “Mad Monk” himself at the end of the table–changed my mind. There, in the dark and creaky basement, the aristocracy will give the huge, fire-eyed peasant poison enough to kill a horse….but not, it turned out, to kill him. Instead, the seemingly indestructible mystic will undergo one of the most bizarre and protracted demises in history. It’s a mesmerizing and memorable stage set. - Dalma Heyn 




Floreana was the highlight of our family trip to Ecuador. Spent one perfect day viewing century-old tortoises, dining at a ranch with descendants of the island’s first settlers, and then snorkeling by ourselves with mega-sized sea turtles and none-too-shy sea lions. -Steve Jermanok




My Best 2013 Travel Moment was witnessing, firsthand, the power of travel to heal. In June, still reeling from the death of my mother and difficult ongoing divorce negotiations, I went to Amsterdam to do two stories for EPTR. Just being airborne gave my spirits a lift; experiencing a healing Watsu spa treatment gave me the first chance to unexpectedly be in touch with my mourning and the gifts of my mother’s life. New vistas, new energy, new perspective and new hope for the future sound like a lot of baggage to put onto a four-day trip, but that’s what happened. Travel expands and travel can help the healing process. I discovered that, and am grateful for it. - Mary Alice Kellogg




I rented an attic apartment atop a house in the Kilburn section of northwest London for two weeks – very basic, but light-filled, quiet and equipped with a small kitchen and bath – and spent my days writing, looking at art, and walking, walking, walking as I discovered areas and aspects of the city that, despite having visited nearly a dozen times before, were previously unknown to me. It was, far and away, the most enjoyable travel experience of my life. - Marc Kristal




Last April, the ski writers association held its 50th anniversary meeting at Mammoth Mountain, in California. The day I arrived it seemed like spring and I was concerned about having enough snow. O me of little faith! The first morning, I awoke and discovered that a storm overnight had covered the mountain and our base area with a blanket of new snow. We skied joyfully the next few days (though it was a tad windy!) On one particular day, I skied with a retired ski writer who spends many of her days in Vermont. She was not just beautiful to watch; she was swift. I had trouble keeping up with her. When I asked how old she was, she said in a conspiratorial voice: “I’m 84, but I don’t want people to know.” I replied: “You’re my hero!” - Grace Lichtenstein




Even though I’ve lived in Paris for years, I hadn’t done a long, comprehensive trip of the Loire Valley chateaux in many years, so it was a huge pleasure to rediscover their magnificence during a week-long trip this past May, the perfect time for visiting this part of France. I especially loved Chenonceau for its fairy-tale elegance and Villandry for its magnificent gardens and history–it was restored by a passionate couple–Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish nobleman, and Anne Coleman, a Pennsylvania steel heiress, who met while studying medicine in Paris. Other great finds were the Restaurant Olivier Arlot in Montbazon and the superb wines of the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups by winemaker Jacky Blot in Montlouis. - Alec Lobrano




I expected to be overwhelmed by Prague’s wealth of baroque, art nouveau, and gothic buildings. But I was speechless when I discovered cubist architecture unique to the Czech Republic. In 1911, Joseph Gočár designed the Herbst department store, now the landmark House of the Black Madonna and the Grand Café Orient where I had a cubist donut. Those prismatic architectural forms also welcomed me, a privileged houseguest, to my friends’ flat. - Julie Maris/Semel




We’re on Rarotonga, a reef-ringed isle in the middle of the South Pacific. Rarotonga has palm trees and beaches and tropical fish, but it’s best known for its church singing. We go to church. The singing is magnificent; harmonies that start with a couple of men in a back pew, then ascend through the pews and climax with the choir. I’m floored with the beauty. That’s the first revelation. The second comes when I notice what one of the choir ladies is doing during the sermon. Happily, Effin Older caught the moment with her Canon. – Jules Older & Effin Older




Tapas crawl in San Sebastian, spiritual heart of Spanish tapas culture. - Larry Olmsted




The highlight for 2013 has to be our July visit to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. This colorful gathering of some 150 artisans from all over the world–Korea, Israel, Mexico, Tajikistan, you name it–lets market-goers get up close and personal with the men and women who bring their wares and sell them on the spot. So you’re free to strike up a conversation with a woman from the Ok Pop Tok weaving collective in Laos, or a wood carver from Mexico who’s been proclaimed a national living treasure. One day we attended a lecture and demonstration of Tuvan throat singing, which turned out to be both fascinating and remarkably moving. (Quick: Can you find Tuva on a map?). Even better, the artisans are given the tools to return home and work in their villages to build solid businesses from their traditional crafts. All in all, we look forward to making it an annual pilgrimage.  - Tom Passavant & Karen Glenn (photo)




The view over Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Kauai must be one of the wondrous in the world, a backdrop of rugged mountains that form the Napali Coast, a dragons’ back covered in green. This is where my wife, daughter and I went on a short voyage on a handmade sailing canoe, crafted and captained by a local guy named Trevor Cabell. Trevor took us snorkeling among 250 pound sea turtles and provided commentary on a 60-something local surfing legend as the guy caught the biggest wave of the day, 50 yards from where we floated. Then Trevor hoisted sail and off we went on a thrill ride across the waves racing into Hanalei Bay. With the extraordinary green background, it was not hard to imagine Polynesians sailing the Pacific and approaching this same shore. Covered in salt spray, we seemed to be  flying over the breaking waves, as Trevor guided the outrigger using his paddle as a tiller. When the canoe finally touched the beach, I realized that what felt like a journey had been merely a two hour trip on the Bay. That’s when you know that the going is good. – Everett Potter


Oscar Wilde sculpture


An unexpected breath of joy in colored stone: A leafy retreat in Dublin’s Merrion Square shelters a beloved memorial to Oscar Wilde, nonchalantly lounging on a massive boulder in a natty green jacket with quilted red lapels and cuffs, looking at his long-time childhood home across the street at 1 Merrion Sq. Nearby, Wilde witticisms, graffiti-like, cover two black obelisks, to wit, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” - Joan Scobey




New York City — where I’ve lived twice in my adult lifetime—once again welcomed me like an old friend in 2013. My husband, Joe, and I explored Manhattan from stem to stern, including a tour of the historic aircraft carrier Intrepid at Pier 86, a stroll along the Highline elevated park and a preview of the poignant and powerful 9/11 Memorial.  We made a delicious detour to Chef Mario Batali’s Eataly, browsed the beautiful book collection at Rizzoli and meandered through Central Park on perfect fall days. You can go home again, even if just for a holiday. - Julie Snyder




My most memorable travel moment of the year was rafting in Port Antonio, Jamaica. A “captain” on the log raft beside us was coaxed into singing the “Banana Boat Song (Day O),” a traditional Jamaican folk song made popular by Harry Belafonte.  The gentle soft crooning combined with the murmuring sound of the mini rapids of the river was soothing. (At least until the person next to me decided to sing along.)  - Gerrie Summers




I was on a ski trip to Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor last March. The nearest hotel was about 20 miles away in the town of Bend. I didn’t relish the idea of driving that far every day to get to the slopes, but then I didn’t know the highway ran straight through the Deschutes National Forest. Massive rocks, towering trees, and sweeping vistas at every turn. Hope to do again soon. – Bill Triplett




Best  Moment:  Standing with my wife in late July afternoon sunshine looking at our new home in an old canal house on Amsterdam’s Herengracht Canal. – Richard West




Paddle boarding with my bride — this was our 25th anniversary celebration — in Condado Lagoon, San Juan. Manatees with Ben Turpin mustaches (Note to 16th-century sailors: You really thought they were mermaids?) kept rising to the surface, where they lingered so we could get a good look at them. From there we went to Roberto Trevino’s Bar Gitano, a tapas bar in the Condado. Who knew they’d have soshito peppers sauteed in olive oil and salt? We polished them off and then drank way too much, but what the hell, great food + a great lady. - Ed Wetschler




This June, I finally understood what local say about Park City, Utah – you come for winter, you stay for summer. I discovered the wonders of mountain biking on terrain I’ve skied so many years. And I dined on Main Street with 2,300 others one summer’s night to experience the resort’s fine cuisine. – David McKay Wilson

Letter from Hawaii: Talking Tiki

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Red Tiki at International Marketplace, Honolulu. Photo by Karen Glenn.

By Tom Passavant

In the 1960s, when I was in high school, my father had a tiki bar in the basement of our suburban Ohio home. It had a thatched roof, bamboo sides, and bottles of rum with colorful labels. Little did I know that the parties he and my mom threw down there were part of a trend that was sweeping the nation. Although tourist tiki had been around since the 1920s, by the 1950s it was a full-blown craze. Remember Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber, mai tais and zombies? Not to mention pupu platters. Tiki was shorthand for the exotic islands of the Pacific, and especially Hawaii, which was quickly becoming accessible to American travelers with the arrival of the jet age.

Fast forward to 2011, and tiki is back. Hipsters across the country are embracing Polynesian-style drinks (albeit made with artisanal ingredients) and new tiki bars are springing up all over the mainland. Web sites like critiki.com and tikicentral.com have appeared to document the trend.

Not surprinsgly, out here in Honolulu, tiki never really went away. And just to be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about the tiki of the ancient Hawaiians. These images of four important Hawaiian gods, Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, and Lono, were created by master wood and stone carvers, and are a part of the Hawaiian spiritual legacy that evokes great respect. Instead, I’m talking about neo-tiki, everything from carvings to cocktail glasses and matchbook covers that signal Paradise in the Pacific.

"Waikik Tiki" by Philip K. Roberts

The first thing a tiki-mad tourist in Honolulu should do is pick up a copy of Philip Roberts’ wonderful new book, Waikiki Tiki (Bess Press; $22.95). The historic photos alone will make you wish you’d been here in the 1950s, and the author offers plenty of places to find tiki on your way to the beach or dinner. The International Marketplace, for example, smack in the middle of Waikiki, still has some colorful tiki carvings that have survived decades of weather and termites. Follow the sound of mallet and chisel tapping against wood over by the International’s food court, and you’ll come upon a handsome young man named Pauli, who along with his father carves new tikis out of a variety of woods, which they sell (and ship) to customers from all over the world.

Pupus at La Mariana Sailing Club.

My favorite Waikiki tiki bar is Tiki’s Grill and Bar, in the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel on Kalakaua Avenue. In addition to tons of great tikis and other memorabilia, there’s good food, good music, and a nice view. But no tiki lover should miss the last original, genuine tiki bar in Honolulu, the La Mariana Sailing Club. Hidden away off Sand Island Road near the airport, La Mariana, which opened in 1957, is the Lourdes of tiki, stuffed to the rafters with wood carvings and panels, chairs, tables, glassware, fishing nets and ceiling lights, and anything else that owner Annette Nahinu (who died two years ago at age 92) could buy up from such classic Honolulu spots as the Trader Vic’s, Don the Beachcomber, and the Sheraton’s Kon Tiki Room.

The food is mostly just okay (the fresh ahi spring rolls are delicious) but the perfectly-made mai tais pack a serious punch. On some nights there’s a blind pianist and a blind ukulele player performing; Thursdays feature hula; and surf rock sometimes breaks out on Saturdays. Mom and dad would love it. You will, too.

Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

Letter from Hawaii: Korea-lulu

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Gogi Taco Truck, Honolulu. Photo by Karen Glenn.

By Tom Passavant

A few weeks ago, Epicurious, the enormously popular food Web site, predicted that Korean cuisine would be one of the top ten food trends for 2011. “Evidence is mounting that smoky, piquant Korean is America’s next big cuisine,” wrote Epicurious editor in chief Tanya Steel. Well, if you want to taste the future right now, hop a plane to Honolulu, where Korean food, and many other aspects of Korean culture, are already an integral part of the multicultural landscape.

Though Koreans have had a significant presence in Hawaii for decades, the recent infusion of all things Korean into Honolulu began in October of 2008, when South Koreans were finally spared the hassles of obtaining visas in order to visit the U.S. Since then, arrivals have quadrupled (though the number is still small compared to Japanese visitors). It hasn’t hurt that Daniel Dae Kim, one of People Magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive” in 2005 and currently starring in the revival of the Hawaii Five-O television series, is Korean-born and living in Honolulu.

But it’s the Korean food community that’s the most obvious lure for mainland visitors. While casual Korean buffets and fast-food outlets abound all over Oahu, the real dining action is centered on the half-mile stretch of shopping plazas and restaurants along Keeaumoku Street, which is adjacent to the glitzy Ala Moana shopping mall and about a mile or so from Waikiki. Here, on what’s being dubbed Koreamoku street, you’ll find everything from the shiny, brand-new Keeaumoku Supermarket, where much of the inventory will be deeply mysterious to non-Korean speakers, to beauty parlors, tiny kim chee emporiums, and Korean restaurants of every description. The open-all-night Sorabol is hard to miss, but the newer places are causing the most excitement. Orine Sarang Chae (905 Keeaumoku) has outdoor seating in a fenced-off parking lot and tableside grills for cooking meats. A few blocks away, on King Street, is Choon Chun (1269 S. King St.), where Korean-style double-fried chicken is the thing.

Kim chee fries. Photo by Karen Glenn.

Our absolute favorite Korean places are nearby as well. The Gogi Korean BBQ Taco Truck (eatgogi.com for locations) pays homage to the now-legendary Kogi truck empire in Los Angeles. There’s juicy, meaty kalbi tacos for just $2, but the must-order here is the kim chee fries, creamy fried potatoes topped with a pinkish kim chee aioli that you’ll be dreaming about for days.

Ah Lang (The Angry Korean Lady). Photo by Karen Glenn.

Then there’s the four-table restaurant whose sign says Ah Lang but which everyone, including the owner, calls The Angry Korean Lady (725 Kapiolani, angrykoreanlady.com). In truth, owner and chef Won Lam isn’t always angry, though she can be exasperated by diners who don’t know the drill, which includes writing out your own order if she’s busy in the kitchen, and fetching water glasses. (Reserving and ordering ahead are highly recommended). That said, she’s a terrific cook. We loved her kim chee fried rice, her pa-jeon, a plate-sized scallion pancake filled with seafood, and everything else. On the way out, we poked our heads into the kitchen to say thanks, and Won even broke into a big smile.

Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

Letter from Hawaii: The Real Hula

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Photo by Karen Glenn.

By Tom Passavant

Glimpses of authentic Hawaiian culture have a way of popping up in the most unlikely places here in the islands, none more so than smack in the heart of Tourist Central, aka Waikiki. For example, just a stone’s throw from a vast Cheesecake Factory on bustling Kalakaua Avenue is the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound, a grassy half-circle right on the sand. There, four evenings a week at sunset, you can enjoy a free hour-long performance of Hawaiian music and dance that’s as authentic as anything you’ll see at a backyard baby luau or even the prestigious Merrie Monarch Festival, the Super Bowl of hula held every April on the Big Island.

The lineup of performers at the Kuhio Beach Hula Show rotates throughout the year, but the format on usually consistent: the show begins with the dances called hula kahiko, or ancient hula, accompanied only by chanting and gourds for percussion. Then comes hula auana, or modern hula, in which instruments like guitars and ukuleles are deployed, and many familiar songs are sung. Most nights (and especially on weekends), the performers are members of the island’s top hula halau, or hula schools, which require years of rigorous practice and considerable personal sacrifice to attend. In other words, while it’s a colorful and highly entertaining show, this is the real Hawaiian thing. So don’t expect to see any wild hip-shaking (that’s from Polynesia) or fire dancers (that would be Samoa). And as one of the organizers put it to me, “No coconut shell bras. Ever!”

Photo by Karen Glenn.

One thing we’ve enjoyed over the years is the sense of fun and spontaneity that permeates the performances. One night last year the performers invited a friend from Maui up out of the audience to join the troupe, and even in her street clothes she was a dazzling dancer. Kids as young as three or four, both boys and girls, often perform. And it was at a Kuhio Beach show that we first saw a troupe of men dancing ancient hula, a powerful and deeply moving experience that eventually led my wife and me to attend the three-day Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.

The Kuhio Beach Hula Show takes place every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday (holidays and weather permitting) near the Duke Kahanamoku statue at 6:30 p.m., and at 6 p.m. during November, December, and January. Hula schools appear on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and other performers on Tuesdays. Everyone is welcome to bring chairs or a mat to sit on, and photography is most definitely encouraged, although shooting at night into the lights is not the easiest of photo assignments. The free show is sponsored by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the City and County of Honolulu, and the Waikiki Improvement Association. Performance schedules are available at honolulu.gov/moca. For more information, call 808-843-8002.

Letter from Hawaii: Market Economy

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Frankie, of Frankie's Nursery, showing the proper way to open a jackfruit. Photo by Karen Glenn.

by Tom Passavant

There are innumerable ways to make your friends jealous when you are in Hawaii and they are not. Especially in winter. They range from the world –famous (the warm sea and flower-scented air, the surfing competitions up on the fabled north shore) to some lesser-known but still memorable only-in-Hawaii attractions. Read the full story

craigslist for Vacation Rentals

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Glenn Diamondheadview

This view for $99 a night via craigslist? Photo by Karen Glenn.

Interested in renting a one-bedroom cottage with a pool in West Palm Beach for $85 per night? Or maybe a two-bedroom apartment in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco for $150 a night? Or perhaps a studio in Rome near the Trevi fountain for 85 euros ($119) per night? They were among the hundreds of vacation rentals posted today on craigslist.

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Memorable Hotels in 2009: The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu, Hawaii

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 The pool at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu. Hawaii

The Kahala is the very best of Hawaii personified. It opened in 1964
and was expertly refurbished in 2009 to the tune of $52 million. Yet
there are still architectural reminders that are equal parts Rat Pack
and Hawaii Five-0. That's cool. But the clincher is the
location. The Kahala is on the other side of Diamond Head from
Waikiki.The Kahala’s location makes it feel like you’re a long ways
downtown Honolulu (which in fact is only a few minutes by car).

Kahala_ocean_view_room (2)

Ocean view room.

If you’re like me and want your Waikiki scene when you want it, this is
perfect. It’s a lot quieter over here. Supremely beautiful, in fact,
with a line of coconut palms on a grass strip between the hotel’s pool
(small and oval, in the way such pools were in the 60's – is that Sammy
Davis, Jr. behind those Foster Grants?) and one of the nicest beaches
anywhere. There are no private beaches anywhere in Hawaii but this one
feels, well, very private. My daughter expended enormous amounts of
energy running from the pool to the ocean and back again. The amniotic
ocean waters were a wonderfully hypnotic way for our family to begin
the day, with colorful fish swimming at our knees. Blackberry's hummed, unanswered, on the lounge chairs.

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Letter from Honolulu

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Glenn Diamondheadview

Waikiki Beach, with Diamond Head. Photo by Karen Glenn.

By Tom Passavant

When we walked down to Waikiki beach the morning after arriving at our rented condo in Honolulu, our first thought was "Where did everybody go?" Our second thought, of course, was "Woohoo–we've got Waikiki to ourselves." Early December is not exactly prime time in the islands, and things have already started to pick up as the holidays get closer. And this past week the whole city was bustling due to Sunday's annual Honolulu marathon, which attracted 20,000 runners. We were fascinated to note that over 60% of the competitors were Japanese, but when you consider the everyday popularity of Hawaii with Japanese visitors, not to mention the weather in Tokyo in winter, maybe we should not have been so surprised. (Turns out that 60% is about average; in 1991 70% of the runners were from Japan.)

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