Downtown Honolulu, SALT at Our Kakaako is a city block packed with bars, restaurants and shops. The third Friday and Saturday of the month it's home to the Pa’akai Marketplace with native Hawaiian arts and crafts, stalls and performances. SALT is also the perfect place to start or end an afternoon checking out the street art and the Hawaii festival in February.
Enjoy a sunrise ritual with salt water on your skin. A Ho’ala ceremony renews mind, body and spirit on the beach in front of the Moana Surfrider just before dawn on Wednesday mornings. Open to everyone and free. With traditional Hawaiian chants, a walk into the water in silence and immersion to embrace a mindful and cleansing start to the day.
Hit a local ABC Store for Hawaiian sea salt to take home. Black lava, red clay and other colourful salts are perfect gifts.
Pick a Poke: One of the best things to eat in Hawaii, raw fish salad is found everywhere from top restaurants to service stations and liquor stores. TIP: a favourite Honolulu poke spots is Ono Seafood and Fresh Catch, fresh is best! So you think of Ahi (yellowfin tuna) when they think poke? Trysalmon, shrimp, scallop and other seafood varieties!
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Take part in a salt ritual at the Moana Lani Spa at the Moana Surfrider, where a traditional Lomi Lomi massage begins by holding a pretty bowl of salt and releasing all of your negative thoughts and energy into the minerals. That evening, after having worked their magic on your muscles, your therapist takes your salt down to the beach and releases it into the ocean.
Those who are into that sort of thing can also enjoy a sunrise ritual with salt water on their skin.
A Ho’ala ceremony for the renewal of mind, body and spirit takes place on the beach in front of the Moana Surfrider just before dawn on Wednesday mornings. Open to everyone and free of charge, the ceremony starts with traditional Hawaiian chants before people walk into the water in silence to immerse themselves and embrace a mindful and cleansing start to the day.
And those looking for a souvenir they can sprinkle on their food can pop into any ABC Store for Hawaiian sea salt. Between the black lava, red clay and other colourful salts they both look good and can season your food when you get back home.
Next door, The Pig and the Lady remains a favourite with Honolulu foodies, and last October executive chef Andrew Le opened another restaurant, Piggy Smalls in Ward Village, where it’s easy to believe the It’s All Good pink neon sign as you tuck into fresh Vietnamese fusion food.
Meanwhile at Chef Chai you can not only dine on dishes by one of Hawaii’s best regional chefs, Chai Chaowasaree, on full moons you can also be serenaded by Robert Cazimero.
As one of the Brothers Cazimero, Robert played a special part in the resurgence of Hawaiian music in the 1970s and hearing him share Hawaiian classics and put special spins on songs like Rainbow Connection makes for an unforgettable night.
1. THEY’RE OBSESSED WITH SPAM
Spam pizza, spam sushi, spam kebabs, spam and eggs, spam stir fry, spam steaks ... you get the drift. Nicknamed the Hawaiian steak, Hawaiians consume more Spam than any other state in America — seven million cans a year to be exact. It’s even found on the island’s McDonald’s and Burger King menus and in the last week of April the annual, Spam Jam, takes place in Waikiki.
Spam musubi is the local staple — teriyaki-fried Spam served on nori-wrapped rice — even President Obama is reported to have ordered it for lunch on a golf visit.
So why the obsession with Spam? According to the Spam website, the island’s love affair with Spam began in World War II, when American military were served the salty luncheon meat because it didn’t require refrigeration and had a long shelf life.
The Hormel Corporation, which manufactures Spam, provided 15 million cans to Allied troops every week.
2. THERE ARE NO SEAGULLS
They’re the pests of Australian beaches, so visitors to Hawaii are often surprised to discover there are no seagulls.
The reason — the habitat of the Hawaiian islands is not right for them. Gulls are primarily scavengers so they are often found along continental coasts and shallow inland waters where there is sufficient food. They cannot feed in the open ocean like other birds which means seagulls are sometimes visitors but they do not stay and become residents.
3. IT HAS GOOD COFFEE
Seriously, America has good coffee? Australians will be surprised to learn that you can now order a decent flat white in Hawaii.
Try Honolulu Coffee Experience Centre, housed in an old Hard Rock Cafe, you can watch the coffee-making process in action while you wait. It’s closer to the Ala Moana Centre than the hotels of Waikiki but it’s worth the walk.
4. IT’S THE BEST PART OF THE USA
You’re in the USA, but it doesn’t really feel like it. Yes they have an American accent and their currency is the USD and you’ll find chain American stores but this tropical paradise is nothing like mainland America.
5. YOU WILL SEE RAINBOWS EVERYDAY
Honolulu is the rainbow capital of the world thanks to its combination of mountains and tropical weather. Brief periods of rain in the mountains turn into an explosion of colour when the sun creeps through making sightings of rainbows an almost daily occurrence.
6. YOU WILL BECOME OBSESSED WITH POKE
Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is the hamburger of Hawaii. This raw fish salad is delicious. Fresh fish, usually ahi tuna or yellowfin tuna, is chopped up and seasoned with spicy ahi or shoyu ahi (soy sauce) and served over a hot bowl of rice.
There are many variations on the dish, but this is the classic recipe. Take it upon yourself to find the best poke of the islands.
7. HAWAIIAN FOOD IS AWESOME
Forget the tourist traps, when it comes to eating out in Hawaii there’s some seriously good bites, you just need to know where to go. Traditional Hawaiian food includes dishes such as kalua pork, chicken long rice, squid luau, poi, laulau, and lomi lomi salmon. Here are three local favourites on Oahu.
Opened in 1947, this third generation family run restaurant serves up traditional Hawaiian food.
Think lau lau, a typical Hawaiian dish where pork or chicken is wrapped in taro leaves then pressure cooked in a steamer oven until tender. Or beef stew and oven roasted Kalua pulled pork. It’s menu hasn’t changed much since opening and a second location has just opened in Kakaako.
Honolulu locals swear by newcomer Scratch Bakehouse for the best new brunch location
located in Chinatown. Chef Brian Chan has taken a unique approach to dishes including ‘The Elvis’ french toast — smoked bacon, peanut butter, bacon-banana caramel and granola.
On the Northshore of Oahu home to Sunset Beach, Waimea Bay and Pipeline is the surf
town of Haleiwa. Here you will find the Beet Box Café a funky vegetarian-only cafe favoured by North Shore locals. Many of its ingredients are sourced from local farms and it offers some of the best acai bowls on the island.
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Joggers are out early. Streams of them are pounding up and down the footpath overlooking Waikiki Beach, make your way in pre-dawn twilight towards Diamond Head. The air is cool, fresh breezes and Diamond Head looms above you. We recommend a hike to the sensational lookouts over Honolulu! See longboarders riding waves, see the sun poke above the hills then it's coffee time in downtown Waikiki.
Palm trees, leis, beaches, aloha shirts, mai tais at sunset ... surfers on big waves.
Take a Hawaiian holiday, arrive at your beachside hotel, flop onto Waikiki’s sand, catch a wave, sip mai tais and watch a Pacific sunset through the palms. When you get a bit tired of the sand, we've got Hawaiian gems, no need to venture far! Here's six things to check out when you get too much sand in your shorts:
Hawaii by Bike: explore on two wheels: within 10km of Waikiki, do a sunrise ride to Diamond Head to the ex-volcano’s crater and hike to the rim for spectacular views. Ride toward Kahala Beach, about 20km and treat yourself to a beer on the beach at Kahala Hotel and Resort.
Rather ride flat? Take the easy loop through Waikiki to Ala Moana Beach park and Magic Island lagoon, it's all bike tracks.
Ride inland through suburbs to Manoa Falls for an easy hiking trail through rainforest to the falls awaits.
Amazing Street Art: it's a run-down industrial suburb just north of Waikiki, the opposite of Waikiki. Push through crowds on Kalakaua Ave, head a few blocks past Ala Moana shopping mall and you’ll come to several blocks of low- slung warehouses, car workshops and other semi-industrial businesses. Wander, see walls filled with vibrant art – giant cartoon figures. It’s the PowWow movement, Kamea Hader is one of the driving forces, an assortment of artists, performers and musicians who have breathed life into the area – and the greater Hawaiian art scene. Now an annual festival taking off around the globe, with events in mainland USA and Asia. Set aside an hour or two to stroll around Kaka’ako’s streets to marvel at some of the work. An added benefit is the craft breweries, bars and eateries popping up in the area.
History on a String: a few streets from PowWow is Kamaka Ukuleles, where the Kamaka family hand-crafts the indigenous instrument. For uke enthusiasts, it's said George Harrison was a regular customer. Free factory tours most days. A team of craftsmen and women turn out about 100 nstruments a day.
Epic Rum Tasting: The Manulele distillery sits on an old sugarcane plantation at Kunia, just a few kilometres out of Honolulu on the way to North Shore. The sugarcane produce makes this place a sweet stop. 34 varieties of indigenous sugarcane, or ko, and used only for rum. Unlike most rums, which using molasses, the rums here are purely cane juice. From “grass to glass as quickly as possible” Each type of cane is harvested and prepared for distilling separately. Some are aged in kegs, others in barrels. The results range from vodka-like white rum to deeper-hued barrel varieties. Add an informative tours of the farm and distillery to your Hawaii Vacation!
Go Bananas For Food: Mud Hen Water prides itself on a menu featuring local seafood and ingredients. Try the baked banana with curry butter, roasted peanuts, bacon and coconut. Wash it all down with a Maui Brewing Bikini Blonde lager. Kaimuki Superette next door, try the South Shore He’e roll – poached octopus, celery seed and tarragon aioli on a buttered bun with a side salad. Satisfy your sweet tooth with malasada from Waikiki institution Leonards – sugary puffs of joy. In Chinatown, downtown Honolulu, find The Pig and The Lady, serving Vietnamese cuisine with a twist. Add a memorable bathroom: a shrine to the Kurt Russell film Big Trouble in Little China! For a cocktail sample an All In The Reflexes (Kohana rum agricole, coconut, lime, chilli pepper and basil). In central Waikiki, The Lanai at the Hyatt Centric serves up sublime kampachi sashimi with a ponzu and truffle oil dressing, or Hawaiian tuna and avocado poke. Are you getting hungry yet?
Stand Up For Yourself: Take a novice surfers lesson with the crew at Big Wave Dave’s, a Waikiki institution.There's a quick demo behind the store then hit the beach with your longboards. Realise nobody knows you in Hawaii, so who cares?