5 Days In Honolulu/Kailua/Kaneohe - Itinerary Feedback Requested
Hello there Hawaii CHs!
My husband and I will be going back to Maui and visiting some favorites from our last trip (Kihei Caffe, Mama's, Local Food, etc) but also stopping into Honolulu for 5 days on our way back to Manhattan. This will be a little after the New Year in 2013.
Previous trip report is here:
Note that we are big cocktail fans but have very high standards (think artisanal cocktails made from fresh juice, handmade syrups, good ingredients, custom bitters, hand carved ice, etc), so I think a lot of the happy hours recommended on here will be unsatisfactory, especially to my husband. We're too used to drinking in Boston, DC, Chicago, NYC, I think. :) Wiling to pay for a high quality drink.
He is also not a fan of shrimp that you have to peel to eat -- so shrimp trucks are probably not in the cards for us. We do, however, love shave ice, poke, plate lunches, and want to eat lots of local food while we're here, as well as some Chinese and Japanese food.
We will also not have a car but will probably rent one for one day. Staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikuku.
My tentative itinerary:
- FRIDAY 1/4
Flight lands around 11am
Lunch at Ono Seafood - is this the best poke in the neighborhood?
Leonard's Bakery for malasadas afterwards
Shopping at Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts
Shave ice at Waiola if there's room!
Drinks and snacks at House without a Key - to watch the early evening entertainment
7:45pm Fireworks from our room at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Rainbow Tower, Oceanfront Room
Drinks and snacks at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian - I'm thinking we just fill up on pupus this night?
Or Lewers Lounge at the Halekulani?
- SATURDAY 1/5
Early breakfast at the KCC Farmer's Market - BBQ abalone, chicken and waffles at Soul, kimchee fried rice with eggs and meat at Grandma G's? Or whatever the Pig & the Lady has on offer, though their menu doesn't seem very breakfasty. Any other standout vendors at the KCC Farmer's market? We plan to get there before it opens.
Hike Diamond Head
Plate lunches at Diamond Head Grill & Market after - plate lunches and a scone or two if there's room!
After this I think we'll need a nap on the beach.
Cocktails at Pint and Jigger before dinner? - Has anybody here been?
Dinner at Chef Mavro - strongly recommended by a friend who is from Honolulu, over Alan Wong or Roy's
Brunch at Orchids at the Halekulani - I already booked for 9:30am, is this a good time? I rarely eat at buffets these days.
Leisurely drive to Lanikai Beach/Kailua/Kaneohe
Lunch at Fresh Catch - Or is Tamura's better for poke? JJ's? Or should we do something different like Dean's Drive In?
Shave ice at Shimazu Store before returning the rental car in Waikuku
Dinner at Nanzan Giro Giro - for their 7 course kaiseki for $50
Breakfast at Whole Ox Deli - foie gras eggs benedict sounds amazing!
Shopping at Ala Moana
Snacks at the Shirokiya Food Court
Dinner at Sushi Izakaya Gaku on King Street
Dim sum at Tai Pan - recommended by a friend, how are their cheung fun or char siu bao?
Shopping on Nuuanu Ave / Chinatown
Grab some snacks for the plane in Chinatown
Our flight leaves at 5:30pm that evening.
Pretty ambitious itinerary food wise, but generally well thought out. My family and I just had the Sunday brunch at Orchids, and I can tell you it is my favorite brunch in all of Honolulu. Lots of nicely prepared, tasty food options, including salads, poke, sashimi, an omelet station, fruits and desserts, whole roast sucking pig, prime rib and roast turkey.
So Sunday brunch at 9:30 am should fuel you for the day. I doubt if you will be hungry for lunch at noon, perhaps an afternoon snack would suffice. My son swears by the burger at Whole Ox and I'm hoping to try the hash and eggs one day myself. I love the food at Gaku, everything we've tried there has been delicious and carefully prepared, well worth the cost IMO. Have a great trip.
Nice list of many of my favorites. What a way to feast! I usually don't end up hitting all the restaurants on that list in a single year although I wish I could!
Just a few notes:
Ono Seafood - definitely the best poke in that area.
KCC Farmer's Market - Pig & the Lady's menu isn't breakfasty, but I can never seem to say no. I eat there pretty much every week as they always have something different on the menu. Can't go wrong with the chilaquiles or chicken and waffles at Soul either though. Kimchee fried rice with eggs and homemade hash are also a good tasty option from Grandma G's. The hardest part of my week is deciding what's for breakfast on Saturday's although Pig & the Lady usually wins out.
Diamond Head Market & Grill - plate lunches and a scone are great, but you might have a hard time turning down a slice of one of their many cakes/pies as well!
Chef Mavro - Can't go wrong here or Alan Wong's, but depends on what kind of atmosphere and type of food you are looking for. Mavro is more white linen intimate/formal, while Alan Wong's is more bistro casual/noisy but both deliver great food.
Orchids - like curiousgeo says, it is the best brunch on Oahu.
Fresh Catch - it's okay, but Tamura's & JJ's are both definitely better for poke. JJ's is probably the priciest of the bunch, but they do let you sample everything. Sometimes their case looks empty but just ask as they can make it fresh, although go too late and they may have run out. Easier to just go to Tamura's as you can pick up some liquid refreshment to go with your poke. If you are looking for an actual meal though (starch & main) Dean's Drive Inn is a good choice.
I'm sure you'll have a great trip, or at the very least a great feast!
Wow, that's a lot of eating packed in a short time! Your Saturday looks especially full. Just wanted to mention that Diamond Head isn't a really big hike and won't make you ravenous -- in case you were factoring that into your three big meals for that day.
Made in Hawaii is there at the KCC Market selling their mochi stuffed with red bean paste and strawberry. Haven't had their version, but I just love that stuff (and this is coming from someone who really isn't a big fan of mochi and red bean paste).
I think that poke after your Orchids brunch may be overkill as they do have unlimited poke at Orchids.
I'm sure Steve R would disagree but my opinion of Tai Pan is that it's just OK. I personally really wouldn't make a special trip out of it, especially as I think there's better dim sum in Flushing. The cheung fun was all right -- just a bit clumsily done with noodle sheets that were thicker than I would have liked. Never had the char siu bao as I find it too filling. I try to order the items that fill my stomach the least so I can try more variety. When I went there once, they were also out of 1/3 of their menu -- and I was there during a busy weekend around 11:30A. The thing that Tai Pan has going for it is that prices are cheap.
No Ono for Hawaiian food? I prefer Helena's (especially for their pipikaula ribs!) but will probably be closed for the holidays on the days you'll be in Oahu. And I would think about renting your car for a weekday as the Windward beaches are so much nicer during that time. Weekends can get pretty crowded.
re: Miss Needle
Thanks for the tips!
After KCC Farmers Market & Diamond Head, we may end up just splitting a plate lunch.
I now think we'll probably do Kaneohe on Monday, instead, so it won't be right after Orchids.
For our last day, I wanted to check out Chinatown anyway (stores and sightseeing), so I'm not really sure what to do. There doesn't seem to be any really great breakfast places in Waikiki.
Helena's is only open Tuesday through Friday, anyway. It'll be hard to squeeze in even if it is open.
Too bad you're not renting a car for your entire stay. That would probably open you up to some breakfast places outside of Waikiki (and other tourist-related destinations). I'm not really a traditional breakfast person. Last time in Oahu I stayed at a condo and reheated leftovers for breakfast. But I can picture you liking something along the lines of Cinnamon's (chiffon guava pancakes, kalua pork eggs benedict, Hawaiian omelet), Liliha Bakery or Morning Glass Cafe. I know Eggs n Things in Waikiki seems REALLY popular with Japanese tourists. I don't know if it's popular because it's good or because it's in all the Japanese tour guide books. I'm sure others here would know better.
I know planning an itinerary can be tough -- already went through a gazillion changes for my trip! Have you thought of doing Monday breakfast at a place like Cinnamon's (Kailua) followed by the windward beaches and doing The Whole Ox on Tuesday morning before heading out to Chinatown?
re: Miss Needle
Both Liliha Bakery or Morning Glass Cafe look like a 30 minute bus ride, unfortunately. Not sure I can stand that long to eat in the morning....
For the Kailua day, we were planning on leisurely driving up there, stopping at any scenic places along the way (Oahu Revealed had a nice looking itinerary) so that's why I was thinking it would be more of a lunch stop.
Just remembered, but for something a little different, Arancino di Mare is offering breakfast now. You can see a short sampling here: http://www.nonstophonolulu.com/blogs/...
Also, Tango Cafe between Ala Moana & Ward Centre does a pretty good breakfast as well. You can check out their offerings on their website.
Koa House in Kaneohe has great omelets and pancakes. Cinnamon's in Kailua is my favorite for breakfast (they do a salmon, tomato and spinach Benedict to die for), followed closely by Eggs and Things for their omelets. Michel's at the Colony Surf does some wonderful things for breakfast, and you're looking right out at the surf along Waikiki's Gold Coast. The Orchids Buffet is one of the best deals in the state.
I think one of the most overlooked places for great poke and Hawaiian food is Ruger Market. You get to make up your own ahi poke: what grade of tuna your want, what you want mixed in (from limu kohu to inamona, sesame oil to chili pepper water, etc.), and it's the freshest you can hope to find. They also make great lau lau and pipi kaula. Get some of their boiled peanuts for snacking, but make sure you get a lot of them because they're addictive!
If you're going to be in Kaneohe for lunch you might consider Masa and Joyce takeout (good okazuya and poke, some sushi, etc.) and going up the road to Ho'omaluhia Botanical Gardens for a picnic. There's a little 7-11 type market next door where you can get some beer to take along. Ho'omaluhia is beautiful and very quiet, nestled up against the base of the Ko'olau. The plants, all tropical, are representative of different places around the Pacific.
For Kailua beaches I recommend Kalama Beach Park (not to be confused with Kalama Beach Club, next door, which is private) on the grounds of the old Boetcher Estate. It's about halfway between Kailua Beach Park and Aikahi Shopping Center. There are only about 20 parking spaces there (if that many) so you might have to park on one of the side streets and walk there, but it is very quiet even on weekends and almost like a private beach. It has outdoor showers and bathrooms, but the estate house is closed to the public. I grew up one street away on the beach front and that remains my favorite beach in the entire world.
Have fun! I left Kailua and moved to an outer island a couple years ago but miss it so much! I'm officially jealous! :-)
When you hike Diamond Head, the food truck in the parking lot of the crater has the best $3 sliced fresh pineapple that is off the chain good..before and after..the last set of stairs you curse all the way up!
Halekulani for drinks and apps is lovely
Roy's Waikiki is outstanding..not your Mainland Roy's whatsoever.
Garlic Shrimp at Giovanni's North Shore is one of my faves.
I like to hit up the Top of Waikiki for old school happy hour and pupus.
Rum Fire at the Sheraton Waikiki has a great happy hour.
re: Beach Chick
Thanks for the pineapple tip.
As I mentioned above, husband is not a fan of shrimp that you have to peel to eat.. I assume that is what Giovanni's is.
We'd rather pay extra for excellent drinks (fresh juice, no sour mix, good liquors) than less for mediocre drinks, so we will be probably skipping happy hours. A view also doesn't matter that much for us.
Gosh, I've been going to the islands for over 40 years and I never heard of the happy hours I've suggested using inferior product..I'm sure some do, but the places I referred you to, from what I have seen, do not.
The beloved Royal Hawaiian with their mai tai uses a little splash of simple syrup...the horror of it all.
re: Beach Chick
Do you know what rums they are using? Sour mix or not?
This is the recipe I use at home:
Mai Tai (Hawaiian)
* 1 oz. orange juice, fresh
* 1 oz. pineapple juice, unsweetened (preferably fresh)
* 1/2 oz. lime juice, fresh
* 1/4 oz. lemon juice, fresh
* 1/4 oz. orange curacao (Senor Curacao)
* 1/4 oz. orgeat syrup (Trader Tiki brand)
* 1/4 oz. simple syrup
* 1 oz. Demerara rum (El Dorado 15)
* 1 oz. dark Jamaican rum (Appleton Estate V/X or Extra)
* 1 oz. light Puerto Rican rum (on the recommendation of Beachbum Berry, sub in a light Virgin Islands rum like Cruzan white)
I find it interesting to note you labeled your recipe a Hawaiian Mai Tai as most I ordered in Hawaii were some variation of this recipe/these juices as opposed to a classic, original Mai Tai, which, to me, should have only one juice, lime. They really are not the same drink at all and I didn't really enjoy any of the Mai Tais I had on my trip last week. The best Mai Tai I had was at House Without A Key at Halekulani Hotel which is supposed to have only lime juice, but I'm not so sure the ones we got didn't have a splash of pineapple juice. They were strong (too many others were weak in my estimation), but I still prefer the ones I made in our condo, which were a 7 count of Old Lahaina gold rum, a 4 count of Disarono, a 4 count of rock candy syrup, and a 6 count of fresh lime juice. i would've done a float of dark rum, but didn't want to buy a second bottle. I like mine pretty tangy, as you can see, but I like it balanced with quite a bit of sweetness and a strong rum flavor.
I didn't do an exhaustive search, but I think its pretty hard to find a really excellent Mai Tai in Hawaii, at least according to my tastes, even at the fancy restaurants and bars.
Correct, it is a different drink. From Beachbum Berry's books, about the Hawaiian Mai Tai variation:
"From the Surf Bar of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Beach, where Trader Vic introduced his original Mai Tai to the islands in 1953. Over the ensuing years, this recipe (which dates from 1971) evolved from Vic’s into its present form."
Keep this in mind at at L'Aperitif "Long-sleeved collared shirt or jacket required for gentlemen" and Lewers Lounge "Attire: Evening attire for the ladies. No t-shirts, shorts or beachwear. Dress shirt, slacks and covered shoes for gentlemen."
I remember being chased out of Lewers by a lounge dragon many years ago when I was wearing shorts. Probably the only time I've experienced anything less than a welcoming attitude anywhere at the Halekulani.
I've witnessed them being a bit more discrete when they enforce their dress code now.
Lunch at Ono Seafood - great choice. locals rave about this joint. Alicia's and Monarch's are outside your culinary perimeter, but those locales, too, will broke da mout! tamashiro's is also winners. (if you head to the north shore of oahu, bumbai we talk!)
Leonard's Bakery for malasadas - essential. best consumed immediately, fresh out of the flourescent pink and baby blue box, with your face aglaze with crystallized sugar.
Shave ice at Waiola if there's room! - make room, please! this is the finest, ice-wise, shave ice you'll find on oahu. far superior to matsumoto's on the north shore imo.
Plate lunches at Diamond Head Grill & Market after - plate lunches and a scone or two if there's room! - skip da plate lunch and focus on the blueberry and cream cheese scones. pau!
Cocktails at Pint and Jigger before dinner? - eh. given that you're a part of the cocktail cognoscenti, it may not live up to your libation expectation.
Leisurely drive to Lanikai Beach/Kailua/Kaneohe - be sure to head out to Heeia Pier and general store for a plate lunch that will blow your hair back. guava chicken, misoyaki beef, whatever they have will, most likely, wow you.
Breakfast at Whole Ox Deli - foie gras eggs benedict sounds amazing - haven't had breakfast there, but was incredibly disappointed with lunch.
Not sure of your motivation for going to Kaneohe; if your sole intent is to try the food at Heeia Pier, you might want to rethink your plans. Kaneohe is not normally on the tourist route because neither the scenary nor the restaurants, including Tamura and Dean's Drive Inn, are especially outstanding in terms of atmosphere, I like Pah-ke's in Kaneohe a lot, but I think one's experience there depends on what you order and who's cooking. Raymond Siu's party items, like whole fish or asparagus wrapped in tenderloin, as well as his deserts items, are outstanding.
Heeia Pier is not in my itinerary, someone else suggested it.
We were planning on leisurely driving along the coast, stopping at any scenic places along the way (Oahu Revealed had a nice looking itinerary that also includes Lanikai beach) so that's why I was thinking we could have lunch and maybe make a small detour if needed.
A hole in the wall is fine if the food is good. My husband is also obsessed with poke.
Gosh, after a brunch at Halekulani, I would be satiated and elect to skip lunch. Just so you know, Sunday is a pretty busy day at Lanikai and Kailua beaches and you will probably encounter parking problems, especially in Lanikai where there is only street parking along one way streets. Tamura has great poke (and beer selection), but I can't think of a scenic place close by that I would go to eat it, except Kalama Beach park where parking is limited.
Flight lands at noon
Lunch at Ono Seafood - poke bowls
Leonard's Bakery for malasadas
Shopping at Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts
Shave ice at Waiola
Mai Tais and coconut cake at House without a Key
Fireworks back at the hotel
Mai Tais and pupus at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian - Scratch mai tai
Or Lewers Lounge or L'Aperitif at the Halekulani - note: dress code
7:30am KCC Farmers Market
Walk Diamond Head
Light lunch lunch at Diamond Head Grill & Market
Drinks at Pint and Jigger - it doesn't seem like there is anywhere else nearby that has decent cocktails
Dinner at Chef Mavro
9:30am Brunch at Orchids at the Halekulani (already booked)
Shopping at Ala Moana / Collins & 8th
Snacks at Shirokiya Food Court or St-Germain Bakery or La Palme D'or or Ailana Shave Ice across the street
8pm dinner at Nanzan Giro Giro
Breakfast at Whole Ox Deli
Drive to Lanikai Beach
Lunch at Tamura's (poke) OR Dean's Drive Inn (teri beef, ahi cakes)
Drive to Kailua Beach
Stop at Bubbie's - ice cream mochi
Dinner at Sushi Izakaya Gaku on King Street
Breakfast at Orchids - maybe
Shopping on Nuuanu Ave / Bethel St - Fighting Eel, Milk & Honey, Roberta Oaks
Snacks from Royal Kitchen or Char Hung Sut
Lunch at Ramen Nakamura - maybe
Last chance for cocktails and pupus at House Without a Key
Flight leaves at 10:00pm
I see you dropped dim sum from the itinerary. Missneedle might be correct about Tai Pan's offerings, although we liked it again when we were there this past May. When it's a weekend crowd, there's a lot of good things happening.... during the week, when quiet, not so much. Of course, this is/was one of Kathy Chan's parents' favorites, so...
Honestly, if you haven't done a walk thru of Honolulu's C'town, you should. It's significantly different than any of those here due, I suspect, to the different cultural blends and what can be easily grown or imported there. Remember that the smaller, homier sit down restaurants there are daytime and close up early in the evening so lunch is the better bet...they have some interesting dishes not found elsewhere. Same with a lot of the small markets/stalls. Ginny & I are especially fond of a poached chicken with ginger and green scallion dish that seems common there and is almost impossible to find here at any comparable level.
We didnt find any Death & Co or similar type cocktail places there (as you probably know, that's not our forte anyway) but, if you want to do some searching, try the area that the restaurant/bar Salt is located (5 min. drive from Ono). Actually, try Salt and ask the bartenders where they'd go.
I was going to invite you to join me and some others at L.Pepper Hot Pot on 1/5 for a get together, but looks like you have better places to be. Have fun. And really... try to find a way to get to Helena's. Best lunch I've had.
re: Steve R
I'll be in Southern California later in 2013, so saving dim sum fix for then. Also you can definitely get good poached Chinese chicken with ginger scallion there. My mom orders it all the time when we dine out. :)
Tuesday shopping is in and around Honolulu Chinatown...I've been to Chinatowns in LA, SF, Toronto, Chicago, Manhattan, Flushing Queens, so very interested to see what theirs is like. Seems quite a bit more hip than ours in Manhattan.
Was also pondering Lucky Belly in lieu of Nakamura if we're in the neighborhood anyway.
Won't really have a car so Helena's might be tough--especially since they are closed Sat/Sun/Mon!
I would add since your shopping at Ala Moana and if not to full from Orchids, Alan Wong's, The Pineapple Room or Mariposa at Neiman Marcus..both are very good..
Royal Hawaiian shopping center has some great stores too.
If your looking for old school Aloha shirts pre-Reyn, thrift store around the island can be a treasure trove for great finds.
When you hike Diamond Head, the food truck at the base where the bathrooms are has the best sliced fresh pineapple for $3 for a full baggie that is delicious.
Aloha and have a great time!
In Ala Moana there is, of course, a food court. And some of it aint half bad. Just be aware that there is also a major Japanese food "court" upstairs with lots of better stuff. It's listed as a Casual Dining Restaurant (Shirokiya) but its really not. For your perusing: http://www.alamoanacenter.com/App_Ima...