Wild and Wonderful Waikiki
WHAT TO DO:
Surfing and Outrigger Canoeing: Waikiki Beach Services @ the Royal Hawaiian: The first global ambassadors for Hawaii were the beach boys of Waikiki: the surfers and the outrigger canoe boys. Armed with surfboards, smiles, and handfuls of leis, Waikiki beach boys of the 1920s (including Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku) greeted visitors with their irrepressible ebullience and indigenous charm as they showed "haole" (mainlanders) how to love the ocean and the beach as much as they did.
More than a century later, that passion and love for Waikiki and the water is perpetuated by the beach boys of Waikiki Beach Services. The infectious energy of this merry group of mer-men enables even the most risk-averse to ride the waves and feel the exhilarating rush of adrenaline and accomplishment.
Never thought you’d surf? Never thought you’d ride a wave? Think again. Sign on with Barney, one of the most equable of a corps of bronzed and buff beach boys, and you’ll be surfing the waves of Waikiki long before your hour-long lesson is complete. Chances are, you’ll feel such a rush that you’ll sign on for an outrigger canoe surfing lesson as well.
Derived from a sport reserved for Hawaii’s royal families, outrigger canoe surfing is one of the safest - and most fun - sports for ocean vessels. Round up your posse and paddle out to the waves for a thrill ride way more righteous than any amusement park.
Waikiki Beach Services also provides stand up paddle lessons (aka SUP) and sunset catamaran sails. They’ll even help you orchestrate a burial at sea (should the need arise...).
As professional as they are fun-loving, the beach boys of Waikiki Beach Services are all state certified to teach - and they work to insure that your time in the cerulean waters below Diamond Head remains one of those memories that linger longer after you’ve left the beach.
Plus you’ll leave with a photo CD to prove to everyone back home that yes, from now on, you’ll answer only to the name of "Duke."
LINK: Waikiki Beach Services @ the Royal Hawaiian
Moana Lani Spa @ Moana Surfrider: Built in 1901, the Moana Surfrider has earned its sobriquet "the First Lady of Waikiki," as well as a place on the National Register of Historic Places. For well over a century, massive Ionic columns and a gracious porte cochère have welcomed guests into one of the more fabled hotels in the world.
"Moana" means "wide expanse of ocean" and that is precisely what greets guests at Moana Lani Spa within the Moana Surfrider. Overlooking Waikiki Beach in what was once a second-floor restaurant in the hotel’s Tower Wing, the recently-opened 18,000-square foot spa includes two oceanfront suites, as well as separate men’s and women’s relaxation lounges, all with spectacular, open-air views of the Pacific Ocean.
The traditional "Lomi Lomi Ola" massage is performed by a trained practitioner of Hawaii’s indigenous therapy. Each massage therapist has learned "lomi lomi" from teachers or grandparents whose lineage can be traced to ancient Hawaii. The 80-minute "lomi lomi" (meaning "masseur who rubs with the paws of a contented cat" - or thereabouts, anyway) incorporates various techniques to alleviate tension and pain, with overall well-being as the primary objective.
Each treatment commences with a bowl of Hawaiian sea salt, into which each guest is invited to leave all worries. At day’s end, the collected bowls of salt (and worries) are blessed and carried out to sea.
Treatment rooms at Moana Lani Spa are large and spacious, enabling for greater freedom of thought and deeper breathing. Before and after treatments, clients relax in Vichy shower hydrotherapy rooms, steam rooms, and dry saunas. Whirlpools are located with a direct view onto the ocean and the horizon, thereby providing ringside seating for sunset vistas.
Guests who are so inclined may also utilize the 24-hour fitness center - but seriously, once your therapist is finished with you, you’ll find yourself completely sated by a glass of lemon ice water and that expansive vista of the Pacific. Peace of mind guaranteed.
LINK: Moana Lani Spa @ Moana Surfrider
Kualoa: A 4,000-acre sacred sanctuary of dense rainforests and white sand beaches flanking broad open valleys, the Kualoa Valley was a residence of kings and a training ground for royalty from the 13th to the 18th century before becoming a sugar plantation in the 19th century.
Today, the area (now called Kualoa Ranch) is known to film aficionados as the setting of "Jurassic Park." Numerous films and television shows have been filmed in the Kualoa Valley, including "Godzilla," "Mighty Joe Young," "50 First Dates," "Pearl Harbor," and "Lost." As might be expected, Kualoa Ranch’s most popular tour is the movie site tour. Who can resist a photograph deep inside Godzilla’s footstep?
Adventure tours include horseback riding, jungle expeditions, ocean voyaging, and all-terrain vehicles. Located on the windward side of Oahu (24 miles from Waikiki), Kualoa is also one of Oahu’s largest and oldest cattle ranches and guests who book package tours sit down to a ranch buffet lunch or a prime rib buffet dinner.
In 1974, Kualoa (meaning "long back" for the region’s mountain ridges) was added to the National Register of Historic Places, a testament to the valley’s sacred origins and its breathtaking beauty.
Haleiwa Town: The surfing capital of Oahu (and arguably the world), the historic town of Haleiwa (pronounced hah-lay-EE-wah and meaning "house of the frigate bird") dates to the late 19th century when the island was primarily devoted to the sugar industry. Surf and Sea is the largest surf shop in town, while nearby Laniakea Beach is where giant sea turtles sunbathe on the pristine beach.
Stop for a lillikoi (passion fruit) shave (not shaved) ice at local favorite Matsumoto and then head to Haleiwa’s Alii Beach Park where the sunsets are spectacular.
LINK: Haleiwa Town
Matsumoto Shave Ice
Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck: Simply put, there’s no better way to spend eleven bucks than the garlic butter shrimp plate at Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck. Served on a bed of lettuce with a side of macaroni salad and white rice, this regional specialty on the island’s north shore is where you’ll find locals eating with their fingers, big smiles on their faces.
While there are numerous shrimp trucks along the Kamehameha Highway, natives swear by Famous Kahuku. The dilapidated, graffiti-strewn truck is part of the charm - and as soon as you sit at one of the famous fuchsia picnic tables and start chowing, you’ll know immediately that you’re in the right place. Lick your fingers - and yes, go ahead, order a second plate: half garlic butter and half coconut shrimp. This is the meal that you’ll be wishing for once you’ve left Paradise.
LINK: Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck
(Feature continues on following pages: What to Do, Where to Stay, Where to Eat, Where to Play, Where to Shop, Getting There...)