a winter wonderland in waikiki

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

hello from the 37th floor!

Masked in COVID-19 gloom, I re-emerged from scrolling through my camera roll late last Sunday. With thirty minutes spent reminiscing the places I missed most during quarantine, I found myself daydreaming the most about the Hawaii trip that my family took last winter.

California was a tad gloomier last season, so my family decided to take a spontaneous trip to the beautiful state of Hawaii for Christmas!

Here are some archived memories:

The stuff people say about Hawaii are true— even at its coldest, seventy degrees, it is a paradise filled with beautiful flora, fauna, and beaches all-year-round. Our destination was Waikiki, which according to locals, has changed a lot over the past decade. Unlike other cities, Waikiki streets are lined with large resorts & hotels, bustling tourists, ABC stores (the island's version of 7-Eleven basically), restaurants, and luxury shopping experiences. We spent our entire first day on the island playing tourist.

During the day, we made our way over to Kapiolani Beach. It was just a few blocks away from where we were staying, so my sister and I made our way over for a lazy day of sunbathing until sunset and cooling off in the gentle waves.

As the day passed by blissfully, we decided to take a nice nap in the shade and woke up to the sunset bathing everything in a warm gold-orange.

Soon enough, day broke to dusk. We put on light jackets and spent the evening walking around in a light drizzle. On our walk across the city, we happened across a lively shopping district filled with a ton of cool boutiques, bars, and the poppin' Shirokiya Japan Village Walk Japanese. Here we spent time scouring the food hall and its indoor beer garden. There was a wide array of Japanese restaurants, samples to taste, and near the front entrance free retro games like Pacman that kids could play on for free.

By 10PM we were worn out from a half-day spent on the airplane and then walking, so we retreated to our hotel to rest up and prepare for the next day of adventuring.


The second day started out with a mishap.

I followed my family down to the hotel buffet room. Staci and I made it a ritual every morning to dress our plates in loco mocos, the best biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, and guava danishes. On this day, however, they included a new addition to the morning fruit display: Hawaiian Pineapple.

We went about the rest of the morning normally. Staci and I decided to work out in preparation for the evening of food my family had planned. After fifteen minutes of huffing and puffing on the treadmill, my hands started tingling so I left briefly to wash my hands. Another fifteen minutes, passed by and suddenly the rest of my body started itching so I bolted back towards the hotel room shower.

Long story short: one cab, an urgent care visit, and a remedial steroid shot to the booty later, I was fine!

Despite the day's food allergy debacle, we continued as planned towards the highlight of the day's agenda: the Luau.

Planned for the evening, we drove forty minutes out of Waikiki with our hunger in tow to arrive greeted by dancers and the chief himself, armed with beautiful shell and flower leis.

Out on the veranda, there were heaps of barbecue pork, purple sweet potatoes, taro, ahi tuna, and pineapple upside down. And how did everything taste? Super delish. We learned a lot about Hawaiian folklore, history, and tradition.

One of the most interesting things that we learned was that every dance was filled with a complete narrative and a homage to traditional Polynesian folklore. With our bellies filled with tantalizing barbecue and feeling buzzed on tropical drinks, we taxied back with our head in the clouds

Since we only had three full days on the island, my family and I decided to see as much as we could by touring around with Nui Tours. Nui Tours is a newer tour company that does smaller group tours, and we got an amazing guide named Jeremy whom took us to a ton of popular stops in Honolulu.

On the list was:

  1. Diamond Head
  2. Halona Blowhole
  3. Sandy Beach
  4. Makapuu Beach
  5. Waimanalo
  6. MacNut Farm
  7. Chinamans Hat
  8. The Shrimp Trucks
  9. Fruit Stands
  10. Sunset Beach
  11. Banzai Pipeline
  12. Laniakea
  13. Haleiwa Town
  14. Dole Plantation
  15. Coffee Farm

There were so many wonderful stops on the list, but the places that stood out to me the most were Sunset Beach and Laniakea. 

At Sunset Beach, we arrived in clear sunny weather, only for the next moment to suddenly rain down with a cascade of warm raindrops. The waters were super clear, the beach was relatively empty, and the surfers loved riding in what looked like crazy waves from the way they crashed ashore.

Laniakea was incredible as well. Parking might have been rough, but the beach itself was nice and quiet. Laniakea's visitors even have a great chance of seeing Honu, which means "sea turtle" in Hawaiian. As the day warms up, Hawaiian sea turtles may emerge and visitors get to relax. It's important to note that out of respect and preservation of the wildlife, visitors must stay a few feet away but the charm of getting to see the turtles at distance, but it was still well worth it. During our stop, we were lucky enough to see a rather big Honu sunbathing out near the rocks.

As our limited time in Hawaii drew to a close, there were many things that I wanted to take away from the experience. The first of which was feeling a deeper connection to nature. I found myself really enjoying solo walks on the beach with no phone, no distractions. The locals had great pride for and took really great care of Hawaii's natural beauty. There were so many hikes and opportunities to explore that I am dedicating my time to doing exactly that when I return one day.

Everybody we met on the island was so kind. And the more I heard first-hand accounts of growing up in Hawaii, the more excited I felt hearing about youth culture growing up on the island where small communities thrived and ohana was more than just blood relations.

And finally, one of the things I learned most was the importance of respecting culture and traditions. Despite how much my family and I had enjoyed playing tourists during our time in Waikiki, talking to the locals really opened me up to joining conversations about preserving the feeling of small community. Waikiki a decade ago had still been a place abundant with mom and pop shops, popular for the local youth to hang around, and clear of towering resort towers. And as tourism grows and property becomes ever more elusive to own, a lot of people who have decades of history on the islands are being priced out of there paradise. A large part of me hopes that even after a decade or two, cities like Oahu will still have some semblance of small communities even as the North Shore continues to be gentrified.


Hawaii, thank you for the memories! I cannot wait to visit you again. And for now: aloha, a hui hou!


1 comment

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