Aloha! This week, I’m taking you to my and our president’s birthplace: Oahu, Hawaii (this is probably the only time I can talk about me and Obama in the same sentence). You didn’t think I’d really have a blog like this and not talk about my island, let alone my state, did you? Despite what I said in my first post about having the occasional island fever, I could never trade growing up here for anything else in the world. I mean, where else can you find nearly perfect weather all year long, glimmering turquoise oceans, and friendly people captivated by the aloha spirit of the islands? Since of course I know Oahu very well, I simply cannot talk about it in only one post so I may branch off into a more detailed follow-up post later on.
For now, I divided this post into five categories in an attempt to capture the essence of Oahu in only one post. If you have anything to add, please do share!
A typical plate lunch: Chicken katsu, barbeque chicken garnished with green onions, a scoop of mac salad and white rice. Photo credit: mmm yoso.
By now, you’ve probably noticed a pattern with most of my posts. Almost all of them refer to food in one way or another. Yes, I’m guilty of being a foodie, but it’s nearly impossible not to talk about food when you’re talking about Hawaii. Food almost defines Hawaiian culture. The diversity of Hawaiian cuisine really all began in the late 19th century when American settlers hired immigrants from China, Korea, Japan, the Phillipines and Portugal to work in their pineapple and sugarcane plantations. They each brought their own native food to the islands and combined it with Hawaiian and American food, resulting in food that is widely enjoyed by Hawaii people today. For example, you can go to practically any fast food place and order a plate lunch which usually comes in a Styrofoam take-out container and includes rice, macaroni salad (Hawaii people love their mayonnaise), and some kind of meat such as teriyaki beef or chicken katsu. Two places people tend to frequent to pick up plate lunches are L&L Hawaiian Barbeque and Zippy’s (Side note: I was excited to hear that there’s an L&L in Phoenix!). Another local favorite and Obama favorite is Rainbow Drive Inn. If you tell any local Hawaii person you’re craving a “plate lunch,” they’ll know what you’re talking about. Mention that anywhere else and you’ll get looks like you have two heads.
Photo credit: AsianWeek
Oh, and I can’t forget about spam. Don’t ask why, but Hawaii people love their spam: Hawaii is the second largest consumer of spam behind Guam. It’s commonly prepared as spam musubi, sliced thin between or atop rice and wrapped in nori (seaweed). Spam musubi can be found wrapped in cellophane and purchased at any deli-type store. Many also enjoy eating spam with rice for breakfast. McDonald’s even puts spam on their breakfast menu!
Barack and Malia Obama enjoying shave ice from Island Snow in Kailua, Hawaii. Photo courtesy: Huffington Post
I’ll admit, Hawaii can get hot and humid, especially if you spend a lot of your time outdoors. And that’s why people enjoy indulging in shave ice after a long day at the beach, after soccer practice or even work! Shave ice is an ice-based dessert made by shaving off a block of ice, producing very fine shavings of ice which is then covered by different flavors of syrup. Not gonna lie, I get a little annoyed when people mix up shave ice with snow cones because unlike shave ice, snow cones are thick, chunky and flavorless. Shave ice flakes are much finer and melt in your mouth with every bite (well, depending on where you go to get your shave ice). There’s so much more variation in flavors of syrups such as red velvet, guava, melona, lychee, coke and I can go on. And you can get even more creative by adding ice cream, condensed milk, mochi balls and azuki beans.
You can find shave ice at many stands or shops all over the island, but you can’t get the best quality of shave ice just anywhere. In my opinion, the best places to get shave ice are Matsumoto’s–Adam Sandler and Jack Johnson love this place–or Island Snow–another favorite of Obama and his family (they even named a shave ice flavor combination after him: Snowbama).
Andy Irons surfing a North Shore wave. Photo credit: Transworld Surf
Whether you enjoy swimming, surfing, canoeing, jet skiing, or tanning, Oahu has some of the best beaches to do any of those. You really can’t go wrong with any beach in Hawaii, but each offers a little something different. My personal favorite beaches: Ko Olina, Sunset Beach and Kailua Beach. This section calls for a whole separate post!
Diamond Head Crater hike.
Hiking is one of the best and cheapest ways to see views of Oahu’s waterfalls, lush mountains and sparkling blue oceans. There are a variety hiking trails suited for both beginners and the more experienced hikers. The best place to start is the Diamond Head Crater hike which overlooks Waikiki’s rolling waves and high-rise hotels. If you want to challenge yourself, you can climb 1,100 stairs to the top of the Koko Head Crater for stunning views of Hanauma Bay and Hawaii Kai. My personal favorite hike is Mariner’s Ridge. It’s a nice-paced, three-mile round trip hike that leaves you with an all-encompassing view of Koko Head, Maunalua Bay and the Koolau mountains. I could go on and on about all the gorgeous hikes on the island, but we’ll save that for another day.
Little girl enjoying a piece of pineapple and waving the “shaka” sign. Photo courtesy: The Cameronomicon.
– We call people from Arizona “Arizonans” or people from Oregon “Oregonians,” but when referring to someone from Hawaii, we rarely ever say a person is “Hawaiian” unless they are of the Hawaiian ethnicity.
– Some people in Hawaii speak a Hawaiian creole called “Pidgin,” influenced by many different languages such as Portugese and Hawaiian. That’s why many locals have a distinct accent (you might be able to notice it if you listen to me speak). Examples of pidgin phrases: “Eh! Howzit brah? You get any da kine? I stay broke! Tanks ah?” is loosely translated as “Hi! How are you sir? Do you have some spare change? I don’t have enough money. Thank you!”
– People use the “shaka” hand sign (extending the thumb and pinky) as a common greeting gesture.
– The entire series of LOST was filmed on Oahu! Even the flashback scenes. Some of the settings include Mokuleia Beach for the plane crash beach, Camp Erdman for the Dharma Initiative Processing Center, and the Convention Center for the airport. Hunting down the cast of LOST was one of my favorite pastimes when the cast was filming. Now that LOST is over, I’ve moved on to the cast of Hawaii Five-0.
Premiere of the final season of LOST at Waikiki beach.
It’s impossible to cover everything to see and do on Oahu, but I hope that I provided enough information and photos to at least convince you to visit Hawaii once in your lifetime. And someday, I’ll go into more detail about the beaches, hikes and other tidbits about Oahu. But for now, aloha and mahalo nui loa!
A moment of reflection. Koko Head hike.