Make the best of O'ahu

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April 8th 2016
Published: April 23rd 2016
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Loco moco & Saimin
Fri: Koko Head

Early start today. 7:30 am flight got into Honolulu by 10:30 am. As expected, the air was warm and heavy. Finding the city bus stop was unmarked and unintuitive at best. As usual, we were, yes you guessed it, hungry! But you also know that we don't just grab the first thing we see. We walked a few miles to Zippy's for Hawaiian fare. Loco moco for V and saimin for me. Loco moco is crazy, consisting of a hamburger patty on a bed of rice, smothered in gravy, topped with a couple of sunny-side-ups. Blood vessel waiting to explode! Saimin was like one of those raw packaged ramen. Comfort food and a great kick-off of our adventure 😊.

With happy tummy, we walked to the other side to the convention center. Hapalua half marathon expo was tucked away in one of the conference rooms while Kawaii-kon dominated almost the entire convention center. It was strange seeing runners crossing path with cosplay kids, reminding me of Bay to Breakers.

Today, we still had the goal to conquer Koko Head. It was getting late and sunset here is earlier than what we're used to at home. I started to have some doubts since the next bus will take some time. Thank god for V at times like this. We had time to grab coffee at Honolulu Coffee experience center, right across the street from the convention center. We got sucked in by a good whiff of roasting coffee on the way. On the menu, I spotted 100% Kona coffee….at $6.95!! Being a cost-conscious consumer, I contemplated, heck ya. $3 latte may be acceptable but $7 coffee?? But I'm equally a sucker for things like this. It was the smoothest pour-over coffee. Zero after taste. Upon talking to the master roaster, he said they do only pour-over on-demand only on 100% Kona to maintain freshness and to minimize waste.

Ok, focus, back to Koko Head. We finally arrived at the trailhead at 4pm. Will we have enough time to go further into the crater? There were people coming down but also going up. Let's do this! I was pretty pumped up at the bottom, taking consistent steps on the wood steps. ~1/3 of the way, I was starting to sweat. From there, sweating and breathing just got worse. At about half way up, there is a
Koko HeadKoko HeadKoko Head

...the way up
section where we had to go over the hole on the wood bars. Bars were running in the air, just like a horizontal ladder floating high enough that you wouldn't want to fall, yikes. One bar at a time. After surviving that, it got steeper and steeper. I continue to sweat. I literally had to take a breather after 5 steps. Nobody warned me it was going to be this hard!! We didn’t even think to carrying water! View at the top was rewarding! As for walking further? It didn't look like the trail continued and I was glad. Besides, descent was rough if it wasn't rougher. Especially on that floating horizontal ladder, my feet had death-grip on the wooden bar.

Swung by Hanauma Bay across the street and made our way down to town. By that time, I was so hungry and thirsty. Shave ice would have been ideal but we weren't gonna make it back in time for Waiola. Plan B: Leonard's malasada. I barely made it through the bus ride. Finally, fresh and piping hot sugar-coated buns came out. I grabbed it and it was so soft that it was sagging. But when I bit into it, it was surprisingly chewy and bouncy. So creamy and melt in my mouth!! Fried anything on an empty stomach would normally be detrimental but I inhaled that thing. One more? Duh! We picked up some poke at Foodland (home of the poke). Not bad for the first day.

Sat: North Shore

We thought we wouldn't have to leave until 7:30 am so we get into Haleiwa for a nice brunch. Wrong. We were up by 5am. Well, let's just go already then. First stop was Kono's, a pork mecca! Matsumoto was a few steps ahead. They opened the door on us like they were waiting for us, hehe.

We continued walking along the beach. There were a lot of newbie surfers but once we passed the bay, it got eerily quiet. Tranquil beach exists in O'ahu! It was so beautiful with the mountain on the west side. It was a hot day. After enjoying the calmness of the beach, V spotted two sunbathing turtles!! So cool! They were so chill. We spotted another one a bit later. Eventually, the coast line became rocky with bright green seaweed. The scene was so picturesque; deep blue sky, turquoise water, bright green seaweed and dark rocks!

Before we knew it, a few hours had passed and it was almost lunch time, oh boy. We weren't even at Waimea Bay (half way to the goal of Sunset Beach). Just when we decided that we needed to get back on the road so we can pick up the pace, we had a hard time finding the road access. Beach was lined with private houses. Although there were stairs leading out from the beach, we'd be trespassing 😞. Finally, we made it back on the road but we still had ~3miles or ~1hr walk to Waimea where we'd find lunch. There was absolutely nothing until then. Not even a chance to get water, including a fountain, zippo. It would be difficult running without support here.

Dehydrated and depleted. Finally, we reached Waimea Bay!! It is a gorgeous dent in the coast line aka bay. But just like anything else here that's accessible from the road, it looked chaotic. Just around the bay, we came across a movable feast. It looked so cute with colorful trucks and picnic tables. Fish tacos, yes, please!! Garlic shrimps for V.

It'll be another
Koko HeadKoko HeadKoko Head

...the way down
2.5 miles to Sunset Beach. Full tummy, no problem 😊. Ted's bakery awaits too :D. On the way, we spotted a cart selling young coconut. Where were you earlier? So refreshing. I just wished it was bigger :p. At Ted's Bakery in Sunset Beach, we had well-deserved slices of cream pies - pumpkin haupia & choc macadamia. I’m not a huge fan of cream pie but it was worth a stop.

A long bus ride through the island took us back to Foodland for Poke attack #2! This time, we did it right with potent Hawaiian beer.

Sun: Ke'ana Point

Instead of getting ready for a half marathon, I was in bathroom, putting on a makeup. It was perhaps more draining than running 13 miles, haha. At 6:30 am, we were ready to hitch a bus to the airport so we can pick up a car. With traffic heading back into Waikiki, and a brief 10-min coffee break at Honolulu coffee, we got to mom's hotel on time at 8:30 am. St Catalina wedding chapel was a 30-min drive along the east shore. Chapel was strategically located on top of the cliff, overlooking the ocean. It was a gorgeous day! Since we were in North Shore all day yesterday, I didn't know that it had been cloudy this past few days on this side of the island. Very auspicious, indeed.

There is no room for mistake in the destination wedding. The staff was on their game. It was the first time here for all of us including the bride and the groom. Of course, there was no rehearsal. But the most important job they had was to get us out in 1 hour. Talk about precision! It didn't end there. Back in Waikiki, our table was perfectly setup at a restaurant with the color theme, wedding cake, and everything. Flawless. Sun was still glaring at high-noon and the open-wall restaurant was very pleasant. Just when we were leaving the premise, it started to sprinkle. Rest of the day was an on-and-off shower. Somebody really endorses this union…love it 😊.

Since we had the car for the rest of the day, we headed to Ke'ana point. It's the northwest point of the island. Drive took good 1.5hrs. We went as far as we could go with a non-4x4 car. The rugged trail continues on. I wonder
Kono's North ShoreKono's North ShoreKono's North Shore

Porky sliders
if it goes to the other side of the point. Would have been a nice trail run route. On this fine Sunday afternoon, there were a sizeable amount of people getting ready for the sunset. Wave was crashing harder and harder. It was creeping well into the cliff where we were.

After admiring the sunset behind crashing waves, we made our way back to Honolulu. Since we had a car, we could go eat anywhere for dinner, yay. After two nights of Poke, I yielded to having ramen. Ramen scene here is pretty legit, being close to Japan. From Yelp, we picked Agu. It's a small eatery but we shouldn't have a problem parking being away from Vegas strip. Wow, their ramen was ammmazing! I had yuzu-flavored chicken-based soup. Super light but flavorful! V's tonkotsu was pretty authentic.

Night doesn't end with Leonard's malasada. This time, we got 4 buns in one shot.

Mon: Diamond Head

I didn't think I would be hungry after those night-cap malasadas but sometimes I surprise myself. We stopped by, once again, Honolulu Coffee Experience Center for a quick coffee and grub before heading to the airport to return the car. Bus ride between airport and Waikiki was feeling like a commute already, lol.

At 9am, we met Toshi and mom at Cream Pot. We noticed this place on Friday. It's so cutely decorated and thought we'd have coffee one of these days. It's actually a brunch place known for souffle pancake and baked eggs. Souffle pancake was awesome. From there, we hit up Island Vintage Coffee for Acai bowl. Apparently, it's hot in Japan.

We split so Toshi can take mom to the airport and us to Diamond head. If it's on the half marathon course, it can't be too far to walk there right? But by 11:30am, the sun was way high up in the sky and the road was exposed. We scored nice views on the uphill, near the lighthouse . Ocean was emerald and deep blue. Walk felt like forever from there. Finally, we reached the parking lot. Climb continues…to the summit really. We know half-ass break won't do us much good. Even though we were getting thirsty and hungry, we powered to the top!! Man that was rough. We realized this on the way back that we chose the steep stairs route. Wind was blowing hard at the summit. Almost lost my visor! View was well worth it. I wished it wasn’t a concrete jungle to the right but… Powering to the summit was a good call also because the vista points along the way didn’t turn out to be all that. Nice job (^^)v.

Now to shift focus! Shave ice!! Waiola should be just about 2miles!! There was no room for mistake. I was almost at the breaking point of thirst and hunger. I knew I had to try this place because some blogger called Matsumoto overrated. So what is a non-overrated shave ice? It's in the ice texture. While Matsumoto ice would be something I'd expect from snow cones. This one, on the other hand, was super smooth and fluffy. Straight up powder snow. Zero crunchiness that melts in the mouth but still holds up while we went through an extra-large bowl. Legit.

Now that the shave ice put life back in us for the moment, it was time to put some substance. Ono Seafood was just around the corner and it had a stellar review. Poke bowl it is. The experience was awesome here. It's this tiny outlet. You pick poke, rice & size and pick it right up two steps down the counter. We ate it fresh at a picnic table right outside of the store. I haven't yet to got on the Poke Bowl craze back home in Cali but I'm glad I'm setting the gold standard right here. Although tuna was marinated, we could tell it was fresh.

Well, that's all the time we had before catching the flight. We went back to the hostel to freshen up (yes, they let us shower after the check-out) and back to the airport once again. At the airport, our redeye to LA was overbooked by 20 seats and it was chaotic. Somehow, they managed to get us out on time. We survived the 45-min connection and we landed to freeezing SF :p.

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25th April 2016
Sea turtles :)

Nice photo
Love turtles

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