After a day of doing little to nothing, it was time to do something again on our vacation! But before any of that, we needed a proper breakfast to start. Given that CP’s ideal breakfast are blueberry pancakes, no matter where we are, I found him a place that actually served it (you’d be surprised how hard it was…every place wanted to put either bananas or pineapples, which is not all that surprising since we were in Hawaii).
Now…those 2 pancake stacks look the same with the exception of the topping right? It is actually the topping that gives it away: one is a buttermilk blueberry pancake (top) and the other is a ricotta blueberry pancake (bottom). The difference? One is a good, standard, pancake…the other, is a creamy, decadent disks that will fill you up 5x faster. Just take a look at the creamy goodness inside:
I had made it through half of the stack before I decided that it was a better idea to walk away than to push through. CP on the other hand had wiped clean his stack (of 3…instead of 2 because his was slightly lighter than mine). After our yummy breakfast, we had to make a stop in the Lego store we walked by on our way to breakfast because both CP and myself are big fans of Legos…but CP was just so excited to see a store with nothing BUT Legos.
He ended up buying 3 Starwars character keychains (since it was buy 2, get 1 free) and walked out of the store triumphant and happier. 🙂 With this good start to the day, we decided to go see some of the “sights” of the island…you know, the tourist stops. It is in us both to do as much one can during a vacation (it’s more myself than anyone), so since we spent one whole day practically doing nothing…it was time to do something! That’s why we spent the next 2 hours or so at the Waikiki Aquarium.
We learned that this monk seal is best known for “energy conservation.” CP and I both thought, “How appropriate for this vacation…perhaps we should take a page from its book and we could learn a few things or two on how to enjoy life.” I loved this seal because: 1. it’s just a blubbery cuteness and 2. lives the life I wish I could.
After spending the time inside a wonderful aquarium and learning about the animal that embodies Bruno Mars’ newest single, “The Lazy Song,” CP and I decided to do something just completely the opposite. Here’s a shot of what I’m referring to:
Can you guess where we were headed off to next?…No? Here’s another clue then:
CP and I were about to take a “hike into history” up Diamond Head Crater! Let me tell you…it is one, fracking harsh hike into history. Irony lost upon us? Nope. Deterred? Ha! We’re city people in a profession where people think sleeping is inefficient use of hours in the day. So suck it up, get lathered up (with sunscreen…we’re not stupid, skin cancer is not our agenda for this hike), and “LEGGO!”
There’s CP as we left the paved lower part of the crater’s park, into the rough and uneven terrain. I took random shots throughout the hike, but we hit a point where I was using all my energy to keep myself from slipping and/or twisting my ankle on the uneven trail.
Just when we thought we would never get anywhere, we reached a break from the hike to this gorgeous view:
After a brief break to catch our breath, cool off, snap some shots of ourselves…we continued our trek northward! Let’s just say it was more uphill climbs before we hit some very steep stairs, followed by a long dark tunnel, then more stairs that were even steeper, then another tunnel before ending at…A SPIRAL STAIRCASE! (insert gasps and shock…feel free…I’ll wait for you 🙂 ). Once we made it to the top, we were reward with amazing views of the island. A perfect view down the shoreline of Waikiki beach, and the lush mountains of Oahu.
Needless to say, CP and I were happy we had made it up to the top in one piece for wonderful views. Even though we were both a sweaty mess, we were champions of the crater for that moment!
Let’s just say the trek down was a hop and skip for us by this point. Filled with joy and the taste of victory, we sauntered to the car and headed for a victory cool off snack at Waiola again:
A lime and pink lemonade shaved ice over 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream for CP.
And a modest lychee and lilikoi shaved ice for me. Plus…
A musubi! You seriously didn’t think I would not get this while here right? (Side note: I am a BIG fan of spam. Every since I was little, Spam was a treat for me since Mom didn’t like for us to eat too much of it because at the end of the day, it was processed meat. However, pan-fried Spam made it to our noodles and ramens, as well as scrambled eggs for dinner. Needless to say, I ❤ Spam!) CP on the otherhand had a lot of reserves about eating it. He, like many mainlanders and the uninitiated, looked at this product only to think of all the rumors about how Spam is not real meat. Or that it was what kids at camp would call “mystery meat”. As I explained to CP what Spam was and wasn’t, he made a comparison that I thought was completely brilliant and people can understand: “So basically, it’s like a hot dog?” Yes! It is!! Spam is ground and processed pig, with spices and repackaged for consumers. 🙂
Anyways…the conclusion to this story: CP was not only convinced, but HOOKED on it.! Mission: Complete.
We basically wound down the day by the poolside again at the hotel in the waning sun light. For dinner that night, CP was craving a hefty hamburger so we ended up going to Cheeseburger Waikiki. This is a burger chain and…I really did not have anything to say about this place because I was not entirely pleased with my turkey burger. Not exactly what I would go for in Hawaii, but CP wanted his burger and according to him, it was quite delicious.
The following day, we decided to enjoy our day at Dole Plantation!
There were several attractions you could go to and learn about the plantation and about pineapples. CP and I went to all 3 attractions. First stop: The Pineapple Express (…yes, we both smiled and had an unspoken moment there).
On this narrated train ride, you learn about the Dole Company’s history as you ride through the pineapple fields. During our visit, the fields were bare as the season had passed already. Given like any proper tourist attractions, proper planning included planting other crops that Dole grows, as well as showing the other fruits that are grown on the island. The varieties included: banana, mango, lychee, cacao, ti leaf, and others. Learn something new everyday!
The Dole Garden was next, where you can walk through their garden area to look and learn about the native plants and the many uses of them. It was a gorgeous garden and a nice learning experience.
We took a brief break to get out of the sun and re-nourish ourselves at the café in the shopping area. My choice of refreshment? A Dole Whip!
CP’s choice? A hot dog chili plate with rice:
Strange as it may sound and look, it worked out quite well !
After resting ourselves a little to let the food settle, we headed to the world’s largest maze! The challenge: find all 8 “check-in” points in the maze as fast as you can. With our combined powers of navigation, a few mistakes here and there, CP and I successfully made it through the maze in approximately 2 hours. Victory yet again!
With our satisfaction of conquering the plantation, we headed north for our next mid-day snack stop and the signature food/destination of the North Shore: a shrimp truck. Our destination: Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.
Tucked into a little forest clearing right off the road, you would easily miss the truck even with a GPS (we had this issue several times during our trip) and we did. So we made a turn and made our way back. Their menu is simple and minimalistic, all surrounding the key protein: shrimp. Given that it was already well into the day, by the time we were there, all they had available was the shrimp scampi. That was fine by us, all we wanted was to taste the delicious, plump (not-so) little shrimp.
The order comes with a pile of fresh, cook-to-order shrimp (sans the head…thank goodness) and 2 scoops of white rice. The shrimp was cooked and bathed in a wonderful garlic, lemon, buttery goodness. To put it simply, here was what CP said to me, “I normally don’t have the urge to lick my fingers, but…” *proceeds to lick his fingers*. This is a sign because what CP said is true, we’ve eat BBQ and I have NEVER seen him lick his fingers. Whereas I have no problem with doing so…whether BBQ, Indian, anything! Thus, this just goes to show you how amazing this was. I can still smell the strong, sweet garlic smell as I write about it and it lingered with us as we continued on.
We took the drive up to one of the beaches in North Shore to dip our feet in. However, as you can see for yourself, a storm was brewing and yet, we thought it would just pass like it always did. Well…let’s just say that did not go quite as so. As we drove down the west side of the island back to Waikiki, the rain steadily started coming. By the time we were back at our hotel in Waikiki, it was POURING! It was flash thunderstorm and it was as if the sky turned into the ocean and gravity brought down all the water to us. It was a mad house watching everyone trying to run for cover and the streets flooding within matter of seconds. At one point, one of the sidewalks slightly below the hotel’s main road was a miniature moat or more aptly, a cesspool.
CP and I took refuge back in our hotel room to clean up, in hopes that the storm would pass. And fortunately for us, it did! We headed back out to grab dinner at Yotteko-Ya.
This ramen house was small and tucked at the far end of a strip mall. Unassuming and you would never even think twice about it. The only way you would go: recommendations or you just so happen to be stuck at that strip mall. Otherwise, you would never find it.
The restaurant specialized in ramen, but also served fried rice and appetizers. They also offered a set meal where you could choose an appetizer, ramen, and have either white rice or fried rice. The ramen soup base choices included: Shoyu, Shio, or Paitan. Paitan is a rich chicken/pork based broth and has a milky look from the cooked down chicken/pork bones. Also, you can choose how firm you wish for your ramen to be cooked: firm or soft.
Both CP and I ordered the Paitan ramen with fried rice (no eggs for CP though) and the Kaarage/Gyoza (CP/me).
The ramen you see above you was something else! I cannot even begin to tell you how wonder, flavorful, rich, smooth, and silky! I had never had a broth this rich in flavor in all my ramen adventures. This bowl and my memory of it is what I will use to judge all other tonketsu and paitan broths from here on out. (I am a fan of Tajima, but putting their broth on a good day up against Yotteko-Ya…it is like a Hefty bag commercial – “HEFTY HEFTY HEFTY……wimpy wimpy wimpy”.)
The fried rice and appetizers kind of just fell to the sideline and to the back after we had our taste of the broth. Man…I really need a good bowl of ramen right now.
There we go folks! Just two and half more days to go in Paradise!
3 locations (Oahu and Maui)
Waiola Shave Ice
2135 Waiola St
Honolulu, HI 96805
64-1550 Kamehameha Highway
Wahiawa, HI 96786
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
2 locations in Oahu
1960 Kapiolani Blvd, #214
Honolulu, HI 96826
We woke up to clear, blue skies and pristine, crystal waters. So what else would we do, but go swimming!
Trust me…I was very high strung when we arrived, but after going through this routine: dip into the crystal blue waters, lay on the warm sands, soaking in the sun, and repeat – one can see why you can easily get swept up in the lazy attitude. Basically, the only reason we finally decided to do something was because our stomachs were growling. So…it was off to find a late lunch!
PUKA DOGS!!! It is basically taking a Chinese bakery item, that is quite common, and give it a Hawaiian twist. A loaf of slightly sweet bread, pierced by a “puka” or a hot, iron poker, which toasts the bread from inside out. They offer both white and wheat bread and then you get the choice of a polish or veggie sausage. Next comes the hardest part: the choices of many relishes and mustard. I had gone on a store worker’s suggestion (when we asked for directions): mango relish and guava mustard, with Hot garlic lemon sauce, on my polish dog with wheat bread. CP had gone with a polish dog in white, with Mild garlic lemon sauce, and dijon mustard.
Simple and delicious. With the bread toasted inside, it gave it a nice little crunch when you bit into it. My puka dog was salty and sweet, not that spicy (as my spice level is pretty high). It was a mouthful of the tropics and not exactly what I would normally go for, but it was something I had to try and did not regret doing so! CP was equally happy with his choice.
After that snack, we returned to the waters and continued our day with the amazing weather. Eventually, we needed another snack and I needed some shaved ice!! (After all, we were in Hawaii!)
Under not only 1 visitor’s suggestion, but also a local who I work with, I avoided the “tourist trap” and headed to where the locals do:
This place was literally on the corner of a neighborhood. It isn’t a place where you would “drive by”, nor give a second thought had you driven by. However, under the guidance of fellow foodies, CP and I had ourselves some great shaved ice:
Our respective treats: my azuki with mochi shaved ice, topped with a little condense milk. And CP’s lime and pink lemonade shaved ice. I loved how finely shaved the ice was because you would just put a little in your mouth and before you can even close your mouth, the ice was melted. Next best way to cool off after dipping into the water.
Basically, after this side snack, we took a drive around the island to see the rest of the island:
After we made it back to the hotel, we clean up and by that time, it was dinner time. Where did we head to? Yet, another suggestion by the same 2 foodies:
The best way to describe this place is a Chinese cafe style restaurant with big family portion dishes. We ordered the signature Side Street Inn fried rice and the Miso-yaki chicken. The fried rice was loaded with char siu, bacon, and Portuguese sausage…aka: it was pig with some rice.
The chicken was sweet, savory, and tender. It is what you would want for a good, grilled chicken. The secret: marinating and cook with skin. Mmmm….
It was another great day in paradise!
Puka Dog (2 locations)
Island of Oahu
Waikiki Town Center
2301 Kuhio Avenue # 2
Honolulu, HI 96815
Island of Kauai
Poipu Shopping Village
2650 Kiahuna Plantation Dr.
Koloa, HI 96756
2135 Waiola St
Corner of Paani St
Honolulu, HI 96805
Side Street Inn (2 locations)
1225 Hopaka St.
614 Kapahulu Ave.
CP and I were in Hawaii for almost a week and we both are missing it desperately. It was the hardest thing for both of us to do: come back to our day jobs. However, as I browse through the pictures that I had taken (all 600+), I fondly reminiscence the places we visited and the food we ate. Since there’s so much to talk about and show, I’ll just start on Day 1:
We had a morning flight and by the time we landed in Honolulu, it was the afternoon and a storm had just rolled through. By the time we checked into the hotel and walked to the beach right outside (it was beach front resort). Well, since both CP and I were starving from the mini lunch we had for our in-flight meal, we decided to just get a snack at the resort:
A nice bowl of yakisoba on the beach. The yakisoba was not bad nor stellar, but it was at the beach. Can’t complain! 🙂 After we had our snack of noodles, we took a dip into the sea. I had imagined the water being a LOT warmer than it really was. However, given that the San Diego coastline’s water temperature is approximately 60 degrees on average, the water there in comparison was warm. It was a lot of fun and CP had the best time getting me into the water with him.
When we saw this in the distance:
We decided it was time to go in and get ready for dinner. However, by the time we had cleaned up, we saw our first sunset of the vacation from our room’s balcony:
For dinner, what else would we have other than…SUSHI!!! Naturally, I did my research online while CP was cleaning up and found this place a little further in-land from the coast (not by much). However, given it was a new city with new roads…we had some troubles navigating to it. Like seriously Hawaii…can your road signs be possibly any harder to see at nights? Long story short…in our attempt to get there, we almost had gone onto the freeway and also went the wrong direction on a one-way street. Yea…it was a really exciting trip to dinner.
We made it to Imanas Sushi/Izakaya. The restaurant’s small and warm, with a large communal table snaking down the middle of the curved dining room. Once seated, it did not take us long to figure out what we wanted for dinner:
The rice ball in broth was only ok, mostly due to the fact that the rice ball was not crispy enough. It should be pan-fried til a nice crispy shell forms, to keep the rice from getting too soggy. Alas…this was not the case sadly.
The sushi was fresh and amazing. I could’ve eaten just this all night, but I was so full from everything already, that we could barely finish the last bites (which was the roll). The spider roll was only ok. However, given that I am me, I needed something sweet to satisfy my sweet tooth. Thus, we headed to Bubbies Ice Cream & Desserts just down the road for a cold, sweet dessert:
My ice cream scoop was soooooo creamy and fresh! I couldn’t believe that it was that creamy and it was not gelato. They also had other desserts in their dessert case that looks like are made from their awesome ice cream flavors.
So that was our first day in Hawaii!
Imanas Tei Restaurant
2626 S King St
Honolulu, HI 96826
Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream & Desserts
1010 University Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826