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Holoholo Hawaii : Island Hop for Sun, Fun and Fantastic Food
By Michelle Winner
Images by MWinnerMedia
Travel to some sunny locales might outright scare you and others can be very expensive. Why not go where a dollar is a dollar, a place where even if you think you know it there is always a surprise around the corner?
It is time to re-think Hawaii. And because each island is so different, the best way to experience Hawaii is to island hop by planning a seven night, two island vacation. Easy non-stop flights to Oahu, Hawaii from gateway airports can put your toes on famous Waikiki beach with a Mai Tai in hand in time for sunset the very same day.
Toss your phone away after you have booked your stay at the casually elegant oceanfront Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. Within the 22 acres of tropical gardens, pools, penguins and just plain relaxation the Ali’i Tower, a hotel within the hotel, boasts maximum privacy and ocean views. Casual but inspired dining downstairs at oceanfront Tropics restaurant, with items like Furikake & Beer Battered island “fish and chips” or the Mushroom, Spinach and Big Island Goat Cheese Pizza is an anytime restaurant with live Hawaiian music in the evenings. Plan to visit Bali Steak and Seafood for a sunset meal beachside at the best table in Waikiki with an upscale vibe and Hawaii-born Chef Jeffrey Vagilla’s locally influenced menu interpreted with classic technique. hiltonhawaiianvillage.com
Visit Bishop Museum’s Hawaiian Hall for Hawaiian history displays interpreted with a free docent tour to learn how the Hawaiians lived day-by-day. Then find out about how lava continues to create the Hawaiian Archipelago at the Science Adventure Center. bishopmuseum.org
A leisurely drive to the North Shore is usually a best bet. Depending on the season you might be marveling at surfers barreling down huge waves or opting to cavort with colorful reef fish for a great snorkel at Sharks Cove. Just up the hill in Pupukea pay a respectful visit to little-known sacred heiau Puu O Mahuka with magnificent views of the North Shore and Waimea Bay.
On your way back to the hotel prowl through Chinatown down to 1165 Maunakea street stopping at Violet Lei Stand. Owner Mr. Siu will pick out the freshest leis for you. For dinner, an unforgettable meal and wine flight comes with a reservation at Chef Mavro’s just outside Waikiki. As one of the original creators of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, Chef George Mavrothalassitis is a master chef with a long list of awards and commendations. Locally sourced provisions and artful culinary skill ensure that this will easily be one of the best meals of your life. chefmavro.com
Holoholo Hawaii: the Big Island
After three days sampling Oahu, island hop like a kama’aina ( local) and holoholo ( travel) inter-island to Kona Airport on the Big Island. Book the oceanfront Hilton Waikoloa Village and prepare to get down to the sublime work of relaxing. Walk the many garden pathways or take a boat ride through the waterway laced property and delight in the changing vistas and extensive art collection. Snorkel with the reef fish in the hotel’s expansive lagoon or experience a life changing encounter with a dolphin. Dolphin Quest at Hilton Waikoloa is a “must do.” These dolphins, billed as “ambassadors” for their brethren in the blue Pacific are not on display. Quest takes exceptional care of their friends the dolphins, providing gentle interaction between you and these beautiful mammals to create understanding of the species and to promote caring for our oceans. You could be moved to tears by this experience. dolphin quest.com
In the evening, Chef Dayne Tanabe’s sunset dinner at Kamulea Provision Company menu features local ingredients and local sustainable fish and becomes even more special when you are seated at one of the “Ali’i tables” at the ocean’s edge. Whale sightings, marriage proposals and goose bumps are optional! hiltonwaikoloavillage.com
After breakfast take a day trip drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see the Hawaii that is still being created. Pack a picnic. Explore old eruptions at Kilauea Caldera, vast Halema’uma’u Crater and walk in the Thurston lava tube. hawaii.volcanoes.national-park.com Or head up the Kohala Coast to Pu’ukohola Heiau built by Kamehameha I the great warrior king. ( nps.gov/puhe/historyculture/index.htm) . His birthplace is also nearby.
Drive to the laid-back town of Hawi and continue to Pololu Lookout for the insiring view of the crashing waves against sharp black cliffs. Backtrack to junction of Route 250 and take it through Kohala Mountain range foothills to the cowboy town of Waimea. Stop for lunch at Village Burger, Chef Edwin Goto’s fantastic local fresh eatery featuring localbeef, mushroom burgers or taro burgers. Chef Goto, Executive Chef alumnus of the famous kitchens of the Lodge at Koele and Manele Bay Hotel on Lanai is also a founding member of Hawaii Regional Cuisine celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year. ( Sensing a pattern here?) villageburgerwaimea.com
Properly fortified, you must visit under-the-radar- gem Anna’s Ranch Heritage Center in Waimea. Step into Anna Leialoha Lindsey Perry-Fiske’s ranch house and back to 1939 when this part Hawaiian young lady transformed her family’s failing ranch into one of the most respected and profitable in the islands. An exceptional personalized tour of Anna Ranch Heritage Center transfixes the visitor as the docent tells Anna’s charming story with aloha. Visit and “talk story” with Hawaiian saddle maker Albert Moniz Jr. and blacksmith Ethan Froney, master artisans with on-site workshops. annaranch.org
Dinner at Merriman’s in Waimea brings you a true farm to table experience. Veggies are grown nearby – the strawberries and tomatoes-literally two blocks away. Try the Taro Cake and Caramelized Onion topped with Ginger Cream or any island fish, lamb or boar offering. Worship at Peter Merriman’s table, another of the founders of Hawaii Regional Cuisine, with “wild” abandon and accomplished Chef Allen Hess in this chapel-like temple of foodie delight. merrimanshawaii.com/big_island.htm
Today, declare a “Beach Day.” You will notice in this vast lava covered landscape that there are not as many white sand beaches as you might have thought on the Big Island. White sand is created over eons of ground up reef, shells and corals and much of what is under the ocean off shore is lava. Get up and out early and head to one of several fabulous beaches that dot the Kohala coast to claim your parking spot. You should pack some snacks and water or do a really cool thing and make a lunch reservation at the Mauna Kea Beach hotel just off Hapuna Beach. Hapuna Beach State Park , frequently ranked one of the worlds best beaches, is a picturesque crescent of sand; the perfect beach of your imagination. Check ocean status with lifeguard before jumping in. Follow signs off HWY 19, this beach has showers and parking. gohawaii.com/big-island
So what are you waiting for? This shoulder season air fares are down. Fly/stay/drive packages are available with major carriers, Hilton Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii and through travel agents. Find out more at gohawaii.com . Say aloha (goodbye) to the rain and holoholo Hawaii!