SOUTH

Qantas - - Travle Insider -

THE CITY BREAK

SET AGAINST the back­drop of Di­a­mond Head – a lush vol­canic crater with fin­ger-like ridges – Honolulu is the first stop for most vis­i­tors to Hawaii. It isn’t ex­actly a laid-back beach get­away, though. The thin strip of sand slith­er­ing down the neigh­bour­hoods of Waikiki and Ala Moana is in­un­dated with tourists and lux­ury re­sorts clam­ber­ing over one another for sea views. But what Honolulu lacks in beach­side bliss, it more than makes up for with big-city charms: wide boule­vards, gleam­ing malls, glossy re­sorts and his­toric sites.

Ex­plore the stately lawns and or­nate rooms of Iolani Palace (iola­ni­palace.org), the only royal res­i­dence on Amer­i­can soil, or join a tour of the USS Ari­zona Me­mo­rial at Pearl Har­bor (pearl­har­boroahu.com). A rare feat of mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture, the som­bre mon­u­ment sits above the sunken hull of the USS Ari­zona.

Later, lose your­self in the world’s largest open-air shop­ping mall. With more than 300 out­lets spread over four floors, Ala Moana Cen­ter (alamoana­cen­ter.com) will hap­pily lighten your wal­let.

And if you want to es­cape the sea of selfie sticks, head to Kaimana Beach. “It lies be­yond the Nata­to­rium War Me­mo­rial, which acts like a vis­ual bar­rier,” en­thuses Honolulu celebrity chef Ge­orge Mavrotha­las­si­tis. “Vis­i­tors don’t quite re­alise it’s there so it’s a bit of a lo­cal haunt.”

Stay

De­spite its lo­ca­tion on tourist-soaked Waikiki Beach, Haleku­lani ho­tel (ho­tel.qan­tas.com.au/ haleku­lani) has an un­mis­tak­able air of el­e­gance, thanks to its quiet court­yard, lush lawns and crisp white cor­ri­dors that bring to mind Bri­tish Colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture. Up­stairs, the rooms are just as pleas­ing, with white slid­ing shut­ter doors that open onto pri­vate bal­conies. But the ho­tel’s most sought-af­ter spot is the palm-fringed out­door pool area with spot­less day beds and un­in­ter­rupted wa­ter views – ei­ther that or the sump­tu­ously dec­o­rated La Mer restau­rant, where head chef Alexan­dre Trancher serves deca­dent French fare.

Eat

Al­most 20 years af­ter it first opened, Chef Mavro (chef­mavro. com) re­mains one of the finest restau­rants in Honolulu. You could opt for the re­laxed small-plates menu but to fully ap­pre­ci­ate chef Mavrotha­las­si­tis’s culi­nary prow­ess, you’ll need an empty stom­ach and an en­tire evening to work your way through the nine-course tast­ing menu. The hottest ticket in town, how­ever, is Sushi Sho (ritz­carl­ton. com). It has room for only 10 din­ers so book well in ad­vance. Flanked by two as­sis­tants, Ja­panese ti­tan Keiji Nakazawa slices, trims, chops, fil­lets and flays fresh seafood right in front of the din­ers, turn­ing it into ed­i­ble origami. Pre­pare for a pro­ces­sion of fresh-be­yond-be­lief morsels and an­i­mated chat­ter be­tween the chefs that ranges from Ja­panese whis­pers to out­right or­ders.

Haleku­lani ho­tel is a haven of tran­quil­lity in Honolulu (above)

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