PEACE, LOVE AND HULA

Sway to the rhythm of Waikiki

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION HAWAII - KIM CULYER

Aloha! The tra­di­tional Hawai­ian greet­ing em­bod­ies love, com­pas­sion and kind­ness. Hawai­ians be­lieve the com­plex and pro­found sen­ti­ment has no English equiv­a­lent. Cus­tom­ar­ily, it ac­com­pa­nies a cheekto-cheek or fore­head-to-fore­head slow em­brace, though these days it is usu­ally be­stowed with a huge white­toothed smile and a big wave. Ma­halo is the re­turn greet­ing, show­ing thanks, re­gards or re­spects.

Hawaii com­prises eight is­lands. You’ll find the tourist hub and renowned surf spot Waikiki on the south­ern shore of Oahu. “Wai”, signifies fresh­wa­ter, and “kiki” means spout­ing wa­ter.

Its an­cient Poly­ne­sian cul­ture has evolved through­out the years, ex­panded by Asian, Euro­pean and Amer­i­can in­flu­ences to make Hawaii the wel­com­ing des­ti­na­tion it is to­day, a melt­ing pot of cul­tures, cuisines and his­tory. Full of tall sway­ing palm trees, pris­tine beaches, shops and un­lim­ited din­ing choices, there is a chilled at­mos­phere.

But au­then­tic Hawai­ian ex­pe­ri­ences abound and here’s how to find them.

EASE INTO HAWAI­IAN TIME

Head to Dukes Bar and Restau­rant, founded by the fa­ther of mod­ern surf­ing, Duke Ka­hanamoku, which is on the beach at the Outrig­ger Waikiki. Here, try what is renowned as the is­land’s best Mai Tai, along with a meal of opah, or moon­fish.

Their daily mu­sic ses­sion sets the vibe, but do not leave un­til you have made your way, all the way, through their sig­na­ture dessert, the world fa­mous, he­do­nis­tic Hula Pie.

Pic­ture a side-plate sized slab of Oreo cookie crust, ice-cream, whipped cream and macadamia nuts – fol­lowed by a food coma.

If this seems too rich, then on your wan­der home try an­other lo­cal favourite, shaved ice. Small huts are dot­ted around the city of­fer­ing this ice dessert flavoured with ex­otic taste com­bi­na­tions like cot­ton candy, guava, hon­ey­dew, creamy co­conut and red vel­vet.

Look­ing for a cool ale? Maui Brew­ing Com­pany is a funky place to hang out. This craft brew­ery’s all­nat­u­ral beers make use of flavours such as co­conut, and all com­ple­ment the dishes that come out of its 100 per cent made-from-scratch kitchen. Ev­ery ingredient is fresh, lo­cal and or­ganic; the only freezer is a small one for ice-cream. Pu­pus (ap­pe­tis­ers) and share plates are the pick here, along with their tast­ing boards of beer.

The crowd-favourite poke bowl has chunks of raw tuna mar­i­nated in soy sauce, lime and chilli and I guar­an­tee you will want more.

DUKESWAIKIKI.COM, MAUIBREWINGCO.COM

SWAY THOSE HIPS

There’s no bet­ter way to burn off Hula Pie than with hula, the dance. Get your hips aswayin’ with a tra­di­tional les­son from Aunty Luana, who has been teach­ing stiff, left-footed tourists the art of bare­foot hula at the Outrig­ger Reef Ho­tel for many years.

She says in Hawai­ian cul­ture ev­ery­thing comes from the heart. Passed down by tribe chiefs to the younger ones, these feel­ings and sto­ries are shared through the hula move­ments. We moved our feet to the beat of four, as Aunty Luana sang The

Huk­i­lau, a song about fish­ing. By watch­ing the hands of the dancers you can un­der­stand the mean­ing of the song, she said. Our bod­ies jerked rather than swayed while we mim­icked their ges­tures.

We threw the net, fling­ing our arms for­ward, watched the fish swim­ming as we wob­bled our hands to the side and brought in the nets with our come hither move­ments. Flow­ers are imag­i­nar­ily tossed, ca­noes make their way across the wa­ter and ev­ery­one is happy with the day’s catch.

I’m not sure we por­trayed the story in the same flu­ent man­ner as the ladies, but it was a lot of fun try­ing.

OUT ON THE WA­TER

Waikiki is all about the ocean and the beach. Cap­tain Philippe and his crew from Sail Holokai take us about 1km off shore to a reef aptly named Tur­tle Canyon, where we dis­cover green sea tur­tles have a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship with a lit­tle fish called the kole.

Tur­tles visit here year round to re­lax and mill about while the kole ex­fo­li­ate the bar­na­cles off their shells. This tur­tle spa, an ex­am­ple of na­ture at its best, is in a shal­low area with un­lim­ited vis­i­bil­ity.

Some peo­ple duck dive for a closer look but you need not – ev­ery now and then the tur­tles come up for air. They rise grace­fully to the top, with­out a care in the world for who or what may be near, or on top of them. One got so close I had to back-pedal to avoid a col­li­sion.

Along with the myr­iad of colour­ful fish, you might see manta rays and dol­phin, and if you’re there be­tween Novem­ber and March, the mighty hump­back whales.

SAILHOLOKAI.COM

GO NUTS AT A LUAU

High on a hill in the Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park, re­cently opened Nutridge Es­tate is an en­chant­ing place with 180-de­gree views to ex­pe­ri­ence an au­then­tic luau.

Fifteen min­utes from town, this his­toric es­tate was home to Hawaii’s first macadamia plan­ta­tion with seeds im­ported from Aus­tralia, and was one of Elvis’s favourite hang­outs, to­gether with Clark Gable, Frank Si­na­tra and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

Guests are in­vited to join an in­ter­ac­tive tour of the prop­erty, to see Hawai­ian etiquette and tra­di­tions demon­strated at mu­sic per­for­mances in the rain­for­est, kalua build­ing (un­der­ground cook­ing oven), fire dance, tra­di­tional spear throw­ing and cul­tural work­shops.

NUTRIDGEESTATE.COM

WE THREW THE NET, FLING­ING OUR ARMS FOR­WARD, WATCHED THE FISH SWIM­MING AS WE WOB­BLED OUR HANDS TO THE SIDE

TAKE A DAY TRIP

Es­cape the hus­tle and bus­tle of Waikiki with a day trip to the North Shore. The pic­turesque beach­side vil­lage of Haleiwa – with its bou­tique shops, farm­ers’ mar­kets, surf schools and art gal­leries – is only an hour’s drive from the city but feels a mil­lion miles away.

Weav­ing along the coast road we pass many small beaches and ponds full of shrimp wait­ing to go straight to the many food trucks along the way.

Do not leave un­til you try the lo­cal del­i­cacy, gar­lic shrimp – equal parts gar­lic but­ter to equal parts shrimp. Gio­vanni’s Shrimp Truck, cov­ered in graf­fiti, has been dish­ing up this de­light since 1953.

Nearby Waimea Bay Beach comes alive from Oc­to­ber to April for the big wave sea­son and peo­ple flock to the home of the Quick­sil­ver Pro surf com­pe­ti­tion and Pipe­line – one of the world’s big­gest waves.

How­ever it still main­tains a laid­back, un­der­de­vel­oped sur­fie at­mos­phere. There are no ho­tels, only pri­vate beach­front homes to rent, and the lo­cals like it like that.

Con­tin­u­ing along the drive, the tran­quil Waimea Val­ley pro­vides botan­i­cal gar­dens full of wild orchids, nat­u­ral fresh­wa­ter swim­ming holes, cul­tural sites and ac­tiv­i­ties.

Chil­dren will par­tic­u­larly love Tur­tle Beach where at dusk they can see the fe­male tur­tles nest­ing, plus Shark Cove where the waters are home to lazy snorkellers who can drift among the vol­canic rocks, pris­tine un­crowded beaches and the sounds of other chil­dren shriek­ing with de­light as they jump off the rocks into the clear waters.

THE WRITER TRAV­ELLED AS A GUEST OF OUTRIG­GER HO­TELS AND RE­SORTS

ICE DESSERT

GREEN SEA TUR­TLE

PIC­TURE: OUTRIG­GER HO­TELS AND RE­SORTS, ISTOCK

Day and night, Waikiki Beach is a chilled and beau­ti­ful place to hang out; shaved ice comes in ex­otic taste com­bi­na­tions; and green sea tur­tles buddy up with kole fish.

PALM PAR­ADISE

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