Oahu qual­ity time

Avoid­ing touristy crowds, cre­at­ing per­fect fam­ily beach get­away is easy on Hawai­ian is­land’s North Shore

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRAVEL - STORY AND PHOTOS BY BRIAN J. CANTWELL

HALEIWA, Hawaii — “Could this be more per­fect?”

My fam­ily and I couldn’t stop turn­ing to each other and say­ing that on the first evening of our Oc­to­ber va­ca­tion as we sat around an um­brella ta­ble on our rented beach cot­tage’s wooden deck, 20 feet from the sand.

We sipped home­made mai tais made of canned Hawai­ian Sun lilikoi fruit drink bought at the Food­land su­per­mar­ket just up the road. Top­ping the cock­tails were splashes of light rum and black rum, gar­nished with a wedge of fresh pineap­ple, a slice of lime and — we found them in our per­fect beach cot­tage’s kitchen cup­board — lit­tle pa­per um­brel­las.

We took in the view of palm trees, golden sand, azure waves, surfers and the set­ting sun, and asked again, “Could this be more per­fect?”

Travel can be about ex­plor­ing other cul­tures, and that can be a richly re­ward­ing rea­son to go. Travel can be about ad­ven­ture, hik­ing or pad­dling in some ex­otic set­ting. It can be about try­ing new foods, or sip­ping wines from a fa­mous vine­yard.

And some­times travel can be about team­ing up with your daugh­ter and her boyfriend to fin­ish a chal­leng­ing 1,000-piece jig­saw puz­zle be­fore you have to pack up and go home.

That last one was a key part of our va­ca­tion, which was, in the big­ger pic­ture, all about re­con­nect­ing with fam­ily.

It hap­pened in a clas­sic Hawai­ian rental cot­tage on one of the most beau­ti­ful beaches any­where, and I highly rec­om­mend the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Here are some thoughts about what made this get­away among the best ever, and how to do it your­self.

My Seat­tle-based daugh­ter and her part­ner, both 25, had been trav­el­ing and work­ing in Australia and New Zealand for 14 months. My wife and I missed them, they felt ready to come home, and meet­ing them on their way back, in Hawaii, seemed like a dandy ren­dezvous.

They had just com­pleted a win­ter of work at a New Zealand ski area. The idea of a week on a trop­i­cal beach suited them fine.

The North Shore of Oahu was our pick, for rel­a­tively easy ac­cess to Honolulu In­ter­na­tional Air­port while re­tain­ing a low-key, surfer-culture vibe.

I spent hours comb­ing va­ca­tion-rental web­sites. I fi­nally ze­roed in on a two-bed­room beach cot­tage, of maybe 1950s vin­tage, on a fa­mous surf­ing beach. The VRBO. com (Va­ca­tion Rentals by Owner) web­site listed it for about $300 a night, rented by the week.

I usu­ally spend less on lodg­ing. But I don’t usu­ally stay in beach­front ac­com­mo­da­tions with the ocean roar­ing all night out­side my open win­dow. And in Hawaii it’s easy to spend much more. This place was a find.

Sweet­en­ing the deal: I knew from pre­vi­ous vis­its that a pleas­ant 3.5-mile bike path par­al­lels the main road along the North Shore, in­clud­ing where this rental was si­t­u­ated. One of my good ideas be­fore leav­ing home: I went on­line and found a bike-rental out­fit that would de­liver bi­cy­cles to our lodg­ing. I signed up to have bikes de­liv­ered the morn­ing af­ter our ar­rival, for five days of use.

Some tips on plan­ning your own per­fect fam­ily re­treat on Oahu’s North Shore:

■ First, don’t over-plan. Give your­self at least a week, heal­ing you of home­town stresses and let­ting you all get reac­quainted — whether you’re strolling the beach with a cup of cof­fee at sun­rise, sip­ping a Kona Brew­ing long­neck over a card game on the lanai, or dip­ping toes in the surf as the full moon rises over the Pa­cific (yes, check the moon sched­ule be­fore you book!).

■ En­joy those bikes. We parked the rental car for most of the week and biked to Shark’s Cove snor­kel­ing beach, or to the su­per­mar­ket, or to get shaved ice. The bike de­liv­ery folks were help­ful, friendly and punc­tual, and our bikes came with locks, hel­mets and re­mov­able baskets that could be used while shop­ping as well as for tot­ing gro­ceries home (northshore­bik­erentals.com).

■ Eat well. Rent a place with a good out­door grill. (Our cot­tage had a choice of propane or char­coal.) Some­times you’ll see fish­er­men along the road with an ice chest of fresh ahi for sale. And there’s a farm­ers mar­ket in Waimea Val­ley on Thurs­day af­ter­noons (farmlover­s­mar­kets.com/haleiwa-farm­ers-mar­ket) where you can stock up on lo­cal pa­paya, ba­nanas and dragon fruit, a hot-pink-skinned fruit that tastes like a cross be­tween kiwi and water­melon.

We also biked to break­fast at the fa­mous Ted’s Bak­ery, the only restau­rant in the world where I have or­dered fried Spam (with fried rice and eggs). We re­turned to the cot­tage with one of Ted’s trade­mark Choco­late Hau­pia pies, with dreamy-creamy lay­ers of choco­late and co­conut ($12.88, teds­bak­ery.com).

■ Let serendip­ity work its magic. When we saw a green co­conut freshly dropped from a palm in front of our cot­tage, I acted on a hunch and went to search the cot­tage’s tool shed. Sure enough, there was a ma­chete. Ev­ery Hawai­ian gar­dener’s “go-to” tool, it was just the thing for lop­ping the top off a co­conut so we could sip the cool, re­fresh­ing water in­side. m Make your own mu­sic as the sun goes down. A ukulele is easy to carry with lug­gage, my daugh­ter found. Or buy one in Honolulu, where lo­cals make some of the world’s finest hand­crafted ukes (see koaloha.com or ka­maka­hawaii.com). m Take your fa­vorite old beach films; most va­ca­tion rentals have DVD play­ers. En­joy movie-and-pop­corn nights. (Our per­fect cot­tage had DVDs of fa­mous surf­ing footage.)

■ Take your fa­vorite card games, which pack eas­ily. We re­learned how to play Uno, which was on the game shelf in our cot­tage.

■ Watch the surfers. They were catch­ing waves right in front of our place, morn­ing till night. Slather on the sunscreen, kick back on a lounge chair and en­joy the ac­tion. In win­ter, the surf here can be as high as a house. (For a first-timer les­son, try Waikiki, where the waves are tamer.)

Mostly, just re­lax and get to know your­selves again. I’ve trav­eled to many won­der­ful places and had ex­cel­lent ad­ven­tures. But this was the best pure va­ca­tion I’ve had in years.

A home­made mai tai and a sun­set view of the surf from a cozy beach cot­tage make for re­lax­ing, mem­o­rable evenings on Oahu’s North Shore.

The writer’s cot­tage came equipped with beach chairs, an um­brella and ba­sic snorkel gear. Af­ter spring­ing for a cou­ple of in­flat­able swim rings at an ABC Store, the fam­ily was all set for a day on an Oahu beach.

Haleiwa, on Oahu’s North Shore, is the an­chor com­mu­nity for the more laid-back side of the Hawai­ian is­land.

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