HONOLULU

The Denver Post - - TRAVEL -

pro-forma fanci­ness, come here straight from the air­port. Founded in 1957, La Mar­i­ana is a wellloved clas­sic of a tiki bar: carved-wood pillars, rattan-lined walls, lights made out of scal­lop shells and glass fish­ing floats. The trop­i­cal drinks are strong, thank­fully un­up­dated, juicy but not over­sweet. The sashimi and poke as­sort­ment here is per­fectly fine, but ac­cord­ing to the lo­cals at the next ta­ble, go with the kalua pork na­chos (and eat­ing na­chos with chop­sticks al­lows easy as­sem­bly of per­fect bites — ge­nius!). La Mar­i­ana Sail­ing Club, 50 Sand Is­land Ac­cess Road, Honolulu; 808-8482800; lamar­i­ana­sail­ing­club.com.

2. Chow down at Marukame Udon: Though it’s

been in Waikiki for six years, the line for this Ja­panese chain stretched the length of the place. Anx­i­ety about get­ting a seat proved point­less — the pac­ing of the cafe­te­ri­astyle ser­vice mirac­u­lously matched the flow in the tidy din­ing room. But be ready with your broth/size choice; while they’re not go­ing to Soup Nazi you, there is pres­sure. The curry ver­sion was rich, thick and beefy, while the clear dashi of the kake udon pos­sessed an ideal level of oceanic taste. Watch the trays of tem­pura — shrimp, pump­kin slices, whole soft-boiled eggs, lots more — for what’s fresh­est as you ap­proach. And the Spam musubi here will make you un­der­stand the ap­peal. 2310 Kuhio Ave., Suite 124, and also at Fort Street Mall, Honolulu; 808-931-6000; tori­dol­lusa.com.

3. Take a bike ride around Di­a­mond Head:

Known to Hawai­ians as Le’ahi, Di­a­mond Head is the un­real-look­ing dor­mant vol­cano tow­er­ing at the end of Waikiki in ev­ery photo you’ve ever seen of the place. The bike ride to and around it from friendly Hawai­ian Style Rentals on Lemon Road is easy enough for even the lazi­est rider (and I would know). Along the way, there’s pretty Queen Kapi’olani Re­gional Park (watch for pre­his­toric-look­ing banyan trees), the stately sea­side War Memo­rial, stoic Di­a­mond Head Light­house, vast blue ocean views, hi­lar­i­ously solemn groups on Seg­way tours, surfers and more. Hawai­ian Style Rentals & Sales, 2556 Lemon Road, Honolulu; 866-916-6733; hawai­ibikes.com; bike rentals, $15 for four hours.

4. Try the best ver­sion of a dough­nut ever:

Af­ter

(or be­fore!) tour­ing around Di­a­mond Head, it’s a quick jaunt to beau­ti­fully old-school Leonard’s Bak­ery for its fa­mous malasadas: warm, cushy, burover nished-brown Por­tugue­ses­tyle dough­nuts, with an al­most cus­tardy-soft cen­ter of more dough in­stead of a dumb hole. Hear­ing dis­cus­sion of Leonard’s, the woman rent­ing out bikes just smiled and said, “We like orig­i­nal” — dusted with sugar, com­pletely great. The ones filled with hau­pia, like liq­uid co­conut pud­ding, must also be tried. 933 Ka­pahulu Ave., Honolulu; 808-737-5591; leonard­shawaii.com.

5. Go swim­ming right in the mid­dle of it all in Waikiki Bay: Kuhio Beach

faces sev­eral palm tree­lined lanes of pass­ing traf­fic, with myr­iad high-rises tow­er­ing above. Peo­ple sit on benches just be­yond an ab­bre­vi­ated stretch of sand, pi­geons walk­ing around them (Hawaii’s pi­geons are bet­ter-look­ing than ours), while you bob in the buoy­antly salty wa­ter. You can take a surf­ing les­son right there, or take a cue from two glam­orous women who were lux­u­ri­ously float­ing on cheap air mat­tresses avail­able at Honolulu’s ubiq­ui­tous ABC con­ve­nience/sou­venir stores, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic on their wa­ter­proof­cased iphones, im­pas­sive be­hind big sun­glasses. Your ho­tel’s pool is never go­ing to be this sur­real.

6. Get real-deal poke plus more Hawai­ian treats at Ono Seafood.

Honolulu’s hole-in-the­wall Ono Seafood has been mak­ing the Hawai­ian raw­fish salad since 1995, and it shows. The Haw’n Style ahi, made with ul­tra-fresh, jewel-like cubes of tuna, tasted bright, rich and lightly spicy, show­ing the surety with fla­vors that comes with time. Tako poke with miso tended gin­gery, the oc­to­pus snappy with­out chewi­ness. Squeeze in at one of the shaded pic­nic ta­bles out front and qui­etly freak out. Also: Don’t miss the fridge full of more lo­cal treats such as lomi salmon (salty bits of fish com­ple­mented by sweet-tast­ing tomato and sharp onion) and pick­led green mango (crunchy, salty and sweet all at once, with the salted, dried plums li hing mui also bathing in the brine). Ono Seafood, 747 Ka­pahulu Ave., Honolulu; 808-7324806.

7. Wan­der the streets:

Ven­ture just a bit be­yond the main drag and Honolulu starts to re­veal its con­tra­dic­tions: the low-slung, tidy but run­down apart­ment build­ings in­ter­spersed among tow­er­ing build­ings; the trees drop­ping fra­grant plume­ria blos­soms on the side­walk at your feet. For a more for­mal walk­ing tour, alo­ha­hawaii.com‘s “7 Must-see Land­marks” is a ba­sic 2.3mile self-guided route. It in­cludes Chi­na­town, full of lovely old ar­chi­tec­ture and fun to wan­der around — and home to hot res­tau­rants such as lo­ca­vore-ori­ented Se­nia and, for “cook­ing with Vietnamese sen­si­bil­i­ties,” The Pig and the Lady. For more in­sider in­sight, make a reser­va­tion for a Satur­day-morn­ing AIA Ar­chi­tec­tural Walk­ing Tour ( aia­honolulu.org/ ?Walk­ing­tours, $15, or $10 for a self-guide book­let).

8. Drink a bunch of mai tais: Avoid the cheap mix

with pos­si­bly even cheaper rum knock-offs and go for the good stuff: The mai tai at La Mar­i­ana Sail­ing Club (see No. 1), while a straight-ahead take on the rum, Cu­ra­cao, orgeat syrup and/or lime-juice recipe, is not even the same drink. Even bet­ter: the mai tai at beach­side House With­out a Key, at the Haleku­lani Ho­tel, lean­ing more to the limey side (and, at 5:30 p.m. daily for a $5 sur­charge, ac­com­pa­nied by sonorous live lo­cal mu­sic and danc­ing by for­mer Miss Hawaii win­ners). The mai tai at Bar Leather Apron wins most the­atri­cal: Made (by, yes, a bar­tender in a leather apron) with raisin-in­fused fiveyear and 12-year rum, co­conut-wa­ter syrup, spiced orgeat, ohia-blos­som honey, lime and ab­sinthe, it’s in­fused with na­tive ki­awe­wood smoke in­side a tik­istyle wooden box carved with a face, with the smoke pour­ing out of the nos­trils. It costs $18. You al­ready know whether you’d find this in­trigu­ing or ir­ri­tat­ing: Heed your in­stinct.

9. Stay in a ho­tel with some char­ac­ter:

Waikiki is rife with anony­mous­feel­ing chain ho­tels. A pie-shaped room at the lit­tle 1962-vin­tage As­ton Waikiki Cir­cle Ho­tel looks like a lot more fun (and less ex­pen­sive), with retro ap­peal and bal­conies di­rectly over­look­ing the beach. The Park Shore Waikiki is also more mod­est than, say, the Trump In­ter­na­tional Waikiki, but of­fers an up-close, un­ob­structed Di­a­mond Head view, plus, po­ten­tially, the sound­track of the nearby Honolulu Zoo. For a lot more money, try the 1927 Span­ish/moor­ish-style Royal Hawai­ian (aka “The Pink Palace of the Pa­cific”) or the 1901 colo­nial-style cake of a ho­tel that started tourism here, the Moana Surfrider.

Brian J. Cantwell, The Seat­tle Times

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