PEACE, LOVE AND HULA
Sway to the rhythm of Waikiki
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.
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.
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.
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
GREEN SEA TURTLE
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.