I think on Oahu I took my food tourism to another level.
It was probably a sign of what was to come when my friend Chelsea greeted me at the airport last Friday with a lei and a box of Malasadas from Leonard’s, either a) because she knows me very well or b) she took one look at the food wish list I sent her and decided we had to hit the ground running. Either way, those fried, sugary dough pillows were just the beginning.
Basically, I've been scarfing kale ever since I got home, since I ate not one green thing for three days, aside from a couple bites of the greens the lau lau pork came wrapped in my first night. It was a vacation from both cold weather and green vegetables, and honestly, I was fine with that, because everything was as delicious as I hoped it would be, and well worth the Buddha belly I rocked in my bikini.
Oh yeah, and I drank a Mai Tai or two almost every day, "for research", of course.
I learned that I love cheddar cheese on my Japanese curry and don't mind abalone once I've doused it in Tobasco, that I'm still not a fan of poi but I can eat a frighteningly large plate lunch and still have room for shave ice, and spam and eggs can be pretty tasty even from 711.
Fortunately, there were some non-food activities as well. We started each day with a hike or swim, so I managed to avoid a perpetual food coma. We hiked to the tops of both Diamond Head and Koko Head, and did the Pillboxes Hike at Lanikai at sunrise. We played tourist in Waikiki, and made time for culture and history at Iolani Palace and a hula performance at the North Shore. We listened to Chelsea’s parents jam with their friends in Mililani. We saw sea turtles sunbathing and I snorkeled with countless tropical fish at Hanauma Bay (and kept my distance from the mongooses). We even saw a whale at sunset on my last night.
But mostly? I ate, then ate some more, then hiked a little, then ate more.
Can I get a green smoothie, please?
Leonard's Bakery Malasadas! Excellent warm out of the box or wolfed down while slightly stale as a pre-hike snack.
Highway Inn This is where I tried more traditional Hawaiian food and local dishes such as Lau Lau Pork, Kalua Pig, Lomi Salmon, those purple sweet potatoes, Chicken Long Rice, and Haupia. It's all yummy as long as you don't accidentally pour chili water on your Haupia.
KCC Farmers' Market Where to begin? This Saturday market at Kapiolani Community College has so much, and I ate most of it. Abalone, ginger soda, Ono Pops, fried green tomatoes. The longest line though was for The Pig and the Lady, and their Vietnamese fusion food. The Pho French Dip was one of the best things I ate the entire trip.
Matsumoto Shave Ice The servings are ginormous, but I went all out with the Tropical combo on ice cream and azuki beans.
Giovanni's Shrimp Truck Go here, get some shrimp, pretend to share with your friend but actually secretly race her so that you get more. Give her the last one to prove how generous you are.
Rainbow Drive-In This is where I went for plate lunch and where now I will always want to go. I went big and got the mixed plate with rice and macaroni salad, because from what I could tell, the point of a plate lunch is fried meats and carbs. Tons of fried meats and carbs.
Waiola Shave Ice Here I tried Obama's Rainbow with condensed milk. I was digging the condensed milk, but not so much our President's taste in flavors.
Curry House Coco Ichibanya Japanese Curry over a fried chicken cutlet. Yeah, I've had that before. But they put cheddar cheese on top and now I can never look back.
711 Yes, really, this is where I bought a spam and egg musubi and it was delicious.
Koko Head Cafe My french toast was crusted in cornflakes and came with frosted flake gelato. It tasted like french toast sticks from the freezer aisle in the best way. The breakfast bibimbap was also fantastic.
Liliha Bakery Home of the coco puffs and these sesame cookies that I'm now addicted to.
Zippys Where I had my last Hawaii meal, I went for the Loco Moco and bought a Napple for the plane.
Mai Tai Bar at Royal Hawaiian For Mai Tais, obviously.
Top of Waikiki For the sunset and the 360 view, plus they have a good happy hour.
Honolulu Beerworks Good beer, cool spot. From the looks and smell of it, the mac and cheese is also amazing.
The Modern We had drinks at the Grove here, and it's such a nice atmosphere for a sunset happy hour.
SKY Waikiki Definitely the most "scene-y" place we went to. We met up with a couple of my friends who were also visiting and hung out for a few hours on the deck.
Iolani Palace We got to put on Minnie Mouse slippers to walk around the inside of a mansion that looks straight outta France.
Diamond Head Hike up a paved path through crowds to truly amazing views of Waikiki.
Lanikai The Pillboxes Trail here is great to do at sunrise. We were lucky enough to see as far as Molokai when we went. Nearby Lanikai Beach makes for beautiful post-hike relaxing.
Pali Lookout Apparently it is usually so windy they feel the need to post signs warning about wind-blown bees, but when I stopped there it was just a great view in still air, with no apian dangers in sight.
Kaimana Beach Right next to Waikiki but so much less crowded.
Hanauma Bay Maybe one of the most touristy spots we went to, but the video they make you watch was worth the price of admission, and I saw a ton of tropical fish, but thankfully no eels.
Koko Head So. many. stairs.