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Melbourne, VIC
Australia

H A W A I I - O A H U

Les Petites Choses

H A W A I I - O A H U

Kelven Ng

Hawaii is a place that we have been looking forward to go for a few years now. Friends and strangers have nothing but great things to say about the Islands only 5-6 hours away from us in Seattle but we never committed to a trip until this year. We really needed a break since the last one we had was during our wedding/honeymoon (close to a year ago). With the 1 year anniversary mark coming up, we thought, why not give Hawaii a try? Since this would be our first time in Hawaii, we thought we should go to Honolulu and Maui since they seem to be the most popular amongst tourists looking to do a bit of everything. 

I will focus on Oahu for this post and do Maui separately. Oahu was our first stop on the trip and like many, we focused on finding a place to stay in Waikiki. We wanted to be close to the action and we had a recommendation from some friends on a hotel in the vicinity. We stayed at The Modern Honolulu - it was refreshed, modern, clean and located within close proximity to Waikiki Beach. Though, I am not going to lie, it also helped that we were placed in a room on the top floor with a partial ocean view. 
We started the days very early (4-5am) but felt like we had done and accomplished so much by mid afternoon. Unlike how I travelled back when I lived in Europe, we were out for the night by about 10pm haha. During our stay in Honolulu, we focused on doing 2 things - eat and take photos. The latter required a car but it was great to get out of the crowded city center and head out to the more secluded beaches in the west and east coast. To be honest, we didn't even walk the strip and we barely set foot on Waikiki Beach. We had to see the city's beach but we agreed with the locals that there are far better beach options on the island. Here are some of the spots we visited: 

Makua Beach


This beach was well north west of Waikiki but it was worth visiting. There might have only been about 10 people on the beach at the time which is still surprising for us, given a beach like this would be packed with people in Vancouver/Seattle. We laid on the beach for about an hour before heading out. It was getting very hot! 

What we did not realize was that you could not continue north from here. We wanted to go to the North Shore but the road stops and forces you back south before you can take another highway north. Oops! So for anyone looking to get to the North Shore via the west coast, keep in mind, you can't. 

Electric Beach


A quick stop on the way down south, this beach was definitely busier than Makua Beach by far. It is located across the way from a big industrial plant of some sort. 

North Shore


Having heard about the shrimp trucks and the shaved ice located in Northern Oahu, we knew we wanted to give this area a visit. It took a little while to get up here (a little more than an hour) from the Waikiki area but the drive was not without scenery. You get a glimpse of the countryside of Oahu that is missing from the city. The town was busy when we got there though - in particular, the parking lots where the food trucks were located were jammed. Trying to find a parking spot at Matsumoto's for shaved ice took about half an hour of circling the lot. Traffic aside, this was definitely a worthwhile visit. 

Sandy Beach


If you are a person like us who seeks out sun, you have to head out to one of the beaches on the eastern part of the island to catch the sunrise. Sandy Beach (the actual name) is only about 30 minutes away from Waikiki and not very big but if you enjoy taking photos, there are plenty of subjects to make the sunrise photo interesting.  This might have been our favorite beach in Oahu. The pictures below will tell the story but they don't do the sunrise justice. It was spectacular. Another thing you notice is that the neighborhoods get nicer as you drive out east as compared to the western part of the island. After this sunrise, I quickly realized how much I need a big/little stopper to get the photographs of the sunrises/sunsets that I wanted (I didn’t end up getting one until we arrived in Maui unfortunately).
Poor J... she was asked by another photographer at this spot that day to pose. What she thought would be a 30 second thing turned into a half hour photo session as a model. 

Poor J... she was asked by another photographer at this spot that day to pose. What she thought would be a 30 second thing turned into a half hour photo session as a model. 

She was still in great spirits though :) 

She was still in great spirits though :) 

Makapu’u Beach


Another sunrise was had a little further east North from Sandy Beach, in Makapu’u Beach. Plenty of subjects for long exposure photos in the form of rocks and tide pools were there. We arrived just before 5:30am for sunrise and were surprised that we were not the only ones there (perhaps we really shouldn't have been surprised).

Food


If you know us at all, you know that we are very food driven. Our entire itinerary was based on the places we wanted to eat (this is nothing new as we did the same for Japan, New York, etc). We were very excited for Hawaii simply because of the great things we had heard about the food. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. Here are some of the places we ate: 

Sushi Sho
Prior to arriving in Hawaii, we were excited to learn that Sushi Sho had moved from Tokyo, the location of its three michelin star restaurant, to start anew in Waikiki (in the Ritz Carlton). When we visited Tokyo back in 2013, we tried to book a reservation at Sushi Sho but it was already booked out. We came in with very high expectations but we left somewhat underwhelmed. There will be a separate blog post on Sushi Sho but I will say that the presentation was very impressive. The restaurant seats 10 and all guests are served omakase style. More than just sushi, Sushi Sho is very refined and shows incredible attention to details and the practices of old tradition. We recommend coming here if you can, open reservations are hard to come by so book very early.
Senia
A fairly new restaurant in Waikiki (open about half a year), Senia is said to be an up and coming establishment in an already very saturated food scene. Modern take on Hawaiian ingredients is the specialty of Senia and they do not disappoint. We had multiple dishes that wowed us with their creativity. Most of their dishes are meant to be served family style so we ordered about 6 dishes and went at it. We were stuffed but it was one of the top meals we had in Hawaii. We really enjoyed the atmosphere in the restaurant as well - bustling with activity in an open environment. 
Pig and the Lady
Located right next door to Senia is Pig and the Lady. The menu was a bit of a mixed bag but modern Vietnamese cuisine is the feature here and they do it very well. J had the Pho Bac while I had a Mushroom Papperdelle. We also shared twice fried chicken wings that rivaled Phnom Penh's (in Vancouver). The space is huge but by lunch hour, the restaurant was packed and there was a line forming.

The best part about this restaurant though was that I was able to meet Nikki in person for the first time. We had followed each other at the beginning of our photo journey about 8 years ago and we had talked numerous times about meeting each other but we finally did. She saw me move to London, go through tumultuous times, meet J, and on and on. I saw her photography develop as she documented her love for her two children (it practically felt like I saw them grow up) and now she's a full fledged, professional photographer. It was an honor to meet her in person and I'm so glad we had a chance to catch up.
pigladymeal.jpg
Tonkatsu Tomafuji
We love Tonkatsu and there are no restaurants in the Pacific Northwest that do it well (that we have found). So when we go to a city that has a restaurant specializing in this cuisine, we immediately added that to our itinerary. The menu was very reminiscent of our visits to restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto. Though there was a bit of a wait to get in (about 45 minutes), the food was worth it. Extraordinarily crispy and light on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside, just what we look for in good tonkatsu. Fitted with thinly shredded cabbage and rice, this was the perfect meal to end the day.
Koko Head Cafe
We came upon Koko Head Cafe by accident really - we were grabbing coffee at The Curb after watching the sunrise and we asked the barista where we should go for Breakfast. He mentioned that Koko Head Cafe was very close by and that it was opened by one of the Top Chef contestants a while back. That was all the convincing we needed. We were very pleasantly surprised by the food here. Easily the best breakfast/brunch we had all trip. If you go, get their take on the loco moco (Koko Moco) and their Kelogg crusted french toast. 
It may not look like much from the outside but come here if you like breakfast! 

It may not look like much from the outside but come here if you like breakfast! 

Izakaya Torae Torae
Knowing that Honolulu had an abundance of authentic Japanese food, we set out to have as much of it as we could. Izakaya Torae Torae is set in a fairly inconspicuous location and does not look like much on the outside but the food was spot on (better in my mind than Guu or Suika in Vancouver). We ordered several dishes (as you would in any izakaya) but the standouts were surprisingly the sushi and sashimi. Very high quality fish that satisfied our craving for good sushi (even after eating at Sushi Sho). We also recommend trying the fried jidori chicken skin with teriyaki sauce.
Queen Street Cafe
It was by chance that we landed at this spot for lunch. After the sunrise in Sandy Beach, I realized that I wanted to buy a Lee big/little stopper so that I could get those longer exposures. We drove to a camera store in the Pearl Harbour area where I was very disappointed to hear that the filter I wanted was not in stock. Since we were there already, we thought we would ask the store manager where we should go to eat around the area. He said quote, “if you want to go to a place that all the locals go, go across the street.” We were sold. Everything is made fresh there every day and while we were sat inside, we saw many people come in for take out. I had the bbq chicken with steak and J had the poke salad. Both were so good! The locals know where to eat, listen to them!

Oahu was a great way to start our first trip to Hawaii. Honolulu has so many options for great food and if you are a shopper, this is the city you want to be in. The Ala Moana shopping center is huge! We ate so much we felt that we could burst but that was one of the objectives so… mission accomplished :)