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Things We Love — Visitors edition

A 4-page pullout guide

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 4:50 p.m. HST, May 11, 2015

Almost everyone who lives in Hawaii has had to entertain out-of-town guests at one time or another. While it may seem like a hassle for some, playing tour guide provides a good reason for locals to rediscover favorite spots and experience the island through fresh eyes. As summer draws to a close, we're doubling down on our popular "5 Things We Love" feature, with 10 Star-Advertiser staffers offering up things they love to do when visitors come calling. But who says you have to wait for guests to arrive to enjoy the best of Oahu?

1. Fireknife contest thrills into the night

We rarely get visitors who haven't already done the tourist circuit, so if they're around during the second week in May we trek out to Laie for the World Fireknife Championship at the Polynesian Cultural Center. The thrills and chills are real, with world-class athleticism, large and sharp knives, showmanship and, of course, fire. Challengers come for the four-day contest from near and far, as in Laie, Samoa, Tahiti, Florida, the Cook Islands and elsewhere.

This is entertainment for the entire family, especially during the junior division competition (usually the first or second night), when kids as young as 10 hit the stage. A word of caution for those with early bedtimes and a long drive home: The show runs well into the night. Visit — Joleen Oshiro

2. Trek to lovely view, good eats or Friday fun

» For a few moments of peace on the obligatory circle-island tour, I look forward to a stop at the Laie Point lookout. It comes as such a rugged surprise after the short drive through the residential area perched behind it. I've always felt a spiritual calm there, and it's a feeling visitors seem to share. Drive up near sunset and you won't want to leave.

» After years of quietly enjoying its spot on Kai­mana Beach, Hau Tree Lanai might not be trendy, but it is magical. The food is good and no more expensive than other Waikiki spots. And the setting, under a canopy of hau trees just steps from the sands of Waikiki, is sublime. The only real dilemma is whether to visit for a post-swim brunch or a post-sunset dinner. It's a tough call.

» The KCC Farmers Market is on every travel writer's short list of things to do on Oahu, and while I am guilty of complaining about that, it is deserved. Living in Palolo, it is part of our Saturday morning routine with or without guests.

Visitors can enjoy the colors, tastes and smells in relaxing fashion — they aren't trying to lug a basket full of corn, fruit and greens through a busload of Japa­nese tourists ogling the barbecued abalone.

» Chinatown's First Friday is a particularly great place to take out-of-towners from big cities who, while they would never say so, think they are visiting a cultural backwater.

It's also an eye-opener for former residents who have been away for a while. The party atmosphere and bounty of art, entertainment, food and drink make for a good time. Suitable for folks who can handle a lot of walking and crowds. — Steph­a­nie Kendrick

3. Picnic with local grub at Waimanalo Beach Park

One of my favorite places to take guests is far from Waikiki. A picnic at Wai­ma­nalo Beach Park, with its lengthy coastline of fine sand, turquoise waters and ironwood trees to provide shade, fills the bill.

Pick up grab-and-go ahi poke from Tersty Treats or a barbecue plate lunch and plantation iced tea from Sweet Home Wai­ma­nalo, which sources many of its products locally.

The plates come with homemade cornbread or rice and two sides. Some of my favorites are bok choy slaw and purple sweet potato mash. Shop for local art and souvenirs while you're there. Finally, if it's shave ice you're craving, then Keneke's is the place to stop.

Waimanalo Beach Park has several beach access spots, but the entrance just past Huli Street (going eastbound from town) offers showers, picnic tables and a lifeguard tower. Beware of venomous Portuguese men-of-war on windy days.

» Tersty Treats, 41-1540 Kalanianaole Highway, Suite B; 259-3474 ($15.95 per pound of ahi poke; price may vary)

» Sweet Home Waimanalo, 41-1025 Kalanianaole Highway; 259-5737; sweet­home­wai­ma­ ($9.75 to $10.25 for plates with cornbread and two sides; $2.65 for iced tea)

» Keneke's, 41-857 Kalanianaole Highway; 259-9800 ($2.75 for shave ice)

— Nina Wu

4. Sweet Home Cafe feeds hot-pot fix

My friends are news junkies who always know what's going on and know exactly what they want to do when they come to town, so it's always a matter of indulging their cravings — usually a blend of eating and shopping rather than playing tourist.

Where we choose to eat is a moving target, depending on the restaurant of the moment and whether my friends are hungry for steak, dim sum or whatever.

But one favorite spot is the Moiliili hot-pot restaurant Sweet Home Cafe, where everyone in the party can take their pick of ingredients to throw into the communal pot, and the result is always a delicious surprise. The restaurant is at 2334 S. King St. Call 947-3707. — Nadine Kam

5. Find nature, history at North Shore sites

Visitors always want to visit Oahu's famous North Shore, and two sites always seem to get a rise out of them.

One is Laniakea Beach to see the turtles. Yes, it's usually crowded and very much on the beaten track on Kame­ha­meha Highway about 10 minutes away from Hale­iwa, but it's a reliable place to experience Hawaii's sea life acting "wild." Somehow seeing turtles basking in the sun is more interesting than watching fish swim around coral, especially for those visitors who might not trust themselves in the open ocean. And if a turtle is actually climbing in or out of the water, it seems like the greatest show on earth. The volunteer guides are friendly and well informed, and express the respect these honu deserve.

The next stop, Pu‘u o Mahuka Heiau State Monument, pictured above, is not too far away, up the hill behind Wai­mea Valley. The heiau is the largest structure of its kind on Oahu and is believed to date back at least to 1600. The scale of it seems to impress visitors, and the solitude gives the site a somewhat mystical feeling. There's a lot of history at Pu‘u o Mahuka, where high priests performed rites for alii and for Kame­ha­meha I after unification of the islands. And, of course, the views out to Moku­leia are spectacular to behold.

To get to the heiau, take Pupu­kea Road (next to Foodland) up from Kame­ha­meha Highway about a half-mile and look for the sign directing you to the right. There are a lot of speed bumps, and the road isn't in great shape, so take your time. — Steven Mark

6. Chase turtle-gazing with refreshing shave ice

As we suggested, it's great to get an up-close view of Hawaiian sea turtles at Laniakea Beach on the North Shore. These adorable critters make their way to shore to lazily sunbathe in the early afternoon sun. Swimming in the pristine waters alongside them is a treat.

After you've had your honu fix, head to Hale­iwa town and enjoy shave ice at Matsu­moto's. The shop's been serving up the tasty delights for more than six decades. Located at 66-087 Kame­ha­meha Highway in Hale­iwa. — Nancy Arcayna

7. Skip the pineapple and go for top-notch poi, poke

When experiencing paradise, most visitors want the stereotypical "Hawaiian" food experience. This means pineapple in everything: pineapple pizza, Lava Flow cocktails with pineapple garnish and pineapple burgers. I like to break that stereotype and give out-of-towners a lesson in local food. They need laulau, poke and poi.

We all have our favorite Hawaiian food places. Jackie's Diner at 98-020 Kame­ha­meha Highway in Aiea is at the top of my list. The prices are low and the food is fantastic. The same goes for Fresh Catch in Kaneohe (45-1118 Kame­ha­meha Highway) and Kai­muki (3109 Wai­alae Ave.), which serves up some of the best poke selections alongside island-style cuisine.

Like Hawaiian food, poke is a big deal for locals — everyone has an opinion on the matter. For me the great poke debate ends at Ono Seafood, 747 Kapa­hulu Ave. Buy half a pound, drive down to Waikiki Beach and enjoy a great lunch or sunset snack. Ono's poke is simple, traditional and made to order. I usually have the Haw'n Style Ahi, seasoned with sea salt, green onions, limu, kukui nut and chili pepper. No, it doesn't include pineapple. — Joe Guinto

8. Dining picks range from food trucks to fine fare

When my family visits, it's all about the food. While I used to take friends and family to Makai Market at Ala Moana Center for a quick, cas­ual bite, now we always head upstairs to Shirokiya's Yataimura (, a Japa­nese-style food court that pre­sents a more authentic experience. If we happen to be looking for a bite on the last Friday of the month, I like to track down Eat the Street, pictured above, (, usually at the corner of South and Pohu­kaina streets in Kakaako. The monthly food truck rally provides plenty of options, from trendy bites and novelty fare to classic plate lunches. For a more formal night out, Ocean House Waikiki ( in the Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel (2169 Kalia Road) never fails to provide a sweeping view of the ocean for diners in the laid-back but elegant restaurant. It all adds up the perfect lucky-you-live-Hawaii experience. The seafood is good, too. — Donica Kaneshiro

9. Waikiki offers wealth of island music

Hawaiian music makes Hawaii unique, and no visit here is complete without it. One of my favorite places for Hawaiian music in Waikiki is the Kani Ka Pila Grille. Hawaiian music is presented nightly from 6 to 9 p.m.; there's no cover charge; and visitors and residents alike can enjoy top Hawaiian singers and musicians.

The weekly calendar is anchored by slack-key master Cyril Pahinui, pictured above, who performs Wednesdays with steel guitarist Jeff Au Hoy and multitalented Peter Moon Jr. on ukulele or guitar. Sean Na‘auao headlines the Grille on Mondays, Weldon Kekauoha on Tuesdays. Other A-list artists who play there on a recurring basis include Nathan Aweau, Del Beazley, Mike Kaawa, Kawika Kahiapo, Jeff Rasmussen and Hoku Zuttermeister (check this month's schedule at

The ambience is casual, there's an extensive pupu menu and since almost every nightly headliner is a recording artist, you and your visiting guests can take home signed CDs as personalized mementos of the evening. The Kani Ka Pila Grille is poolside at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel, 2169 Kalia Road. Validated parking is $6 for four hours (plus tip for the valet, please). Call 924-4990 for more information. — John Berger

10. Sharks Cove rewards adventurous with fish, relaxation

Even though my family lives close enough to Hanauma Bay to walk to the beach with our snorkel gear, we often take visitors to Oahu's North Shore for a fish-ogling swim at Sharks Cove. It's an acquired taste: The beach is a small, mostly rocky crescent; the cove is small; and the fish are not as plentiful. And yet every time we go, we swim around and around, see lots of friendly fish and generally enjoy the relaxed ambience of the country. It's always fun, but if you're packing a picnic lunch, forget about eating near the cove because it will likely be too crowded. You can find numerous quieter spots along the coast or, as we have done, get yourself a margarita at one of the restaurants in Hale­iwa. — Mike Gordon

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