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Adventures in Paradise - My Visit to Honolulu in 2013

Updated on April 2, 2014

Aloha and Welcome to Honolulu

Every year I pack up my suitcase to fly to my second home - the place where childhood memories were made and where most of what I call comfort food can be found. That place is called Honolulu. Honolulu is the state capital of Hawaii and is the most populated city in the state. Honolulu is a wonderful place to visit and is a true melting pot of cultures and traditions, with friendly people, a lively art scene and an interesting culinary landscape.

In December of 2013, I made my annual pilgrimage to see my family and since my mother now lives with my sister far from the city center, I booked myself a hotel room for convenience. It was a good setup as I had a good balance of quality time with my family and the freedom to explore the city at my own pace.

There's more to Hawaii than just white-sand beaches and hula girls. A lively art scene can be found all over the island with eclectic and edgy events that provide entertainment for the trendy set. Interesting shopping can be had outside of Waikiki ( tourist central ) and great food is everywhere.

*All photos taken by myself unless otherwise noted.

Quick Question

Have you ever visited Hawaii?

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Arriving in Honolulu

hawaiian flowers
hawaiian flowers

As soon as I arrive in Honolulu, my heart starts to race and I already know exactly what I want to do. The first thing that comes to mind is eating and I usually have a list to check off as my holiday progresses. With the help of Yelp, I'm usually able to come up with a long list that I normally don't even get through, but I can't help it. In fact I can spend an entire day looking at restaurants on yelp, bookmarking the places I definitely have to go.

Other than eating my way through the island, I like to revisit places that I love. One of my favorite places to visit in Honolulu is downtown and chinatown. Lying side by side, this area is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, and is evolving in the most exciting way. I also have plans to climb the iconic Diamond Head oh this trip. Now why would I want to do such a thing you ask? I actually have my reasons and if you like, you can read about my hike up the mountain by visiting my link below. And if you've never climbed Diamond Head, the article is full of pictures that show you what awaits you at the summit.

Climbing Diamond Head

Visiting Honolulu?

A guide book is an essential tool to getting the most out of your holiday.

Lonely Planet Discover Honolulu, Waikiki & Oahu (Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Discover Honolulu, Waikiki & Oahu (Travel Guide)

I found this guidebook to be the best one that's currently out today. It not only includes the must-see tourist spots, but also touches upon the hidden gems that the city has to offer. The restaurant listing also lists restaurants that are popular even with the locals.

 

Waikiki - Tourist Central

Honolulu
Honolulu

The first place most people visit when they arrive to Honolulu is Waikiki. It's not surprising as most of the hotels are situated in this part of town. Waikiki is where you'll see the biggest concentration of tourists and depending on where you stay, you might feel as if you're visiting someplace in Tokyo instead. It's true that Japanese is fluently spoken at most places in this area and some hotels will be filled with Japanese-speaking staff and visitors. Don't worry though, English is understood and spoken.

No matter how touristy this place is, it's a beautiful place. A Japanese friend of mine described it as "the perfect resort with everything you could ever want" and that pretty much sums it up. There are beautiful beaches with lots of powder-white sand, casual eateries to high-end restaurants, shopping, night clubs and bars and even a zoo!

You can even decide to do absolutely nothing. The beautifully-landscaped streets and long stretches of white sand beaches is perfect for strolling.

Images of Waikiki

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hot lifeguards? Check!Parks with ancient banyan trees are perfect for sitting or having an impromptu picnic.The view of Diamond Head from Kapiolani Park.Exploring the far end of Waikiki.Shopping, dining and entertainment in the heart of Waikiki.Even the phone booths says Aloha!The pedestrian promenade that runs parallel to the beach.Dancers, puppeteers and singers entertain at night.Blue skies await you in Honolulu.A walk along Ala Wai Canal, one of my favorite things to do.
Hot lifeguards? Check!
Hot lifeguards? Check!
Parks with ancient banyan trees are perfect for sitting or having an impromptu picnic.
Parks with ancient banyan trees are perfect for sitting or having an impromptu picnic.
The view of Diamond Head from Kapiolani Park.
The view of Diamond Head from Kapiolani Park.
Exploring the far end of Waikiki.
Exploring the far end of Waikiki.
Shopping, dining and entertainment in the heart of Waikiki.
Shopping, dining and entertainment in the heart of Waikiki.
Even the phone booths says Aloha!
Even the phone booths says Aloha!
The pedestrian promenade that runs parallel to the beach.
The pedestrian promenade that runs parallel to the beach.
Dancers, puppeteers and singers entertain at night.
Dancers, puppeteers and singers entertain at night.
Blue skies await you in Honolulu.
Blue skies await you in Honolulu.
A walk along Ala Wai Canal, one of my favorite things to do.
A walk along Ala Wai Canal, one of my favorite things to do.

Downtown Honolulu

downtown honolulu
downtown honolulu

Not many tourists make it to downtown Honolulu and it's really a shame. It's one of my favorite places on the island and I never get tired of coming here. With each visit I find something new. Trendy cafes, the best cupcakeries and interesting restaurants can be found amongst the skyscrapers that dominate downtown Honolulu. Right next door is chinatown, with its bustling wet markets, Chinese bakeries and traditional herbal shops.

I love getting lost in the numerous nooks and crannies of Chinatown and I had a field day snapping away with my iphone camera. I even found a free museum, located on the 2nd floor of a Chinese courtyard, explaining the history of Chinatown and how it came to be. As we strolled through the museum, the two staff members sang some Christmas songs in Hawaiian just for the two of us. What an amazing treat this was and once again, I'm reminded of the aloha spirit that exists in Hawaii.

For dinner, my friend suggested that we go to Soul de Cuba, a restaurant I've been wanting to go for years. I've never had Cuban food before and as a foodie, I had to find out what everyone was raving about. I also wanted to drop by Let Them Eat Cupcakes, known for their yummy gourmet cupcakes. Finally, I had a cup of tea at a trendy cafe that made me feel like I was anywhere but Hawaii.

You can read about Soul de Cuba and other eats in Hawaii by clicking here.

*Photo : Downtown has the most historical and architecturally interesting buildings in Honolulu.

Images of Downtown and Chinatown

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Architecturally interesting office buildings in downtown HonoluluSkyscrapers filled with office workers in suits and aloha shirts.Discover quaint city streets and quirky shops.Chinatown is colorful and exotic.Old renovated buildings from the past with a distinctive Chinese flair.Chinese bakeries tempt you with delectable sweets and bread.Delicious and savory cuban food at Soul de Cuba.
Architecturally interesting office buildings in downtown Honolulu
Architecturally interesting office buildings in downtown Honolulu
Skyscrapers filled with office workers in suits and aloha shirts.
Skyscrapers filled with office workers in suits and aloha shirts.
Discover quaint city streets and quirky shops.
Discover quaint city streets and quirky shops.
Chinatown is colorful and exotic.
Chinatown is colorful and exotic.
Old renovated buildings from the past with a distinctive Chinese flair.
Old renovated buildings from the past with a distinctive Chinese flair.
Chinese bakeries tempt you with delectable sweets and bread.
Chinese bakeries tempt you with delectable sweets and bread.
Delicious and savory cuban food at Soul de Cuba.
Delicious and savory cuban food at Soul de Cuba.

If You Were To Visit...

What would interest you?

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A Drive Around the Island

oahu honolulu
oahu honolulu

A drive around the island is a nice way to spend a day in Honolulu. My sister was nice enough to take us around and we were fortunate to be blessed with perfect weather. Although it's possible to drive around the entire island in a day, we opted for a half-island tour instead due to the crowded car ( 5 people including me ) and the fact that I like to take things at an easy pace. I also wanted to spend some time in Haleiwa, a small town on the north shore, to explore its old-time shops and art galleries, which would most likely take up an hour or so.

Around the Island

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Beautiful ocean views on our drive.Pineapple grows on the other side of the island.Haleiwa has an old-time feel to it with organic restaurants, small grocery stores and art galleries.I love how slow time seems to pass by on this side of the island.Lots of funky art can be found.
Beautiful ocean views on our drive.
Beautiful ocean views on our drive.
Pineapple grows on the other side of the island.
Pineapple grows on the other side of the island.
Haleiwa has an old-time feel to it with organic restaurants, small grocery stores and art galleries.
Haleiwa has an old-time feel to it with organic restaurants, small grocery stores and art galleries.
I love how slow time seems to pass by on this side of the island.
I love how slow time seems to pass by on this side of the island.
Lots of funky art can be found.
Lots of funky art can be found.

The Art Scene in Hawaii

kakaako honolulu
kakaako honolulu

The art scene is constantly evolving but one thing is for certain. Art is here to stay and it's bigger and better than ever on the island. Art can be found everywhere and on this trip, I got to see a lot it in all its various forms. The random art hanging on the fence near the zoo was low-key but interesting for a morning stroll.

Some of the art we saw in Haleiwa were really good but we didn't have time for more than visiting one gallery there. But one of the most exciting event we attended was Honolulu Night Market, a monthly event that happens in Kakaako, the new up-and-coming place for everything artistic and trendy. The event combines art, food and entertainment into one urban experience and the vendors change on a monthly basis.

More information on the Honolulu Night Market

*Photo : Wall art in Kakaako

Finding Art Everywhere

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Night Market EventArt gallery in downtownPoster showing art event in dowtownNight Market EventKakaako Wall ArtArt gallery in Haleiwa
Night Market Event
Night Market Event
Art gallery in downtown
Art gallery in downtown
Poster showing art event in dowtown
Poster showing art event in dowtown
Night Market Event
Night Market Event
Kakaako Wall Art
Kakaako Wall Art
Art gallery in Haleiwa
Art gallery in Haleiwa

Visiting a Friend at Chai's

chai's honolulu
chai's honolulu

The unique cultures and traditions that make up Hawaii makes eating here an adventure. If you are a foodie, you'll be in foodie heaven. From local food to traditional Hawaiian food, to the innovative Pacific Rim cuisine to the freshest fish this side of the Pacific, you'll be spoiled for choice.

I always have my favorites, but on every trip I make it a point to try out a few new places. On this particular trip, I decided to pay a visit to Chai's, a new restaurant owned by a very good friend of mine. I've known Chai since the 80's and it's amazing how far he's come. Chai's is his third restaurant and probably his most innovative.

Chef Chais Honolulu

Other Eats and Food in Honolulu

*Photo : Chai's Restaurant

Look What We Had for Dinner at Chai's

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chai surprised us with complimentary dishes as this one. Cones of waffles filled with raw tuna tartare.Crispy Asian Taco with Smoked Duck Breast, Avocado and Spicy Salsa. Compliments from the chef.The restaurant is classy and trendy without being fussy.Poached pear salad was a creation of art.Whole Fresh Fish with Chili Ginger Sauce, Scallion & JalapeñoMy friend had the steak and declared it the best he's had.
Chai surprised us with complimentary dishes as this one. Cones of waffles filled with raw tuna tartare.
Chai surprised us with complimentary dishes as this one. Cones of waffles filled with raw tuna tartare.
Crispy Asian Taco with Smoked Duck Breast, Avocado and Spicy Salsa. Compliments from the chef.
Crispy Asian Taco with Smoked Duck Breast, Avocado and Spicy Salsa. Compliments from the chef.
The restaurant is classy and trendy without being fussy.
The restaurant is classy and trendy without being fussy.
Poached pear salad was a creation of art.
Poached pear salad was a creation of art.
Whole Fresh Fish with Chili Ginger Sauce, Scallion & Jalapeño
Whole Fresh Fish with Chili Ginger Sauce, Scallion & Jalapeño
My friend had the steak and declared it the best he's had.
My friend had the steak and declared it the best he's had.

Visiting with my Family

A visit to Hawaii is never complete without my family. I lived in Honolulu until I was 24 and strangely enough, the only member of the family to leave the island. Back then, I became restless and bored and followed my instincts to move away.

Since I no longer get to see my family as often as I'd like to, it's a treat to spend time with them. My sister has grown into a beautiful woman and her two sons are the best nephews an uncle could ever have. I am very fortunate that my mother is still alive and kicking with more energy than she cares to admit. All is good and it's nice to know I have someplace to come home to.

*Photo : My nephew, sister, me and mommy dearest.

By The Way, It's Christmas in Hawaii!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Christmas on the islands can be fesitve just like anywhere else.Even Santa gets into the Hawaiian spirit.Starbucks offers holiday cupcakes. Yum!Bakeries entice with more holiday goodies.The entire city gets into the holiday mood.Beautiful poinsettia tree at Kahala Mall.A city built entirely out of gingerbread! Amazing!Hawaiian statues decorated with holiday joy.
Christmas on the islands can be fesitve just like anywhere else.
Christmas on the islands can be fesitve just like anywhere else.
Even Santa gets into the Hawaiian spirit.
Even Santa gets into the Hawaiian spirit.
Starbucks offers holiday cupcakes. Yum!
Starbucks offers holiday cupcakes. Yum!
Bakeries entice with more holiday goodies.
Bakeries entice with more holiday goodies.
The entire city gets into the holiday mood.
The entire city gets into the holiday mood.
Beautiful poinsettia tree at Kahala Mall.
Beautiful poinsettia tree at Kahala Mall.
A city built entirely out of gingerbread! Amazing!
A city built entirely out of gingerbread! Amazing!
Hawaiian statues decorated with holiday joy.
Hawaiian statues decorated with holiday joy.

So Tell Me...

Do you think you'd like to visit Hawaii?

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My Journey Comes to an End

All good things must come to an end and my holiday is over in a flash. Two weeks go by so fast when you're having fun. I take one last walk along the Ala Wai Canal, on the pavement that I've walked a hundred times.

As I stroll along the canal, looking over at the mountains, I see a rainbow form somewhere deep within the valleys of Manoa. It's a sight I should be used to by now but as always, it takes my breath away.

Hawaii will always be my second home and I promise myself, as I do every year, that I'll be back again next year.

Every Day Ends With a Beautiful Sunset

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Have you ever been to Hawaii before? If so, what were the highlights of your trip? Please feel free to leave your comments here. Thanks!

I Hope You Enjoyed Your Visit to Honolulu

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    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      It's a place I have always wanted to visit and thought I would go there on my honeymoon but it was not to be, You do beautiful lenses on travel and countries that are most enjoyable to read. Well done.

    • lin444 profile image

      lin444 3 years ago

      Beautiful! I visited Hawaii many years ago. I had relatives there and didn't really go to the touristy places. It's a beautiful place! It's sad to think I'll probably never make it back there again...it's just so much money getting there. I have nice memories though, and am glad that it's a place I got to see in my lifetime.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 3 years ago

      Beautiful lens, and I wish I could go there!

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @LornsA178: Thank you for visiting my lens Lorns.

    • LornsA178 profile image

      LornsA178 3 years ago

      I wish we can afford to visit Hawaii, thanks for sharing your travel. I love your pictures.

    • smine27 profile image
      Author

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Elsie Hagley: I love to travel. I must say I keep going back to Hawaii though.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Beautiful photos makes me want to visit. Must put it in my bucket list. Lucky you visiting such a exciting place like that.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @atomicgirl24: Thanks for reading.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Minoru10: Thanks mike.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @esmonaco: Aww thanks so much!

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: Ohh don't know about lihue bakery. Sounds like a great list.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @sybil watson: I love Chinatown, probably my favorite place in honolulu.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @sybil watson: Thanks so much for visiting. I can spend the whole day in Chinatown.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Zeross4: Thank you so much for your kind comments! I do hep you get to visit one day.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @CampingmanNW: I would say that haleiwa is a must visit, even if it's just to stroll the quaint town. Thanks so much

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @georgepmoola2: Thanks for reading.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @ShortStuffsSecr: I'm so glad that it did. I love Florida as well bit it's quite different feel from Hawaii.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @GrammieOlivia: I'm so glad you had the chance to visit Hawaii.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @SteveKaye: How interesting. Maui is probably one of the most beautiful of the islands.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @KathyMcGraw2: Honolulu is changing by the year in an exciting way.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @MarathonRunning: Glad you enjoyed it.

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Merrci: Aww thanks so much. Your wedding must have been magical,

    • smine27 profile image
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      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      @Susan Zutautas: Thanks Susan for being the first to comment. I do hope you get to visit.

    • profile image

      atomicgirl24 3 years ago

      Wow, Honolulu looks so heavenly in the pics you took, and I learned a lot from your lens (I had no idea there was even a Chinatown). I hope one day to visit Hawaii!

    • Minoru10 profile image

      Michael Yoshinaka 3 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      I love the collection of pictures and how you put everything together. Great Lens !

    • esmonaco profile image

      Eugene Samuel Monaco 3 years ago from Lakewood New York

      Another wonderful tour and pictures from you. Thanks I always love reading your work :)

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 3 years ago from New York

      Whenever I make it back home and pit stop in Honolulu, there are 4 places I have to go and it is all around food. Leonard's bakery for Malasadas, Lihue bakery for haupia cake, a Chinese dim sum restaurant in Chinatown (my favorite Chinese restaurant in Kapahulu closed) and shave ice in Haleiwa. LOL.

    • profile image

      sybil watson 3 years ago

      What a gorgeous lens! I love Chinatown too and always try to make it there for dim sum. Chai's restaurant sounds wonderful - I can't wait to try it the next time I'm on Oahu. I don't care how touristy Waikiki is, I still love the beach, restaurants, and people watching.

    • Zeross4 profile image

      Renee Dixon 3 years ago from Kentucky

      Wow this was truly amazing, In a way I feel like I got to visit as well! I have always heard people talk about Hawaii and how wonderful it is- but until reading this lens I had no idea why! I loved the pictures, they were stunning. I bet you had a blast visiting such a wonderful place, seeing your family, and enjoying the wonderful cuisine. I think I would be like you, and have fun going into the downtown, especially Chinatown (which looked so cool by the way), and all the shops and food! Loved this lens, you did an amazing job on it!

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 3 years ago

      I love visiting Haleiwa and have not heard many people even talk of it, so thank you for sharing. Hawaii is filled with traditions, ghosts and legends and it is so fun to get off the beaten path to explore the island of Oahu. Great pictures by the way.

    • georgepmoola2 profile image

      georgepmoola2 3 years ago

      Good, informative lens. Love the sunset pics.

    • ShortStuffsSecr profile image

      ShortStuffsSecr 3 years ago

      I have never been to Hawaii, and honestly was never interested until reading your lens. I thought it was just beaches, and since I live in Florida that didn't really interest me as I can go to a beach any day I want. But your lens opened my eyes to the rest of Hawaii!

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      My mother took my sister and I to Hawaii last year. It was a beautiful time and I am going back again.! Thanks for this beautiful reminder..............

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 3 years ago

      The most amazing part of visiting Maui was knowing that water surrounded the small space of land that I was on. I could actually feel the closeness of water.

    • KathyMcGraw2 profile image

      Kathy McGraw 3 years ago from California

      I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I have been to Honolulu several times and love the culture. There really is something for everyone and next time I go back I will look for those trendy art places you mentioned.

    • MarathonRunning profile image

      Martina 3 years ago from Croatia, Europe

      Thank you for this nice trip! Love the story and the pictures.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Very fun lens. You have the best photos! I lived there briefly, and was married in the Fern River Grotto (many moons ago). It was fun to see it through your eyes.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      My best friend whom I've been friends with since I was 16 lives in Keaau and I'd love to go and visit her. I so enjoyed your lens about your trip and loved all the pictures too.