198. Giving Oahu a Chance

Giving Aloha a Chance: Do you know the only weird thing about Hawaii? It’s America. No American travel experience feels as foreign as flying hours over blue ocean to touchdown on a dollop of lava where they have a special way of saying hello and flora and fauna that you can’t find anywhere else on this side of Fiji. But there it is, “home soil” as they say, a more convenient tropical escape for us than any point south, so we decided that this year we’d have a very different Thanksgiving vacation.

We picked O’ahu for our virgin Hawaii visit, because the flights to Honolulu happened to be cheapest that week. We were immediately clouded with doubt as an endless procession of friends and associates announced that Maui was their favorite island because it’s “more relaxed.” On the other hand, all of those Lost episodes were filmed on O’ahu and it looked pretty deserted and relaxing to us. And there’s the truth: The sum total of our knowledge of our nation’s youngest state comes from pop culture and the doe-eyed recollections of friends.

Which also means we were loaded with preconceived Hawaii Five-0-notions about what constitutes a traditional Hawaiian Holiday – primarily the luaus, hula girls, bus tours and cruise packages of our independent travel nightmares. And while we imagined those activities primarily populated by throngs of middle American boomers in sandals and billowy Aloha shirts, the reality was that there are nearly as many Korean and Japanese tourists to contend with – two nationalities that can rock the packaged tour with the best of them.

So we landed in Honolulu armed with our two favorite talismans against the mainstream tourism scene: A rental car and a place to stay in a quiet residential area void of hotels. In this case, that car was a perfectly functional Hyundai and that area was Kailua, which turned out to be gorgeous and as peaceful as promised, despite having its own baggage in the form of an obscene real estate scene where one bedroom bungalows sell for millions. Location, location, exploitation.

Amy and I will out-relax any of you any day (invite us on your next trip to Belize and we can have a relax-off) and we may have set a new bar in the eight days that we spent lolling around O’ahu’s mostly deserted weekday beaches. As logic would dictate, the further away you get from Honolulu the emptier the beaches are, so it took very little effort to find entire bays all to ourselves (Amy being partial to those on the eastern shore for their calm waters and ample afternoon shade). We took a pass on the shopping harangue and obvious eateries and opted instead for any grubby drive-in diner and shrimp truck with a decent line and good Yelp chatter. I ate the hell out of the North Shore’s garlic shrimp truck circuit, which should be a mandatory part of any Oahu visit.

We also slept late, often and always with the windows open. We took a break from the beach just long enough to respect the Pearl Harbor memorial  which, interestingly, was the only place we bought a souvenir – an unbeatable hat that says “THE BEST MARINE IS A SUBMARINE.”  And in the end, we revised what we know about Hawaii and paid it the best compliment you can pay any vacation spot – by starting to plan a return visit while we were still there.   We’re looking at you, Maui.


  1. Amy says:

    You guys should really travel more, so we get more posts like these! The big picture above is amazing and makes me want to go back to Hawaii someday. We are at a cross roads on our round the world trip in terms of where we want to finish out the year and I recently found myself turning to some of your old posts. Your blog is, hands down, the one I turn to for inspiration. Everyone’s got practical tips, everyone’s got some stories, but yours is the only one that reads like a novel and generates excitement for traveling. And, most importantly, makes me laugh.

  2. sloanschang says:

    Thanks Amy, that means a lot. I also just thoroughly enjoyed your rundown on Japanese food.

  3. I am totally speechless to see the pics as it is one of my dream destinations. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. @Deepa I also think the same way. I want to go there right now.