Catherine E. Toth

Correspondent

  • Oahu, Hawaii, USA

Catherine E. Toth is a correspondent who lives in East Honolulu and covers Oahu for Forbes Travel Guide. Born and raised on the island, Toth has been chronicling her adventures in her blog, The Cat Dish, for almost a decade. She worked as a newspaper reporter in Hawaii for 10 years and continues to freelance — in between teaching journalism, hitting the surf and eating everything in sight — for national and local print and online publications. She earned her master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1999. Toth lives with her two dogs, Sunny and Indy, and has an extensive collection of surfboards.

  • On July 21, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best hiking trails in Oahu?

    Oahu is a hiker's paradise. There are so many paths and trails traversing the mountains of the island, and far fewer people hike than, say, surf or lounge at the beach. So it's not uncommon to find fairly uncrowded trails on Oahu's ridges and valleys.

    And Oahu offers a variety of trails for all skill levels with views ranging from lush rainforests to sweeping vistas of the island's coastlines.

    Here are three fairly easy hikes worth checking out:

    MAKAPUU (shown above), East Honolulu

    Right after Sandy Beach on Oahu's southeastern coastline is a paved trail leading to Makapuu Lighthouse. It's one of the most popular trails on the island because of its ease, it's stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and the abundance of parking at the trail head. (Be careful, though, this place is known for car break-ins.) It's an easy three-mile loop perfect for novices and veteran hikers alike. From late December to early May, this spot becomes the perfect place to watch migrating humpback whales.

    WAIMANO POOL, Pacific Palasades

    This is a popular hike with residents — you need a car to get here — that's fairly strenuous, especially on the way back, and ends at two deep swimming holes backed by a cascading waterfall. This 3-mile roundtrip valley hike leads down through Waimano Valley and through groves of strawberry guava and mountain apple trees. At the end, there's a narrow, slippery trail that leads to the stream and the upper pool at the base of a waterfall. The hike back, through, is mostly uphill, so save your energy.

    MAKIKI-TANTALUS, Honolulu

    This 8-mile loop hike circles Tantalus peak right in Honolulu. This hike is part of a network of trails; it uses eight of the 18 different trails in the Honolulu mauka (mountain) trail system. Along the path you will see native trees like the ohia and kopiko and hear songbirds like the Japanese bush warbler. There are several scenic overlooks that offer views of three different valleys and the majestic Koolau Range.
  • On July 21, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best wedding venues in Oahu?

    Courtesy of Halekulani It's hard to find a bad place to get married in Hawaii, and Oahu offers the most variety of venues of any other island.

    Where you get married all depends on what kind of wedding you want. Here are some suggestions:

    CLASSIC ROMANTIC WEDDING:

    The creme de la creme of hotels — the kind that hosts weddings brides dream about as young girls — is the posh Halekulani (shown above). This Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel has long been considered one of the most romantice wedding sites in Hawaii, but it comes with a hefty price tag. Weddings here aren't cheap, but you pay for stellar service, world-class accomodations, and perfect spots to get married — a lush garden courtyard, an elegant ballroom, a tropical lanai — in Waikiki.

    GETAWAY WEDDING:

    Located on Oahu's North Shore, the renewed Turtle Bay Resort offers miles of pristine beaches and secluded spots perfect for a wedding getaway. This is the kind of place where you don't just get married — you book your honeymoon, too. Every year more than 350 weddings are held on the resort's lawns and beaches. And it's the only hotel in the state that guarantees a couple a private beach wedding with a ceremony decoarted with arches and chairs.

    URBAN CHIC WEDDING:

    If you're looking for an uber-chic wedding that exudes cool, consider the hip Modern Honolulu just outside Waikiki. It offers sleek, contemporary spaces that are both modern and luxe. You can exchange vows poolside or in one of the largest ballrooms on Oahu. And the hotel's executive chef will personally construct a menu for your big day.

    UNIQUE WEDDING:

    One of the most unique wedding venues — and one that's gaining popularity — is the Waikiki Aquarium in Waikiki. Founded in 1904, it is the third oldest public aquarium in the United States and one of the coolest places to exchange vows and host your wedding reception. When you book the aquarium for an event, it's cloesd to the general public, but your guests can still view the exhibits and see the more than 3,500 marine animals it houses, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seals.
  • On July 21, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best wedding venues in Oahu?

    Courtesy of Halekulani It's hard to find a bad place to get married in Hawaii, and Oahu offers the most variety of venues of any other island.

    Where you get married all depends on what kind of wedding you want. Here are some suggestions:

    CLASSIC ROMANTIC WEDDING:

    The creme de la creme of hotels — the kind that hosts weddings brides dream about as young girls — is the posh Halekulani (shown above). This Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel has long been considered one of the most romantice wedding sites in Hawaii, but it comes with a hefty price tag. Weddings here aren't cheap, but you pay for stellar service, world-class accomodations, and perfect spots to get married — a lush garden courtyard, an elegant ballroom, a tropical lanai — in Waikiki.

    GETAWAY WEDDING:

    Located on Oahu's North Shore, the renewed Turtle Bay Resort offers miles of pristine beaches and secluded spots perfect for a wedding getaway. This is the kind of place where you don't just get married — you book your honeymoon, too. Every year more than 350 weddings are held on the resort's lawns and beaches. And it's the only hotel in the state that guarantees a couple a private beach wedding with a ceremony decoarted with arches and chairs.

    URBAN CHIC WEDDING:

    If you're looking for an uber-chic wedding that exudes cool, consider the hip Modern Honolulu just outside Waikiki. It offers sleek, contemporary spaces that are both modern and luxe. You can exchange vows poolside or in one of the largest ballrooms on Oahu. And the hotel's executive chef will personally construct a menu for your big day.

    UNIQUE WEDDING:

    One of the most unique wedding venues — and one that's gaining popularity — is the Waikiki Aquarium in Waikiki. Founded in 1904, it is the third oldest public aquarium in the United States and one of the coolest places to exchange vows and host your wedding reception. When you book the aquarium for an event, it's cloesd to the general public, but your guests can still view the exhibits and see the more than 3,500 marine animals it houses, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seals.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    Where can you get the best view of Oahu?

    You can hike to the top of Diamond Head or Koko Head and see sweeping views of Oahu’s coastlines.

    But you won’t get the kind of visually stunning views of the island unless you’re looking at it from above.

    Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (800-745-2583) offers a 45-minute tour of Oahu. Called “Blue Skies of Oahu,” this tour will take you over lush rainforests, green valleys and the coral reefs of Waikiki. You’ll also see the stretches of white-sand beaches on Oahu’s windward coastline, inside Diamond Head, and over Pearl Harbor.

    Cost is about $200 when booking online.

    Trust me, you won't get these views from your hotel room.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the most unusual dining experiences in Oahu?

    Melissa Chang Honolulu has seen a revitalization of its local food scene with a growing number of street vendors, casual farm-to-table eateries and unique pop-up restaurants changing the culinary landscape.

    But one of the most unusual — if not utterly exclusive — dining experience happens in the bowels of Shirokiya, a Japanese department store in Ala Moana Center.

    Here, behind a brick exterior, is Vintage Cage (1450 Ala Moana Blvd, 808-441-1744
), where its tasting menu — and there’s only one — is $295 per person. And there’s only one seating for dinner at night, accommodating up to just 24 people.

    Once you walk in the restaurant, you are instantly transported to the Old World. Arched hallways, Italian granite floor tiles, and more than 15,000 hand-made bricks from Pennsylvania line the walls and ceilings. On the walls hang true works of art by masters like Anton Molnar and Pablo Picasso.

    While its cave-like facility is reminiscent of ancient Roman underground cities, its menu is like nothing Honolulu has ever seen before.

    Chef Chris Kajioka takes food to another level, with highly innovative and creative dishes that almost require a full explanation.

    The restaurant showcases the best ingredients Hawaii has to offer prepared by world-class chefs and sommeliers, including visiting star chefs and food masters.

    But it’s not for everyone. Be prepared to dine on menu items like maple crème fraiche and caviar, ikura with potato puree, oyster with elderflower and cucumber in ice, vanilla bean caviar macaron (shown above), and charred cabbage leaves stacked with konbu and dill.

    And the fact that people go back again and again — even with the hefty price tag — tells you just how good this place is.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the most romantic restaurants in Oahu?

    Location matters.

    But in this case, food and wine selection helps, too.

    Here are my three picks for the best romantic restaurants on Oahu:

    Le Bistro (above), 5730 Kalanianaole Hwy, Niu Valley, (808) 373-7990: Tucked away in a strip mall in a residential neighborhood in East Honolulu, Le Bistro is one of those unassuming eateries that will impress you once you get past its façade. It may not have an oceanview, but its romantic ambiance — a quiet, cozy setting without the Waikiki crowd — paired with its classic French menu make this a popular spot for dates and anniversaries. Popular dishes include the escargot, French onion soup and lamb chops.

    Michel’s at the Colony Surf, 2895 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki, (808) 923-6552: Chosen as the Most Romantic Restaurant in Hawaii for years, Michel’s offers first-class service, stunning ocean views and the kind of French cuisine you’d expect at an award-winning, fine-dining restaurant. Some menu standouts include the lobster bisque served with fresh Maine lobster meat flamed in cognac at your table; the helix escargot Bourgogne with the restaurant’s famous herbed-garlic butter; and Michel’s Ocean Bounty, an assortment of fresh seafood including grilled mahi mahi amandine, oyster Rockefeller, blackened ahi and Kona baby abalone.


    La Mer, Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Road, Waikiki, (808) 923-2311: It’s hard to not feel romantic walking around the property of the luxe Halekulani in Waikiki, especially around sunset. Which is why its restaurant, La Mer, is considered one of the most romantic spots on the island. Not only does it have an award-winning wine list and postcard-perfect ocean views, it’s the longest, consecutively ranked AAA Five Diamond restaurant in Hawaii. Its menu boasts such Neoclassic French dishes like foie gras with shiitake mushroom scales in a balsamic glaze, lobster tail cooked in butter with baby vegetables, and a filet of prime beef with foie gras, truffle mousseline and pommes soufflés.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best family hotels in Oahu?

    Disney Most hotels in Waikiki are family-friendly, with activities and amenities for visitors of all ages.

    But, hands down, the one hotel on Oahu that's clearly geared toward kids — and kids-at-heart — is Disney's Aulani Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, about a 40-minute drive west of Waikiki.

    Sprawling over 21 acres of oceanfront property, this resort manages to keep famlilies on its grounds, with more than 8,000 square feet of both indoor and outdoor facilities. There are pools, water slides, a 900-foot-long lazy river, a manmade snorkeling pool with tropical fish, a protected ocean lagoon, Aunty's Beach House Kids' Club, and more.

    And adults can enjoy Aulani's four restaurants, two lounges, a world-class fitness center and one of the best spas on the island.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    Where is the best architecture in Oahu?

    I've spent a fair number of years working in downtown Honolulu.

    And though I've walked past many of these historic and architecturally notable buildings hundreds of time, the sight of a few still make me pause.

    Here are three of my favorites:

    • Alexander & Baldwin Building, 822 Bishop St.: Erected in 1929, this building is the cornerstone of Honolulu's financial district and one of the first modern buildings of its time, mixing Asian and European styles. Constructed of steel with concrete casings, this building stands four stories tall with its signature "Dickey-style" overhanging tile roof. It's the headquarters of Alexander & Baldwin, once part of the "Big Five" companies in territorial Hawaii that now operates businesses in real estate, sugar cane and diversified agriculture. This building stands four stories tall with its signature "Dickey-style" overhanging tile roof.

    Iolani Palace, 364 S. King St. (808) 522-0822: The official residence of Hawaii's monarchy — and the only royal palace in the United States — Iolani Palace is commanding in its presence alone. A National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this palace housed King Kalakaua and his sister and successor Queen Liliuokalani until the overthrow in 1893. The palace, which was once used as the capitol building until 1969, has been restored and was opened to the public as a museum in 1978.

    • Hawaii State Capitol Building, 415 S. Beretania St.: Built in 1968, this is the official statehouse of Hawaii. Here, the executive and legislative branches convene and lawmakers — including the governor and lieutenant governor — are tenants. Wander the public building and you'll see symbolism everywhere: the reflecting pools representing the ocean, the columns that resemble palm trees, the building itself rising up like a volcano. It's a unique blend of function and island style — in a government building.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What is public transportation like in Oahu?

    The most frequently used form of public transportation on Oahu is the county bus.

    Called TheBus, this award-winning bus system boasts 518 in its fleet servicing all major areas of Oahu, including most popular visitor attractions such as Ala Moana Center and the Arizona Memorial. (You can download a map here of attractions and bus routes.) There are also two different lines that run to the Honolulu International Airport — one from Waikiki, another from Honolulu.

    Each ride costs $2.50 and includes a limited-time transfer. (The bus offers discounts to seniors, children and those with disabilities.) Visitors can also purchase a four-day unlimited ride pass, called The Oahu Discovery Passport, for $25. This allows you four consecutive days of unlimited bus rides. Passes can be purchased at ABC Stores, 7-Eleven convenience stores and TheBus Pass Office at 611 Middle St.
  • On July 1, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What is public transportation like in Oahu?

    The most frequently used form of public transportation on Oahu is the county bus.

    Called TheBus, this award-winning bus system boasts 518 in its fleet servicing all major areas of Oahu, including most popular visitor attractions such as Ala Moana Center and the Arizona Memorial. (You can download a map here of attractions and bus routes.) There are also two different lines that run to the Honolulu International Airport — one from Waikiki, another from Honolulu.

    Each ride costs $2.50 and includes a limited-time transfer. (The bus offers discounts to seniors, children and those with disabilities.) Visitors can also purchase a four-day unlimited ride pass, called The Oahu Discovery Passport, for $25. This allows you four consecutive days of unlimited bus rides. Passes can be purchased at ABC Stores, 7-Eleven convenience stores and TheBus Pass Office at 611 Middle St.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best food gifts to buy in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth Who doesn't love getting food as a gift?

    And if you're looking for gifts to bring home from your vacation on Oahu, here are my picks for the best three food items you should pick up for your jealous friends who couldn't go with you to Hawaii:

    Manoa Chocolate chocolate bars: Manoa Chocolate Hawaii is a bean-to-bar artisan chocolate company located in Kailua on Oahu's Windward side. These handcrafted, high-quality chocolate bars are perfect to pack in your carryon. And who doesn't love chocolate? There are different flavors — some seasonal — to choose from including the Breakfast Bar (a 60 percent dark milk chocolate with roasted cacao nibs and Kona espresso beans), the Hawaiian Sea Salt (72 percent chocolate with unique Hawaiian sea salts), and the Dark Milk with Alii Kula Lavender (a 60 percent dark milk chocolate with lavender from Maui). Sold online, at its factory store in Kailua, or at various Whole Foods across the island. Cost is between $7 and $9 a bar.

    Rainbow Drive-In's Hawaiian Style Chili Seasoning and Rub (shown): The iconic Rainbow Drive-In on Kapahulu Avenue has been serving its famous chili since it opened in 1961. Now it sells a mix that can be used to not only make its hearty chili but as a rub, in fried chicken and even to kick up a garlic aioli. Sold online or at the drive-in only. Cost is $4.95.

    Waialua Estate Coffee: While Kona on the Big Island is well known for its coffee, Waialua on Oahu's North Shore is right up there in terms of quality and taste. Its single origin premium coffee is smooth and mellow with a medium body and a clean finish with hints of chocolate. Sold at the plantation shop in Waialua and at Whole Foods in Kahala.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What is the one must-do activity in Oahu?

    If this is your first time to Oahu, the must-do activity is easy: surf.

    Surfing is believed to have originated in ancient Polynesia, with an early written account of Hawaiians riding wooden planks on ocean waves dating back to 1779. It was once a sport reserved for the alii (Hawaiian royalty) that has since become an iconic pasttime in Hawaii.

    In the early 1900s, surfing was revitalized on Waikiki Beach, with legendary beach boys like Duke Kahanamoku teaching visitors how to surf and paddle canoes.

    Today, Waikiki beach boys are still on the beach — and still teaching first-timers how to ride waves.

    Oahu is world-renowed for its surf breaks, from the monsterous winter surf that pounds the island's north and west shores to the friendly, rolling summer waves in Waikiki.

    The best place to learn is right there on Waikiki Beach, where several concession stands are set up and ready to get you up and riding. Cost is minimal — around $30 for a basic surf lesson and rental — and you'll be surfing where Hawaiian royalty once played.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What is the best new restaurant in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth This month Arancino (5000 Kahala Ave., 808-380-4400) opened its third location on Oahu — and its most upscale restaurant to date — at the luxe Kahala Hotel & Resort, just outside of Waikiki.

    It offers a course-style dining experience with innovative Italian dishes using ingredients both imported from Italy and sourced locally in the Islands.

    We're talking lightly fried foie gras and white truffle Parmesan risotto balls, fresh housemade tagliolini with uni (sea urchin) sautéed in a sweet garlic wine cream sauce, or a house made Hamakua tomato sorbet with a sweet tomato compote and gelee.

    The five-course prix fixe dinner cost $100 per person and takes about three hours to experience. Why? Because of beautifully plated antipasti like the crostaci di mare (shown), a melange of abalone and ama ebi (sweet shrimp) little drizzled with herb oil and plated to look like an ocean garden. It takes 15 minutes to plate this one dish alone.

    You really have to think of this as more of an experience than just a dinner.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What is the best new restaurant in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth This month Arancino (5000 Kahala Ave., 808-380-4400) opened its third location on Oahu — and its most upscale restaurant to date — at the luxe Kahala Hotel & Resort, just outside of Waikiki.

    It offers a course-style dining experience with innovative Italian dishes using ingredients both imported from Italy and sourced locally in the Islands.

    We're talking lightly fried foie gras and white truffle Parmesan risotto balls, fresh housemade tagliolini with uni (sea urchin) sautéed in a sweet garlic wine cream sauce, or a house made Hamakua tomato sorbet with a sweet tomato compote and gelee.

    The five-course prix fixe dinner cost $100 per person and takes about three hours to experience. Why? Because of beautifully plates antipasti like the crostaci di mare (shown), a melange of abalone and ama ebi (sweet shrimp) little drizzled with herb oil and plated to look like an ocean garden. It takes 15 minutes to plate this one dish alone.

    You really have to think of this as more of an experience than just a dinner.
  • On June 25, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best places for breakfast in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth The best way to start your day on Oahu is with a good breakfast.

    Here are three of my favorite breakfast spots on Oahu that offer delicious dishes, great coffee — because that's important — and the kind of ambiance that makes you want to linger a little longer:

    Sweet E's Cafe (Kilohana Square, 1016 Kapahulu Ave., 808-737-7771) is a quaint little breakfast and brunch spot just outside of Waikiki. Its menu features signature items such as banana and blueberry pancakes, French toast stuffed with blueberries and cream cheese, and kalua pig eggs benedict (shown). Breakfast and lunch is served until 3 p.m. daily. Parking is a bit tight. Service is stellar.

    Moena Cafe (Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, 808-888-7716) — pronounced "mow-eh-nah" — opened last year by husband-and-wife restauranteurs Eric and Nicole Chang in Hawaii Kai. This charming little eatery tucked away in an open shopping complex en route to Hanauma Bay features menu items like fried rice, eggs benedict, sweet bread French toast and Belgian waffles. But worth trying are its more signature items like the short rib loco moco (a local dish with meat and white rice topped with a fried egg and ladles of brown gravy), the cinnamon roll pancakes, and the homemade scones. Moena Cafe has lunch items, too, including sandwiches, salads and burgers. Lots of parking. Great service.

    Cinnamon's Restaurant (Kailua Square, 315 Uluniu St., 808-261-8724) is a popular breakfast spot on Oahu's Windward side with classic morning items like omelets and pancakes. But it also serves up specialities like crabcake eggs benedict, open-face frittata, red velvet pancakes and homemade cinnamon rolls. Consider Cinnamon's if you're heading to Kailua Beach or the North Shore. Huge menu, lots of parking, great service.