What's new in Oahu?

Catherine E. Toth

Over the past few years, there's been a proliferation of farmer's markets all across the state.

The latest one in Honolulu is the Ala Moana Farmer's Market (Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., 808-388-9696) on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings on the upper deck of the parking lot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Dozens of vendors sell fresh locally grown produce (like the mangoes above), homemade bread baked on site, gourmet treats and even fresh pasta dishes.

The owners and operators of this farmer's market also put on similar ones in Hawaii Kai (Saturday mornings), Haleiwa (Thursday afternoons) and Kailua (Sunday mornings).

These markets also feature live music and seating areas so patrons can sit and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.

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Earlier this month a new milk tea cafe opened on Kapiolani Boulevard in Honolulu.

Taste Tea (1391 Kapiolani Blvd., 808-951-8288) offers milk tea drinks that can be customized to your sweetness preference. You can even add tapioca balls — various sizes — and ice cream. It offers five varieties of tea, all brewed fresh daily. The tasty teas and the fact that this café is open late on Fridays and Saturdays have quickly made this a popular spot for milk tea aficionados.

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Though it's already two years old, ART & FLEA (831 Queen St.) is only getting more and more popular every month. This urban-inspired monthly art and flea market held at Fresh Cafe in Kakaako showcases local designers and artists in an event that draws an eclectic crowd of shoppers and music lovers. Here, you'll find handmade products, vintage art, locally designed fashion, handcrafted jewelry and more.

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best coffee shops in Oahu?

    Since coffee grows in Hawaii, it shouldn't be a surprise that there are several stellar independent coffee shops and cafes on Oahu, serving up some of the best beans of the Islands.

    While Starbucks and other chain coffee retailers litter Oahu's sidewalks and shopping malls, here are a few locally owned and operated outfits worth checking out:

    The Curb, 2560 McCarthy Hall

    This coffee truck, located on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, takes its coffee brewing seriously, if not academically. It serves up perfectly brewed-to-order espressos, lattes, cappuccinos and mochas. Order the iced coffee and watch the barista brew it Japanese-style with a Chemex, with half of the water replaced with ice cubes at the bottom of the brewing vessel. Oh, yeah, this is serious.

    Beach Bum Cafe, Downtown Honolulu

    This microbrew coffee house in downtown Honolulu is a haven for aficionados who like their coffee done right. Its mission is to present the delicate and various flavors of Hawaiian coffee in their best possible form, roasted in small batches and served one cup at a time. So it may take a little longer to get your morning cup of joe, but it will be brewed by hand — and sometimes with a vacuum pot or Fresh press.

    Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe, Manoa

    Coffee is an artform here. The beans are meticulously sourced from around the world. The brewing method is exact. The cups are impeccably good. But not only is Morning Glass in Manoa a serious coffee shop, it's got a serious kitchen churning out delectable baked goods like cheddar cheese-and-bacon scones and coffee cakes.

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best beaches in Oahu?

    Triple Crown of Surfing From the rocky coastlines on Oahu's southeast end to the cobalt blue waters off the leeward coast of the island, you'll find postcard-perfect beaches where can surf, fish, kayak or just lounge on the golden sand and read a book.

    Here are a few of my favorite beach spots on Oahu:

    • Sunset Beach, North Shore (shown above): This is one of the best and most famous surf spot on Oahu, located on the island's North Shore and part of a seven-mile stretch of world-class surf breaks. While monstrous winter surf is often the draw here, the summer months are especially nice, with calm waters and longer days to enjoy this gorgeous spot. NOTE: Winter brings dangerous surf to this area. Don't head out unless you're an experienced surfer. Check with lifeguards first.

    Kaimana Beach, Waikiki: Just a walking distance from the hotels of Waikiki and right next to the famed Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial (where the legendary Hawaiian Olympian Duke Kahanamoku once swam), is Kaimana Beach, a popular palm-lined sandy beach popular with residents and swimmers. But be warned: as Waikiki Beaches get more and more crowded, folks are flocking here to get away — and crowding this spot, too.

    Sandy Beach, East Honolulu: Past Hanauma Bay on Oahu's southeastern coastline is Sandy Beach, a favorite bodysurfing spot of Hawaii-born U.S. President Barack Obama. The massive shorebreak here is dangerous, though, and only experienced bodysurfers should swim out. But this long stretch of sandy beach is perfect for picnicking and lounging, too.

    Yokohama Bay, Waianae: The last beach on the Leeward Coast, Yokohama Bay is a pictuesque curvy beach with turquoise waters where you can sunbathe, surf and watch dolphins playing in the ocean. And if you feel like going on a hike, you can walk along the trails in the Kaena Point State Park, a protected area for native plants and seabirds.

    Kailua Beach, Kailua: While nearby Lanikai Beach gets most of the national recognition, this half-mile stretch of soft white sand might be a better bet. Far less crowded with more things — surfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, swimming — to do, this beach is a great stop on your adventure to the windward side of Oahu. And after your morning at the beach, you can walk around charming Kailua town with its boutiques and eateries.




  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best local dishes in Oahu?

    Like anywhere in the world, Hawaii has its unique dishes, items you won't find anywhere else. (Well, except at a Hawaii-themed restaurant.)

    Here are a few must-eat local dishes that you can't miss while visiting Oahu:

    • Loco moco (shown above): This isn't the most photogenic dish, but it's easily one of the most ordered plates at any local drive-in, including Rainbow Drive-In in Kapahulu. The dish consists of the following: two eggs, prepared any way, on top of a hamburger patty, macaconi salad and a bed of rice, all of which is slathered in brown gravy. It's great after a session in the surf, trust me.

    Malasada: When the Portuguese immigrated to Hawaii in the early 1900s, they brought along this delectable dessert. Malasadas — which are only found in the Azores in Portugual, where most of the immigrants to Hawaii hailed — are basically fried dough doused in sugar. Some bakeries, like Leonard's Bakery in Kapahulu, add filling, too, like dobash chocolate and lilikoi cream.

    Spam musubi: An obvious fusion between East and West, the Spam musubi is a staple snack food in Hawaii. You can find these at take-out spots like Tanioka's Seafoods & Catering in Waipahu to every 7-Eleven on the island. It is just as it sounds: a piece of Spam, sometimes fried in a teriyaki sauce, on top of rice and wrapped in nori (seaweed).

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best clothing boutiques in Oahu?

    Oahu is a shopper's paradise, with an eclectic mix of high-end retailers to small, locally owned boutiques in every major urban area, from Waikiki to the North Shore.

    Here are three of my favorite boutiques:

    Fighting Eel, various locations (shown above)

    Local designers Lan Chung and Rona Bennett know how to design a dress that works at both the beach and the boardroom. The pair recently opened its third location in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, right in the shopping district of Waikiki. As with its other two stores, this Fighting Eel boutique not only sells the latest FE and Ava Sky collections, but it offers clothing, jewelry and accessories from other local designers.

    Drift Boutique, 3434 Waialae Ave. in Kaimuki

    Hard-to-find but worth the effort, Drift Boutique in quaint Kaimuki appeals to that beach girl in all of us. Find shell earrings, one-of-a-kind beach bags, vintage quilts and more.

    Eden In Love, Ward Warehouse

    Owners Tanna and Bryson Dang ran The Wedding Cafe here and hosted wedding workshops that brought hundreds of brides to its shop in Ward Warehouse. These brides liked to shop — and trusted the pair — so they turned part of their store into a boutique. Its popularity has grown over the years and now the shop boasts a loyal following — not all brides — eager to see the new arrivals that hit its floor every week. But it's not just maxi dresses and perfect leggings. Eden In Love is stocked with accessories, too, like obi belts and infinity scarves.

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What restaurants have the best views in Oahu?

    You'd be surprised.

    As picturesque as Oahu may be, not many restaurants have stellar views of the ocean or lush mountains.

    While there are a few — including the Top of Waikiki and Mariposa at Neiman Marcus — the best view right now happens to be at one of the island's newest steakhouses.

    The Signature Prime Steak & Seafood recently opened at the top of the Ala Moana Hotel, in the 8,150-square-foot space vacated by Aaron's and Nicholas Nickolas. And while two restaurants had signature dishes and stellar wine lists, folks went for the view. (See above)

    There’s really nothing like it. Two sides of the restaurant have ocean views. You can see the Friday night fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. And you won’t get a better seat for dinner on Fourth of July, either.

    This 275-seat fine dining restaurant features a menu with aged prime cut beef, fresh seafood, specialty cocktails and signature desserts. One of the menu’s standouts is The Signature Seafood Tower (priced for two) with Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp cocktail, New England sea scallops and oysters on the half shell.

    It's one of those special occasion restaurants, when you want to impress your date or celebrate a milestone in your life.

    Double points if you book the "fireworks" table, too. 

    The Signature Steak & Seafood, Ala Moana Hotel, 36th Floor, 410 Atkinson Dr. Hours: 4:30-10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 4:30-10 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (808) 949-3636
  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best places to hear live music in Oahu?

    Halekulani Hotel There's no better place to listen to Hawaiian music under the stars than in iconic Waikiki.

    Here are my three favorite spots:

    Duke's Waikiki, Outrigger Waikiki

    One of the most popular spots to listen to Hawaiian music right on Waikiki Beach is Duke's Waikiki, a bustling restaurant and bar right on the beach. Every night there are local bands and artists like Henry Kapono and Maunalua playing everything from traditional Hawaiian music to contemporary reggae-inspired fare on the sands of Waikiki. Enjoy fresh island poke or fish tacos while listening from the restaurant or nurse passion fruit daiquiri or lava flow from the Barefoot Bar.

    House Without a Key, Halekūlani Hotel

    There’s nothing better than lounging under the century-old kiawe tree at the posh Halekūlani Hotel in Waikiki, sipping on a tropical mojito and enjoying some of the best live Hawaiian music around. This casual dining spot has featured live music nightly for years, making it a beloved tradition at the upscale hotel. Watch the sunset, dine on coconut-crusted shrimp and beef curry puffs, and watch some of Hawaii’s finest hula dancers take the stage fronting the lawn. Up next: House Without a Key features live music nightly, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Don’t miss the Sunset Serenaders — a duet featuring Kanoe Miller dancing hula — who plays on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Kani Ka Pila Grille, Outrigger Reef on the Beach

    Imagine listening to live music while relaxing poolside in Hawaii, drink in hand. This imagination can be a reality at Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki. In addition to entertainment by some of Hawaii’s best artists such as Weldon Kekauoha and Cyril Pahinui, indulge in the restaurant’s pūpū (appetizer) menu, which features ahi poke, a creamy spinach-artichoke-crab dip, deep-fried calamari, edamame dressed in a shoyu chili sauce, or coconut shrimp served with a sweet orange-chili dipping sauce and pineapple wedges. The music — and menu —are served nightly. Entertainment runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Up next: Award-winning artist Sean Na‘auao plays on Monday nights and popular Mānoa DNA headlines Saturdays.
  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best places to hear live music in Oahu?

    Halekulani Hotel There's no better place to listen to Hawaiian music under the stars than in iconic Waikiki.

    Here are my three favorite spots:

    Duke's Waikiki, Outrigger Waikiki

    One of the most popular spots to listen to Hawaiian music right on Waikiki Beach is Duke's Waikiki, a bustling restaurant and bar right on the beach. Every night there are local bands and artists like Henry Kapono and Maunalua playing everything from traditional Hawaiian music to contemporary reggae-inspired fare on the sands of Waikiki. Enjoy fresh island poke or fish tacos while listening from the restaurant or nurse passion fruit daiquiri or lava flow from the Barefoot Bar.

    House Without a Key, Halekūlani Hotel

    There’s nothing better than lounging under the century-old kiawe tree at the posh Halekūlani Hotel in Waikiki, sipping on a tropical mojito and enjoying some of the best live Hawaiian music around. This casual dining spot has featured live music nightly for years, making it a beloved tradition at the upscale hotel. Watch the sunset, dine on coconut-crusted shrimp and beef curry puffs, and watch some of Hawaii’s finest hula dancers take the stage fronting the lawn. Up next: House Without a Key features live music nightly, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Don’t miss the Sunset Serenaders — a duet featuring Kanoe Miller dancing hula — who plays on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Kani Ka Pila Grille, Outrigger Reef on the Beach

    Imagine listening to live music while relaxing poolside in Hawaii, drink in hand. This imagination can be a reality at Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki. In addition to entertainment by some of Hawaii’s best artists such as Weldon Kekauoha and Cyril Pahinui, indulge in the restaurant’s pūpū (appetizer) menu, which features ahi poke, a creamy spinach-artichoke-crab dip, deep-fried calamari, edamame dressed in a shoyu chili sauce, or coconut shrimp served with a sweet orange-chili dipping sauce and pineapple wedges. The music — and menu —are served nightly. Entertainment runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Up next: Award-winning artist Sean Na‘auao plays on Monday nights and popular Mānoa DNA headlines Saturdays.
  • On July 21, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best seafood restaurants in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth Seafood is plentiful in Hawaii, and you'll find a variety of prepartions and offerings on Oahu.

    Here are three very different eateries that serve up some of the best dishes from the ocean:

    53 By The Sea, 53 Ahui St,. Honolulu, (808) 536-5353

    One of the newest restaurants on Oahu, this upscale fine-dining spot is located right on the ocean near Ala Moana Center — and so close to the local fish auction, you can expect the the seafood to be fresh. Signature dishes include the Seafood Showcase with Kona lobster, king crab, sashimi and oysters; escargot-stuffed mushrooms (shown above) with a spicy tomato sauce; Chilean sea bass prepared Hong Kong style with tomato concassé and baby bok choy; and mahi mahi with hearts of palm, broccolini and a mango beurre blanc. The view from the dining area are best during the day.

    Nico's Pier 38, 1133 N Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu, (808) 540-1377

    Last year Nico's expanded from a quaint 80-seat eatery on Pier 38 to a 160-seat open-air restaurant complete with full bar and fish market. Owner Lyon-born Nicolas “Nico” Chaize combined his French background with local ingredients and flavors. Seafood dishes to try include a fukikake pan-seared ahi served with Nico's ginger garlic cilantro dip; fried ahi belly topped with a spicy tomato salsa; and the restaurant's signature steamed clams with tomato, onion and garlic, served with garlic butter bread. It has a great happy hour and live music, too.

    Alicia's Market, 267 Mokauea St., Kalihi, (808) 841-1921

    One of the best-kept secrets in Honolulu is this little convenience store in Kalihi that prepares some of the best poke (a local dish of raw, cubed fish often seasoned with sea salt, soy sauce, roasted crushed candelnut, sesame oil, seaweed and chopped chili pepper) on the island. Our pick: the ahi poke with flying fish roe and wasabi.
  • 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.
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