Oahu, Hawaii (April 2015)
Work brought me to Hawaii once again. The non-stop, 11 hour flight on Hawaiian Airlines was a bit of an ordeal, but was all worth it when we descended from the clouds and the sunny paradise of Oahu became visible from the plane window.
Before I go on, I have to say that Hawaiian Airlines itself is really top notch. What other airline in the U.S. gives you free meals and wine in coach?
I arrived late in the afternoon and headed straight to Moanalua Valley, not far from the Honolulu Airport for a quick hike. It’s an easy hike along a dirt trail through the valley floor. Lush green mountains loom above both sides of the trail, and the calls of birds echoed through the jungle over the sound of trickling water from the creek the trail follows.
I chose this hike out of the guide book not only for its natural scenery but because of the ancient petroglyphs on the trail. I eventually found the 1,000 year old carvings on a boulder about ½ mile up the trail overlooking the creek.
The figures were not easy to make out, but I could see the outline of several shapes. The petroglyphs I saw in the Virgin Islands were more distinct and I think more impressive, but these were also cool to see. It started to rain so I began the trip back to the car.
On Thursday night, I got off work at little bit early so headed straight to the Windward side (east side) of the island to get another hike in and tour the town of Kailua. I found a hiking trail on Yelp called Lulumahu Falls, right off the Highway 63 on the Pali mountain range. Despite being right off the road, the trail was so secluded that I didn’t see one person during the entire one-hour hike. I think the place was empty because for one, it’s not an authorized hiking area—I ignored a couple of “Do Not Enter” signs and made my way up at my own risk. I guess the government has to put those signs up to warn people that anything that happens on the trail is your own fault. The other reason why I think it was empty was that it was nearing sundown.
After crossing an enormous valley with huge green mountains ahead, I started my ascent up towards the falls. I initially went up the wrong way, a mistake that suddenly became obvious as I found myself stuck on a steep and muddy steep incline holding on to nothing but a thin tree branch. I realized my mistake and carefully made my way down the steep hillside back to the creek, where I found the main trail once again. The trail was not very strenuous but it required some agility and balance for jumping over fallen tree trunks and tree roots that were tangled into mini-obstacle courses. I also had to cross the creek several times by walking across boulders in the water.
I started to get a little nervous that the sun was near setting and the falls had not yet presented themselves. At one point during the hike I decided that if the falls were not at the next “level” up, I would turn around. Soon after I heard the roaring of the waterfall. I continued my scramble up the rocks and in front of me, a 75 foot stream of water poured down from a level above me into a pool of water 50 feet wide. The pool was bounded on two sides by vertical walls that had been carved by the falls over the ages.
If I had more time I would have taken my shoes off and swam in the pool. The water was really cold and I even took a little drink. I hung out for a bit to take in the sights and sound of the falls before heading down the path again.
On my way down, as I was jumping on the rocks along the creek, I noticed on one big boulder a shape that looked like a carving of a lizard. Could this be another petroglyph? On the other side of the rock, was another shape that looked like a toad or turtle. It would be surprising if these were actually petroglyphs—after all, this is a well-known, though unauthorized trail with enough popularity that there were Yelp reviews of the place. I googled the trail and found no mention of petroglyphs, so either I’m wrong or they have not been discovered or documented. How cool would that be? It’s entirely possible. I know that in St. John in the Virgin Islands, a group of historians recently discovered some previously undiscovered petroglyphs by simply fanning out a few feet from well-worn trails.
That’s about it for my outdoor adventures. I had adventures of another sort in my quest to experience authentic Japanese food on Oahu each night. I sought out highly rated but moderately priced restaurants all over the city using Yelp, and dove headfirst into some unfamiliar culinary experiences.
Japanese restaurants in Honolulu
Menchanko Tei (903 Keeaumoko St, Honolulu)
Located in an area of Honolulu far from the glitz of Waikiki, this is the first place I went to after my long plane ride. I was so hungry I would have considered McDonalds a top-notch experience at that point so the bar was low. But luckily the reviews were on point and the restaurant was awesome. I had the fried pork (made in homemade bread crumbs), which I learned from the waitress is to be dunked in a dark sauce mix with sesame seeds that I crushed myself in with a mortar and pestle.
Maguro-Ya (3565 Waialae Ave, Honolulu)
I tried the Sushi plate ($20) that contained 10 pieces of nigri and a few tuna rolls. The 22oz bottle of Asahi beer went well with the sushi.
I’m sure my mercury levels were already sky-high after the night before, but once again my sushi cravings were strong enough that I found myself taking some risks in eating some weirder styles of sushi like sea urchin (uni) and salmon eggs. I was unprepared for the slimy texture of the sea urchin paste and came close to spitting it out but stomached it in front of the sushi chef.
At his authentic sushi restaurant, I tried the Homeade Kimchi ($4) that was definitely the best I’ve ever had, and the Seafood Negiyaki, a sort of noodle pancake dish ($15). Be prepared to be showered in enthusiastic Japanese greetings from the hostesses, waitresses and cooks as you enter and depart.
Soon’s Kai-Bi-Drive Inn (898 Ala Lilikoi St, Honolulu)
Not Japanese but Korean, this hole in the wall on the side of a strip mall near the dumpsters served me a huge heap of BBQ chicken and “meat jun,” a thinly sliced beef dipped in egg batter and fried, along with rice and side of Kimchi for $8. Double points for serving this masterpiece in a Styrofoam container.
Located within walking distance of Waikiki Beach’s east side, this is my go-to breakfast spot when I have the time before work. They have a huge menu with all sorts of breakfast items ranging from omelets to French toast. I like the chill café-type décor inside. Their coffee is top-notch and it’s served in a mug if you drink it there. I had the breakfast bagel sandwich, which was filling and made with quality ingredients.