Rediscovering Oahu's Unmatched Travel Experiences - P. 3


Regency Club Breakfast

With a big day planned on Sunday we wanted to get an early start without sacrificing a great breakfast. Fortunately, our upgrade to a Regency Club floor entitled us to the free breakfast buffet at the Regency Club lounge. Not only did it save money, it saved us the time of dealing with a waiter and a check at the main restaurant which we passed on our way to the lounge. Our room key gave us access to a big airy lounge wrapped in windows offering a panoramic view of Waikiki Beach.

A cheerful staff kept the buffet tables stocked with a tempting array of delectables — two varieties of smoked salmon, sausages, sauteed vegetables, poached and scrambled eggs, salads, cheeses, breads, pastries, yogurt, cereals, french toast, fruits and vegetables. In addition to juices and teas, an impressive dispensing machine offered a nice selection of lattes, mochas and coffees. It also gave us the option of having extra-large portions dispensed into paper takeout cups.

Regency Club
The Regency Club on the third floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Waikiki offers an unmatched view of Waikiki Beach as you enjoy a tasteful, healthy and delicious complimentary breakfast buffet.

The seating in the lounge ranged from regular tables to plush armchairs and sofas arranged around coffee tables. We opted for a table on the terrace overlooking Waikiki Beach. We enjoyed dining atop the throb of one of the busiest hubs of the world’s most popular resort, presiding over the crash of waves, the gentle din of Hawaii tourist traffic, the chatter of happy pedestrians, the cry of seagulls. The warmth of the morning sun was tempered by the constant moist sea breeze. All in all, it was the nicest breakfast we could have wanted that day, even more idyllic in its way than sitting waveside at the dining patio of the dreamy Halekalani.

Pali Lookout and Kamehameha Highway

The first destination on our agenda was Haleiwa, the picturesque old North Shore town famous for the shaved ice still being sold to long lines of tourists paying homage to Matsumoto’s humble grocery store. For me the real attraction of Haleiwa is the drive. Going to Haleiwa is comparable to the Angeleno’s drive up to Malibu or maybe to Ojai — the journey is over half the pleasure.

Pali Lookout
Pali Lookout just off Pali Highway, a few miles northwest of downtown Honolulu, affords a spectacular view of Kaneohe Bay on Oahu’s windward coast framed by lush, rain-drenched mountains.

Soon after our teen maneuvered the Jeep up to the westbound direction of H1 freeway, then cut up north onto Pali Highway toward Kailua, a swift pile of billowy gray clouds delivered a tropical squall. Within minutes a layer of fast-moving water covered the grooved asphalt and the lush steep mountainsides became enshrouded in mist. Naturally this bit of weather drama sent us drylanders into touristic ecstasies. The atmospherics were so gorgeous that we decided to immerse ourselves in it a bit more by turning out onto Pali Lookout. The Lookout offers a dead-on view of Kaneohe Bay and the Pacific beyond, limned on both sides by impossibly steep mountains dripping with thick greenery. It’s the kind of image that gets etched into your brain’s permanent iPhoto collection.

The wet, winding descent down into Kailua was all too brief, maybe twelve minutes. In that interval the rain gave way to intermittent sunshine. We passed quickly through the northern outskirts of Kailua — a sleepy beach town to which we would return later in our vacation — and turned northward up the coast on the Kamehameha Highway — Oahu’s equivalent to PCH — toward Turtle Bay, Oahu’s northernmost tip. Before long the gray clouds had transformed into those high-billowing white-on-white intimations of heaven that we rarely see in Southern California.

Kualoa Regional Park

About 20 minutes out of Kailua we couldn’t resist the chance to stop at Kualoa Regional Park to stretch our legs with a walk out to the beach for a view of Chinaman’s Hat, a cone-shaped island that is one of Oahu’s most famous landmarks. Only a handful of people were there that day, including a lone fishermen with a pole planted on the sand. We spent a few minutes wading and splashing in the crystal water. Another great reason to stop at the park are the clean bathroom and shower facilities.

On Sundays the two-lane Kamehameha Highway carries a light but steady stream of cars. Within ten minutes of leaving Kualoa Park we began seeing the garish signs and colorful tents of roadside seafood grills. We had planned to save our appetites for a heroic lunch at Haleiwa but the aroma of sizzling shrimps from several roadside stands and shrimp trucks persuaded us that a quick snack would keep us in better spirits for the remaining 40 minutes of our drive.

Shrimp Coach

We pulled over into a parking lot beside a shrimp truck just outside the nothing town of Laie. We stood in line for about five minutes to order a spicy shrimp plate, then sat at a picnic bench under a large tarp and waited about 15 minutes in the company of several local families and a group of Chinese from a tour bus. By the time we got our plate, we were truly hungry and grateful for the food. Something about a state of total immersion in ravishing scenery makes a body extra hungry.

By the time we got back on the road we had fallen over an hour behind schedule. That wouldn’t matter at Haleiwa, but it put us at risk of running out of daylight for the rainforest hike we had planned for the latter part of the afternoon.

The landscape became visibly drier as we neared the northern tip of Oahu, taking on the scrubby look of Southern California hillsides. The main difference was that the earth was much redder. Driving through the ramshackle town of Kahuku reminded us that even a paradisial island like Oahu has its prosaic realities for working-class families.

North Shore

Past Kahuku, at the island’s very northernmost tip, is Turtle Bay, a huge resort run by the Hilton hotel chain. For our family the resort’s name has an ironic ring. We had spent two nights there during our last trip to Oahu and hadn’t seen a single turtle despite diligently scouring of the beach and bay. We did manage to find scuttling along the beach a few small blue crabs with curious yellow semicircular markings.

Turtle Beach
A pair of turtles make their way along Kawailoa Beach between Waimea Beach Park and Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore.

After Turtle Bay Resort, Kamehameha Highway bends left for the final 10-mile southwesterly stretch to Haleiwa. To our right, along the ocean side of the highway, is a stretch of Oahu’s most impressive custom beach homes, the kind you might find along Malibu’s Broad Beach. Past the enclave of beach estates and past Waimea Falls Park, we saw a crowd gathered around a patch of white sand on Kawailoa Beach.

As our car drew close we saw an immobile sea tortoise about a foot and a half long. It was surrounded at a respectable distance by a crowd of people, many of whom had parked along the land side of the highway and walked over for a closer look. That gave us an idea of just how difficult it is to actually see a sea turtle in the wild on the North Shore. They’re so rare that the state of Hawaii has enacted harsh laws to punish anyone who tries to harass one of those creatures — which explained the respectable distance maintained by the hushed onlookers.


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