Rediscovering Oahu's Unmatched Travel Experience - P. 10


With waves coming squarely behind us we paddled in for a smooth landing. It took some huffing and puffing to drag our tandem kayak up the sand to where the hand trucks were waiting. A female Kailua Sailboards employee with the officious manners of a drill-sergeant took over to set the kayak atop the truck, strapped down the elastic cords and sent us on our way back to the rental shop.

Once again the tandem was set too far forward and kept sliding further forward as I pulled it along the rough asphalt of the beach parking lot toward Kailua Avenue, forcing me to stop a couple times to shift it back on the truck. After the afternoon workout of paddling and pulling, it was a huge relief for my arms and shoulders when I could finally set the kayak down at the Kailua Sailboards lot.

A bit sunburned and tired but in high spirits from our island kayak adventure, we hopped back into the Wrangler for the drive back to Waikiki. We took Pali Highway over the mountains to the eastbound H1 Freeway, then cut out on McCully Street down to Kalakaua Avenue for the cruise along the Waikiki strip to the Hyatt — a drive of about 40 minutes even in rush-hour traffic. By the time we were riding the escalator up to the second floor for the elevator bank for our tower we were famished. We showered and changed quickly and headed to the Regency Club for some heavy grazing.

Overlooking Waikiki Hyatt Regency Club guests can enjoy can feast on delicious free appetizers with their evening cocktails on a patio that overlooks Waikiki Beach and Kalakaua Avenue.

As the sun sank into the ocean and warmed the sky with oranges and purples we sank into oversized armchairs on the patio overlooking Waikiki Beach and stuffed ourselves with small plates of exquisite appetizers. By the time we polished off the fresh cheesecake the sky was purple and the street noise was vibrant with the sounds of tourists on the prowl for evening entertainment. The beer I ordered from one of the attendants was just $5, a small price to pay for what felt like the best dinner table in Wakiki.

With full stomachs and legs pleasantly heavy with the accumulated fatigue from our adventures of the past three days, we went down the escalator for our last evening in Waikiki. We strolled down Kalakaua and turned into the International Marketplace for desultory browsing among the colorful arrays of souvenirs, baubles and trinkets. We flowed into the stream of tourists wandering aimlessly to enjoy the evening air thickened by the scents of tropical blossoms, suntan lotion, tiki torch fumes and cocktails in plastic cups. As always the air felt like a warm embrace. Too tired to prolong our stroll but not wanting to head back empty-handed, we bought a few items at ridiculously low prices from the T-shirt and bauble stands lining Dukes Lane.

Last Day

Wednesday was our return-home day. But our flight wasn’t until 10:30 pm, and we planned to spend a full day soaking up the local color while moving slowly in the direction of downtown and the airport.

After another perfect Regency Club breakfast, we strolled down Kaiulani Avenue to the Ala Wai canal, Waikiki’s most popular jogging path. The sidewalk lining the 1.6-mile canal had been my running path while I was living in Waikiki. Back then the canal had been slowly degrading into a giant sewer. Now it appeared to have been dredged and cleaned. No longer did it give off a faint stench, nor did it host cockroaches the size of small guavas that used to scuttle across my path as I ran, sometimes getting crushed underfoot with a loud crunch.

Ala Wai The Ala Wai Canal on the northern side of Waikiki is lined with a popular jogging path.

Ala Wai’s new incarnation as a respectable waterway was confirmed by a pair of women’s sculls gliding by, complete with coxswains barking cadence. They had probably come down a long spur of the canal that juts all the way up to the nearby Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii. We also passed a number of joggers before crossing Ala Wai Boulevard back up to Kuhio and Kalakaua to take advantage of our only opportunity to stroll Waikiki in broad daylight.

We weaved in and out among the pathways and arcades of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and its adjacent shopping arcade, then down Lewers to the incomparable Halekulani Hotel. It was closed for renovation though its beachside arcade and restaurants appeared to be functioning. We turned up on Kalia Road toward Fort De Russy Military Reservation — easily the world’s poshest R&R center — before turning up on Saratoga Road back up to Kalakaua for the six-block walk back to the Hyatt Regency.

By day the streets of Waikiki were devoid of much of the tropical magic that filled them by night. For me it was a pleasantly nostalgic wallow amid sights that had changed little in the decades since I was a teen. And though it was only March, the tropical sun made us sweat by the time we got back to the Hyatt Regency.

Ala Moana Shopping Center

With our bags loaded in the Jeep, our teen took the wheels again for the six-minute drive over to Ala Moana Shopping Center to begin the non-touristy part of our trip. Of course the mall draws tourists by the busloads, but it’s mostly filled with locals and is full of local memories for me. It was in the Ala Moana mall parking lot that I had my first car crash. I was sixteen and the other car was parked directly across from the spot I was aiming for. My bumper smashed in one of its headlights. I only hesitated briefly before tearing off a scrap of paper and leaving my name and number on the windshield. The victim, impressed by my integrity and probably sympathetic because of my age, and said I only needed to pay for the cost of a new headlight. He didn’t mind a slight deformity in the surrounding grill.

There was a time when Ala Moana, built in 1959, had billed itself as the world’s biggest shopping mall. Since the late ’60s a dozen incrementally bigger malls have sprung up across the US but I suspect that to this day Ala Moana remains the biggest and most attractive open-air mall. A glass roof protects shoppers from routine morning showers and violent squalls but the sides remain open to the trade winds.

The gargantuan food court on the lower level is the perfect place for a cheap tasty local-style lunch. After strolling the mall for an hour we took a break at the open-air Mai Tai Bar located on the upper level for cold drinks while watching Jeremy Lin lead the Knicks over the Sixers. He opened the game with abysmal 1-for-11 shooting but thoroughly redeemed himself by going 10-for-10 in free throws during the late-game push.


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