Leave behind the winter weather with a mai tai in your hand.
As the temperature drops and Northwesterners begin their annual hibernation, it should be noted that the Hawaiian Islands remain balmy and active throughout the winter season. If you want – or need – to escape the frigid Puget Sound, here’s just a taste of the fun-filled getaway that awaits you in our nation’s 50th state.
If you’re young and hip (or just hip), then you should stay in a hotel that suits your style. Sifting through the cookie-cutter madness of Waikiki’s major chain hotels can be difficult. Luckily, there’s Hotel Renew, which is located near the beach but lacks all the schtick of its neighbors (except the pineapple juice at check-in).
Inspired by Japanese design, this hotel provides all the comforts one could desire after a day of paddle-boarding, as well as contemporary demands such as Wi-Fi, energy-efficient lighting and breakfast on the house. The hotel also offers complimentary beach gear. Wait…Japanese-inspired, you say? Yes, each room includes designer kimono bathrobes.
Wild Side Specialty Tours and their 50-foot yacht, The Nautilus (or “Naughty”), have you covered if you want to play in the ocean. The vessel has room for 24 anxious passengers but to keep the experience as intimate as possible, only six are allowed on board. This allows for one-on-one time with the knowledgeable crew, as well as fellow participants.
“What’s great about our tours is that they’re fully customizable,” said crew-woman Kimberly James. Crowd-pleasing activities aboard The Nautilus include deep-sea fishing, whale-watching and snorkeling with dolphins. The crew’s experience is key to getting as close as possible without disturbing the wildlife. They aren’t too bad at restaurant recommendations either.
There are only so many Iron Chefs — and Masaharu Morimoto is one of them. Located at the luxurious Modern Honolulu hotel, his restaurant, Morimoto Waikiki, provides the freshest of ingredients, all handled with the chef’s signature touches. For instance, the broth in his oxtail soup ($15) melts the meat off the bone, and is seasoned with cilantro and garlic ginger rice.
Morimoto also keeps it real for locals with chef’s loco moto ($22): wagyu beef, fukujinzuke (Japanese pickle), rice, hayashi gravy, and a fried egg, served with miso soup. The restaurant boasts an impressive selection of more than 30 sushi and shashimi offerings, including five kinds of caviar. Even better, the menu runs the gamut of dining expenses, from drinks that won’t bust the bank to the epic meal your vacations demands.
Based on Kauloa Farms, Bike Hawaii is the acme of all-you-can-consume activities on Oahu, such as mountain biking, exploring waterfalls, kayaking to nearby islands and snorkeling in lush reef. Most of the activities are offered in a combination form, with a complimentary lunch to boot. In addition to beautiful views and a decent workout, those who enlist in Bike Hawaii will be treated to an informative island experience, courtesy of the the quirky guides.
Open for just a year, the elegant Modern Honolulu is posh without being pretentious – it says something that I, a hostel-lover, felt comfortable walking about the premises – and provides uninterrupted relaxation. The luxury hotel offers 353 stylish guest rooms with spectacular views of the glittering skyline and yachts moored in the harbor. Many rooms include a terrace for observing your beautiful surroundings (i.e. people) or outdoor iPad-ding. On hot afternoons, take a dip and visit the poolside bar for a cool cocktail.
The High Flyer
If you’d like to see the ocean from above, North Shore-based Honolulu Soaring – in the glider business for more than 40 years – is happy to oblige. You can keep it simple with a high-altitude cruise – but if you crave adventure, barrel rolls and hammerhead stalls are available upon request. Act appropriately, and you might even get to fly the small craft. All that’s left for you to do is come up with a call sign.
At Tacos Ricos, $20 gets you all-you-can-eat tacos — good tacos. I easily put away 13, with meat options that ranged from barbacoa to sea bass. The menu is simple and the staff is thin, but the food and service are of the highest quality. Fun extras include horchata, a regional drink that consists of rice milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, as well the opportunity to purchase a luchadore wrestling mask.
A few years ago, The Sheraton Waikiki spent millions to renovate its lobby and guest rooms. At that time, the hotel added an adults-only infinity pool (with a swim-up bar) and great new restaurants, including: RumFire, offering one of Waikiki’s best happy hours and gorgeous views of the sunset; Kai Market, a buffet that features local recipes and ingredients; and Ingredients, for delicious take-out when the beach calls one more time.
“Real good, not pretentious, nice and chill,” is how one local described Uncle Bo’s, a popular restaurant and bar in Waikiki. This sounded just right, and he didn’t lead us astray. The menu is a venerable list of offerings from the local fish market, prepped with fresh spices and plated with care. My crab-crusted opah ($21) was larger than a Frisbee, and served upon a bed of green beans and squash. For overkill, a bowl of marinara-topped pasta was included on the side.