The morning of July 5th was spent rushing around, complete with an expedition and exploration of downtown Wahiawa, in the center of Oahu. The afternoon, while less exciting, revealed some of the more subtle charms of the North Shore, making me wish we had more than a couple of days to experience it.
We visited the historic town of Haliewa, which serves as the traditional gateway to the North Shore from the business side of the island, Honolulu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor. Haliewa is just the kind of place that you want to help get you in the mood to be away from the the hustle and bustle of 8-lane highways. One of our first stops was at Matsumoto’s store, which serves perhaps the best Hawaiian shaved ice in all of the islands. There is a permanent line there, stringing along the road, just hoping to get in for a $2 treat, and it was well worth the wait.
We checked out the beaches on the west side of the North Shore, but they were a little rough for our tastes, so we headed back to Backpackers Hawaii spend the rest of the afternoon at nearby (and utterly perfect) Waimea Bay. Our hostel, Backpacker’s Hawaii, was directly across from the Three Tables beach (excellent for snorkeling or diving; just throw on your gear and jump in) and near Shark’s Cove and Banzai Pipeline. Waimea Bay was only a 200-yard walk downhill. I can really see how the locals can get used to this. Quickly.
On July 6th, we headed back to the airport for the hop to Hilo, on the Big Island, officially known as Hawaii. Hilo is in the northeast and, therefore, windward side of Hawaii, and the amount of rain delivered by the moisture-laden trade winds keeps the entire area soaked most of the year. Luscious green plants are everywhere, clinging to every waterfall and providing sensory overload, even for the most amateur botanist.
Hilo’s Lyman House Memorial Museum was recommended to us as a way to get some context for what we would see on the Big Island. While most of the museum was obviously geared for kids, they did have a fascinating exhibit on clothing of the 1930’s and 40’s from Japan, Britain, and the US that featured patriotic war motifs. Freaky little kidwear featuring tanks and airplanes dropping bombs, things like that. There was also an exhibit about traditional Korean life, but I spent most of my time there spell-checking the older Korean texts.
As we plan to check out Puna and the volcano area tomorrow, we spent the remainder of the day checking out Rainbow Falls and then making our way along the Hamakua Coast, which stretches out 40 miles or so the north and west of Hilo. After meandering around deep gullies and through natural botanical gardens, we ended up at the end of the road, the incredible Waipi’o Valley Lookout. (Only 4-wheel drive vehicles can continue on from there, and something told me the rental Chevy Malibu was just not going to cut it.) The only thing that could complete with that view might be the small Hawaiian woman who had to be in her 80’s that we overheard say that she still walked down to the Waipi’o Beach from the lookout (15 minutes) and back (45 minutes) every day.
In Hilo, we discovered a new type of cuisine, and we aren’t even sure what to call it. It is definitely Polynesian-inspired, but there is a multi-ethnic twist to it, with a lot of Japanese, Korean, and Filipino influences. We tried the Loco Moco, which is white, sticky rice in a bowl, covered with brown gravy and topped with meat (fish or sausage or something else) and a couple of eggs, cooked whatever way you want. (Some photos and reviews of the food are here.) Yummy. Very tasty. Tonight, we checked out Kuhio Grill, where I had something called “siamin,” which is an Hawaiian noodle soup, usually served with cabbage, spam, thinly sliced eggs, and all in an egg broth. The flavors really echoed the waves of immigration that have flowed to these islands over the past 500 years. Rarely can a multicultural society be summed up in a single dish, but there you have it. If you get a chance, try the saimin.