Sunday, February 18, 2007

North Shore

Just got back from a nice, relaxing trip to Hawaii. I was there for a friend's wedding at the Moana Surfrider hotel. The wedding was beautiful and just beside the waters of Waikiki beach.

The most fun part of my trip? Probably our drive to the North Shore on Thursday. Here's a chronicle of our trip:
  • A macademia nut farm: the last macademia nut farm still in operation on Oahu, the farm had this cool gift shop with all sorts of flavored macademia nuts! Although they were on the pricey side, the nuts were quite tasty.
  • Then we stopped at Laie Point where we experienced a really pretty view of the north shore, dotted by lots of little islands. On one island was a giant arched hole where the surf flowed through. Apparently, a tsunami punched a hole in the island in 1946! Yikes.
  • Time for a bathroom break and some spam musubi's from L&L Drive-in, a Hawaiian fast food spot. I think they've opened up a location in Manhattan, which I've got to check out.
  • After driving for a bit more, we passed a bunch of shrimp trucks. Giovanni's is the most famous one, but our guidebook recommended Romy's shrimp shack, since Romy's harvests the shrimp fresh every day. We ordered two plates of prawns (btw, the girl at the shack informed us that a prawn is more meaty than shrimp and has more of a "lobster flavor"), one plate sauteed in garlic and butter and the other sauteed with sweet and spicy sauce (plates were $11 each and came with two scoops of rice). It was delicious! Nice, juicy prawns. Our hands got all sticky from the yummy sauces and juices from the prawns, but luckily, Romy's had a sink handy for us to wash our hands. Right next to the shack is a shrimp farm where they offered "shrimp fishing tours." While we were there, we only saw Japanese tourists fishing.
  • We drove past Waimea Beach Park after circling the parking lot , failing in our attempts to find a spot. Waimea is the site for the biggest waves in Oahu, check out Riding Giants for more on surfing culture. Thinking that we'd be clever and find a "secret parking spot," we took a turn on one of the first streets past the parking lot and parked on a residential street. Then we took a ten minute hike through the brush and bushes, hoping to find a "secret trail" to Waimea Beach. Unfortunately, all we ended up with for our efforts were lots of itchy scratches and buckets of sweat! It turned out the path we were on lead to a great view of the beach, not the beach itself. Oh well! So if you want to check out Waimea Beach Park, get there early. We had hoped to jump off the giant jumping rock, but the water looked pretty choppy and no one was jumping. Another time, Waimea!
  • Next we drove into Hale'iwa, the largest town on the North Shore and home to Matsumoto's shave ice. We actually ran out of time and weren't able to try Matusmoto's, but I think I had it the last time I was in the North Shore. Since the main reason we had decided to go to the North Shore was to go jet-skiing, we found the jet ski place, Watercraft Connections, just in the boat harbor across from a restaurant. Unfortunately, they were all booked up until 4:30 pm. Even though Watercraft doesn't take reservations and it's first come, first serve, they will book day of. Moral of the story? If you want to go jet skiing, go early in the day. We decided to chance it and booked two large Yamaha jet skis at 4:30 pm. More on the results of that great decision, later.
  • Since we now had some time to kill, we decided to drive back down the highway and look for turtle beach, which we had missed the first time up. After making a wrong turn or two, we finally came upon the beach and saw three giant green sea turtles! Apparently, turtles love to eat seaweed and the reason turtle beach is so popular is since there is so much seaweed growing on the rocks. Wet or dry, the turtles really looked like rocks! The turtles we saw all weighed over 200 pounds and seemed to be able to ignore the crowds of ogling "nature watchers." The turtles took their time napping on the beach, and they moved really slow on land.
  • After gawking at the turtles, we drove back towards Shark's Cove, apparently the best place to snorkel on Oahu, in the summer. Unfortunately, since it was winter, the waves were sort of rough and I think we actually ended up snorkeling in the tidepools just next to Shark's Cove. I'm not totally sure, but in any case, the water was super duper shallow with tons of rocks. There were a million different fish though and it was a lot of fun, although sometimes painful when you hit a rock. We rented snorkel gear from a little surf shop across the street, just next to the Foodland. In the future, I'd recommend getting snorkel gear ahead of time another spot, since the snorkeling stuff was kind of overpriced. That's what you got to pay for convenience I guess!
  • The afternoon was getting late, so we drove back to Hale'iwa to finally get some jet skiing in. They were running a bit late and our guide said, "The water's kind of choppy." Ominous last words! The cool thing about Watercraft Connections is they let you jet ski out on the open water, not on a circular track like the other places in Oahu. Since it was so late in the afternoon though, the water had gotten really rough and it was pretty scary to jet ski against the waves. I thought I was going to topple over! With such giant waves and lots of choppiness, we couldn't really pick up much speed, although I got plenty of salt water in my face and mouth. Imagine miles and miles of giant, scary dark blue waves all headed in your direction and threatening to capsize your weak Yamaha jet ski. Let's just say we didn't up going very fast and just bobbed up and down like helpless bouys. Pretty freaky experience, but I think jet skiing on relatively flat water and at higher speeds would be pretty fun. Oh well!

After jet skiing, we got back into the car and sped back to Oahu in order to make the Welcome Dinner for the wedding, which was at Tiki's Grill (great Kahlua pork). What a fun day!

BTW, if you're looking for a guide to Oahu, I'd recommend Oahu Revealed, the book we used on our trip. I finally picked it after going through the Lonely Planet, Moon Handbook and the Rough Guide at the Barnes & Noble in Ala Moana mall, this giant open-air mall just west of Waikiki.

The Oahu Revealed guide is pretty colorful and not always positive, which makes you feel as though it's more honest. I didn't feel the restaurant guide section was that helpful, but the maps and place descriptions were great.

In any case, I had an awesome time in Hawaii.
Alright, when I get a chance I'll tell you about my favorite food in Honolulu.

Aloha and happy new year!