Go! Insiders’ Hawaii


Big Island Bonus

Taco Taste-Off
“I ate the best fish taco I have ever had during my visit to the Big Island in October of 1999, which inspired the “Maui Fish Taco Off” for [my husband] Ken and me during our visit to Maui in 2006. The fish taco was bought from a taco stand in a pink trailer in Hawi (called Hula La’s Mexican Kitchen). I still dream about it.”—Cyndra Krogen-Morton, Sacramento  

Learn the Lingo—“Before you go to Hawaii, devote some time to learning how to pronounce Hawaiian words; there are a few basic rules and it’s fairly easy to learn, and
it will make your trip more enjoyable.”—Jeff Utberg, Sacramento

The Lap of Luxury
Imagine staying at a hotel so large, it has a tram to take you around the property. That was one of the highlights for Janice Walukones when she and her husband, Allan, stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in 2006. Not a fan of trams? You can travel the property’s 62 acres by boat through the resort’s canal. “A couple of times, we just sat on it to go around the big circle,” Walukones says. “It was so pretty.” And should you choose to walk the property (you’re looking at about a mile and change), you’ll be treated to more than 1,800 artworks from Asian, Western and Oceanic cultures. Other amenities of this award-winning resort, which is located about 40 minutes outside of Kona in Waikoloa: a salon, spa and fitness center, swimming pools, tennis courts, a shopping center, wedding chapel, a multitude of activities (including a chance to swim with dolphins), two golf courses and an array of dining choices. (808) 886-1234; hiltonwaikoloavillage.com

Memorable Maui

Romance at Sunset
Shanie Bradley was looking for a special restaurant to take her husband, Bill, for his 40th birthday when the couple visited Maui in 2007. Wanting to ensure a reservation, Bradley called The Plantation House Restaurant—recommended to her by a friend of a friend—weeks in advance. The maitre d’ then looked at the calendar to see what time the sun would be setting the day the Bradleys would be dining, so they wouldn’t miss it. The view—described by Bradley as “the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen” and garnering her one of her favorite photos to date—did not disappoint. But it was the service that most impressed Bradley, who lives in Sacramento. “They gave us the best table in the house, literally, because we were the first to arrive,” recalls Bradley, noting that other patrons in the restaurant—located on the Plantation Golf Course at Kapalua—“looked better.” The waiter even brought her a black napkin so that lint from a white napkin wouldn’t show on her dress. Entrées average about $30 a plate, but “for what you got, it was a bargain,” she says. “I’ve paid a lot more before for a lot less— let’s just put it that way.” (808) 669-6299; theplantationhouse.com

Child Care Connection
Upon recommendation from their hotel’s concierge, Roseville residents Mica Heilmann and her husband, Scott, enlisted the services of The Nanny Connection for then 4-month-old son, Taylor, when the family traveled to Maui in 2008. “They were very responsive to our needs, changes in schedule and changes in location,” says Heilmann, who used the Maui agency three times. “They make an effort to keep you with the same nanny for multiple appointments so you and your children can get to know the person. It was worth every penny to have a couple little windows of time where we could relax and enjoy time as a couple, while still getting to have our child with us for the majority of our trip.” Rates start at $18 to $20 per hour for one child, three-hour minimum. (808) 875-4777; thenannyconnection.com

Splurge a Little—“Budget hotels are not worth it in Hawaii. Spend the money to get a better-class hotel. It’s worth the $50 or $75 extra—even if it’s just one night.”—Hal Silliman, Sacramento

Award-Winning Hawaiian Cuisine
“One of our favorite restaurants is on Maui. It is called the Haliimaile General Store. Great food! It’s been around for a long time and used to be a real local
place but over the years word has spread and now you’ll find many tourists there.”—Bev Bock, El Dorado Hills

Halloween in Lahaina
“Everyone dresses up in costume and parades down the street. You can sit on the side of the street and just watch everyone go by or get a great seat on the balconies at a restaurant and watch the festivities.”—Kristine Matulich, Elk Grove

Kauai Dreams

Hot spot for Golf
When you play on a golf course that hosts such greats as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, you know the place is going to be at least decent. But describing Kauai’s Poipu Bay Golf Course simply as “decent” is a bit of an understatement. “That may have been the most immaculate course I have been on,” says Mark Rakich, who played a few rounds during his trip to Kauai in 2007. “I don’t know that it was as majestic as Pebble Beach, but it was immaculately maintained. Perfect fairways. Perfect greens.”
     The thrill of golfing on a course that Tiger plays didn’t escape Rakich, who lives in Sacramento. “It was a lot of fun because I’ve watched Tiger and Phil play it on TV. There were a number of very familiar scenes, not from having played it before but from having watched the real players on TV,” says Rakich, who adds the course was “relatively playable for the average player. If you are a golfer and have your clubs, you have to play Poipu.” (800) 858-6300; poipubaygolf.com

Go Topless
—“Rent a convertible—it’s a great way to travel all the way around the island or even just to the grocery store.”—Janice Walukones

Nice Noodles
“Best noodles on the island of Kauai—Hamura’s Saimin Stand. When you look at the building, it looks as if it is ready to fall apart. When you go into the restaurant, you will see a winding counter with low stools with room for about 25 people to sit down. There is always a wait and you just sit wherever there is an opening. The saimin noodles are the best I’ve ever had, and I don’t like noodles. They also serve lilikoi pie, which is pretty good, and during the day will serve shaved ice. Many of the locals stop by and take some home.”—Kris Poe, Newcastle

Oh, Oahu

Acres of Animals
Isabella Powers had a special reason for visiting Oahu’s Honolulu Zoo this past June. The intrepid 9-year-old Sacramentan was filming a segment for “Isabella’s Animal Show” (seen intermittently in Sacramento on Comcast Channel 17). Interviewing the zoo’s director, curators and zoo keepers, Powers learned a lot about the zoo and its inhabitants, which she passed on to viewers: The zoo is 42 square acres, is home to almost 1,000 animals and houses many of the animals in a natural habitat setting, rather than cages. “We saw rhinos, giraffes and peacocks walking by,” recalls Powers, who made the trip with her parents and younger sister. The zoo also houses a lot of exotic animals, including Komodo dragons and Sumatran tigers.
     “I liked the lemurs because they had their own little habitat,” Powers says. “They were so relaxed, and they lay on their backs and would go purr purr.”
     Powers recommends the zoo for children ages 3 to 12, although timid tots may feel more comfortable at the petting zoo. (808) 971-7174; honoluluzoo.org

Honolulu’s Soup Nazi
“Best for ‘the real deal Hawaiian food’: Ono Hawaiian Foods. About a mile from Waikiki; tiny, funky, no-frills joint that serves up authentic Hawaiian fare. The owners treat you a little like Seinfeld’s ‘Soup Nazi.’ The place is always packed, so arrive early for dinner, otherwise they’ll make you stand outside in a line in the pouring rain. And it doesn’t
matter if you’re an old person in a wheelchair.”—Jeff Utberg    



Kauai With the Guys
When Dan Burgess and two buddies went to Kauai in 2007, they shared one thing in common: All three vetoed the idea of planning ahead and just did what struck their fancies. “We’re more doers,” says Burgess, who lives in Rocklin. The guys—who had about three weeks’ notice before convening at one the of guy’s parents’ timeshare—were not a loss for things to do: Hiking at Haena State Park, ziplining on a cable over Princeville, the resort community where they stayed, touring the entire island by helicopter, exploring the Kilauea Lighthouse and nearby wildlife refuge.
     What stood out most? “The helicopter was cool because I had never been in a helicopter before. You got to see the whole island. It took you right up to the edge of the waterfalls,” Burgess recalls. The zipline, on the other hand, was a bit of a letdown. “I thought it was going to be a little more adrenaline-laden than it was,” he says.
     If he had a do-over, Burgess would have been a bit more prepared for some of the activities, for example: choosing not to wear flip-flops while hiking. The rain-slick terrain had him slipping and sliding.
All in all, Burgess has fond memories and appreciated the Hawaiian culture’s laidback attitude. “They are a lot more easygoing,” says Burgess, who recalls getting up at 7 one morning only to find nothing open, not even a coffee shop. “They get up late and stay up late and nothing is in a hurry. That was kinda neat to see.”

Traversing Kauai’s Terrain
When friends invited Folsom resident Bill Beirne, his fiancée, Linda Chaney, and two of Bill’s kids to share in their timeshare on Kauai, they jumped at the invitation.
     To show their appreciation, Beirne and Chaney paid for ATV (all Terrain Vehicle) rides touring Kauai’s lush countryside. Everyone donned shirts, pants, helmets, riding boots and goggles for the adventure. (Touring Kauai’s often-rainy north side involves mud. Lots of mud.) After a quick lesson on ATV operations, the group set out with their tour leader. “If you go off the path, they take a twig off the bush and put it in your helmet as a trophy,” says Beirne. (Daughter Kelly received the honors.) The four-hour outing, which included a stop for swimming and lunch, included touring the meadow where Jurassic Park was filmed. “Everybody had a good time,” Beirne says. “Nobody knew what they were doing, but we all learned together.”

Waves of Waikiki
“The best place for people to surf is in Waikiki and the reason why I say that is that there are so many places to surf,” says Sacramento resident Patrick Powers, who’s been hitting the waves in Hawaii for 15 years. “Also, it has the ‘aloha spirit,’ which means everyone is nice in the wave—‘You take this wave, bruddah’—they just have a great attitude. Other places can be a little more aggressive, more territorial.” The warm water (average temperature is between 72 and 76 degrees) and easy, rolling waves add to Waikiki’s allure for surfers without a lot of experience. “It’s made for beginners and for learners,” Powers says.
     Powers recommends Surf Bruddahs (surfbruddahs.com) and its co-owner Malcolm Yee for board rentals. “Really cool guy. Really, really nice and he has really nice boards; he doesn’t have junk.” The best part, the board will be delivered to your hotel, then picked up when you are done.
     One bit of advice Powers has for newbies: Make sure to put sunscreen on the back of your legs. “When you are on the board, you don’t think about the back of your legs.”

The “Hang Loose” Spirit on the Big Island
It’s been almost 11 years since Hal Silliman visited the town of Pahoa on the Big Island, but he still remembers it fondly. “It’s a very charming island,” he says. “I’d go back.” Describing it as having a “hippie flair,” Silliman compares Pahoa to Bolinas, the Marin County community known for its residents’ preference for remaining tourist free. However, Pahoa’s residents, at least the ones Silliman encountered, were friendly.
     “[They were] very talkative and, if I must say so myself, a little spacey. I met one guy, he said he had worked for NASA and that Pahoa is perfectly located in the astro-physical cosmological order of the universe because of a certain number, and that this was the place to be, to be in line with the forces of the universe.”
     Silliman, who lives in Sacramento, says he spent some time on a clothing-optional beach—“with a good book and enough clothing to avoid an non-optional sunburn,” he says—where people went around selling “enhanced” oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies. “I did not buy them, by the way,” Silliman insists, laughing. “They looked very unhealthy. Despite of how they may have made you feel, they looked very unhealthy.”
     Silliman says Pahoa is great, “if you’re into a laid back non-triple A experience, because you’ve got to get out there. You’ve got to rent a car and find the activities yourself.”
      Who would he not recommend it for?
     “Gucci-wearing tourists.”

Maui’s Hana Highway: Scary, But Worth It
Elk Grove resident Gina McVey has toured Maui’s famous Hana Highway, the 68-mile-long stretch of highways 36, 360 and 31 full of hairpin turns and one-lane bridges, three times and says she’d go back again.
     “Each time I learn something different,” McVey says.
     McVey recommends going with one of the many companies that offer bus tours of Hana, as the journey, she says, would leave the average driver, let alone tourist, a bit shaken. “We went up a little road and before we got to the top the driver had to honk his horn to let other cars know we were there because it was a blind curve,” McVey recalls.
     The trip may have warranted a little Dramamine for the weak of stomach but the payoff of McVey’s tour included lush waterfalls, stops at a black-sand beach, the Pools of Oheo (also known as the Seven Sacred Pools), Charles Lindbergh’s gravesite, a winery and more. “I saw tumbleweeds, an old-time store. We stopped by the side of the road and had apple bananas and banana bread,” McVey says. “It felt like you were in a different world. It was so relaxing, so calming and the people were so nice.
     “I tell everyone when you go to Maui, you have to do the road to Hana. Just be prepared to be a little scared.”

Eco-Conscious Snorkeling on Maui

Cathryn Rakich sheepishly admits that being environmentally conscious was not the reason she and her husband, Mark, chose the Pacific Whale Foundation for snorkeling when they visited Maui in 2007. “It was totally by happenstance,” says Rakich, admitting the outfit’s proximity to the couple’s condo in Maui was the driving factor. But Rakich, who lives in Sacramento, says she was impressed by how educational and tourist-oriented the staff was. “We didn’t have a bunch of grizzled old guys; we had a lot of enthusiastic, excited guides.” The fact that the excursion was environmentally conscious didn’t hurt, either. PWF’s ships are powered by recycled vegetable cooking oil. All of the utensils, cups and plates used are made of biodegradable material—potato starch, corn starch or sugar cane. And all waste is brought to shore and pumped out on land instead of in the ocean. Of course, the snorkeling (the couple went out to Molokini) wasn’t too shabby, either. “It was in this protective volcanic crater and it’s just perfect for tropical fish and coral reefs,” Rakich recalls.

The Maui of Days Gone By
“One of my favorite places to stay is the Hotel Hana-Maui and Honua Spa. We have been going to Maui for several years and I have been sad to see all the new high-rise hotel chains coming in and spoiling the natural beauty of the area. The Hotel Hana-Maui and Honua Spa reminds one of old Maui—very relaxing and peaceful.”—Bev Bock, El Dorado Hills

The Most Important Meal of the Day, Maui Style
“There’s always a line, but it has the best breakfast food! Everywhere you look, you just see beautiful ocean.”—Gina McVey, Elk Grove, referring to the Gazebo restaurant at the Napili Shores Condos in Maui

Missouri and Arizona on Oahu
When Derek Murray made his first trip to Honolulu last year, visiting the Battleship Missouri and USS Arizona memorials at Pearl Harbor, was a must-do. “I don’t know how you could go to Honolulu and not see it,” says Murray, who lives in Sacramento. Murray admits that except for a few key points, his historical knowledge about the sites—especially the Battleship Missouri Memorial—was a blur. “I didn’t know anything about the Missouri. Maybe I learned about it in school, but I didn’t remember it,” he says, noting that he found it particularly interesting to learn that the ship had an all wood deck, especially given its age, and that it was used as recently as Desert Storm. He was also moved learning about the USS Arizona Memorial. “It made you think about all of the people that died there,” he says. “It made you reflect on some of the sacrifices that some of the people made.” For more information on visiting the Battleship Missouri Memorial, call (877) mighty-mo or log on to ussmissouri.org. For more information on visiting the USS Arizona Memorial, call or (808) 422-0561 or log on to nps.gov/usar.