Waikiki Hula on the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound

Watching graceful hula dancers is one of my favorite activities during visits to Honolulu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Many nights during the week you can watch a hula show for free at Kuhio Beach Hula Mound on Waikiki Beach. Located just east of the famous Duke Kahanamoku statue, you won’t miss the crowds filling in just before show time. The Hawaiian hula is a living record of the island’s history and legends of the Hawaiian people. The dancers’ movements, music and chanting combine to tell the stories of their forefathers.

The show starts after the tiki torch lighting which adds to the festive atmosphere. The outdoor shows feature local hula dancers ranging from novice keiki (children) to aunties (adults). I like to go to the show multiple nights to watch different halau (dance groups) perform. Each group has its own repertoire of songs, costumes and instruments.

Hula Kuhio Mound Waikiki

If you are anywhere along the beach, you will know the show is about to begin when you hear the traditional blowing of the conch shell. Sometimes a torch lighter joins them as they make their way along the beach. This alerts vacationers to get their spot so as not to miss the start of the show. Bring a beach chair or pick up an inexpensive beach mat from any of the local quick marts and grab a spot near the mound.

Usually a narrator will introduce the history of Hawaiian culture and language to the group. Before the dancers begin, you will learn about each song’s message and the story it tells.

These dancers may wear traditional hula attire or more modern dress. To make the time-honored hula skirts, the dancers harvest and treat the long flat leaves of the green ti plant. Colorful tropical flowers are fashioned into beautiful, fragrant leis. A variety of nuts grown in the islands are strung together as necklaces.

Dancers share the mound with vocalists who chant and sing the traditional stories. Musicians join in with their mix of modern and traditional instruments to make each tale come alive. The large drums made of gourds or tree trunks have a full sound which carries along the beach.

Weather-permitting, you can catch these hula shows Tues., Thurs. and Sat. at 6:30-7:30 p.m. (6:00-7:00 Nov.-Jan). These hula shows are one of my favorite stops on trips to Waikiki. Check out these shows often to learn more about the people and culture of the Hawaiian island. Aloha…

70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Attack

In the early morning hours of December 7, 1941, Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor Hawaii. Before the day was over, the Unites States lost airplanes, battleship and many lives in this surprise attack.

This week, we remember the 70th anniversary of this World War II milestone with events at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The brand new visitor center was opened on Pearl Harbor day of 2010 as part of the final reunion of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. Members of this group are in their 90’s and many find it hard to travel long distances to these gatherings.

We are fortunate to have met several of these heroes and are touched by  their stories.

A visit Ford Island and Pearl Harbor is moving. Sites include the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Oklahoma Memorial, USS Bowfin, USS Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum. Nearby Punchbowl National Cemetery is nestled in a volcanic crater and narrates the war time timeline through mosaics.

In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, we share stories of service men who were at Pearl Harbor during the bombings and we were fortunate to meet these Pearl Harbor survivors. The personal stories they tell are much more powerful than reading history in books. These gentlemen in their 80s and 90s have plenty of spunk and courage. Read their stories, see picture and watch video of our heroes. Click on the links below to hear their testimonials.

Arizona Memorail in Pearl Harbor Honolulu Hawaii

Waikiki World War One Honor Roll Remembers Brave Soldiers

The World War One Honor Roll is across the street from the larger and more well known Waikiki Natatorium. The massive stone recognizes the 101 Hawaiian Territory soldiers who served in World War I. Each hero’s name is etched in one of three columns on the marble stone. This monument reminds us of the bravery of these people who served for United States or British forces during the war.

The Waikiki Natatorium and World War One Honor Roll are located at the east end of Waikiki Beach on Kalakaua Ave just east of Kapahulu Ave. When you visit, stop by the nearby Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo.

World War 1 Honor Roll In Waikiki

World War 1 Honor Roll In Waikiki

 

Another Perspective of Diamond Head Honolulu Hawaii

For a real adventure talk a walk around Diamond Head. Really! Around Diamond Head! Put on your comfortable shoes because we have a long hike ahead of us. Plan on four to five miles depending on your starting location.

The best time to take this walk is just before sunrise, before the day heats up. If you are starting from Waikiki, walk along Kalakaua Avenue and listen to the quiet of the morning. Traffic is light, mostly trucks delivering food and supplies to businesses. Say “hello” to your fellow early morning walkers and those visitors too jet lagged to sleep in. As you pass the Police Station near the Duke Kahanamoku statue, watch the surfers out catching the best waves of the day. Just outside the station, inside a fenced area are the four ancient Pohaku Stones, a gift from Tahitian healers to Hawaiian residents. Watch out for maintenance workers clearing trash or sweeping sand from the sidewalks to prepare the beach for the onslaught of sun bathers.

Continue walking past Kapiolani Park but don’t stop here before dawn. On your right, you’ll pass the huge banyan trees in front of the Waikiki Aquarium and Natatorium. Continuing along Kalakaua you will see sleepy tourists outside drinking their coffee and hotel workers clearing garden debris from the sidewalk. At the end of the park, take a right onto Diamond Head Road and begin your ascent.

This stretch can get crowded with walkers, runners, bikers and surfers early in the morning. Stay to the right and out of the traffic flow. Beautiful homes are nestled into the side of the volcano. As you pass Kaluahole, Makalei and Le’Ahi Beaches, the number of cars parked on the side of the road increase. Surfers know where the best waves are. If you want to try your luck here, be aware of a long, steep decline to get to the water on sometimes unstable slopes.

Listen to the new sounds along this stretch. Roosters crowing greetings to the new day. Other colorful birds like the Red-Crested Cardinal rustle in the branches. Keep your eyes open for mongoose darting through the rocks. A few stray cats cruise by checking out the scene. Check out the view over the Pacific as the sky begins to brighten.

Soon you will pass Diamond Head Lighthouse. The original was built in 1899 and replaced in 1917. The Fresnel lens shines brightly warning ships away from the jagged shoreline. Take in the view from the street as this lighthouse stands on the current residence of the 14th Coast Guard District Commander and is not open to the public.

Continue along past Kuilei Cliffs beach where you can rest your weary feet for a moment on the lava rock wall. Say hello to the master gardeners who keep this tropical garden trim and neat. This is a prime spot to wait for the sun to crest the ocean as the day officially begins.

Next up is the Amelia Earhart Monument and parking area. Watch out for buses as this is a favorite spot for tour guides to stop for photos. The Pacific views and beaches below are breathtaking. Look along the coast to the left and see Black Point and Doris Duke’s Shangri La. Built in the 1930′s, you can now tour the home and Islamic treasures Duke collected.

Across the street is Diamond Head Park, endowed by Muriel Flanders, and can be identified by the plaque on a large stone. She led the effort to replace the weeds and garbage with native plants. We are not quite at the half way point. Let’s continue on our walk.

As we reach the top of the rise, we will take a left as Diamond Head Road turns and Kahala Road goes straight along the coast. The large park at the intersection is a common gathering spot for charity walks and other events. Now we begin our long descent on the inland side of Diamond Head.

On the right, we pass Fort Rutger Military Reservation. Several buildings out in front and gates on the side of the road further along are made from lava rocks. Few remnants remain of the former Officers Club on the left side of the street. Also on the left is the driveway into Diamond Head State Park. If you still have energy, walk into the park then hike to the top of Diamond Head for spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Waikiki, and Honolulu. On your .8 mile hike you will climb 560 feet above the crater floor.

If you are not up for that hike, check out the outdoor workout area in the park on the right in front of Kapiolani Community College. Then walk to the front of the college for a tour of their cactus garden and views of Kahala and Koko Head Crater. If this is Saturday morning, check out the farmers market in the college parking lot. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and delectable treats await you. Pick up a cup of Kona coffee to sip while you shop. Taste island and other exotic dishes, even bakery items. As you get back to your walk, check out the Peace Garden nestled in the hillside across from the college entrance.

Now we are on the home stretch. Honolulu and Waikiki stand before you. Diamond Head Road becomes Monsarrat Avenue as we return to the Diamond Head neighborhood. Check out the stores and restaurants like the Diamond Head Market and Grill.

Continue under the tree canopy as you walk along the fence outside the Honolulu Zoo. On the weekends, local artists display their art on the fence and chat with each other or work on new art pieces. On your right is the Waikiki Shell where you can enjoy the outdoors and listen to music. We are back at Kapiolani Park. Check out the gazebo and statues or sit on a park bench and take in the sights.

What a great way to start the day. Now you won’t feel guilty about lounging on Waikiki Beach during the afternoon.

Learn more about off the beaten path site in Honolulu with Oahu Revealed.

Hawaii Revealed Books Review

People often ask me how we find off the beaten path places the “Where Are You Today?” crew visits. Many of our travel ideas come from reading books, magazines, newspapers and blogs.

The books we use the most are the “Revealed” series of books by Andrew Doughty and Harriet Friedman. The candid reviews tell it like it is. If you are planning a trip to the Hawaiian islands, I highly recommend these books for your trip.

These books were our constant companions on our first trips and enhanced our experience. The activities and hotel information we not sugar coated. The margins of our books are filled with notes and additional facts we add each trip back. The publisher posts updates on a website so the content stays up to date.

Mars? No. Haleakala National Park Maui, Hawaii

Mars? No. Haleakala National Park Maui, Hawaii. Photo credit: Noel F. Williams

Oahu

Oahu was the first Hawaiian island we visited. We purchased for the in depth activity and sightseeing information. Detailed reviews and aerial photos of hotels combined with zoned maps gave us the tools we needed to choose lodging to meet our comfort levels.

We rented a car and planned day trips based on the recommended routes. This book was our user guide as we navigated around the island. When we visited Pearl Harbor, we were glad we followed the suggestions to arrive early to reserve our tickets to visit the Arizona Memorial.

The book includes tips like: “This Chinese restaurant does not serve tea unless you ask for it.”

The section on Hawaiian words and Pidgin or Hawaiian slang proved very helpful.

Maui

Maui was the next island we visited and we were glad to have the

Big Island of Hawaii

On our trip the the Big Island of Hawaii, we made sure to bring

Kauai

When visiting Kauai, check out the

2010 Honolulu Toys For Tots Motorcycle Parade Hawaii

Street Bikers United Hawaii (SBU) and the United States Marine Corp Reserves sponsored the 36th annual Toys for Tots parade through Honolulu, Hawaii on December 5, 2010. The ride draws between four and five thousand bikers to Waikiki.

“These bikes are coming from all over Oahu but we get some from Maui. We have some from Kauai. We have some from the Big Island,” said Street Bikers United Oahu President Rick Davis. “They ship their bikes over in a container usually a week ahead of time. They come just to do that once a year.”

Santa on Bike 2010 Street Bikers United Toys for Tots Honolulu, Hawaii

Santa on Bike 2010 Street Bikers United Toys for Tots Honolulu, Hawaii

Santa on Bike 2010 Street Bikers United Toys for Tots Honolulu, Hawaii

Ray Pagan, Street Bikers United Hawaii State Treasure, said bikers come in from Japan and the mainland also. Ray and Rick Davis organize this annual event. Pre-event work includes gathering donations from businesses to offset expenses which are over $12,000 each year. Bikers are asked to donate $2 each to ride in the parade. Money raised pays for police, permits, insurance and other expenses.

Motorcycle Riders 2010 Street Bikers United Toys for Tots Honolulu, Hawaii

Motorcycle Riders 2010 Street Bikers United Toys for Tots Honolulu, Hawaii

There is much work involved and they organize the day because of the kids who benefit from the toys. Marines stationed at Kapiolani Community College collect over 10,000 toys at the end of the parade route, it’s no surprise that the most common toys given are the fastest RC trucks and cars. Yesterday, Christmas morning was brighter for 10,000 island children because of the generosity of SBU, riders and sponsors. We checked out the bikes and talked to the riders at Magic Island before the parade start. Emcee Michelle Shockley from KPOI 105.9 FM and music from Flux Capacitor entertained the crowds. Club members mingled and checked out the motorcycles decorated with holiday ornaments and loaded with toys. The Kaneohe Windward Harley Owners Group was well represented. Hawaii depends on tourism and this event contributes. Every year we watch tourists lining the parade route and cheering on the bikers. Off island riders stay at Hawaiian hotels, eat in restaurants and patronize bars. Some Waikiki residents are calling for an end to the parade due to noisy bikes.

“I would like to apologize, especially to the people in Waikiki that live there. We are going to try to hold the noise down, if possible.” Rick Davis continued, “If you can kokua us a little bit, we are only about an hour and half through Waikiki and it is a good cause for the kids. If you can try to have a little tolerance, we are trying to get the group to hold the noise down when we go though there. Thank you very much.”

SBU reached out to each club in advance asking for their cooperation. Before the parade start, Rick reminded riders to be respectful of Waikiki residents and not rev their engine on Kalakaua Avenue. Riders came out decked in holiday colors and we even saw a few Santa and Mrs. Clauses in the parade. Bikes of all shapes, sizes and styles were represented from Rick Davis’ orange trike to a pink Vespa Barbie and everything in between.

Rick Davis President Street Bikers United Oahu brings toys

Rick Davis President Street Bikers United Oahu brings toys

See video from the 2009 Honolulu Toys for Tots motorcycle parade. Click on the image below to see the “Where Are  You Today?” video of the 36th annual 2010 Honolulu Tots for Tots parade along Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Sounds of Aloha from Around the World

On those cold Midwestern nights, we get the hankering for the warm Spirit of Aloha. There is something comforting about the sounds of Hawaiian music filling the house. We listen to Hawaiian 105 KINE streaming on the internet from our home in the summer or winter.

Hanauma Bay on Oahu Hawaii

Hanauma Bay on Oahu Hawaii

When you are ready to get back to the islands, listen to Hawaiian 105.

Waikiki Honolulu Motorcycles at Toys for Tots Biker Event

Harley Davidson motorcycles will roar in Honolulu, Hawaii and along Waikiki Beach on Sunday December 5, 2010. This is date of the 36th annual Toys for Tots Motorcycle Ride sponsored by Street Bikers United Hawaii. The motorcycle toy run benefits United States Marine Corps’ Toys For Tots program.

Waikiki Honolulu Motorcycles at Toys for Tots Biker Event 2009

Waikiki Honolulu Motorcycles at Toys for Tots Biker Event 2009

According to Ray Pagan, State Treasurer for Street Bikers United Hawaii, the event draws participants from Honolulu and parts of Oahu as well as other Hawaiian islands, mainlanders and even motorcycle riders from other countries. The ride begins in Honolulu at Magic Island, rides though Waikiki along Kalakaua Avenue beside the blue water of Waikiki Beach, ending at Kapiolani Community College where the toys are loaded into awaiting trucks.

Street Bikers United Hawaii sponsor the Honolulu Toys for Tots Motorcycle Event

Street Bikers United Hawaii sponsor the Honolulu Toys for Tots Motorcycle Event

Spectators line the route cheering the bikers who ride in a variety of outfits. Some wear their club colors and leathers while others dress more seasonally in t-shirts and shorts. Last year we saw Mrs. Claus, the Grinch and an elf riding in the parade. I even saw Santa riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle. These rider donate 10,000 toys to brighten the holidays for keiki.

2009 Tots for Tots Motorcycle Event in Honoulu, Hawaii

2009 Tots for Tots Motorcycle Event in Honoulu, Hawaii

Click on the picture below to watch video of the 2009 35th annual Toys for Tots Motorcycle Ride sponsored by Street Bikers United Hawaii. Notice how quiet Waikiki Beach, Honolulu is at the start of the video and how loud things get when thousands of bikes take over Kalakaua Avenue.

Click on the image below to view this episode of “Where Are You Today?”

If you plan to be in Honolulu and ride a motorcycle, come on down for the Toys for Tots parade and bring a new toy. If you do not ride, check out the parade and cheer on these riders who are supporting the United States Marine Corps’ Toys For Tots program and making the holidays brighter for tots.

Contact Ray Pagan from Street Bikers United Hawaii for more information or find out if your city is hosting a Toys for Tots Motorcycles Biker Event.

** See video of the 2010 Honolulu Toys for Tots Parade.

Puka Dog Hawaiian Style Hot Dogs in Waikiki Honolulu Hawaii

When we heard about Puka Dog Hawaiian style hot dogs in Waikiki, Honolulu from the Anthony Bourdain Travel Channel show, Noel said “I have to try those hot dogs.” We live in Chicago, the hot dog and pizza capital of the world and it is hard to beat our local restaurants on these items. Noel was ready for the taste test. Being a vegetarian, I agreed to join him but did not expect to partake.

When we arrived I found the “hot dogs” choices on the menu either Polish Sausage which Noel likes and (surprise!) veggie dogs. We both were going to have lunch. The choice of dog was just the first of our options.
April M. Williams Hawaii restaurants
Any good dog needs a bun and this is not your typical bun split down the side. The Puka Dog bun is tube shaped with a hole at one end. After you choose your dog your bun is slide onto a toasting spike. Seconds later, you watch as your Puka Dog is assembled.

Puka Dog Hawaiian Style Hot Dogs in Waikiki Honolulu Hawaii

Puka Dog Hawaiian Style Hot Dogs in Waikiki Honolulu Hawaii

Your sauce selection, either mild or spicy, is dispensed into your bun. Next comes the relish. While some may be traditionalists, opting for ketchup or mustard, we tried the unique tropical versions. Tropical papaya, pineapple, coconut, guava, star fruit, mangoes or bananas relish is squirted into your bun on top of your sauce selection.

Finally, they slide your choice of dog into the tube. You’ll be glad these are served wrapped in a paper sleeve to keep the sauces from ending up in your lap. Dine alfresco on the patio or opt for take out.

Staff here was animated as they explained the menu to us and answered all our questions. The Waikiki store on Oahu is Puka Dog’s second location. The original Puka Dog is on the island of Kauai. Follow Puka Dog on Facebook too.

Click on the image below to view this episode of “Where Are You Today?” as we visit Puka Dog Waikiki.

Puka Dog Inc.
2301 Kuhio Avenue # 334
Honolulu/ Hawaii 96815
Phone: 808 923-4510

Puka Dog (Waikiki Town Center) on Urbanspoon

Hawaii Destination Wedding

Does your dream destination wedding include Hawaii? Friends recently asked me to recommend Hawaiian tours, resorts, destinations and wedding event planners for their upcoming Hawaiian wedding. We frequently visit the islands and have ideas we can suggest. For our trips, we design our own itinerary then reservations accordingly.

Since we are not familiar with wedding planning, Hawaiian tour planning, resorts and destination weddings, we offered to ask for recommendations.

The couple has a flexible schedule and is looking to tie the knot this fall or winter. The wedding could be in Hawaii or Hawaii may be their honeymoon destination. They would like to have an outdoor wedding. The couple is Catholic though a non-denominational ceremony is acceptable.

The group would like to visit one or two islands during their stay. Several friends and family members will accompany them on their trip. Four star hotels would be appropriate. During their stay, they are interested in activities though like to enjoy relaxing down time too. ATV rides or helicopters sound like fun. An all day hike into Haleakala is more active than they like. Pools and beaches are not a big draw.

They would like someone to arrange the wedding: license, photographer, official, meal, etc.

If you were married in Hawaii: What locations do you recommend? Any words of wisdom to share? I have a photographer lined up for their wedding for Shine Pics, but I’m a little lost on the rest of their requests.

If you are a Hawaii business: What services can you offer or recommend? Resorts, hotels, photographers with large portfolios of stock photos, activities, etc?

Sunrise over Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, Oahu

Sunrise over Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, Oahu

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