Mele Kaliki Maka!

Time is flying by and these are my last days in Hawaii. Whether it be in Maui or in Oahu, I have been made to feel at home since day one and for that I will miss Hawaii very much. Of course, it is certainly easy to get used to being here on these beautiful and bountiful islands.

I am making the most of my last days by soaking in the sun, walking across the shoreline daily, swimming alongside the tropical fish, sipping fruit juices, meeting people and listening to ukuleles. I try as much as possible to practice the Aloha Spirit. I am very fond of this culture and will take this state of mind with me wherever I go now.

Hawaii has taught me to be happier person. Perhaps because I have taken the time to travel and discover what I love – music music music – but both Maui and Oahu have added so many surprisingly heart warming things to my travels so far: brave, genuine people, places rich with beauty and grace, tranquility, healthy lifestyles and much talent.

Both islands are heaving with rich creativity whether it be in music or other forms of art. What a discovery… Every concert I have been too has woken up some inspiration in me. Granted some were more skilled than others, but all musicians I have come across have demonstrated passion and originality which I didn’t know was going to be so prevalent before arriving.

At home, we have the habit of seeing our usual street buskers, listening to our favorites, sharing music with friends perhaps, going to concerts hosted by familiar artists or genres and styles we are used to – it is rare that we venture off in unknown musical territory purposely, and even less so in different countries or geographical regions. And honestly, when you do, it opens your musical mind and it is truly worth it. I recommend paying more attention to foreign art forms when traveling, this will definitely enhance anyone’s stay.

I can’t wait to see what I discover next in Tahiti and in the Caribbean. Who knows what musical treats are lying there, and also what their cultures have to offer in terms of state of mind and mentality? It is exciting, and I’m also looking forward to simply exploring and continuing my tropical travel adventures.

Mahalo Hawaii, and Mele Kaliki Maka to everyone!

Boat trips and big hotels

another sunset view from Waikiki beach

A few weeks have gone by now since my arrival on Oahu, and I’m getting used to things here in the city of Waikiki. Although the contrast between the laid back atmosphere on the beach and the non stop liveliness of the city’s streets can be difficult to adapt to. One minute you could be sipping a tropical ice tea, facing the calm waves of the ocean rocking back and forth on the beach, listening to hula, the next you could be in a large crowd of people impatiently waiting to cross the street to desperately get into Macy’s or Starbucks.

I’ve been cruising around the shoreline and around Diamond Head mountain in a boat this past week. Once on Thursday at 3Pm, where the boat sailed around at quite high speed and played some reggae music on board – it was a great way to unwind, and the glass of champagne certainly helped. The next trip I took was on Sunday evening, at 5PM, a ”sunset booze cruise” – same boat, same route, but slower and all-inclusive drinks. This was also good fun, and seeing the sun set, the skies turn to orange, pink, purple, and then watching Waikiki’s city lights brighten as the day turned to night was delightful.

the Sheraton's infinity pool

I have been doing a lot of walking around the city, discovering the right, left and center of it. I go and visit the farmer’s markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (it changes location each day), and have become friendly with one of the market stands which now gives me free gifts such as coconut mochi bread or oatmeal cookies. I ate my very first malasada last Thursday: a Hawaiian treat consisting of two small yet thick doughnut-like buns with creamy custard in the middle – not the healthiest of snacks, but certainly worth a taste.

I’ve met some very interesting people on my little walks and explorations here and there – a very talented barman at Jimmy Buffet’s, who can do all sorts of swinging and juggling tricks with bottles, and makes some mean cocktails too. I also got talking to the captains of both boat trips, who recommend I come on their trips in the mornings to snorkel with the sea turtles.

From time to time, I will hang out in the big hotels: The Sheraton, The Royal Hawaiian, The Hilton Hawaiian Village, etc.. sit on a sun bed, drink a little something, have a dip. No one notices that I’m out of place – it must be because I’m here quietly and discreetly by myself and obviously don’t look too inconspicuous. I also recently came across a Sheraton towel card in my wallet which I picked up at the airport when I transited through Honolulu in October on my way to Maui – I will try and see if I can use it, if so, I will be able to have a dip in the infamous Sheraton infinity pool, which looks rather chic.

Kimo, the bartender from Jimmy Buffet's

The music scene is certainly overwhelming – there is so much to listen to, it is difficult to choose. There is generally a good selection of Hawaiian, jazz and rock music every night in a lot of different bars and venues. It depends on what you’re up for – a laid back background sound to go with a classy cocktail, an energetic dance in a club, a more traditional island setting, etc. But nothing caters for anything else, I was told to experience the up and coming creative musicians who ”aren’t allowed to play in Waikiki” (i.e. not tourist-y enough) play in downtown, also known as Chinatown. However, I have also been advised not to venture in this part of town alone, so I’m a bit apprehensive about checking it all out. Plus, there is so much to hear here in Waikiki, I am afraid I may musically OD if I hit downtown (if there is such a thing).

I have found an equivalent to Mana Foods, a natural health food store in Maui, called ‘Down to Earth’, which is very pleasant and makes excellent food you can eat out on a terrace. This place is in Kailua, which is the nearest smaller town to me. It is student friendly town: cheaper prices, health food stores, internet cafés, small convenience stores, massage therapist places that are considerably less expensive than in the center of Waikiki.

And that is one down factor, Waikiki is extremely expensive. If only money grew on palm trees!

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

I am now in the center of Waikiki, on Lime Street to be precise (not to be amusingly confused with Lemon Street, another Waikiki neighbourhood!), and literally a 10 mins walk from the bustling Waikiki Beach Walk.

Just a 2 mins walk up my block brings me to a nice little shopping area called Mc Cully, which has some very interesting Asian restaurants, a 7 eleven, a coffee and tea place, and other little conveniences such as a nail salon and a massage clinic. My room has two very large windows that give onto the city’s skyscrapers – it is certainly more noisy at night, but I love being in the heart of things.

The 10 mins walk into town is lovely, I cross a bridge and I’m there right in the city center. One of the nearest hot spots to me is the Hard Rock Café. I absolutely love walking in and out of town, and the fact that it is so easy and safe to do so. There are no dark alleys nor weirdos to cross paths with.

dolphin pond @ Kahala Hotel

Consequently, I’ve been discovering Waikiki’s music scene with much more ease and I’ve witnessed so many interesting and worth while performances since I moved in on Saturday. Top of my list was a busking band called ‘Streetlight Cadence’, a very young group of guys playing an unusual collection of instruments: cello, accordion, violin and acoustic guitar. Their sound: Unique and quite amazing. I also saw a classic rock cover band in Moose’s bar, a great hula/traditional Hawaiian show at Mai Tai Bar, and I discovered Waikiki’s main night club Zanzabar. Take a look at my Honolulu Playlist Blog if you want to read some of my little reviews on these musical goodies I’ve come across: The Honolulu Playlist

I also visited the Kahala hotel, which has it’s own dolphin pond. It is large, and the dolphins seemed very content and energetic from what I saw. They were being fed, and were playing with their trainers, which was great to watch. I also saw some sea turtles there and a large sting ray. The beach the hotel faced was very splendid.

But my favorite beach is Waikiki’s. I love hanging out there – so many people to watch and mingle with, so many water sports to watch and try, the sunset view, the cocktail bars just a few footsteps in the sand away, and if you’re discreet enough, you can insert yourself into some of the hotel pools and hot tubs and enjoy a luxurious dip. What is there not to like?

However, of course, the cocktails, the ice cream, the good food, the shopping plazas, the ”sales”, the coffee places are all very hard to resist, and do burn holes in one’s pocket. But hey, this is Hawaii, this is once in a lifetime… And on that particular note, I came across a special offer which I have failed to resist: A limousine ride to the airport on the day I fly to Tahiti. It turns out with this coupon, the limousine service is essentially the same price as a taxi.. And I figured a taxi may be more expensive on Christmas Eve anyway.

So I will be leaving Hawaii in style, Mahalo very much. 😉

Peaceful Purifying Punaluu

coffee place in Kaimuki

Yesterday morning I headed North to Punaluu. I got up early, had coffee and an espresso-muffin in Kaimuki where I waited for my first bus. Kaimuki is actually currently closer to me than Waikiki, and is a small town with not much character but an interesting selection of little shops such as burrito joints, chicha-smoking places, Japanese toy stores, coffee and tea places and thrift stores. I hadn’t properly explored this area, as I have only been heading toward Waikiki on my travels, which goes through Kapahulu, a very dead and dingy suburban town with a KFC, a Taco Bell and a Jack in the Box.

My bus transfer wasn’t as smooth as I had anticipated (again), the bus driver was vague about directions, one confused lady gave me wrong directions, thankfully a young Hawaiian dude ran after me and walked me to the correct stop, which I was very grateful for. Once I boarded the second bus, I relaxed a bit, as the views became more and more rural. Within 45 mins, the bus was lounging the coast, and the scenery reminded me a lot of Maui.

condo in Punaluu

I arrived in Punaluu in due time, and entered the condo I am currently staying in. The tranquility and calm is certainly a breath of fresh air from wild Waikiki, and being right on the beachfront is the cherry on the cake. I ventured into the little town of Punaluu and  discovered various little stores and shrimp/taco vans. It is a peaceful place, and the waves are calm. I saw a seal resting on the beach, and swam with the fishes for a little while before sun down.

I will leave Punaluu some time tomorrow, and will move into a more central area of Waikiki on Saturday, which will introduce me to lots of new venues, places, shops to discover and explore. But before all that, I will enjoy some quiet last few moments in peaceful and purifying Punaluu.

back yard of the condo