Thanksgiving in Hawaii: A Visit to Oahu & Kauai
December 15, 2015
We spent the Thanksgiving holiday visiting friends in Hawaii. John, Carey & Fiona live in Kailua on Oahu, about a half-hour from downtown Honolulu. Jessica's mom Deborah spent the past month in Taiwan, and met up with us for three days on Oahu and four days on the neighbor island of Kauai. This was Jessica's first visit to Kauai, and my third; though the last time I was in Kauai was in 1999. For the record, this is my 12th trip to Hawaii (third since moving to New York 5 years ago). Me and Jessica on Lanikai Beach on Oahu.

We took the United non-stop form Newark to Honolulu on Saturday, a relatively easy 11-hour flight that arrived in Hawaii Saturday afternoon around 3PM. It's a strange experience to be on a plane for that long and still be in the United States. Jessica's mom arrived the following Sunday morning on an Asiana flight via Seoul, Korea.

After a quick breakfast, we met up with John, Carey & Fiona and headed out to hike the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. It was an easy hike with great views along the coast. On our way back, we saw a large pod of whales migrating south for the winter. It rained a bit at the beginning of the hike, but not enough to turn us back.

To be frank, the weather on this trip wasn't the best. On previous trips to Hawaii, the weather has been pretty consistently perfect, so naturally less-than-perfect is a disappointment. That said, it is still Hawaii, which is amazing nonetheless. On our way up the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. Diamond Head is beyond those hills. Everyone made it to the top of Makapuu!

That night John & Carey cooked at home, and Carey's parents Richard and Angelica joined us for dinner and several games of dominoes (the rules are still being contested to this day). The next morning we had a big breakfast and headed over to hike the Diamond Head trail. The five hour time difference from New York makes getting out of bed easy and early. The entrance to Diamond Head State Monument. Vigorous, unstaged hiking. Deborah halfway up to the top of Diamond Head Everyone made it to the top of Diamond Head! A terrific view of Waikiki Beach & Honolulu. (click the image to see the same view on a nice day)

The last time I was atop Diamond Head was with Jessica in January 2007 on our first trip to Hawaii. The weather was much better that day, but the view from the top does not disappoint. That night we went to the Paradise Cove Luau, one of the better luaus among toursity luaus. It was a first for Deborah, Richard and Angelica. The weather was perfect, and the food was surprisingly good. We watched the hukilau, got fake tattoos and bought a tiki for the apartment. At the Luau with Carey's parents Richard & Angelica

Wednesday morning we grabbed (another) big breakfast and headed to Kauai for the next four days. The flight was about 20 minutes, but surprisingly expensive. We rented a condo in Poipu on the southern coast, which tends to have better weather and more options for restaurants, shopping and some of the nicer beaches on Kauai. We were about 5 minutes' walk to Poipu Beach Park, and 5 minutes the other way to the Grand Hyatt, one of the larger resorts on Kauai. Me and Jessica waiting for the sunset on a beach walk near Poipu

The next morning, Jessica, Deborah and I were up early to catch a snorkeling boat up the Napali Coast. The Napali Coast is famous for its rugged beauty, and even more rugged seas. Of the twenty or so passengers, a handful spent most of their ride up losing their breakfast. Once the boat turns and heads south, the ride is remarkably smooth and once again enjoyable. The uncooperative weather kept us from seeing much, but it was a great day on the water. Jessica on the cruise to the Napali Coast. Deborah and Jessica on the cruise to the Napali Coast We finally got the Napali Coast, but couldn't see much.

That night we did Thanksgiving dinner at Merriman's Fish House in Poipu. The next morning we drove about an hour north to see Waimea Canyon, the so-called, "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Most of the more scenic vistas are easily drivable, so it was a leisurely day of driving and sightseeing. The further north we went, the worse the weather became. We ended up having our picnic lunch in the car waiting for the rain to clear (it never did), and sadly we were unable to see the Napali coastline from above. Maybe next time. Fiona, John and Deborah atop Waimea Canyon Overlooking Waimea Canyon Overlooking Waimea Canyon Everyone made it to the top of Waimea Canyon! * We drove. The Kauai state bird.

After Waimea Canyon sightseeing, we drove back to Poipu along the coast and stopped in the scenic town of Hanapepe. Home to the original Lappert's ice cream and the famous Swinging Bridge (it really swings), Hanapepe was the real-life inspiration for the Lilo's hometown in Lilo & Stitch. Walking the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge

On our last day in Kauai, we walked down to the coast and marveled at the rare sunshine. We passed the Grand Hyatt and hiked along the seaside cliffs above the coast. It was still windy, but the views and the sun were a welcome change. Deborah walking down to the Poipu coast. High winds and rough surf. John, Fiona, Carey & Jessica atop a coastal overlook. Fiona has had enough hiking.

We flew back to Oahu on Sunday before the long flight back to New York. We stopped at the Pali Lookout to admire the view of the back of Oahu. We drove down to Lanikai Beach and splashed around a bit the only other sunny beach day we had, just before the sun started to set. After dinner and Mai Tais at Buzz's, we packed up and headed off to HNL for the 9-hour redeye back to Newark. The view form the Pali Lookout on Oahu. (click to see a view of the Pali from 2007) Jessica and John frolicking on the Lanikai Beach on Oahu.(click to see Lanikai Beach on a nice day)

I took a bunch of video, and compiled it into a brief montage embedded below. I noticed I had lots of video of people waving, so that became a thing. Note: this is an extended version of a video you may have seen earlier.

Whenever you see an iPhone camera in Hawaii, be sure to wave.

It goes without saying that one of the things we love about Hawaii is the food. Some of the best and most authentic Japanese food in the US is in Hawaii, and Hawaiian food itself, though not necessarily haute cuisine, is certainly tasty. Be sure to see our dining list at the bottom of this post. 64 of our favorite items from across Hawaii
We haven't done much traveling this year, so we were very much looking forward to this trip. It was fun to show Deborah around Oahu and Kauai. It was also great seeing John and Carey, and meeting Fiona for the first time. Despite the imperfect weather, we had a fantastic time and are already dreaming of our next beach getaway. A Hawaiian sunset.


United Airlines: Non-stop 11 hour flight from Newark to Honolulu International Airport: United Airlines
Hawaiian Airlines: Inter-island flights are frequent, short and pricy: Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian also has a daily non-stop to Honolulu from JFK.


Oahu - John & Carey's House! Spacious, walkable to downtown Kailua, and Kailua and Lanikai beaches.

Kauai - The Villas at Poipu Kai: A great option for groups, we rented a three bedroom, three bathroom villa with plenty of space and walking distances to beaches, shops and restaurants. Villas at Poipu Kai


The Pig and the Lady: Trendy and delicious new Vietnamese food in Honolulu's lively Chinatwon: The Pig & The Lady
Liliha Bakery: A traditional Hawaiian greasy-spoon and bakery, famous for their "coco puffs". (downtown Honolulu): The Liliha Bakery
Cinnamon's: Local Kailua favorite breakfast spot with an outpost in Omotesando(Tokyo). Try their red velvet pancakes. Cinnamon's
Doraku Sushi: Mini-chain of sushi restaurants owned by the Benihana Aoki clan: Doraku Sushi
Big City Diner: A mini-chain of Hawaiian diners and drive-ins: Big City Diner
Marukame Udon: Terrifically authentic udon and tempura bar in the heart of Waikiki: Marukame Udon
Paradise Cove Luau: Probably the best luau on Oahu; good food, good drinks & good fun: Paradise Cove
Moke's Bread & Breakfast: Very popular Kailua breakfast spot; try the eggless omelet made with hashbrowns (but get a fried egg on top): Moke's Bread & Breakfast
Keoki's Paradise: Kauai offshoot of the well-known Duke's Hawaiian chain (great Mai Tais): Keoki's
Lappert's Ice Cream: Famous all-natural Hawaiian ice cream; we went every day: Lappert's Hawaiian
Eating House 1849: Modern Hawaiian offshoot of the famous Roy's chain of Hawaiian restaurants: Eating House 1849
Merriman's Fish House: Hawaiian fine dining; we had the Thanksgiving tasting menu: Merriman's Fish House
Popo's Cookies: Hanapepe's fresh-baked cookies in standard and Hawaiian flavors: Popo's Facebook Page
Savage Shrimp: Plates of fried, garlicky shrimp (and that's it): Savage Shrimp on Yelp
Merriman's Gourmet Pizza & Burgers: The casual offshoot of Merriman's, great for takeout: Merriman's Gourmet Pizza & Burgers
Tortilla Republic: Modern Mexican cuisine with some Hawaiian influences: Tortilla Republic
Anuenue Cafe: Fresh, organic Hawaiian breakfast and lunch: Anuenue Cafe
Buzz's Original Steakhouse: Good steaks and great Mai Tais; lots of Obama pictures: Buzz's Original Steakhouse