Category Archives: Hawaii

Mountain Hideaway

I know I haven’t been very consistent on the writing front as of late.  However, I can assure you that it has little to do with my lackadaisical ways and everything to do with the fact that I’ve been having a lot of fun – albeit, not all travel related.  And yes, I am still in Hawaii.  A few months ago, I would’ve told you I’d be off somewhere in the Alps or in South America, but I’ve changed my tune and happy that I have.

With winter nearing, there are few places I’d rather be than Hawaii.  The sun shines almost perpetually, the water’s still clear as crystal, and who can complain about surfing in December without a wetsuit?  So while half the globe is starting to layer-up, I’m happy to be stripping down to my bikini.  But aside from hitting the beach, I find there’s no better way to pass the winter days than by hiking.

The Hawaiian Islands are packed with hikes boasting jaw-dropping views and exquisitely lush landscapes, and this becomes evermore true in winter, when rainfall increases drastically.  And so to answer the question that’s inevitably about to leap from the tip of your tongue: yes, hiking in Hawaii can be quite a muddy affair – especially as February rolls around.  But for me, getting dirty is half the fun.  The other half is trying not to fall and slide down the entire trail on my derrière.

A very muddy hike, which happens to be one of my favorites on Oahu,  is about a 5-minute drive from my place in Hawaii Kai.  It’s not a terribly intense hike or even very long, for that matter – 1.5 hours round trip for someone in-shape and wants to take their sweet old time – but it’s a great workout and a quick escape into solitude.  For those of you who live in the area, you’ll most likely recognize the trail from my photos below.

The best thing about it, though, is that it’s not in any of the guide books, so the trail isn’t overrun with people.  And out of respect for everyone in the neighborhood, I won’t post directions or the name of the hike here for the whole world to see.   But since this is a travel site, I won’t completely withhold the information.  If you’re genuinely interested, email me for details:

Happy hiking!



Red Dirt Country



Waimanalo and the Mokulua Islands in the Distance



Regal as a Crown



Overlooking Waimanalo



Sailing in Hawaii

Until yesterday, it had been nearly a decade since I stepped foot on a sailboat.  And as someone who normally travels by plane, train, car or bike, I have to say it was a nice change of pace.  I’ve also decided that – aside from hiking – it is quite possibly the best way to indulge in the beauty of Hawaii.  The photos below are of the Gold Coast – Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Waikiki Shoreline

Diamond Head at Sunset

Loved their sail


Another gorgeous sunset


After working a bit too hard over the last couple of weeks, I finally made it to the beach this morning for a swim.  I also got a bit camera happy while I was at it.  Enjoy.  It’s another perfect day in paradise.

Sandy Beach - Shorebreak

Bodysurfing bliss

High tide

Sandy Beach

Swept away with the tide

Crystal waters

Home Cooking with a Twist of Chic

Peace Cafe logo

Wandering around downtown earlier this evening I stumbled upon one of Honolulu’s best kept secrets: Peace Cafe. With a colorful well-appointed shop front, it was hard not to notice this chic little eatery amidst the grit of King Street.  A quick peek through their windows allowed my curiosity and empty stomach to get the best of me.  After contemplating the menu for far too long – everything sounds delicious! – I took a seat at a stunning, communal-style wooden table and sipped a glass of lemon-mint iced water.

Peace Cafe snaps

Peace Cafe prides itself in serving only vegan cuisine, which means that all of their food is free of processed ingredients and animal products (eggs, dairy, meat).  The menu boasts succulent dishes such as Morrocan stew, carrot and pumpkin miso soup, and cilantro hummus sandwich on freshly baked ciabatta bread.  Awakening the taste buds and defying the negative stereotypes about vegan food,  Peace Cafe’s offerings are rich in flavor – so much so that they attract a clientele which is diverse in age, character, and diet.

For those of you who are not up for a full meal, you can linger over an iced matcha latte or an exotic kinako latte – which tastes a lot like peanut butter even though it’s soy-based.  Or why not try a cup of Kusmi Tea from Paris?  Whatever you choose, be sure to try one of their many sweets.  Don’t worry, it won’t go to your waist – it’s vegan!

Even with such scrumptious food and a décor that oozes love and comfort, Peace Cafe offers yet another great touch: music themes for each day of the week such as Jazzense, Indie Express, BossaNova Playas, or Girl Power.  Today was Girl Power Friday, which meant Björk and Frou Frou were the soundtrack for my dinner.  Some other artists on Peace Cafe’s playlist are Wilco, Medeski Martin & Wood, Sergio Mendes, Manu Chao, the Beatles and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Although it took far too long for me to choose from their enticing menu, it took only a few seconds to realize that Peace Cafe is the perfect urban oasis.  Its icterine yellow walls, ambient music, careful selection of handcrafted furniture, half dozen potted plants and flawless lighting – Etsy, no less! – make it the coziest cafe on the island.  Regardless of whether you’re a vegan, Peace Cafe is not to be missed.

*Peace Cafe is open from 11am – 7pm on weekdays and 12-4pm on weekends.  Click for directions.   Photos are – although great, don’t do the place justice! – from Peace Cafe’s website.

A Lazy Day in Paradise

One of a half dozen public access paths to Lanikai Beach

After an intense yoga class yesterday morning, I wanted nothing more than to veg outdoors and in peace.  My first instinct was to avoid Waikiki because of the sheer number of people who splash themselves across the sand in the loudest and most unbecoming of ways.  Instead, I decided to go somewhere that falls off more than 80% of visitors’ radars: Lanikai Beach.

Constantly voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and used as a backdrop for countless ad campaigns, this 1/2 mile stretch of beach is the epitome of island beauty and solitude (during the weekdays, of course).  It’s the locals choice beach and makes for a blissful day of swimming, walking, and reading.

Lanikai Beach and the Mokulua Islands

And that is precisely what I did all afternoon.  It was a rather mellow day at Lanikai – yay for Tuesdays – but I wouldn’t have minded witnessing one of those fantastic sand-filled weddings visitors from Japan like to have.  The men don tuxedos and they “ooh” and “ahh” as the sand creeps into their shoes, while the women haul an incomprehensible amount of lace across the sand in 4-inch platform heels.  Between the romance and the comedy, it makes for great movie material.

Custom drink: Apple, Mango, Orange & Ginger from Lanikai Juice

But after a few hours at the beach, I had polished off my snacks and water and thirst began to nag.  Only one thing would appease the demands of my stomach:  Lanikai Juice.   Lanikai Juice is owned by two of the nicest people I’ve met on this island.  They treat their employees well, give back to the community and believe in giving their customers the best quality juices and food.  They use mostly organic and locally grown produce, so you can feel good about what you’re putting in your body.  They offer an array of tropical concoctions, but I opted to create my own.

Unfortunately, I had to wrap up my staycation after Lanikai Juice as I had a bit of work to tend to.  Nevertheless, it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.  If you’re a visitor or a local with a bit more free time than I had, I recommend adding in lunch at Maui Tacos (across the street from Lanikai Juice) before hitting the beach.  Their burritos, fish tacos, and freshly made salsa are the best on the island.  And for those who crave an afternoon tipple, you can subsitute juice for a knock-out Mai Tai at Buzz’s.

Until next time, my friends.  Aloha.

The Staycation Begins

Well friends, the staycation has begun and I’m glad I committed myself to this endeavor for an entire month.  Naturally, I tend to change things up quite a bit, but this month I hope to go above and beyond.  I have no plans as to what I’m going to do or when – I guess I don’t make a good tourist in that sense – but will simply respond to my own impulses.  Honestly, this is just my excuse to embark upon a love affair, to fall in love all over again with this enchanting place I call home.

The romance commenced ever so spontaneously around 4pm Friday afternoon when I had an itch to hike Diamond Head.  I Googled the opening hours (6am-6pm), threw on my shoes, filled a water bottle, packed my camera, and jumped in my Prius for the quick 15-minute drive to the crater.  But alas, rush hour traffic delayed me.  And by the time I rolled up, the park attendant informed me they stopped entry 8-minutes earlier (at 4:30).  With a bit of friendly negotiation – basically him figuring out I was a local – and my promising to sprint my way down if it started pushing 6 o’clock, he granted me admission.  Apparently, they lock in anyone who isn’t out at 6 and tow their cars.   Now wouldn’t that be a nice trip to paradise?

Diamond Head, known as Le’ahi in Hawaiian, is not a very long hike.  The trail is 1.3km (0.8 miles) one way and has you climb 560 feet from the crater floor to the top.  But with such a short ascent and nearly 300 stairs it can be a real butt buster.  And since I couldn’t didn’t remember how long it would take, I sort of speed-walked my way up so I could lounge at the top for as long as I liked.  I did, however, make time for photos along the way.

Aside from the phenomenal panoramic views, I enjoy hiking Diamond Head for the mélange of people that frequent its trail.  This time around I passed by a lot of – yes, you guessed it – Japanese tourists, but also a couple from Germany, a few Dutch folks, a handful of people from middle America, two people from Seattle, and three ambitious local guys who sprinted all the way up… and all the way down.  It was refreshing to hear such a wild array of accents and languages in such a small space of time.

But like all great love stories, my first date with O’ahu is best understood in images.  Sometimes words – no matter how great – can pale in comparison to seeing the light and color of a moment.  Nature’s overpowering beauty stopped me in awe more than once that afternoon and made me think of something the great Frenchman Jean Klein once said: real seeing stops you in the middle of whatever you’re doing…

The beaten path

Staircase #1

The long and nearly claustrophobic tunnel

Staircase #2: The worst of it

Looking up the last staircase

Koko Head in the distance

The Gold Coast: Kapi'olani Park and the Waikiki shoreline

Another perspective

Diamond Head Lighthouse and some of the island's best summer surf

Sunset from the Outrigger Canoe Club

Ring of Fire

Visiting Volcanoes National Park is much like watching a jazz great perform live – what you see will never be replicated, but it will remain vivid in your mind for years to come.  Volcanoes are Nature’s great improvisation, moment to moment, day to day.  My last visit was in the mid-90’s, and Kilauea’s performance was entrancing.  Lava flowed quickly and freely, and park rules were very different – standing 10m from an active vent was commonplace.

But now, two dozen lives lost later, watching from a lookout situated 1/3 mile away is about as close as we were going to get.  However disappointing that may have been, we were quick to remind ourselves where we were and the adventures that lay ahead.  I’m not sure if our optimism was the kind that is inherent to travel or whether it stemmed from the intense energy pulsating around this natural powerhouse.  Regardless of its source, that optimism served us well throughout the day, especially as the weather began to waver between warm sun and bone-chilling rain. 

Even though the trail is not terribly strenuous, it took us ages to get down to the crater.  The way the sunlight filtered through the trees consumed us immensely as we observed unfamiliar plants – and yes, snapped one too many photos.  The light plays between the sun and the trees were stunning, making us feel as though we stepped out of reality and straight into a dream.  Greens of every shade glistened, details that would’ve typically alluded the eye were illuminated and the air, still damp from a morning shower, awakened our senses.

Walking through the crater, of course, made for a very different experience.  It is a grey, desolate expanse that seems infinite and thus creates a sense of time standing still.  Save for a few plants growing up through cracks and steam escaping from random vents in the hardened lava floor, there was little else around us.  We passed the odd family or small group of foreigners, but very few people actually chose to linger in the crater as we did. 

We hung around this impressively large steam vent situated in the middle of the crater for quite some time.  It  stands approximately 3-4m above the floor and is apparently a not so old development.  The steam was hot, but refreshing, so we perched ourselves on the edge in hopes of getting a free facial.  We found plenty of amusement in watching a seemingly more adventurous visitor from Eastern Europe as he crawled effortlessly a 1m into the vent and sat topless for nearly 20 minutes.What I enjoyed most, though, was resting against the slopes of this vent for a while.

Contrary to what one might think, volcanic rock tends to be soothing and gentle on the human body.  The pahoehoe –  Hawaiian word for the smoother type of rock – was welcoming, and  felt as though it were molding itself to the contours of my back.  My mind slowly emptied of thought the longer I stayed there, watching the clouds dance by me.  Sounds of the odd person passing by and the trade winds howling mixed with a sprinkling of rain lulled me into baby-like sleep.

But with small rain puddles filling the lines of my face and ominous, charcoal-colored clouds beginning to cloak the sky, my nap came to an abrupt end.  The following hour had us crossing the more challenging half of the crater floor and up steep trails of mud.  Wth each step I could feel myself getting lighter – emotionally, mentally, physically.  I found trekking through mud puddles and climbing countless stairs as the scent of rain filled the air to be wonderfully therapeutic and enlivening.  So much so that it left me fantasizing about what it would be like starting every day like this.

My thoughts were interrupted, though, by the increasingly loud chatter of people and cell phones up ahead.  Back to reality.  We reached the car looking like drowned rats, but overwhelmed with an incredible sense of rejuvenation, lightness, peace – and yes, hunger.   And it was only a matter of minutes before we had ourselves a table at the Kiawe Kitchen on Old Volcano Road.

Ring of Fire - Pu'u'o'o Vent by Night