There’s no better way to jump out of my travel hiatus due to the pandemic than by hopping on my first plane ride in two years and head to the 50th state in union. The Aloha state is known for their amazing weather, beautiful beaches and Dole pineapples but on this trip I wanted to dive deeper into the soul of the culture by exploring and eating the delicacies of Hawaii that are local staples. So get ready to learn, see and do all the beauty that this gorgeous island has to offer.
- Pearl Harbor National Memorial (National Park Service): This was my second time visiting this historic and sacred national park. Pearl Harbor is the final resting place of over two thousand Service Members who lost their lives on December 7, 1941when Japanese airplanes crashed into Naval ships that were docked at the harbor. This was the catalyst that made America enter into World War II. Unlike my first visit several years ago, I had the chance to walk through the museums that were located on the grounds. Viewing the museums gave me a better understanding of the war from those that served and the scrutiny the Japanese Americans received after the attack on Pearl Harbor on the island and the mainland. A must see is the walk of remembrance where you can view the names of those killed in action. The memorial perfectly aligns with a distant view of the remnants of the ships that were destroyed. The well thought out memorial is moving tribute to the unforeseen sacrifice the Servicemembers made for the United States.
Munch Tip: Tickets to see the USS Arizona go fast. Make sure to book your FREE tickets online at the National Park Service’s website.
- Hawaii State Capitol Building: Every time I visit the capitol of a state, it’s a must that I stop by the capitol building if I’m close by. The Hawaiian State Capitol Building is totally different from any one that I have visited before. The standard rotunda design is replaced with an open walkaway, with no roof that is open to the sky that lets the beautiful sunshine flow through the stately facility. The building is a reflection of the laid back vibe of the island and creates a sense of calmness in the governmental environment. Free tours are offered on Mondays-Fridays from 8AM to 5PM.
Munch Tip: Check out the royal Iolani Palace of Queen Liliuokalani which is located behind the state capitol building. She ruled from January 29, 1891 to January 17, 1893 and was the last royal entity to rule Hawaii. There are several tours offered and prices range from $25 – $100.
- National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific: This cemetery is the second largest military burial ground in the United States after Arlington National Cemetery. The distinct difference between the two cemeteries is that the Pacific cemetery’s headstones are placed parallel with the ground. The location of the cemetery was once the sacred tribal area of the indigenous Hawaiians and sits in what is known as the Punchbowl. In 1948, Congress funded and approved for the Army to be the custodial for the grounds with the intention of creating a national cemetery for service members. Currently, the Veterans Administration is responsible for the upkeep of the grounds. This burial ground is the final resting place of President Obama’s grandfather who was a World War II veteran. You can also pay homage to COL Ellison Onizuka who was an astronaut on the Challenger Spaceship. The cemetery is open everyday from 8AM to 6PM.
Munch Tip: Before entering the cemetery, visit the small museum that explains how the national memorial cemetery was established. It also provides you with a map of all those buried in this honorable place.
- Kualoa Regional Park: This park is the epitome of what you envision Hawaii to be. I love checking out the places that the locals like to go. Kualoa Regional Park has just the same beautiful views as Waikiki Beach minus the large crowds. The Pacific Ocean looks majestic and in the distance you can see the islet known as the Chinaman’s Hat. The Hawaiian name for this landmass is Mokoli’i. Pull up your chair and enjoy the ocean breeze or dip your toes in the cool water.
Munch Tip: Parking is free, but get there early on the weekends because you will find a hard time finding a spot.
- Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Outlet: When in Hawaii, eat macadamia nuts. These nuts can be bought all over the island but it’s always great to go to the source of where the product is grown. The outlet showcases local vendors and their wares, but of course the shining star is the macadamia nut. Several options were available for purchase that ranged from savory to sweet. I ended up purchasing two bags that cost me a little of $10 per bag.
Munch Tip: There are several macadamia nut tasting options available, don’t forget to try the free sample of Hawaiian coffee that is a staple that the island is known for.
- Ford Island: The island is an annex of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base. The great aspect about visiting the island is that you can get a better view of the USS Arizona Memorial. You are literally so close to the area that it seems like you could reach out and touch it. As you drive around the island, you can also view the USS Missouri, the USS Oklahoma memorial and the USS Utah. Even if you’re not into military history, this gives you a better appreciation for those that lost their lives on December 7, 1941 which was the catalyst for the United States to enter into World War II.
Munch Tip: If you were to drive across the bridge to Fords Island, you will be required to have a military ID or added to the residents visitor’s list. Another way to access the island is to reserve a ticket at the Pearl Harbor National Park Service for a bus tour that will take you to Ford’s Island.
- Halona Blowhole Lookout: The scenic drive along the Hawaiian coastline will bring you to the naturally beautiful site of the Halona Blowhole Lookout. This site is popular because you can see the waves crash against the shoreline and watch the water transform into a geyser. This is a beautiful place to take pictures and to watch the majestic power of nature.
Munch Tip: I highly recommend that you visit the blowhole during the day. The winding road to get there has no street lights and could be extremely hard to see if you visit as the sun goes down.
- Kualoa Ranch – Hollywood Movie Sites Tour: Lights, camera, action! If you are a movie buff like me this is the ultimate bucket list activity that you must check off your Hawaii adventure list. Kualoa Ranch is located 30 minutes from Honolulu. Part ranch, historical preserve and film production site, this tourist attraction has something that the whole family can enjoy. Kualoa Ranch started as a cattle farm that was then temporarily occupied by the Army in World War II where they established a fort. There are still bunkers throughout the property that are remnants from that time period. One of the largest bunkers has been converted into a mini museum for all the movies that were filmed on the property. This is also one of the stops on the movie sites tour. I was super excited to see the props from the TV show, Lost and the Jurassic Park movies. My tour guide was very knowledgeable about the ranch and made it a point to share the hidden gems that occurred in each movie and show the group the actual spot on the property of where it was filmed. The highlight of the tour was stopping at the King Kong Skull Island Boneyard. I loved the fact that I had a chance to get up close and personal with the props to take pictures and act like a big kid by climbing all over the bones. The tours offered last about 1.5 hours and cost $54 plus tax for adults. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, before booking I asked if there were any discounts and they offered a 10% discount which I gladly used and appreciated. Kualoa Ranch offers more in depth and adventurous tours such as the UTV Raptor Tour that allows you to visit other parts of the ranch that are centered around the Jurassic Park movies and not on the standard movie sites tour.
Munch Tip: Since you have to arrive 45 minutes before your tour, head over to the market place to see the fresh and local products sold in the store. I purchased the Culture Pop Beet Popsicle. Sweet and earthy, it was a perfect accompaniment to the beautiful Hawaii weather.
- Waiahole Poi Factory: Don’t be fooled by the unassuming restaurant that is located on the Kamehameha Highway. The line to order food was stretched down one side of the building when I visited. So you know that food has to be good. I ordered a side of Poi ($2.50) and a side of the squid luau ($8). The Poi was thick and creamy, and all I needed to take it to the next level was some sweet mango or cantaloupe to make it a complete meal. The squid luau dish is actually not made with any kind of seafood. The ingredients to make the traditional Hawaiian stew are taro leaves and coconut milk. I actually added rice to my plate for texture, which was what was needed to balance the meal out.
Munch Tip: Want to skip the line? You can order online and go directly to the pick up window when it is ready. Click Here.
- Zippy’s: Recommended by my tour guide at Kahlua Ranch, we decided to check out what Zippy’s had to offer. This restaurant is a local chain restaurant that can be found throughout the island. I was shocked by how massive the menu was and the reasonable prices. I settled on the fried noodles which were made with spam, cabbage, fish cakes and green onions ($10.75). In addition, I ordered a side of teriyaki marinated beef ($3.80) and a scoop of macaroni salad ($2.05). My colleague ordered a Mini Zip Pac ($10.05) which came with Korean fried chicken, teriyaki marinated beef and a full plate of rice. There was so much food left on our plates that we ended up taking the rest back to our hotel.
Munch Tip: The menu needed quite a lot of explanation since there weren’t any descriptions of the dishes. So don’t be shy to ask your waiter lots of questions and for their patience make sure to tip well.
- Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill: This establishment came highly recommended by those that I asked and immediately ventured out to the restaurant to try their offerings. The name of the restaurant derives from a term of endearment that was given to the mentors that taught the owner how to fish. To start my meal, I ordered the clam chowder ($9) that was full of chopped clams that tasted like they had been plucked from the ocean that day. Creamy and hearty, I could have ended my meal with this dish, but I just had to try Uncle’s Original Poke ($24) that the restaurant is known for. The dish came with a ½ pound of tuna that was very fresh and evenly mixed with mayo. Pricing was reasonable and I highly recommend that you visit the restaurant during lunch, so you can avoid the crowds.
Munch Tip: You don’t have to worry about asking about parking at this restaurant’s location. Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill is one of the premier restaurants located at the
Center that offers plenty of free parking.
- Hawaiian Chip Company: Why buy your chips from the store when you can go straight to the source? The Hawaiian Chip Company is located in a very unassuming place among a stretch of wholesale warehouse stores. If you don’t know where you’re going, you could easily miss the store. The chips are made to order and come out piping hot. The chips are made from taro and sweet potatoes which are locat vegetables that are found on the island. You can even customize the flavoring of the chips by adding different types of seasoning. I got a little creative with my chips and chose Cajun, Kilauea fire and zesty garlic to my bag. They were so addictive, I ended up eating the whole bag in one day. Don’t forget to order the fresh squeezed lemonade to accompany your chips. It’s the perfect balance to even out the saltiness of the chips.
Munch Tip: The company ships these chips to the mainland. There are several themed boxes available that allow you to select how many bags you want.
- Green World Coffee Farm: One of the most sought after exports from Hawaii is the coffee. Having the opportunity to go to a local coffee farm and see where the beans are grown is a thrilling experience. The coffee farm is located 10 minutes down the street from the Dole Plantation and is a great pit stop before dealing with the crowds at Dole. There are tons of coffee options to choose from and you can even taste one or all of the coffees. I really appreciated the fact that you could purchase coffee bags with whole beans or have the coffee beans grinded on site.
Munch Tip: Head outside to the coffee farm and see if you can spot a coffee berry.
- Nico’s Kailua Pier 38: Eating seafood by the water is a must if you’re visiting Hawaii. The restaurant is located literally steps from the ocean and the famous fish market where the restaurant sources its ingredients. In my opinion, every good meal starts with a delicious drink and the Pier 38 punch was delicious. Fruity and packed with a punch, you could easily drink more than one. For dinner, I ordered Nico’s steamed clams ($25) that were packed with tomatoes and onions. The sauce was enhanced with beer and brought out the flavors from the clams. The highlight of the meal for me was the oyster shooters. This was the first time that I had a shooter with a quail egg. They were so yummy, I ended up ordering two.
Munch Tip: On select nights there is a live band that plays in the main dining room. Check Nico’s website for dates and times.
- Restaurant 604: Hawaiian hospitality and the water views are the perfect backdrop for a midday meal. The restaurant offers classic Hawaiian lunch plates that are designed to keep you full all day. I ordered the ahi katsu lunch plate ($17). The fish was encrusted with panko and was accompanied with a sweet teri and wasabi sauce. The sides I chose were the rice, macaroni salad and the salad greens. The restaurant was packed when my party arrived, so be prepared to wait a few minutes before you are seated. There are seats outside on the dock next to water that you can partake in while you wait for your table.
Munch Tip: Ask for a table close to the open windows, so you can feel the gentle breeze while you eat.
The Munch Travelogue Quick Sheet
- Pearl Harbor National Memorial (National Park Service)
Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Pl, Honolulu, HI 96818
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 7AM – 5PM
- Hawaii State Capitol Building
Address: 415 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI 96813
Hours: Monday – Friday from 7AM – 5PM
- National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Address: 2177 Puowaina Dr, Honolulu, HI 96813
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 8AM – 6PM
- Kualoa Regional Park
Address: 49-479 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 7AM – 8PM
- Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Outlet
Address: 49-227 Kamehameha Hwy # A, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 9AM – 5PM
- Ford Island
- Halona Blowhole Lookout
- Kualoa Ranch – Hollywood Movie Sites Tour
Address: 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 7:30AM – 4:30PM
- Waiahole Poi Factory
Address: 48-140 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 10AM – 6PM
Address: Many Locations throughout Hawaii
- Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill
Address: 98-1005 Moanalua Rd, Aiea, HI 96701
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 11AM – 9PM
- Hawaiian Chip Company
Address: 1928 Republican St, Honolulu, HI 96819
Hours: Monday – Saturday from 9AM – 5PM
- Green World Coffee Farm
Address: 71-101 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786
Hours: Sunday – Saturday from 7AM – 6PM
- Nico’s Kailua Pier 38
Address: 970 N Kalaheo Ave, Kailua, HI 96734
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday from 11AM – 9PM
Sunday from 3PM – 9PM
- Restaurant 604
Address: 57 Arizona Memorial Dr, Honolulu, HI 96818
Hours: Monday – Thursday from 10:30AM – 10PM
Friday from 10:30AM – 11PM
Saturday from 9:30AM – 11PM
Sunday from 9:30AM – 10PM