(YES this is a super late post. WHOOO. My Hawaii trip actually happened in June 2016! If you missed my previous posts, I talked about presenting my research at the International Coral Reef Symposium, exploring Diamond Head, the Waikiki Aquarium, and the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, eating my way around Hawai’i, and my souvenirs from the trip.)
One last full day, a huge city, and a ton of places to go to.
I organized my Honolulu city tour around three things: the Bishop Museum, food, and Hawaii Five-0. Although I really wanted to dedicate a day to each of these things – the most popular unofficial Five-0 tour takes you to McGarrett’s house AND gives you the opportunity to possibly meet some of the actors if they’re available (past attendees have met Chi McBride (Lou Grover) and Dennis Chun (Sgt. Duke Lukela)) – I didn’t have that luxury 🙁 Next time!
First stop of the day: Wailana Coffee Shop and their macadamia nut pancakes. Wailana was just down the street from the Ilikai Hotel so it was the perfect spot to have breakfast and start the day. McGarrett was right: they do serve the best pancakes. They’re so soft and fluffy!
Second stop of the day: Liliha Bakery. As I mentioned in great detail in a previous post, I mistakenly thought that the Kuakini St. branch would be closed on a Sunday so I ended up at the much-farther-away Nimitz Branch instead. I (somewhat) didn’t mind because hot damn, Liliha Bakery makes amazing coco puffs. Really. These pastry puffs, with their chocolate cream filling and chantilly cream frosting, are my favorite food from Hawaii, which is saying something since I’m picky with pastries and I loved poke too. I bought a box of six pieces (four coco puffs and two cream puffs, about $4 each), ostensibly to share with my friends, but the puffs were so good that I could have eaten them all by myself.
Third stop: the Bishop Museum. The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, AKA the Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, has amazing halls dedicated to the history, culture, and science of Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
The Hawaiian Hall focuses on Hawaiian culture, history, and environment, from pre-contact Hawaii, the arrival of outsiders, the loss of biodiversity, to the overthrow of the monarchy and other key moments in Hawaiian history.
The Pacific Hall is all about Oceania as a whole. Trace the path of ancient Pacific Islanders as they crossed the daunting Pacific and colonized the various islands (just like in Moana!). You can also compare and contrast the different languages and cultures that resulted from this migration. As a fisheries researcher, I found the displays showcasing the different fishing cultures of the Pacific to be very fascinating. I loved the comparisons between the different types of boats they used, the different fishing gears, and what the gears were used to catch.
My absolute favorite hall was the Richard T. Mamiya Science Adventure Center. Where else can you find a live lava exhibit (they melt basalt rocks to show how lava flows!), a huge tank where you can simulate how a tsunami forms, and interactive displays on Hawaii’s endemic plants and animals? The lava show happens in the Hot Spot Theater and only takes place twice a day (12 nn and 2:30 pm) because it takes a long time for their furnace to melt their true-blue lava rocks (AKA basalt rocks they bought from Home Depot) to a flowy liquid. Come earlier than the scheduled times to save a spot closer to the stage.
Bring a packed lunch and take advantage of the museum’s large and grassy picnic area. It was too hot when I visited though, so I opted to eat my sandwich and coco puffs on the benches outside the planetarium. If you want to eat at an actual restaurant, the Bishop Museum Cafe serves both Hawaiian favorites and the usual sandwiches (menu here). I would have eaten here but I didn’t see the cafe when I came in so I thought the museum didn’t have a food outlet 🙁
I stayed in the museum until closing time at 5pm (I didn’t want to leave!), then took a bus towards Leonard’s Bakery. But lo and behold! The bus I took passed right in front of the Ali’iolani Hale and Iolani Palace! Of course I got down.
Truthfully, I wasn’t planning on visiting the Ali’iolani Hale and Iolani Palace (they’re across the street from each other) because both buildings are closed on Sundays so no guided tours 🙁 The bus passing right in front of the palace was a sign, I swear. Fans of the current Hawaii Five-0 will recognize the Ali’iolani Hale as the Five-0 Task Force’s headquarters, while fans of the original will recognize Iolani Palace as the old headquarters.
The funny thing is that scenes involving the outside of courthouses are also shot outside the Ali’iolani Hale because it houses the Supreme Court of Hawaii – they’re just careful not to show any of the exterior’s distinctive features.
Completed in 1882 as the official residence for Hawaii’s royal family, Iolani Palace is just gorgeous. Though the building itself is closed on Sundays, you’re free to enter the grounds, look around, and take pictures of the building’s facade. Obviously not as cool as joining one of the guided tours but hey, that was the best I could do under the circumstances.
After taking lots and lots of pictures, I boarded another bus and headed towards Leonard’s Bakery.
As mentioned in my previous post, Leonard’s Bakery specializes in malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts): deep-fried dough balls covered in sugar. I wanted to visit both Leonard’s bakery and Champion Malasadas to compare but alas, Champion is closed on Sundays 🙁 My favorites were the malasadas filled with dobash (chocolate), though the original sugar and cinnamon sugar varieties were delicious too.
My day trip around Honolulu ended at around 8:30 PM with 2 boxes of pastries, sore feet, and lots of new things learned. Wish I had at least one more day to go around the city but alas, we were leaving for the Big Island the next day. Lots of last-minute packing!
Where we stayed:
Built in 1964, the Ilikai Hotel and Suites is a Waikiki landmark. It’s half-condo and half-hotel, meaning you can opt to book one of the regular Ilikai hotel rooms or book someone’s condo through a vacation rental company.
Our lab had a good experience booking three condos with Marina Hawaii Vacations. Their office also accepted packages for me, so yay. Take note: the condos are privately owned and thus differ from each other in fit-out and furnishings so make sure to get photos of the actual units before booking. There is also NO housekeeping service unless you ask MHV to book one for you and you pay extra. Lastly, you CANNOT request the hotel front desk or concierge to do anything for you (e.g. leave the condo key with them while you go out and your roommate picks it up) because you are not a guest of the hotel. In our case, we could have left the condo key with MHV because they have an office on the ground floor of the Ilikai but their office hours are only Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm.
Fun trivia: the character of Chin Ho Kelly in Hawaii Five-0 is named after Chinn Ho, the original owner of the Ilikai! The Ilikai is also featured in the opening credits – it’s the penthouse balcony that Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord, then Alex O’Loughlin) is standing on when he does the turn-and-face-the-camera thing: