Insider Guide to the Big Island

Insider Guide to the Big Island

What's cool this summer

Once the kitsch capital of the Pacific, Honolulu has grown into an urban paradise with a singular style-- a mélange of East, West, and Polynesia that is loosely defined as "local." But local need not be provincial. The city's restaurants are on the cutting edge of Pacific cuisine, and the arts scene has blossomed in the past two years, thanks to a burgeoning revival of Hawaiian culture. With a population of close to 900,000-- plus more than 35,000 tourists daily-- Honolulu has the critical mass for big-city moves, but retains a small-town feel. Insiders' tastes favor less-known places, with a few classics thrown in for good measure.

Linguists call it Hawaiian creole; islanders call it pidgin. Either way, Hawaii has a language all its own that mixes and matches Hawaiian, Chinese, and Japanese words with an English base. The cadence is a staccato singsong.
bambucha: very big
broke da mout': super-tasty
cockaroach: to steal or confiscate
geevum: go for it!
grinds: food, meal (to grind is to eat)
high mucka mucka: arrogant, elite
howzit: standard local greeting, meaning "How are you?"
make house: make yourself at home
manini: very small
nah: just kidding
sleepahs or zoris: thongs, Hawaii's number-one footwear
shahkbait: white-skinned or pale person
shaka: great, well done

Haute Culture

Contemporary Museum 2411 Makiki Heights Dr., 808/526-1322; and 999 Bishop St. Artwork from Hawaii and the mainland in two locations: a mountaintop gallery on terraced lawns overlooking the city, and a sleek marble building downtown.
Hawaii Theater Center 1130 Bethel St.; 808/528-5535. A gilded Neoclassical palace, staging performances by everything from the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra to Chinese acrobats.
Honolulu Academy of Arts 900 S. Beretania St.; 808/532-8700. This 1920's-era Spanish-style villa has Hawaii's biggest collection of Asian and Polynesian artifacts.
Sisu Gallery 1160A Nuuanu Ave.; 808/537-5880. Hip Asian art and wooden sculptures.
Waikiki Shell 2805 Monsarrat Ave.; 808/527-5424. An open-air amphitheater for big-ticket concerts.

Day Trip

A watery oasis amid ferns and ti leaves, Manoa Falls is an easy hike through a spectacular green valley rimmed by jagged peaks. For a more challenging outing, climb Olomana, a mystical peak rising above Kailua Bay, or go to the summit of Nuuanu Judd Trail for an unreal view of Honolulu.

Dining Out

Alan Wong's Restaurant 1857 S. King St.; 808/949-2526; dinner for two $80. Innovative dishes such as Kona lobster-mousse nori rolls. Try the opihi (limpet) shooters.
David Paul's Diamond Head Grill 2885 Kalakaua Ave.; 808/922-3734; dinner for two $80. Glitzy. New American menu like that of David Paul's Maui joint. Standby: Kona coffee rack of lamb.
Hoku's 5000 Kahala Ave.; 808/739-8777; dinner for two $80. By consensus, Honolulu's best, set in the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Try the five preparations of ahi.
Prince Court Restaurant Hawaii Prince Hotel, 100 Holomauna St.; 808/956-1111; chef's dinner for two $116. Tuesday and Wednesday nights, chef Gary Strehl cooks your scrumptious regional meal table-side, then offers a tour (and dessert) in the kitchen.
Rainbow Drive In 3308 Kanaina Ave.; 808/737-0177; dinner for two $12. Surfer hangout for after-session grinds. Known for their plate lunches (big and cheap, with an entrée of beef, fish, or pork, plus macaroni salad and rice).
Roy's 6600 Kalanianaole Hwy., Hawaii Kai; 808/396-7697; dinner for two $75. Chef-owner Roy Yamaguchi put Euro-Asian cuisine on the Hawaiian map. The steamed Hawaiian whitefish is great.
Singha Thai Cuisine 1910 Ala Moana Blvd., Waikiki; 808/941-2898; dinner for two $50. Thai with a Hawaiian twist. Be sure to order the Alaskan king crab cakes with island salsa.

Honolulu Nightlife

Friday: Check out LaMariana Sailing Club (50 Sand Island Rd.; 808/848-2800), one of the last true Hawaiian kitsch bars, with its glass fishing floats and tiki statues. The baby-boomer crowd gathers to sing Hawaiian songs most Friday nights. Meanwhile, yuppies make the scene at Palomino's (66 Queen St.; 808/528-2400), a sleek bar with white marble, red leather booths, and fabulous munchies.

Saturday: Have a cocktail or a glass of port in the seedy but up-and-coming Chinatown at Havana Cabana (1131 Nuuanu Ave.; 808/524-4277), a chic pastel-hued cigar club where jazz fills the smoky air. Finish the night with dessert and coffee in the back room of Duc's Bistro (1188 Maunakea St.; 808/531-6325).

Sunday: Duke's Canoe Club Waikiki & Barefoot Bar (2335 Kalakaua Ave.; 808/922-2268) is one of the few places in Waikiki popular with both locals and tourists. Sunday afternoons are raucous affairs, but try it later in the evening for music and drinks under the stars.

Honolulu Shopping

Avanti Fashion 2229 Kuhio Ave.; 808/924-1688. Crepe de chine aloha shirts in patterns from the 1940's and 50's. Buy a Diamond Head shirt just like the one worn by Montgomery Clift in the 1953 movie From Here to Eternity.
D*VA Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, 2201 Kalakaua Ave.; 808/922-3482. Nails Honolulu's urban surfer-girl look.
Gas Station Trading Post 66-082 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa; 808/637-1970. Retro thrift shop with a fab attitude, owned by a broker turned surf bum with a great eye.
Native Books & Beautiful Things 222 Merchant St.; 808/599-5511. Hawaiian crafts, like Niihau shell leis.
Nohea Gallery Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd.; 808/596-0074. Classic wares by local artisans, ranging from homey mango-wood rocking chairs to fragile copper-glazed raku pottery.
Surf & Sea Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa; 808/637-9887. The largest selection of men's surf wear in Hawaii. Also a good place for the novice surfer to rent a board.

Where to Stay

Halekulani 2199 Kalia Rd.; 800/367-2343; doubles from $295. The most intimate of Honolulu's grand hotels, with 456 rooms built around an 80-year-old beach house in the city's Waikiki section. Sunday brunch at Orchids is excellent. locals' picks: boutique hotels

Colony Surf Hotel 2885 Kalakaua Ave.; 808/924-3111; doubles from $225, including continental breakfast. The Surf has emerged from its recent renovation with new verve. The 90 rooms are pure Indonesia, with plantation chairs and teak mirrors. Lest guests forget they're in Hawaii, videos of surfers play in the elevators.

New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel 2863 Kalakaua Ave.; 800/356-8264; doubles from $115. The lobby of this 124-room hotel is an open-air atrium that leads to the sands of Kaimana Beach, where locals come to see and be seen-- thus the nickname Dig Me Beach.

Da Surf Scene: Best Places to Catch the Waves

(surf can be dangerous) North Shore: Waimea Bay The biggest waves, on a green bay with a wide, sandy crescent. Bring binoculars to see the pros in action.
Rocky Point The most acrobatics, off a hidden beach with a reef that comes right up to shore.
South Shore: Sandy The body-boarding capital of the universe.

Waikiki: Canoes The mellowest surf on the island.

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