Sara Benson 2015-01-14 06:20:39
Ever since the days of ancient Polynesian double-hulled canoes and 19th-century whaling ships, Honolulu has been a crossroads between East and West, welcoming travelers from the world over. Hawaii’s spirit of aloha—a word that can mean, among other things, peace and love—is a way of life for the diverse people who live here. Aloha also embraces every visitor to the Hawaiian Islands. All of this makes Honolulu a perfect fit for the Lions’ upcoming 98th International Convention, which will be held in Oahu’s capital city June 26-30. Mere specks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian Islands are the most remote places on the planet. With the nearest continent more than 2,400 miles away, Honolulu can feel like another country, or even another world. It’s either the United States’ westernmost state capital or the easternmost city in Asia, depending on how you look at it. Historically the home of Hawaiian royalty, Honolulu first sprang to life as a port town. Down by the waterfront today, cruise ships still dock beside fishing fleets that supply one of the Pacific’s liveliest fish markets. Just inland, palm trees rustle above city streets while cooling trade winds blow in from off the salty sea. Not far from downtown are the world-famous white-sand beaches of Waikiki, where hula dancers sway and the music of ukuleles and slackkey guitars plays. Honolulu may be a bustling, modern capital, but it’s one with a laid-back, tropical attitude. A visit here feels more like spending time in a small town, even when you stroll among the skyscrapers. Although it’s Hawaii’s biggest city, Honolulu doesn’t even rank in the top 50 U.S. cities by population, and locals like it that way. Here business executives and politicians wear aloha shirts to work, and neighbors often greet each other by name on the sidewalks. The pace of life is unhurried, and everything tends to run on “island time”—meaning they’re always a little behind schedule, but rarely does anyone mind. Once you arrive, just do as the popular bumper sticker advises: “Slow Down—This Ain’t Da Mainland.” It’s not for nothing that Oahu is nicknamed the “The Gathering Place.” Islanders celebrate a uniquely mixed heritage: Polynesian seafaring voyagers, European and American ship captains, Protestant missionaries and merchants, and Asian and European immigrant plantation workers. Hawaii maintains a separate sense of identity from the rest of the United States, but that’s not to say that anyone visiting the islands will feel like an outsider—quite the opposite. As the native Hawaiian saying goes, “We’re all in the same canoe.” Put into practice, that piece of ancient wisdom makes Hawaii a surprisingly harmonious, multicultural place. Across the islands, you’ll find a spirit of community and an enthusiasm for doing public good that matches the Lions’ own ethic of international service. With a convenient public bus system that will take you just about anywhere you want to go within the city or around the island, Honolulu is also an easily walkable city. Start your explorations in the capitol district, where you’ll find the USA’s only royal palace and other eyecatching historical buildings including missionary homes shipped from New England around Cape Horn and an imposing coral-stone church. Many ornate buildings date from the 19th century, when Hawaii was transformed from a Polynesian island kingdom into a U.S. territory. A short walk from downtown, Chinatown’s pungent public markets and hole-in-the-wall noodle houses await. Chinatown, once the city’s red-light district for carousing by sailors in centuries past, has been hit by a wave of revitalization. Art galleries, antique shops, fashionable boutiques, creative restaurants, buzzing bars and nightclubs have all popped up here. Another easy walk from downtown takes you to Honolulu’s harbor. Ride the free elevator to the observation deck on the 10th floor of the art deco Aloha Tower to gain sweeping views of the waterfront, from Waikiki Beach over to deep, blue Pearl Harbor and beyond. Honolulu’s sunny playground is Waikiki Beach. Tourists have been turning up at this idyllic beach since even before the grand old days of steamship travel to Hawaii. In days past, Waikiki (a name that means “spouting water”) was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty. Today it’s a vacation destination for millions of people from around the world. It’s bewitching to spend a few hours lying on the sand, as palm trees rustle overhead while you take in panoramic views of landmark Diamond Head set against the shimmering waters of the sea. Surf instructors, the modern incarnation of Waikiki’s famous beach boys, give lessons right on the sand. Clamber aboard a traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe for a chance to be tossed around in the waves, then pay your respects to the lei-draped statue of surfing legend and Olympian Duke Kahanamoku. After dark, Waikiki is just as entertaining. Once the sun dips below the horizon, tiki torches are lit and a conch horn is dramatically blown, signaling that the outdoor hula show is about to begin. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, local hula schools perform ancient and modern dances by the beach, accompanied by traditional Hawaiian musical instruments like gourd rattles. Hang around afterward for a chance to meet and take photographs with the performers. Waikiki’s beachfront hotels also have their own open-air bars offering free music nightly, and sometimes hula dancing, too. The Halekulani’s gracious House Without a Key lounge, named after a novel about Honolulu police detective Charlie Chan, has awe-inspiring ocean views at sunset with solo hula dancing by graceful former Miss Hawaii pageant winners. The Halekulani is also the best place to try Hawaii’s famous tropical cocktail, a mai tai (rum mixed with orgeat syrup and citrus juices). Wherever you end up spending your free time in Honolulu, whether in the city or by the beach, allot plenty of time to eat. The capital city dishes up everything from food truck fare and farmers market bounty to haute Hawaii Regional Cuisine by island-born star chefs including Alan Wong and Dave Kodama. Perhaps no meal is more iconic than Hawaii’s mixed plate lunch, reflecting the islands’ varied ethnic heritage. Dig into two scoops of rice and a heaping mound of macaroni salad beside Korean kalbi short ribs, Filipino pork adobo, Japanese mochiko fried chicken or Hawaiian kalua pig. Another local dish to try is poke (pronounced “POH-kay”): diced raw fish (popularly, ahi tuna) marinated with a host of flavors, often soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, onions, seaweed and chili peppers. For a sweet treat, try toothsome Chinese-style “crack seed,” which is dried, preserved fruit that’s by turns sweet, sour and salty. After a day at the beach, line up at a shave ice stand for a fluffy cone of ice doused in a rainbow of sweet syrups, with an optional scoop of macadamia nut ice cream underneath. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit Honolulu—not only for its irresistible natural beauty and its deeply rooted Hawaiian culture but also to experience the simple pleasures of everyday life in the islands. There’s nowhere else in the world quite like Hawaii, and Honolulu is ready to welcome the Lions’ convention. Look for more details about the convention, including scheduled speakers and entertainment, in future issues of the LION, especially the April issue, or check the LCI’s website soon. In the meantime, if winter has you shivering, dream of Hawaii’s beaches, its kalua and kalbi and its aloha spirit. Hawaiian Lions Serve Gladly, Grandly The weather is typically nearly perfect, the beaches are alluring and the pace of life is more relaxing. But don’t let the setting fool you: Lions of Hawaii are no different in serving than Lions elsewhere. They address vital community needs, whether it’s Kona Lions screening the vision and hearing of schoolchildren after the state stopped its screening because of budget problems, North Kauai Lions installing rescue tubes on a beach or Lions in Honolulu helping to repair city sidewalks degraded by weather and heavy pedestrian use. District 50 in Hawaii has 1,800 Lions in 66 clubs throughout the islands. These clubs sponsor 35 Leo clubs with 2,000 members. A major activity is the busy Hawaii Lions Eye Bank and Makana Foundation, the sole eye bank in Hawaii and the entire Pacific Islands. Over the last 35 years, the eye bank has restored the sight of 5,000 patients. It averages 200 cornea transplants annually. Vision and hearing screening also is a major focus. Since 2010, Lions of Hawaii have screened the vision of more than 22,000 students. Perhaps the most distinctive and inspiring project is aid to villages in war-torn Afghanistan. Led by Leos and involving many Lions, the Socks for Sisters program (January 2014 LION) has delivered thousands of pairs of socks, as well as school supplies and eyeglasses, to Afghan girls, who learn in unheated schools. Three memorable international conventions have been held in Hawaii. Read the convention coverage at lionmagazine.org. • Lions wowed by humanitarian Dr. Jules Stein, former ambassador Clare Boothe Luce, actor Cary Grant and “Hawaii Five-O” star Jack Lord. (July/August 1976 LION). • Entertainer Art Linkletter urges Lions to curb drug abuse (July/August 1983). • Thousands enjoy the aloha spirit (October 2000). HONOLULU’S MUST-SEE SIGHTS BISHOP MUSEUM 1525 Bernice Street; bishopmuseum.org Honolulu’s top-notch natural history museum is hands down the best place to discover ancient Hawaiian traditions. Be impressed by intricate feather cloaks, carved wooden spears and surfboards that once belonged to royalty. In ancient times, only royals were allowed to surf. The gift shop sells exquisite Hawaiian art and crafts. IOLANI PALACE 364 South King Street; iolanipalace.org Built only two decades before the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown, this building symbolized the sovereignty of the islands. Reserve tickets a few days in advance for a guided tour of the beautifully restored royal palace. Every Friday at noon the Royal Hawaiian Band gives free concerts on the lawn. WAIKIKI AQUARIUM 2777 Kalakaua Avenue; waikikiaquarium.org Run by the University of Hawaii, this pint-sized educational aquarium is rightly called a “window to the sea.” Colorful coral and reef fish, glowing jellies, green sea turtles and endangered Hawaiian monk seals are among the marine creatures you’ll meet here. HONOLULU MUSEUM OF ART 900 South Beretania Street; honolulumuseum.org At downtown’s eastern edge, this fine arts museum is a tranquil spot, where airy galleries surround fountain courtyards. The Asian art collection is especially noteworthy. Tours of Shangri La, yesteryear celebrity Doris Duke’s art-filled, oceanfront mansion, depart from the museum (buy tickets in advance). FIVE DINING DESTINATIONS ROY’S WAIKIKI 226 Lewers Street; royshawaii.com On Waikiki Beach Walk, chef Roy Yamaguchi’s kitchen crafts upscale Pacific Rim cuisine in a beachy setting. On the prix-fixe dinner menu, order fusion classics like macadamia nut encrusted fish or Szechuan-spiced short ribs. Reservations recommended. LEONARD’S BAKERY 933 Kapahulu Avenue; leonardshawaii.com Worth the detour from Waikiki, this famed island bakery turns out hot, uber-fresh malasadas (Portuguese-style fried doughnuts), dusted in sugar and filled with an ever-changing variety of flavors, from custard to haupia (coconut cream). MARUKAME 2310 Kuhio Avenue; toridollusa.com Lines snake out the door for Waikiki’s best cheap eats. This cafeteria-style joint makes its Japanese noodle soups from scratch right in front of you, and the deep-fried tempura shrimp and vegetables are perfectly crunchy. SANSEI SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & SUSHI BAR 2552 Kalakaua Avenue; sanseihawaii.com Across the road from the beach, this elevated sushi bar and Pacific Rim seafood restaurant is creatively helmed by island-born chef Dave Kodama. Book ahead and be seated before 6 p.m. to enjoy earlybird discounts. HAILI’S HAWAIIAN FOODS 760 Palani Avenue; hailishawaiianfood.com What exactly is Hawaiian food? Answer the question at this casual, family-owned eatery just outside Waikiki. In business since the 1950s, Haili’s cooks up savory kalua pig plate lunches, with poi (mashed taro) and seafood poke on the side. EASY EXCURSIONS AROUND OAHU PEARL HARBOR 1 Arizona Memorial Place; pearlharborhistoricsites.org If you take only one day trip from Honolulu, make it to historic Pearl Harbor, a 40-minute bus ride west of downtown. A boat tour of the poignant USS Arizona Memorial, the final resting place of more than 1,100 service members who died in Japan’s surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941, is a must-do. Tour tickets can sell out early in the morning, so reserve yours in advance online. Nearby, the USS Bowfin is an actual WWII-era submarine that you can climb around inside. Over on Ford Island, reached via a shuttle bus, you can walk the grand decks of the Battleship Missouri, where Japan ceremonially surrendered at the end of WWII, and gaze up at the restored aircraft hanging inside the Pacific Aviation Museum. Plan to spend all day if you want to visit most of these sights. HANAUMA BAY NATURE PRESERVE 100 Hanauma Bay Road; honolulu.gov Nowhere else on Oahu can you snorkel with such a huge diversity of tropical fish. This sparkling aquamarine bay (closed Tuesdays) is 10 miles east of Waikiki, easily reached via bus. Snorkel gear can be rented on the beach. DIAMOND HEAD STATE MONUMENT Diamond Head Road; hawaiistateparks.org A cinematic backdrop for Waikiki Beach, this extinct volcanic tuff cone affords 360-degree views from its summit. The 1.5-mile round-trip hiking trail to the top is doable by all ages; just be prepared for hot sun, wind and steep stairs. POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER & CIRCLE ISLAND TOUR 55-370 Kamehameha Highway, Laie; polynesia.com If you want to see more of Oahu but have only a day to spare, take a circle-island bus tour. Stops include scenic lookouts, the North Shore’s legendary surf beaches and the folksy, educational Polynesian Cultural Center.
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