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Paradise Revisited

The Aloha State has not played host to the AAO since 2003, but its most wondrous attractions are timeless. As a preview of the annual meeting, to be held May 4-8, our yearly guide to attractions in the convention city focuses on activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family and staff.

Weather and Transportation

Early May falls within the Hawaiian “lull” season, between spring break and the summer tourist boom. AAO attendees are likely to enjoy fairly dry weather with temperatures in the 72-85°F range. When hiking or driving to any altitude, however, a few layers of clothing are recommended, and a light raincoat will be sure to keep the squalls away.

Honolulu International Airport is located between Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach. Shared shuttle rides to the Waikiki hotels run about $10-15 one way, with some companies charging extra for large items such as golf clubs and surfboards. The airport taxi system is managed by dispatchers in green-and-yellow shirts on the medians outside the baggage-claim areas. The fare to Waikiki is about $40 each way, during non-rush hours, for as many as four passengers.

Orthodontists traveling to the follow-up seminars on other islands will be flying from the Interisland Terminal to Kahului Airport (Maui) or Lihue Airport (Kauai). Both offer direct flights to the West Coast. Ground transportation is available at each airport; if you’re not renting a car, it’s a good idea to prearrange a pickup from your hotel. The Go Oahu card (www.smartdestinations.com) provides access to some 30 attractions around the island and discounts at other businesses. Cards good for one to seven days can be used over two-week periods.


Oahu offers a full complement of tour services on land, on sea, and in the air for both first-time visitors and seasoned adventurers. Most operators will pick up at Waikiki-area hotels, and many companies offer transportation to destinations on the other Hawaiian islands. TourTalk Oahu’s award-winning audio-tour CD is a 78-minute narrative of historical and modern-day sites on a circuit of the island, accompanied by driving instructions, photos, maps, and a glossary.

E Noa Tours, specializing in Oahu sites and culture, offers deluxe minibus sightseeing tours of the island’s most popular attractions. Discover Hawaii Tours’ and Hawaii Active’s extensive menus include cross-island and inter-island activities and tours of all the major islands.

KOS Tours specializes in exclusive, off-road visits to filming locations for Lost, Hawaii Five-0, Godzilla, and Jurassic Park (ages 13 and older). For those who prefer self-propelled transportation, bicycle rentals and guided hiking trips are available from several companies. Bike Hawaii offers an easy, five-mile, all-downhill bike ride through the lush Pu‘u‘ohia Rainforest and a “100% dirt” mountain-biking tour of the Ka‘a‘awa Valley in the Koolau Range. If you’d prefer to invent your own Oahu tour, get your moped, bicycle, or Harley-Davidson from Hawaiian Style Rentals.

Swimmers enjoy a beautiful day on Waikiki Beach. Photo © Chee-Onn Leong, <a href="http://www.123rf.com" target="_blank">www.123rf.com</a>.

Custom-tailored guided birding tours and vacations can be arranged on many of the islands by Annette’s Adventures, a member of the Hawaii Ecotourism Association. Oahu Nature Tours specializes in guided, small-group hikes to see spectacular waterfalls, archaeological sites, or tropical birds and flowers; a climb up to Diamond Head crater involves a spiral staircase and a 200' tunnel.

Although the whale-viewing season generally tapers off in April, a number of tour operators, including Dolphin Excursions and Hoku Nai‘a, advertise year-round encounters with dolphins, turtles, and other sealife from aboard vessels or as part of guided snorkeling tours on the west coast of Oahu. Wild Side Specialty Tours also conducts overnight cruises during meteor showers, including the Eta-Aquarids shower on the evening of May 5.

Submarine excursions display the beauty of coral reefs, tropical sealife, and sunken ships in air-conditioned comfort, although ladder climbing is required and there are minimum height restrictions for children. Atlantis Submarines dive within view of Diamond Head, with the option of combining a tour and a sunset dinner cruise.

Departing from Keehi Lagoon, the high-wing aircraft of Island Seaplane Service have only window seats for optimum views. Honolulu Soaring, on the North Shore, provides thrilling “aerobatic” rides as well as more conventional scenic glider flights for one or two passengers; flight instruction and aircraft rental are also available. Skydive Hawaii offers tandem first jump experiences and an exclusive 20,000-foot tandem jump with a photo/DVD option in what it calls “the World’s Most Beautiful Drop Zone”.

Map reprinted by permission of the Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau, <a href="http://www.gohawaii.com/oahu target="_blank">www.gohawaii.com/oahu</a>.

Attractions and Performances

Near the convention center, the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii is housed in a massive, reinforced-concrete battery built in 1911. At Pearl Harbor, admission is free to the USS Arizona Memorial and the recently designated World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Other Pearl Harbor Historic Sites charge an admission fee; online ticket reservations are recommended for all (<a href="http://www.recreation.gov" target="_blank">www.recreation.gov</a>). A special two-day pass offers discounted access to the Battleship Missouri, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park. Be prepared for tight security at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center venues, where all bags and purses must be checked in lockers, and be sure to wear appropriate clothing (bathing suits are discouraged).

On Oahu’s North Shore, Kahuku Farms offers wagon tours of its orchards of taro, plumerias, coconut, heliconia, eggplant, papaya, and bananas amid a breathtaking landscape where the Koolau Range meets the sea. Kualoa, a 4,000-acre working cattle ranch on Oahu’s northeastern shore, is a former residence of kings and place of sanctuary; the current owners offer hiking, horseback, catamaran, and all-terrain-vehicle tours. Also on the northeast end of Oahu, the Polynesian Cultural Center introduces visitors to the diverse and colorful cultures of the Pacific islands with “village” presentations and performances, casual and formal dining venues, a daily “Rainbows of Paradise” canoe pageant, and an evening show called “Ha: Breath of Life”. The annual World Fireknife Competition, to be held there May 9-12, evolved from the burning-knife dances performed by Samoan warriors before battles to frighten the enemy.

Hawaii’s Plantation Village in Waipahu is an outdoor museum that interprets the lives of Hawaii’s ethnically diverse sugarcane-plantation workers; guided tours are conducted hourly Monday through Saturday. Keep the kids motivated by promising a visit to the eastern shore’s Bay View Mini-Putt and Zipline, featuring 36 holes of miniature golf and Oahu’s only commercial zip line.

The 15th Islandwide Spring Crafts & Food Expo takes place May 4-6 in the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall. Pay homage to Elvis Presley’s statue next to the Blaisdell box office.

The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Junichi Hirokami, accompanies sensational Cuban-American guitarist Manuel Barrueco May 4 and 6 at the Blaisdell Center Concert Hall. The same venue presents “Shen Yun: A Chinese Dance and Music Spectacular” on May 8 and 9. Horton Foote’s Tony-nominated play, Dividing the Estate, opens at the Manoa Valley Theatre on May 10.

At the Bishop Museum, the Muppets will be in residence for an exhibit titled “Sesame Street Presents: The Body”. Also on view during the convention will be “Manu‘unu‘u ka Welolani: The Chiefly Cultures of Polynesia” and “Tradition and Transition: Stories of Hawaii Immigrants”. On Friday, May 4, the museum’s regular presentation of “The Sky Tonight” will be followed by telescope viewing hosted by the Hawaiian Astronomical Society; reservations are recommended.

MAMo: Maoli Arts Month 2012 celebrates native Hawaiian art and artists with an awardees’ opening reception at the Kumu Kahua Theatre on May 4. The Honolulu Museum of Art at First Hawaiian Center displays Hawaiian artists’ works throughout the bank lobby and second-floor mezzanine (banking hours only). Exhibits on view through May 11 include “Franco Salmoiraghi: Flowers & Plants of Hawai‘i” and “Craft Masters: Woodworkers of Hawai‘i” (John Mydock, Francisco Clemente, and Pat Kramer). During the convention, the museum’s main location on Beretania Street features “Regal and Royal Hawaiian Quilts”; “Comforts for the Soul: Han Dynasty Arts for the Afterlife”; “Kawase Hasui: Capturing the Ephemeral”, featuring woodblock prints produced before the 1923 Tokyo earthquake; and “The Living Mirror: Luminaries of 20th-Century Modernist Photography”, including images by Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston.

The Queen Emma Summer Palace, a historic landmark and museum, is maintained by the Daughters of Hawaii. Nearly every Friday and Saturday evening, the Honolulu Zoo offers a Zoo Twilight Tour, a two-hour guided stroll through the park at the time of day when many of the animals are most active. Reservations are strongly recommended for this popular tour, which is most appropriate for kids age 4 and older.

Dining and Nightlife

Restaurant recommendations are provided by our sister publication, Sommelier Journal. For fine dining in the Asian-American fusion tradition, backed by a top-of-the-line wine program, visit Alan Wong’s, Azure Restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Chef Mavro, Hiroshi Eurasion Tapas, La Mer at the Halekulani Hotel, Michel’s at The Colony Surf, Nobu Waikiki at the Waikiki Parc Hotel, Roy’s, Sansei at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, or 3660 on the Rise. Hy’s Steak House at the Waikiki Park Heights Hotel and the two locations of Ruth’s Chris Steak House are also highly regarded.

More conventional Asian dishes are spotlighted at Hakkei, Hakone (buffet) at the Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki, Sushi Izakaya Gaku, and Sushi Sasabune. Authentic local fare with no frills can be sampled at Helena’s Hawaiian Food or Ono Hawaiian Foods.

Star of Honolulu offers a variety of sunset dinner cruises with live entertainment on its spacious 230' vessel. Other dinner-cruise opportunities: Hawaii Nautical (four-course dinners for groups of six on a catamaran), Royal Hawaiian Catamaran (sunset cruises and star-gazing tours), and Tradewind Charters (small or large private parties, plus sunrise cruises).

If a journey to the Polynesian Cultural Center doesn’t fit your schedule, the Magic of Polynesia Theater at the Holiday Inn Waikiki features nightly dinner-shows with fire dancers and illusionists. The Chart House Waikiki (with the island’s largest pupu menu) features live music in the cocktail lounge. Pearl Ultralounge in the Ala Moana Center offers live music and dancing for the younger crowd. Other musical venues include The Edge of Waikiki at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel (with colorful “island” cocktails and stunning views), Lewers Lounge in the Halekulani Hotel (a more formal, indoor venue with a dress code), and the poolside Moana Terrace at the Waikiki Beach Marriott. For quick beach access, try the super-casual Barefoot Bar in the Hale Koa Hotel (live music starting at sunset) or Duke’s Waikiki in the Outrigger Hotel (happy-hour and late-night Hawaiian music).

Shopping and Galleries

Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii carries the best and most culturally accurate Hawaiian books, music, and DVDs, along with musical instruments, clothing, and craft items produced by island artists. The Aloha-shirt aficionado must make a pilgrimage to Bailey’s Antiques and Aloha Shirts, boasting an amazing selection of 15,000 used, new, vintage, and “specialty” shirts. Award-winning fashion designer Anne Namba creates unique women’s clothing and wedding attire from vintage kimonos and obis at Anne Namba Designs.

Looking for the “Waikiki Tourist” experience? Head to the International Market Place for shopping beneath the banyan trees, free entertainment, and lots of local color. Aloha Tower Marketplace (with fabulous views of Honolulu Harbor), the eclectic and inviting Waikiki Beach Walk (with shops and dining along several blocks of Lewers Street), and Pearlridge Center (the state’s largest indoor mall, overlooking Pearl Harbor) also offer a wide variety of shopping and casual-dining options. More upscale shopping is available at the beautiful, open-air Ala Moana Center and at the DFS Galleria and Royal Hawaiian Center, both in Waikiki. For the most bling per square foot, visit Waikiki’s Luxury Row, featuring Chanel, Gucci, YSL, Coach, Tiffany, Tod’s, Bottega Veneta, and Hugo Boss boutiques in a single elegant block.

May 4 marks the popular First Friday Honolulu, held 5-9 p.m. in the Downtown and Chinatown districts (see The Arts at Mark’s Garage website for a downloadable gallery-walk map). Each Saturday and Sunday, local artists display and sell paintings and photographs along the fence of the Honolulu Zoo, across from the bandstand at Kapiolani Park (see the Art on the Zoo Fence website for a list of member artists who may be on hand in May).

More conventional galleries in Honolulu include Bethel Street Gallery (Hawaii’s largest artist-owned showcase), Cedar Street Galleries (featuring 350 local artists), Hawaii Craftsmen (clay, fiber, metal, wood, and mixed media), Island Art Galleries (three locations featuring Hawaiian and international artists), Mauna Kea Galleries (Hawaiian and Polynesian artifacts, rare books, and vintage Aloha shirts and paintings), Nohea Gallery (two locations offering fine arts, crafts, woodwork, and jewelry), Robyn Buntin of Honolulu (Asian, Indian, Himalayan, and Polynesian art and antiques), and Wyland Galleries (the popular marine-life artist’s paintings, sculptures, and photography).

Worthwhile destinations for a drive to the North Shore include Clark Little Photography (stunning surf photography) and Sunshine Arts Gallery (works of 60 island painters, printmakers, glass blowers, and sculptors). Watch the rare technique of lampworking—the art of heating glass rods with a torch before shaping with tools—at Oceans in Glass in Haleiwa’s North Shore Marketplace. Nearby, the historic Waialua Sugar Mill now houses the North Shore Soap Factory, where visitors can see soap being made and purchase body products incorporating natural “island” ingredients such as macadamia-nut and kukui oils, papaya, coffee, and guava.

Golf and Other Sports

Top golf layouts in the vicinity of Honolulu include Kapolei Golf Course and Ko Olina Golf Club in Kapolei and the Hawaii Prince and Ewa Beach Golf Club at Pearl Harbor. Those willing to drive a bit farther can play the Makaha Valley Country Club, offering spectacular views on the dry, western side of the island; Koolau Golf Club, rated the most difficult course in the country, on the slopes of the Koolau Range; or the North Shore’s beautiful Turtle Bay Resort, where veterans prefer the Arnold Palmer course to Greg Fazio’s.

If you’re traveling on to Maui, you can’t go wrong at either of the two Kapalua Resort courses. The dramatic Plantation Course plays host to the PGA’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions every January, but is actually upland from the coast, while Palmer’s Bay Course, tucked between hotels along the beach, is a treat for low- and high-handicappers alike. The Wailea Golf Club comprises three 18-hole layouts with beautiful views, but the best is the bunker-dotted Gold Course.

In the Poipu Beach area of southern Kauai, the most noteworthy tracks are the links-style Kiahuna Golf Club and the scenic but windy Poipu Bay Golf Course. Near the main town of Lihue are the Jack Nicklaus-designed Kauai Lagoons and the exciting new Puakea Golf Course. Up north, the island’s best courses—the 27-hole Makai and the highly rated Prince—are found at the Princeville Resort, where you should always be prepared for a little drizzle.

Ocean Legends schedules daily scuba charters to all four sides of Oahu, offering certification and Hawaii’s only rebreather training facility. Daily guided scuba tours of Oahu’s shipwreck sites, reefs, and underwater caves, accessed on a 40' catamaran, are available from Rainbow Scuba. Hawaii Water Sports Center’s individual and family activities range from bumper tubing, water skiing, and jet skiing to parasailing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Snuba—a hybrid of snorkeling and scuba in which swimmers can breathe via air lines connected to a tank on a raft or boat—is offered by Breeze Hawaii and Hawaii Nautical; generally, children age 8 and older can participate.

Hawaii native and professional surfer Hans Hedemann’s school, with locations in Honolulu and on the North Shore, and the all-female staff at North Shore Surf Girls teach private and group lessons for all skill levels. Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks offers guided and self-guided kayaking tours of Kailua’s reefs and sea-turtle feeding grounds, Lanikai Beach, the Mokulua Islands, and, for experienced kayakers, the wild and remote eastern coast of Oahu.

Coral shrimp adorn a colorful Hawaiian reef. Photo © Olga Bogatyrenko, Dreamstime.com.

Maui and Kauai

On Maui, the famously scenic Hana Highway follows the rugged and pristine eastern coastline with 620 curves and 59 bridges. Haleakala National Park, stretching from the 10,023' summit of the (active, but not currently erupting) Haleakala Volcano to the ocean, offers hiking, horseback riding, amazing sunrises and sunsets, and spectacular stargazing opportunities. At the Napili Kai Beach Resort near Lahaina on the west coast, legendary Hawaiian falsetto singer and ukulele master Richard Ho‘opi‘i will be performing on May 9.

Scenery on Kauai is dramatic and enticing, with some areas accessible only by sea or air. Both the Na Pali Coast and Waimea Canyon are worth day trips. Kauai Photo Tours offers small-group walking and hiking tours to the island’s most picturesque and secluded locations. Contact Kauai Backcountry Adventures for a unique tour of the historic former Lihue Sugar Plantation’s canals, flumes, and tunnels via inner tube—headlamps provided.

Fig. 1 Swimmers enjoy a beautiful day on Waikiki Beach. Photo © Chee-Onn Leong, www.123rf.com.
Fig. 2 Map reprinted by permission of the Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau, www.gohawaii.com/oahu.
Fig. 3 Coral shrimp adorn a colorful Hawaiian reef. Photo © Olga Bogatyrenko, Dreamstime.com.


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