Little gems in Honolulu? Do such things even exist in the most populous city in Hawaii? Situated on the island of Oahu and a major tourist destination, there are few surprises left in this major hub for international business and military defense. A hotbed of consumerism, Peter and I use it as a brief shopping stopover before heading back home to Australia. We love it for what it is.
Having said that, we managed to track a couple of local gems down today, starting with a dusty unassuming storefront in Kapahulu Avenue called Bailey’s Aloha Shirts. Frequented by the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Charlie Sheen and Tom Selleck over the years, Bailey’s is jam packed with rack after rack of new, vintage, and used Aloha shirts, all in excellent condition. Vintage shirts from the 40s, 50s and 60s dangle enticingly from the ceiling, with prices accordingly out of reach, selling for thousands of dollars. The N.Y. Times listed Bailey's as the only "must see" shop for visitors with 36 hours in Honolulu, with good reason too. Quintessentially Hawaiian, you’ll not find another place like this anywhere in the world. Today, Peter and I were lucky to run into Mr Bailey, who chatted animatedly about the day Anthony Bourdain filmed part of the sequel for “No Reservations” in his store. We’ll be back for our fix of sunshine-on-a-cloth next year. 517 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815.
Rainbow Drive-In is another local institution that’s just down the road from Bailey’s and away from the tourist traps of Waikiki. Serving up Hawaiian comfort food that is so bad, it’s good, most dishes on the menu are guaranteed to quadruple your caloric intake and blow away any hangover. You’ll find an endless array of such gobsmackingly delicious, artery clogging delicacies as Chilli Dog plate, Corned Beef Hash & Egg, Mix Plate Gravy All Over or Pork Cutlets Gravy All Over. If you’re after something lighter (and, dare I say, healthier) the Mahi Mahi and Chicken dishes are delectable and cooked to perfection. Go the whole hog by washing it all down with a Strawberry Slush. If you really want to live dangerously, try an ice cream cake in one of their float flavours. Rainbow Drive-In is fast, cheap, tasty and commands a huge local and military following. The lines are long so try to be patient. Losing your cool in Hawaii is considered a serious faux pas. 3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815.
As for our third gem, it’s the Waikiki Parc, our choice of hotel every time we’re in Honolulu. This chic boutique hotel is the discreet sister to the more glamorous Halekulani across the road, which means one can enjoy signing privileges in one while staying at the other. Contemporary, sleek, unpretentious and reasonably priced, the Waikiki Parc is a refreshing change from the Gilligan’s Island vibe of other establishments. With shopping and dining at your doorstep and a 30-second walk to the beach from the back door, Waikiki Parc’s position is unrivaled . The ground floor of the hotel is also home to Nobu, the world's most recognized Japanese restaurant and our favorite dining destination.
While most guests clamor for an Ocean View room, Peter and I choose to stay in the Mountain View rooms of the Waikiki Parc every time, and preferably anything above the 20th floor. While the Mountain View rooms may overlook the concrete roof of the Sheraton’s parking lot next door (as well as the majestic mountains beyond), the rooms on this side of the building ensure minimum exposure to the traffic and delivery truck noises below. Honolulu is a bustling city, after all. As for the rooms, they are understated, immaculate, and extremely comfortable. The hotel offers a comprehensive range of Japanese, as well as American, breakfast foods in their morning buffet to cater to a high Japanese client base. But one of the best things about this hotel is a program called Parc Active, complimentary lifestyle classes - Beach walks/ jogs, yoga, meditation, Zumba classes and Qui Gong -for all their guests every morning, between 8 and 9. Now that’s cool!
With another day to go before we leave Hawaii for Sydney, it’s time to say Aloha to the islands. Mahalo nui loa.