November 13, 2014 | By Brenda McClain
I recently had the opportunity to attend Oahu’s Fourth Annual Hawaii Food & Wine Festival trip, hosted by Virtuoso. I was invited because of Andavo’s membership in Virtuoso’s luxury travel network. This extraordinary event was held on three different nights and featured over 40 celebrity chefs along with 20 of Napa Valley’s greatest wine estates. The events were: “A Lucky Modern Buddha Belly”, “Corks & Forks” and “It’s a Food World After All”. The closing evening was a clear night under the stars on Oahu’s western shore, featuring an incredible fireworks display.
The hotels we visited were some of the finest in the islands, including the Royal Hawaiian, which was built in 1927 and is often called the “Pink Palace of the Pacific”, located on prime property on Waikiki Beach. The Royal Hawaiian is filled with rich traditions and amenities as well as the Azure restaurant and the Abhasa Spa. You may remember that Shirley Temple entertained at this hotel when she was just a child – the “Virgin Shirley Temple” originated here as the bartenders made a special virgin drink for her. There are photos on the lower level of the hotel highlighting some of her times at the hotel.
Besides great restaurants and night life, the largest outdoor mall in the world is located in the Waikiki area – the Ala Moana Shopping Center – and we had a chance to visit the famous Carolina Herrera boutique store there. The International Marketplace has now closed and is being rebuilt with Saks Fifth Avenue becoming one of their anchor stores. Oahu has become a real shopping mecca in the last few years.
Just an hour away from the energetic pulse of the Waikiki Beach area is the North Shore of Oahu, which is home to the Turtle Bay Resort with almost 5 miles of beachfront property. A newly-renovated resort features two championship golf courses, four tennis courts, horseback riding, helicopter sightseeing and a surf school. Every room has a great ocean view. While at Turtle Bay, we had dinner at Pa’akai restaurant, highlighting the best in local fresh fish. This area has some of the island’s freshest produce with fruit stands and even fresh shrimp trucks, such as Giovanni’s and Romy’s, in the neighborhood.
During our visit we learned from the Hawaiian cultural practitioners what it takes to care for the He’eia ahupua’a (land division extending from the mountains to the sea), an 800 year old fishpond and lo’I on the windward side of Oahu. Laulima means a group of people working together to clear limu (seaweed) and rocks out of the ancient fishpond. This is a very slow manual process and rather humbling as we volunteered and worked beside them.
The Halekulani luxury resort, or “house befitting heaven” in Hawaiian, offers an oasis of tranquility while featuring wonderful hospitality and a refined atmosphere. The orchid-designed pool has more than a million glass tiles which were imported from South Africa. You can sit under the 100 year hold kiawe tree and watch a beautiful sunset.
The beach activities on Oahu are endless including: surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling or even having a nose-to-nose meeting with a Hawaii’s state fish. If you prefer to keep your feet dry, you can hike some unbelievable trails, horseback ride, zip line, visit the Dole Plantation, and of course no trip is complete without spending time at the Pearl Harbor National Monument. There is also the National Memorial Cemetery where over 48,000 of the world’s soldiers are buried in Punchbowl Crater, and Iolani Palace – the only royal palace in the US, which also had electricity before the White House did.
Oahu offers many types of vacations – from a destination wedding to a family vacation. There is something for everyone on the island. This exotic paradise is truly a great destination you should consider and being a Master Oahu Specialist I would love the opportunity to help make your trip a memory of a lifetime.