Getting the flavor of … Hawaiian pastimes

Visiting the funkier side of Waikiki and the North Shore's big-wave surfing beaches

A walk through Waikiki

Waikiki’s public face is an oceanfront procession of tourist hotels and shops, said Guy Trebay in Travel + Leisure. Hidden behind is an older, funkier Waikiki, though one that’s fast disappearing. Today there are fewer hole-in-the-wall joints selling shaved ice flavored with coconut syrup, and the Waikiki Beach Walk project has transformed “eight acres of dive bars and budget hotels” into something that vaguely looks like Denver, only with “better beach access.” A series of crossed tiki torches light the way through “landscaped islands of fan palms” interspersed with new retail stores and restaurants. Yet the Walk does evoke the glamour of the resort’s “bygone days” and leads to the “justifiably fabled” Halekulani Hotel, where the deep calm of cool, open lobbies and gardens is broken only by the sound of the surf and the beachside restaurant. What could be more pleasant than sitting at the open-air bar and becoming “pleasantly looped on the stealthy mai tais”?


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Oahu’s Super Bowl of surfing

Oahu’s North Shore is “the world’s most famous big-wave surfing coastline,” said Sean Patrick Riley in the Los Angeles Times. The big-wave season began in October and lasts through March. As you stand on the shoreline, you can feel the earth shiver as the waves explode like an energy field. This is the season when “the 20 best surfers on the planet” gather to battle the waves and one another in a series of surfing competitions along eight miles of coastline running from Haleiwa north to Turtle Bay. Three women’s and three men’s contests are held—“a Super Bowl of surfing, with 20-foot-tall linebackers.” All competitions are open to the public. The most prestigious is the Billabong Pipeline Masters for men at Banzai Pipeline: Held from Dec. 8 through Dec. 20, this event is a spectator’s dream, with huge, storm-generated waves unfolding only “a

seashell’s throw away.”


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