Diamond Head.After a whirlwind first five days on the Big Island, I was really looking forward to some true R&R at Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu. But if this is not the first post you’ve read on this blog, you know that taking it easy is not really my style of vacation. I like to have some activities planned. There’s always more to see than days in a trip!View from our balcony.As soon as we landed at the Honolulu airport and picked up our rental car, instead of immediately checking into our super-nice, beachfront hotel for a day of lounging, we headed straight to Oahu’s North Shore to see the biggest waves in a decade hitting the coast. Honolulu traffic is pretty bad, so I knew that if we didn’t head toward the North Shore right away, we likely weren’t going to venture in that direction again.Big waves at the North Shore.In addition to catching (sight of) some big waves, I was motivated, per usual, by food. Specifically food in Haleiwa, where food trucks and other interesting restaurants abound. After a quick search on Trip Advisor, we decided to check out the No. 1 ranked restaurant, which also happened to fit our foods-you-can’t-get-in-El-Salvador list: Opal Thai, also featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”Vide: Opal Thai larb featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.Lunch at Opal Thai was by far the most interesting meal of our entire trip. And it was really good — definitely the best of the three Thai restaurants we tried, and worth the 45-minute to one-hour wait. The Trip Advisor reviews provided some warning about the unorthodox way of ordering at Opal Thai. Or rather, the lack thereof. Customers are given menus upon being seated, but the owner, Opal, promptly takes them away. Here’s what happened next:
Opal: Do you guys like Thai food?Me/Kail: Yes …?Opal: Five Thai dishes. Go.Me: Pad thai, pad see-ew …Kail: Kra-pow, Panang curry …Me: Thai fried rice.Opal: Basil, lime, cilantro, curry, chili — you guys like those?Me/Kail: Yes.Opal: Chicken, pork, duck, shrimp, crab — you like those?Me/Kail: Yes.Opal: Thanks. [Walks away.]
He ended up preparing larb, which was featured in the video above, shrimp pad thai and Thai fried rice with crabmeat. It was delicious.The other interesting thing was the way Opal kept yelling at his poor staff, two servers named Matt and Nicole. I remember their names so clearly because Opal literally yelled at them every couple sentences throughout our meal. “Matt! Nicole! I need waters for the whole restaurant!” “Matt! Don’t call my customers ‘man’!” “Matt! Throw me a pen!” “Nicole! This table needs beer glasses!” Thirty seconds later … “Nicole! This table needs beer glasses! Now!” It was hilarious, but I also felt bad for them.Eventually we made it to our hotel, the Westin Moana Surfrider, after crawling through Honolulu traffic. The hotel is really nice. There were two weddings going on when we checked in — on a Wednesday. It’s right on the main strip of Waikiki Beach and has beautiful beachfront views. There are a few nice restaurants, bars and cafes on the premises, as well as an indoor and outdoor pool, gym, spa, stores, you name it — most of which we did not even use for lack of time.We did have a couple good meals there (great brunch buffet), some nice tropical cocktails while watching the sunset, as well as the opportunity to relax and read in these little beachfront cabanas. But as we only had one full day on Oahu, and we also wanted to see Pearl Harbor and explore Waikiki Beach at large, we didn’t spend a ton of time at the hotel.Sunrise from Diamond Head.Probably my favorite part of being in Waikiki was running. There are great running paths that go right along the beach and up to Diamond Head State Park. I ran in Kona one of the first days we were there, but since I was pretty sick I didn’t run again until we got to Waikiki (I was still sick, but on the mend).Good thing I ran too because I ate a lot! There is a shortbread cookie store called Honolulu Cookie Company that. I. LOVE. I don’t even like shortbread cookies. Or at least, I didn’t think I did. But after visiting not one but two retail locations in Waikiki, enjoying free samples and buying a million cookies as “gifts” (yeah … gifts … I didn’t eat the vast majority myself), I am now addicted. They even deliver cookies. To DPO addresses. I’m not saying I ordered some online, but I’m not saying I didn’t order some online.Sweet tooth sufficiently satisfied, I also set out on a quest for a good hamburger. We decided on Teddy’s Bigger Burgers, and it hit the spot: old-school diner-style burgers, fries and shakes. (OK, so my sweet tooth needed to be supplemented with a chocolate peanut butter milkshake.) I told myself that I was working off the damage by running and
window shopping walking.I would have liked to spend another night in Waikiki so we could enjoy the hotel a bit more, but we still had the rest of the BIg Island to see. I’m going to write about Pearl Harbor in a separate post, because I feel like it demands a certain amount of respect, and something about tropical cocktails and hamburgers sort of takes away from that.How do you feel about shortbread cookies? Meh? Believe me — you would change your mind after a Honolulu Cookie!