Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of Oahu has a reputation for high-rise resorts and popular beaches. So for the July/ August 2009 issue of ISLANDS magazine, writer David Lansing went in search of the aloha spirit that shows a Hawaii apart from the usual tourist attractions to something true about the culture. See his story (including inspiring photos by Shelly Strazis) and plan your Hawaii trip based on his travel advice below.
Oahu AirportFly direct from Los Angeles to Honolulu International Airport (HNL) aboard Hawaiian Airlines. hawaiianair.com
Oahu Hotels and ResortsStay at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, across the street from the statue of "Ambassador of Aloha" Duke Kahanamoku, waikiki.hyatt.com. A lower-key option is Hotel Renew, a chic boutique hotel a block from Kapi'olani Park. hotelrenew.com
Oahu RestaurantsEat Polynesian dishes, like kalua pig and poi, at Ono Hawaiian Foods, a family-run diner, 808-737-2275. Cook your own mahimahi or ahi on the beach at Shore Bird in the Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel, outrigger.com. For raw fish try Doraku Sushi, sushidoraku.com. Sample the best of Oahu, from Waimea strawberry jam to Kiawe smoked red sea salt, at the Honolulu farmers market Saturdays at Kapi'olani Community College. hfbf.org
Find hidden Hawaii on one of Hina Adventures' cultural tours where you can hike sacred sites on the island and learn about ancient Hawaiian culture, hinaadventures.net. Spook yourself on Oahu Ghost Tours. Believers lead you to supernatural island sites. Aim your camera at the ghosts. And be careful where you sit. oahughosttours.com
Hula with the gorgeous dancers at the Waikiki Starlight Luau at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa. The revamped show, featuring a Samoan fire-knife dance, runs Sunday through Thursday, hiltonhawaiianvillage.com. Ride the Waikiki Trolley's color-coded lines to the Bishop Museum (for artifacts), 'Iolani Palace (for Hawaiian royal history), Ala Moana Center (for shopping) and other landmarks (for other fun). waikikitrolley.com