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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Getting to Know Hawaii: My Central and Leeward Oahu Favorites

For my last and final blog post on my Oahu favorites, I wanted to focus on the area in which I spent most of my time while living on island, central Oahu, along with Leeward Oahu, one of my favorite sides of Oahu -- and yes, I realize I've said that about each side!  I can't help that I love this island so much, haha.  

Since both of these areas aren't exactly hotspots for tourism when compared to the rest of the island, this post might be helpful to some of you who'd like to branch out a little and see more than just the typical popular Oahu spots.  Hopefully you uncover a few favorite spots of your own from this list or even come across some totally different ones in your search.  Also, if you have an Oahu favorite that I haven't listed either here or on any of my other posts, feel free to comment below and tell me about it!


Hughley's Southern Cuisine

Open from 11AM to 8PM Tuesday-Saturday; 1PM to 8PM Sunday

Hughley's was officially one of our top favorite restaurants on island.  Since Mr. L and I both come from the Gulf Coast region of Alabama, AKA the Deep South, after a living on Oahu for a while we came to really miss good Southern food.  There's good food on island of course, but we were missing the kinds of dishes we grew up on.  Thankfully Hughley's was there to fill this need for us!  Mr. L swears by their delicious brisket -- he would get it every single time we went and always loved it.  My favorite dishes were the fried chicken, catfish, ribs, hush puppies (I seemed to always have been craving hush puppies since they're so rare), mac and cheese, cornbread...yeah, I could probably go on and on!  And the best part of the meal was the sweet tea.  It is delicious, sugary heaven!  Basically, Hughley's is full of good food and good people so I highly recommend them to anybody looking to satisfy any Southern food cravings they may have!

Loco Moco Drive Inn

Open from 8AM to 9PM daily

Loco Moco Drive Inn (one of many "Drive Inns" on Oahu that, surprise, doesn't have a drive-in, lol) consists of down-home, local grub -- the kind that sticks to your ribs.  We frequented this location quite a bit since it was close to home, cheap, and delicious.  Their selection is ENORMOUS, which is one of the things I loved about it since there's usually something to please everyone.  Mr. L loved to get the cheeseburger and chicken katsu and I fancied the garlic chicken, mochiko chicken, teri burger, and sometimes the garlic shrimp, although it didn't compete with the North Shore shrimp trucks.  Hopefully I'll be able to recreate some of these Hawaiian staples here on the mainland because I sure do miss them!

Liz's BBQ

Open from 10AM to 8PM daily

I feel like Liz's has some of the best advertising of any my "favorites" lists.  Now, I've never seen a commerical for them on TV or anything like that, but let me tell you, when you exit the Pearl Harbor commissary or the NEX and your nose picks up the heavenly scent of marinated, grilled meats of different varieties, you instantly begin hearing your stomach growling and feel your mouth start to water.  For some reason, it just has this affect on people, especially with Mr. L and me!  We both loved the chicken plates and I was also a fan of the pork sticks, although they never really seemed to have them anymore for some reason.  And it may be a tad pricey for a combo plate, but honestly, it's a lot of good food that tends to fill you up pretty easily.  When Mr. L and I think back on the food we miss most on island, Liz's is definitely on this list.  Guess I have to learn to make BBQ like this in Alabama!

The Forty Niner Diner

Open from 7AM to 8PM Monday-Thursday; 7AM to 9PM Friday-Saturday; 7AM to 2PM Sunday

The Forty Niner was another recent find of ours that became our go-to breakfast spot for our last little while on Oahu, especially for FROs (fried rice omelets).  If you've never tried a FRO before, I highly recommend giving one from here a shot!  Other than FROs, the Forty Niner also serves up a range of breakfast items like pancakes (the banana mac nut ones are delicious!), waffles, Portuguese sausage, loco moco, and much more.  They also have plenty of traditional local lunch and dinner options like burgers, oxtail soup, garlic chicken, saimin, and much more.  If Mr. L and I ever make it back to Oahu for a visit, the Forty Niner will definitely be our first stop one morning for breakfast!

Monkeypod Kitchen

Open from 11AM to 11PM Monday-Friday; 9AM to 11PM Saturday-Sunday

The Monkeypod Kitchen is a deliciously wonderful restaurant located on the western side of Oahu in Ko'Olina.  They're committed to serving fresh and locally sourced ingredients and that commitment really shines through in their food.  The last time Mr. L and I were there, we totally loved everything we had.  My Big Island cheeseburger was tender and juicy and Mr. L would NOT stop raving about his pulled pork sandwich.  I'm pretty sure he devoured that thing in about three bites, and for him, that rarely if ever happens at any restaurant!  I was thrilled, needless to say :)  We also love love love Monkeypod's pies.  The chocolate cream pie is to die for!  We only wish they'd open up a Monkeypod right down the street from us in Alabama.  If only!  :(


Pearl Harbor Historical Sites

More Information; locations listed in individual blog posts

I feel like I've always had a special place in my heart for the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites.  If you're unfamiliar, these sites include (as per my definition): the USS Arizona Memorial; the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park; the Battleship Missouri; the USS Oklahoma Memorial; the USS Utah Memorial; and the Pacific Aviation Museum.  The USS Arizona is possibly the most famous war grave in the United States.  The memorial is located over the sunken hull of the Arizona and is incredibly emotional and moving.  The USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, which resides in the same complex as the Arizona Memorial, is honestly my most beloved museum in Hawaii thanks to a personal connection I discovered within my own family.  The Battleship Missouri is a battleship-turned-museum and floats nearby the Arizona as a symbol of WWII's end.  The USS Oklahoma Memorial and the USS Utah Memorial are similar to the Arizona in that they represent two more ships with an almost complete loss of crew.  And the Pacific Aviation Museum is a wonderful museum on Ford Island celebrating the role of aviation in Hawaii's history.  Although these activities all together can make for quite a long day, I always made sure to include them in any itinerary I planned for family and friends.  Visiting all or most of these sites is easily the number one activity I recommend for anyone visiting Oahu, whether it's their first, second, or 102nd trip!

Aiea Loop Trail

Aiea Loop Trail is a very nice jungle/forest hike in Aiea with a fantastic view of the H3 at the midway-ish point.  It's around 5 miles long if you do the entire loop and is a great hike not only to commune with the beauty of Oahu's nature, but to also bond with a furry friend since it's a dog-friendly trail!  Our dog Lila loved hiking here, although she'd beg to be carried if we did the whole loop, haha.  I also really like that you get to spot different kinds of plants all along the trail, including bushes and bushes of strawberry guava, a tart but delicious (and actually non-native) fruit.  If you're looking for a way to stretch your legs as well as your dog's in the central Oahu area, Aiea Loop would definitely be my recommendation!

Hickam Air Force Base Dog Beach

I know, I know.  It seems a little odd that a "dog beach" would make it to my favorite spots list, but just hear me out!  As a dog owner, this place was absolutely perfect to let my youngest dog burn some energy and splash in the waves (Liam HATES water, so he just got extra loving when we came back home!).  When the tide is out, a sandbar becomes apparent and makes for a great area for the dogs to just run and run until they are dog tired (ha ha).  I probably wouldn't lay out here or spend an actual "beach day" here, but you can't beat having such a great (and for us, close) place for your furry friends to enjoy the ocean!

Ko'Olina Lagoons

The Ko'Olina Lagoons are a magical set of four lagoons located on Oahu's west side near Kapolei.  Although the lagoons themselves are actually all man-made, they are still incredibly gorgeous and picturesque.  They're also perfect for families and kids since there are essentially no waves thanks to the rocks that keep the lagoons protected from potentially rough ocean currents.  Fish and other kinds of sea life are definitely prevalent here as well, making it a nice location to get some snorkeling in.  Lagoons one and three are my personal favorites!  You will most likely have to deal with crowds here since, one, it's popular with locals, and two, many hotels grace the beachfronts here, like the Marriott and Disney's Aulani.  Because of this, parking, although free at the fourth lagoon and in some beach access spots at the others, can be difficult to come by.  If you have cash on you, you can also park in the "overflow" area close to lagoon 4 in the marina for $10 a car.  Regardless of the crowds and potential parking headaches though, Ko'Olina is a gem that should be experienced.

Ka'ena Point Trail Leeward Side

Ka'ena Point on the Leeward side of Oahu was the first coastal hike I went on after moving to Hawaii and it quickly won my heart.  The views on this side of the trail are purely stunning.  It's one of the things that first made me feel like I was really living in Hawaii.  Ka'ena Point then became one of my favorite places to take friends and family when they would come to visit.  I love that you have such a good chance of seeing monk seals sunbathing, albatross and their nests in the sanctuary, dolphins frolicking in the ocean, and humpback whales in the winter months along this hike.  It's really just a fantastic way to immerse yourself in nature!  There can be some safety issues at the trail parking lot like car break-ins, but please don't let that deter you.  Ka'ena Point is too fantastic to miss!


Other posts in my Oahu Favorites mini-series:

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