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Food, food, and more Food!

World Class or Street Fare and Everything In-Between

It wasn’t that long ago that Hawaii was considered a waste land when it came to “good eats”, but that has changed and even the fussiest of connoisseurs will find dishes that will satisfy their pallets.  As for me, I personally am drawn to the more everyday dishes that can be found throughout the islands.

Some local favorites are well-known, such as King’s Hawaiian Bread which can be found in most grocery stores throughout the US.  Most tourists have heard of kahlua pig and the greater majority eventually get to try some at one of the many commercial luau’s.  And, of course, there’s the always popular, “poi”, which has been most aptly described as being a “paste-like dish”,  in appearance, consistency, and taste.  Even many of the locals add sugar when they eat it.

The beauty of Hawaii is the variety of food that are so readily available.  Food Courts have become standard fare at every major mall across the country.  Unfortunately, so have the vendors…the usual fast food chains, Chinese take-out, and occasionally a local or regional surprise or two.  My favorite food court doesn’t quite fit this standard mold and sits in a non-plus setting of the Ala Moana Shopping Center.  It doesn’t matter what you or those you are with are in the mood for, everyone will find something that will appeal to them.

Whether I’m in the mood for Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese, a slice of pizza or a hotdog…they offer it.  And, for the most part, very tasty fare at that.   Its popularity with the locals attest to that.  It’s hard to beat the combination of variety and prices offered and I never miss an opportunity to eat there.

Odds are that you will have ample opportunities to try “Spam musubi” and “Loco-Moco”, both iconic foods unique to Hawaii.  It should be noted that, contrary to what many think, “Spam” is not made in Hawaii, but rather in Minnesota.  However, Hawaii leads the world in per capita consumption of this somewhat mysterious meat.  A love affair that can be traced back to the rations of World War II.   (I will say that if you compare the ingredients with the more popular hot dog, you might re-think your lowly opinion of Spam.)  You can even attend the annual Spam Jam, held in Waikiki around the end of April each year.

Loco-Moco is a dish consisting of rice topped traditionally with a hamburger patty, fried egg, and brown gravy.  Currently, there are a myriad of iterations of this favorite dish, cholesterol not withstanding.  Some places give you options as to what type of meat you’d prefer, some add macaroni salad as a side, but the rice, egg, and gravy are pretty much mainstays to the dish.  In other words, a lot of food for the money and a fitting meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I also have a soft spot for Chinatown.  Whether I’m just wanting some manapua, char siu, roast duck, almond cookies, or something more substantial, the quality of food available there is pretty consistent.  It has to be, after all that’s where many of the recent arrivals and locals get their food daily.  Having said that, it should be noted that everyone has their favorite place to go when they want some manapua or char siu, which often times is not in the confines of Chinatown.

Legends restaurant is hard to beat for their dim sum…and I admit to having a passion for these little plates of delicacies.   The novelty and the chance to try something different by simply pointing out a tasty looking dish from a passing cart is hard to beat.  If you go, go with an adventurous mind and revel in new tastes and flavors that come with not knowing exactly what it is you’re pointing at!

The only danger is forgetting that each finger-point adds to the bill that can sometimes surprise you at checkout time.  Of course, you can get yourself somewhat prepared by simply counting the dishes piled on the table in front of you as your eyes add to your bill.

What’s your favorite eating establishment?  Is there a must-have dish for you?

International Marketplace – 7/14/2010

What do you think about the continuing controversy of this Waikiki landmark? It appears that the International Marketplace’s days are numbered, as the Queen Emma Foundation (owner’s of the property) continue to review proposals from multiple land developers.

International Market Place, A Waikiki Icon

International Market Place, A Waikiki Icon


Do you think Waikiki really needs another “upscale” shopping mall?  Admittedly, the International Marketplace has grown long in the tooth and some of the kiosks and buildings are showing their age.  Maybe I’m just feeling too nostalgic these days, after years of watching so many of my old haunts disappear.

International Marketplace map

Map of the International Marketplace

Best guess, it will be well into 2011 before anything concrete can be anticipated.  So, at least for now, the International Marketplace will continue on, business as usual.  I, for one, will miss watching my daughters bargain-hunt for that perfect dress to take home.

Target date for some sort of decision has been set as the end of summer by the foundation.

What are your feelings?

Update: The days are numbered for this Waikiki landmark, as the International Marketplace will likely be razed before the end of 2013.  In its place, an upscale mall which will forever change the landscape as one of the oldest parts of this vacation destination disappears.

Update: Well, the wait is over and the International Marketplace is a thing of the past…at least  the original International Marketplace.  Removal of the old Marketplace began the first of 2014 and construction of the upscale mall began a few months later.  Check out a more recent post at

Airlines Create New Fee…Again!

Newest Airline Fee

You’ve got to hand it to the airlines, they are the kings of creating new fees to  bolster their bottom lines and frustrate the traveling public.  Lets recap the airlines’ progression on assessing us with new fees:

  • Baggage fee
  • Europe’s budget carrier, Ryan Air, experimented with charging a “restroom fee”
  • Do you remember when they wanted to charge us a convenience fee for buying tickets online?
  • Premiere seating upgrade fee, paying for a few more inches of leg room
  • Still a carrier or two charging a “carry-on luggage” fee
  • Where you once tipped a skycap for assistance at curbside, baggage drop-offs, there is now a fee to do so!

And, now, three major carriers will be implementing an extra charge to NOT be in the center seat!   Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines will be putting this new charge into affect in the coming days.  The fee?  About $50 more to get a window or aisle seat.

Why?  Because they can!

Government Regulations?

Its not enough that the airlines want to shrink the space per seat even further than they already have.  Attempts to stop this latest move in Congress have failed.  The airlines crying foul and charging Congress with a move back towards regulating the air travel industry.  I, for one, would not mind having some government oversight on an otherwise out of hand industry.

I do believe in free enterprise and letting the buying public have the final say in what it considers to be “too far”, but at some point, where common-sense is replaced by the bottom-line, I think something must be done.  It took an act of Congress, literally, to simply get the airlines to post the total cost of a ticket, rather than the deceptive piece meal way they were doing it.

It wasn’t that long ago that what-you-saw-was-not-what-you-paid.  Airlines would post a low, misleading price to purchase a ticket and when you clicked to select that ticket, the price would miraculously increase significantly as all the various fees were added in…landing fees, airport security fees, etc.   And, that brought us back to “what you see is what you pay” ticket pricing.  That is, it is until you start to add in all the “optional” fees.

You know, the optional checked baggage fee, the upgrade fees for such things as “economy-plus”, where they let you opt out of the space saver seats into what used to be regular seats for an additional charge.  This latest fee falls into the same category of fees, where you will pay NOT to be stuck in the middle seat.  (Didn’t USAirways experiment with the same thing several years ago, where they charged extra to get an aisle seat?)

What’s different this time?  This time, it isn’t just one airline’s experiment.  This time, it involves three of the largest carriers in the country.  This time, you may have to just plan on spending that extra $40-50 per leg fee…unless you don’t mind the center seat.

Unintended Side-Affect

Here’s one side affect that has not been mentioned anywhere that I’ve seen.  I believe that there will be families that will take the center seats to save money (multiply that $40 by 4 or more seats and it adds up, quickly).  Then, once on the plane, they will start asking passengers in the aisle or window seats, if they wouldn’t mind swapping so that they can sit together.

This can be a hard for the all but cold-hearted person to refuse, especially if it involves young children.

In the past, I have accommodated such families, but it usually meant swapping an aisle for an aisle seat or a window for a window seat.  In the future, I’m less likely to be amenable to such requests to swap my extra-cost window or aisle for a discounted center seat, just so a family who chose to split themselves up to save money, can sit together.  Likewise, when the flight attendants ask for volunteers to swap seats to help  families out that the airlines split up, I don’t think they’ll find too many volunteers who will downgrade to a center seat.

Just my thoughts.  Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.

New Flow Advances Towards The Northern Edge of Pahoa – 12/3/14

Newest Pahoa Flow Moving Northeast

Large scale map courtesy USGS HVO

As of Dec. 2, 2014, the area where the two lines of descent (the blue lines) is approximately 400 yards from the current flow.  At the current rate of advancement, it should reach it sometime today.  So, tomorrow will give a better idea of which direction the flow will take.  It could follow the current line, which would take it toward the Pahoa Marketplace, it could take the more northerly track or split and take both.  On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the past, it could very well take a completely unexpected path or stop, like the original flow.

The original flow, shown in pink above, advanced at an average rate closer to 100 yards or less daily.

This video is from the Dec 1, 2014 update and has some great video shots, as well as good information on what’s happened.

The community of Pahoa and its surrounding subdivisions has been threatened by advancing lava since June 2014.  To date, as far as I know, only one residential property has been completely lost to the lava.  A few other properties have been affected with the lava entering and covering part of their property, but otherwise, damage has been minimal to this point.  Of course, there was ranch/cattle land covered along the way, as well.

The Civil Defense, Hawaii Volcano Observatory, Hawaii County, the state of Hawaii, and the utility companies have all made great efforts to keep the public aware of on-going activity while trying to maintain as much of the utilities and road access available to the residents of Pahoa.  The Federal government and FEMA has been somewhat slow to provide much assistance.  Lava, and its unique properties, is not something national emergency procedures address well.

I’m sure FEMA would act quicker had the entire community of Pahoa disappeared under a massive advance of lava, but the fact that this is a slowly developing situation and with unknown properties affected, they seem to be at a loss as to what to do.  Even President Obama, who likes to claim Hawaii as his birthplace, was slow to declare a State of Emergency which provides access to federal aid to affected families and small business owners.

The problem with not only federal aid, but with homeowners’ insurance, is that they don’t kick in until and unless your residence or business has been destroyed.  They do not consider you’re leaving or evacuating in advance of the lava, as their problem.  In fact, homeowners’ insurance goes so far as to punish those who evacuate by declaring your home as vacant, therefore limited in coverage if covered at all.  The other problem that the state is looking into is the cancellation or non-renewal of policies on properties in the affected areas by insurance companies.


Pahoa Lava Flow Unlikely to Affect Vacation Plans – 11/5/2014

Recent Pahoa Volcanic Activity

The news/media seem to be overstating the impact of recent Hawaii volcanic activity.  I thought I would write this post to un-dramatize the recent volcanic activity and its impending impact.  While it is true the current lava flow is moving towards the village of Pahoa, located to the southeast of Hilo, and fairly unpredictable, there is little chance that the whole town is in jeopardy of being covered over.  The most likely impact would be to split the town in half.

I don’t mean to understate the seriousness of the situation, but due to the lay of the land…the topography, the lava is more likely to continue its unrelenting path to the coast, rather than expand wide enough to impact the entire town, as some news reports have stated.

Its also a very slow moving flow, usually advancing less than 50 yards a day, so residents of Pahoa have had ample warning and opportunity to move their belongings and find alternative living arrangements.  The temporary shelter set up by local authorities has had very few occupants as residents have found places to move to.  They understand that this is not like a hurricane or tornado where the impact is comparably immediate and you can assess your losses and move on.

Pahoa will continue to be under the threat of approaching lava for at least the next few months, if volcanic activity continues as it has for several years.  For those who may be planning a Hawaiian vacation which includes a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, there will likely be no noticeable impact to your plans.

The largest majority of tourists base their stay in the Kailua-Kona area of the Big Island, which is on the opposite side of the island.  As a matter of fact, Pahoa is located off the main highway that circles the island, so most of the residents of the Big Island don’t feel any impact from this latest development either.  Very few locals and tourists alike ever take Highway 130 through the area affected.

If you are curious and want to keep up to date with the most recent developments, you can “Like” and Follow my Facebook page, My Hawaii Food Fun.  You can also “Like” and Follow Big Island Video News, who posts daily (and sometimes more frequently) updates and warnings issued by the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Hawaii County Civil Defense, and the U.S. Geological Service.

Lava Flow Caveats

Hawaii has passed Emergency laws which make looting a felony and also limits access to the affected areas.  What this also means is that curious people will not be permitted close to the lava flow.  The National Guard has been monitoring traffic in and out of the area, assisting local law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, these new laws are being tested and challenged.

While helicopters provide the best viewing of this latest lava activity, their access has also been limited for both safety and as a courtesy to residents still living in the area.  The helicopter tour companies have been very cooperative with local authorities in limiting their flights below 4000′.

Having said that, this is a serious situation, especially for those who have called Pahao home for years…if not generations.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the residents of the Pahoa area!


A Must See Theatrical Performance…Ulalena


If you’re spending time on Maui and still have some energy left in you after a day full of sight-seeing, snorkeling, and shopping, you may want to plan an evening attending Maui’s premiere theatrical performance held at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina, called Ulalena.  For over 10-years, this first-class stage production has received rave reviews from everyone who has seen it.  This is not your typical luau dinner show, but a full blown, professional theatrical show that would hold its own in Vegas or Broadway!  But, this uniquely Hawaiian live performance can only be seen at the 680-seat Maui Theatre.



  • “Voted ‘Best Way to Learn About Maui’” –Maui Magazine
  • “It truly represents our oral history, which totally will entrance the viewer with
    the beauty of our past.” –Maui News Opinion, submitted by Hawaiian Cultural
    Advisor Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
  • “‘Ulalena, a show about Hawaiian mythology and history, proves there’s a life
    beyond the luau.” –Travel+Leisure Magazine
  • “I go out of my way to not call ‘Ulalena (at Maui Theatre) a show. It’s theater.
    It’s art. It’s wonderful. ‘Ulalena is one of the most brilliant pieces of theater
    I’ve seen in Hawai‘i in more than 40 years.”
    –Honolulu Star Bulletin Columnist Dave Donnelly
  • “There’s nothing like it in Hawai‘i.”- Frommer’s, Maui Edition
  • “…we recommend seeing the ‘Ulalena show, a total departure from the often mindless
    “Hawaiian” productions aimed at tourists.” –The Boston Globe
  • “…the buzz of the millennium and a yardstick by which future productions are
    measured.” –Honolulu Advertiser Entertainment Columnist Wayne Harada
  • “…an evocative experience that often leaves the audience speechless. It is
    interactive, with dancers coming down the aisles, drummers and musicians in
    surprising corners, and mind-boggling stage and lighting effects that draw
    the audience in.” –Frommer’s
  • “…’Ulalena has been bringing down the house.”
    –Conde Nast Traveler
  • “Awarded ‘Best Show’ & ‘Best Attraction’”
    –Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

Tickets for Ulalena are $59.99, $69.99 and $79.99.  The $79.99 VIP is for seating in the first 7-rows center or first 5-rows side wings and includes a 20-minute behind the scenes session with the cast.  Children 6-12 are $30 less per ticket.

Given the theatre’s 8-channel, 20-speaker, state-of-the-art surround sound system, you may want to pass on the standard seats and spend the extra $10-20.  Speaking of sound systems, the Maui Theatre was designed specifically with this show in mind.  Special lighting and stage hydraulics add to the special efforts that went into giving audiences a great experience.

Performances of Ulalena are held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and  Friday, starting at 5:00 pm.


Aloha Oi International Marketplace

International Marketplace of Waikiki Closed!

While the many vendor stalls and wagons may still sit in their usual spots, the vendors and merchandise that once made the International Marketplace a favorite of many visitors and locals alike – are gone.  December 31,  2013 marked the last day  for this iconic location and while there are a few storefronts still open along Kalakaua Avenue, they too, will close their doors for the final time at the end of January.

For those who may not have been aware, the Queen Emma Foundation, owners of the land, has opted to replace the International Marketplace with an upscale mall, anchored by Saks.  Viewed from a strictly economic view, this decision makes sense in terms of the increase in dollars that will be generated which can be put to use towards the Queen Medical Center’s west facility.  You can read more about this controversial decision here in an earlier post.

My kids used to always look forward to spending a couple of hours navigating the carts and stores, looking for hidden bargains away from the glitz and glamor of Waikiki.  I think that was the attraction of the International Marketplace for the majority of people.  With its demise, we lose another uniquely Hawaiian experience.

There may even be a small number of people who would say that the removal of the aged International Marketplace is a good thing from an aesthetics point of view.  And, yes, many of the structures were long over do to be replaced, but the true value of this iconic shopping area is probably more nostalgic than practical.  It represents a simpler time before Waikiki became a concrete, metal, and glass jungle, when the Pink Castle (aka Royal Hawaiian Hotel) was a visible landmark…from the street, not just the ocean.

If its any consolation, it is my understanding that both the Monkeypod tree and the International Marketplace sign will be spared and will be incorporated into the new mall landscaping.  I wonder it they’ll also keep the koi pond?

International Marketplace Sign

International Marketplace Sign

I guess this is more of a personal loss for many of us who will miss this Waikiki landmark, but I do believe that more people will miss this more laid-back venue than those who are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Saks.  The cost of progress seems disproportionately high, but economics rule.  It just seems Waikiki has turned into just another shopping mecca, similar to many of those found throughout the US…except, of course, for the tropical setting.

I guess we should be happy that the Pink Palace and the Hilton Rainbow Tower still stand as Waikiki landmarks.  Hopefully, they will remain recognizable for the foreseeable future.

Aloha oi International Marketplace!  You can look for the new mall and Saks sometime in 2015.

Update:  The new projected opening date for the new upscale mall is spring 2016.

Goodbye USAirways…Welcome to the New American Airlines Dec 9 2013

Effective December 9, 2013, the new American Airlines becomes the largest airline in the United States.

Even after challenges from the government and consumer groups fearing reduced competition will lead to higher prices, American Airlines Group emerged from bankruptcy today, months after announcing the intention of merging American Airlines and US Airways.  Why the concern?  With the creation of this newer, larger, and hopefully stronger airline, four airlines will control over 80% of the domestic market.

This is just the latest of several airline mergers as they continue to maneuver to maintain profitability and competitiveness since the industry was deregulated decades ago.  Continental and Northwest Airlines being among the more notable airlines having disappeared in recent years.

Affect on Mainland-Hawaii Airfares should be negligible

US Airways has never served the Hawaii-Mainland routes, so this merger should have no effect on seat availability and pricing of tickets.  However, as route consolidation and the two airlines get fully integrated, it may have an impact in some markets on the mainland.  As a matter of fact, many of those in Hawaii may not be familiar with US Airways since they are strongest along the eastern seaboard.

The question now is, how smoothly they can pull of this merger.  If you recall, the merger between United and Continental Airlines back on October 1, 2011, took the better part of a year before they got their two separate systems integrated.

Hopefully, this latest merger will bring some stability to the airline industry.  Congratulations and best wishes to the new American Airlines!

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