Hawaii Today edited by Derek Paiva Page: 1 2 3 Next>>

Hawaii casinos? What casinos?

hawaii_casinoWe like reading what writers from somewhere else write about Hawaii, but we sometimes have to shake our heads.

Today we read an article in Canada’s National Post newspaper titled “Kauai: The Anti-Hawaii.” Why is Kauai the “anti-Hawaii”? Because, writes the Post, “This quiet island is blissfully free of Oahu’s casinos and shopping.”

Shopping malls, Oahu has. But casinos? There isn’t one in the entire state of Hawaii. Gambling’s not legal here. We don’t even have a state lottery.

Says National Post writer Kenneth Bagnell:

“I went to Kauai years ago, and in December, in the first chill of winter and the economy, my wife and I went back. Based on my visits, I’d say Kauai is not for you if you like to roll the dice. No casinos. It’s not your place if you like big cities. None. It’s not your place if, on vacation, you’re a big time shopper. No big malls.”

Perhaps, Mr. Bagnell skipped the 35-acre Kukui Grove Center in Lihue with its 60 shops and restaurants. Or the Coconut Marketplace near Kapaa, with an equal number of retail outlets.

If you're looking for accurate information about Hawaii, please continue to drop by HawaiiMagazine.com. We have almost 500 posts about all-things-Hawaii on our Web site. We'll even do our best to answer your e-mail questions like, for instance, where are the casinos on Oahu? 

Uh, nowhere.

UPDATE, 2/4/2009: After we published this post, the National Post quietly changed all text in it's "Kauai: The Anti-Hawaii" article that referred to "Oahu casinos." We were not informed of the text changes, or thanked by the National Post for informing it about its error. Just the same, we'll just say, You're welcome, NP!

The photo? Shot at the Flamingo Hilton Casino in Las Vegas. ©2004 Martin Ouellet


Char’s Chopsticks: Sam Sato’s, Inc.

Chars_Chopsticks_Sam_Satos_IncThe dry noodles at Sam Sato’s, Inc. are what you could call Maui’s version of Kauai’s Hamura’s Saimin—except these noodles aren’t in a broth.

People on Maui swear by them.  A friend of mine told me, “You’re going to Maui, you must eat the dry noodles there.”

I was skeptical. To me, “dry noodles” didn’t sound good.

Ironically, Sam Sato’s dry noodles aren’t dry. In fact, they are actually fried saimin noodles. They're known as dry noodles because the noodles aren’t sitting in a bowl of soup.

Sam Sato’s signature dry noodles come both large and small. You might pick the small bowl. I ordered large and was taken aback by its size.

Char-siu and green onions were piled on top. On the side, a small bowl of hot dashi broth. I tried eating the noodles by themselves and also with the broth. To my surprise, I ended up eating every noodle in my bowl.

Maui_Grand_Wailea_Resort_renovation_doneThe Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa on Maui this week announced the completion of more than $50 million in upgrades and renovations to its guest rooms and common areas.

Where did all that cash go?

Refurbished guest rooms at the mega-resort boast new carpeting, dark wood furnishings, freshly painted walls, frame-less shower enclosures, new artwork and 37-inch flat-screen televisions. Restaurants and lounges were upgraded. And $1.6 million was poured into the restoration of the Grand Wailea’s already seriously cool Wailea Canyon pool complex.

If you’re a fan of the popular TLC reality series Jon & Kate Plus 8, you’ll recognize the Grand Wailea as the resort where the titular couple renewed their wedding vows with their brood in tow. Two episodes were filmed at the Waldorf Astoria Collection resort last summer.

Maui_Grand_Wailea_Resort_renovation_doneThe Grand Wailea’s Spa Grande—recently ranked by Travel + Leisure as the top hotel spa in Hawaii—was fitted with new manicure-pedicure stations and a re-equipped fitness center.

Meanwhile, work is still being completed on Hoolei at Grand Wailea—a gated community adjacent to the resort property offering luxury town homes with full access to the Grand Wailea's amenities. More than 60 units of the 120-home project have been completed thus far. The remainder are slated for completion by year’s end.


Aston name returns in Hawaii, brings great deals

Aston_returns_Hawaii_brings_dealsWhat was old is new once again.

ResortQuest Hawaii is returning to its former brand name Aston Hotels & Resorts. The Hawaii-based hotelier, now in its 61st year, switched to the ResortQuest name in 2005.

The name change, announced Monday, kicks off an extensive re-branding campaign updating the company’s image and logo.

“Returning to this well-recognized brand reminds employees and customers alike that the real spirit of hospitality is still very much alive at Aston Hotels & Resorts,” said Aston president Kelvin Bloom.

While Aston undergoes the transition, don’t be alarmed to see some of its 26 Hawaii properties and its former Web site continue to bear the ResortQuest logo.  (The reintroduced Aston Hawaii site can be found here, with all the same deals and features of the ResortQuest page.)

Aston_returns_Hawaii_brings_dealsWe were assured the switch would be completed in the coming weeks.

To kick off the New Year and the new name, Aston is offering a number of deals and packages to sway Hawaii-bound travelers its way.

The "Warm Weather, Cool Savings" program features reduced room rates and various complimentary amenities in Aston properties across the four major Islands. Don’t sit on these deals for too long, however. Booking dates run from now until Feburary 28, 2009. 

Click here, and look under the “Specials & Offers” banner for the “Warm Weather, Cool Savings” link. Or call (877) 997-6667 and ask for “Cool Savings.”

Aston’s "Aloha Free Deals" package offers a fifth night on the house for a minimum five-night stay.  A coupon book is also included—good for hundreds of dollars worth of dining, shopping and activities. Click here for more information. Or call (877) 997-6667 and mention “Aloha Free Deals.”

Photo: Aston Waikiki Beach Tower
iTunes_essential_Hawaiian_music_playlistYou ask. We answer.

Earlier this month, we answered a reader question about putting together a Hawaii-themed luau away from Hawaii. Another reader, Aimee Quinn, recently sent us a follow-up question:

In your story, you mention that Apple’s iTunes store features a good selection of Hawaiian music you can download from its world music page. When I searched Apple’s world music page, I found an iTunes-compiled playlist of “Essential” Hawaiian Music tracks.

It would cost me $75 to download all 75 tracks on the Hawaiian music playlist from iTunes. And my guess is, not all of the songs are actually “essential.”

My question for you is: If you had just $25 to spend, what 25 songs on the "iTunes Essential Hawaiian Music" list would you buy?

First off, Aimee, your suspicion about just how “essential” the songs on the list are is justified. I found many of the songs on iTunes’ Hawaiian Music Essentials playlist not really all that “essential" to a good Hawaiian music collection. A few selections were even questionable.

iTunes_essential_Hawaiian_music_playlistUkulele master Jake Shimabukuro’s cover of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”? I like the song. I like Jake. But its place on an essential Hawaiian music list? Dubious. Ditto for the inclusion of The Ventures’ “Hawaii Five-O” theme. Groovy? Definitely. Hawaiian? No.

The 25 I’d buy? I’d cut my losses and download this dozen from the list:

• “Hula Blues” – Sol Hoopii
• “Hula Medley” – Gabby Pahinui
• “Ka Eha Ke Aloha” – Sean Naauao
• “Ka Beauty Ao Manoa” – The Brothers Cazimero
• “Haleiwa Hula” – Amy Hanaialii
• “Henehene Kou Aka” – Israel Kamakawiwoole
• “Ke Aka O Ka Liula” – Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole
• “Ka Uluwehi O Ke Kai” – Hapa
• “Kawaipunahele” – Kealii Reichel
• “Kihoalu” – Gabby Pahinui
• “Ulili E” – Israel Kamakawiwoole
• “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” – Israel Kamakawiwoole ("Rainbow" and "Wonderful World" aren’t Hawaiian compositions, but Iz’s take on them is unquestionably Hawaiian in spirit, tone and musicality.)

Next, I’d take the cash saved and select my final 13 from other Hawaiian music tracks iTunes offers. This takes some exploring. A section specifically cataloging Hawaiian music isn’t offered on iTunes’ world music page so it helps to have an artist or song title in mind before searching.

iTunes_essential_Hawaiian_music_playlistStill, if you enjoy discovering great classic and modern Hawaiian music tracks as much as I think you do, Aimee, you might find some real fun in the hunt.

For starters, I found these 13 tracks on iTunes I’d enthusiastically recommend:

• “Hiilawe” – Gabby Pahinui
• “Haleakala Ku Hanohano” – Hapa
• “Ka Nohona Pili Kai” – Kealii Reichel
• “Lei Halia” – Kealii Reichel
• “E Huli Makou” – Genoa Keawe
• “Pua Hone” – The Brothers Cazimero
• “Kuu Home O Kahaluu” – Olomana
• “Punahele” –Raymond Kane
• “Kuu Ipo I Ka Hee Pue One” – Nina Kealiiwahamana
• “Maile Swing” – Raiatea Helm
• “Poliahu” – Teresa Bright
• “Ke Ano O Waimea” – Na Palapalai
• “Kawika” – The Sunday Manoa

My advice? Set aside some time, grab your laptop—and maybe a pot of Hawaii-grown coffee—and really do some exploring. Ultimately, the best playlist of “essential” Hawaiian music is the one you compile on your own.

My apologies to Steve Jobs.

Photos: Israel Kamakawiwoole (top), The Mountain Apple Company; Gabby Pahinui (middle). Image: Apple Inc.


Hawaii eats gau for Chinese New Year

As we welcome in the Year of the Ox, many people want to ensure their good luck and prosperity by eating the proper Chinese dishes.

The special foods often consumed on the first day of the lunar calendar include jai (vegetarian monk’s food), uncut noodles, mandarin oranges, tangerines and dried fruit. But for good luck, the most popular food is a traditional Chinese steamed pudding called gau.

This sweet, sticky rice pudding is made out of brown sugar and glutinous rice flour, often wrapped in ti leaves and steamed for hours. These days, it’s sometimes microwaved. It’s sticky, like family bonds are supposed to be. It’s topped with sesame seeds, a symbol of fertility, and a Chinese red date for good luck.

OK, so maybe jai and gau aren’t on your menu. You can always wear red clothing (the color symbolizing happiness) or feed the lion dancers a lai see, or simply a few dollar bills like this woman shown in the video below at the Fort Street Mall farmers market in downtown Honolulu.

Photo and video by Sherie Char

Kung_Hee_Fat_Choy Kung Hee Fat Choy! Congratulations and be prosperous!

Happy Chinese New Year from all of us at HAWAII Magazine as we welcome in the Year of the Ox, 4706.

Photo by Sherie Char

The best restaurants in Hawaii

finding_Hawaiis_best_restaurantsWe get a lot of reader e-mails asking for our personal recommendations on the best places to eat in the Islands.

Where would we go for dinner if we were staying near Kamuela on the Big Island? What’s our favorite Honolulu neighborhood eatery with a great menu and affordable prices? Do we think Alan Wong’s Restaurant is really as good as people say it is?

We always direct them to the same source: our sister publication Honolulu Magazine's annual Hale Aina Award list.

Hale Aina is Hawaiian for “eating place.” Each year, Honolulu asks its readers to vote on the best restaurants on all the Islands. They’ve been doing the list for the past 25 years; it’s pretty comprehensive—categories include everything from best little restaurant you love and best bar to best hotel restaurant and best place for visitors.

The 2009 list of Hale Aina award-winning restaurants in 25 categories was published in Honolulu’s January issue. HAWAII Magazine editor John Heckathorn—who had a hand in launching the first-ever Hale Aina Awards and a couple decades worth of ‘em thereafter—writes about the awards in the January issues of HAWAII and Honolulu.

But we assume what you want right now is the actual list. So here it is … the 2009 Hale Aina Award winners (with links to Web sites, if they’ve got one).

Oh, and the picture above? That's The Cake Walk appetizer—a Kona lobster crab cake, seared ahi cake and sweet Louisiana rock shrimp cake—from Hale Aina Award winner Lahaina Grill.

Bon appetit!


Alan Wong’s Restaurant
1857 S. King St., Third Floor
(808) 949-2526


Roy’s Restaurant
6600 Kalanianaole Highway
(808) 396-7697

Le Bistro
5730 Kalanianaole Highway, Hawaii Kai
(808) 373-7990

The Kahala Hotel and Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
(808) 739-8780

Chef Mavro
(808) 944-4714

Nobu Waikiki
(808) 237-6999


Lahaina Grill
127 Lahainaluna Road., Lahaina
(808) 667-5117

Mama's Fish House
799 Poho Place, Kuau
(808) 579-8488
Haliimaile General Store
900 Haliimaile Road
(808) 572-2666
Roy’s Kihei
(808) 891-1120

Sansei Seafood Restaurant and Sushi Bar
(808) 669-6286


65-1227 Opelo Road, Kamuela
(808) 885-6822
Cafe Pesto
South Kohala Coast, Kawaihae Shopping Center, Kawaihae
(808) 882-1071
Roy’s Waikoloa Bar & Grill
250 Waikoloa Beach Drive, Waikoloa
(808) 886-4321
Canoe House
(808) 885-6622

Kilauea Lodge
(808) 967-7366


The Beach House Restaurant
5022 Lawai Road, Koloa
(808) 742-1424

Hamura’s Saimin Stand
2956 Kress St., Lihue
(808) 245-3271

Roy’s Poipu Bar & Grill
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive, Koloa
(808) 742-5000

Mediterranean Gourmet Restaurant and Bar
(808) 826-9875


Tango Contemporary Café
1288 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 120
(808) 593-7288

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Waikiki
2201 Kalakaua Ave.
(808) 628-6760

Westin Moana Surfrider Resort
2365 Kalakaua Ave.
(808) 923-2861

Banana Leaf Italian Bistro
(808) 735-8833

Formaggio Grill, Kailua
(808) 263-2633


Merriman’s Kapalua
1 Bay Club Place
Kapalua, Maui
(808) 669-6400

Sansei Waikoloa
69-201 Waikoloa Beach Drive #H
Waikoloa, Big Island
(808) 886-6286

Mala Wailea
3700 Wailea Alanui Drive
Kihei, Maui
(808) 875-9394

Lanai City Grille
(808) 565-7211

The Melting Pot of Lahaina
(808) 661-6181


Formaggio Wine Bar
2919 Kapiolani  Blvd.
(808) 739-7719

500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 6D-1
(808) 524-8466

Chef Mavro
1969 S. King St.
(808) 944-4714

(808) 237-5428

Lahaina Grill
(808) 667-5117


Mai Tai Bar
Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Third Level
(808) 947-2900

Ryan’s Grill
1200 Ala Moana Blvd.
(808) 591-9132

Duke’s Waikiki
2335 Kalakaua Ave. #116
(808) 922-2268
Side Street Inn
(808) 591-0253

(808) 922-4422


Duke’s Waikiki
2335 Kalakaua Ave. #116
(808) 922-2268

Hau Tree Lanai
Address: 2863 Kalakaua Ave.
(808) 921-7066

Roy’s Restaurant
6600 Kalanianaole Highway
(808) 396-7697

Alan Wong’s
(808) 949-2526

Chai’s Island Bistro
(808) 585-0011


2895 Kalakaua Ave.
(808) 923-6552

La Mer
Halekulani  Hotel
2199 Kalia Road
(808) 923-2311

The Kahala Hotel and Resort
5000 Kahala Ave.
(808) 739-8780

(808) 955-4466

Chinese_New_Year_celebrations_in_HawaiiHawaii has two New Years, Jan 1 and, this year, according to the Chinese calendar, Monday, Jan. 26. But Chinese New Year celebrations start tonight in downtown Honolulu’s Chinatown arts district.  

The evening begins with a choy cheng—a traditional Chinese lion dance blessing. If you see a lion dancing your way on the sidewalk, the appropriate thing to do for good luck is to “feed” the lion a red envelope filled with some money (no envelope? Folded money will do).

You don’t have to be Chinese to join the celebrations. In Hawaii, everyone joins the party.

Here’s a list of Chinese New Year events in Honolulu:

Friday, Jan. 23:
•    Chinese lion dance blessing (76 N. King St.)
•    Chinatown Open House (Chinatown Cultural Plaza)
•    Narcissus Queen Visitation (Various Chinatown businesses)

Saturday, Jan. 24:
•    Chinatown Open House (Chinatown Cultural Plaza)
•    Night in Chinatown and Keiki Festival (Maunakea Street)
•    Night in Chinatown Parade (Hotel Street to Maunakea Street)

For good luck, prosperity, long life, there’ll be an assortment of special Chinese delicacies available for purchase at the Chinatown Open House, including gau (sticky rice cake made from brown sugar), jai (vegetarian monk’s food), gin doi (Chinese doughnut) and candied fruit.
Can’t be in Chinatown this weekend? We have a slideshow of “Chinatown By Night.” As part of our Hidden Hawaii feature stories, our editor John Heckathorn and photographer David Croxford spent the night in Honolulu’s Chinatown Arts district (see our January/February 2009 issue of HAWAII Magazine for the full story).

For more information about celebrating this traditional Chinese holiday, check out John’s article, “Chinese New Year in Hawaii,” featured in our January/February 2007 issue.

Photos by Sherie Char


New York Times says Hawaii travel value-laden in 2009

New_York_Times_picks_HawaiiWe’re almost a month into 2009. There’s a sense of cautious optimism as we move ahead. In the travel world, however, things seem a bit dour.

Still, affordable travel to Hawaii shouldn’t be a fantasy. The New York Times’ made that point evident by including Hawaii near the top of its list of the Top 44 Places to Go in 2009. The list features a variety of culturally diverse and economically friendly destinations, ranging from Berlin to the Galapagos Islands.

Hawaii landed at No. 7, receiving high marks for value, particularly appealing to vacationing families and frugal travelers.

A bulk of the Times’ Hawaii write-up focuses on the recent reopening of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki. The “Pink Palace” is commemorating its original 1927 opening by offering a special one-night rate of $19.27 for a minimum four-night stay, proving that luxury isn’t impossible in these tough economic times.

If that offer doesn’t appeal to you, the article points to great travel packages via Hawaii.com.

For more great deals may we suggest the official Hawaii Visitors and Conventions Bureau (HVCB) website, as featured in our Affordable Hawaii feature in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue, currently on newsstands. The HVCB works with Hawaii’s resorts and wholesalers to bring travelers the most current deals. Click here to check it out for yourself.

Photo: Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Page: 1 2 3 Next>>