Tag: Honolulu

Living it up as a #YelpElite

What can I say? Living in Hawaii and being a Yelp Elite has its perks!

I first became a Yelp Elite in 2015. I slowly began attending events, but not regularly. It was more of sporadic thing for me.

Now that I’m a gung-ho Yelp Elite, I’ve been getting more active and involved in the community – and I must say, it’s really paying off!

To answer the most common question I receive, “How did you become a Yelp Elite, and how do you get to go to all of these amazing events for free?”

Easy: I write Yelp reviews! Luckily for me, our awesome community manager Emi sought me out to be a Yelp Elite. All I had to to do was fill out a brief form, and my by the grace of the Yelp gods, I was accepted into the Elite crowd!

Through my tenure as a Yelp Elite, I’ve been able to attend the movies, the opera, free dinner parties, concerts, and more. Some Yelp Elite events are extra special, though.

Here’s three extra-awesome Yelp Elite events I’ve been able to attend:

1. Dinner and cocktails at Stripsteak Waikiki: This event did not allow for a plus one, and I was better off for it. I was able to throw myself right into the mingling and get to know my fellow Yelp Elites. I didn’t realize how many interesting, fun, and wonderful people Yelp Elites were! They are all walks of life – young teachers, retired state workers, and everyone in between!

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The swanky vibe at Stripsteak Waikiki

Stripsteak Waikiki is Chef Mina’s new restaurant at the International Marketplace, and this place certainly is swanky! We were able to try some of their gourmet bites like lobster pot pie, Wagyu steak, and foie gras. The venue didn’t disappoint – the ambiance was just right: outdoor, under the stars with the nice trade winds blowing.

2. Yelp Flight Club – Pacific Aviation Museum: Anytime you’re granted access to somewhere typically off-limits usually means a recipe for a great night. The Pacific Aviation Museum’s Flight Club Party was on Ford Island, a military base that requires special clearance for entrance.

Me and my other half were able to drive around the beautiful island taking pictures of the sunset before the event. The event itself? Simply marvelous! Imagine a swanky and upbeat party in a museum gallery full of 1940’s air crafts. It was the party of dreams!

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I want that leather flight jacket!

We had pupus like tacos, garlic chicken, ahi poke, and dessert like chocolate, ice cream, and Popsicles. The open bar wasn’t a bad addition either!

We had fun exploring the gift shop- especially lusting after the authentic aviation leather jackets.

3. Day at the Beach at the Shriner’s Club in Waimanalo: So many times driving up the highway we unknowingly passed by this incredible beachfront property. You are only able to access it as a guest of a Shriner’s Club member, and luckily, fellow Yelp Eliter Victoria’s husband was able to sponsor us as guests for the day.

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Check out this view! Waterfront beach bbq day!

This event was a fun, relaxing Sunday getting to know more about the community members which make Yelp Hawaii so special. We shared lunch pot-luck style next to the ocean, played a few games of volleyball, and had lots of laughs. Thank you Victoria and Aggie for putting this Sunday Funday together!

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New friends thanks to Yelp!

Overall, I’m grateful to be a Yelp Elite. It’s helping expose me to the many wonderful places on Oahu, and more importantly, helping me to forge friendships with the beautiful people here.

I was published in Mabuhay Magazine!

Great news! I was published in the Philippine Airlines in-flight publication, Mabuhay Magazine! This March 2016’s feature about Hawaii explores why the best things to do in and around Honolulu come with a view!

Please enjoy this spread. I’m proud of this accomplishment, and I know this a testament to the fact that hard work really does pay off!

Enjoy.

A day at the Waikiki Aquarium

When one comes to visit Hawai’i, the last thing on their mind is visiting an aquarium. “Why would I visit the aquarium when I could just jump in the ocean and see a living aquarium?” Great question, but let me answer you this way. The Waikiki Aquarium showcases dozens of coral species and fish, crustaceans, sea horses, sea dragons, pipefish, predators, and ocean life from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands you just can’t see on the main islands.

The most impressive spread were the variety of colorful living corals. All the corals are thriving under conditions simulated to be the ocean in its most pristine, healthy state. The key takeaway for me was that I have never seen such beautiful, developed, colorful and healthy coral in the wild. It was amazing to see what coral could look like in the more remote reefs and atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. It was equally amazing to imagine what our reefs on O’ahu can and will look like when we are ready to transplant species back to where they belong.

Here are some photos I took at the aquarium. I would highly recommend this visit for any visitor to Hawai’i, especially before jumping into the ocean. It’s great to learn about the underwater world and its fragile ecosystem before diving in.

The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country
The Waikiki Aquarium is the 2nd oldest public aquarium in the country
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An angelfish indigenous only to the Hawaiian islands swims by a colorful reef
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Sea anemone attract clown fish and other species of fish to its predatory confines
Hawaiian island reef life
Hawaiian island reef life
South Pacific reef life
South Pacific reef life

Yellow striped pipefish
Yellow striped pipe fish
Jellyfish in the "drifters" exhibit
Jellyfish in the “drifters” exhibit
Beautiful coral exhibits
Beautiful coral exhibits
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A sampling of the vibrant underwater world you can experience through thriving coral reefs
This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!
This Hawaiian Monk Seal has been at the aquarium for 31 years!

Next time you have a rainy day in Hawaii, or are just looking for a getaway to see something beautiful, check out the Waikiki Aquarium. You won’t be disappointed! They also have a predator exhibit with sharks and a vast educational/conservation exhibit, as well.

Hiking the Wa’ahila Ridge Trail

Hiking the

Sometimes, I get overly ambitious.  This morning and I woke up and said I wanted to go for a hike. Leave it to my boyfriend (and Hawaii local) Jonathan to take that sentiment to a whole new level and bring me to the Wa’ahila State Recreation Area to the Ridge Trail.

I knew it was going to be a somewhat difficult hike from the beginning, as to get to the trail head, we had to drive up and up Saint Louis Heights, a notoriously steep neighborhood. Tucked in the back of Ruth Street was the trail head.

Ridge

Legend has it that the Wa’ahila Ridge trail is home to the sleeping giant of Manoa, Chief Kauhi. Because of a lover’s spat between the beautiful princess Manoa, the gods eternally condemned Kauhi to spend the rest of his days contemplating aloha (grace) and pono (righteousness) along the top of Wa’ahila Ridge.

The trail is easy to follow with pink ribbons delineating your course. The entirety of the trail to the summit Mt. Olympus will take about 4 hours, but a great 2 hour (4 mile round trip) hike offers sweeping views of Honolulu.

The landscapes of Hawaii always surprise me. One minute you’re sweating as if in a desert, the next you’re in a breezy pine forest. This is where your hike begins.

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About a half-mile incline later, you’re in the middle of the valley face-to-face with some up and downhill boulder climbing. You certainly won’t need rappelling equipment, but there is some real rock climbing involved in this trail. I would never attempt this hike in the rain or right after it rains, as the ridge can be slippery and one false move will plummet you over the cliff.

Going down!
Going down!

Luckily after the boulder climbing ends, the trial evens out and twists and turns through some of the densest strawberry guava tree forests I’ve ever seen. None of the trees were fruiting at the moment, but I’ll be sure to come back when I can get my fill of those sweet tropical fruits!

Through the thicket, onward and upward
Through the thicket, onward and upward

Next you’ll be snaking your way up the mountain, taking the trail marked on the left through some more pines and visible roots. The good news is that the hardest part of the hike is over. Ready yourself for some fun and funky landscapes and amazing views.

Me and my pup Pono goofing around
Me and my pup Pono goofing around

After taking a water break and posing in this cave, it was up we went. Just a mile further will lead you to a grassy clearing where you can bask in the glory of a hard-earned view of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.

I think I see my house! Just kidding, it's behind that crater on the left.
I think I see my house! Just kidding, it’s behind that crater on the left.

This is where we stopped, 2 miles up. You can keep trekking onward to Mt. Olympus for stunning views of the windward side. It’s so steep, you have to climb a rope to get up!

For this hike, I would definitely recommend going when it’s dry and not too rainy. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and save energy for the hike down. Boulder climbing going down isn’t always easy on the quads and knees.

O’ahu pleases once again with a hike that was challenging enough to get me out of my head and into a space to enjoy nature.

How to drink like a local in Honolulu, Hawaii

*SPOILER ALERT* This is not a post for the best place to drink a tasty, yet over-priced Mai Tai while fighting for a table at Duke’s in Waikiki. While there is a time, place and clientele for that, I’m gonna spill my ultimate itinerary of a perfect night out with the locals.

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You’re going to need fuel for the night ahead, so start at Yakitori Glad (766 Kapahulu Avenue), a popular Japanese tapas restaurant. Everything, and I mean everything, on the menu is $3.90! Pro tip: Order the large Kirin draft, as the small Kirin draft is also $3.90, just smaller.

What could be better than cold beer and grilled meat?
What could be better than cold beer and grilled meat?

Make sure you order the salt and pepper chicken kabobs, the shrimp, the ahi poke (diced, marinated raw Ahi Tuna), the chicken stuffed mushrooms, stuffed green chili peppers and the wasabi beef skewer.

Now that you’re fueled up and ready to go, head over to Honolulu’s industrial district to Honolulu Beer Works (328 Cooke Street) for a hip, warehouse watering hole serving their own small-batch brewed beer. Pints will run you $6.75, but the beer is great quality, the community seating and ambiance is great and the service is top-notch. Go for a pint of the Sheltered Bay IPA or the whimsically named Animal Farmhouse Ale.

Bottom's up!
Bottom’s up!

If for some reason you didn’t fill up at Yakitori Glad, Honolulu Beer Works has a small, but ono selection of local kine grinds (delicious food).

No need to get back into your car for the next stop. Walk over to Bevy (661 Auahi Street), an eclectic, artsy hand-crafted cocktail place. Pro tip: Make sure you come during happy hour which runs Mon-Sat 4-7 p.m. Here’s why: You can get local beer for $3 a pop, or just start living the high life like I did. I had a $5 glass of champagne and Jonathan had a $5 gin champagne cocktail. Top it all off with $1.50 oysters on the half-shell and you should start feeling mighty fine.

Start snapchatting your friends how hard your life is.
Start snapchatting your friends how hard your life is.

You have to be loosened up by now, but it’s not time to call it a night yet. Next stop? Brew’d Craft Pub (9th and Waialae) is a cool neighborhood spot with a beer selection that rivals many good craft beer bars on the mainland. Pair awesome beer with upbeat funk music and you have a recipe for a fun night. Choose from 20 rotating taps and over 200 bottled beer. We shared a 22 oz.  Big Island Holy Humulus IPA and couldn’t resist an order of their bacon fat fries with homemade ketchup. Round two was some other delicious IPA whose name I can’t recall. Maybe it was time to pack it in.

NAH! The last stop on your itinerary is Karaoke Hut Sports Bar & Grill (909 Kapahulu Avenue). I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t divey, but at this point in the night, this is exactly what you need – trust me. After a few cocktails, nothing is more fun than passing around the microphone to belt out “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” You can rent a private room for $30 an hour or just sing out in the bar space. The beer selection is meh, but at this point, you should gladly switch to Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Light anyway.

Pass around the mic!
Pass around the mic!

And there you have it. Make sure to take an Uber home and call it a night…Or just do like the locals and keep drinking once you get home!

Getting settled on Oahu, Hawaii

Almost 2 years in the making, my move to Oahu has finally come to fruition. At the end of January, myself, my boyfriend Jonathan and our dog Pono made the journey back home to the Hawaiian islands where we first met over 2 years ago.

Taking our dog to Hawaii was a feat in itself. We had to endure a 4-month waiting period because Hawaii is a rabies-free state. After getting our dog’s blood work done on the mainland and waiting, we were finally ready for takeoff on January 21st.

Pono flew well, and Hawaiian Airlines took excellent care of him. By the way, Hawaiian airlines is the best! Their seats are a soothing blue color and they play relaxing Hawaiian music when you are boarding the flight. They gave us a cheese and fruit platter and served everyone a “snack”: Maui onion chips and a free Mai Tai! I definitely recommend flying Hawaiian next time you visit. They will start your trip full of aloha.

We arrived at Jonathan’s family’s house in Honolulu. They put us up for several weeks while we hunted for an apartment. Jonathan’s mom and aunt are Korean, so we feasted on amazing dishes during our stay, including her one and only gochujang crab stew:

You can't even comprehend the deliciousness
You can’t even comprehend the deliciousness

Not to mention, his dad, who is Japanese, steamed 2 whole Opakapakas (Pink Snappers), then served them up with Chinese parsley, onions, green onions and crisped the skin with hot oil. This picture is before he set off the building’s fire alarm with the oil’s smoke:

Hawaiian pink snapper
Hawaiian pink snapper

After a few short weeks staying with Jonathan’s family, we were lucky enough to find a 1 bedroom privately owned condo in the Kapahulu neighborhood of Honolulu. We just love it here!

I can get used to this view from our lanai (balcony)
I can get used to this view from our lanai (balcony)

Of course, being on Hawaii, we had to hit up the beach. Pono has never been to the beach in Hawaii, so we wanted to take him somewhere he could stretch his legs off the leash. We took a trip to Bellows Field Beach Park in Waimanalo. It was a cloudy Sunday, but even a cloudy day in Hawaii is amazing.

You can see Pono on the left hand side of the photo exploring
You can see Pono on the left hand side of the photo exploring

A few days later, we decided to cruise up to the North Shore through Haleiwa town and to Waimea Bay Beach Park. In the winter, the waves and the wind make the beach not suitable for swimming except for aqua-man-like folks and brave surfers. The waves were crashing against the shore and a caution tape closed off much of the high-surf areas of the beach.

Waimea Bay Beach Park
Waimea Bay Beach Park

From the North Shore, we cruised around to the east side and visited Kualoa Regional Park in Kaneohe. I loved this place because it has great views of China Man’s Hat, and its relatively quiet, uncrowded and secluded. Not to mention the behemoth Ko’olau Mountains flank this beach park, making the scenery extraordinary. The waves are gentle because of a break wall, and there’s plenty of interesting creatures roaming about, including crabs, birds and roosters.

Jonathan and Pono enjoying a nice beach walk
Jonathan and Pono enjoying a nice beach walk

 

Me in front of China Man's Hat
Me in front of China Man’s Hat

 

The Ko'olau Mountains just across the street from the beach
The Ko’olau Mountains just across the street from the beach

Overall, an amazing day in paradise. We look forward to getting more and more settled into our new home and exploring more amazing places on this beautiful island. Aloha!

Kualoa Beach Park
Kualoa Beach Park

Guest Post: DIY Mai Tais

You’d be hard pressed to find a more soothing and delicious way to wind down on island time than enjoying a Mai Tai. Tahitian for good, a “Maita’i” will help your fantasies of paradise come true.

Fellow travel enthusiast and Chicago native Kendra Thornton is a guest blogger today offering an easy-to-replicate Mai Tai recipe from her stay in Hawaii. Enjoy!

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During these winter months in Chicago, it is hard to not time of a time when I was relaxing on a beach and soaking up the sun in the warm weather with my husband. Waikiki turned out to be one of my favorite places to travel on my hefty list, and getting the opportunity to stay in a gorgeous luxury hotel in Honolulu was one of the high points of my existence.

I can’t help but reminisce about Hawaii and the beautiful setting there was in Waikiki, aside from the picturesque scenery the people were so pleasant and friendly. Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic for my favorite place, I whip up this tropical beverage to help me recall some of the flavors of paradise.

During my stay, I learned how to make a specialty Halekulani Mai Tai – a twist on the classic cocktail. I still make these for my friends during our tropical themed get-togethers, or simply when I’m in the mood for a weekend tropical treat. Here’s what you need to know to make your own Halekulani cocktail.

Isn't she a beaut?
Isn’t she a beaut?

Ingredients:

– 1/3 – Ounce Orgeat Syrup
– 1/3 Ounce Orange Curaçao
– 1/3-Ounce Rock Candy Syrup
– 3/4-Ounce Bacardi Gold Rum
– 1/2-Ounce Bacardi 151 Rum
– 1 1/4 Ounce Fresh Lime Juice
– 3/4 Ounce Bacardi Select (float)

Pour the ingredients over the crushed ice and float with ¾ ounce of Bacardi Select Rum. For an extra tropical twist, garnish each glass with a lime wheel, sugar cane stick, mint sprig and Vanda orchid.

Whenever I serve these at my DIY cocktail parties, guests swoon – even those who don’t normally enjoy the subtleties of rum. This is a cocktail for everyone can enjoy because they are a tropical treat from the Islands. I hope you enjoy this just as much as my husband and I do!

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About the author: Former Orbitz Director of Communications and proud mama of 3, Kendra Thornton has visited 28 countries and is a featured expert in family, luxury and adventure travel for FOX News, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CW networks. You can follow her on twitter @KendraThornton.