Wine By Appointment Takes Hawaii By Storm
After months of continual rain in Northern California, Wine By Appointment took respite in Hawaii in mid-May. Visiting Honolulu (Waikiki Beach) and the Big Island, we took in the sites, smells, liquor, and, of course, wine!
While the state of Hawaii is comprised of dozens of islands; there are 6 primarily islands. Most travelers are familiar with the islands of Maui, Oahu, Kauai and the big island of Hawaii. Our island days were spent on the island of Oahu and the big island of Hawaii. In this missive, I tend to bounce around a bit...clue is all locales are either in Waikiki (Oahu) or Kailua-Kona or Hilo (the Big Island of Hawaii). If it's something else, then it was on the Big Island of Hawaii).
Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel - Honolulu, Hawaii (island of Oahu)
We started our journey in Honolulu, of course in Waikiki Beach, with a stay at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Hotel (2500 Kūhiō Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815), which is right in the center of all the action. Two blocks from Waikiki Beach and the shopping district, you can either loll in the sun with your toes tucked in the sand sipping a tropical libation or shop till you drop without breaking a sweat or taking an Uber. Or, simply enjoy the beach views right outside your window. The hotel offers gorgeous views of the Waikiki shoreline. Highly recommend this hotel if you really want to embrace the Waikiki beach scene or have limited time in Waikiki.
Kings’ Land Hilton (Big Island of Hawaii)
Next, we hopped over to the Big Island (Hawaii - referred to going forward as the Big Island) for a stay at the Kings Land Hilton, 69-699 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa Village, Hawaii 96738. The Big Island is divided in primarily two parts: the Kailua-Kona (west) and the Hilo side (east). Now, Kailua-Kona or simply Kona to the natives, is a bit different from what you normally would expect of Hawaiian landscapes. Instead of palm trees, think lava…like lots of it. Like an on-land ocean of it. And the lava around the resort is old….like really, really old from the mid 1800’s. Stark and oddly beautiful, it adds to the appeal of Kona.
This is the first time we stayed in a condominium, and I found it really relaxing to be able to prepare coffee and breakfast each day without having to venture out your door. You could take in daybreak from the privacy of your own outdoor patio. We encourage anyone tired of hotel living to try it for a change of pace.
Doubletree Hilton Honolulu (Island of Oahu)
For a change of pace, we ended our Hawaiian adventures with a last night stay at the Doubletree Hilton in Honolulu (Oahu island), in south Waikiki Beach (1956 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96815) close to the Ala Moana Shopping Center. I’m not terrifically keen on malls, but this is definitely one to see. With over 350 shops and restaurants and BARS, you definitely want to plan a trip, if just to see what the fuss is about.
The hotel is perfectly situated for strolling southern Waikiki beach without all the hustle and bustle of mid Waikiki. With large, comfy rooms, this is the perfect place to stay for those first-timers to Waikiki and to experience its charm and a perfect place in which to end our Hawaiian holiday.
Restaurants, Bars and Wineries (Oh My!)
We managed to find some really great restaurants and bars in both Oahu and the Big Island. Some of the most memorable….
Kamuela Provision Company (KPC) is located in the over-the- top Hilton Waikoloa Village resort (complete with its own train and boat to ferry guests around the complex); 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive Waikoloa, Hawaii 96738. While the resort is definitely worth a visit if not a complete stay; the restaurant, alone, makes it a worth-while stop. Elegantly native, the restaurant boasts of amazing views as well as an extensive menu and wine list. We were lucky enough to sit on the terrace and have the sunset and ocean provide the entertainment. Expensive, but definitely worth it.
After visiting the Botanical Gardens in Hilo, we found the highly recommended The Low Store Market, Deli, and Fruit Stand for lunch; which proved to be a true delight. Located at 28-1099 Mamolahoa Highway, Pepe’ekeo, Hawaii 96783 (Hilo side of the island). The Low Store Market really encompasses true Hawaii cuisine, which is actually components of Polynesian, Chinese, and Portuguese cuisines melded together to make a totally new cuisine that provides a unique and satisfying dining experience. Try the Hawaiian Plate Lunch (Kualua pig and laulau) and top it off with one of their fresh fruit smoothie (the mango is awesome); the portions are more than generous so order one plate for maybe 2 (more room for dessert).
Aside from it just being fun to say the name of the restaurant, a really fun place to visit in Kona is Bongo Ben’s Island Cafe. Featuring an open air vibe, fresh baked goods and seemingly bottomless mimosas served by friendly wait staff, it’s the perfect way to start a tour of Kona and the local environs. Located at 75-5819 ALI'I Drive, Kailua Kona, Hawaii, and you should definitely add this list of must-dos.
One of my favorite meals on the Big Island was lunch at Hula Hula’s in the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo, located at 93 Banyan Dr, Hilo, HI 96720. Featuring exquisite seafood (best poke ever) served with an amazingly crisp Grenache rose, it was a perfect way to relax after a morning of exploring. A cool, contemporary setting with local Hawaiian art made for an incredibly pleasant welcome. This is one to add to that list to visit too.
Pineapples was a hoot! Featuring locally sourced ingredients, this open air restaurant is perfect (and very popular) to sample the local Hilo fare. I tried the amazing sweet potato curry, which was incredible. Drinks were inventive and obviously featured a lot of pineapple. Go, sit back and sip one of their special concoctions and feel like a real native!
Back to Waikiki for our final night in Hawaii, we decided to have a blow-out bash at Bali Steak & Seafood, and we were not disappointed. Bali Steak & Seafood, located at 2005 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, Hawaii 96815, in the Hilton Hawaiian Village was a perfect place to say farewell to Hawaii. We decided on the best of both worlds by selecting the locally sourced amazing porterhouse steak and seafood to celebrate our wonderful vacation and to reflect on our new memories. The restaurant offers not only a sublime menu and wine list but breathtaking views of the beach. It was a perfect evening and a great way to say aloha to Hawaii.
Just the mention of Hawaii conjures up luscious pictures of pina coladas and mai tais. While Hawaii is not the birthplace of either concoction, its residents have certainly perfected the recipes of each and come up with new ones. And, while tropical drinks are heavily featured, there are other libations to explore, sample and claim as your new favorite .
We obviously had to find the ultimate mai tai, and found them, we did, at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki Beach. Nestled past the courtyard of this stately hotel, one of the oldest in Waikiki, and steps from the beach, the Mai Tai Bar (located in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel 2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815) is a popular place for tourists and natives alike. It serves THE quintessential mai tai. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
While people don’t necessarily equate wine with Hawaii, there are actually wine bars there. We made it a personal goal to investigate as many wine bars while in Hawaii as possible. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that many have great wine lists and serve even local fare, which is interesting to sample. Some of our findings….
One of the best was Il Lupino Wine Trattoria and Wine Bar, located at 2250 Kalakau Avenue, Suite 515 Honolulu, Hawaii 96815. Offering an extensive collection of International wines (French, German, Italian) and mainland, California and Oregon, there is enough to satisfy even the most discerning palate. Served in a cozy, intimate setting, it sets the tone for a perfect evening of pasta and wine.
Aloha Wine Bar at 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr Queens Market Place Waikoloa Village, HI 96738 is the equivalent of your neighborhood bar. Casual and friendly, it offers a place for easy relaxation for locals and tourists alike. There are enough offerings in their surprisingly extensive wine list to please everyone in your crown. And, it’s gratifying to see that they offer different size pours so you can be adventuresome with your wine choices. Definitely recommend it as a place to either start or stop your evening.
The Fairmond Orchid hotel located at 1 North Kaniku Drive Kohala Coast, Waimea, Hawaii 96743, is a gorgeous hotel with amazing amenities, and inside the hotel is an equally gorgeous lounge, Luana Lounge. Contemporary with rich wood accents, the lounge manages to convey a relaxed elegance that is extremely appealing, particularly after a hard day of sightseeing. Friendly bartenders will create a new frothy concoction at a moments notice. Sipping this nectar and sampling the lounge’s happy hour fare while gazing out at the ocean is definitely my type of heaven.
Everyone should pay a visit to the Vintage Cave Club just to see the amazing frescos if nothing else. The restaurant and bar are a visual delight. Located in the Ala Moana Shopping Center 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814 (this is not your usual shopping mall), it’s a quick jaunt from Waikiki and well worth it. You do feel like you’re entering an exclusive cave. Boasting of an amazing wine list and wonderful Italian cuisine, we stopped by for just a quick look-see and a glass of sparkling and have put them on our list for a return visit and dinner. We suggest you do as well.
When we realized there was a winery within a 2 hour drive, we had to go. Volcano Winery was an interesting find. Located at 35 Pii Mauna Drive Volcano, Hawaii 96785, it features local wines with an exotic twist. All wines are now estate grown with some unique additions. Their 100% Symphony Dry wine is lovely with tropical fruit, apricot and peach notes and a crisp finish and the Pinot Noir was definitely lighter.. perfect to pair with fish. The most interesting was the winery’s pairing of guava fruit and white wine for a new type of dessert wine or a mead mixed with Macadamia nut honey or infused with tea. So, if you’re interested in expanding your taste buds and wine knowledge, pay a visit to Volcano Winery.
Things To See And Do
When visiting the Big Island, you can’t ignore the omnipresence of volcanos; evidence of their presence covers the island. In light of that, must-do while visiting the Big Island is a trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. The park extends from sea level to the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet; the park encompasses the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Given how volatile the volcanoes have been in recent years, the park allows the public a glimpse of the hows and whys of eruptions and the workings of volcanoes and how actually how vital they are to Hawaii’s ecosystem. An excellent way to spend an absorbing hour or two.
If you are a green thumb god or goddess or just enjoy plants, you absolutely have to visit the The Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. Located at 27-717 Old Mamalahoa Highway Papaikou, Hawaii 96781, the garden has over 2,000 species of plants both native to Hawaii and other tropical regions and attracts photographers, gardeners, botanists, scientists and nature lovers from around the world. It is a literally a plant paradise with fascinating plants to study and examine at every step. The walking tour is just over a mile long (guides suggest an 1.5 to 2 hours – we did it in just over an hour); wear comfortable, sturdy shoes as the terrain can be a bit rough but every step is a joy.
Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii is worth a stop. The falls themselves are 80 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter and are spectacular to witness. (You may note that In the Hawaiian language, the rainbow falls are called “rainbow [seen in] water”, or Waiānuenue, which is much more musical than the word falls.).
A quick shout out to Atlantis Kona Submarine Adventures located 75-5660 Palani Rd #304, Kailua, Hawaii which totally helped me conquer my claustrophobia. Love aquariums? Then you’ll really enjoy this trip. Go on a submarine that dives to a depth of over 100 feet and see a magical work of coral and sea creatures that you don’t often get a chance to glimpse up close and personal. The tour is about 90 minutes and is generally doable for even those who suffer from slight bouts of claustrophobia.
This ends my Hawaiian missive. Till next time…