Day three began with breakfast at a joint called Cheeseburger in Paradise. We did not — repeat, not — have cheeseburgers for breakfast. We did, however, have a sweet view of Waikiki Beach through the restaurant’s open window.
In case you were curious, this outlet is part of a chain that is apparently unrelated to the similarly named chain owned by singer Jimmy Buffett, whose similarly named song clearly inspired both chains. Now you’re not curious, merely confused. Join the club.)
Appropriately stoked with high-protein, high-carbohydrate fuel, we were itching to break in the snorkeling equipment we’d purchased the day before. Thanks to a tip from a guidebook and a recommendation from our Cheeseburger waiter — whose name was not Spicoli, but could well have been — we loaded up our rental car and headed for the north shore of Oahu. Specifically, we aimed for a spot dubbed Shark’s Cove.
We did not — repeat, not — see any sharks. We did, however, spend a couple of joy-filled hours swimming with a variety of gorgeous tropical sea life, including an array of colorful fish that would do justice to any aquarium. In fact, snorkeling at Shark’s Cove offered a taste of what it might be like to swim in an aquarium, were one thus inclined.
A few tips we’d pass along to other snorkelers who make the trek to Shark’s Cove:
- Get there early in the day. Parking is limited, and somewhat challenging to negotiate.
- Leave your flippers in the car, or better yet, at your hotel. The rocky seascape here renders fins useless — or worse, makes them an encumbrance. Unless you’re venturing well out into deep water — which we would heartily advise against — flippers won’t benefit you in this environment.
- Do, on the other hand, wear water shoes. The reef and rocks at Shark’s Cove are razor-sharp, as the numerous gashes they ruptured in my knees will demonstrate.
- Currents here can be very powerful. As alluded above, it’s easy to get beaten up here by waves dashing you against the rocks. It’s easy to imagine that if you venture out beyond the relative shelter of the cove, fighting the motion of the ocean could quickly develop into a losing battle. Be careful out there.
- Take a cheap waterproof camera. We didn’t, and wished we had.
- As is true anywhere in Hawaii, don’t leave anything of value visible in your car. Predators abound. We didn’t encounter any problems ourselves, but all those signs posted everywhere warning you about thievery are there for good reason.
We give Shark’s Cove high marks as a snorkeling venue. It’s well worth the drive around the island from Honolulu to check it out.
On our way back into the city, we stopped for lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku. There are probably a couple dozen food trucks and shacks of every description as you drive through Kahuku on the Kamehameha Highway, all specializing in freshly caught local shrimp. (Imagine if Forrest Gump and his pal Bubba had moved to Hawaii and chosen the slacker life, rather than opening that gaudy chain of touristy restaurants.) Of these, Giovanni’s enjoys the most widespread reputation — a reputation we found well deserved.
We shared a plate of the hot and spicy shrimp; they were indeed as volcanic as advertised (a sign cautions that they don’t offer refunds if you find the dish too hot) and quite delicious. Or, to say it local-style, “Da shrimps stay so ono, broke da mout’! Chee!”
Giovanni’s surrounds its truck with a nice permanent set-up, featuring picnic tables shaded by an open-air roofed structure, sinks for postprandial hand-washing, and indoor restrooms. There’s also a shave ice truck on site in case you need help cooling your mouth after downing the shrimp.
Appetites sated, we continued on to Valley of the Temples Memorial Park in Kahaluu. This multicultural cemetery features a half-scale replica of the ancient Byodo-In Buddhist temple in Uji, Japan. It’s a stunning building nestled in a lush, serene location at the base of the Ko’olau range.
We spent a blissful hour wandering through the temple and its grounds, soaking in the quiet, admiring the architecture, and watching the fog creep in over the mountains. The Pirate Queen enjoyed seeing the massive Buddha statue inside the temple (she’s seen me shirtless often enough that you’d think this wouldn’t be much of an attraction, but apparently it was) and ringing the colossal bell in the courtyard.
I watched as a black swan scudded along the surface of the pond. I think she and your Uncle Swan shared a bonding moment.
Our next stop, Nu’uanu Pali, offered a breathtaking view of the windward shore of Oahu from 1200 feet up the side of the dormant volcano. When I say “breathtaking,” I’m not speaking hyperbolically. The wind rips through the mountain pass with gale-like velocity, producing sufficient chill to make you forget for a few minutes that you’re in the tropics. Despite the briskness, the view is nothing short of incredible.
One can see all the way to the offshore island called Mokoli’i (“little lizard” in Hawaiian), also known as Chinaman’s Hat — or, as we might put it in these more ethnically sensitive times, Asian Person of Chinese Extraction’s Hat. We were, however, eager to get back into the cozy, cyclone-free confines of our rented Toyota in fairly short order.
Safely back in Waikiki, we ventured across the street from our hotel for dinner at Sansei. The Waikiki branch of a local chain of upscale sushi restaurants, Sansei serves up an intriguing spectrum of dishes, some of which can best be described as “experiments in seafood.” Some of the experiments work better than others — one or two of the combinations we ordered seemed to be outré for the sake of outré -ness — but on the whole, we enjoyed the dining experience, bizarre flourishes and all. It was pleasant to relax on the restaurant’s third-floor lanai in the relative cool of the evening, tucked around the street corner from the bustle of the main drag. Plus, there were those mediocre Hawaiian-tinged cover tunes wafting across from the tiki bar to serenade us.
Thus ended our third day in the islands. I’ll regale you with tales of Day Four soon.