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With its year round tropical climate, and landscape ranging from soaring volcanoes to palm-fringed beaches, Hawaii’s natural beauty is a wonder to explore for a holiday of pure relaxation and bliss. Hawaii is made up of 8 main islands, of which The Big Island, Maui and Oahu are the largest three – the latter being the location of the well-known Waikiki beach and being the location for the majority of films and TV shows shot on location on the islands.
Here are Vada, we were drawn to Hawaii by the nature and luxurious locations, and discovered an open and welcoming culture built on melting pot of influences from America and Asia. So here is our guide to the next destination for the LGBT community. This guide focusses on Maui and Oahu, but if you are able to plan an excursion to one of the other islands of Hawaii (and we highly recommend that you do), each will unravel it’s own slightly different vibe and give you another reason to fall in love with these Polynesian Islands.
Where to eat
In addition to it’s pristine beaches, year-round sun and of course outstanding natural beauty, Hawaiian food should not go un-tasted. Whilst not all foods are traditional in the true sense of the word, the merging of American and Asian influences on the islands have created some unique dishes such as the spam musubi (available in most places that offer sushi or rice bowls), flavoured shaved ice and acai bowls (ideal for breakfast, topped with granola and fruit). Here are some of the hotspots we recommend.
Whilst on Hawaiian island of Maui, stopping in at Leoda’s delicious sandwich and sweet pie shop is a must. This sandwich venue is on the drive from Wailea going north to Lahaina, so an ideal place for a pitt-stop for lunch. Freshly made toasted sandwiches oozing with fillings, we recommend the Reuben with a side of sweet potato fries, and a local beer.
For the full menu, visit leodas.com.
Bali Steak & Seafood Restaurant – Hilton Hawaiian Village, Oahu
As part of the Hilton Hawaiian Village complex at Waikiki beach (see our review of the Ali’i residence in part one), there are multiple dining destinations available including the Bali Steak & Seafood Restaurant.
We opted for the Wagyu beef 4 course menu, which included: Seared foie gras with black currant sauce on corn bread, Alaska king crab salad with golden beats and tomatoes, Wagyu beef with cauliflower purée and caviar, and dessert in the form of a pink peppercorn and strawberry cheesecake.
Whilst this menu does show off a delicious selection, we felt the king crab salad can stand out without any mayonnaise. Equally, all the components of the Wagyu course were delicious; however rather over the top when combined – caviar on scallops on Wagyu was rather distracting. The pink peppercorn strawberry cheesecake, was however sublime.
If you remember to instruct the waiter to keep the dishes simple, Bali Steak & Seafood is worth a visit, particularly if you’re already a guest at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
For a full menu at Bali Steak & Seafood Restaurant, and all dining options at the Hilton Hawaiian Village visit hiltonhawaiianvillage.com.
BLT Market at the Ritz-Carlton residences, Oahu
BLT Market is perhaps one of the most cleverly designed restaurants we visited. Booking is definitely recommended, then head to the Ritz Carlton residences main reception (photos in part one of our LGBT guide) and someone will take you up BLT Market. The focal point of the restaurant is the view towards the ocean, whereby most of the entire south-facing part of the restaurant is open to the elements. Views of sunset would be spectacular. For this reason alone, it is impossible to not include BLT Market in our recommendations.
To drink, we tried the Hibiscus Margarita whilst perusing the menu. This outlandish twist includes an edible, jellied hibiscus flower.
Starters we tried included the Baby Beet Salad ($18) and Mari’s Garden Tomato Salad (with ricotta cheese, arugula, avocado and a basil vinaigrette) ($17), both light and refreshing, although do ask for vinaigrette options.
We had main courses of Grilled Hawaiian Tuna, served with shiitake mushrooms, daikon, edamame puree and yuzu foam ($38) and a Roasted Jidori Chicken ($38) with a side of Moloka’i sweet potato ($10). The tuna was slightly overcooked for us, preferring it particularly pink, but the overall combination with edamame puree and yuzu foam was well executed. The Jidori chicken was moist and flavourful. We found the purple Molokai sweet potatoes a visual pleasure albeit sweeter than expected. The sweet potato are topped with a deliciously soft local goats cheese – a focus on local produce is a theme you will find across many Hawaiian restaurants.
Desserts (all $12) feature local flavours or Asian influences, from which it was difficult to narrow down a selection. We eventually settled on the deconstructed Mint Dark Chocolate Tart and Kona Orange Cheesecake with chocolate ice cream. Reconstruct a morsel of each constituent part on your spoon does lead to a chocolate bliss. Equally the Kona Orange Cheesecake was sharp and sweet, although the flourishes of cream decoration were not needed.
For a full menu and to book, visit bltmarket.com.
Afternoon Tea at The Veranda at The Moana Surfrider hotel
The Moana Surfrider hotel offers Afternoon Tea, served on the Veranda under the canopy of the hotel’s historic Banyan tree with ocean waves lapping pleasantly on the beach this is a completely unique take on the British institution to enjoy in Hawaii.
There are three main menus for Afternoon Tea, with First Lady Tea ($48 per person) being the most luxurious including a glass of sparkling dry rosé wine. Reflecting the surroundings, the tea options embody Hawaiian flavours, such as the Mango Mele we chose, made from black tea infused with mangoes and peaches. The First Lady Tea is served in two parts: savoury items on a plate and a three-tiered cake stand of sweet items to share between two. Sumptuous scones served with a local mango curd and cream is a tantalising twist, and delightful bakes elegantly presented make for a mouthwatering treat as part of a relaxing stay in Oahu.
For more information on the Afternoon Tea menus and to book a place at the Veranda at Moana Surfrider, visit moana-surfrider.com.
Other restaurants and cafes
Given Hawaii’s melting pot of Polynesian foods and influences from mainland America and Asia, no visiter will be short of delicious food to explore across the idyllic islands. Waiola Shaved Ice is the place to cool down with a rainbow shaved ice. The best pancakes on Oahu are likely to be found at Cinnamons at the Ilikai – an ideal place to drop in for a late breakfast or brunch.
For Sushi lovers in Hawaii, Doraku offers traditional sushi and some more inventive fusion dishes. Equally, the very popular Sansei Restaurant & Sushi Bar in Waikiki offers a selection of tempuras, sushi and other award winning specials including the Panko-crusted fresh ahi sashimi.
Delicious Vietnamese food can be found in the form of pho variations at The Pig & The Lady, a family-run where even the owners mum helps in the kitchen, so you known it’s going to be good.
Whilst there is not a huge variety of gay venues across the islands of Hawaii – in fact we only found them on the island of Oahu, there are a couple of venues that do stand out as being the most frequented, meaning if you do want to meet someone in the LGBT community these are the places to go.
Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand
Hula’s is the longest-running gay bar in Hawaii, having moved to its current location in the Waikiki Grand Hotel 19 years ago. Unusually for a gay bar you’ll find yourself torn between looking out and around you, as the bar offers fabulous views towards Diamond Head – an ideal location to watch the sunset with a Mai Tai (or vodka-tonic) to hand. Located a couple of minute’s walk from the beach, you can easily drop into Hula’s throughout the day or evening, as Hula’s is open until 2am everyday.
Hula’s also host the catamaran event, see part three of our guide for more information.
Conveniently located in the centre of Hawaii’s Waikiki area, at 408 Lewers Street, Bacchus is known as Honolulu’s friendliest neighbourhood gay bar. Bacchus is known for its events, upcoming ones include a bear cruise (on a boat, not a cruising event), a ‘bearded cuties’ night amongst others.
Bacchus is proud of its team of handsome barmen, so much so you can check out their team of hotties on the website, see them at bacchus-waikiki.com.