I’m sorry this is late, but writing it now gave me a chance to relive my trip. Thank you to everyone here for the advice and information. I struggled as I tried to create an itinerary, as I usually do when my husband and I travel. The consensus was that while it’s good to have some idea of what to see, Oahu doesn’t lend itself to a fixed schedule. So I planned very little in advance and, as a result, our first trip to Hawaii was great!
Our “home” for the week was in Kailua, so we rented a car from Enterprise (Costco gave us very good deal). I drove the entire time so my husband could relax. I missed out on some scenery, but I also feel like I got to experience Oahu in a different way than I would’ve as a passenger. I was surprised to find that driving was not bad, particularly because we avoided rush hour. Even in traffic, the other drivers were much nicer than they are in Chicago.
I wish I had run a few trips through Mapquest before leaving home, just to get an idea of the street names and exits. We did use a GPS, but it sometimes mangled names so I had no idea what I was looking for. I learned to review maps myself each night because my passenger insisted on using only the GPS. Don’t get me wrong, the GPS made the trip easier, but when you are taking a drive with a general destination, like “North Shore”, the GPS is not great.
We really enjoyed Kailua. Rather than giving a day-by-day account of what we did in Kailua town, here is a summary of where we went:
Kalama Beach & Kailua Beach - We were on the beach at least once a day. Sometimes we swam, sometimes we just walked. These beaches are beautiful! I liked watching the local dogs playing in the surf, and appreciated that the owners kept the beach clean. The dogs were very well behaved, too!
Cinnamon’s – We ate here for breakfast twice. I know reviewers rave about the pancakes but the many varieties of eggs benedict really were superior. I highly recommend the macadamia nut cinnamon roll if you don’t mind that it is served warm, swimming in glaze.
Agnes’s Portuguese Bakery – I finally tried malasadas! I picked up four one morning and only two made it to the breakfast table. I did get a cinnamon roll and another macadamia nut-coconut frosted pastry for my husband, so I did not feel bad about eating the extra malasadas at all. We went back again on our last day.
Uahi Grill – It’s a small place but wasn’t crowded on a week night. Their Thai red curry was fantastic. It was served over mahi mahi, which was ok, but I would gladly have eaten the curry alone. Dessert was an excellent chocolate caramel macadamia nut tart.
Ba-Le – While eating at Uahi Grill, my husband noticed a constant stream of people going next door. We found out why when we ate there one night. We aren’t familiar with Vietnamese food but thought this place was great. And it was a very good value. Note: They sell Furikake Puffs here (and also at the Thursday market and maybe at Whole Foods). I wish I had bought a bag early in the trip so I could eat them all week, then buy another bag to take home. They are a sweet-salty snack food, round corn and rice puffs that look like they should be breakfast cereal. And even thought they are sprinkled with dried seaweed, they don’t taste swampy at all. I could become addicted to these things in no time.
Tokoname – Very good sushi. We especially liked their spicy tuna rolls and miso soup. We planned to go back for tempura but never made it.
Thursday Night Farmers Market – I know it’s a market but for us it was like a food court. I had seafood chowder and my husband had some kind of meat grilled over guava wood. This is where I sampled the Furikake Puffs. I also bought passionfruit jam that is wonderfully tart, not cloyingly sweet like jam at home. Special thanks to the woman who stopped us and pointed out that the soul food vendor we were considering was handling both food and money at the same time, all without changing gloves. Everyone else seemed to have proper food handling methods.
Kalapawai Café – My seared ahi tuna was perfect. My husband was not as enthusiastic about the cuisine as I was, probably because he wanted to try Lemongrass Vietnamese and Thai. The problem was that it was Friday night and Lemongrass was packed. We had to wait a while before anyone acknowledged us at all, and then it was only to tell us there was at least a 45 minute wait for carry-out alone. So we walked down the street to Kalapawai and got seated in a couple of minutes. By the time we left they were very busy.
Lanikai Bath & Body – This is a good place buy the scents of Hawaii. I didn’t find the products elsewhere, but I admit that I didn’t check a lot of places. I bought body spray and shower gel to use on vacation, but I plan to order more when I run out so I can be reminded of my trip. Their soaps smell amazing too!
(My report continues in the comments)