One of the things that has changed most in Hawai’i since 2008 is some favorite local knowledge places have exploded with popularity. I suppose that’s a good thing in some cases – at least for the business owners. A good example is Nico’s Fish House at Pier 38. When I left it was a hole in the wall plate lunch place at an industrial pier – I was excited to take my wife there – when we got there, I thought maybe I’d come to the wrong place – I had to get on my phone and Google it. Nico’s changed from a counter with plate lunches to a huge (three times larger) dining establishment with those vibrating buzzer things to let you know when your order is ready. The prices had gone up of course, but not terribly but the quality of the food just wasn’t what it once was, how could it be? It was still good, but it wasn’t anyplace I would go out of my way for – it was just a better than average tourist joint. I haven’t been to Jackass Ginger Falls since getting back, but the full parking lot of cars at the top of the Pali Highway tells me that it’s probably a crowded hike and a crowded waterfall. So – I wasn’t surprised that the Kuhuku shrimp trucks had lines when we drove up to the North Shore the other day…but I was suprised by the size of the lines. I shouldn’t have been – I mean I’ve seen them on the Food Network, I see them regularly in social media posts, and I’ve seen them on the Travel Channel and in nearly every travel magazine with a story about Oahu. The lines were two hours long – hot sun, no shade, standing next to the highway – two hours. The wait once you ordered was between two hours at the longest and 45 minutes at the shortest. So, people were willing to spend four hours of their lives to get a plate of garlic shrimp from Romy’s Truck? Apparently so – but not me. We moved on and went to the Korean Shrimp Truck which was cheaper, faster, and not very good. I can’t recommend that move – nor can I recommend spending four hours of your Hawai’i time (or your lifetime) standing in line for a dozen shrimp. This is what it felt like:
It’s a theme I’ve returned to again and again – the lines on Oahu have grown to unbelievable sizes. There’s a good reason for that – the places where you get true value have grown few and far between. Also – the tourists all read the same books and see the same stories and read the same blogs – so they all go to the same places. And that, I’m pretty sure, is really good. There are places on this island where you don’t find crowds. There are still great hole in the wall restaurants, there are still great beaches where you won’t find a dozen umbrellas in the sand, there are still great local secrets. And this may be disappointing to you, but when I find them, I’m not going to tell. I’m sure that someone will, but it’s not going to be me. I’m going to share my adventures, I’ll continue sharing my instagram photos, and writing about the known and little-known and well-known treasures on this island of Oahu – but the un-known ones – I’m going to keep them unknown.
So, it took us 2 hours to get to the North Shore. We left Salt Lake and drove to Kailua and Lanikai where we stopped on the beach for twenty minutes. From there we drove up through Kaneohe and Ka’a’ava. We spotted the Crouching Lion and visited the Macadamia Nut Farms before visiting Chinaman’s Hat and seeing the Jurassic Park valleys. We visited the giant dead lizard at Laie Point and passed the many totems of the Polynesian Cultural Center before we drove into Kuhuku for some shrimp. It took us two hours to get to that point – we opted not to wait another 2 hours and 45 minutes for Romy’s or Fumi’s or Giovanni’s. From there we drove to Sunset Beach where we ate our bad Korean Shrimp and then to Bonzai and the Turtle Beach and Lost Beach and into Haleiwa where the lines for Matsumoto Shave Ice were simply too long to contemplate in the bee filled parking lot. So we drove onward to the Dole Plantation where they are designed to deal with crowds and we had a delicious Dole Whip before heading home. We stopped at Costco on the way home and it was an astounding site to see the sea of shoppers flowing in and out like the tides. There was a constant flow that it took us five minutes to get across so we could get into the store and do our shopping. There was a two hour wait for Costco whole cooked pizzas…which I’ve never run into before. So we got what we needed, waited in line and went home where there was no line but just outside in the street there were people waiting to find a coveted street parking space.
I love being back in Hawaii.