Hawaii Travelogue: A Japan away from Japan [Ch.10: Oahu Coast Drive]

By | July 6, 2017

This article is a part of series of articles about my 2017 trip to Hawaii. Please see the table of contents that contains links to other chapters.

Oahu Coast Drive

Although travelling on foot/taxi/bus has its perks, we decided to rent a car for one day and drive to the Polynesian Cultural Center, near the northernmost tip of Oahu. Someone we had met at the hotel had recommended that place as being good for kids.

As the center didn’t open until noon and we got the car by around 9am, instead of crossing the island and going straight there we decided to follow Oahu’s East coast and gradually make our way there. Much of the way was on roads with stunning beach views, where we could have easily stopped many times and taken loads of pictures. We had planned to stop in Hanauma bay, but literally the minute we reached the parking lot they changed the sign to ‘Closed’ and motioned us to go elsewhere. I’m sure we could have found somewhere else to park and walk back, but we elected to just keep going. Later we did by a different beach and got to see some amazing rock formations.

For lunch we stopped by a sushi joint in a worn-down shopping plaza in a small coastal town. The service wasn’t great since the lady messed up our order and seemed to have an attitude problem. The food was mediocre, with sushi rice used when regular rice should have been, oddly-tasting ebi furai, and ikura that made our stomachs feel funny afterwards. I should have expected as such from its overly cheesy name, but we didn’t have too many choices.

This was a good lesson that the Japanese influence doesn’t extend as much to country areas outside of Waikiki. Not only was there not a single person who appeared to be Japanese in the restaurant, but a written message about throwing away trash was written only in English and Chinese.  

By the time we reached the Polynesian Cultural Center, it was already afternoon. Due to the time, the fact the place didn’t look that impressive from the outside, and our judgement that son might be a little too young to truly appreciate Polynesian culture, we decided to skip out on the center and instead do some more freeform driving around the island. Another factor was the tickets’ high price, starting around $60 per person up to $200 for the package with everything.

We eventually came to the town of Haleiwa on the North side of Oahu in search of the critically-acclaimed Matsumoto Shaved Ice. Unfortunately, not only was it hard to find a parking spot nearby, but the line for shaved ice was Disney World-long, what I estimated at least 50 people or more. We ended up giving up on shaved ice and instead tried out Scoop of Paradise, where they sell homemade ice cream as well as other items like toys.

The guy working there was polite, and the ice cream was quite delicious (and coming from a person like me who is very picky about his ice cream, that means a lot). The coffee-flavored ice cream was some of the best I’ve ever had, creamy and fresh. We browsed a few other stores in Haleiwa (one with various sea-themed artwork on display was memorable) and then headed out.

Despite the fact we stopped in a few places, we were surprised how quick we managed go around Oahu. I just checked and apparently it has dimensions of only 44 miles by 30 miles, much smaller than I had imagined when originally glancing at the map.

(Next chapter)

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4 thoughts on “Hawaii Travelogue: A Japan away from Japan [Ch.10: Oahu Coast Drive]

  1. Kurt

    You dodged a major bullet by skipping the Polynesian Cultural Center, IMHO. I went there a few times as a kid as part of school excursions, or when relatives were visiting, and it was okay. But I had to go there once as an adult and while I didn’t have to pay for my ticket, I hated the experience. You couldn’t pay me now to go 🙂 It’s not broadcast so loudly but the PCC is part of BYU-Hawaii’s campus and while it does a good service providing college-work experience, personally I’m not comfortable helping to fund the Mormon Church. (The Mormons have actually been in Hawaii since the 1860s when they bought all that land in Laie — I’m sure you saw the temple just down the highway.) Much better would have been a trip to the Hawaiian Plantation Village in Waipahu to get a sense of how immigrants, many from Japan, lived and worked in the sugar cane fields.

    There are a couple of other shave ice places in Haleiwa that don’t have (as long) lines — Matsumoto’s is not any better or worse.

    It seems though that you discovered one of the best things to do on Oahu though, which is to drive around it (not technically as this is impossible).

  2. locksleyu Post author

    Thanks for the information about the PCC, as well as all your other comments! Definitely adding value to these articles (:

    I hadn’t heard about Hawaiian Plantation Village though, might have went if we had known about it.


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