Hawaii Happenings: Meeting Up, Going Out, and Eating Local

Three years ago I celebrated Independence Day watching fireworks at Waikiki Beach. Trev and I were on the last leg of our honeymoon, arriving in Oahu on July 4th. We’d left the sleepy, lush Garden Isle, landing smack in the middle of the bustling Gathering Place. It was a culture shock of the best kind. We walked from our hotel to watch fireworks on the beach that night. There was hardly room to move and I spent half the night trying to get out from behind an amateur documentary photographer. That memory is permanently seared in my brain though, as the most surreal Independence Day I’d ever had. This Fourth of July, I planted my feet in the sand at Waikiki once again.

For the first time since he’s started working, Trev had a real weekend. He usually has to work Saturdays, but it worked out so he actually had a three-day weekend over the Fourth. I was determined to fit in as much fun as possible. The Fourth was a fun day. We attended a BBQ at our building, where we made some new friends. We ended up spending a few hours visiting the apartment of another woman in the building. We are actually renting a condo, so all the units are different. It was cool seeing our apartment with a different layout and nicer finishes. We also met up with one of Trev’s work friends for the fireworks. We were able to see three different displays across the south shore. We went out for a drinks after at a comically bad bar. The drinks were bad and the service was worse, thank god the company was good.

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We also managed to get in a hike at Maunawili Falls. It’s a three-mile out-and-back valley trail that follows (and repeatedly crosses) a river to the falls. The trail has a little of everything: forest, meadows, ridge line, and stairs. Ohhh, the stairs. There’s a short section of this hike that I’m pretty sure was built by Paul Bunyan. The stairs are supposed to make the uphill (and then downhill) climb easier, but each step was about three times my stride (and height). The views are great, though. At the short ridge line portion, you can see all the way to the ocean. At the end of the trail, you reach Maunawili Falls. At the base of the waterfall, there’s a good-sized swimming hole. It’s a relatively crowded hike, so there are lots of people hanging around the falls, jumping off the cliffs surrounding it. It was fun to hang out, watching people jump.

We rounded out the day with some great food at KJ’s Local Grindz and a trip to the beach. KJ’s does plate lunches, a Hawaiian specialty. For the most part, I’m not one for fried food, which makes most plate lunches a no-go for me. However, KJ’s has some excellent non-fried options. This was hands-down the best local food I’ve had since I’ve been here: grilled mahi and corn with the obligatory scoops of rice. It was fall-apart-in-your-mouth tender, cooked to perfection with just enough spice. Before I start drooling on my keyboard, I’ll just say I’d highly recommend KJ’s if you’re ever on the Windward side of Oahu.

In other recent news, I went to my first Meetup: taking photos of the sunrise over Waikiki. I got a DSLR years ago but never learned to use the manual settings. I took a photo class in college, but never kept up with what I learned. I figured if I’m going to make a fool of myself learning to use the thing, it may as well be in front of strangers. We met up by the Hilton Hawaiian Village at 6 am. I can hardly believe I was able to get my butt out of bed that early. I don’t want to brag, but it’s been four months since I’ve had to get up for work. Not only was I up, but I rode my bike down there! It was a really nice group of locals of all skill levels. Chris, the guy who runs the group, likes teaching beginners, so that worked out well for me. My pictures aren’t stellar, but they’re not awful either, so I’m calling it a win.

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