Waikiki is to O’ahu’s beaches what the waltz is to the tango. Where Waikiki is a beautiful slice of sandy civilization, the wild and wooly surfing beaches on the Northern Coast are completely untamed. Just an hour or so from Honolulu, spots like Waimea Bay, the Bonzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach along Kamehameha Highway offer nonstop action, as surfers battle waves as high as 40 feet. If watching all that exercise makes you hungry, belly up to one of the many shrimp trucks along the beach. Two of the most popular are Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp and Romy’s– both serve sweet, spicy and garlicky shrimp caught fresh, every day. For dessert, stop by Ted’s Bakery, home of the famous Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie, or share a shave ice, the local answer to mainlander’s snow cones. To learn more about the history of surfing, visit the North Shore Surf and Cultural Museum with its collection of antique surfboards and artifacts.
In 1886, Antonio Monteleone–a shoemaker who came to New Orleans from Contessa, Italy, and prospered at his French Quarter boot factory–bought the 14-room Commercial Hotel and gave it his name. Four generations – and a $60+ million renovation later – the family-owned 600-room Hotel Monteleone, a six-time AAA Four Diamond award-winner, is secure in its reputation as a grand hotel. The vibe throughout is retro-European, from the guest rooms’ rich fabrics and marble bathrooms to the liveried doormen, and the 16-story building’s distinctive Baroque façade. With its central location in the French Quarter, a few blocks from Canal St., Jackson Square and the River Walk, the Monteleone is an ideal home base for exploring the Crescent City in style.
Since you’ve already taken the thrilling Hana Highway, consider bisecting the island’s heart with a day trip north on Route 37. You’ll see local life up close, travel through fragrant pineapple fields and stop for a tasting at Tedeschi Vineyards, Maui’s only winery. Loop around on the coast to the funky hippie town of Paia, home to a plethora of new age practitioners and one of the best seafood restaurants on the island. Relax a spell at Mama’s Fish House on the beach in Kuau Cove, an old plantation house that’s a throwback to a gentler age. Expect stellar sunsets and even better island fish, at prices that won’t break your budget.