How to Do Oahu Like a Local

Ukelele craftsman Paul Okami shares his favourite things to see and do on this Hawaiian island
 

Pali Lookout, photo by Boyd Brooks

Born and raised on Oahu, Paul Okami handcrafts the finest koa wood ukuleles in Hawaii. His father started KoAloha in 1995 and now Okami and his brother, Alan, have taken over the family business. Okami lives in Nuuanu, just outside of downtown Honolulu. He might put on a macho facade, but he tears up when talking about how much he loves his home. “We’re such a close-knit, family-oriented community,” he says. “When you develop friendships here, the spirit of Aloha resides within you.”

Here are a few of Okami’s favourite spots in Oahu.

Pali Lookout, Nuuanu

“This is my absolute favourite place on the island. My family struggled with finances as I grew up, and this is one of the free things we would do from time to time. It’s one of the windiest places on Oahu, so don’t wear a skirt. As kids, we would see how fast we could run into the wind and how far we could jump coming back.”

Kaniakapupu Ruins, Honolulu*

“My hula teacher first brought us here because the chants we danced to were honouring King Kamehameha the Great, so we came here [the king’s one-time summer palace] to honour his family. I’ll touch my head to the guard stone as a greeting to let the spirits know we are here.”

Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp, Kahuku

“As a townie, Kahuku [on the northern part of the island] feels like the other side of the world, but the drive here is worth it. There are many shrimp trucks vying for our affections, but I’m faithful [to Romy’s]. The Number One garlic butter scampi with spicy shoyu sauce is their signature.”

Shimazu Shave Ice, Honolulu

“Mom and Dad took us here as kids, and now, on hot days at the ukulele shop, we’ll take a work break here with all the guys. You can get condensed milk or haupia on top [of your order] and azuki, ice cream or mochi on the bottom. Never call it ‘shaved’ ice—there’s no ‘d.’”

The Windward Coast drive

“On a nice, clear day, this coastline looks like a scene from a movie or postcard. I like to pick up a drink and snack at one of the roadside stands and linger—to really feel the area instead of just passing through.”

Getting there: WestJet flies to Oahu six times a week from Vancouver.

*Please note that the Kaniakapupu Ruins, a cultural and historic site, is no longer open to the public.
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