Walking Honolulu



Honolulu may be the capital of a tropical paradise, but everyone needs a break from palm-shaded sun-kissed sand and surf from time to time (no, really). The solution? Take a walking tour. Here are three options to get you out and about, sampling the food, architecture and history of a unique Pacific city.

Food Tour

The recently launched Aloha Food Tour is a great way to dodge a visit to the huge Ala Moana shopping mall if you’re not a fan of shopping. You can leave your travelling partners to their retail therapy and join the tour instead. In the streets north of the mall, I join guide Ryan Conching for a journey through the interesting eateries of this diverse neighbourhood.

Starting from a popular brunch spot which serves waffles made from the local root vegetable taro, we visit a local restaurant to try shoyu chicken, a delicious Hawaiian marinated dish involving garlic and ginger. Then it’s Japanese grilled food at a tiny place in a curved brick building with a few aluminium-topped tables. A classic bar offers the chance to eat loco moco, a hefty dish invented in the 1940s for hungry surfers. It’s white rice topped with a hamburger pattie, gravy and two eggs over-easy. At Ryan’s urging I add the bar’s hot sauce, made from pineapple, papaya and chilli. It’s excellent. The next bite is small but weird – it’s a spam musubi, basically a snack-sized piece of Spam wrapped by seaweed to a chunk of sticky rice.

There’s no escaping Spam in the Pacific, but it is surprisingly tasty. We end the tour with shaved ice, another Hawaiian favourite. The ice, heaped in a bowl over ice cream, is flavoured with syrups from the conventional to the unusual. I try it with Pog (passionfruit/orange/guava) syrup and the enchantingly named Li Hing Mui, derived from pulverised dried plum. It’s a perfect dish for a humid day.

Tour $75, book via alohafoodtours.com.

Architecture Tour.

Each Saturday the American Institute of Architects runs a tour through the city’s historic downtown area, an attractive repository of architecture from the 19th century onwards. Highlights include the Iolani Palace, once the home of Hawaii’s monarchs and the only former royal palace on US soil; grand civic buildings constructed in a Spanish revival style; old churches; a royal tomb; and the hyper-modernist State Capitol with legislative chambers in the shape of volcanoes.

Tour $10, book via aiahonolulu.org.

History Tour

Waikiki seems all about the here and now, a dining and shopping hub with a beautiful beach attached. But there are historic secrets beneath the sand and concrete. Visit waikikihistorictrail.com to download the Waikiki Historic Trail’s free PDF and map, or follow the trail online. From Kalakaua Park to the Dule Kahanamoku Lagoon, its 23 stops tell tales of temples, taro plantations, fishing grounds, local myths, Hawaiian monarchs, military installations and historic hotels.

It’s a fascinating insight into Waikiki’s often overlooked past. When you’re finished, grab a bite from the all-day breakfast menu at Goofy (1831 Ala Moana Blvd), a nearby upstairs café imitating the humble beach shacks of the good old days. I recommend the Eggs Benedict with taro muffins, purple Okinawan potatoes and fresh kale. Not historic, but tasty.

Tim Richards travelled courtesy of Hawaii Tourism and the Oahu Visitors Bureau.


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