How to do Oahu Like a Local

Whenever I arrive anywhere tropical, I’m always jonesing to jump in the ocean. That’s why, right after landing on Oahu earlier this summer, we hit Waikiki beach. After years of bribing and threatening, Jimmy and I are stoked Tanner & Saxon finally love to surf. (Although I do not love how they constantly tell me what a crappy paddler I am and how I need Jimmy to slingshot me into waves.)

We hooked up with legendary pro surfer Hans Hedemann. Hans is Oahu born, owns two surf schools (Waikiki and Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore), and is super down to earth. He took us to a mellow spot called “Sandbar” toward the Honolulu zoo end of Waikiki.

The water is so warm and aqua. And you can surf in a bikini! The view—Diamond Head, the highrises and iconic pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel was gorgeous—and gliding over that turquoise glass made me feel giddy.

I tried to get some scoop from Hans about his time on the world tour but he was tight lipped.

Hans throwing out some Risky Business vibes in the ’80s.

He did tell me that he gave Cameron Diaz lessons twice a day for an entire month, and she got so good, by the end he was taking her out into juicy double overhead surf. He also told us about his son, Johann, a musician who attends the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Jimmy, the bros and I caught a ton of “party waves.”  We even surfed alongside an outrigger canoe on a few waves. After a few hours, we got out of the water all salty and blissed out, and walked past Kuhio Beach Park where locals were hosting grad party BBQs. I asked Hans if I was ready for juicy surf like Cameron.

“Not yet,” he laughed.

That’s Mr. Hedemann on the right.

With the smell of plumeria and teri chicken wafting through the air, we hopped in the car. As we drove off, Hans’ son, Johann (aka Johann Beach), played us out…Listen to Johann’s perfect post-surf sesh song, “Girl Crazy” here.

One of the best things about visiting Oahu was hanging with our good friend, Rich and his family. We’ve known Rich since junior high and his personality has definitely improved with age.

Next, it was off to the windward side of Oahu to Kailua with Team Erickson.


Kailua Beach is postcard pretty. I always feel like I could stay out in the water forever doing handstands and splashing around. The sand is soft and white, palm trees sway in the tradewinds, and the beach is dotted with an eclectic mix of people and dogs including Charlie, the amazing camouflaging Golden Doodle.


After our beach day,  Jules took me around Kailua, and showed me all the hotspots.

Aloha Suprette was my fave.

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A superette is a New Zealand term for a small supermarket or convenience store. The gem of a boutique features unique wares by different artists. The jewelry draped over chunks of coral and cute neon-trimmed beach togs had me drooling.


I was obsessed with this fuchsia surfboard by Travis Reynolds, a Santa Cruz surfer/artist/shaper. Alas, it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase…



Luckily, this cool piece did.


  Travis upcycled leftover surfboard fiberglass to make the “canvas,” even splattering it with neon resin. Reminds me of surfer spin art.

Another happening ‘hood is Monsarrat Avenue near the base of Diamond Head. There are Acai bowl places and juice joints, the order-at-the counter Diamond Head Market with freshly made scones, passion fruit cheesecake and pickled mango by the pint. By far our favorite spot was ARS Cafe. With vintage vinyl spinning on the record player and  industrial chic decor, this espresso/coffee/gelato/art gallery is a charming spot to chill.

The avocado toast is a must. The soft bread is so flavorful and comes smothered with beets, arugula, avocado and a poached egg.

Later, it was time to venture into Waikiki. We arrived at House Without a Key at the Halekulani Hotel just in time for sunset. Under a pinky blue abalone shell sky, a trio of musicians played the ukulele and sang about a yellow ginger lei while a hula dancer swayed gracefully.

Could there be a more quintessential Hawaiian experience? Honestly, I think these are the tastiest Mai Tais on the planet. They have the perfect tart to sweet ratio and a little sugar cane swizzle stick you can chomp on. (Try the recipe here.)

I could have pounded 10 so it’s a good thing we had to dash—it was time for dinner.

kimmy with mai tai

 Tiki torches licking the black sky, we took the beach route passing a dude with a metal detector sifting the now cool Waikiki sands for treasure—classic!—to a swell little boutique hotel in Waikiki called the Surf Jack and Swim Club.

It’s the coolest vintage-y hotel. Their motto is “Bringing soul back to Waikiki.” Walk into the covered lobby and the first thing you see is this swimming pool inscribed with “Wish You Were Here”…

Surf Jack.JPG

The center of the hotel is open air so you look up at a starry sky. On the platform bar area above the pool area are cute little cabanas where you can party semi-privately, and on the upper ten floors, 112 guest rooms which seem reasonably priced.

We ate at the hotel’s restaurant, Machina & Sons.

Great food even if the shaka wall paper nauseated poor Jules.
Great food, company and decor. Check out the Shaka wall paper!

Next, it was on to the North Shore. The North Shore is relaxed and lush. Locals have managed to keep it country. Hans has a surf school at Turtle Bay so once again, we hit the waves. Here, Jimmy gives Kelly Slater a run for his world title.

 We cruised into Haleiwa for sushi and window shopping. When we arrived at Matsumoto’s for shave ice, the line snaked out the door and deep into the courtyard. Jimmy wanted to bail. I thought there was no way this place could live up to its hype.

Guess what?

This shave ice is legit. Watching the women create perfect snowballs from an ice block, then drizzle it with tropical flavors—mango, papaya, lilikoi, yes please! and the piece de resistance a touch of sweet condensed milk—was mesmerizing. Plus the taste was nirvana.


In the end, we didn’t want to leave. Oahu feels so much less touristy even though it’s supposedly the most touristy isle of all. There are fun new restaurants and hotels to explore, along with old school institutions.

After grabbing some tuberose leis from the airport stands, back we headed to the mainland.

Still thinking about all the fun we had and missing these cute little mango sellers.

mango sellers

mo muscles.jpg
Muscle Beach!

Bare Naked Ladies

I’ve always dreamed of an outdoor shower. Our friend, Rich, has one and it’s the bomb~a Hawaiian fortress surrounded by black lava and wild tropical plants. Whenever we visit, I go all Howard Hughes, showering 10 times a day. I just can’t get enough. In the morning, I gaze up at palm trees rustling in the trade winds. In the afternoon, I love coming  straight from the sea, washing off the salt water, an icy Corona at the ready on the lava rock shampoo ledge. And at night, a million stars twinkle in the velvety black sky.

Rich’s shower is not quite this tricked out but pretty close.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have an outdoor shower, I asked Jimmy? We’d feel as if we were on vacation every day.

Finally this summer, we decided to go for it. Just a simple, no-frills bamboo shower a la Gilligan’s Island. How difficult could it be, we wondered? How expensive? Very and very, it turns out. But let me start at the beginning.

First we decided on the location: a dirt and sand-filled space off the back side of our house, choked with weeds and a heap of old shit we didn’t want but were too lazy to deal with. I am kicking myself for not snapping a “before” pic. Trust me when I say our teens’ favorite word, ghetto, describes the spot perfectly. However, the close proximity to the hot water heater was a deal sealer.

The proposed site was a good twenty feet from our neighbors’ single story home but I figured it would be well, neighborly to give them a head’s up.

A late 60’s couple with no children, the Jensons* are the nicest people ever. They are as close to Amish as you can get on the grid. For the 11 years we’ve lived here they’ve watered their lawn every morning with a hose, and on top of their roof sits a ginormous, prehistoric silver antenna that powers up either their vintage black and white television console or a ham radio. Not sure which—I’ve never asked.

(*name changed to protect the almost Amish)

Before we broke ground, I paid them a visit. “We’ll mostly just be rinsing off after swimming or surfing,” I explained. “I hope we won’t disturb you.”

They exchanged a worrisome glance. Joseph gulped. “We won’t be able to see you naked, will we?” asked tiny, birdlike Mae in her heavy Japanese accent.

“Oh no, ” I laughed, explaining that, should they ever scale the 6-foot fence separating our properties, Desmond, our contractor friend, planned to incorporate an ultra-private bamboo corridor making it impossible to see us shower from their vantage point.

“Oh, okay,” they said,” they said, still sounding uneasy.

All summer Desmond, Jimmy and I worked on the shower house. Okay, mostly Des did. But I did go to the rockery to help choose the flagstone and Jimmy did slather grout.

Although the posts have been inserted, this is the closest to a “before” shot I have.
Configuring the Arizona flagstone pieces into a puzzle = good.

 There were a couple of snafus like when I asked Des to dig a French drain even though— duh!—the sewer line runs directly by the shower. And oh yeah, Jimmy may have over indulged in Dos Equis the night he grouted the flagstone because he didn’t scrape off the excess before it dried…

No mas cerevezas para usted, Jaime!

…making my fantasy project look like Fred Flintstone’s Stone Age shower. Poor Des had to power wash it off with some gnarly toxic chemicals during a heatwave while I plied him with Otter Pops and prayed he didn’t pass out.

Finally the outdoor shower was done!

Tanman takes it for a spin!

Since we the first day we christened her, both bars of Dove soap in our indoor bathrooms showers have endured minimal shrinkage. Why bathe inside when you can add a pop of alfresco fun to the daily grind?

Rexie gives our new shower two soapy thumbs up!

Even though the view doesn’t exactly look like Hawaii—instead of swaying palms and stars, I gaze up at that massive Ham radio antenna on my neighbor’s roof—the shower is my own little piece of paradise.

Dearest Desmond even gave me a flagstone ledge for my bottle of icy Corona.

Kimmy tries not to flash the neighborhood.

Kim the Star Stalker

When friends invited us to stay at the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island, I was ecstatic. As an avid People magazine reader,  I knew Hualalai was the place to observe celebs roaming in their natural habitat. Like tracking zebras and wildebeasts across the Serenghetti, this was my chance for an up-close encounter with a major movie star.

Unfortunately, it was a slow week at Hualalai. Most of the A-Listers had already migrated back to L.A., although I did spot Ed O’Neill pouncing on a warming tray of lobster mac and cheese at the 4th of July buffet.

But one day, when friends of our hosts met us for lunch, things began to look up. The woman, a down-to-earth mom named Shannon, casually mentioned Leonardo DiCaprio was hunkered down at Kukio, the even ritzier residential community next door.

BINGO! If Ed O’Neill was the kudu on the plain, then freakin’ Leonardo was the lion, rhino or jaguar of the big game celebrity hunt.

“Ohmigod,” I squealed like a tween at a Justin Bieber concert, “if he’s there tomorrow, will you puhleeze call me?”

Low and behold, the following day a text came through: Kim, Leo and his entourage are the only people on the beach if you want to come over.

I hightailed it over, rushing through the tasteful lobby and down the stairs toward the beach. Despite the hushed atmosphere, my heart thumped in my chest. Having been debriefed a day earlier, I kept my eyes peeled for a dude sporting a scruffy beard and much younger Victoria’s Secret model while furiously puffing on an electronic cigarette.

I arrived at the crescent of white sand beach out of breath. “Hi Shannon,” I huffed. “So nice of you to invite me.”

“Bummer!” she said. “You just missed Leo!”

It seemed Mr. DiCaprio and his smokin’ girlfriend had just strolled down the beach toward the Four Seasons!

Hoping to wash away my disappointment, I plunged into the turquoise sea and swam out to a raft moored to the ocean floor.

A few minutes later, Shannon’s husband, stand-up paddle boarded briskly in my direction.

“Hey Kim!” he called. “Shannon says to tell you Leo and his girlfriend just got back from their walk. They’re up by the pool.”

I butterflied back to shore faster than Ryan Lochte, and jumped into the jacuzzi, only to discover that once again, Mr. DiCaprio had eluded me. However, I did recognize a familiar face submerged in a fizzy cloud of jet bubbles a few feet away. I ran the man’s chestnut hair, facial scruff and lopsided smile through the thousands of celebrity faces I kept on mental file. Instantly his name came to me: Tobey McGuire. Spider-man & Leo’s best friend. Just wrapped “The Great Gatsby” together. Married to Jennifer Meyer, a jewelry designer. Daughter named Ruby. Blanking out on son’s name.

My 13-year-old, Saxon, was also chillin’ in the jacuzzi. “Sup’ mom,” he said, cool as a cucumber. “Just saw Leo.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, he was wearing a fanny pack.”
“Eww. A fanny pack?”
“Uh huh. He just took off to go mansion hunting with his mom. I overheard him telling her to double time it.”

I sat for a while in the jacuzzi with Tobey, sneaking covert looks. Tobey was kinda pale and wore lobster-print swim trunks, the kind with built-in underpants that no legit surfer would ever be caught dead in. He seemed like any ordinary, slightly goofy dad.

After a few minutes, Sax jumped into the swimming pool and started a water fight with some scruffy thirty-something guy with disheveled hair, big doe eyes, hipster sideburns…Once again the data flowed, Rain Man style, into my brain…Lukas Haas, the kid from Witness. Also a member of Leo’s entourage. Last movie: Inception. He was horsing around in the pool with Ruby, showering her with attention. And another kid—Tobey’s kid. Otis.

Finally, I hauled my pruney body from the jacuzzi. At the towel station, I eavesdropped on some rich kids bragging about their Leo sightings. Everyone it seemed had a Leonardo story.

Everyone but me.

Dejectedly I headed home. Later that night I finally saw Leo—images of him on the black lava-fringed beach were splashed across the Internet courtesy of the paparazzi.

Thanks to the paps, at last I felt like I was right there up close and personal with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Electronic Cig. Hot VS model girlfriend. Check. Check.
Snorkel buddy. Check.

Fanny pack. Check. Birkenstocks. Check.
“Impressive set of abs,” according to Hmm. Maybe I won’t believe everything I read anymore.