Activity Finds: Kailua

1) Lanikai Pillbox Hike

For some, hiking is well, a pill. But to outdoor enthusiasts who want to take a walk on O‘ahu's more scenic side the Lanikai Pillbox hike (as it's referred to by locals) takes adventure seekers on a quick tour of Lanikai's pillboxes with views of the scenic shores of Lanikai, Kailua and Kane‘ohe.

Head out early (and with plenty of sunscreen and water) before the day heats up for the up to three hour jaunt - depending on how far you and your group want to go -- to the now-abandoned pillboxes that dot Lanikai's ridgeline. The historic World Ward II-era bunkers once used as observation decks to protect O‘ahu's Windward coastline against potential attacks from Japan, today takes participants on a scenic hiking tour along Kaiwa Ridge.

Great for families and those without a heart for hiking, the first pillbox is easily accessible in about 20 to 30 minutes with the second pillbox just another 10 minute jaunt away. Here, many O‘ahu hikers opt to stop for a photo opportunity (trust us, this Facebook album will get lots of likes and jealous comments from friends and family stuck at home) and head back.

Our tip: the initial 10-yard vertical climb can be a little daunting but well worth the jaw-dropping views you'll be rewarded with. If you're lucky, you may even be treated to a Hawaiian rainbow or two.


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2) Madre Chocolate

If you go cuckoo for cocoa a trip to Madre Chocolate in Kailua is a must. Dip into their organic, fair trade chocolates made right here on O‘ahu with a tour of their cacao farm and chocolate factory, or indulge in one of their luxurious tastings or "chocolate pau hanas." You bring your favorite choco pairing (wine, beer, whiskey or cheese) and they bring samples of new flavors they're experimenting with like jabotica or calamansi lime. It's a match made in chocolate heaven.

Winners of six Hawai‘i, US and international chocolate awards, Madre Chocolate's owner David Elliot is wrapping up work to put Hawai‘i on the map of artisanal chocolate powerhouses. Their one and a half ounce handcrafted dark chocolate bars are infused with unique, Hawai‘i-grown ingredients like ginger, plumeria, passion fruit and guava. Go exotic and try their new Kokoleka chocolate bar, inspired by Hawai‘i's fresh fruit, herbs and spices, captured in dark, rich Hawai‘i-grown cacao.

If you can't make it out to the Windward side you can grab a bar (or a few dozen) for yourself and your chocolate-loving friends back home from some of their vendors including the Ala Moana Center Farmer's Market, Fendu Belangerie in Manoa, Neiman Marcus, Tamura's Fine Wines and Liquors and Whole Foods Market.


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3) Lanikai Beach

More than living up to its name (in Hawaiian, Lanikai translates as "heavenly sea") Lanikai Beach in Kailua, consistently shores up as one of the best beaches in the world. With its white sand and gentle, turquoise waters, Lanikai Beach on O‘ahu's Windward side measures up - wave for wave - against the images that guests imagine and travel books the world over depict, as the quintessential Hawai‘i beach experience.

If you float by mid-week, Lanikai Beach is traditionally less crowded by the throngs of kama‘aina (local residents) and visitors who crowd the shoreline toe-to-towel during the weekends and peak summer months. For those who lose track of time, Lanikai also just happens to be the perfect place to stay to catch the moonrise over the Mokuluas.

While the beach itself is public property, because Lanikai Beach isn't considered state or county land there are no lifeguards, restrooms or showers. So make sure to stay safe and plan your restroom needs in advance.


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4) Kailua Bicycle Hawaii

Ditch your rental car for a different set of wheels and borrow or rent a bike to explore Kailua. This bicycle friendly neighborhood makes it the perfect place to take in some fresh air and appreciate our beautiful Hawai‘i weather.

Park your car at Kailua Town Center (or anywhere where parking is plentiful!) and roll on over to take your pick of local bike rentals - options include Kailua Bicycle and The Bike Shop. From there, the day is yours to take a short spin to Lanikai Beach (where you'll save yourself the time and headache of having to hunt down parking), grab shave ice from Island Snow and lunch and some light groceries from Kalapawai Café.

Another option is the state's new bike sharing program called Hawai‘i B-Cycle which has stations throughout Kailua where you can quickly and easily pick up and drop off a bike without the time and hassle of going to a shop. Purchase a membership online (you can choose from a 24-hour, 30-day or annual pass) at and you're ready to hit the road!


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Food Finds: Kailua

1) Prima

Heating up Kailua's culinary scene is Prima, a hot new Italian/American restaurant by a trio of local chefs with some serious cooking street cred.

Folded inside a nondescript strip mall next to Foodland, Prima is known for flipping out some of the island's best kiawe wood brick oven pizzas. We go bananas for their Di Bologna ($18), a thin crust, handcrafted pizza topped with pepperocini, mozzarella, a soft poached egg, rosemary, mortadella Spaghetti all'Amatriciana, tomato, red onion and guanciale. If you're going with a group we recommend ordering family style so you can sample some of their other Prima-ere dishes like the pappardelle ($18), curry bolognese with fried curry leaves or their slow roasted pork belly ($32), with king trumpet mushrooms, mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. Delizioso!

If a visit to Prima is a top priority, make sure to put in your reservation well in advance - they're so popular among Kailua residents that they typically have a line winding around the door. And because they fire food to order you may have to wait a bit for your meal. But stick around for dessert - their pistachio glace will make your eyes glaze over.


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2) Lanikai Juice

Squeeze some time into your Hawai‘i trip for a visit to Lanikai Juice, a locally owned juice shop which is mixing things up with their use of local organic ingredients and high quality products. While Lanikai Juice now offers locations across O‘ahu you can still pay a visit to their original shop on Kailua Road.

Since opening in Windward Oahu in 1997, Pablo Gonzalez (considered by some as the "Alan Wong" of smoothies) has been stirring up the local juice business focusing on using local products to create unique smoothie blends such as Aloha Date, Pele's Papaya Cream and Ginger Ono.

The award-winning shop has been helping residents get juiced up with their selection of smoothies, bowls, juices and supplements. After a day splashing around Kailua's aquamarine waters cool off with your pick of one of Lanikai Juice's more popular items -- their acai bowl. If you're crazy for coconuts you must try their Acai Colada Bowl, which includes a blend of bananas, strawberries, pineapple, honey, natural coconut milk and topped with dried pineapple and coconut.


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3) Island Snow

Hailing from the Windward side of O‘ahu, Island Snow is freezing out the competition. This shave ice stand is the perfect hits-the-spot stop after a long day in the sand and sun at one of Kailua's beautiful beaches. And after you've slurped up your shave ice you can check out Island Snow's buffet of surf wear, street wear, sunnies and accessories - just what you need to mix up your wardrobe before hitting the shores again tomorrow!

Within walking distance of Kailua Beach just off Kailua Road, Island Snow is known for its fast, friendly service and full-size servings. Splurge for the to-go cup (at only $3 though is it really a splurge?) and avoid the mess of a cone.

This shave ice stand is so cool it has attracted a loyal following. In fact, Island Snow's real claim-to-fame is the regular visits it receives from President Obama and his ‘ohana (family), who frequent here when they make their annual "migration" to Hawai‘i during the holidays. Hey, if it's good enough for the prez...



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4) Kalapawai Market

For groceries on the go, Kalapawai Market in Kailua has been a staple for area residents since their hanabata (hah-nah-bah-tah or small kid) days growing up. Their trademark green façade and barn-like exterior makes it a recognizable landmark as you mosey by their storefront off of South Kalaheo Avenue.

Established in 1932, their location near the entrance to Kailua Beach Park makes it the perfect go-to for last-minute provisions like a bag of ice, six pack of juice or their selection of made-to-order sandwiches, which make for the perfect picnic lunch. And no matter what time of day you visit Kalapawai you'll find yourself rubbing shoulders with Lanikai and Kailua regulars - many of whom, consider a visit to Kalapawai for a toasted bagel and cup of coffee as routine as brushing their teeth in the morning.

If you need some items before making the trek back into Waikiki (like say, a bottle of wine to pair with dinner or ice cream bar to cool off) a quick run to Kalapawai will have you stocked with everything you need - and then some.


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5) Moke's Bread & Breakfast

Named after chef Moses "Moke" Warren, at Moke's Bread and Breakfast, dining here is a true family affair. From the ambiance - which feels like you've just stepped into the Warren's home -- at Moke's, the entire Warren ‘ohana (family) chips in to support Moke's dream, serving up homemade baked goodies, breakfast favorites and of course their luscious lilikoi pancakes.

While there are many Kailua breakfast spots starting to pop up, what we love about this still-secret spot is the fact that while there's almost always a queue of hungry diners waiting to pound some pancakes Moke's is still a largely undiscovered gem. Their fresh, never frozen menu is chock full of local favorites. From farm-fresh omelets and homemade corned beef hash to their loco-licious loco moco we promise you won't leave hungry. Moke's is open daily except for Tuesdays from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you can, we'd recommend you moke your way over during the week and avoiding the weekend.


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Shopping Finds: Kailua

1) Manuheali'i

Whenever Hawai‘i residents are on the hunt for an aloha outfit that will take them from party to professional they pay a visit to Manuheali‘i. Since 1985, Hawai‘i designers Darlene and Pono have sewn up the aloha wear business creating original and modern pieces for every man and woman in a variety of prints and styles.

Their two stores - located in Honolulu and Kailua - are well-known stops every season (or every visit!) to try on their new items from men's aloha shirts to modern muumuu. New collections are released every six to eight weeks in an assortment of styles.

Inspired by O‘ahu's environment and rich culture, Manuheali‘i's unique graphic prints feature vibrant colors, which distinguish each and every garment. If you're looking to add a timeless Hawaiian print to your closet, make a visit to Manuheali‘i a must.


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2) Red Bamboo

You'll be seeing red after you explore all the beach-boutique goodies at Red Bamboo in Kailua. Tucked along Kailua Road, this Bali-inspired boutique features a selection of throw pillows, furniture, home décor as well as unique and handcrafted jewelry and art - the perfect gift for friends and family back home as well as for yourself to brighten up any room of your home, including your closet!

Owned and managed by O‘ahu resident, Carole Jacobs, the store's selection of Bali furniture, which includes beds, benches and a selection of tables and chairs, is enough to inspire any home redecorating project. But Red Bamboo's line of private label tropical bedding and recycled glass plates and platters, is what will have you splurging on the extra luggage fees to cart all your new treasures back home.

If you're in need of some retail therapy the quaint and charming neighborhood of Kailua is the place to head for a great selection of local boutiques. Along Kailua Road alone, in addition to Red Bamboo you can exercise your wallet at a range of small shops including Mahina, Global Village, Fighting Eel and Mu‘umu‘u Heaven.


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Event Finds: Kailua

1) Kailua Farmer's Market

As the sun sets, Kailua comes alive every Thursday with the sights, sounds and tastes of Windward O‘ahu's Kailua Farmer's Market.

After a day swimming and splashing around Kailua, spend your evening perusing the aisles and stalls of the Kailua Farmer's Market, held Thursdays at Kailua Town Center, behind Long's and Pier 1, from 5 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Curb your hungry opu (stomach) with the beautiful buffet of fresh, locally grown Big Island abalone (grilled still on the shell), honey, local herbs, fruits and vegetables and other farmer's market favorites like the sushi sliders and purple banana malasadas.

The best part - because the market is held in the parking garage adjacent to Macy's you won't need to worry about experiencing one of Windward O‘ahu's frequent and unpredictable passing rain showers.


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