Our Day at Hanauma Bay

I thought Ev was a slightly crazy when he texted me at work on Thursday saying that he wanted to take the boys to Hanauma Bay this weekend. He had read an article in the newspaper that Hanauma Bay had reopened under a pilot project after being closed for eight and a half months due to the stay at home orders. The newspaper was reporting that the water was 64% clearer now than before Covid and that more fish, seals, and turtles were coming back into to the bay.

Although the park opened at 8 am, we knew that there would be a long line of people waiting to get in. We really didn’t know how early we would have to get there, but we eventually decided on getting to Hanauma Bay between 7 – 7:15 am. Ev dropped Connor and I off near the entrance and then parked one of the side streets in the nearby neighborhood and pulled Gray and our gear up the hill with the wagon. Waiting in the line was the most difficult part of the day. We tried to keep our spacing from others as best as we could, but it was difficult with so many people waiting around. We kept our masks on the whole time and wished for the best. If you are in a high-risk category for Covid, I would not recommend waiting in the pedestrian line.

We made it in!

Due to social distancing, they were only letting in 30 people into the park every fifteen minutes and capped the total visitor count for the day at 720 people (prior to Covid, they were averaging 3,000 people a day). They were alternating between a group of pedestrians and a group of cars. There were about 50 people in front of us in line, and we were fortunate to be in the second pedestrian group. The first pedestrian group were allowed to walk from the entrance to the visitor’s center at 8. Our group of 30 were let into the visitor’s center area at around 8:30. Admission is free with a Hawaii State ID and for children under 12. After the staff checked our state IDs, we were required to watch a 15 minute educational video on Hanauma Bay.

A whole beach to ourselves

While the social distancing measures meant that there was a lot of waiting at the top, the benefit of those measures was once you got down to the beach, the place was pleasantly empty. When we first got in, there were only about 60 people there before us, so we had a whole section of the beach to ourselves. People came tricking in every 15 minutes but it took at least a few hours before you really noticed. And, even at its peak, there were still much less people than when we’ve gone to Waikiki or Ala Moana. It was actually really nice, and I hope they keep the 720 people per day cap in place.

Con and Ev spent most of the day snorkeling, and I stayed with Gray on the shore. Gray didn’t seem to mind that Con and Ev had gone swimming because he had a great time playing on the shore. Since most people go to Hanauma Bay for the snorkeling, we had a good amount shoreline to ourselves. Gray enjoyed making sandcastles, running up and down the shoreline, collecting unusual shaped rocks and sea glass, and drawing pictures in the sand.

Fortunately, I was relived of my Grayson duties and was able to get some time to go snorkeling too. I wish I had an underwater camera because the snorkeling was well worth the wait. I have never seen so many different types of fish in one place and you did not need to go out very far to start seeing fish. Con has been really into snorkeling recently, and he had a blast. He said this beach was the best and this was definitely the most fish he had ever seen.

Making sand balls is serious business

The newspaper article also said that visitors had to be out of the bay at around 4pm, and we wanted to beat the crowd out of the park. We packed up at around 2:45 pm, showered off the boys and the gear, and took the free shuttle back to the visitor’s center. Having reached the 720 person cap at 2pm, the visitor’s center was empty and we were able to leave the park without much trouble. Overall, a very successful day at the beach and I am glad we went.

Hanauma Bay – hanaumabaystatepark.com
Wednesday – Sundays (8am – 4pm; no entry after 2pm)
720 guests per day; 120 per hour
Entry fee: $12 per person over 12 years of age; FREE with HI state ID

Yakitori Hachibei

IMG_20171025_174624In October, Ev’s parents took the family out to a belated birthday Dinner for Ev.  After much debating, Ev decided on Yakitori Hachibei, which opened in Chinatown earlier this year.IMG_20171025_175753When we first arrived, it was still happy hour (from 5pm – 6pm) so we ordered a few of the appetizers off the happy hour menu.  Our favorite items were the Teba Karraage (fried chicken wings) with Hachibei’s special citrus dressing ($5) and the Goma Kampachi ($5), shown below.IMG_20171025_175516I was impressed with the happy hour menu, which had eight appetizers, 16 oz Kirin draft beers, and a selection of shochu highballs for $5 each.  I wouldn’t mind coming back for happy hour again.
IMG_20171025_184024The family ordered many items off the regular menu, but one of the more notable dishes that we ordered was the Cream Cheese Tofu and Miso Zuke Cheese ($8.60), which we spread on a fresh baguette slices.
IMG_20171025_184453I was also very impressed with the Hachibei Kashiwa Meshi Yaki Onigiri ($5.80 for 2), which was a grilled musubi made with Hakata rice cooked in chicken broth.  They also had a Shiso Yaki Onigri version ($5.80 for 2) that was also very tasty.
IMG_20171025_184903I also enjoyed the various chicken items, which were sourced locally from the J. Ludovico farm in Wailua.  My favorite chicken item was the Hachibei Foie Gras ($3.80), shown above. IMG_20171025_190833And, my favorite dish of the night was the Tsukiyaki Tokusen Kushi (specialty skewer, which was well worth the $6.80 price tag. Of all the skewers I tried that night, I would definitely recommend trying this one.

IMG_20171025_191946We ended the night with a large bowl (3 scoops) of pumpkin cream cheese ice cream, which was a dessert special that night.  I really like pumpkin (my favorite pie is pumpkin pie), but even I thought it had a strange taste.  Even though we would not recommend ordering it again, Connor still enjoyed it.

Sea Life Park

Last weekend was another busy one for the family.  On Saturday, Connor had a playdate with the ever so cute Miss. Lily Paige.  Just look at how happy they were to be reunited once again:

They apparently have similar smiles 🙂

For this playdate, we decided to take the kiddies to Sea Life Park.  I haven’t been there in ages, so it was a nice to go again. Sea Life Park didn’t include Kamaaina rates on their website, but fortunately, my friend Tasha (Lily’s mommy) called prior to going and found out that the Kamaaina rate was $20 for adults and that Sea Life Park was having a promotion with L&L Drive Inn.  By bringing in an L&L Drive Inn cup, we got a 2 for 1 discount on admission into the park.  Kids under 2 are also free, so Ev and I ended up spending $20+tax for admission.  Score!
DSC08474After we went through the entrance, we made our way to the Hawaiian Reef Tank.  I remember that this tank used to have hundreds of colorful fish, sting rays, and sharks when I was a kid and this used to be my favorite exhibit at Sea Life Park.  So, I was a little disappointed to see the tank’s current state.  This tank is now used for the “Shark Trek” interactive experience where people can pay to swim with sharks, which explains why the tank is now mostly filled with hammerheads and other sharks instead of fish.DSC08486
On the bright side, I was told that the tank was being closed for renovations, which hopefully means that the tank will be improved in the very near future.  And, despite my disappointment with the tank, Connor didn’t know any better and still enjoyed looking at the sharks and the few other fish that were in there.
DSC08488After the Hawaiian Reef Tank, we visited the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Lagoon.  I was surprised at how many large turtles they had in such a small space.  They probably had about a dozen turtles there.  Connor is very into turtles right now, and he had pointing at each one, and saying “turtle” “turtle” “turtle”!DSC08494From the turtle lagoon, we visited the California Sea Lion exhibit.  Again, I remember this exhibit having way more sea lions than what we saw in there.  Maybe we visited this exhibit at a bad time and some of the sea lions were in some back area, but there were only about 4 sea lions swimming around in the entire exhibit.
DSC08489After the sea lions, we visited the Discovery Reef Touch Pool where Connor got to touch a variety of sea creatures that are native to Hawaii’s oceans such as a clam, a sea urchin, and a baby Hawaiian sea turtle.  This was one of the park’s newest exhibits and it was very well done.  There was also an area where kids could crawl into a glass tunnel to the center of a fish tank and watch the fish swim from all sides of the tunnel.  Unfortunately, there were way too many kids in there when we went so we skipped that portion of the exhibit.DSC08508From the touch pools, we decided to make our way to the Dolphin Cove to get good seats for the Dolphin show.  We got there about 30 minutes before the show started so there were still some good seats available in the shaded area.  While we waited for the show to start, we ate some lunch and let the kids play around.  The show was entertaining and Connor got to see dolphins and a wholphin, which is an extremely rare hybrid born from breeding a false killer whale and a dolphin.  While such hybrids are said to exist in the wild, the Wholphin at Sea Life Park is the only one to exist in captivity.  In addition, unlike most hybrid animals, the wholphin at Sea Life Park was fertile and has given birth to three times.
DSC08532Shortly after the show ended, we headed for the Aviary, which housed approximately 300 cockatiels and lovebirds.  I’ve never seen so many birds in such a small area before.  It was madness.  Birds everywhere, and they weren’t afraid of humans either.  One landed on my head and another landed on Everett’s shoulder.  I’m glad the birds were smart enough not to land on Connor because I don’t know what he would have done.
DSC08529By the time we finished with the birds, it was just about Connor’s nap time, so we decided to call it a day.  Connor was so tired, he literally fell asleep in his stroller on the way to our car.
DSC08476I wish we were able to see more of Sea Life Park’s free shows and talks, but I don’t think the kids’ attention spans would have allowed for it. For example, we didn’t get to see the Hawaii Ocean Theater show, the Penguin Habitat talk, the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle talk, the Kolohe Kai Sea Lion Show, or any of the 3-D Theater & Reef Ranger presentations.

Sea Life Park is really pushing their paid interactive programs that include swimming and/or feeding dolphins, sharks, stingrays, seals and/or turtles. Obviously, Connor is too young right now, but perhaps sometime in the future.  Overall, I thought our trip to Sea Life Park was well worth the $20 we spent.  It was a beautiful day and the weather was just PERFECT for spending it outside.  Hopefully, they continue to have the L&L promotion, so we can take advantage of the 2 for 1 deal in the future.

Japanese Taste Hakkei

My birthday landed on a Tuesday, and Ev asked me whether I wanted to celebrate my birthday with dinner on my actual birthday or on the weekend afterwards. Since we both had to work the next day, I told him we could celebrate my birthday on the Saturday following my birthday.DSC07699As such, I wasn’t expecting anything on my actual birthday, but Ev decided to take the family out to dinner anyways.  We ended up at Hakkei, one of my favorite Japanese restaurants. The restaurant was really busy that night, but we were lucky enough to get the last available table.  DSC07713Because it was my birthday, we decided to splurge a little.  I got the Chef’s appetizer + Oden (with 5 choices) and Ev got the Chef’s appetizer + 2 kinds of Grilled Fish.  The Chef’s appetizer changes from day to day, and I was told that we got a few extra dishes because they were so busy and we had to wait a little longer than normal for our food.  I don’t remember what was in each of the little dishes, but they were all very tasty.

We also ordered Connor some fresh homemade tofu with green onion, bonito, and ginger sauce ($6.80).

And some stewed pumpkin ($5.80).  Connor was a big fan of the pumpkin and he pretty much ate all the pumpkin by himself.

I order Oden every time we come to Hakkei, and I’m never disappointed.  It’s comforting, like a warm hug.  For my 5 choices, I picked an egg, daikon, tofu, gobo dumpling, and stuffed cabbage roll.  Ev had two types of fish his main dish.  I believe one was grilled the other was stewed.  I forgot to take a picture, but they were also very tasty.

Overall, Hakkei serves really simple Japanese foods prepared perfectly.  It was a very nice way to celebrate becoming another year older with the two most important people in my life.  I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate my birthday.  🙂

Pig and the Lady

Pig and the Lady is arguably Ev’s favorite restaurant. We first discovered P&L when we had dinner at its pop-up restaurant on Valentines’ Day 2012 and have been hooked ever since.  We were also big fans of P&L farmer’s market offerings and were stoked when they finally opened their brick and mortar store on King Street.  Here are some pictures from our last visit to P&L.
Ev decided to order the P&L Mazemen ($15), which was like a mix between a Vietnamese pad thai and deconstructed pho. His meal included a large bowl of pho noodles with beef & tendon, roasted peanut-chili satay, cucumbers, cherry tomato, fermented mustard cabbage, cilantro, and tokyo negi.  It also came with a small, side bowl of broth.  Ev was a big fan and said that he would get it again.
I decided to go with the traditional P&L pho ($13), which is supposed to be P&L’s signature pho dish. It included a fatty slice of smoked bacon, brisket, a soft egg, Tokyo negi, fried shallots and a beef pho broth.  The pho also included traditional pho sides – basil, bean sprouts, and lemon wedges.  The P&L pho is definitely not a traditional pho, but it is still one of my favorite dishes from P&L.

Mexico Cantina

This weekend was Ward’s annual Festival of Giving, which is just a big excuse for the Ohta family to go shopping.  It also gave us an opportunity to eat at Mexico Cantina, which was giving a 25% discount on food for the festival.


I ordered the Tostada Ranchera with shredded beef ($13.95) and a li hing mui Margarita ($10.00).  The margarita was tasty and a perfect end to a long work day.  The salad was fine, but nothing special.  I wish it had a little more lettuce. Connor really enjoyed the shredded beef and picking out all the olives (see above).
DSC07108Everett ordered the Adobada Burtrito ($15.50) and a Modelo Especial ($7.00).  I don’t care for pork adobo so Everett didn’t share his burrito with me.   However, he must have liked it because he’s ordered it before.


Overall, a really nice night with the family.

Bread + Butter

DSC06548We recently ate at Bread + Butter, which was the restaurant that replaced Angelo Pietros next to Shokudo on Kapiolani Boulevard in the Ala Moana area.   When I first went into the restaurant, my first thought was, “wow, they did a lot of renovations to this place” as I did not see any resemblance of the old Pietros that was once there for so long.   Bread + Butter is a trendy café type restaurant.  Similar to the café in Nordstrom’s, you order your food at the register (it’s all the way at the back of the restaurant), and if you are eating there, they will give you a number that you place on your table.  However, unlike Nordstrom’s you do have to get your own utensils and water, which is available at a side table next to the bar.  We went for lunch and the menu had a wide variety of options – from pizzas, pastas, salads, and sandwiches.  I decided to order the Prosciutto + Fig Pizza ($14.95). DSC06532

Ev decided to order the Carbonara ($12.95), which came with a slice of parmesan bread.  I thought both of the dishes were good and wouldn’t mind eating either again.  While the prices are on the higher side, I thought the food was on par with what you would get at the Nordstrom’s café or the Kaimuki Superette.DSC06531
Overall, I think this restaurant is a good place to meet a few friends for a nice bite to eat for lunch.  Given the atmosphere and location, I was not surprised that the restaurant was packed when we went on a Saturday in the early afternoon.   For better or for worse, I’ve also been told that Bread + Butter also has free Wi-Fi, which may also contribute to the slow turnover of tables and packed restaurant.


The Nook Neighbohood Bistro


Ev and I are always on the lookout for new breakfast places.  So, when we heard great reviews about The Nook Neighborhood Bistro from Ev’s brother, we decided to check it out for ourselves. Located in Puck’s Alley near UH, the Nook serves an assortement of breakfast and lunch dishes featuring local produce, eggs, and meats.

Ev ordered the Pork Belly Eggs Benedict ($14), which came with two eggs benedict with pork belly bacon, a small salad, potatoes, and toast.  We both agreed that the portion sizes were very good considering the quality of the ingredients and the price.


I decided to order the Brekkie Stack ($13), which comprised of cheddar and fontina cheeses sandwiched between two thick slices of french toast, topped with two sunny side eggs and two strips of bacon.  I’ve never had cheese on my french toast before, but it was amazing.  The photo does not do this dish justice.

At the end of the meal, Ev said that he likes this place better than Scratch Kitchen and Bake Shop.  Very high praise indeed!  We will definitely be back soon!

The Nook Neighborhood Bistro, 1035 University Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96826