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MailTribune.com
  • Take a scenic drive on Oahu's 'country' side

  • In the tiny, ramshackle Waikane Store, on Oahu's east shore, a cheerful woman in an old-fashioned hair net offered up Hawaiian-style sushi. And that means Spam.
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  • In the tiny, ramshackle Waikane Store, on Oahu's east shore, a cheerful woman in an old-fashioned hair net offered up Hawaiian-style sushi. And that means Spam.
    The canned meat long has been a Hawaiian favorite, morphing into all kinds of dishes including Spam musubi — slices of grilled Spam draped on little blocks of rice. At this store, it's made in the back along with hot-dog rolls, slices of hot dog encased in rice.
    You could, if you prefer, get traditional Japanese sushi all around Oahu, including at fancy restaurants in high-rise Waikiki. Or try the local version at a down-home, little place like Waikane, part of the essence of "country" that still endures along the island's lush east coast.
    Storms roll in from the Pacific, dumping about 100 inches of rain a year on some of this windward east coast and helping keep much of it rural and less-touristed. I drove a scenic route out of Waikiki that hugs the coast all the way, ending up at the island's wave-pounded North Shore. You could easily drive up and back in a day trip (my route from Waikiki to the North Shore was about 60 miles one way), but why hurry?
    There's much to see along the way, from beach parks to a big Buddhist-style temple and the sprawling Polynesian Cultural Center — plus old-time slices of Hawaii life such as the Waikane Store, which proudly proclaims on a hand-lettered sign that it opened in 1898. So go slowly and spend a night (or more) at the North Shore.
    Here's a sampling of what to see on this very scenic drive, going east then northward from Waikiki, mostly on Routes 72 and 83.
    Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve: Get going early in the morning to get a parking place and beat the crowds that flock to this protected bay that has some of Hawaii's best snorkeling. There's a bonanza of tropical fish, and sometimes sea turtles, to be seen in the steep-walled, collapsed volcanic crater that's now ocean-filled.
    Walk down to the beach (a 2,000-foot-long stretch of white sand) or take the park's tram. Hanauma has a visitor center and natural-history exhibits; snack bar; and locker and snorkel-gear rentals.
    Info: About 11 miles from Waikiki, just off Route 72. Admission $7.50, parking $1. See honolulu.gov/parks/facility/hanaumabay
    Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail: If you're able to do a gentle hike, don't miss Makapu'u Point. Walk to the top of a bluff on a paved trail with outstanding views of towering headlands and islets, humpback whales and paragliders. Some paragliders soar so close to the end-of-trail lookout platforms that you can say hello as they swoop past.
    Makapu'u Point is at Oahu's eastern tip, and the mile-long trail winds 500 feet up amid low scrubby plants to the lookout. It can be hot in the middle of the day; lots of locals walk the trail at sunrise or late afternoon. A red-roofed lighthouse perches postcard-perfect on a ledge part way up (although it's closed to visitors). At the top are some abandoned military bunkers and views, views, views. Want more walking? Makapu'u trail is part of the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline, and lower trails branch off near the parking lot and wind out to the beach.
    Info: About 2.5 miles from Sandy Beach. Parking lot is several hundred yards off Route 72 as it climbs between tall bluffs. No fee. See hawaiistateparks.org/hiking/oahu/index.cfm?hike — id=23.
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