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Before I Leave Honolulu…

I moved to Oahu a few months before my 21st birthday. Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago, but as I look back through old photos before I pack them away, I can remember discovering Honolulu through my 21-year-old eyes.

(Ok, and mayyybe through a bit of the haze of a 21-year-old hangover.)

Coming from Maui and having had a brief taste of living in New York, I was restless and wanted to do and see more, more, more. I was ready for new adventure. So Honolulu was my compromise – the “big city” nightlife and culture, better job opportunities, but still close enough to my family on Maui.

In my 20s, I was fortunate enough to find myself surrounded by an amazing group of friends. Back then, we traveled in packs, created “theme nights” to celebrate birthdays, raised thousands of dollars for charity, ran marathons and traveled across oceans together in search of adventure.

Our Roaring 20's

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In our 20s, we pursued careers – doctor, lawyer, architect, therapist, accountant, professor, nurse, artist, teacher – with the same passion we went after boys. We took shots, we took chances, we took many, many group photos. I’ve been so proud that I’ve cried during a handful of graduations, including (eventually, and a bit surprisingly) my own.


Along the way, I’ve also rekindled friendships from my childhood, some going back as far as Pukalani Elementary. We simply picked up wherever we’d left off, and I realized that there’s something to be said about a relationship where the other person knows every single part of your history. There’s no need to tell stories of childhood or growing up, because they were there.


It was these friends who were with me through the not-so-happy times. We comforted each other through sadness, frustration, loss – smiling through the tears of breakups, arguments, even death. During the times when I felt like I had no fight left, they were the ones who showed up, sat with me and who allowed me to just be me. I’m forever, forever grateful.


I’ve watched as many of my friends turned into wives and then mothers. I’ve cried tears of joy at each engagement, wedding, and birth announcement, knowing that these strong women have found someone who appreciates just how unique and special they are. Who, like me, would treasure them. Trusting that they are now in good hands.


As for me, while I haven’t yet found that romantic love or a life partner, I don’t have regrets. I’ve lived my life the way that felt right to me, every step of the way. I did my fair share of staying up all night, sleeping in til noon, I found (and left) a variety of careers, relationships and passions. Of course, I also ate my way through Honolulu and around the world.

All of it has led me to the person I am today. I feel very, very lucky looking back on the time that I’ve spent here.

Now 13 years later, as I prepare to leave, there are a few things that I’ve always wanted to do, yet have never gotten around to. Unfinished business is not my style, so here you go… (drum roll, please!)

Malia’s Honolulu Bucket List

Around the whole island by bus
Watch the sunset at Kaena point
Makapuu lighthouse trail for sunrise
Kyung’s Seafood’s sashimi platter
Morning Glass’s Mac n Cheese pancake
Sushi Sasabune
Ono Hawaiian Foods
Izakaya Torae Torae
Sunday Supper at 12th Ave Grill
Liliha Bakery waffle, extra crispy
Kan Zaman
Picnic lunch on Iolani Palace lawn
Yajima-ya’s mushroom chicken

Yes, a lot of it is food. I’m sure you’re shocked. 😉

Looking forward to my last few weeks of Honolulu adventures as well as what’s in store for the year ahead!

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Comfort food: Grandma’s Corn Chowder

Yesterday was my grandmother’s birthday. She passed away in 2008 while I was a few weeks into what would be a six month trip around the Pacific. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s years before, and her health had been deteriorating, so before I left home, I’d said my goodbyes and made peace with the likelihood that it might be the last time I’d see her. I got the news while checking my email at an internet cafe and I broke down in tears, even though I knew it was coming. A few days later in a small village outside of Bangkok, a Thai friend helped me to set up a Buddhist ceremony to honor my grandmother’s spirit.

Five years later, here on a rainy November morning, I find myself thinking back to grandma’s kitchen table. I can imagine the steam rising up from a bowl of her corn chowder. I always loved the thin broth, sweet corn and salty bacon pieces. I can remember her making the soup, and later when she was no longer the one doing the cooking, my dad following the same recipe. It’s nothing fancy, but that steaming bowl can really hit the spot.


These days I try to avoid cooking from a can as much as possible. I get most of my meals through farmers market veggies and I keep a pretty small pantry. Whereas there are two 24 hour grocery stores within walking distance from my home today, my grandmother grew up in the plantation era and I know she needed to stock up to feed the family. Hence, our pantry was always full of the canned ingredients to make comforting bowls of chowder to warm you up in the rainy Makawao weather. She didn’t shop at a farmers market but we always had avocados from the trees she tended outside, and jellies made from the fruits around the yard – strawberry guava, surinam cherry, lilikoi, poha berry. I wish I’d learned to make them when she was still around to teach me, but I had no interest then.

Today, I make a special trip down the canned foods aisle to make my grandma’s corn chowder, not her own recipe, but one of the many she hand-copied onto index cards weathered with age and use. I scanned them all after she passed, and I’m thankful to be able to turn to them today. Grandma thought this one was “Good” (capital G) and so do I.



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Where to Eat on Maui: Monkeypod Kitchen

Trying out new restaurants on Maui, for me, is always a challenge. There are old mom-and-pop favorites, like Sam Sato’s, where I try to stop each time I come home because I never want to see them go out of business. Then there are more recent favorites, like Star Noodle, where I’d only been once and longed to return. Throw in stops at farmers markets and of course, home cooked meals with family.

I’ve only got one stomach and one weekend! What’s a girl to do?

There are many places that have come and gone in the time since I moved from Maui to Oahu, 13 years ago. One newish restaurant I was curious to visit was Monkeypod Kitchen by Peter Merriman, one of the founding chefs of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement. We loved Merriman’s in Waimea, so when a friend suggested Monkeypod Kitchen for happy hour, it was quite an easy choice.


The atmosphere at Monkeypod Kitchen was quite lively. We did find ourselves shouting a bit, with tables close enough for eavesdropping and live music played throughout the restaurant and bar. But overall, I think it just contributes to the energy of the place, which I really enjoyed.


Happy hour pricing brings the excellent hand-crafted cocktails down to $8 – I had to order the “Makawao Avenue” given that we lived there for many years – bourbon, lemon, honey, angostura bitters, and ginger beer. We also tried the mai tai, which features the traditional recipe, with the addition of a honey-lilikoi foam which was quite tasty, but since I wasn’t feeling like rum, I went back to the Makawao Ave. They also have a great selection of beers on tap, including local breweries.


Our favorite appetizer was the pumpkin ravioli, lightly dressed with a brown butter-sage sauce and tossed with spinach and goat cheese. Non-seafood appetizers are half off during happy hour and at $6.50 for six pieces we came quite close to ordering a second of this dish.


Wood fired pizzas, like this Hamakua wild mushroom with truffle oil, are only $9 at happy hour. Personally I felt the cheese was a little too heavy – making it quite oily. But we’d also ordered a beet salad and a side of Parmesan-topped Brussels sprouts to balance everything out.

Given the heavy emphasis on locally sourced dishes at the Waimea restaurant, I was a tad disappointed that a lot of the menu isn’t as “local” as I would have expected – although I bet if we’d gone with fish it would have felt more “Merriman’s” to me. But everything was tasty, the service (especially at a casual/bar seating) was outstanding, and most importantly, I had great company. Thanks Bri! 🙂

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman’s
10 Wailea Gateway Place, B201
Kihei, HI 96753
(808) 891-2322

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Things to do on Maui: Upcountry Farmers Market

Driving through Upcountry Maui just never gets old to me. On my last trip home, my dad took us up the back roads where we usually go running. Driving through the old Haleakala Dairy lands, I rolled down my window to take in the smell of eucalyptus and the moist scent of the rain the night before. The jacaranda trees were just starting to bloom, the purple flowers always remind me of the big tree we had in our yard growing up…

We took the scenic route for sure, but we were on a bit of a mission: to check out the new Upcountry Farmers Market.

It seems like lately it’s become trendy/hipster to shop at farmers markets and some debate the authenticity of all the “local” produce – especially when you see booths offering garlic or mainland cauliflower, things that just don’t grow we’ll in Hawaii – people start to wonder just how much is truly local. Some will also turn up their noses at the handcrafted items or the booths selling cooked to order meals and wonder where are all the farmers?

But I think there’s room for all of these things. If I can get local produce, and also the garlic I won’t have to go to the grocery store for at the same time as I pick up a beautiful ham and egg basket for breakfast and a snack for later – why not?


I grew up at my moms table at the swap meet. She was a crafter and made all kinds of things – I remember Christmas ornaments, Hawaiian print bags, cute little rubber stamps. I saw her having that rapport with her regular customers, I’ve heard people haggle. So I have an utmost respect for anyone making their living at these markets.

Sure, shopping at a farmers market can be more expensive at times (although many times its cheaper and also fresher so there’s less spoilage) but I will happily pay a couple of extra dollars for something that someone puts their heart and soul into. That’s what I’m supporting.

The Saturday Upcountry farmers market was a great example of this.

As we walked down the aisle of booths, it made my heart happy to see the camaraderie – people catching up with neighbors and friends, and passionate vendors selling their goods. A little girl squeals with delight as a baby chick is placed into get hands. A musician sets up a blues piano while another plays “When You Wish Upon A Star” on a violin.


I lingered over a beautiful lineup of pastries and the women running the booth chimed in that the lemons for their lemon tart were all from their backyard, as were the edible flowers. Isn’t it lovely?


Kula strawberries were only $3 a box, though I was tempted to go for the 2 for $5. That’s cheaper than in-store!


Farm fresh eggs…


…and Easter bunnies!


Fresh ravioli with homemade ricotta, pastas, and sauces starting at $5


My favorite new snack: fresh seaweed strips that are hand painted with a flavored macadamia nut paste (this one is shiso/ume) and then dried. Vegan, gluten-free, and delicious!


There were fresh wheatgrass shots, massage tables, feather earrings, fresh juices, and beautiful flower arrangements too. All in all, a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

Upcountry Farmers Market
Kulamalu Town Center (behind Longs)
Saturdays 7am – noon

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Kamaaina Deals at Travaasa Hana with Mokulele Airlines

This week, Mokulele Airlines made the the first of its twice-daily roundtrip flights between Kahului Airport and Hana, Maui. Flights start at $59 each way and should be booked well in advance – yes, this is a tiny plane to make the short 20 minute trip to Hana.

This is GREAT news for Kama’aina! While the famous Road to Hana is beautiful and well worth the drive, it still takes at least a couple of hours each way, making it a bit of a deterrent to many who have just a weekend or a few days to stay on-island. So a low-cost daily flight is the perfect answer.

Sea Ranch Cottages at Travaasa Hana (photo courtesy of Travaasa Hana)

>> To sweeten the deal even further, Travaasa Hana is currently offering these Kama’aina Packages only for Hawaii residents:

“Garden Suite Getaway” Package, $295/night

The delightful “Garden Suite Getaway” package includes accommodations in a low-rise bungalow Garden Suite; roundtrip air from Kahului Airport (OGG) to Hana Airport (HNM) on Mokulele Airlines for two (valued at $240); ground transportation to and from the Hana Airport; $25 per person spa credit; $25 per person private activity credit; and $50 food and beverage credit. Based on double occupancy; excluding taxes and service charges. Two-night minimum stay required. Certain restrictions and blackout dates apply. Proof of Hawaii residency is required at check-in.

“Sea Ranch Romance” Package, $395/night

For the ultimate romantic escape, experience Travaasa Hana with the “Sea Ranch Romance” package. This seductive offer includes accommodations in a plantation-style, ocean view Sea Ranch Cottage with a private lanai; roundtrip air from Kahului Airport (OGG) to Hana Airport (HNM) on Mokulele Airlines for two (valued at $240); ground transportation to and from the Hana Airport; $25 per person spa credit; $25 per person private activity credit; and $50 food and beverage credit. Based on double occupancy; excluding taxes and service charges. Two-night minimum stay required. Must be 16 years or older to stay in Sea Ranch Cottage. Certain restrictions and blackout dates apply. Proof of Hawaii residency is required at check-in.

>>To book, visit and enter rate code KAMAAINA, or call Travaasa Hana, Maui directly at (808) 248-8211.

>> Looking for hotel or other Kama’aina deals? Visit our Kama’aina Travel Deals page.
>> For the most recent posts on specific kama’aina deals, click here.
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