As a professional golfer, the owner of Curvature Wines and an investor in Double Cross Vodka, Cristie Kerr constantly travels all over the globe. Kerr share her journeys, wine expertise and more with Forbes Travel Guide in a new monthly column. This is her third installment.
Oahu is lingering in my mind because the recent LPGA Lotte Championship brought me to the tropical paradise of Hawaii. (Editor’s note: Kerr impressively tied for ninth in the April 16-19 tournament.) I have been coming to the islands almost every year since I turned pro. The golf here is phenomenal; it’s both challenging and encompassing of breathtaking beauty.
While I love the tranquility and seclusion of some of the islands, I also enjoy the options on Oahu — the city vibe of Honolulu, the beach life of Waikiki and the escapes and laid-back experiences provided by local resorts. The hospitality provided by the locals is world-renowned, and the cultural, dining and recreational choices run the full gamut. I particularly like the fishing (my second love after golf) and exploring the local nature offerings, such as whales, sea turtles and, of course, the most famous indigenous mammal to Hawaii — the surfer.
Getting to Honolulu International Airport is a breeze for me with direct service from our home in Phoenix. Hawaiian Airlines’ flights have terrific service and ambience (staffers wear island-themed uniforms, tropical drinks are served in first class), giving you the feeling that you are actually going to the islands when your journey starts or the sense that you’re still there even on your way out.
Where to Stay
Waikiki is not just a surfer’s paradise, having evolved into a full-blown tourist destination for travelers from everywhere. All of the modern, upscale amenities and Hawaiian charm are delivered to perfection at Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk. The suites amaze with comforts like soaking tubs and Wolf and Sub-Zero kitchen appliances. The personal assistant services through the hotel’s Trump Attaché program provide access to everything you could want, even a personal chef. The onsite spa is first-rate and everything in Honolulu and Waikiki is close by.
What to Do
The indoor/outdoor Ala Moana Center has all of the top stores, from luxury brands (Tory Burch, Chanel, Harry Winston) to casual options (Clarks, Swatch). Tiki bars and coffee shops nestled among the designer shops and local island specialty boutiques make exploring fun. I always buy some Hawaiian tees at Crazy Shirts, which uses shredded money to dye its green T-shirts.
Where to Eat
BLT Steak, an exceptional outpost in the BLT family of eateries, brings the New York steakhouse feel to the islands, thanks in part to general manager Andrew Spinelli, formerly of the brand’s NYC restaurant. In a great indoor/outdoor space inside Trump Waikiki, the bar scene is vibrant and the food is upscale steakhouse/bistro with some special local surprises. The Hamakua tomato salad is a prime example of farm-to-table deliciousness. Other must-haves are the fresh, housemade popovers with pâté or foie gras. For mains, try the American Wagyu skirt, a beef that’s full of flavor and not typical in a lot of steakhouses. The local grilled Keahole lobsters are prepared in Armoricaine sauce and served in just the right size for sharing. We also recently had some locally grown Hamakua mushrooms that almost stole the show.
What to Drink
Meteor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is a great Napa cab from the Coombsville region, where the terrain and cooler micro-climate produce some great fruit, especially in hotter and drier years. This big, full-bodied wine has lots of blue and black fruit and balanced oak and tobacco tones that are perfect with steak.
While you easily can spend all of your time in Waikiki, if you can venture outside the city, there are several day trips that should be on the itinerary.
Day Trip 1
The southwesternmost part of Oahu is the “dry” side known as Kapolei. Beautiful beaches and hotels are prevalent here, including Aulani, a Disney resort. In the neighboring Ko Olina section, there is plenty to do and no real reason to leave. The Ko Olina Golf Club is a challenging area attraction. I also charter a tuna fishing boat every year here for a great day with friends and family. Water sports are popular here, although surfing may not compare to other parts of Oahu.
Where to Eat
My favorite restaurant in the area is Monkeypod Kitchen. Lots of “from the mountain” and “from the sea” treats are offered in a fun and lively atmosphere. Poke tacos feature a locally caught tuna prepared with ginger shoyu, cabbage, avocado and cream. The Bourgeois wood-fired pizza is topped with Big Island lobster, Hamakua mushrooms, Parmesan, local thyme and a garlic white sauce.
What to Drink
Monkeypod Kitchen’s Sweet Okole is a cocktail that combines okolehao (a Hawaiian spirit made from root of the ti plant) with Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur), simple syrup, lemon and lychee foam. This tropical concoction is to die for on a warm Hawaiian afternoon.
Day Trip 2
Turtle Bay, which sits on the northernmost part of Oahu, is very different from other parts of the island. While less than 50 miles from Kapolei, Turtle Bay is notably different in culture and topography. Turtle Bay Resort is one of my favorites for serenity. Sunset Beach is famous in this region, and watching the surfers take on the conditions is a treat. (The resort and surfing overshadow the golf course.) There are tons of local bars, restaurants and shops to explore. Everything just feels relaxed. The aptly named Turtle Bay has a sea turtle population that’s worth checking out as well.
Where to Eat
Ola is a Turtle Bay restaurant that’s situated on a bluff overlooking the ocean with unbelievable sunset views. The eatery offers terrific locally procured foods, with a logical emphasis on seafood. For starters, order the grilled octopus with Sumida watercress, Pupukea arugula and Kahuku sea asparagus, onions and tomatoes. When it comes to the entrée, the misoyaki butterfish is an island specialty that’s sautéed with Hamakua mushrooms, bok choy, kabayaki butter and jasmine rice.
What to Drink
Pair your meal with a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay. The crispness of the wine works well with the rich flavors of the octopus and fish.
Photos Courtesy of iStock and Trump International Hotel