Oahu Travel Tips from Katherine Lou, Blogger of Wander Hour

Conversations with Locals

Cali girl Katherine Lou is the blogger of Wander Hour, and has called Hawaii home since five years ago. Katherine divulges where to go for poke, Oahu’s snorkelling spots, and why you should not miss out on Oahu’s Chinatown. 

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Photo: Wander Hour

What do you feel defines Hawaiian cuisine? 

Native Hawaiian cuisine differs from local cuisine in Hawaii. Therefore, I feel there are many things that define the cuisine of Hawaii. When I think of native Hawaiian food, I think of kalua (pig) and poi (taro) amongst many other things. The type of food that you find in a traditional luau is more in tune with Hawaiian cuisine. Even better, family parties here serve some of the best native Hawaiian food and they put so much love in their dishes!

When I think of local food, which is entirely different from the native cuisine, I think of the melting pot of different cultures that contribute to it. There are strong Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, etc. influences in the local cuisine here. Overall, both native and local food are delicious. Most places are big in using local ingredients, so very often, the food is fresh – especially the fish!

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Oahu without trying? 

You cannot leave Hawaii without eating fresh poke, shave ice, and haupia (coconut pudding)! 

What about your favourite restaurants?

My current favourites would be Maguro for their spicy ahi poke, Marukame for their fresh udon, ARVO for their cute coffee and aesthetics, and Helena’s for the Hawaiian food. At Helena’s, I love their pipikaula which is a type of dried beef and their haupia. For shave ice, I love Waiola.

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Waiola Shave Ice. Photo: Wander Hour

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Oahu

There aren’t many to speak of, but don’t spend your entire week in Waikiki. It has its charms but venture out! There’s so much more to see! 

What is the one activity travellers should do in Oahu? 

When you go to Honolulu (in Oahu), put aside some time to hike the many trails! 

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Photo: Wander Hour

What about the best spot to catch the sunset? 

The best place to catch the sunset in Hawaii would be from the North Shore, which is about an hour’s drive from Honolulu. If you’re in Honolulu though, Ala Moana Beach Park might be a good place!

Where are some of your favourite snorkelling spots? 

When the water is calm during the summers, Shark’s Cove in North Shore is a good place to snorkel! Hanauma Bay is also good! Always be aware of your safety even if it’s summer. A lot of visitors and locals underestimate the power of Mother Nature! That said, I wouldn’t recommend snorkelling at North Shore around winter time. During winter, the North Shore gets some of the biggest waves and lots of surfing competitions happen around this time. 

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Photo: Wander Hour

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Photo: Wander Hour

Name one best kept secret of Oahu

The best kept secret would be Chinatown! Tourists normally don’t head to Chinatown in Honolulu but you can find some of the best restaurants there like Maguro which is my favourite place for poke, The Pig & The Lady, Livestock Tavern, and Lucky Belly. There are also cute boutiques, bars, and coffee shops in Chinatown! 

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Lobster roll at Livestock Tavern. Photo: Wander Hour
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Lucky Belly. Photo: Wander Hour

Describe the perfect day trip 

If you’re staying on the island, a perfect day trip would be driving east from Honolulu and around the island, and stopping at one of the many beaches. Continue towards North Shore and stop by the shrimp trucks such as Giovanni’s, then head back down to Honolulu.

If you’re feeling real adventurous, hop on a plane to Maui! Just a short 40 minute flight to Kahului from Honolulu, you can rent a car and drive around the island. My favourite stops would be Ululani’s for their shave ice. Drive up to Haleakala which is out of this world – it literally looks like Mars! If you leave early enough, check out the waterfalls on the Road to Hana. The whole drive can take about 6 hours back and forth depending on how many stops you make! 

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Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck. Photo: Wander Hour

 

 

WHERE TO EAT IN HONOLULU


Maguro Brothers Hawaii
Where: 421 Lewers St, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
For: Poke bowls

Waiola Shave Ice
Where:2135 Waiola St, Honolulu, HI 96826, USA
For: Shave ice

Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Where: 1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Hawaiian food

Marukame Udon
Where: 2310 Kuhio Ave #124, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
For: Udon

ARVO
Where: 675 Auahi St, Honolulu, HI 96825, USA
For: Coffee

The Pig & The Lady
Where: 83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Vietnamese food

Livestock Tavern
Where: 49 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Lobster rolls and burgers

Lucky Belly
Where: 50 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817, USA
For: Ramen and dumplings

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Where: 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712, USA
For: Shrimps
 

WHERE TO GO IN HONOLULU


North Shore
Where: North Shore, Waialua, Honolulu, HI, USA
For: Sunsets
Ala Moana Beach Park
Where: 1201 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814, USA
For: Sunsets
Shark’s Cove
Where: Pupukea, Oahu, Honolulu, HI 96712, USA
For: Snorkelling
Hanauma Bay
Where: 100 Hanauma Bay Drive, ueber Kalanianaole Highway, Oahu, Honolulu, HI 96825-2005, USA
For: Snorkelling

120 Hours in Tuscany – What to See, Eat & Do

Italy

It’s a clear day in Tuscany as warm sunlight blankets a stretch of chartreuse green. Italian cypresses line the roads, curving through hilly grasslands to unending vineyards, solitary hilltop towns, and saffron-coloured farmlands. At the brink of twilight, a nonna (Italian grandmother) is calling out to her family for dinner as she brings out the feast.

Tuscany is the crown jewel of the Italian tourism scene, and many have swamped the accessible cities where the tourist buses go. Yet, there is an understated beauty that still lurks in uncharted territories that surprises at every bend of the road. 

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THE WINERIES

Many associate Tuscany to its thriving wineries – after all, the undulating countryside of well-manicured greens are a result of vineyards and wineries that have been around since the 8th century. Drinkers and non-drinkers alike wine trip through this hilly region in search of the Tuscan reds. Castello della Paneretta stands tall in the Chianti region, where you can take a tour through the castle grounds. A wine tasting there includes pairing the wines with bread, cheeses and cold cuts.

Drive through the cypress-lined path to Poggio Antico for their Brunello di Montalcino wines. If you can spare a meal in the country, head to the winery’s restaurant to feast on Tuscan flavours and uninterrupted views.

For the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, head to Azienda Agricola Poliziano. You will be taken through the vineyards and cellars before the wine tasting. 

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THE TOWNS

Pecks of old-world towns dot the hilltops – a stop at any one of these is a must, to get acquainted with the Tuscan vibe. Many speak of glorious towns like Siena, Pisa and Lucca, but it’s the unsung hero towns that give you a peek into the people’s everyday lives. A long way down south of Florence is Pienza, home to pecorino cheese. Pienza has some of the best views of the Val d’Orcia due to its high vantage point. A visit to any of the cheesemongers there will get you stocking up on a plethora of cheeses (truffle cheese, pistachio cheese, and what have you). Just a few kilometres east and west of Pienza are the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino for impromptu wine tastings at bars and more stunning views. 

Hands down, the best way to stumble into an obscure town is to drive aimlessly, not caring where you end up in. That is the spirit of exploring Tuscany – to let it surprise you. 

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THE FOOD

When it comes to Tuscan food, it has got to be meats, cheeses, olive oil, and plenty of good wine. Tuscany is one of the few regions in Italy where you can find Chianina cattle. This fabled beef is what makes a mouthwatering piece of Florentine steak. Ragus (meat based sauce) are what Tuscans pride themselves on. Ground meats are stewed for hours with tomatoes, celeries and carrots, and served spooned over homemade pappardelle sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese. For more on what to eat here, check out the eating guide

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ROOMS

The expanse of the Tuscan countryside means that there is plenty of room for country houses, which were erected during the days of old. Over time, these copious dwellings have been converted into swanky bed and breakfasts for travellers. On top of being a winery, Castello della Paneretta has a villa that can house ten to eleven people next to acres of sprawling vineyards. Never mind the sheer size of the villa or the glistening swimming pool, it’s the ambrosial meals cooked by the hosts that guests rave about. If you want to take home a recipe or two, you can always go for the cooking class. 

For those who love the city and everything abuzz, Le Tre Nonne in Florence is an affordable accommodation with antique rooms and a hearty Florentine host who’s more than happy to share with you every nook and cranny of the artistic city. 

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The Eating Guide to Matera, Italy

Italy

There’s something about Matera that makes the town an enigma; church bells ringing poetically at the crack of dawn, dusty alleys leading to houses carved into rocks, the haunting silence when the town lights up for the night. Either way, its presence draws outsiders in like a moth to a flame.

Once shut out to the outside world, Matera has been gaining traction as a tourist spot since biblical movies – and one popular film The Passion of the Christ – made the town its setting. Dig deeper into the intricate network of cave dwellings (Sassi) and you’ll see that the town is littered with trattorias and restaurants. Tourists have yet to discover Matera in full, so the food is still steeped in tradition. 

Look forward to: Sausages, lamb and salumi

Kapunto 

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Where: Via Lucana, 178, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Raviolis
For: Affordable lunches

In traditional Matera, Kapunto shines bright in its modern approach to serving fresh pastas. Every morning, pastas and raviolis are handmade and laid out in all shapes and sizes. Pick the pasta that catches your eye, followed by the sauce (butter and sage, bolognese, pomodoro, rapeseed, or black chickpea and octopus cream) to go with it. If you ask the waiter, he would recommend the right sauce for your choice of ravioli. 

Il Cantuccio 

Where: Via delle Beccherie, 33, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Specials of the day
For: Lucanian cuisine

Lucanian food is the bread and butter of Il Cantuccio, a small-scale restaurant holed up in a back alley. The seasonal specials are the ones to watch – minced meat ravioli with senise peppers, chickpeas with porcini mushrooms, or goat’s milk ricotta with fig. One of the restaurant owners tends the tables, and he would gladly share the origins of their seasonal ingredients from the region. 

L’Abbondanza Lucana 

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Where: Via Bruno Buozzi, 11, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Pistachio pasta
For: Smart dinners

You might have to crouch a little to get past the entrance – L’Abbondanza Lucana is housed inside a cave structure. Impeccable service and an exquisite menu reimagined from traditional Lucanian cuisine are what makes this restaurant favoured for corporate dinners and fancy dates. Meals normally start with a glass of prosecco and the chef’s seasonal appetiser, before you indulge in dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. 

I Vizi degli Angeli

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Where: Via Domenico Ridola, 36, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Gelato
For: An ice cream stop

If you have ever stepped onto the main square of Matera, you would have wandered into I Vizi degli Angeli after witnessing the periodic queues. Delightfully rare gelato flavours are what you’ll get at this gelato laboratory – apple and celery, pineapple, avocado and lemon, red wine, and ricotta. The gelato comes in a cup, cone, soaked in coffee syrup, or even wedged between a slice of bread. 

Trattoria I Due Sassi 

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Where: Via Ospedale Vecchio, 1, 75100 Matera MT, Italy
What: Lamb
For: Affordable dinners

Eat well and affordably at Trattoria I Due Sassi, an old-fangled trattoria that does homely Lucanian food that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. A platter of local cheeses, salumi and pickled vegetables (the best way to taste Basilicata’s produce) will set you back €12. For the best lamb, this trattoria’s version falls right off the bone.