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Hawaii with Friends Day 3: Diamond Head, Koko Head Cafe, Pearl Harbor, Side Street Inn

This morning we woke up early again (but not as early as the previous day!) to hike Diamond Head. On the way there we stopped by Iyasume Café Musubi for a quick breakfast of spam and egg musubis. It was packed inside! Apparently it’s one of the few places to get musubi at 7am. Their musubi is very good but they are mostly made-to-order so you may end up waiting a little longer. They do have pre-prepared ones sitting out on the counter but there is nothing like having them made fresh. Along with musubis they have all sorts of musubi souvenirs – musubi makers, t-shirts, stuffed dolls, reusable bags, etc. along with cans of different flavored SPAM.

Some options for made-to-order musubi

Some items for sale inside Musubi Cafe Iyasume

I liked the SPAM and cheese musubi

My friends found it all very amusing (yet tasty!). Bellies satisfied, we drove and parked at the base of Diamond Head.

We had a wonderful hike up to the top. The weather was great and the views were amazing as usual. There weren’t that many people early in the morning but coming back down it got pretty crowded. I would say it’s a pretty easy hike, now that I’ve done it a few times. At the very top, most of my friends walked up the narrow steep staircase and through the crawlspace to reach the apex. Myself and another friend decided to take the more scenic longer route. I much prefer that as the crawlspace doesn’t appeal to me. I think this is a hike for everyone as for a little effort you get rewarded with beautiful views of the crater, ocean, and Waikiki beach.

Group shot before the hike!

Thanks Terry for your long arms

Base of Diamond Head

View hiking up

A nice leisurely hike

Almost at the top

Us girls. Pic from Lana

Almost at the top

View from the top!

Pic from Lana

In an old bunker area. Pic from Lana

Once back down we drove around the Diamond Head/Kahala area and came upon a gorgeous lookout so we stopped to take some pictures of the ocean. It was so pretty with the blue water in the background. Saw a couple of boogie boarders too. Heard the swells were picking up on the North Shore so pretty excited to check out the surfers the next day.

A lookout near the Diamond Head area

Koko Head Cafe is located in Kaimuki, a short drive away from Diamond Head. Even though we called ahead we had to wait about 20 minutes since it was packed. In the meantime some friends managed to find a gelato store around the corner and indulged in some pre-brunch lillikoi sorbets which they loved (I think it was Via Gelato they went to).

Koko Head Cafe in Kaimuki

At Koko Head café we shared some appetizers: dumplings of the day, Breakfast Congee (like a porridge with bacon and egg), and the kitchen sent out a platter of the Breakfast Bruschetta which were amazing: sweetened toasted Japanese bread with macadamia yogurt and brightly-colored fresh tropical fruit with local honey. It was hands down the prettiest thing we had the entire trip, and the flavors were refreshing and delightful. If the kitchen hadn’t sent this out I would probably not have ordered it as the description made it sound like a mere fruit platter and some toast but I kid you not when you bite into it, it’s like biting into the essence of Hawaii. I will have to order this from now on!

Breakfast Congee

Dumplings of the day – think they were Vietnamese dumplings

The delicious and beautiful Breakfast Bruschetta – mac nut yogurt on Japanese Rusk with fresh island fruit.

I had the poke bowl special of the day, which was pretty good. The loco moco skillets with tempura kimchi were popular too. The surprise dish was the luau skillet, which had a beef and taro leaf stew on top of garlic rice, sunny side up eggs, and tempura onions. It was a unique and extremely tasty dish.

Poke bowl of the day

Delicious beef luau skillet with fried eggs and tempura onions. A winner!

Koko Head café was a hit among my friends and I’m glad I took them there!

After an afternoon resting up at our condo/hotels, we got ready for our late afternoon at Pearl Harbor. Two of my friends decided to sit this one out (they had been before) so we took the newbies to one of the most memorable sites in all of Hawaii. We had booked one of the last tours of the day but due to unexpected traffic, we ran late. We thought we were going to miss our 3:00pm boat launch, so when we finally arrived I ran out of the car hoping to grab the tickets and make a run for the boat. To my relief they had cancelled the 3pm tour and we were to join the last boat trip of the day was 3:30pm. Whew! We were just in time to catch our breath, watch the movie, and make our way onto the ferry to the USS Arizona Memorial. I was the first one off the ferry at the memorial and managed to capture pictures of the site without any people in it.

Approaching the memorial on the ferry

A totally empty USS Arizona Memorial

I definitely recommend a visit to Pearl Harbor for all first timers to Oahu. This marks my 4th time to the memorial and it’s always a moving and somber experience. I’ve usually booked one of the first tours out to the memorial (around 7am), and it’s always been packed. The 3:30pm launch in contrast was relatively uncrowded and the light was very pretty that time of day at the memorial. Oh and remember, don’t bring any bags as you won’t be allowed to bring the in (I think they may have a bag check nearby). Just very small camera bags/wristlets are allowed.

We had dinner reservations at Side Street Inn but we had some time to kill so we drove to Ala Moana mall to check out their new Shirokiya Japan Village Walk and the new Foodland Farms. They are amazing and the selection of food vendors is killer. We were scheduled to eat here after our North Shore trek the next day so we just wanted to scope it out a bit. The Japan Village Walk had dozens and dozens of different food stalls selling everything from curry rice, poke, to desserts made from edamame beans. There were burgers, tempura, musubi, omurice, practically everything under the sun with a Japanese influence. There were additional stalls that have yet to open as well. It was definitely one of those places where you’ll have a hard time choosing what to eat as there is plenty. Foodland Farms reminded me of a really fancy Whole Foods, but they had a poke bar which makes it even better! We bought some more fruit and some local snacks. Our taro chips had already been depleted!

Side Street Inn (Kapahulu location) was bustling. Lots of groups and families ready for Sunday night football. The game is obviously a replay but everyone was having so much fun watching as if it were live that it didn’t matter. Side Street Inn is a great place for groups because the portions are so large, not so much for a couple so DH and I never really get to go here on our couple trips. Our last time here was my family trip in 2012, so I couldn’t wait to take my friends here. I imagine if my family lived in Hawaii this would be a place we’d frequent a lot.

Specialties of the house are their “da works” kimchi fried rice and island pork chops. We got an order of both as well as a multitude of other dishes. I think we may have over-ordered but we did a good job. This is a great restaurant for those picky eaters as they have continental as well as local favorites that are sure to please many. The fried rice and pork chops were delicious. We ordered two different types of poke, steamed clams, sautéed garlicky mushrooms, chicken wings, teriyaki chicken, a farmers salad that had fried sweet potato crisps on top (delish!), sliders, and oxtail soup. It was a myriad of food and we were happy campers. Our total bill for 7 people was about $176 without tip and that included a few happy hour drinks. Extremely reasonable for the amount of food we got and we even had to doggy bag a few things.

Fried mochiko chicken

Special salad with fried sweet potato crisps on top

Poke sampler

We had a lot of food!

We did well despite ridiculously over ordering! Pic from Lana

It was a great day eating out and experiencing moments in US history…our next day was supposed to be a North Shore grand slam trek…but do we even make it?

Read more about our November 2016 Oahu Trip with Friends!

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