Once you’ve driven through the town of Wahiawa on Kamehameha Highway and crossed the short bridge, you’ve entered what we call, “da country.” There are a couple of stops to make before you hit Hale‘iwa, so roll down the windows, breathe the fresh air and enjoy the ride.
One of the most popular visitor attractions in Hawai‘i, Dole Plantation is located past the small community of Wahiawā and a few miles before the surf town of Hale‘iwa. It’s a little oasis of greenery with towering trees, a garden, the Pineapple Express Train and the three-acre Pineapple Garden Maze crafted by 14,000 colorful Hawaiian plants.
There’s something for everyone—young keiki will love riding the train, which features audio narration about the pineapple and agriculture industry along with music by local recording artists, Manoa DNA. Young adults will want to make their way through the maze, recognized in 2008 by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest. And older adults will enjoy the Plantation Garden, a self-guided tour that tells the story of O‘ahu’s plantation days, which played a huge role in shaping our island’s culture.
When hunger hits, you’ll want to stop at the Plantation Grille for local favorites, burgers, salads and more—and, of course, you can’t leave without trying the world-famous DoleWhip! Perfect for a hot day under the sun! Merchandise and souvenirs are also available in the gift shop.
Hale‘iwa is ground zero for amateur and professional surfers, ocean enthusiasts and folks searching for a closer connection to nature. It’s a down-to-earth hub of community-minded individuals, locally-owned restaurants and cafes, one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries. The people are friendly and many a transplant have found a home in this part of paradise.
A world away from Waikīkī, this part of the island has lots of places to explore, activities to experience and people to meet. Do more than simply pass through these parts—spend time to really see what the North Shore is about and meet the people who make this place special.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck short and simple menu doesn’t beat around the bush, so deciding on a plate won’t take you more than a minute. The focus is where it should be—on the three shrimp plates (Shrimp Scampi, “No Refunds” Hot & Spicy Shrimp and Lemon Butter Shrimp), plus the Jumbo Garlic Hot Dog plate! All deliciousness, all the time.
“We’re a family-owned and operated business, and every member of the family contributes to Giovanni’s overall success,” says Mary Nitsche, senior manager, who joined the Giovanni’s family approximately nine years ago. “Even our 2-year-old is known to hand out drinks and change to our guests!”
Focusing on the Three C’s—customer service, consistency and cleanliness—is important, and so is placing emphasis on family. “Working for Giovanni’s means you’re part of our ‘ohana,” says Nitsche. “We love hanging out with the kids after school and getting to know our staff’s families.”
It’s no surprise that the most popular dish by far is the Shrimp Scampi made with a dozen shrimp (all plates come with a dozen!), chopped garlic and lemon butter, served with two scoops rice, and tastiest of all—drizzled with garlic lemon butter and caramelized chunks of garlic! Half plates are also available with six shrimp and one scoop of rice. “Our guests love that it’s loaded with garlicky goodness!” says Nitsche.
And what is Nitsche’s favorite item? “Garlic Hot Dog served with scampi rice. The jumbo all-beef dog coated in our world-famous garlic marinade and served with two scoops rice covered in garlic is sooo ono! I love shrimp, but our hot dog is amazing! “
My favorite part of serving customers is hearing their stories about us,” she adds. “Whether it’s their first visit and they stopped because someone recommended Giovanni’s, or a repeat customer who comes every time they’re in the islands…I love hearing how much they enjoyed their meal. Life seems to center around food, and knowing our guests are making memories at Giovanni’s warms my heart. It’s the aloha spirit at work.”
Walk up to the window at the colorful Big Wave Shrimp food truck and you’ll see Kawita Stacy ready to cook up a tasty plate of fresh isle shrimp.
Born and raised in Thailand, the mecca of street food, Stacy simply likes cooking. She’s been in the kitchen since her teens with her father at the helm. “My father taught me how to cook outstanding food since I was a teenager,” says Stacy. “I wanted to start a food business so I could cook delicious food for people.”
Big Wave Shrimp opened in 2005. Their Crunchy Shrimp plate was featured on Guy Fieri’s Food Network TV program, “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” and is included in the website’s “Guy’s Top Eats in the Aloha State.” It’s made with large butterflied shrimp dipped in tempura batter and coated in panko before being pan fried. Customers get 10 pieces served with rice, veggies and a sweet-and-spicy dipping sauce. Other favorites are the Garlic Shrimp and Lemon Peppered Shrimp, plus find other items as well.
Each plate comes with a heaping dose of aloha and wishes for a healthy, wealthy and happy long life. “I’m always happy to welcome and greet customers who are kind to visit and trust us, and share conversation,” says Stacy. “People trust us by eating our food, so we do our best everyday.”
She says she eats the Spicy Shrimp because it’s her favorite. “It’s so yummy and broke da mouth! But every menu item is delicious.”
Aloha General Store opened in 2003 becoming only the third location to sell shave ice in the town of Hale‘iwa. In addition to becoming known as “Hawai‘i’s Best Shave Ice” with many customers and reviewers once Dave’s Homemade Hawaiian Ice Cream came onboard, owner Andre Cooper says they also offer a unique assortment of souvenirs for visitors.
“We have souvenirs and trinkets for everyone,” he says. “We’re essentially a one-stop-shop to get all your souvenirs so that you can spend the rest of your vacation doing other things versus searching for the perfect gift—because we already have it!”
According to Cooper, the top three selling items are “Shave ice and Dave’s Ice Cream, souvenirs such as dashboard hula dolls and vintage signs, and alohawear and kid’s clothing.” Some of the most surprising store items include aloha print dog collars, stained glass art and coconut peanut butter.
Cooper has a few suggestions when it comes to fun and unusual gifts to take home—Hawaiian Christmas ornaments, Hawaiian vintage metal signs and Hawaiian jewelry.
“We’re Hawai‘i’s Best Shave Ice always served with aloha!” says Cooper. And what is his favorite go-to refreshing treat when it gets hot? “Da Works or our famous Pineapple Bowl.” Stop by Aloha General Store to fill up on fun and quirky souvenirs, and cool off with a sweet treat while there!
A unique isle tradition, huli huli chicken—sold whole or half—was a staple while growing up, mainly as a fundraiser for organizations. For Mike Fuse, owner of Mike’s Huli Chicken located at Kahuku Sugar Mill, huli huli chicken has always had a special place.
“Growing up in Hale‘iwa,” says Fuse, “I was always in the water surfing or at community events, and we would always eat huli huli chicken because it was so good and everyone loved it. I started Mike’s Huli Chicken almost 10 years ago with the main focus of making sure customers from all over the world leave our restaurant feeling satisfied, and that they’ve tasted some of the best huli chicken Hawai‘i has to offer.”
The food truck was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive Ins and Dives” and that’s when business really skyrocketed. But it takes more than a TV show to bring in the customers and keep them returning time and again.
“Our variation of huli chicken is unique because we use different spices with Hawaiian rock salt and cook it over kiawe wood for everyone to see,” says Fuse. In fact, Fuse created his own special dipping sauce that can be used on everything, says his wife, Debbie. It’s just that good.
Debbie’s favorite menu item is the Chicken/Kalua Pig Combo; Mike’s is the Chicken & Garlic Shrimp. To savor the true essence of Mike’s Huli Chicken, Debbie suggests ordering up the latter.
“People always ask me what makes my food truck unique,” says Mike, “and I always say it’s the feeling of aloha that we create for our customers. I’m constantly working on new projects to improve our customers’ experience.”
There’s so much more to explore around the beachside town, so you’ll want to spend a full day, if not more, around these parts. Check out historic Waialua Sugar Mill, O‘ahu’s last sugarcane plantation that’s now home to entrepreneurial businesses. There are several hikes in the area, one of them being Kā‘ena Point (if you go, go early and bring LOTS of water). On the way to the point, you’ll pass Mokulē‘ia, home to Hawaii Polo Club with seasonal polo games open to the public. For more information on our advertisers and things to do see and do on O‘ahu, visit our website at thisweekhawaii.com.
[A version of this article appears in print in the pages of This Week O‘ahu]