Following in Obama’s footsteps

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

President of the United States of America, Barack Obama – aka the most powerful man on the planet – may currently reside in the White House, having spent some of his childhood in Indonesia, but his heart remains firmly in Hawaii.

Or as the O’ahu native once said: “I’m an island boy. I’ve always been proud to have been born in Hawaii. The opportunity that Hawaii offered – to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect – became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear.”

The exotic island chain is where Obama, his wife Michelle (who famously remarked during the 2008 US presidential race: “You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii”) and daughters, Sasha and Malia, head on their holidays, to rest and recharge.

Fancy following in Obama’s footsteps? Walk this way…

Make for Matsumoto

Want to eat like a president? Make for Matsumoto – a tin roofed 1950s style general store on O’ahu’s legendary North Shore – to indulge in shaved ice. This beat the heat treat consists of finely shaved snow cones topped with a choice of island flavours like liliko (passion fruit), pineapple and mango. Aoki’s is another popular shaved ice spot – and as an added plus, the queues are shorter – but if you want to walk Obama’s path, Matsumoto is where it’s at.

Rock up at Rainbow Drive-In

This colourful Kanaina Avenue drive in was a favourite hang out of Obama during his youth. Fast forward to 2016 and POTUS still pops into this outdoor eatery that was founded by island born Seiju Ifuku (who learned to cook while serving as a US Army chef during  World War II), for a plate lunch. Consisting of two scoops of rice, macaroni salad, and everything from kalua pork, Korean barbecue, chicken katsu, beef teriyaki, or mahimahi, the plate lunch is a popular Hawaiian ono grind (good eat).

Tee time at Olomana Golf Club

Obama is passionate about the sport that Mark Twain once described as “a good walk spoilt.” So much so that Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, took a swing at the President’s penchant for golf in December 2015 accusing him of playing “more golf last year than Tiger Woods.” Where does Obama like to swing his clubs in O’ahu? Say aloha to Olomana Golf Club. Located on the eastern side of the Ko Olau mountain range in the gorgeous Windward community, this 18 hole course – divided into two distinctly different and challenging nines – is also where LPGA star Michelle Wie got to grips with the game of golf.

Head to Hanauma Bay
If you want to see Hawaii’s colourful underwater world – think giant mantra rays, sea turtles and tropical fish – through Obama’s eyes, head for Hanauma Bay. Only a short bus ride from Waikiki, Hanauma Bay has a reputation for being the best snorkelling spot. So much so that flying to Hawaii and not snorkelling at this beloved, bowl shaped bay – recently named America’s best beach 2016  by Dr. Beach, aka coastal scientist Stephen Leatherman – is akin to visiting Sydney and failing to see the Harbour Bridge or touching down in Cape Town and not climbing Table Mountain… you get the drift. Nearby Sandy Beach Park – one of O’ahu’s most dangerous beaches – is another favourite with the head of America’s First Family.

Manoa Falls
“When I’m heading out to a hard day of meetings and negotiations, I let my mind wander back to […] Manoa Falls […] It helps me, somehow, knowing that such wonderful places exist and, that at some level, I’ll always be able to return to them.”
Obama penned this for the Punahou Bulletin back in 1999 and for good reason: magical Manoa Falls, a relatively unknown corner of O’ahu, is world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Honolulu. This is the place to lace up your hiking boots and stride out through rocky stream-beds, bamboo forests and banyan trees, before reaching the 150-foot tall waterfall. Bring your camera but don’t bother about your swimming stuff: leptospirosis (a bacterial infection caused by exposure to water) and falling rocks makes swimming inadvisable.  

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