Best of Honolulu 2014: Fun and Fitness
Best Archery Range
The archery range at Kapiolani Park has been closed since 2012, when a novice archer with a high-powered bow shot an arrow onto the nearby tennis courts. That left O‘ahu archers with just three archery ranges. The desolate beauty of the Ka Iwi coast adds to the appeal of the range at the Koko Crater Shooting Complex, while the 20 archery lanes at Central Oahu Regional Park can accommodate enough bowsmen (and -women) to hold back a Mongol horde. But neither comes close to what the Puu O Kapolei Archery Range offers: 11 acres laced with pathways and hidden, three-dimensional animal targets. Thwip, you got a goat. Thwip, you bagged a bear. Thwip, that’s one dead dinosaur.
Puu O Kapolei, Archery Range Fort Barrette Road, bushwackersarcheryclub.org
Best Horseback Trail Rides
When the horses at the Hawaii Polo Club aren’t galloping up and down the field with polo players on their backs, they’re available for trail rides. Of all the good horseback-riding operations on Oahu, this is our favorite because A) part of the ride travels along beautiful Mokulē‘ia Beach, and B) you get to ride genuine polo ponies. Advanced riders can trot and canter on the polo field. No experience is required for the basic trail ride.
Hawaii Polo Club, 68-539 Farrington Highway, 220-5153, oahuhorsebackrides.com
Best Surf Lessons
If you can go from lying face down on the floor to standing on your feet in five seconds or less, Hawaiian Fire Surf School says it can have you stand-up surfing in one lesson. The school is owned by two Honolulu firefighters, so you know safety comes first. Among the precautions: students wear rubber-soled booties to protect their feet from the reef, and they ride rubber-tipped surfboards to protect their heads from dings. Best of all, the 45-minute lessons are conducted at Kalaeloa on the West Side, far from the kook-filled waters of Waikiki.
Hawaiian Fire Surf School, 737-3473, hawaiianfire.com
Best Laid-Back Race
Is it still considered a race if it isn’t timed and everybody wins? We think so. What makes the Visitor Industry Charity Walk the best, other than it’s raised more than $26 million for Hawaii nonprofits, is that you can actually gain weight on the course. In fact, if you choose to run it rather than walk, you’ll miss all the goodies given out by each participating hotel and business. We’re talking cookies, kālua pig sliders, fresh fruit. It only costs $35 to register for the 6-mile trek through Waikiki, but, with lunch and snack checkpoints galore, you’ll want to take your time crossing the finish line. And, hey, you’re still exercising. Technically.
Visitor Industry Charity Walk, charitywalkhawaii.org
Best Extreme Race
Suicide Slide, Hawaiian Ice Bath, Balls to the Walls and other obstacles designed to test your mettle—the Makahiki Challenge is not for the weak. There are no prizes for coming in first (other than Lono’s approval), but everyone who survives the 5K trail is rewarded with a T-shirt, medal, beer (if you’re of drinking age) and concert (this year’s performers included Kolohe Kai, Kapena and Jimmy Weeks Project). If you really want to win something, there is a prize for the best costume, but don’t plan on keeping the costume; it’s going to get filthy beyond your wildest dreams.
Makahiki Challenge, makahikichallenge.com
Best Concert Venue
When Pipeline Café shut down in 2011, Honolulu was left with a major void. While other venues may be bigger, it wasn’t until The Republik opened that we finally got what we needed—a venue in which both fans and performers, local and international, could really rock out. Other than the sheer number of shows that come through, The Republik boasts a permanent 16-foot LED wall, four bars (from which you can actually see the stage!), a huge dance floor, cold AC, LED TVs and a high-quality sound system. Not to mention internationally recognized artist Ben Horton’s awesome paint job.
The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd., #30, 941-7469, jointherepublik.com
Best Big Used-Book Sale
A summertime tradition, the Friends of the Library of Hawaii Annual Book Sale in June attracts bibliophiles from across the island. It takes four days for volunteers to move in and set up nearly 150,000 used books sold at prices ranging from a few cents to a couple of dollars, not including collectibles. During this weeklong sale, rummagers can find everything from Hawaiiana to cookbooks to classic fiction to contemporary releases. Plan now for next summer’s sale.
Friends of the Library of Hawaii Annual Book Sale, friendsofthelibraryofhawaii.org
Best Botanical Garden for Succulent Lovers
When we reached out to Kevin Whitton, author of A Pocket Guide to Hawaii’s Botanical Gardens (Mutual Publishing, 2009), for suggestions on a botanical garden category, we got this response: “With the recent popularity of succulents in little containers at hipster plant stores, the Koko Crater Botanical Garden is the natural version of the succulent garden.” We couldn’t agree more. Koko Crater, an example of a xeriscape, is filled with succulents (cactus falls into this category) from all over the world. Spanning two craters, the garden has a loop trail, a plumeria grove and a wiliwili grove. Plus, it doesn’t get much foot traffic, which is perfect for those needing a quiet, mind-clearing stroll.
Koko Crater Botanical Garden, End of Kokonani Street, 522-7060
Best Gym Splurge
If you’re willing to lay down the cash, Honolulu Club has long been a haven for Honolulu’s affluent fitness seekers. Honolulu Club recently underwent an ownership change and a multimillion-dollar renovation. Aside from the typical fitness club benefits, members here get the full-frills treatment, including locker room with amenities, a lounge and bar, a Jacuzzi with a cold plunge pool, squash and a golf practice area.
Honolulu Club, 932 Ward Ave., seventh floor, 585-9626, honoluluclub.com
Best Gym Steal
At $25 a month, World Gym is our pick for best gym on a budget. Here you’ll get all the benefits of a big chain gym—personal trainers, group exercise classes (including yoga, cycling and boot camp), new equipment and locker rooms—without the pressure of a contract or high sign-up fees. It’s also the new de facto home for Honolulu’s bodybuilder community now that Gold’s Gym is closed, says Chris Faildo, International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro bodybuilder and certified personal trainer.
World Gym, 1050 Queen St., #100, 532-8000
HONOLULU Family Recommends:
Best Little-Known Kids Attraction
For $5, you can let your kids’ imaginations go wild and create freely during “open studio” hours at the Art Explorium. Sign up for keiki art workshops or host a cute and creative birthday party. Tucked away in a familiar, quaint area of Kaimukī, this spot is the perfect place to which to escape and create when you have a free afternoon.
Art Explorium, 1142 Koko Head Ave., 312-4316, artexplorium.org
Core Power Yoga, 4211 Waialae Ave., Suite B-11, 738-9642, corepoweryoga.com
Best Golf Course
Ko Olina Golf Club, 92-1220 Aliinui Drive, 676-5300, koolinagolf.com
24-Hour Fitness, Multiple locations, 24hourfitness.com
Best Outdoor Exercise Class
Paddle Core Fitness, 723-5357, paddlecorefitness.com