Editor's Page: In Search of the Best

A few idiosyncratic picks of Honolulu highlights from the editor.

Photo: Linny Morris

Go forth and find the best things—what a lucky assignment! Our annual Best of Honolulu issue is a hit with readers, and a favorite of everyone on staff at the magazine. In this article, more than most, we get to pound the pavement in search of our own picks of the best shops and services, people and products, that can help our readers get more out of life in the Islands. We also get to hear from you, through our reader poll, and find out your favorite things, such as Best Local Beer.

Naturally, the feature emphasizes one-of-a-kind foods, unique businesses and superlative people. Things you can buy, experience, touch, own. It’s a reader service piece, as we call it in the business. As tempting as it is to get lyrical, we tend not to write a lot of items such as, “The best thing about life in Honolulu is the people, or the scenery, or the weather.” All true, but these things aren’t exactly revelations.

Still, I can’t resist sharing a few of my own favorite things about Honolulu, items that are off the usual formula. These “Best ofs” include:

Strolling the Ala Wai Promenade. One of the best little walks in the city is the broad, tree-sheltered promenade on the Ewa side of the canal, between Ala Moana Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue Grandparents push strollers, joggers huff past, paddlers silently slip along in the water, happy couples walk dogs. It’s a hidden gem, including its view of the dramatic set of stairs at the back of the Convention Center, which I think few people even know about. It’s a shame the promenade doesn’t have even more life to it; a little coffee stand with tables, for example, or an ice cream cart.

It’s not perfect, however. Concrete rubble has tumbled onto the sidewalks; homeless people gather there, especially after dark, some seemingly more unstable than others. And once, while walking there late at night  (I live nearby), I noticed a police car on the promenade, tail end toward the canal, one officer at the wheel, another standing on the concrete curb, giving directions. A taut wire ran from the rear bumper of the squad car straight into the Ala Wai. I didn’t stick around to see what they might have fished out.

Ironing with my Rowenta “Steamium” iron. I risk revealing myself as a total nut, but I love to iron, always have. I learned about the German brand Rowenta when I worked at Diamond Head Theatre in the early ’90s; the costume shop swore by its durability. You don’t know what laundry is until you have to clean up after a musical full of sweaty thespians. I’ve used Rowentas ever since. You can get ’em at Macy’s. If you happen to look at the “Steamium” model, let me tell you right now, in my defense, that I bought it at a 50 percent-off sale—even I am not $250 worth of crazy about ironing!

Days when the vog lifts. Hawaii has hot, golden summers, and rainy, silvery winters. Vog has entered our lives as a kind of third season, one that strikes at random. It renders our scenery unrecognizable, stings our eyes; more than any kind of “weather” I’ve known, it actually makes us feel physically sick and irritable and packs this weird, emotional wallop, too, as if the sulfur corrodes happy thoughts. Fortunately for us in Honolulu, the winds shift and blow the vog away. It’s great to wake up and be able to see the Waianae Mountains from town and know that you’ll actually feel like your old self again.

Not the normal favorites, I know, but sometimes what I love best about paradise are the complications.

For more of Napier’s writing, see his "Off My Desk" blog.