Five great date ideas on Oahu

Nov. 29, 2013 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Couples watch surfers at Haleiwa Beach Park. Since Hawaii has a dearth of professional sports, we can find satisfaction in winter surf competitions that draw top competitors. --Krystle Marcellus /

Couples watch surfers at Haleiwa Beach Park. Since Hawaii has a dearth of professional sports, we can find satisfaction in winter surf competitions that draw top competitors. (Star-Advertiser photo by Krystle Marcellus)


Dinner and a movie.


» To check on the Triple Crown competitions, visit For events, visit and
» For more info on Aiea Bowl, call 488-6854 or visit
» To make reservations at Buona Sera, call 263-7696.
» For more info on Makapuu and other trails, visit
» To get the latest updates on “Honolulu Night Market,” visit

That’s been the date standard for as long as, well, there’ve been movies. But if that’s your only idea for a get-together for two (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), I’m here to give you some options.

Why not take advantage of all that Oahu has to offer, from outdoor activities to vibrant night life?

Whether it’s your first date or an ongoing “date night,” there should be something to appeal to everyone in this list of five great date ideas.


Being a self-described “sports chick,” I never have as much fun as I do when I’m at a sporting event. Going to a pro ballgame with my boyfriend, kicking back with a big bratwurst and beverage (beer for him, strawberry daiquiri for me) — that’s my idea of a perfect date.

Unfortunately, we here in Hawaii are woefully starved of professional sports live and in the flesh. But every winter, when the large swells start to roll in to the North Shore, so do the best surfers in the world. And the talents of elites like Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and local boy John John Florence are a sight to behold.

Getting in on the action is easy: Just bring a beach towel, find a nice plot of sand, sit back and enjoy.

We’re right in the middle of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the annual season-ending bonanza for the Association of Surfing Professionals. The Vans World Cup of Surfing, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, is going off at Sunset Beach, and the Billabong Pipeline Masters in Memory of Andy Irons is coming up next. Go to the Triple Crown website to see if the competition is on.

An unforgettable, although rare, date would be heading out to the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, otherwise just known as “The Eddie.” The invitation-only event brings some of the best big-wave surfers together for a one-day competition, but only when waves at Waimea Bay consistently measure more than 20 feet — and it’s been held just nine times since 1985. The holding period for this year’s Eddie starts Sunday and runs through Feb. 28.

Concerts and talk-story sessions are on at Turtle Bay Resort throughout the Triple Crown season, including a “Triple Crown Music Fest” featuring Perro Bravo and Thicker Than Thieves on Dec. 7, and the “Mauli Ola North Shore Benefit Concert” featuring The Green on Dec. 12.

Put some healthy competition into your relationship with cosmic bowling at Aiea Bowl. --Star-Advertiser / 2007

Put some healthy competition into your relationship with cosmic bowling at Aiea Bowl. (Star-Advertiser File)


If watching others compete seems boring, why not get more involved by going head-to-head with your date?

One of my fondest memories is beating my boyfriend at 301 dart game — he took the loss well as I playfully rubbed it in. Later that night, for the first time, he told me he loved me.

So, how about bowling?

Hear me out. I know bowling may seem unromantic. But friendly competition can actually help to put otherwise nervous partners at ease. And a date that features competition is a clue to your date’s personality. Can he/she take some good-natured ribbing?

Meanwhile, locations like Aiea Bowl have attractions that make this date more than just a game.

Aiea Bowl is known for its great food, and many people stop by its restaurant without ever touching a bowling ball. The menu includes the alley’s famous Tasty Chicken and killer crunch cakes. And in January, Aiea Bowl’s “Tasty Tuesdays” return, offering a five-course prix fixe menu that’s outright romantic.

For a more clublike atmosphere, Aiea Bowl has cosmic bowling with live DJs four nights a week — Mondays (college night), Thursdays (ladies night), Fridays and Saturdays — and late-night pupu and drink specials.

An alternative venue for fun and games in town is Hawaiian Brian’s Billiards. With more pool tables than any other joint on the island, along with other games, the operation recently upgraded, converting half its playing area into a concert venue dubbed Crossroads. Coming up on Dec. 7, Everclear headlines a “Rock Against Cancer” benefit concert at the venue.

Honolulu Night Market in Kakaako offers good food, art and shopping on the third Saturday of each month. --Brian Tseng / Special To The Star-Advertiser

“Honolulu Night Market” in Kakaako offers good food, art and shopping on the third Saturday of each month. (Photo by Brian Tseng, Special To The Star-Advertiser)


Conventional thinking says that for a date to be special, it needs to be at an extravagant, expensive restaurant — but that always seemed a little disingenuous to me, like saying “Look what I can afford” instead of “I think you’re special.” Instead, why not try to find a special hideaway, a hidden gem of a restaurant that you enjoy and want to share with that special someone?

Of course, the ideal will vary from person to person. But I found a wonderful spot in the unassuming Buona Sera, a small Italian restaurant in Kailua.

Although Buona Sera has been around since 1995, most people outside Windward Oahu don’t know about it, though its affordable pasta entrees are on par with some of Oahu’s finer Italian restaurants. The atmosphere is romantic, with low lighting and candles on each of the white tablecloth-covered tables, but the restaurant keeps a casual vibe and has cool, offbeat decor.

The walls are adorned with hundreds of empty chianti bottles with straw baskets decorated by past patrons. Messages on the bottles include those recorded on first dates (“It all started here,” “This is the one”) and anniversaries.

“There’s a lot of history here,” said waitress Evan Wojnar, recalling how an engaged couple recently came back to the restaurant, looking for a bottle they decorated on their first date.

After finishing off a bottle of wine ($25-$35) and purchasing a $28 straw basket, you and your date can write your messages of love. The bottle will be strung up at the end of the night.

Other hideaways suggested to me: Genius Lounge, a chill but sophisticated sake bar and grill; Wang Chung’s, a gay-friendly, colorful Waikiki karaoke bar; and tiny late-night dessert haven The Little Oven on South King Street.

Hikers have left padlocks as mementos of love at the top of the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail in Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline. --Krystle Marcellus /

Hikers have left padlocks as mementos of love at the top of the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail in Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline. (Star-Advertiser photo by Krystle Marcellus)


Breathtaking views of the ocean and coastline. A nice, quiet stroll with just your honey. And whales! How much more romantic can you get?

That’s what you can expect on a date hiking the Makapuu Point Lighthouse Trail. It’s just one of many trails around the island that are perfect for a date. Not only is it relatively easy and short; it has the “wow” factor of nature’s beauty.

Sure, if you and your date are avid hikers, this might seem like a yawn — you’ve probably already agreed to do Olomana or the like. But for people who aren’t crazy athletic, Makapuu is a great choice.

The 2-mile paved route offers amazing views of the coastline from Hawaii Kai to Waimanalo and, of course, a cool lighthouse. And from November through May you can see migrating humpback whales. I’m told if you go in the morning, when the trail is less busy, you can even hear the blowhole spray from the whales.

Proof that romance is in the salty sea air: On a recent hike to the lighthouse, I noticed red rose petals scattered around the lookout at the top of the trail — I’m guessing a proposal or anniversary celebration took place there.

Also, people have started to put “love locks” — padlocks on which couples’ names, often along with phrases of love, are inscribed or written — on the grated fence overlooking the lighthouse. It’s a popular fad across Europe and Asia, but you may not want to put your own lock here. Locks that are not rustproof contribute to the rusting of the fence, so the Department of Land and Natural Resources has removed them in the past and will continue to do so.

Because the Makapuu trail is notoriously hot, it’s best to go in the morning or during the late afternoon — you can catch a glimpse of the sunset over Koko Head on your way down. There are also a few alternative paths, including one that runs down to the ocean and another that heads up the backside.

Of course, if oceans and whales don’t float your boat, there are other hikes you can do. Manoa Falls, for instance, includes a lush green forest and a waterfall. The best time to go is the day after some rain. Otherwise, you’ll probably be treated to a trickle instead of a glorious waterfall.

A piece of advice, mostly for guys: No matter what trail you decide to take, don’t make your hike plans a surprise. Hiking in a short dress and heels? This may put things on the wrong footing, if you know what I mean.


How do you steer clear of that uncomfortable silence during a first date? You know, when you really don’t want to share anymore info about your job or your family, or that one time you got so drunk you …

Avoid it by making sure there’s something to talk about. That’s the beauty of taking your date to busy outdoor events like “Honolulu Night Market.” All the things to do and see provide endless fodder for conversation.

“Honolulu Night Market” closes down parts of Auahi and Keawe streets in Kakaako on the third Saturday of each month, and it’s brimming with food, art and shopping. You can often catch a performance nearby or peruse local art and crafts. There’s also a beer garden and nearby Kakaako bar Bevy, if you choose to imbibe.

My favorite part of “Night Market” is the food trucks, with different vendors cycling in each month. There is a caveat, though: If you or your date are impatient, stay away! Odds are you will need to wait in a line just to order your food. And you will probably need to eat while you walk, as tables are scarce. But if you can get past that, you will be rewarded with some delicious and often unique street food, as well as great topics of conversation as you people-watch and explore the offerings.

If you two are truly food-truck foodies, also consider this event’s Kakaako cousin, “Eat the Street,” usually held on the last Friday of every month.

Whatever you decide to do, just remember one thing: Have some fun! I’ve enjoyed all of these options, with a date or with friends, over the years. They work because they can be tweaked to please almost any type of person — from introspective foodie to exuberant jock.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser features writer Stefanie Nakasone was born and raised in Wahiawa and graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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