If you’d like a taste of the “real” Hawaii, take your rental car for a trip up the east coast of Oahu. The drive itself is gorgeous (many think it’s the prettiest in the whole state) and it will take you to the little town of Waimanalo.

On the way you’ll pass Waimanalo Beach Park, where there are restrooms, a picnic area, a pay phone, and a lifeguard on duty. It’s Oahu’s longest stretch of sandy, swimmable coastline. You might consider taking your swimwear.

The terms “quaint” and “rustic” both apply to Waimanalo. The highway you’ll be on (Kalanianaole) is the scenic way to get from Waikiki to the Windward communities of the island. It’s heavily used by both vacationers and locals. There have been attempts to widen the highway in Waimanalo Town, but the residents just won’t have it. You’ll agree it would be a mistake, even if you get tied up by sluggish traffic there.

The Waimanalo area invites your investigation. Its backdrop is the unique Koolau range, which is a vertically corrugated, cliff-like curtain of green hovering behind produce farms and stables.

You’ll see a little shopping center with a couple of worthwhile stops. Keneke’s is a terrific local restaurant with low prices (especially compared to Waikiki prices), delicious food and really friendly servers. And there’s a flower shop called Flowers by Jr Lou & T that has a good variety of orchids and exotic flowers. It’s kind of expensive, but they’ll ship your purchases home for you. Even if you don’t buy anything it’s good browsing.

Up the road, the Waimanalo Polo Fields hold matches on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. from May to October. That’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon; very casual and comfortable. There’s a grandstand, but you can pack a picnic lunch and hang out near your car and watch from there, too. If you like, you can go onto the field between chuckers and stomp down the pots the horses’ hooves make. If you’re vacationing with the family, you can take the children to visit the ponies after the match. Admission is only three dollars, and kids under 12 get in free.

As you leave the “business area,” you’ll see a turnoff immediately after the McDonald’s. The sign for Sherwood Forest is small and difficult to see, but the beach is definitely worth a stop. The surf is calm, and it’s a good place for relaxing.

Olomana Golf Links is one of President Obama’s favorites. If you’re a golfer, consider a round on that perse course. It has two distinctly different nines – one featuring level fairways with a formidable water hazard at each hole, and the back nine has irregular rolling hills with abundant sand bunkers.

This is anything but an exciting way to explore the island and not many vacationers take the time. They should.

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