Even though I grew up in Oahu, and return every year, I continue to be captivated by its uniqueness. My Oahu is a blend of culturally rich places, off-the-beaten-track cafes and some once-private locations that are now carefully shared with visitors. To truly experience Oahu as a "kamaaina" (native) and not as a "malahini" (visitor), I encourage convention-goers to check out these special places.
Visit the Royal Mausoleum, considered Oahu's most sacred burial ground and the resting place for the Kamehameha and Kalakaua Hawaiian royal families. Address: 2261 Nuuanu Ave., Honolulu; (808) 536-7602.
Watch a cliff-diving show at Waimea Falls Park, an 1,800-acre park with a 45-foot waterfall. Address: 59-864 Kamehameha Highway, North Shore; (808) 638-8511.
Take in lush rain forest on a drive on the Old Pali Highway. One waterfall appears upside down because strong winds drive the water upward.
Bargain shop for aloha shirts at Savers, a local thrift store. Address: 1505 Dillingham Blvd. #1, Honolulu; (808) 842-0061; www.savers.com.
Watch the torch-lighting ceremonies at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound every evening at 6:30 p.m. Address: Intersection of Uluniu Ave. and Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu.
Visit the Kukaniloko Birthstones State Monument, a site where royal women were taken to give birth on flat stones. Address: Intersection of Kamehameha Highway (Hwy. 99) and Whitmore Ave., Wahiawa; (808) 587-0300.
Eateries to enjoy
Have a traditional plate lunch at the L&L Drive-Inn. There are 40 locations throughout Honolulu, with reasonable prices that make them local favorites. Plate lunches consist of a main course--ranging from teriyaki chicken to saimin (noodles in soup) to beef stew--served with two scoops of rice and macaroni salad.
Order the house-specialty garlic chicken at Mitsu-Ken Okazu and Catering, an okazuya--or Japanese delicatessen. The restaurant closes once the food runs out, or by 1 p.m. Address: 1223 N. School St., Honolulu; (808) 848-5583.
Grab a quick plate lunch between sessions at You Hungry?, located across the street from the Hawaii Convention Center. Address: 1695 Kapiolani Blvd., Honolulu.
Order vegetarian dim sum at Legends Vegetarian Restaurant, located in the Chinatown Cultural Center, 100 N. Beretania, #109, Honolulu; (808) 532-8218.
Dine alongside a 280,000-gallon, two-story aquarium at any of the three restaurants at the Pacific Beach Hotel. The aquarium is home to nearly 400 fish. Address: 2490 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu; (808) 922-1233.
Try guava, haupia or dobash cakes with coffee for breakfast at Zippy's, a diner-type restaurant with 18 locations throughout Oahu.
Sample the malasadas--Portuguese yeast donuts--straight out of the fryer at Leonards Bakery. Address: 933 Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu; (808) 737-5591.
Eat traditional Hawaiian fare--everything from laulau, a dish of pork and taro leaves baked in ti-leaf wrap, to lomi lomi salmon--at Helena's Hawaiian Food, a Honolulu institution. Address: 1240 N. School St., Honolulu; (808) 845-8044.
Eat dinner in thatched huts amidst fishponds and greenery at Willows Restaurant. The restaurant is located over lava tubes that formed natural caverns, which brought fresh water springs from the mountains to the property's pools. Address: 901 Hausten St., Honolulu; (808) 952-9200.
Cool off with a half-pineapple, half li hing mui-flavored shave ice cone at Waiola Store. Address: 2135 Waiola St., Honolulu; (808) 949-2269.