Millions of tourists visit this site annually, dedicated to the history of the surprise 1941 attack by the Japanese that ushered the United States into World War II. During a visit here, the Obama family toured the USS Arizona Memorial, where sailors and personnel on the Navy ship perished and remain buried at sea. The war also touched Obama’s family firsthand: his maternal grandfather fought with General Patton in Europe. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, a national cemetery in Hawaii for the armed forces.
(Image courtesy of James Messner)
Luana Hills Country Club
President Obama, both a basketball and golf enthusiast, has played rounds here and Olomana Golf Links. These lush courses are in Oahu.
(Image courtesy of Luana Hills Country Club)
When Obama returned to Hawaii after living abroad with his mother, he entered grade school at this prestigious private academy. “He came in the 5th grade and stayed through high school,” says tour guide Mitch Berger. “People said he was quiet, a nice kid, but not someone you’d peg to become President.” Obama played on the school basketball team, and even made it to the state championships.
(Image courtesy of Punahou School)
This popular tourist destination is ten minutes or so from Makiki which is a middle and working class Honolulu neighborhood is where Barack Obama spent a good deal of his youth. He was raised by his maternal grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, in a modest apartment building that still stands. Obama’s grandmother “Toot,” (short for tutu which is Hawaiian for grandmother), passed away days before he was elected America’s 44th President.
The family had picnics at lovely Puu Ualakaa State Park and at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. Not far away is bustling South King Street, where Obama worked at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor. It still exists today.
/ Joe Solem)
The University of Hawaii
Barack Obama’s parents were `60s college students taking a Russian literature class when they met, says tour guide Mitch Berger. Barack Obama Sr. was a native of Kenya studying in the U.S. Ann Dunham was a white co-ed whose family originally hailed from the Midwest. Obama Sr. continued on to Harvard, and his son would later follow years later. Obama’s mother earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Hawaii.
(Image courtesy of University of Hawaii of Manoa)
Kapiolani Hospital for Women & Children
Barack Obama was born at this Honolulu hospital on August 4, 1961. He attended kindergarten in Hawaii and remained in the state until he was six; he spent four years in Indonesia after his mother remarried and returned to Hawaii around age 10.
(Image courtesy of Evie Moscato)
How does a small restaurant on the 3rd floor of an unassuming office building, with no ocean view, attract a President? Perhaps it’s the array of Asian fusion dishes like macadamia nut coconut crusted lamb chops and the gourmet banana split dessert. Or maybe it’s the impeccable service and low-key ambience at this South King Street restaurant in Honolulu. Whatever the case, tour guide Mitch Berger says the establishment has long been a “favorite” of the President.
“President Obama has dined here on several occasions,” confirms Leigh Ito, a restaurant spokeswoman. Out of respect for his privacy and security issues, Leigh declined to provide many details. She did note, however, that Obama did not require the restaurant to shut down as dignitaries sometimes do. “He ate in the dining room with other guests,” she said, pointing to a table with a clear view of the chef in an exhibition style kitchen. “He was very gracious.”
(Image courtesy of Alan Wong’s)
Located on the eastern tip of Oahu, Sandy Beach was among President Obama’s favorite beaches as a youngster. He enjoyed body surfing and other water sports. The site is also near the Halona Blowhole, not far from where the ashes of his mother were scattered after she died of cancer in 1995.
(Image courtesy of Evie Moscato)
President Obama’s family—First Lady, Michelle Obama and daughters, Malia and Sasha spent a recent Christmas vacation on a reported $9 million dollar rented compound on Kailua Beach in East Oahu. The scenic beach, which like others in Hawaii is open to the public, is renowned for its beautiful white sand and oceanfront vistas.
(AP Photo/Marco Garcia,File)
President Obama and the First Daughters have also cooled down with a shave ice, Hawaii’s version of a snow cone, at Island Snow in Kailua. He’s also been known to eat Spam, beloved by locals; have a plate lunch with rice and other delicacies from the Rainbow Drive-In; and stop by Zippy’s, a bustling 24-hour spot in Oahu. Many eateries that have welcomed Obama have signs in their windows.
“What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii.” President Barack Obama
There’s no place like home—even for the leader of the free world. And when President Barack Obama returns to his native Hawaii, it appears the Commander-in-Chief enjoys everything from the island’s legendary beaches, to golf, and authentic local dishes.
“The natural beauty of the islands and the aloha spirit of the people of Hawaii provide a wonderful backdrop every time President Obama comes home to relax, rejuvenate, and visit with his friends and family,” says John Monahan, President/ CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.
While Monahan says the bureau doesn’t have “specific numbers at this time” to indicate the economic impact of Obama on tourism, he adds that Hawaii does receive “more national coverage from the Presidents’ visits.”
Indeed, America’s first Hawaiian-born President has been a boon to many Hawaiian businesses. Stores hawk Obama T-shirts, bobble-heads and other trinkets. Restaurants that have welcomed Obama proudly put up window signs. Meanwhile, several tour companies have added sites associated with Obama to their itineraries.
“I talk about how Hawaii helped shape him to become the man he is,” says Mitch Berger, a guide who runs the “Real Obama Tour,” a two-hour guided drive around Oahu. Berger takes visitors everywhere from the hospital where the President was born, to his former schools, to the apartment building in Honolulu where he grew up with his grandparents.
Berger says that family (called ohana in Hawaii) is an important part of the local culture, as is its acceptance of diversity and welcoming aloha spirit.
“Many years ago, JFK said that Hawaii is what the rest of America is striving to be,” says Berger, referring to the state’s multicultural population. “Being here in this beautiful place where all different ethnic backgrounds and cultures live happily together really was a major influence on President Obama. And we’re proud of that.”
President Obama has visited some of these sites during trips back home to Oahu; others are part of his overall experience growing up in Hawaii.