What makes Hawaii home for Obama? Seven ways he's enjoying vacation.

The first family is wiling away the holiday season in President Obama's native Hawaii. On the vacation docket: golf, snorkeling, and a 'quiet timeout.'

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
First lady Michelle Obama hugs Admiral Samuel Locklear III, commander of US Pacific Command, with daughters Sasha (l.) and Malia (far r.) and President Obama as the first family arrives at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to begin their family vacation Friday.

Some presidents like variety in their vacations, and some, like President Obama, are creatures of habit: summers on Martha’s Vineyard and Christmas and New Year's in his home state of Hawaii.

This year, the president is spending his sixth holiday season in as many years in office on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, accompanied by his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and their two Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny.

Before he left on his vacation, Mr. Obama said he was looking forward to a “quiet timeout.” Some years he delayed and even returned from vacation to deal with national crises. So far this year, he's been able to deal with issues from Hawaii, for instance, on Tuesday welcoming Sony's release of the movie "The Interview." 

Sen. Brian Schatz (D) of Hawaii once said that returning to the president's birthplace and scene of his growing up years gives Obama “a sense of normalcy, even within his security bubble.”

A big part of ease and normalcy is returning to the things you love. Here are seven favorites of the vacationing president:

Beachside home. The Obamas have become attached to a beachside vacation rental in Kailua, the upscale neighborhood on Oahu’s east shore. The home, which rents for $3,500 a day, opens up to a private white-sand beach and turquoise water.

Golf.  On Day 1, Obama was out on the links. He’s an avid golfer and a favorite place to golf with friends is Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course at the Marine Corps Base Hawaii. It offers views of both the mountains and the ocean, is close to first family’s vacation rental home, and you can’t beat the privacy. Last year, he played golf nine out of 15 days.

Gym. Like his wife, the president likes his workout. He starts the mornings early at the gym – again, at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base. But he doesn’t get there every day. Last year, he made it to the gym about half the time.

Beach. The Obamas have already had an outing with friends to the beach, enjoying the seclusion of the white sands at Bellows Air Force Station in Waimanalo. The gentle waves are good for boogie boarding, and swimming at a military base keeps the first family far from the prying eyes of photojournalists – and it means the Secret Service doesn’t disrupt public life.

Eats. The president is likely to stop off at Island Snow, a “shave ice” and surf shop in Kailua. Shave ice is the island version of a snow cone, and Obama – and his daughters – love the flaky ice shavings and syrupy flavors, many of which are locally made. The president’s cone of choice – a combo of lemon-lime, cherry, and passion-guava – is dubbed the “Snowbama.” The first family also dines at their favorite restaurants, including Alan Wong's, Morimoto Waikiki and Nobu Waikiki.

Family. Vacations are an opportunity for quality time with family, or “ohana” in Hawaiian. The president and his family have enjoyed hiking, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay’s living coral reef, and the Honolulu Zoo. Ohana also means regular dinners with the president’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who lives in Hawaii, and visits to the Punchbowl Cemetery, where Obama’s maternal grandfather, World War II veteran Stanley Dunham, is buried.

Service members. For Obama, it wouldn’t be Christmas without visiting with troops to thank them for their service and wish them ''Mele Kalikimaka,'' Hawaiian for Merry Christmas.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.