The actors on the hit ABC TV series "Lost" are anything but: With the show now in its third season, they certainly know their way around the island of Oahu, the 600-square-mile pleasure spot where "Lost" is shot. In fact, most of the cast resides there more or less full-time.
But is it a dream come true to live in a place most people think of as a vacation destination, or can it be too much of a good thing?
“It’s sort of surreal,” confesses Yunjin Kim, who plays the show’s preternaturally alert Sun Kwon. “When I get time off, I go back to New York, because after driving to work every day, I want to just walk and walk.”
For Josh Holloway, who plays the ornery redneck, Sawyer, “The only problem about living in a place that most people consider a vacation spot is that everyone wants to come visit.” He, too, counter-programs his holidays: “Now that we actually live on an island with beautiful beaches and turquoise water, we love to go to the opposite for vacation — like mountains. Snow would be super-nice.”
Emilie de Ravin, who plays the willowy blonde Australian, Claire, still commutes between Oahu and Los Angeles, so she fills her downtime on the island with unsupervised outdoor activities as simple as walking on the beaches.
"This is one of these places where a lot of it’s kept so untouched; there’s so much natural beauty. It’s very unusual terrain, with these gorgeous, lush mountains rolling into the water. One of my favorite things is that you’ll see five different rainbows a day. It makes you feel so fresh and clean.”
For visitors who want a fresh look at this tourist-heavy destination, these "Lost" stars have a few recommendations — some of them familiar Hawaiian favorites, some along roads less traveled. The series is shot on beaches and in rainforests along Oahu’s North Shore, but most of the cast members make their homes on or around the island’s opposite shore, where you’ll find the bustling capital of Honolulu, the popular beaches of Waikiki and Diamond Head, and the slightly sleepier, more residential town of Hawaii Kai.
Yunjin lives closest to the heart of the action, in a condo near Chinatown, where most nearby amenities are accessible by foot. Her recommendations start there.
“We used to go to a place called Indigo,” Yunjin says of Honolulu’s popular Eurasian restaurant, where diners can sample the cuisine in the main room or unwind in the Opium Den & Champagne Bar. For French food, she recommends Michel’s, a posh, pricey eatery that also gets a nod from Josh as an ideal spot for a romantic dinner. Carnivores will want to try Hy’s Steak House, designed to resemble an English mansion but serving a mix of European and Hawaiian specialties.
One particular favorite of Yunjin’s is Hoku’s, the main restaurant at the nearby Kahala Hotel & Resort, which puts its own spin on the fusion theme: Signature dishes include slow-braised Kahuku pork belly, pancetta-crusted onaga (snapper) and salt-crusted rack of Wisconsin lamb.
That’s not the only reason to visit the sprawling grounds of the Kahala Hotel. There’s also a full-service spa, where Yunjin swears by the traditional Hawaiian massage known as lomilomi. She gets it with hot stones. "It rubs away your toxins. It’s like heaven,” she said.
A native of Korea with a thriving career in films and commercials there, Yunjin was quick to locate Sorabol’s in Honolulu, whose Korean dishes she loves — even if it's not up to par with her mother's home cooking. And while she recommends a luau for most visitors, she also points out another way to relish the local entertainment: a magic show performed by John Hirokawa near Waikiki. "I thought it would be really cheesy and touristy. But I was surprised; it’s really fun, if you want to see a magic show."
For the more nature-oriented Emilie, the best way to savor the island’s natural beauty is a day’s drive up its eastern coast.
Visitors might start with a breakfast at the Kahala Hotel, then take the Pali Highway (Route 61) northeast to Kailua, stopping at the Nuuanu Pali Lookout for one of the island’s most breathtaking views. From the idyllic beach at Kailua, you can take the Kamehameha Highway (Route 83) northward up the coast, stopping along the way for a walk to appreciate the seascapes — and to stock up on snacks. “A lot of people set up beautiful fresh fruit stands and shrimp shacks on the side of the road,” Emilie said.
Curling up around the island’s northeast horn on 83, drivers will approach the North Shore, where "Lost" is shot. While the north side of Oahu is crowded, it’s much more laid-back than the hot spots of the south. One place to soak up the relaxed attitude, Emilie suggests, is Haleiwa, a small surf village filled with little shops, cafés and restaurants. She suggests a stop at Jameson’s By the Sea, where both the food and the views come from the ocean. “You can go there and watch the sun set, or if you’re ambitious, watch the sun rise.”
If the Kahala is the jewel of Honolulu, the North Shore’s main hub is the Turtle Bay Resort. “Turtle Bay has a lot of land right there by the beach. It’s a nice, romantic resort — one of your nicer options to stay,” Emilie says. According to Yunjin, Turtle Bay is also where the cast traditionally hosts parties to celebrate the release of "Lost" season DVDs.
Josh cites some of the same must-sees as Yunjin and Emilie, and he says he likes to spend days off deep-sea fishing in his new boat. But his main dining tip is decidedly plebeian: Giovanni’s Shrimp, a popular vendor in the North Shore town of Kahuku. “It’s this old, beat up, white van parked on the side of the street. They serve the best garlic shrimp scampi.” One caveat: it's heavy on the garlic. “Be prepared,” he said.
It seems that these three — working-class everyman, the nature girl and and the urban sophisticate — haven’t entirely left home behind, even while living in paradise. That’s so "Lost."