Obamas Begin Hawaiian Holiday, an Annual Tradition

Locals say the first family's trip boosts business.

December 25, 2009, 8:38 AM

Dec. 25, 2009— -- It may be a winter wonderland in Washington, D.C., but the Obamas are keeping their tradition of a sunny Christmas alive.

The president and his family arrived on the island of Oahu Thursday under sunny skies for their first Hawaiian holiday since becoming the first family. The Obamas headed straight to their multi-million dollar rental getaway -- 7,000 square feet of paradise on the private, secluded Kailua beach.

President Obama and the first lady began Christmas with an early-morning workout at the Marine Corps base in Hawaii.

"For Christmas dinner, the first family will be eating roast beef, potatoes and other dishes they traditionally eat on Christmas. The president and the first lady didn't exchange gifts with each other this year, but they are exchanging gifts with the girls and Maya, Konrad and their children," the White House said in an e-mail. "For those familiar with the traditional family talent show that they do every year, that won't happen until later in the trip."

The Obamas plan for Christmas day is simple: spend time with one another and exchange presents.

"They'll enjoy some of the same traditions that they've enjoyed over the past years when they go to Hawaii," White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said. "They see some of their friends. There will be some friends from Chicago who come, like the Nesbitts and the Whitakers. And I think he'll just try to enjoy Christmas the way his family has traditionally enjoyed it. This is an opportunity for the president to recharge his batteries, knowing that as president you never really get to power off all the way."

And what does the president, who grew up in Oahu and postponed his vacation to wait for Senate to vote on the health care bill, plan to do during the rest of his vacation?

"There will certainly be some work every single day for him and the staff that came along, but he's really looking forward to spend some time doing some of the things that they've done traditionally over the holiday season," Burton told ABC News.

Last year, then president-elect Obama took his family to the beach, to local stores and restaurants and spent some time on the golf course.

Burton wouldn't commit the Obamas to any of those activities this year, and he said he had not received the traditional presidential reading list. He did, however, note that Obama had a stack of DVD's on Air Force One on the flight over, but he had no comment on the titles of those movies.

Locals are excited about Obamas' vacation.

"We're very happy. I think everybody's talking about, oh do you think he will stop by? And have a drink? How can we communicate with him?" Tamara Valdivia, an employee at Lanikai Juice, told ABC News. "Good propaganda for Hawaii and people are happy, yeah, everything is positive."

An Obama-themed shop on the island boasts a large cutout of the president, the closest locals might get to seeing him.

Pachi Tomasa is on the lookout. Last year, she saw the president on the golf course, after waiting for four hours.

"It was worth it," she told ABC News. "It was Christmas Eve, that was my Christmas present, to see the president."

White House officials hinted that some outdoor activity may again be on the president's agenda.

"I think the president is going to wake up and see where the day takes him," Burton told reporters en route to Hawaii Thursday. "I think that the weather ought to lend itself to some outdoor activity."

Even though the president and his family do not have any public events scheduled, locals are hopeful.

At Island Snow, an ice cream shop where Obama and his daughters showed up last year, owners have added his order to the menu under the moniker, "Snowbama," a tasty combination of guava orange, lemon lime and cherry, the three flavors Obama ordered.

"Everybody saw that picture. So everybody wanted to know what kind of shave ice he got, where he sat when he ate it, how he acted when he came and got it. So the curiosity factor was very high," manager Free Arndt told ABC News.

"A lot of people are like, yeah, he's coming back, he's coming back, gotta be ready for him," he added.

Obamas Start Vacation in Hawaii

Some locals are complaining that the Obamas presence will be bad for business. Flight companies were worried that they would be grounded for the first family's Hawaii trip.

But David Earles, a member of the Kailua Chamber of Commerce, said in the long term, Obamas' will help the island.

"You could never ask for a better spokesman than what we've got in the president of the United States showing up here with his family," Earles told ABC News. "We certainly anticipate this is gonna bring a lot more people down the road just because of the fact that the president's been here."

Keika Albarado, owner of gift shop Buti Grove, said business has picked up in anticipation of the Obamas' arrival, especially merchandise that has anything to do with the first family.

"Anything with his face on it that says Hawaii," Albarado told ABC News. "I think his visits definitely boost the tourist industry."

Obama himself has a personal connection to this stretch of sand.

"His grandfather used to take him to Kailua beach because it's a great swimming beach," said Dave Zimel, owner of Paradise Points Estates. "So President Obama, I think, he probably learned to swim right out here."

It remains to be seen whether the public will see the president swimming in the ocean on this trip. Pictures of the president and his family in bathing suits caused quite a stir last year.

The beach outside Obamas' rental is world renowned -- it has been ranked the island's best and was a favorite of Hawaiian royalty -- but with so many prying eyes, this year the Obamas and their friends and family may just be relaxing indoors.

That might not be such a bad idea.

The $8.9 million vacation home -- which costs around $4,000 a night -- boasts a pool and breathtaking views.

ABC News' Jon Garcia contributed to this report.