Obama ringing in new year in low-key fashion

HONOLULU (AP) — President Barack Obama closed out 2013 in low-key fashion Tuesday, hitting the beach with his family at a popular Hawaii snorkeling spot before making a stop for shave ice, a favorite treat of the island-born president.

For Obama, New Year's Eve marks the end of a difficult year marred by the troubled rollout of his health care law and little progress on the rest of his domestic agenda. The White House is hoping for better results to come in 2014, particularly as the health law's insurance benefits take effect on Jan. 1.

The White House said the president planned to stay at home Tuesday night and ring in the new year with friends and family.

Obama kicked off the last day of 2013 with an hourlong workout at a military base near his rented vacation home in Hawaii. He and first lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, then headed to Hanauma Bay for a midday snorkeling outing on a sun-splashed day on the island of Oahu.

The president then made his annual stop at Island Snow, a purveyor of the Hawaiian snow cone known as shave ice. His flavors of choice: cherry and lemon-lime.

Before heading back home, Obama greeted the crowd that had gathered outside the shop.

"I hope you guys have a great 2014," said Obama, sporting sunglasses and a striped short-sleeve shirt.

The president has largely stayed out of the spotlight since arriving in Hawaii more than a week ago. He's spent his days golfing with friends, hiking with his family, and hitting the town for dinner at several high-end restaurants he frequents while in his home state.

Behind the scenes, aides say Obama is receiving updates on the problematic rollout of his signature health care law. Insurance coverage is scheduled to start Jan. 1 for those who have enrolled since sign-ups opened at the beginning of October.

Widespread glitches on the HealthCare.gov website appear to be largely fixed and administration officials said Tuesday that more than 2 million people had enrolled in insurance through the exchanges. However, insurers say they are still receiving thousands of erroneous sign-ups from the government.

Aides say the president has also been reviewing a presidential panel's recommendations for placing limits on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. Obama is not obligated to accept the panel's recommendations and is expected to announce his decisions in January.


Associated Press writer Stanley Lee contributed to this report.