Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hawaii Itinerary

We covered a lot of miles on our Hawaii trip, circumnavigating four islands on our drives and getting a birds-eye view from the air during Island hops. Each island is so different from the other, with vast differences within each. Elevation, wind direction, and age of the volcanic eruptions all make a huge impact on how much rain will fall, sun will shine, and plants will grow. 

The longer the Hawaiian place name,  the more it becomes a mist in my memory. Even now as I'm writing them down, any name more than three syllables evaporates. Complicating matters are the place names that appear on multiple islands and maps that identify the same geography with different names.

So before the words disappear like invisible ink, here is a quick overview of our itinerary over the three weeks.

HAWAII ISLAND Makalani Oceanview Cottage Pu'uhonua o'Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historic Park  Kealakekua Bay, Ho'okena Beach State Park,  Pebble Beach, Mahai’ula Bay, Green Sands BeachSouth Point, Kona Coffee/Greenwell Farms Stained Glass Cottage Volcanos National Park HILO Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden Kanile’a Ukulele Kaimu Bay MAUI Hana Cabana Road to Hana Waianapanapa State Park, Oheo Gulch, Seven Sacred Pools, Charles Lindburgh’s grave (Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church), Red Sands Beach, Hana town beach Moana Lani B&B-Lil Grass Shack Old Lahaina Town Feast at Lele Ka’anapali, Mokolea Point, Kapalua, Front Street Beach, Napali Beach,WHALE-WATCHING JoDo Mission OAHU Courtyard by Mariott Oahu Northshore Sunset Beach, Waimea Beach Park, Kaena  Point, Pupkea, Kailua, Haleiwa, Bonzai Pipeline Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden Iolani Palace KAUI Zen Root Maloaa Bay, Ke’e Beach Park, Tunnels, Wailua River, Princeville, Fern Grotto, Makana Mountain Kilauea Lighthouse  Jo2 Restaurant Waimea Plantation Cottages Driftwood Beach, Poipu Beach, Waimea, Hanapepe Kaui Coffee Waimea Canyon Allerton National Tropical Botanical Garden

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kaui, Allerton Gardens

Moreton Bay fig trees in
Kauai's Allerton Garden
While in Kaui, we visited Allerton Gardens. This garden is one of five overseen by the National Tropical Botanical Gardens trust (NTBG). The only way to view them is to take a guided tour, which is a good thing. Many of the plant specimens here are imperilled and visitors to gardens are prone to taking seedlings and seeds home in pockets. Limiting visitors controls the volume of people traipsing through the space.  The guided tour also means, if you have a good guide, that you get to hear a bit of the backstory about the place. 

It was our guide's first tour, and he did a great job of telling stories without dropping Latin plant names.

The gardens were originally created by Robert Allerton and John Gregg Allerton, lifelong companions.
On March 4, 1960, Robert Allerton became a father. He was 86 at the time and his newly adopted son, John Wyatt Gregg, was 60. They had met 38 years previously at a "Father-Son" fraternity banquet at the University of Illinois where the single and childless Allerton, 49, had been invited by a friend to stand in as a "father" to a then 22 year-old Gregg, who was an orphan. Interviewed in the 1980s, Gregg explained: "Robert Allerton was invited over there for lunch for a football game and he didn't have a son and I didn't have a father so we were paired off and lived happily ever after. Historical Perspectives on Kinship
Robert Allerton was the artist and John Gregg Allerton was the architect. Together, their combined talents designed a unique garden concept of linked outdoor rooms. They would invite guests for dinner and feast in the moonlit garden. Visitors would be invited to choose costumes to suit their mood from a vast wardrobe. It sounds like the Allerton's knew how to entertain.

The Thanksgiving Room, where they often held their dinner parties, isn't named after the American holiday, but because Allerton was grateful he had not committed suicide earlier in his life, at a point of deep despair. Persevering had meant he lived to share the gardens with friends to an old age.

The Mermaid Room has a fountain that beats 52 times per minute. Just sitting there quietly is lovely meditation, as the fountain is timed to beat at the pace of the human heart at rest. Another area is planted with clumps of golden bamboo that tower overhead, making beautiful music on a windy day. Fountains and statuary adorn the landscape throughout. The gardens were ahead of their time and influenced landscape architecture for decades to come. 

Today the estate is maintained by NTBG and people can sign up for the tours, but it's also been the site of several films, including Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Research is underway here and at the McBride Gardens to study the potential of plants as healing pharmaceuticals and food sources. We saw a  seeded form of Breadfruit known as 'breadnut' that is grown for its nutritious, tasty seeds which contain 13-20% protein, 6-29% fat, and are a good source of potassium, calcium, and niacin. Seeds are boiled, roasted, or ground into meal or flour. This superfood is highly nutritious and has the potential to feed the world's hungry. NTBG is helping to study, propagate, and deliver breadnut plugs for planting to feed the hungry in Zambia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Nicaragua.

Just spending three hours here I could breathe easier - all the oxygen and the calming effects of the plants. Definitely one of the highlights of our Hawaii trip!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kaui, Waimea

The Hawaiian word waimea means reddish water, and three places on the islands we visited have the same name. We passed though Waimaea on Big Island, Waimea Bay and Falls at Oahu, and here in Kaui we explored Waimea Canyon, the Plantation Cottages, and Waimea town.

Waimea Plantation Cottages is vintage Hawaii, located on Driftwood Beach and a short walk away from Waimea Pier. More than 60 cottages are here, so it feels like a small town within a town. Each building has a written provenance and story about previous residents. The grounds and gardens are picture perfect and many of the cottages have ocean views. We spent a lot of time on the beach here just wave-watching. Our cottage had a mango tree in front, apple bananas on one side and a pomelo tree on the other.

A short drive away is Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park, where we spent a full day and a half. There are many places to pull over and several vantage points along the way, with the highest point of elevation at Pu’u O Kila Lookout, almost a mile high. Views are spectacular, and we literally took hundreds of photos and videos. Now when I look at the photos I find myself closing my eyes to see the canyon better, because really, it is the feeling the place evokes, above the clouds.

Hanapepe is a charming little town closeby that bills itslef Kaui's "biggest small town." We stopped in during the day and it was fairly quiet, but when we returned on Friday evening the art night was in full swing. Musicians were playing at the different ends of town and the galleries were showing the work of local artists. My favourite place was Talk Story, the independent book store, where it was fun to explore the shelves.

Kaui Coffee Company offered a tour of their extensive operations. They have turned what was once a sugar plantation into a coffee farm. Here the plantings are flat and not on slopes. They also harvest and dry the beans with machines, grading them using tumblers. Kaui Blue Mountain and espresso were both delicious roasts. The brand is not quite as expensive as Kona coffee, but not as tasty either.

Waimea historic town has a well-marked walking tour, and the Plantation Cottages where we are staying are part of the circuit. It has erected a monument to Captain Cook, because this was one of the first places the fleet anchored and made contact with the Polynesians. There is also a Russian fort nearby, where territory was claimed for the Russian czarina in 1817.

Waimea Pier
Ishihara Market, a short walk away from our cottage, had a great assortment of pokey at their deli counter. There were also signs posted for food stamps at the check out. It turns out Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the States, and we saw many tents on every island that weren't vacationers'. So many of these islanders were once visitors who decided to stay.

Hanapepe is a charming little town closeby. We stopped in during the day and it was fairly quiet, but when we returned on Friday evening the art night was in full swing. Musicians were playing at the different ends of town and the galleries were showing the work of local artists. My favourite place was Talk Story, the independent book store, where it was fun to explore the shelves.

We reserved a sunset tour of the Napali Coast, which was unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather conditions. So when we get home I think I'll make Mai Tais and watch video clips of different sunset tours as a way to extend the vacation.

Hawaii Kaui Full Moon - February

We are in the Southern hemisphere and have been watching the moon wane and wax over these last three weeks. In Kapa'a it floated in the sky above the clouds, almost full.

Last night was very cloudy, too cloudy to catch it's fullness in a photograph. The clouds brought a tropical rain, which fell through the night onto our tin roof here in Waimea. Sometimes heavily enough to wake me. I went outside on the lanai and tried to memorize the stirring scent.

Other events were hidden in the night sky as well. The penumbral lunar eclipse may have been visible in Toronto from 7:43 pm on February 10, but Facebook friends were complaining of snow, so likely didn't have a great view. There is also a comet passing, in the neighbourhood of Venus.

This year, Friday 10 to Saturday 11 marks the date for the full moon in February. Known as the Snow Moon to Ojibway tribes. I am far away from snow right now, returning soon enough.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nani Manu - Beautiful Bird

Many joys of this Hawaii vacation have been brought by the gorgeous birds. The first place we stayed, in Kona on Big Island, stocked their bird feeder well. We started our day in the mornings and ended at dusk, watching the birds lit in and out, taking turns for the seed, and then we'd leaf through pages in the guidebook trying to identify their names.

Some we knew. The pretty little House Finch. A Northern red cardinal that came along every evening. Seeing these familiars was like coming across old friends in the jungle.

The rooster was actually the first bird we saw when we arrived, brash and strutting with its gorgeous plumage. They were everywhere, and made me laugh, even at their 5 a.m. early morning calls. Naming the roosters and chickens junglefowl or moa made them seem a bit more exotic than the invasive species they've become.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
photo credit
Also at the feeder in Kona: Japanese white eye, java sparrow, saffron finch, red whiskered bulbul, saffron finch, ring necked pheasant, and zebra dove.

Cattle egrets and mynas were on all the islands, but we first noticed them on Maui. Red crested cardinals were prominent on Maui and Ohau, where they are seen as becoming a threat to local species. We saw white rumped shama thrush enjoying botanical gardens.
shama thrush
photo credit

In Kaui we came across the national goose, Nene. At first they seem a bit plain compared to their colourful cousins, but the pattern of the feathers is striking.

A black-bellied whistling duck jumped out at us on a jungle road, it's odd beak making it easy to identify later. One source hilariously described it as a "boisterous duck."  

Tropicbird in Waimea Canyon
 photo credit
At the Kilauea Lighthouse, Frigates were flying and Masked Booby were hopping at the rocky shore.

We spotted tropicbirds soaring in Waimea Canyon.

Hawaian Honeycreepers
all descended from a single finch ancestor

In Kaui, I would occasionally see a blurr of red in the jungle or against the green of fruit trees. There are a few red forests birds here. It may have been an I'iwi (which are still common on this island although in rapid decline), or an 'Apapane (typically found in forests at higher elevations), but definitely not an akapi (now found only on Big Island, Volcanoes Park).

Unfortunately many of the birds once found in Hawaii are now extinct. Audubon notes "the arrival of Polynesians and then Europeans famously wiped out countless vulnerable island species, many of them before their existence was even recorded." Their feathers made them desirable for Polynesian royalty and later, for haberdashers. Now even more common varieties are becoming endangered and dwindling in number. Even the national goose, the Nene, is endangered. Species are threatened because habitats are dwindling, and some of the food sources such as taro crops are no longer grown. Of course,  pesticides are also a problem. Throughout the islands there were handwritten placards, NO SPRAYING! and NO GMO! However protests are not always heeded.

The other threat to many Hawaian birds are rats, which are not native to Hawaii and go after nesting females, eggs and young chicks. When we were in Kona we trapped a rat that had been eating fruit overnight. It must have been in paradise with all the birds at the feeder... Our host was apologetic but acknowledged rats are a problem across Hawaii. Since the rodents had no natural predators, mongoose were brought to the island to help combat the problem.Unfortunately, mongoose are diurnal, rats nocturnal, so it didn't help the rat situation. Also unfortunately, mongoose love eating little birds. Rats, mongoose and cats are among the greatest threats to birds here and elsewhere.

A number of societies in Hawaii work to protect endangered species, including the Hawaian Audubon Society and the Kauai Forest Birds Recovery Project.


Red junglefowl or moa
House finch
Northern cardinal
Japanese white eye
Java sparrow
Ring necked Pheasant
Red whispered bulbul
Saffron finch 
Zebra dove 
Cattle egret
Breadfruit and Shama thrush
Red crested cardinals
Common mynah
Tropicbird Waimea canyon
Hawaiian goose NuNu 
Black bellied whistling duck 
Masked booby

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Kaui, Waimea Plantation Cottages

 Every place we've stayed in on this trip has been unique, and this is quite the gem!

Waimea Plantation - main building
During his online search, Rob found Waimea Plantation Cottages available for rental at what was once a sugar plantation. Hurricanes and changing economies have led to a shift in the business model, away from sugar mill to resort. In addition to the original cottages on the property, other buildings have been acquired from plantations across Hawaii. Now there are more than 60 cottages here, and each room comes with a list of their origins.

It is fun to take the inventory along on a stroll to read about the history of the buildings. Vintages are 1904 - 1930, but the insides have been renovated for modern amenities. Cottages range in size from 'iki' (small) to larger 2-3 bedrooms.

We are staying in one of the original property buildings. Here's how it's described:
Waimea Sugar Mill Company House #30 - Fermin Ilar 
Ilar was listed as a general labourer in 1954 employee list. Originally this was a one bedroom house with a small step-down kitchen. 
Other descriptions are a bit more lengthy:
Cottage #9 - Dugold Campbell
Dugold Campbell was born at Lamlash, isle of Arran, Scotland, and the seventh of eight children of the Rev. Colin Campbell... Arriving in Honolulu January 9, 1885 aboard the S.S, Mariposa, Dr. Campbell came to accept a position with the Board of Health as a government physician for the Kileau district of Kaui. In July 1887 Dr. Campbell applied for and received the position of government physician for the Waimea district. His salary was $1,500 a year and he was also responsible for caring for the inhabitants of Nihau... As early as 1893, Dr. Campbell was asking the Board of Health for funds to establish a hospital in Waimea, but there was no money for such a project... he led a drive to raise money by public subscription. Two years later the hospital had been constructed... with the proviso that... indigent Hawaiians be treated free of charge.

I think I would've liked hanging out with this guy:
House #51 - Charlie Kaneyama
Career at Kekaha Sugar in Industrial Relations in which he spent a great deal of time working on the plantation newspaper "Kekahamana," including photographing plantation events from 1940s - 1970s. Charlie was a musician, playing a large number of them, and big band leader well into his 80's. In the late 60s through 70s he taught ukulele to school age kids. When he retired from Kekaha Sugar he took up painting, adding that to his creative life.

Other inhabitants are identified from Germany, Scotland, Japan, and Portugal and positions range from general labourer to dairy herdsman, ditchman, seaside superintendent, manager, and director.

The cottages are fairly close to each other but there are lots of plantings that make for green privacy and cool shade. The beach here is more walkable than swimmable, with two miles of shoreline from the pier to resort.

It's also the perfect place to watch the sunset over the private island of Ni‘ihau.

National Geographic named it to The Staylist of 150 Hotels You'll Love in 2008 and it continues to get stellar reviews.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Kaui, Northshore

I've been looking forward to staying at Zen Root since we booked our stay months ago. What a unique place. Very comfortable, with a great vibe. The host designed and constructed the place himself, in between conceiving and building installations for Burning Man. From the lainai we could see the ocean and look for whales with binoculars.
Maloaa Bay

Just down the hill is a beautiful beach where the locals go, with shoreline access tucked discreetly down a path between two private houses. Calm enough to swim and snorkel on most days. When I googled Moloaa Bay it turned up that this is the beach where both the pilot and season 1 episode for Gilligan's island were filmed. Robert's Hawaii tour buses were stopping here on their movie tour of the island, but they stayed only long enough to hum the theme song.
a local fishing in Maloaa Bay

Although we didn't take the tour, the list of movies shot in Kaui is quite long and includes recent films like The Descendants and Snowden to the relatively recent, like Avatar, Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean, to classics like South Pacific and Blue Hawaii. It's fun to transpose the lists and try to match it up with the beaches and jungles we visited.

tunnels at Haena 
We drove a few hours most every day to take in the incredible views and beaches. Anini ShorelineKilauea Lighthouse, Makana Mountain (Bali Hai), to the end of Kuhio Highway and Ke'e Beach Park. Stopping in different places along the way to enjoy scenic lookouts or pull out our chairs and look at waves hitting the beach.

Waioli? Wainiha? Lumahai? It was unmarked, so I'm not entirely sure but if you are driving north on the Kuhio Hiway this beach is hiding behind New Zealand Pines.

We took a river cruise down Wailua River to the Fern Grotto. It reminded me a lot of Toronto Island with palm trees, and watching the river boats cruise by us when we are at anchor. The Smith family musicians entertained us with Hawaiian music and taught the hula. It was cheesy,  but fun, and we saw silver fish jumping several feet out of the water and landing with a splash.

Jo2 was an outstanding restaurant in Kapaa. Chef Josselin is a six-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee, a pioneer of Hawai`i Regional Cuisine and author of A Taste of Hawai`i.  Beautiful on the plate and absolutely delicious, I had ceviche Tahitian style, Thai squash tempura, crispy duck salad and Rob had the slow cooked wagyu beef cheek.

Not sure at this point if I am emptying out or filling up, but am definitely rejuvenated! It is now well into the third week of the vacation and this stretch is definitely one of our favourites of the trip.

Sunday, February 5, 2017


I imagined that all of Oahu would be towering hotels and condos, crowded beaches and tourists everywhere. 

Not so.

We are staying in the North Shore, and roadside signs shout, KEEP THE COUNTRY COUNTRY. There are miles of accessible shoreline and low rise buildings. I kept thinking 'wow' with every turn of the corner. Although I'm not sure how long people will successfully fight development, the natural beauty here must be a constant inspiration.

photo credit: Julian Wilson
Rob and I enjoyed several beaches. Sunset Beach, Waimea, Pupukea, Haleiwa. Banzai Pipeline. The waves are huge, and it is easy to lose the scale of things until you see the surfers riding the blue curls of the sea. The Volcom Pipe Pro is bringing 112 pro surfers to compete for a spot in the Pipeline Masters and a $100,000 prize. Amazing to watch the balance and grace of these athletes in motion.

There was also the beauty of Waimea Falls Park and the Botanical Gardens. If I lived nearby I would be visiting every day. The botanical gardens are organized by region, and it is possible to explore endemic botanicals from all over the tropics, including one tiny island 600 miles southwest of Tokyo. Interspersed throughout are archeological sites and depictions of Polynesian villages.

Although we didn't stay in Honolulu long, we did see the Iolani Palace. Built 1879-82 in an "American Florentine" style., the palace had electricity and telephone service long before the White House and Buckingham Palace, and was a wonder in its day. Later abandoned it fell into disrepair, but has been restored to its former glory. One room housed the Queen's Quilt. The patchwork crazy quilt was created in a fashionable Victorian style, and was stitched by Queen Lili'uokalani and her companions during the queen's 10 month imprisonment at Iolani Palace in 1895. When I saw it, it instantly reminded me of the quilt at the Victoria and Albert museum, stitched by Mary Queen of Scots during her imprisonment in the 1570s.

Before venturing to the airport we had a glimpse of  Waikiki Beach and the Royal Hawaiian. So many tall buildings and expensive stores. One place we wanted to see but couldn't, because it was fully booked, was Shangri La, the house and Islamic art collection built by Doris Duke. Tours need to be booked weeks ahead, so we were out of luck. The virtual tour leaves me wanting more. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Kanile'a Ukulele

While we were on Oahu's North Shore, Rob discovered Kanile'a Ukulele was just a 40 minute drive away, and there were factory tours each morning at 10:30. This was where the ukulele we bought in Hilo was built, so of course we had to take the tour.

The owner of the company, Joe, was generous with his time, and spent an hour with us patiently answering our questions and explaining the process. Only 40 ukuleles are made here each week, and we were able to observe how the craftsmen transform the koa wood from lumber through to finished instruments. 

Kanile'a ukelele are acoustically engineered to enrich the sound by enhancing vibration. UV finishing helps preserve the strength of the koa, and each piece of koa has a unique pattern. For every uke sold, another koa tree is planted in the Kanile'a forest. This is an amazing company and now I feel part of their extended family.

My new Kanile'a ukelele

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

West Maui

Taking the Road to Hana back to Lahaina was an entirely different drive, even though it was the same route in reverse. When we went it was a clear day and on the return it was pouring rain. The tropical jungle was such a powerful green I could almost feel myself changing hue. Rob and I got an early start so traffic wasn't too bad, although we did meet batches of oncoming cars in places on the twisting road. During our travels here we've seen t-shirts, "I survived the Road to Hana." It is a bit harrowing, sometimes threatening falling rocks and mud slides, but the main danger is really other drivers barrelling toward you on narrow roads, when you've nowhere to go. So lighter traffic during a rainstorm was welcome.

Mokolea Point (Hiway 30
past the 38 mile marker)
So far we've planned our trip mainly off the beaten track. Arriving in the more popular destination of Lahaina was a bit of a shock, with its hard to find parking, traffic detours and longer than expected commutes. There was even a cruise ship parked in the harbour for the day, waiting for evening before turning on their sparkly lights and sailing away.

Lahaina has been a popular destination for centuries. First with the Polynesians, who made this their royal capital, then with whalers, who found it a perfect port, and with missionaries determined to save souls and increase literacy. Now tourists visit from all over the world.

Humpback whales come in the thousands to Maui Nui to breed and calve in the shallow warm waters. The whales have probably been visiting here long before the Hawaiians built their villages. The trip from Alaska takes 4-6 weeks, and the whole time they travel and stay they don't eat. The best time for whale watching is December - March, with February the peak time.

This 100 year old banyon tree
occupies a whole block in Lahaina
Although we've been able to spot whales from shore we wanted a closer look, so joined a whale watching tour. The captain explained to us that the boat would follow the humpbacks no closer than a hundred yards, because following any closer can cause them stress and eventual death. Ideally, the whales would come to us when we turned off the engine at a respectable distance. Come they did! I bent over the side of the boat and could see two whales about twenty feet under the water, right beside us. We got an excellent view of several males in a competition pod, slapping their tails, sounding and breeching. The naturalist put a hydrophone into the water so we could listen to the whale song. Each year the song changes, with each male singing the same tune. Marine biologists are of the opinion the females don't sing, I just think we can't hear their music.

While visiting Maui it has been windy and about 22/23 degrees, not very hot, but we spent time on the beach most days. There was the Front Street beach in town, Baby beach around the corner, and short drives to Napali, Kaanapali, and Kapalua. The sand on these beaches was the texture of brown sugar and felt great on bare feet. Blue, blue water and white foaming surf. What's not to love?

Napili beach

Jodo Misssion is also located in Lahaina. A historical account shares the Buddhist mission rented a private house in order to propagate in Lahaina in 1912, and then moved to its present location in 1931. Just down the street from where we were staying, the missions was right on the beach, with a Japanese cemetery located across the road. The Japanese first came to the island to work the sugar cane fields and make enough money to return to their villages as rich men. Now there are 4th and 5th generation Japanese Americans calling Hawaii home. 

Standing on the beach in Lahaina
As the sun's crimson shaft
Settles down past the distant isle
- Shinko Kishi, Archbishop of Jodo shu

The beach at night is magical and one of the highlights for me was the Feast at Lele, where we had front row seats to watch canoes come to shore at sunset, with dancers coming out to greet them. This was a gourmand's feast of five courses and a musical and culinary journey to Hawai`i, Aotearoa, Tahiti and Samoa. Leis and open bar with wine and beer pairings. I had mentioned it was a celebration dinner, they added a special touch to the dessert, a chocolate wafer saying Happy Anniversary.

Feast at Lele