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Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (The Place of Refuge), Big Island of Hawaii

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Perhaps the best place on the Big Island to enjoy a sunset (from many great possibilities), Pu’uhonua o Honaunau (the Place of Refuge) is a remarkable destination.  This is a National Historic site which should be near the top of things NOT to be missed by anyone visiting the Big Island.

The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau was built by the Hawaiian people as a sanctuary and place of safety.  Any commoner one who had broken one of the many laws (known as kapu) of their society could try to go here to be safe (although people would be trying to stop them as they tried to get to the place of refuge).  No blood could be shed or people arrested …

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A visit to the Greenwell Coffee Farm, Kona

08 Greenwell Coffee Plantation

Kona coffee is world famous for its full-bodied, non-bitter, bold flavor.  Hard to put the taste into words, but it’s good coffee!  The micro-climate just south of Kona, around 1000 – 2000 ft above sea level, is perfect for growing coffee beans.  The volcanic soil is fertile, the days sunny and warm, the nights cooler, and with frequent light afternoon showers — exactly what coffee thrives on!

Coffee grows on small trees, generally trimmed to bush size.  It’s a fruit known as a cherry which is red when ripe.   Much smaller than the bing cherries you buy in the store, the pulp of the coffee cherry is scanty but sweet — quite tasty and rich in antioxidants.  Most of the …

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“Pic of the Week”, May 8, 2015. Nene on Kauai

03 Nene, Kauai

I’ve previously described an encounter with two rare Hawaiian geese on Maui a few years ago at this link.  This past fall when I visited Kauai with my brother and father, we found at least two dozen nene — most on the rocky and wet north shore of the island, but a number of free-loaders hanging out at the koi pond of the Marriott resort hotel (lots of fresh water, shelter, and free food).

While they remind me of Canada geese, they’re much smaller and the webbing between their feet is incomplete.  And they are fearless — they’ll walk in front of you whether you’re walking or driving, not sensing any danger.  It’s this complete fearlessness that nearly killed them …

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“Pic of the Week”, February 27, 2015: Silversword, Hawaii

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Among the pleasures of being atop Hawaii’s giant volcanoes — Haleakala on Maui, and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island — are the unusual things you see.  Standing on an otherworldly landscape of reddish-brown or gray-black lava rock, the views over the clouds are often breath-taking.  You can often see the Big Island from the top of Haleakala, and Maui from Mauna Kea.

If you divert your eyes from the magnificent views to the ground, you’re likely to see this rare gray-silver spikey plant known as “Hawaiian Silversword”.  It only grows in Hawaii and then only a mile or more above sea level.  Your best chances of seeing it are on the giant volcanoes.  The climate up here is harsh — …

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“Pic of the Week”, January 30, 2015: Saddle Road, Hawaii

POD 04 Saddle Road Mona Kea

I love a scenic road-trip!  One of the greatest short drives in America is Saddle Road, which crosses between the dry and wet sides of the Big Island of Hawaii, across broad lava flows and the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the world’s largest and tallest mountains respectively (base of Mauna Kea is 19000′ below sea level; the part above ocean is 13796′ high).  The drive is best done on a clear day, especially in the morning as it often clouds over in the afternoon.  It’s a windy road but of good quality.  It used to be that not all car rental companies allowed you to take your car rental across it, but the road is so good now …

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Wahiawa Botanical Garden, Oahu

00 Wahiawa Botanical Garden

I’m fond of exploring parks and libraries in the cities I visit, for different reasons.  Libraries are fun because I love and collect books, and because the quality of a city’s libraries tells me a lot about that city’s priorities.  Parks are places of escape, especially appealing in largest busiest cities because I quickly tire of wall-to-wall concrete.  An oasis of green is an amazing balm for the soul.

While visiting Oahu recently we  stopped by the Wahiawa Botanical Garden situated in a small town on the outskirts of Honolulu (and a convenient stop on the way to the Dole Plantation or the North Shore).  It’s one of five small parks under the supervision of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens and is …

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Signs of Waikiki

04 Signs of Waikiki

There’s a lot you can tell about a city simply by looking at small things, like its signage or public art.  Every city has unique and interesting shops and landmarks that add to its personality.

Today I’d like to share with you some of the signage and street art we saw in Waikiki Beach on a recent visit.   Waikiki is a fairly unique place.  Almost exclusively catering to tourists, the facilities and services are aimed at its thousands of visitors.  Still, you’ll see some of Honolulu’s many citizens enjoying the sand on the beach, or having dinner at one of the restaurants, or walking by the beach.  Surfing and paddle-boarding are especially popular because of how sweet the waves are as they break on the coral reef …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 19, 2014: Ferns, Hawaii

POD 05a Ferns, Volcano House

The vegetation around the Visitor’s Center in Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island is in a cool tropical rainforest.  Situated at 4000′ above sea level (1220m) there’s a lush growth here including ferns of several varieties.  Some ferns are only inches tall, struggling for survival in the volcanic rock.  Others are up to 35 ft (10 m) in height, the size of a small tree.

While walking to the visitor center, I came across a thick patch of ferns, one of the larger ones including a lot of new growth that we in Canada like to call “fiddleheads”.  I’m not sure about this variety, but fiddleheads can make excellent eating.  Regardless of their culinary value, I’m fond of walking in forests rich in …

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