Archive for June, 2007

Discover Polynesia at the Polynesian Cultural Center

If you’re traveling with your family, consider the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, on the northern portion of Oahu.

The Polynesian Cultural Center is a large cultural theme park, dedicated to sharing the culture of Polynesia to visitors. The Center includes Villages covering Hawaii, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, and the Marquesas.

Each of the villages includes traditional dwellings that you can explore, and each has scheduled activities during the day. For example, you’ll learn about Hula, and also how Poi (a Hawaiian staple food) is made from cooked taro root, see how flower lei are made, and perhaps have a chance to play Ulu Maika (a Hawaiian game similar to bowling). In Samoa, you’ll learn how to make fire with two sticks, how to crack open a coconut, and see the men of Samoa scale 40-foot tall Coconut trees. At Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), you’ll see the haka dance, play tititorea (a stick game), and receive temporary tattoos. And there’s much more at the other villages too!

Other attractions at the Center include a Rapa Nui area (Easter Island), Hawaii Mission Settlement, and a tour of Laie. Every afternoon, the Rainbows of Paradise water borne show, on the Center’s Lagoon area, showcases the various dances of the different Polynesian cultures on floating double-hulled canoes.

There is also an evening show “Horizons: Where the Sea Meets the Sky” at the 2,800 seat Pacific Theature, featuring music and dance from Polynesia……….one big highlight is the Samoan Fire Dance, which is highly entertaining.

The Polynesian Cultural center also has Hawaii’s only IMAX theatre, where you and your family can enjoy the “Coral Reef Adventure”, exploring the underwater reefs in Polynesia and the sea animals living in and around them.

For more information, visit the Polynesian Cultural Center website, or call 800-367-7060 (808-293-3333) to get information about various ticket options.

Tip: The website tends to promote mainly the all-inclusive packages, which include dinners and the show. The Center does sell day passes for villages, and meal tickets for lunch as well, to suit your needs – for those, you need to call in.

Tip 2: The Polynesian Cultural Center is a large park. Its best to budget the better part of a day for travel time (one hour from Waikiki – a very scenic drive), and to view the numerous villages. Some hotels offer shuttles to the Center – check with your hotel.

Lava Flow to Pacific Ocean Stops on Big Island of Hawaii

We reported yesterday about the surge of Earthquakes at Volcanoes National Park.

The earthquake activity seems to have subsided, and parts of the Chain of Craters Road near Kilauea Crater have been reopened.

However it appears that the lava flow to the Pacific Ocean has stopped, and the former steam plume is now reduced to a few wisps.

Even if you wanted to catch the tail end of the lava flow into the ocean, you’d be out of luck, as Park Rangers have closed the road leading to the area, for safety reasons. Here’s a photo of the area taken by the National Park Service in earlier times:

Lava Flows into the Pacific Ocean at Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii

Stay tuned, as this change in volcanic activity could be a sign of magma breaking to the surface in another location!

Earthquakes Signal Possible Change In Volcanic Activity at Kilauea

There have been swarms of small earthquakes hitting the upper East Rift of the Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano yesterday and today. On Sunday alone, the U.S. Geological Survey reported over 260 small quakes in the vicinity.

Many of the roads in Volcanoes National Park have been closed as a precaution, including the Chain or Craters Road. Potential dangers to sightseers, campers, and hikers can include road damage, molten lava cutting off escape access, poisonous gas venting, or brush fires caused by the lava.

Early indications are that there might be a shift in the flow of molten magma. The earthquakes could signal a change in the eruption, from lava flowing into new underground cavities in the volcano, or a new surface breakout of lava.

You can get more information on road closures from the National Park Service Website at: www.nps.gov/havo or call 808-985-6000.

If you’re ever visiting Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, it is always a good idea to check for updates, road warnings, or any other significant activity at the Park Service’s website.

Roy’s Restaurant on Oahu

Chances are you may have heard of Roy’s Restaurant. You might even have one in near you if you live in the Continental U.S. or in Japan.

However, the original Roy’s, the granddaddy of them all, is located on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii Kai in East Honolulu.

Roy Yamaguchi founded the original Roy’s back in 1988. Born in Tokyo, Roy often visited his Grandparents in Maui, and had fond memories of the varied seafood available at the seaside piers. Yamaguchi graduated from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in New York at age 19. After several years in Los Angeles (including running his own restaurant 385 North), Yamaguchi moved to Hawaii to open Roy’s.

Soon afterward, Roy’s cuisine was being hailed by numerous notable Food magazines, and he was also Hawaii’s first James Beard award winner. He is also credited as being one of the 12 founders of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement in Hawaii, which vaulted Hawaii Cuisine into international attention.

Roy’s now has 35 locations, including 7 in Hawaii, 2 in Japan, 1 in Guam, and 25 in the Mainland U.S.

The Hawaii Kai location is Yamaguchi’s “home base”, and is widely recognized as amongst the best of the Roy’s locations. If you’re ever in Honolulu, be sure to get out to the Roy’s Hawaii Kai location at 6600 Kalanianaole Highway.

If available, be sure to sample the Steamed Moi, a delicate white fish that is exclusively ocean grown and sourced from Hawaii, the Misoyaki Butterfish, or the charbroiled Short Ribs.

If you’re a foodie, search this restaurant out during your travels. The Hawaii Kai location also offers spectacular views of the sunset off the ocean, and is away from the hustle and bustle of Waikiki.

Behold the Malasada!

If you’re ever on Oahu, near Waikiki, and are having a bad case of snack munchies, you’ll enjoy one of Hawaii’s perfect foods – the Malasada.

The Malasada is a pastry item that is somewhat similar to a doughnut. However, the Malasada is fist-sized pastry, and does not have a hole. The basic Malasada is rolled in sweet white sugar, and has an outer brown crust with a slight hint of crunchiness, and a very soft bread-like interior. The effect on your taste buds is devastating. Also, for perfect results, the Malasada must be eaten hot!

Now there may be a few bakeries and restaurants that offer Malasadas in Hawaii, but the finest tasting examples with the perfect texture comes from only one place: Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. Leonard’s is located on 933 Kapahulu Avenue (phone number: 808-737-5591), just about 5 minutes outside of Waikiki. There is also a smaller Leonard’s Jr. bakery in the Pearl City area at the Waimalu Shopping Plaza. In addition a couple of mobile trailers offer hot Malasadas in various rotating locations around Oahu.

Leonard’s offers Malasadas with fillings as well (chocolate, coconut, guava, etc), but to us, the basic classic version, rolled in white sugar is the best thing around.

The best part? They only cost about 50 cents each! (Of course, you’ll want more than one). How’s that for cheap eats?

Goodbye, Mr. Checkers……

Sad news for those who grew up or lived in Hawaii.

Jim Demarest, who played Mr. Checkers on the long-beloved children’s show “Checkers and Pogo” died on Tuesday in Chicago after a long illness – he was 80 years old.

Demarest was the third actor to play Mr. Checkers, filling the role from 1968 to 1979. Mr. Checkers was the father-like figure to the childlike Pogo Poge, played by Morgan White. Mr. Checkers was known for his checkered clothing and black top hat with checkered band – even while out of character, Demarest was known to wear at least one checkered article of clothing.

If you were a child growing up in Hawaii during that time, it was impossible to miss the highly popular children’s afternoon show.

Demarest’s ashes will be returned to Hawaii, where they will be scattered into the ocean.

Goodbye, Mr. Checkers…….and thank you for all the wonderful memories.

Inner Tubing In Waterways at Lihue Kauai

Inner Tubing in Hawaii? Not the first image that pops into your head is it? Well, inner tubing is alive and well in Lihue, Kauai, and can make for a fun, highly memorable adventure for individuals and families alike.

The beginning of the tour involves a 4-Wheel vehicle tour of the lush greenery of old Lihue Plantation, where sugar cane was grown for processing into sugar. Irrigation waterways for the sugar cane were hand dug by plantation workers in about 1870 for watering of the sugar cane crops. A scenic section of these waterways has been reserved by Kauai Backcountry Adventures for an inner tube adventure.

At the launch point, you’ll receive a hard hat with a lamp, and ride an individual inner tube down the gentle flowing waterways of the Lihue Plantation. You’ll float through open canals, through tunnels, and flumes. The ride will allow you to see areas of Kauai unseen by most visitors, including spectacular views of the Mountains, Valleys, Ocean, and coastline. The waters originate from high atop Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth!

At the end of the tubing tour (about 3 hours), you’ll be treated to a picnic lunch near a natural swimming hole. Cost is $99 per person – Children over 5 are welcome, but they must be 43 inches tall or taller. You’ll need to bring swimming clothes, towel, water friendly foot gear, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Call 1-888-270-0555, or visit www.kauaibackcountry.com.

Check out a Kauai Tubing video here:

Yes Virginia, there is inner tubing in Kauai!

Ulalena, Compelling Theatre in Lahaina Maui

‘Ulalena is a theatrical show featuring storytelling, music, dance, and acrobatics in a compelling setting depicting the story of Hawaii, its people, and its culture. The show utilizes Japanese Butoh-style theatre, with elements of modern dance and traditional Hawaiian Hula – it is also reminiscent of a Cirque du Soleil style performance. It is widely hailed as the best theatrical experience in Hawaii.

The name ‘Ulalena refers to a kind of wind in upcountry Maui. The production traces the history of Hawaii, from the arrival of the first Native Hawaiians, the growth of Hawaii’s unique culture and customs, the arrival of explorers from Europe, through the Hawaiian monarchy.

The show features 20 professional performers and live musicians, and the show’s venue is a multi-million dollar facility that was specially constructed for ‘Ulalena, with a seating capacity of 684.

‘Ulalena performances are held at the Maui Myth & Magic Theatre at 878 Front Street in Lahaina, Maui. The show runs about 75 minutes long and adult tickets run from $49.50-$69.50. Children’s tickets run $29.50 – but you can get one child in free per paying adult (except with Producer’s Package). Advance reservations are essential.

The Halona Blowhole on Oahu

If you’re ever driving around the island of Oahu along its Eastern Shore, make sure you stop for a few minutes at the Halona Blow Hole for a spectacular natural sea show.

A Blow Hole is generally made up of a lava tube or fissure in the lava rock at the ocean’s edge. As the surf rushes toward the rock, the water is compressed as it moves upward, erupting into a spray of water, not unlike a small geyser. During windy, high tide periods, the Blow Hole can spray water up to 30 feet into the air, making for a fantastic natural show. Here’s some video footage of the Halona Blowhole in action:

That’s not all you can see, though. From the viewing point, you can also observe Humpback Whales cavorting in the ocean during the migration season, or view the Honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles) swimming about. If you can, bring a good pair of binoculars with you when you visit.

Please keep your common sense about you, and don’t approach the blow hole beyond the barriers. This area is dangerous, and has resulted in deaths when unsuspecting onlookers were actually sucked into the hole and drowned.

The Blow Hole is located near Oahu’s Sandy Beach and Hanauma Bay, off of Kalanianaole Highway. You’ll see a lookout area on a rock outcropping and a parking lot on the ocean side of the highway, making it hard to miss. The best part? Access is FREE, making it a grand bargain for the largest of groups!

Note that the Honolulu City and County will embark upon a substantial upgrade to the lookout area beginning in 2008, to repair some of the wall areas and repace railing sections. In addition, wheelchair access will also be made available.

The Moana Surfrider in Waikiki on Oahu

If you want to stay in Waikiki during your vacation, consider one of the grand landmarks of Waikiki Beach – the Moana Surfrider Hotel. The hotel is a true gem in Waikiki, one of the original Hotels in the area, and sitting on a prime area of Waikiki Beach.

The Moana Hotel was originally opened in 1901, by wealthy Honolulu landowner Walter Chamberlain Peacock. Constructed mainy of wood, with noteworthy Ionic columns in front, the Moana Hotel had 75 rooms, and was considered the most luxurious and fashionable hotel of its time. It even featured Hawaii’s first electric powered elevator!

From 1935 through 1975, the popular worldwide radio show “Hawaii Calls” was broadcast from the grounds of the Moana. Numerous celebrities also stayed at the Moana, including Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Bing Crosby, Groucho Marx, Joe Dimaggio, Amelia Earhart and more.

In 1952 Matson built a hotel adjacent to the Moana Hotel’s east side, called the Surfrider Hotel. In 1959, the hotel was sold to Sheraton, and in 1969, a new hotel was built on the Moana Hotel’s west side, called the Sheraton Surfrider Hotel. The old Surfrider on the east side then became a wing of the Moana Hotel.

The hotel underwent a significant $50 million renovation in 1989, restoring the original 1901 appearance of the Moana Hotel. Much of the wood structure, trim, and architectural elements were carefully restored. As a result, the two wings of the hotel were joined with the Moana into one structure, with the main lobby in the central building – the new hotel was called the Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel.

The hotel was purchased by Japanese brothers Kenji Osano and Masakuni Osano, under their Kyo-Ya Company in 1974. Today, the hotel continues to be owned by the Osano family. However, in June of 2007, the hotel’s management and branding changed to Westin – now called the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel.

The Westin Moana Surfrider includes 793 rooms, which include 46 suites, 2 restaurants, and a freshwater pool.

When booking rooms you can request rooms in the older area of the hotel, which tend to be smaller in size (by today’s standards), but are restored to their original 1900’s splendor. If you desire larger rooms, you can stay in one of the more recent wing areas. The main lobby area is remarkable, with expansive wooden floors and wooden structural elements (stairs, railings, trim).

Given its luxury roots and newly restored splendor, the Hotel is on the pricier side, both in room rates and in restaurant costs. However, being in the heart of Waikiki provides literally hundreds of dining alternatives for the visitor.

Even if you are not staying at the hotel, it is well worth walking through the lobby of the Moana, where you can once again experience the splendor of old Hawaii.