Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hawaii: Finally for the Birds

The Hawaiian Islands are surrounded by 2,500 mies of open sea--the world's most isolated landmass. Until now, there was no refuge for birds who became sick or distressed, mainly due to man's handiwork, such as oil spills and plastic flotsam. Opening this spring, on the green nub that is the north tip of the Big Island near the town of Hawi, is the Hawaii Wildlife Center, a treatment center for birds of the sea, shore, and forest.

Our flying friends can thank the center's founder, Linda Elliott, who synergized a years-long effort to bring the vision into being. Using all private funds from private donors, Elliott led a team of volunteers ranging from architects to gardeners to create a state-of-the art facility. She has worked throughout the world rescuing and returning to the wild thousands of birds. The gleaming new wildlife center is easy on the eye, but also is testament to form following function, with areas that allow for all the steps in caring for a variety of birds and ailments.

Hawaii Wildlife Center is not a zoo with animals on display, but visitors are welcomed. A native plant garden surrounds an outside interpretive area that will feature many educational displays, as well as real-time video feeds of the indoor activity. Proceeds from a retail store will be tilled back into keeping the center functioning. Surrounded by lush greenery on Lighthouse Road, the HWC is also a pleasant refuge for visitors touring the Big Island, not only for its tranquility but also for the sense of community spirt that it imparts.

Hawaii Wildlife Center
53-324 Lighthouse Road, Kapa‘au, HI 96755

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hawaii: getting swallowed by the land

At popular Mainland parks, hikers are advised to stay on trails to avoid destroying a fragile ecosystem. In Hawaii, the tables are turned and the smart money is on the flora to take its toll on hikers foolhardy enough to venture off trails. Dense snarls of greenery make it impossible to find your way back to a trails after straying only a short distance. Throw in a little rain or fog and you can become rapidly, hopelessly lost. Forget about GPS. Steep topography won't let you find a route, even if the direction is clear. To complete the horror show, add the hidden promise of earth cracks and lava tubes that will mail you to nowheresville.

Here are a few tips to stay safe.

1. Stay on the trail. People have been walking these islands for centuries and if there isn't already a trail, forget about getting there. If you lose the trail, or it becomes difficult to follow, backtrack immediately.

2. On ridge and mountain trails, don't step to the side even to take a picture unless you are careful. The margins of a trail are often just ferns and grasses that disguise a free-fall.

3. Many less popular trails are unsigned. As you proceed, look back occasionally to memorize your return route. Use sticks or rocks as marker arrows (and scatter the markers upon your return).

4. Note your departure time for a hike, and make sure to begin your return when you have used up less than half the remaining daylight. Bring a flashlight.

5. When hiking in groups, stay together.

6. Always bring an equipped pack, with food, water, and extra clothing.

7. Don't let the kids stray.

8. Read No Worries Hawaii for independent traveler itinerary ideas and advice.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kumu Farms: The Future for Food is Now on Maui

Located next to the old-timey tourist attraction of Maui Tropical Plantation just south of Wailuku on Maui, Kumu Farms is a leap to a healthy future, when organic fruits and veggies come straight from the garden and into your hands. This is no roadside fruit stand. Kumu is certified for a long list of organic crops (with differing harvest times): apple bananas, arugula, awa, basil, beans, beets, cabbage, carrot, chard, cilantro, coffee, cucumber, dill, eggplant, fennel, kale, leeks, lemongrass, lettuce, mixed salad greens, onion, oregano, papaya, parsley, pepper, radish, rosemary, sage, savory, spearmint, squash, taro leaf, thyme, tomato and turnip. Much of the produce comes from the adjacent 20-acre garden.

Manu Vinciguerra (pictured) is the market's marketing manager, overseeing the operation, which is just three months old on Maui, but carrying on a 30-year history of success from its 120-farm on Molokai. Some 20,000 pounds of papaya are harvested weekly on Molokai——they are the Mainland's biggest supplier of this orgainic fruit. Kumu Farms has received raves from Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine and was recognized by Maui County as an exceptional small business. Produce not sold is delivered to local food banks.

Kumu Farms also supplies herbs to celebrity chefs throughout the Mainland, and delivers products to health food stores on Maui. The farms are a trendsetter for supplying sustainable healthy foods to consumers through a variety of channels. But the key to their success is as old as the hills: they produce superior products at a competitive price. The farms themselves, extending below the palm-studded green fields of the West Maui Mountians, are also a relaxing stop for tourists and locals alike.

For more information visit their Facebook page:

Kumu Farms 1670 Honoapiilani Hwy, Wailuku, HI (808) 244-4800

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Maui: Take the "backdoor" home from Hana

Having braved the 60-plus one lane bridges and serpentine jungle turns to get to the Pools of Oheo (the lower section of Haleakala National Park that is about 10 miles past Hana), visitors may well just keep on truckin' in a clockwise direction past Kipahulu and Kaupo, rather than reverse course on the Hana Highway.

Highway 360 becomes Highway 31 (Pi'ilani Highway), which covers some wild-and-scenic coastline that is on the south side of Haleakala---the big volcano rises to 10,000 feet, this side marked by the Kaupo Gap and deeply fissured gulches and mini-canyons. Although you won't find sandy beaches, coastal access is frequent, at Nu'u Bay (petroglyphs, old landing with snorkeling) and other rock-pocked shores (including one with a sea arch).

This "backdoor" route is actually an easier and faster drive, but that is only "easier" relative to the demanding Hana Highway. The first four miles after Kipahulu can be hairy, with one-lane stretches and dirt sections. Never take this route during or right after heavy rains and watch out for rocks and debris in the roadway. After four miles the road becomes paved-potholed for about 8 miles past funky-iconic Kaupo Store and beautiful Huialoha and St. Joseph's churches. Highway 31 is then smooth asphalt, undulating with blue-water views all the way to Tedeschi Winery, and back around to the Hana Highway.

Maui Trailblazer has all the sightseeing details on this coast.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Twin Falls: Hana Highway's opening salvo

Twin Falls Farmstand is only at mile two along the Maui's notorious Hana Highway--well before the road's onslaught of one-lane bridges and dripping jungle scenery. So, if you stop here, plan on getting sucked in for the day and making the Hana excursion another time.

Tips: Twin Falls has become very popular, so either show up early or wait until about noon for the first wave of tourists to move on. Wear shoes that you can get wet while making stream crossings and navigating muddy sections. Most visitors go to the most-popular of the falls, but you can find relative solitude at five other pools-with-waterfalls that are very nearby, on the same stream.(See Maui Trailblazer for details; or do some exploring. Two pools are immediately to the left after entering the grounds.)

Watch out: Don't dive into any pool: submerged rocks are a hazard. If you want to jump, be sure to swim in and check out the landing area first. (At several of the falls, people jump from cliffs ranging up to 20 feet high.)

View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baldwin Beach: the perfect beach for you

From the pages of Maui Trailblazer, a little history: "Baldwin Beach Park is the former home for families who worked the sugar cane for Harry A. Baldwin—whose grandfather Dwight Baldwin was one of Maui’s original missionaries in Lahaina in the early 1800s. Harry furthered the efforts of his father, Henry P., and the family by the 1930s was one of the Big Five, who controlled more than 90 percent of the state’s sugar production—and virtually ran Hawaii’s government. Local mills have shut down, but some of the workers and their descendents still gather at the park. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive on a day when blade-wielding Tongans are climbing the park’s willowy coco palms to trim."

There are no megatimeshare condos to be seen around here. This is not your Kaanapali or Kapalua. This beach is wild. Breezes, blue water, gentle surf, perfect white sand. Walkability quotient: a big ten. For all there is to do in the area (Paia Town is closeby), consult your user friendly Maui Trailblazer.

View Larger Map

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Blow Sunday in Maui

Windsurfers scored big in brisk tradewinds at Maui's Ho'okipa Beach Park today. Meanwhile just down the beach under the Billabong tent wind left the sails for Forty-Niner fans when a miracle comeback fell short.