Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Big Island's "First Beginnings" are still a Mystery

On the most eastern land in the Hawaiian archipelago, Cape Kumukahi ("First Beginnings" in Hawaiian) are clues left by people who pre-dated the earliest Polynesians in the second century. Small stone monuments found by archeologists in the 1800s are of unknown origin--lending support in some circles as evidence of the defunct (think Atlantis) Lost Continent of Mu. You can check it out for yourself by strolling the sylvan acres of Green Lakes, which charges a modest ($5) fee to explore. (Other popular sites in the Islands on private land have shut down trails that were popular among visitors. Thanks to Smiley Burrows, the woman who runs the show, the property has solved an illegal camping problem, and created some really cool recreational space, including gardens.)

East of Green Lake--at road's end at the cape itself--are more recent monuments, the King's Pillars. These stacks of rough a'a lava were used as beacons by the the crews of King Pi'lani in the 1500s when navigating canoes from Maui.

Cape Kumukahi is now the site of many acres of the Big Island's most recent lands, thanks to an enormous eruption in 1960. At the top of a green hillock sticking up through the lava slag heaps about a mile inland is the site of the Kukui Heiau. Chief Umi in the 1400s used the rock structure as an astronomy observatory. All these places are 'out-there' in Puna, seen by relatively few visitors. Those who do come to the cape are hell bent on getting to a nearby tepid-water sea pool, known as Champagne Pool.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Got Hula?

If Oahu is your only Hawaiian destination and you've booked a room in Waikiki, be sure to catch the hula event at sunset. The show opens with the traditional conch blower and center stage lights up with professional dancers, musicians and story telling. Get there early for a good seat on the lawn. Place is the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound near the Duke Kahanamoku statue, Tuesday through Saturday, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. weather permitting. It's free.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hawaii Big Island's Hidden Oasis

from page 59, Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer

"Hidden" and "oasis" is often brochure-hype, but not in the case of the Queen's Bath on the backshore of the beach at the world-class Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island. The description is literal The mortored saline bath, which dates from the 1800s when the ali'i (royalty) among Hawaiians would dip in saline ponds along coast, is not easy to spot—even though some modern condos are perched on the volcanic cliffs right above it. To get there you need to take a side trip from a path that winds from Beach Club Beach among several large anchialine ponds (these lakelets are where freshwater and seawater surface via underground channels). In the old days, a fish gate at the shoreline made sure the ponds were full of fat mullet for the king and his retinue. Also hidden various trees of the oasis (nearby, the land is covered with sun-sorched lava) are the remains of Kalihuipua'a Village. Among the treasures are petroglyphs and decrepit rock structures.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Waikiki: last ride of the day

Sunset surfers ride the eternal wave machine right off Kuhio Beach Park in the hubbub of Waikiki. Then many store their boards like so many locked-up bicycles at the Waikiki Beach Center and ride a bus home. It's not unusual to see a sandy-footed wave rider striding up Kalakaua Avenue (WKK's main drag) with board in hand, weaving through a throng of duded-up tourists past designer shops and restaurant bars aglow from freshly lit tiki torches.

For sure, Waikiki is a high-rise tourist amusement park, but Old Hawaii manages to surface through the pavement.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

WHY Hawaii? Ten Big Truths and one Joke

Excerpted from No Worries Hawaii: A Vacation Planning guide for Kaua'i, Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island. You can find white-sand beaches, aquamarine pools and swaying palms at many wonderful places on this big blue orb. But aside from being the tropical fantasy, what makes Hawaii unequaled, no ifs ands or buts? Here are Ten Big Truths that apply to Hawaii. Can you spot the exaggeration?

1. THE LAST LOST WORLD Human beings had inhabited virtually the entire world before migrating to Hawaii. The earliest known footprints were made about 200 AD by sailing canoe voyagers from the Marquesas, coming some 2,400 miles from the south. A second wave of voyagers, from Tahiti, arrived around 1200 AD. These Polynesians--the Hawaiians--made back-and-forth migrations for several centuries, until the late 1400s, when they were isolated on their Pacific homeland.

2. THE NEWEST NEW WORLD The Western World, in the form of British Captain James Cook (who was looking for the Northwest Passage) found Hawaii only recently--in 1778. These islands in the Pacific became crucial to expanding trans-Pacific trade.

3. THE WORLD'S HOTTEST HOT SPOT The Hawaiian Islands are volcanoes. Although the northernmost main island, Kaua'i, is more than 5 million years old, parts of the Big Island are as fresh as a newborn babe. That's because the earth's crust is slowly moving northward over a "hot spot" of copiously flowing magma, like the shell of an egg rotating around its yoke. New lava piles up and forms islands, and then the islands move north. Loihi, the newest would-be island, is now underwater about 20 miles offshore the Big Island.

4. NOW YOU SEE 'EM, NOW YOU DON'T As the islands move forward on the geologic conveyor belt, they are eroded by rain, wind, and waves. The Hawaiian Islands include more than 100 tiny islands and sea-washed atolls north of Kaua'i. Kaua'i is headed for submersion, to be followed by the other islands.

5. THE WORLD'S TALLEST MOUNTAINS True, the Big Island's volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, are just under 14,000 feet in elevation. But if you measure from their peaks to the base on the seafloor, they are well over 40,000 feet--easily the earth's tallest.

6. BIGGEST STATE IN THE UNION That's right Texas, you're number three. The Hawaiian Archipelago extends for about 1,600 miles and contains some 123 islands, all comprising the State of Hawaii. If territorial waters are included in area, the total is more than twice the size of Alaska.

7. FARTHEST GETAWAY IN THE WORLD The eight major Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific, surrounded by 65-million square miles of open water and at least 2,000 miles from other islands or continents. It's easily the world's most isolated landmass.

8. THE ORIGIN OF SPAM Sure, everybody with email knows about spam now. But Spam is all about Hawaii, where record amounts are enjoyed each year per person. The craze began when Hawaiian warriors in ancient times sailed north into the Pacific, harboring pigs in open canoes. Reaching the Mainland, they then paddled up the Colorado River, scaled the Grand Canyon, crossed the Great Plains, and reached the frozen tundra of Austin, Minnesota. The pigs could go no farther. Absent ti leaves for a luau, the Hawaiians concocted a way to jellify the pork into square cans. During WWII, Hormel Foods started shipping the stuff back to Hawaii.

9. THE ORIGIN OF NEW LIFE FORMS Some 6,000 insects, birds, and plants are native to the Hawaiian Islands, having evolved from about 120 seeds that washed up or were flown here in bird stomachs. Hawaii became rich with endangered and rare species, many of which are now extinct. An isolated Eden, a planet in the Pacific, Hawaii is where new earth rises from the sea and new life forms evolve.

10. WETTEST SPOT ON EARTH Mount Waialeale on Kaua'i gets some 40 feet of rainfall per yeare. Rainfall is not normally a selling point for vacation destinations. But all that rain translates to resplendent greenery and waterfalls. Most of the rain takes place at the highest elevations inland. The leeward sides of the islands are desertlike, complete with cacti, receiving around 10 inches of rain reach year.

11. ALOHA LIVES Led by transplanted Americans, a rebellion of business interests overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, later imprisoning Queen Liliuokalani in her own palace. President Grover Cleveland at the time ruled the overthrow illegal and that the monarchy be restored. But his ruling was ignored, and when McKinley took office in 1898, the islands were annexed as a U.S. territory. Since Queen Liliuokalani chose to combat the overthrow in the courts rather than on the battlefield, the legal issue of Hawaii's sovereignty remains an open question. The U.S. formally apologized for the overthrow in 1993. The unmet promise of the Hawaiian Kingdom remains an open issue and aloha--Hawaii's export to a world in need--remains a hope unfulfilled. If you look, you will see the spirit of aloha, not preserved for tourists, but rather living and breathing in the people and traditions of Hawaii.