Tag Archive | "Hawaii"

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Spending a Night in Volcano, Hawaii

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

On the outskirts of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Volcano is a chilled (and at night, chilly) town of around 2500 people. Most travelers zip by here to spend a day in the park before heading back to their resort in Kona, Kohala, or Hilo. But if you spend at least a night like our family did, you’ll soon realize you that this part of the Big Island has its own distinct allure. We stayed at Volcano Village Lodge, which had the feel of a Costa Rican eco-lodge nestled deep in the forest. The spacious lodge with high ceilings, full kitchen, and front porch came with a full breakfast in the morning. Another nice perk is the hot tub which comes in handy when the temperatures cool at night (close to 4,000 feet elevation).

A 5-minute drive from Volcano Village Lodge is the entrance and Visitors Center of the park. We met a wonderful park ranger who told us exactly what to do that afternoon and evening. We drove to the Kilauea Iki Overlook and took a short hike along the rim of the crater in a rainforest to the Thurston Lava Tube, a well-known tunnel created from the flow of lava. Then we had dinner at a ridiculously good, though expensive Thai restaurant in town simply called Thai Thai Restaurant. When the tour buses left, we returned to the national park at night to the Jaggar Museum parking lot. We walked over to the overlook to see the expansive Kilauea Caldera glowing a vibrant red at night. Definitely worth a night’s stay in Volcano!
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.

Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.

 

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Hawaii Paddling with Wild Dolphins

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dolphin

 

On our last morning at the Four Seasons Hualalai, we had to be in the lobby at 7:30 am for a guided paddle on a Polynesian-style outrigger canoe. The kids weren’t thrilled to get up so early on vacation, especially since our son, Jake, had to register for classes at Cornell at 9 am EST or 3 AM Big Island time that night. So I was seriously considering blowing it off. That would have been a huge mistake!  We saw at least a dozen sea turtles feeding on the reef as we pushed off from shore. Within five minutes, heading to a sheltered bay, we spotted dolphins jumping out of the water. “They never usually come this close to shore,” said our guide, a local who seemed just as amazed as we were. He handed us snorkeling gear and the next thing you know, we were swimming next to rows of six and seven dolphins. One zipped right by my daughter, Mel, and me. When we lifted our heads, the dolphins were flying above the water, doing flips in the air. Ridiculous! Needless to say, we didn’t get much paddling in, but yes, it was worthy of getting the kids out of bed. 

 

steve1  Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.

Aloha Kahala! Celebrating 50 Years of Aloha at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu, Hawaii

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The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

By Linda Hayes

Honolulu, aptly referred to as ‘The Heart of Hawaii,’ never ceases to amaze me. In Waikiki, tourists perusing the chic designer shops along Kalakaua Avenue, the city’s version of Rodeo Drive, contrast sharply with the casual beach culture just a block away. Beyond that, a burgeoning cultural community mixes with high-rise office buildings and a busy seaport. Verdant inland peaks rise in the distance.

Although I often stay at one of the landmark hotels – The Royal Hawaiian or Halekulani, for instance – that dot Waikiki’s famous, two-mile stretch of beach, this time I’m returning to a place of which I’m particularly fond, the historic Kahala Hotel & Resort, located about ten minutes away in Kahala, the Island’s most exclusive residential neighborhood. And this time, rather than with my husband, I’m traveling with a girl friend who loves The Kahala as much as I do.

We arrive mid-morning on a perfect Honolulu day. The Kahala’s Grand Lobby is just as we remembered it, the picture of classic Hawaiian elegance with Thai-teak parquet floors, Italian fused-glass chandeliers dangling from the 30-foot-high ceilings and lava-rock walls planted with cascading orchids. All things mainland begin to drift away on the balmy breeze as we drift off to our rooms.

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

The Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the 338-room Kahala has been an Island escape for a veritable who’s who of celebrities, athletes, royalty, politicians and performers since its opening, a fact that once inspired former Honolulu Advertiser columnist Eddie Sherman to refer to it as “The Ka-Hollywood.” Signed photos of many of these famed guests are hung in the hotel’s Wall of Fame.

Resident dolphins at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Resident dolphins at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Book a room on the Dolphin Lagoon, a centerpoint of the resort, and your time there will be enhanced by the resident dolphins’ playful squeals and splashes. High corner rooms in the tower facing to mauka, or ‘toward the mountains’ in Hawaiian, and over the Waialae Country Club often feature views of eye-popping rainbows. And rooms facing to makai, or ‘toward the sea’, well, you get the picture. (Note these terms. They’ll come in handy when the taxi driver you call after a trip into Waikiki asks whether he should pick you up on the makai or mauka side of the street).

Our goal of spending as much time at The Kahala’s private cove of a beach as possible made our packing simple. Bathing suits, board shorts, flip-flops, or ‘slippers’ if you’re a local, sun hats and lots of tanning cream. (Should you overdo it in the sun, the luscious Kahala Spa offers a healing cold stone and Ti leaf massage.)

When we weren’t putting our chaise lounges to good use, or chatting with the friendly beach boys from Hans Hedemann Surf Adventures, who were there to offer good-humored advice about handling the resort’s fleet of Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boards and sea kayaks, we were in the water.

One morning, we took a private SUP Yoga class with Matt Meko, an easy-going instructor from the resort’s CHI Health & Energy Fitness Center. After anchoring our boards so we wouldn’t drift away, we spent an hour practicing down-dogs and triangle pose and even headstands with little ripples lapping at our boards. Matt explained that the ocean was our kumu, or teacher, and it was moving and changing all the time. Our job was to keep our vibrations calm. We didn’t fall off once.

Passing over the little bridges that cross the Dolphin Lagoon, we were instantly charmed by the antics of Hoku, Kolohe, Liho, Lono and Nainoa, the five male Atlantic bottle-nose dolphins who call the natural, 26,000 square foot lagoon (a.k.a. “the bachelor pad”) home.

Run by Dolphin Quest Oahu, the official Dolphin Quest experience includes various ‘encounters’ (not shows), during which you get to swim, touch (never push, pull, or ride) and play with the dolphins. But the most fun is simply watching the trainers, who consider themselves part of the dolphin family, go through their daily routines – feeding, training and caring for the gentle creatures. A simple whistle or hand signal will send Hoku, who was born at The Kahala and whose name means ‘star,’ spinning, diving and generally hamming it up with his buds.

Feeding time for my friend and I was entertaining as well. Lunch was typically balancing salads from the Seaside Grill, served up in bento boxes, on our knees at the beach. Pupus like spicy ahi poke, fish tacos and edamame tossed with red Hawaiian salt (with Mai Tais and Kona microbrews, of course) at the Plumeria Beach House bar were perfect sunset-watching fare.

Room at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

Room at the Kahala Hotel & Resort, Honolulu

But breakfast was our thing, specifically the vast ‘Rise & Shine’ buffet on the Plumeria lanai, during which plates were piled high with custom-made omelets, Portuguese sausage, macadamia nuts muffins, juicy papaya and my favorite, crisp waffles with coconut syrup and sweet butter. Throw in a Bloody Mary made with Hawaiian vodka and sea salt, and we were more than ready to tackle the day (or, more likely, the beach chairs).

Our stay coming to a close, we’d added yet another layer of experiences to our visits to The Kahala. Charmed by the ubiquitous spirit of aloha, one thing had become clear. We might call the mountains of Colorado home, but we were Hawaiian Island girls at heart.

Details

The Kahala Hotel & Resort
5000 Kahala Avenue
800-367-2525kahalaresort.com

 

 

Linda_Hayes_Headshot-150x150 Linda Hayes lives in land-locked Old Snowmass, Colorado, where she keeps a closet full of “aloha” wear ready to pack at a moment’s notice. She has been a long-time contributor to Luxe Interiors & Design, SKI, Association News, Aspen Magazine, Mountain Living, Stratos, genconnect.com and gardenstotables.com, and has written for Western Interiors, Elle Deco, Hemispheres, Hawaiian Style, Robb Report and others. When she’s not on the road, Linda makes her home in an architect-designed, modern straw bale house with elk and deer for neighbors, with her husband, Kelly J. Hayes (a wine writer and spotter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football).

 

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Biking the Big Island with Backroads

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Biking the Big Island with Backroads

Biking the Big Island with Backroads

Home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world, one would expect Hawaii’s southernmost island to be an angry land of deadened rock and rivers of red. But this ever-expanding island has a myriad of moods—the gentle rolling hills of Waimea; the inviting sand of the Kohala Coast; the almost impenetrable jungle-like interior of the Hamakua Coast; the enormity of two mountains that are nearly 14,000 feet; even a rain forest on the backside of a volcano. Indeed, Hawaii is more like a miniature continent than an island in the Pacific.

Cars whisk around the island, not experiencing that shift of terrain until they’re smack dab in the middle of it. Bikers have the privilege of slowing down to watch the sea wash against a narrow fringe of palms or to stop and smell the pink-and-purple bougainvillea (sorry, no roses here). After a week of circumnavigating this 225-mile island on two wheels like I was fortunate to do one November week, biking over squished guavas and mangoes and through fields of macadamia nuts, you not only feel incredible about your accomplishment, but you bring home a firmer body and a sense that the island has seeped into every sweaty pore.
Backroads features an inn-to-inn bicycling tour of the Big Island that costs $2898 and includes all meals and lodging. You average some 50 miles a day, overcoming such obstacles as sweltering heat, long up-and-down climbs, strong headwinds, congestion on the main road, even biking in rainfall, so best be in good shape. For something less strenuous, consider the outfitter’s six-day family multisport trip around the island. Along with easy walks in Volcano National Park and kayaking in secluded coves, the biking is downhill only. Cost of that trip is $2998 for adults, 10% less for kids ages 11-17.
steve1  Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for OutsideMen’s JournalHealth, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.

Steve Jermanok’s Active Travels: Biking the Big Island

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Biking in Hawaii

Biking in Hawaii

Early Sunday morning and the only traffic on the 11-mile Crater Rim Trail was our little core of a dozen bikers. We rounded another bend and caught our first eye-widening view of Halema’uma’u Crater. Once home to a lake of lava in the 1920s, steam was now gushing forth over the large pit’s walls, permeating the air with the smell of sulphur. A trail of vapor shrouded the blackened basalt rock to give the lunar-like landscape an even more mysterious look. Halfway through our circular route, the harsh terrain was suddenly gone, replaced by a vivid green canopy of banana and tree ferns. A cool mist enveloped this tropical rain forest, polishing the long leaves with a layer of gloss and giving the chorus of birds something to sing about.

Home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world, one would expect Hawaii’s southernmost island to be an angry land of deadened rock and rivers of red. Yet, I would soon realize that this ever-expanding island has a myriad of moods—the gentle rolling hills of Waimea, the inviting sand of the Kohala Coast, the almost impenetrable jungle-like interior of the Hamakua Coast, the enormity of two mountains that are nearly 14,000 feet, and yes, even a rain forest on the backside of a volcano.
steve      Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for OutsideMen’s JournalHealth, andSierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at  Active Travels.

King of Hawaii’s Kohala Coast: The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

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The beach at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Photo by John Grossmann

By John Grossmann

At some point during your stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, even you, who foolishly keep lifting the lid of a laptop or finger massaging an iPad, will sidle up and awkwardly  ease your way into a clichéd but still wondrous resort amenity:  a beige hammock strung between palm trees.

Before you doze off, here’s what you’re likely to hear.  The gleeful shouts of toddlers in the white wash of warm Pacific waters.  Fathers calling out, “Nice ride,” to young sons or daughters clinging to boggie boards.  A family matriarch reminding her multi-generational brood of the time and usual place for this year’s family portrait.  This you’ll hear for sure, regular and reassuring as your own respiration– the beach kissing gentle crash of the surf upon one of Hawaii’s sweetest coves.

This vibrant year round soundtrack has two composers, if you will.  Music by Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, and lyrics courtesy of 20th century RockResort visionary Laurance Rockefeller.  In the early 1960s Rockefeller fell in love with this sheltered white sand beach on a tour of the then virgin Kohala coast (before there was even an airport at Kona) and built what many consider his masterpiece getaway resort.

Indeed, Mauna Kea has you at hello and then just keeps wooing you. Arriving females are bestowed with orchid leis; males receive necklaces of shiny kukui nuts.  You next step inside the hotel lobby, or do you?  The view from the open-sided lobby, with the hotel perched on a rise above the cove, extends straight through to the Pacific.  The lobby walls and columns, you’ll soon learn, were meticulously hued to match the sand on the beach, and the tiles on the floor were similarly hand painted in the very blue of the water.  The result is stunning, a visual infinity “pool” that literally from square one sets the stage for the decades ahead-of-its-time, eco-conscious design of the hotel’s original architects, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, designers of Manhattan’s Lever House.  With its sleek lines and cantilevered stairways, the modernist look of the Mauna Kea transports you back to its opening day in 1964, when Rockefeller sought a casual elegance that respected the spirit of a very special place.

Many of the below lobby-level walls on the ocean side of the hotel are of indigenous lava rocks, mortared on an angle, as in sacred local burial grounds.  The 158 rooms in the main tower  (the hotel has another 100 rooms in a newer, family-oriented beach tower) surround a plant-filled, open atrium where much of the day birdsongs are more common than human conversation.

“Mr. Rockefeller was a visionary in this regard. He always built places that fit into the environment. You feel like you live outdoors,” says Kathrin “Chacha” Kohler, who heads the onsite realty office.  Ms. Kohler is the wife of Adi Kohler, the beloved general manager of the Mauna Kea from 1973 to 2000. She and her husband came to the Big Island after stints at three other original RockResorts properties, the Hyatt Dorado Beach, in Puerto Rico; Caneel Bay on St. John; and Wyoming’s Grand Teton Lodge.  When asked, she needs no time to think:  Mauna Kea is her favorite.

 

Guest room at the Mauna Kea.

 

A recent $150 million renovation to the hotel following the 2006 earthquake has enlarged and updated guest rooms, wiring in such 21st century amenities as Internet access and flat screen televisions.  (Early Rockefeller rules banned TVs from rooms.)  But otherwise, the look and feel of the resort remain little changed.   The Mauna Kea is still home to a museum-worthy, if not museum-humbling, collection of more than 1,600 pieces of art that Rockefeller had sourced in Southeast Asia, China, Japan, India, Melanesia, and Polynesia.

 

Lobby of the Mauna Kea

 

Believing art was best viewed not behind glass or guard ropes, Rockeller instructed that the pieces, which range from the towering Buddha in the lobby, to an intricately carved Maori canoe-bailing tool, be scattered around the hotel and its grounds.  It’s almost impossible to turn a corner without coming across something stunning and unexpected, perhaps18th century gongs from Thailand or Cambodian sandstone portrait heads.  Especially eye-catching are the traditional Hawaiian quilts adorning guest room hallways. Rockefeller commissioned them, and in so doing, says Kohler, helped revive a then-dying art.

Guests still flock to the traditional Tuesday night luau and the Saturday night clambake.  Fiery sunsets still hush dinner conversations at patio tables. Wild turkeys still roam the grounds. Early risers still look down from their balconies and see a swimmer or two, or maybe three, crossing the cove at its widest in majestically long laps.  At night, around 10 o’clock or so, those seeking a nightcap in the breezy outdoor living room, still hope for an easy chair around one of the gas-fired lava rock pits.

The legendary Third Hole at Mauna Kea. Photo by John Grossmann.

 

Well, one thing has changed at Mauna Kea, actually making the going tougher, not easier.  Its famous Robert Trent Jones, Sr. golf course, which underwent a $50 million renovation and redesign by his son, Rees Jones, is now as far from a softie resort course as the back tee on its legendary par 3 third hole is from the green.  A slew of additional sand traps, plus tricky, elevated greens make the revamped links a true test of club selection and shot making, earning it the rank of #27 on Golf Digest’s top 100 courses. “Choose your tees wisely,” is the advice in the pro shop.

About that third hole.  One of the most photographed golf holes in the world, its back tee stands 272 yards from the center of the green, virtually all of that necessarily in the air across a scenic but imposing stretch of blue Pacific.  Other tees cut the carry down to more manageable distances, as proved necessary for the course’s maiden round, played on December 8, 1964 for a Shell Wonderful World of Golf broadcast featuring the dream threesome of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player.  The story goes that on the practice round the day before, the tenacious but diminutive Player found himself unable to clear the water (a tougher test back then with less high tech clubs and balls) and so for the competition the trio moved down a tee to a more manageable, 205-yard shot.  Even non-golfers will want to take in the view from this supremely challenging (especially with a headwind) ocean side rectangle of green, occasionally reserved for wedding dinners and, one understands, the final resting spot for the ashes of more than one golfer.

If the mark of a great resort is the difficulty in selecting a single favorite or special spot, then the Mauna Kea surely measures up.  You might cite the third tee.  Or choose the world-class beach. Or the incomparable lobby. Perhaps an evening seat by a fiery lava pit.  But if you’re one of those who needs to unwind more than you care to admit, you just might confess to a hammock in the shade, but only, of course, after you wake up from the delightful indulgence of an al fresco nap.

 

Visit the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

 

John Grossmann has written about food and travel for Gourmet, Cigar Aficionado, Saveur, and SKY. He was a finalist in the food journalist category of the 2010 Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards. He is the co-author, with acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, of the book One Square Inch of Silence, (Free Press).

 

Letter from Hawaii: Another (Delicious) Side of Maui

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Darren Strand with a Maui Gold pineapple

Story by Tom Passavant

All photos by Karen Glenn

 

What would it take to tear you away from Maui’s gorgeous beaches? If you love good food, especially of the local and sustainable variety, I can now suggest several dozen reasons to put down the tanning lotion and pick up a knife and fork.

Maui is home to a booming food scene centered on the truly vast array of things that can be grown, caught, raised, and created on its 729 square miles—the second largest of the Hawaiian islands. In just six days recently, we tasted everything from the expected pineapples and macadamia nuts to local lamb, goat cheese, strawberries, and honey. We had out-of-season mangoes that were heartbreakingly luscious. And unexpected treats like egg fruit, chocolate sapotes, Surinam cherries, and Maui coffee. There was even a local organic vodka called Ocean, made with sugar cane and distilled sea water. When we return next year we might even get to sample Maui-produced blueberries and—believe it—olive oil.

To understand all this, a little geography lesson is in order. Maui is dominated by 10,023-foot Haleakala, a dormant volcano. Occasionally there is snow on top. Want to grow cool-weather crops like grapes? Just head up the fertile slopes. Need more rain for your bananas? Go east, towards the rainy windward coast. Now add a growing number of chefs dedicated to doing business with local farmers and fishermen, a vibrant Slow Food chapter putting on regular tastings and tours, and you’ve got one tasty food scene.

Local ingredients at the Flatbread Company

 

We started on the north shore, a few miles east of the airport, in the funky crossroads village of Paia. Once a town built on sugar cane, it’s now a seriously laid-back refuge for surfers and stoners. (I can’t vouch for the pakalolo, but the waves here are awesome, dude.) We could easily have spent a relaxing week here, inspecting the growing number of excellent art galleries and restaurants. Flatbread Company (808/579-8989), which pulls beautifully-charred pizzas out of its wood-burning oven, won a Friend of Agriculture award for using local ingredients. They even make their own chocolate sauce from Maui cacao. Across the street is the even more causal Paia Fish Market (808/579-8030), where the ultra-fresh catches of the day—often snapper, wahoo, and tuna—are charbroiled and served up as soft tacos or burgers. The Paia Inn (808/579-6000), set smack in the center of town, looks like a place cobbled together by footloose hippies, but has stylish suites and highly professional service. “When the owners built this place, they put in double-glazed windows and poured sound insulation between all the walls,” says Carly, one of the charming hosts. Paia Inn also has some freestanding bungalows running down to the beach.

After a peaceful night, we headed upcountry in search of the obvious: pineapple. A century ago, Maui was practically synonymous with pineapple. Today, smaller producers determined to offer a quality product can still make their mark. At Hali’imaile Pineapple Company, president Darren Strand told us that 70% of their sales are within the state of Hawaii. That said, if you send in an order from anywhere in the country, Darren or one of the other owners will go out in the field and pick an extra sweet, low-acid Maui Gold pineapple for you, then ship it via FedEx.

Surinam cherries

 

A few miles east is Makawao, an old ranching town that’s recently become a charming blend of upcountry and upscale. There are some fine women’s clothing boutiques and, every Thursday morning, a farmer’s market in a vacant lot on Baldwin Avenue. Maybe a dozen vendors show up with coconuts, papayas, bananas and—new to us–Surinam cherries. Our small bag of the tart, peppery fruits came from a Summer of Love veteran who grew them in her front yard. Makawao also boasts one of the best restaurants on the island. The two-year-old Market Fresh Bistro (808/572-4877), with a chef from New York’s Union Square Café, has made a big impression on Maui’s local food scene. Dinner one night included roasted leg of lamb from the slopes of Haleakala and fresh swordfish over a bed of spring onion risotto. Do not miss this place.

The next morning we left the Paia Inn at 7 a.m. for the drive to Hana. The Hana Highway is every bit as beautiful as advertised, 36 coastline-hugging miles with more twists than a Dan Brown novel. Hana itself is a zero-stoplight blip, but we were headed another five miles down the even-hairier road to what promised to be tropical fruit heaven.

Lily Boerner of Ono Farms

 

Lilly and Charles Boerner have owned Ono Organic Farms ( 808/248-7779) for 35 years. Every weekday at 1:30, by reservation only, Lilly or her daughter Autumn conducts a tour and an extensive tasting of whatever is ripe on their 50 lush acres. Sitting on the covered porch of the charming wood home, my wife and I bit, sucked, slurped, and chewed our way through 15 different fruits as Lilly regaled us with facts about the farm and how each is grown: Apple bananas, far sweeter than the dull variety back home. Intense papayas. Eggfruit, a dead ringer for creamy yams. Custardy chocolate sapote. Soft white rambutan. Jackfruit, guava, mountain apple, cacao nibs, coffee beans, honey and jams. It’s the Garden of Eden, totally off the grid except for a phone line. Sign us up.

After the long drive back, we were happy to bed down at The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono (808/244-5897), a 13-room bed and breakfast that dates to 1924. The plantation-era main house has been tastefully updated, the beds draped with fine Hawaiian quilts. Owner Janice Fairbanks mingled with an eclectic array of guests during the justly-famous breakfasts. One morning over French toast we traded notes with Bonnie Friedman, who leads food tours to Maui restaurants and farms. She also offers personalized Maui restaurant guides called Cuisine Confidential, which I highly recommend ( 808/242-8383).

By now, Maui’s beaches were definitely calling us, so we pointed our rental car for the west side of the island. First stop: Yee’s Orchard in Kihei, to stock up on the most fragrant mangoes on the planet, then lunch at year-old Star Noodle in Lahaina (808/667-5400). Not for nothing has sleekly hip Star Noodle, set in an industrial park above town, been nominated for James Beard Awards this spring, for Best Chef and Best New Restaurant in the Pacific region. The array of share plates and noodle dishes included a sparkling salad made with local fiddle head ferns, old-fashioned “fried soup” with thick chow fun noodles, and the finest tofu dish we’ve ever tasted, broiled cubes with sautéed local mushrooms and red miso.

As for the sea and sand, we chose Kapalua resort, on the lush northwest side of the island, for its peaceful setting and what we’d been told was an array of excellent, local-centric restaurants. This sprawling resort, with two famous golf courses, centers on a Ritz-Carlton hotel (808/665-7231) that’s very un-Ritz like in both its laid-back demeanor and emphatic commitment to Hawaiian traditions and culture. “We try to balance culture, commerce, and trust,” said Clifford Nae’ole, the hotel’s Cultural Advisor. He leads free programs that offer insight into native Hawaiian traditions and beliefs, including a large burial site whose presence required the original hotel location to be moved. Added Nae’ole, “The most rewarding moments for me are when tourists ask questions.”

We didn’t have time to try all the Kapalua restaurants, but we couldn’t resist the Pineapple Grill (808/669-9600), which last year was named the best restaurant on Maui by Honolulu magazine. Highlights included a slab of supremely fresh ahi coated with pistachios and wasabi peas, served with sautéed mushrooms—an umami-rich combination perfect with a pinot noir from their deep wine list. Oh, and the most luscious pineapple upside down cake ever.

Peppers in the Chef's garden at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua

 

But the real eyebrow-raising meal came at the Ritz-Carlton itself. The Banyan Tree dining room had been under the command of chef de cuisine Jojo Vasquez for just a few weeks, but he’d already made his mark. Dishes such as his ahi kampachi ceviche with green mango and coconut, and roasted hapu (a local sea bass) with island mushrooms and lemongrass foam showed both a delicate hand and a way with bold flavors. He’s planted a big new garden on the property, growing eggplants, peppers and lots more. “We’re about to convert a couple of the tennis courts to aquaculture, and raise fish,” he told us. Another net gain for food lovers.

For more information, consult the excellent website gohawaii.com/maui. Maui Revealed, by Andrew Doughty, is a very insightful guidebook that’s frequently updated at wizardpub.com.

 

Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

 

Karen Glenn is a freelance writer, poet, and photographer based in Carbondale, Colorado. Her writing and photography have appeared in Diversion, McCall’s, Edible Aspen, Seventeen, Savvy, Good Food, Self, Aspen Magazine, The New York Times, Mademoiselle, and many other places. Her poem Nightshift was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.

 

 

Whale Watching off Maui

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Letter from Hawaii: Whale Tales

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A humpback whale off Maui

By Tom Passavant

“It’s whale soup out there,” says the captain. It isn’t exactly “thar she blows!”, but it still neatly sums up what we’re about to encounter on a blazing blue-sky morning last week. It’s 8 a.m. and Trilogy Elua, a 50-foot catamaran, is about to head out of Maui’s Lahaina harbor for a two-hour whale-watching cruise. I’d asked our youthful skipper about the chances of close encounters with the humpback whales that spend the winter in Hawaiian waters. After all, for the past few days we’d been watching from the shore as whales spouted, breached, and slapped their flukes and fins so often that it was hard to keep your eyes on the road as you drove along the island’s western shores.

Every winter, especially from late December until early April, about 8,000 whales, having made the long journey back from Alaska, act like so many tourists, basking in the warm Hawaiian waters, cavorting with the opposite sex, and taking care of the resulting babies. While all of the Hawaiian islands offer winter whale-watching tours, the calm and protected waters off West Maui, bounded by Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe, are basically one big bowlful of cetaceans.

Swimming off Maui

Humpbacks are still on the Endangered Species list, but their numbers are recovering nicely—lately about 7% per year. Our boat has barely left the dock when we spy a pair of juvenile whales so close to shore they’re actually swimming between sailboats anchored just off the harbor. Motoring out to sea, we follow various pods as they glide lazily near the surface, then dive into the relatively shallow waters. Later, we cut away from the chase and the crew kills the engine. As we drift, the captain pulls out a portable speaker linked to a hydrophone. When he flips a switch, out comes an eerie cacophony of quacks and moos and moans—the whales’ famous songs. Only the males sing, we learn, and only here in their breeding grounds. They all spin out essentially the same song (undoubtedly some whale variation on “Hey, chica!”), which changes slightly from year to year. While scientists are still scratching their heads over many aspects of these mysterious emanations, you can listen to whale songs live at whalesong.net.

Boats are not permitted to get within 100 yards of any whales, but if the whales come to the boat, well, that’s nature taking its course. As we’re about to head back, three fully grown whales, each maybe 45 feet long and weighing 45 tons, swim directly toward our boat and glide right under us. Then a female and her calf, the youngster maybe 15 feet long, approach us leisurely, so close you could touch them.

“She’s showing off the baby!,” exclaims one of our crewmembers. They’re all naturalist-sailors, so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about cetaceans you imagine they’ll dive overboard and swim away in whale-induced bliss at any moment. We’d picked a Trilogy boat for our cruise because of the company’s stellar reputation and environmental cred. Getting mom to cruise by with the kid was a bonus.

For information: sailtrilogy.com; 808/874-5649. Gohawaii.com has an excellent overview of whale watching on all the islands.

Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

Letter from Hawaii: Talking Tiki

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Red Tiki at International Marketplace, Honolulu. Photo by Karen Glenn.

By Tom Passavant

In the 1960s, when I was in high school, my father had a tiki bar in the basement of our suburban Ohio home. It had a thatched roof, bamboo sides, and bottles of rum with colorful labels. Little did I know that the parties he and my mom threw down there were part of a trend that was sweeping the nation. Although tourist tiki had been around since the 1920s, by the 1950s it was a full-blown craze. Remember Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber, mai tais and zombies? Not to mention pupu platters. Tiki was shorthand for the exotic islands of the Pacific, and especially Hawaii, which was quickly becoming accessible to American travelers with the arrival of the jet age.

Fast forward to 2011, and tiki is back. Hipsters across the country are embracing Polynesian-style drinks (albeit made with artisanal ingredients) and new tiki bars are springing up all over the mainland. Web sites like critiki.com and tikicentral.com have appeared to document the trend.

Not surprinsgly, out here in Honolulu, tiki never really went away. And just to be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about the tiki of the ancient Hawaiians. These images of four important Hawaiian gods, Kane, Kanaloa, Ku, and Lono, were created by master wood and stone carvers, and are a part of the Hawaiian spiritual legacy that evokes great respect. Instead, I’m talking about neo-tiki, everything from carvings to cocktail glasses and matchbook covers that signal Paradise in the Pacific.

"Waikik Tiki" by Philip K. Roberts

The first thing a tiki-mad tourist in Honolulu should do is pick up a copy of Philip Roberts’ wonderful new book, Waikiki Tiki (Bess Press; $22.95). The historic photos alone will make you wish you’d been here in the 1950s, and the author offers plenty of places to find tiki on your way to the beach or dinner. The International Marketplace, for example, smack in the middle of Waikiki, still has some colorful tiki carvings that have survived decades of weather and termites. Follow the sound of mallet and chisel tapping against wood over by the International’s food court, and you’ll come upon a handsome young man named Pauli, who along with his father carves new tikis out of a variety of woods, which they sell (and ship) to customers from all over the world.

Pupus at La Mariana Sailing Club.

My favorite Waikiki tiki bar is Tiki’s Grill and Bar, in the Aston Waikiki Beach hotel on Kalakaua Avenue. In addition to tons of great tikis and other memorabilia, there’s good food, good music, and a nice view. But no tiki lover should miss the last original, genuine tiki bar in Honolulu, the La Mariana Sailing Club. Hidden away off Sand Island Road near the airport, La Mariana, which opened in 1957, is the Lourdes of tiki, stuffed to the rafters with wood carvings and panels, chairs, tables, glassware, fishing nets and ceiling lights, and anything else that owner Annette Nahinu (who died two years ago at age 92) could buy up from such classic Honolulu spots as the Trader Vic’s, Don the Beachcomber, and the Sheraton’s Kon Tiki Room.

The food is mostly just okay (the fresh ahi spring rolls are delicious) but the perfectly-made mai tais pack a serious punch. On some nights there’s a blind pianist and a blind ukulele player performing; Thursdays feature hula; and surf rock sometimes breaks out on Saturdays. Mom and dad would love it. You will, too.

Tom Passavant is a former editor-in-chief of Diversion magazine. Now a freelance travel and food writer based in Colorado and Hawaii, his work has appeared in Aspen Magazine, Gourmet, Four Seasons Magazine, Town & Country Travel, ForbesTraveler.com, Ski, Powder, Luxury Living, and many other places. He is the co-author of “Playboy’s Guide to Ultimate Skiing.” A former president of the New York Travel Writers Association, Passavant has won a Lowell Thomas Award for his travel writing and has served as judge for the James Beard Journalism Awards. See more of Tom’s work at TomPassavant.com.

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