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Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park by Barry Inouye.

If there is any one beach that is a favorite of local residents of the Aloha State, it could very well be the Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu.  This popular 100 acre public beach park is located on the Ewa (west) side of Waikiki and directly in front of the massive shopping center of the same name, the Ala Moana Shopping Center.  It’s been a place where generations of residents have brought their families to enjoy picnics, have social events, bask in the sun on a wide white sand beach and to swim.  For many others, it’s also a convenient place to surf, jog or play tennis.

Before the 1920s, this area was a neglected wetland area, which was used in part to deposit trash.  Around that time, a boat channel dredged by the Hawaiian Dredging Company to connect the Ala Wai Boat Harbor to the Kewalo Basin Harbor. Today this channel provides swimmers with an excellent venue for people to do some long distance swimming.

Hawaiian Dredging Company eventually filled in the wetland area by depositing waste materials from the dredging projects it was involved in and created a parkland area.  In the 1950s, sand was deposited to create a half mile stretch of white sand beach.  The combination of this wide white sand beach and the sandy, rock-free bottom of the former boat channel, particularly on the east side of the beach, makes this place a favorite place among local residents and visitors alike.

In the 1960s, a man-made peninsula was created on the east end of the park as part of a hotel development plan.  The hotel was never; built but what remained became a beautiful extension of the park with a beautiful lagoon at the end of the peninsula. This area also used to provide much needed additional parking for park users.

Parking at Ala Moana Beach Park is free; but because of its popularity, it’s somewhat limited on weekends and holiday.  There are shower facilities as well as a number of concessionaires that sell food.  Because of its relative closeness to Waikiki and its hotels, it offers a great alternative for tourists looking for a nice and convenient place to spend on the beach, swim and to soak up the warm Hawaiian sun.

Rapid Ohi’a Death

Since the days of the ancients, the ohi’a plant and its vibrant red, orange and sometime yellow flower, the lehua, have played instrumental roles in Hawaiian culture and lifestyle.  The plant can be on almost all of the major Hawaiian Island and can range in all shapes and sizes, from a small shrub to a tree as high as 40 to 60 feet high.

The ohi’a tree had many uses in ancient Hawaii.  The ohi’a tree’s hard, durable wood in the days of old Hawaii was often used for such thing as:  a club for pounding Hawaiian kapa cloth, poi boards, spears and a gunwale for canoes.  The ancient Hawaiian used to marvel over the ohi’a tree’s durability as many of them were the last things standing when lava flows plowed through a given area. The bark of the ohi’a tree was also used for medicinal purposes.

As in the past as well as in today, the ohi’a’s lehua flower and its liko (leaves) have always been a part of Hawaiian hula and hula festivals.  In recent years, Hawaii’s most famous and world renowned Merry Monarch hula festival, held on the Big Island of Hawaii each year, have been graced by lehua flowers and ohi’a leaves on stage as well as worn by hula dancers.

But things are different on the 2016 Merry Monarch hula festival on the Big Island.  A new, relatively unknown disease has been killing large numbers of ohi’a trees in the Puna and Hilo districts of Big Island.  The USDA has recently determine that the deaths of these trees is being linked to a fungus called Ceratocystis fimbriata which causes previously healthy looking ohi’a trees to die as quick as within a matter of weeks.

This disease, which is now being called Rapid Ohi’a Death, is so devastating that it has the potential to kill every ohi’a tree in the State of Hawaii. Fortunately, as of right now, the disease is limited to the Big Island and doesn’t yet appear to affect other types of trees or plants.

In the past, many students and teachers of hula halaus (schools) have gone into the ohi’a forest to gather lehua flowers and ohi’a leaves in preparation for the Merry Monarch festival.  But, due to the potential of spreading Rapid Ohi’a Death, the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture has issued a quarantine restricting the movement of any ohi’a plant, plant parts and surrounding soil.  Violators are subject to fines of up to $10,000 and five years in prison for repeated offenses.

The organizers of the Merry Monarch festival have been in contact with hula halaus to seek their urgent cooperation in this area to prevent this terrible disease from spreading.  The concern is that gatherers might bring back infected lehua flowers and leaves as well as infected soil on the soles of their shoes.  Any person with such infected soil on shoes or footwear could potentially spread Rapid Ohi’a Death to another Hawaiian island.

The bad news is that there is still no known cure for Rapid Ohi’a Death. But the State and other government researchers now believe they have a clue as to how the disease is primarily being spread.  According to newspaper reports, burrowing beetles that colonize dead ohi’a trees are spreading infected ohi’a wood dust, which in turn, are being spread by the wind.  This is in addition to any human or animal that somehow gets in contact with any part of the infected ohi’a tree or surrounding soil.

The State of Hawaii is now asking all residents and visitors to the Big Island to help prevent the spread of Rapid Ohi’a Death by following these official guidelines:

1. Don’t move any type of ohi’a wood.

2. Comply with the quarantine rules and do not move any type of ohi’a materials to another island without a permit.

3. Clean any tools used in the cutting of ohi’a with State of Hawaii approved solution.

5. Clean your gear, clothing and shoes when hunting, hiking or gathering in the forests. Dip your soles in the State of Hawaii approved solution and wash clothes in hot water and detergent. Wash your vehicle with detergent after traveling off-road.

6. State of Hawaii approved solutions, known to kill almost all Rapid Ohi’a Death fungus, include a spray with 70% rubbing alcohol and a mixture of 10% bleach with 90% water. Lysol brand disinfectant should be used on tools used to cut ohi’a wood.

We are hopeful that a cure for Rapid Ohi’a Death can be found soon as so much of the past as well as the current culture of Hawaii is linked to the ohi’a tree and its lehua flower. Many government researchers and scientists are working hard on this problem, and when they do find a cure, we will let you know. We hope to give good news on this latest challenge to Hawaii’s fragile environment soon.

An Unintended Consequence of a Billboard Ban in Hawaii

An unintended consequence of the billboard ban in Hawaii is the use of the shaka sign by local politicians.

The shaka sign by B. Inouye.

It’s no question that Hawaii has unparalleled natural beauty and scenery. This is why over 8 million tourists flock to Hawaii each year. Once here, they can enjoy and experience such memorable views. Arguably, one of the things enhancing the attractiveness of the Aloha State is the absence of billboard advertising. This is because of the billboard ban in Hawaii.

Creation of the Billboard Ban in Hawaii

In addition to Hawaii, three other states, Vermont, Maine, Alaska as well as some 1,500 towns throughout the country prohibit billboards. The organization most responsible for keeping the Aloha State clear of billboards has been The Outdoor Circle. This organization was primarily responsible for spearheading efforts banning billboards in Hawaii since 1927. The Outdoor Circle has also been actively involved in banning aerial advertising in Hawaii as well as supported its legality.

The Unintended Consequence

But Hawaii’s ban on billboards has had an unintended consequence that no one really expected. Politicians in Hawaii could not legally promote their candidacies through larger forms of signage. So one aspiring individual in 1968, named Charles Campbell, decided to carry such signs on his own person. Additionally, his campaign supporters and waved to cars passing by on the highways and streets in his community. This started Hawaii’s truly unique form of political campaigning, called sign waving. This form of campaigning proved to be extremely effective. Also, it was a lot cheaper than other forms of political advertising. As a result, virtually every politician in the State copied it and the practice took off.

Today, during each and every political season in Hawaii, you will see multitudes of people along Hawaii’s highways and byways carrying signs with the names of their favorite candidate and waving to cars passing buy. To add a unique touch of Hawaii, instead of simply waving hello to passersby, many sign wavers flash the iconic “shaka” sign with their hands.

Kangaroos in Hawaii

Hawaii has a wide range on animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world; but the Aloha State even has some that you would never think would be found here. One of those animals is the kangaroo. Yes, there are actually kangaroos in Hawaii. Technically, they are bush-tail rock wallabies, which are a type of kangaroo and look similar to their larger cousins, but are lot smaller. They sport large busy tails, stand less than 2 tall and weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. How the wallabies came to Hawaii and where they live in the Aloha State are explained here.

Hawaii’s kangaroos are located today in the higher, remote parts of Kalihi Valley, a section of Honolulu on Hawaii’s main island of Oahu. The last time they were surveyed during the 1990s, it was estimated that there were approximately 75 wallabies in this one remaining colony in Hawaii. The state has determined that, because the wallabies only eat vegetation that is readily abundant, they pose no threat to the environment or to anyone else for that matter. State law prohibits the hunting of the wallaby.

The wallaby came to Hawaii in the early 1900s as pets of Richard Trent who, according to newspaper reports, had a large private zoo at his residence in Alewa Heights, which is an area adjacent to Kalihi Valley. Richard Trent was wealthy self-made businessman who headed a local trust company and enjoyed displaying a wide range of animals in his private zoo, which included 3 wallabies that he had brought over from Australia.

However in 1916, dogs attacked the cage that housed the wallabies and broke the cage, killing one wallaby while letting two others escape into the surrounding woods. The fear was that, like rabbits, the wallabies would create a problem by proliferating beyond control in Oahu’s forests. Trent even called for a manhunt to track down the two escaping wallabies. However, fears that the wallabies roaming unchecked and endlessly breeding in Oahu’s wilderness areas never materialized.

Even though the population of wallabies eventually grew where there were colonies of Wallabies in a number of neighboring valleys, today Kalihi Valley is only place in Hawaii where the animals can be found today. One could speculate that other animals such as wild boars or stray dogs have been keeping the wallaby population on Oahu in check.

But don’t expect to see a wallaby on your next trip to the Aloha State and efforts to do so are discouraged as it would require trespassing into private property. Moreover, as the wallabies are very shy and solitary animals, it is extremely rare for anybody to actually view them in the wild. Occasionally, there are rare sightings of the animal, and when it is seen, it typically becomes a newsworthy media event.

 

Islands Off Oahu

Rabbit Island and Black Rock off of Makapu'u Point, one of the more prominent islands off Oahu.

Rabbit Island and Black Rock off of Makapu’u Point by Barry Inouye.

Visitors to Hawaii’s may wonder about the many and interesting-looking small  islands off Oahu. Some of these small islands have a unique shape and corresponding names that make them even more memorable when you. And one of them was even pictured in a famous television series of yesteryear.

Rabbit Island

Some may think that this island , located off of Makapu’u Point, is nicknamed Rabbit Island because its shape may remind you somewhat of a rabbit’s head; but it was called that because the island was once inhabited by, you guessed it, rabbits. The island’s true name is Manana which means buoyant in Hawaiian. John Adams Kuakini Cummins, who was a prominent member of the Hawaiian royalty and who also ran a nearby sugar plantation in Waimanalo, once tried to raise rabbits on the island in the 1880s. As one would expect from rabbit, they multiplied so profusely it threatened the fragile ecology of the island, which now serves as a seabird wildlife sanctuary. So in 1994, the rabbits were completely eradicated from the island. There is low lying island next to Rabbit Island called, Kaohikaipu or Black Rock but lacks the more colorful history of its neighbor.

Coconut Island

This island, called Moku o Loʻe in Hawaiian, is situated in the southeast part of picturesque Kaneohe Bay and was once featured in the opening shots of the long-running television series, Gilligan’s Island. This island was once totally owned or partially owned by a number of very wealthy individuals, including an heir to the Fleishman yeast company fortune. The island was used for a number of purposes, including a private secluded getaway, a rest and recuperation facility for the US Navy in World War II, a small resort club until it was totally purchased outright by the State of Hawaii in 1995 and used as an oceanographic research facility for the University of Hawaii.

Chinaman's Hat near Kualoa Beach Park.

Chinaman’s Hat near Kualoa Beach Park by Barry Inouye.

Chinaman’s Hat

You can find Mokoli’i Island, better known by its nickname, Chinaman’s Hat, right off of Kamehameha Highway fronting Kualoa Beach Park and the Kualoa Ranch estate. The island gets its name because its unique conical shape looks somewhat like a hat that used to be worn by Chinese men in the 1800s to early 1900s. The island has a legend that Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, had a sister, Hi’iaka, that slew a giant lizard into the ocean and Chinaman’s Hat is the remnant of that lizard’s back.

Puka Island

Off of Laie Point in the town of Laie, there are 5 small rocky islets. According to Hawaiian legend, this area was guarded by a giant lizard called Laniloa. Laniola was defeated by a great warrior Kana. Kana threw the giant lizard’s heads into five pieces off of Laie Point. Today, you can see the remains of Laniloa’s head in the form of 5 neighboring islets, one of which is referred by locals as Puka Island. Puka in Hawaiian means hole and Puka Island has a small arch in the middle of it, which was created by the tremendous wave action of the 1946 tsunami.

Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

Queen Lili'oukalani Gardens, one of the hodden hotspots on Oahu.

Waterfall at Queen Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden by Barry Inouye.

Like to take the path less taken whenever you travel? If so, the Gathering Place of Oahu has many such locales. Looking for a less crowded, out of the way attraction or some great eating place that only the local residents know about? If so, this Hawaiian Island definitely has them. Here are our recommendations for such hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden

Right outside downtown Honolulu in the middle of a secluded residential area is an idyllic botanical garden. It once served as the private park of Hawaii’s Queen Lili’oukalani. In an area shaded by monkeypod trees and Hawaiian plants, you can find a small but beautiful waterfall and pond. They are surrounded by a small but picturesque park. It’s a perfect place for a picnic and some scenic picture taking. But you’d better bring some mosquito repellent. Plus, parking is here very limited.

View from Diamond Head summit.

View from Diamond Head summit by Barry Inouye.

Diamond Head Lookout

Conveniently situated near Waikiki, there is a trail that starts from inside Diamond Head Crater that leads to its summit. The stimulating hike up the trail can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, which will take you through a winding maze of old World War I coastal defense fortifications, dimly-lite tunnels and steep, long stairwells. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded by some of the best commanding views of Waikiki and its surrounding areas. It’s also a favorite place to watch the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park.

View of Honolulu on way to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park by Barry Inouye.

Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a State Park on Tantalus

Located in the Makiki area of Honolulu, this state park offers arguably the best panoramic views of Hawaii’s capital city, Honolulu. To get here, you’ll have to drive through winding road lined with homes perched on hillside properties. After you see the gate to the park, drive past it up the hill. Once you reach the parking lot, walk a few feet to a covered observation area and then take in the majestic views of Hawaii’s largest and most vibrant city. As this place is higher up in elevation and blessed with cool winds, it’s a great place to hang out on a warm and humid summer day.

Ka’ena Point

Found on Oahu’s most extreme northwestern point, Ka’ena Point is an isolated spot on the island and features some of Hawaii’s most rare endemic coastal plant life. It’s also a great spot to view native Hawaiian seabirds as well as to catch a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal basking on the seashore. Be prepared to do a bit of hiking as the paved road ends as you get closer to the point. Be aware that you should not enter the water here as the surf is very rough and because there is a very dangerous rip current offshore.

Eat the Street

Since 2011, on the last Friday of each month from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the who’s who of Honolulu’s food trucks vendors converge in the Ka’akako area, which is conveniently located near Waikiki, to offer a wide range of prepared foods. The food types on display here range from your typical Hawaii plate lunch fare to fancy gourmet dishes. This monthly has grown to become one of the most popular food gatherings in town.

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

This iconic hole-in-the-wall place that specializes in Hawaiian food has been prominently featured on national TV. Why? Because if you like Hawaiian food, many locals will tell you that this is the place to go. It’s located in the Kalihi area of town an older unassuming wooden building on School Street. However, be aware when you go here that parking is very limited and service is first come first served. Plus, it only opens from Tuesdays to Fridays until 7:30 pm.

Unusual Foods in Hawaii

There are, without question, many types of fine foods in Hawaii that you should definitely try during your next trip there. But on the other side of the spectrum, there may be some foods in Hawaii that are loved by many residents that may not be so appealing to the uninitiated. Here are some examples of some of these unusual foods in Hawaii that you may not want to try.

Poi

Many have heard of poi before, but for the most part, most visitors are most indifferent to it when they eat it at luaus. To some, poi which is the fermented mash of the taro root, has the consistency of paste and comes with little or no taste. On the other hand, many locals cannot enjoy Hawaiian food without having poi. To a number of people, poi, like most of the foods described here, is something you have to acquire a taste for.

Natto

Natto is a dish from Japan enjoyed by many local residents whose ancestors came from that country. Natto is fermented soy beans which become bound together with a translucent gooey substance during the fermentation process. To some this gooey substance that often comes with a pungent smell may look like something out of an outer space science fiction thriller. If you can get past the appearance and what some say smells like sweaty socks, you might be able to enjoy this dish.

Thousand Year Old Egg

This egg really isn’t a thousand years old, even though it looks like it. A somewhat popular Chinese dish in Hawaii, thousand year old eggs are preserved in a mix of ash, salt and lye which causes the egg, usually duck, to congeal and turn into a dark brownish black jelly like substance. After it’s hard-boiled, it’s usually eaten with congee, a traditional Chinese rice porridge.

Balut

Another egg dish, but this one comes from the Philippines and with a surprise in it. The eggs come with the developing embryo of a duck. If you can stomach eating a whole unhatched duck fetus with feathers on it, you may get to like it. Many resident of Filipino heritage in Hawaii swear by this dish, while others in the islands may swear at it.

Bitter Melon

his fruit come from a vine called Momordica charantia and is widely eaten throughout Asia as well as in the Aloha State. The fruit looks like a shriveled-up cucumber with lumpy ridges on it and is often eaten in Chinese and other Asian stir fried dishes. What make bitter melon unique and what simultaneously makes people like or hate is that it is really, really bitter–hence the name, bitter melon.

Newly Discovered Volcano in Hawaii

A newly discovered volcano in Hawaii lies off oahu's North Shore.

A newly discovered volcano in Hawaii lies off Oahu’s North Shore. Photo by Greg Mau.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii, France and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have uncovered evidence in 2014 that a previously undiscovered volcano helped to create the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Until then, it was believed that the island of Oahu was built by only two volcanoes, Waianae on the island’s leeward side and Ko’olau on the windward side. Scientists now call this newly discovered volcano in Hawaii, Ka’ena.

Ka’ena aptly means “the heat” in Hawaiian. Before this discovery, Ka’ena was only known as the secluded westernmost tip of the island of Oahu, which based on legend, was the jump-off point for spirits that pass from this world. But according to this latest research, Ka’ena may have been much more than that and is now believed to be an earlier volcano upon which the Waianae and Ko’olau volcanoes were subsequently built upon. The study finds that Ka’ena started as an undersea volcano 5 million years ago and then rose above the ocean’s surface about 1.5 million years after that. Ka’ena eventually reached a maximum height of about 3,300 feet before it gradually sank under the sea, a fate which will eventually, over the span of geologic time, befall all Hawaiian islands.

This new discovery has challenged some of the fundamental understandings on how the island of Oahu was created. Prior to this, it was thought that the Waianae volcano was, according to the research, “exceptionally large” and that there were no other volcanoes in the channel between Oahu and Kauai. Instead Dr. John Sinton, lead author of the study and Emeritus Professor of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Hawaii School, now says, “both of these assumptions can now be revised: Waianae is not as large as previously thought and Ka’ena volcano formed in the region between Kauai and Waianae.” The area now known as Ka’ena was originally thought for many years to be an undersea extension of the Waianae volcano. But this all changed when it was determined that lava compositions of the Ka’ena and Waianae volcanoes were entirely different.

Unfortunately, as Ka’ena now lies deep beneath the sea, there is no practical way for visitors to view this volcano. But tourists that travel to Hawaii can still cast their eyes over the ocean where Ka’ena volcano lies off a very scenic but secluded part of Oahu at Ka’ena State Park. In the winter months, waves off the point at Ka’ena State Park can reach up to 49 feet, much higher than the surf in other parts of Oahu’s famed North Shore. Although the coast off Ka’ena State Park sometimes has gigantic waves, it is not a popular surf spot because the area is too isolated, has limited road access and has extremely dangerous rip currents. Despite this, Ka’ena State Park has become a favorite hiking spot for the adventurous few as it is a ruggedly beautiful area where many rare and protected plants and marine birds and mammals can be seen and enjoyed. And here at this solitary and scenic spot on Oahu, visitors and locals alike can image what Ka’ena volcano must have looked like 3.5 million years ago.

Where Locals Eat on Maui

Haleakala Crater on Maui.

Haleakala Crater on Maui by Barry Inouye.

Wherever you travel, do you ever wonder where the locals eat? Most probably, these places not only serve good food, they probably offer the best value for your money. The Valley Isle of Maui is not any different. Here are just some of the places where local people on Maui love to frequent whenever they go out to eat.

One of Maui’s favorite local eateries is Sam Sato’s. Sam Sato’s is famous for its dry mein dish. Dry mein is almost the same as Hawaii’s saimin, which is the island’s own unique version of Japanese ramen, except the soup is served separately from the noodles, hence the name, dry mein. This place is also known for its barbeque sticks that typically accompany dry mein as well as for its manju, a Japanese rice cake with a variety of sweet fillings.

Another local favorite on Maui is Ichiban Okazuya, located in a small, very old building with very limited parking. You know this place is popular because the office building across the street had to hire a parking attendant during lunch hours to keep customers out of their lot. While they offer a wide variety of take out offerings, people rave about their chicken katsu and their chicken katsu don. Other popular take out items include their miso ahi, butterfish and Korean chicken.

Saigon Cafe is another popular establishment among Maui’s residents. The restaurant is somewhat hidden away under a small bridge in the sleepy town of Wailuku. While it might be tough to find for the first-timer, people say it’s worth the frustration. Saigon Cafe features Vietnamese food as well as a large selection of local menu items like oxtail soup, steamed local fish, saimin and is a favorite for business lunches and dinners.

Pu’uhonua ‘O Hanaunau Heiau

For those fascinated by the history and culture of ancient Hawaiian people, the Pu’uhonua ‘O Hanaunau National Historical Park is a must see. The 420 acre site is administered by the National Park Service and features statues, structures, art and cultural artifacts that are beautifully preserved.

This area was a sacred site where defeated warriors, non-combatants and others who broke sacred laws or kapus fled to the sanctuary of Pu’uhonua to find reprieve from a death sentence. Upon reaching its sacred grounds, a priest would perform a ceremony that absolved the lawbreaker of his or her crimes and subsequently allowed the person to return to society without facing further repercussions. This was a tradition that was preserved until the early 19th century.

The sacred temple of Hale o Keawe Heiau, also on this site, is where the bones of high-ranking chiefs were laid to rest. Here you can get a close and personal look at wooden images of the gods that guard the temple. Pu’uhonua is surrounded almost entirely by a Great Wall, a stone structure that stands about 10 feet high and 17 feet thick. The wall and the black lava rocks that surround the shoreline protected the sacred grounds from would-be intruders and seriously hindered any lawbreakers that would try to flee.

Explore the royal grounds that are just beyond the Great Wall. The royal grounds were composed of a thatched work house or halau, royal canoe landing or keone’ele, the resting stone of the High Chief of Kona and the sacred table or heiau. This area acted as a home and gathering place for generations of powerful chiefs.

The Pu’uhonua ‘O Hanaunau National Historical Park will prove to be a most interesting and worthwhile experience for anyone who enjoys learning about native and ancient cultures.