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Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park

Ala Moana Beach Park.

Why Ala Moana Beach Park is a Local Favorite

If there is any beach that is a favorite of Hawaii residents, it could very well be the Ala Moana Beach Park. This popular 100 acre public beach park is on the Ewa (west) side of Waikiki. It’s also directly in front of the massive shopping center of the same name, the Ala Moana Shopping Center. This is a place where generations of residents have brought their families. Here, they’ve enjoyed picnics, had social events, basked in the sun and learned how to swim. For many others, it’s also been a convenient place to surf, jog or play tennis.

History of the Beach

Before the 1920s, this area was a forgotten wetland area. Around that time, the Hawaiian Dredging Company dredged a channel to connect the Ala Wai Boat Harbor to the Kewalo Basin Harbor. Today, this channel provides swimmers with an excellent venue for long distance swimming.

Hawaiian Dredging Company eventually filled in the wetland area by depositing waste materials and created a parkland area. In the 1950s, the company deposited sand to create a half mile stretch of white sand beach. The wide white sand beach and the sandy bottom of the former boat channel made it a favorite place among locals.

In the 1960s, hotel developers created a man-made peninsula on the east end of the park.  But they never built the hotel. What remained became a beautiful extension of the park with a beautiful lagoon at the end of the peninsula. This area also provided much needed additional parking for park users.

A Popular Beach

Parking at Ala Moana Beach Park is free. But because of its popularity, parking is somewhat limited on weekends and holidays. There are shower facilities as well as a number of concessionaires that sell food. Because of its proximity to Waikiki, it offers a great alternative for those looking for a place to swim and to soak up the sun.

Rapid Ohia Death

Rapid Ohia Death

Ohia trees are susceptible to the disease, Rapid Ohia Death.

The ohi’a and its vibrant flower, the lehua, have played instrumental roles in Hawaiian culture and lifestyle. One can find the plant on almost all of the major Hawaiian Islands. It can range in all shapes and sizes, from a small shrub to a tree as high as 40 to 60 feet high. But now, a new disease, which scientists call Rapid Ohia Death, is threatening it.

The Importance of Ohi’a Trees

The ohi’a tree had many uses in ancient Hawaii. The ohi’a tree’s hard, durable wood in the days of old Hawaii had many uses. It could be used a make clubs for pounding kapa cloth, poi boards, spears and gunwale for canoes. The ancient Hawaiians marveled over the ohi’a tree’s durability. Many of them were the last things standing when lava plowed through a given area. Hawaiians also used the bark of the ohi’a tree for medicinal purposes.

The ohi’a’s lehua flower and its leaves have always been a part of hula festivals. In recent years, Hawaii’s annual Merry Monarch hula festival on the Big Island showcase lehua flowers and ohi’a leaves. Here, one can see them on stage as well as on hula dancers.

The Dangers of Rapid Ohia Death

But things were different at the 2016 Merry Monarch hula festival. Rapid Ohia Death has been killing large numbers of ohi’a trees in the Puna and Hilo districts of the Big Island. The USDA has determined that a fungus is causing ohi’a trees to die within a matter of weeks.

More troubling, Rapid Ohi’a Death has the potential to kill every ohi’a tree in the State. Fortunately, as of right now, the disease is limited to the Big Island. It doesn’t yet appear to affect other types of trees or plants.

In the past, hula dancers and teachers have gone into the forests to gather lehua flowers and ohi’a leaves. They did this as part of their preparations for the Merry Monarch festival. To minimize risks, the State Department of Agriculture has issued restrictions on moving ohi’a plants, plant parts and surrounding soil. Violators can face fines of up to $10,000 and five years in prison.

The organizers of the Merry Monarch festival have been in contact with hula halaus. They need their cooperation to prevent this disease from spreading. The concern is that gatherers might bring back infected flowers, leaves as well as infected soil on their shoes.  Any person with infected soil on footwear could potentially spread Rapid Ohia Death to another island.

The bad news is that there is still no known cure for Rapid Ohia Death. But researchers now have a clue as to how the disease spreads. According to reports, burrowing beetles that colonize dead ohi’a trees are spreading infected ohi’a wood dust. The wind then further spreads the dust. This is in addition to any human or animal that somehow gets in contact with the infected ohi’a tree or soil.

State of Hawaii Guidelines

The State of Hawaii is asking all residents and visitors to the Big Island for help in preventing the spread of this disease. Here are the 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.

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

6. State of Hawaii recommends a cleaning solution of 70% rubbing alcohol with a mixture of 10% bleach with 90% water. Use Lysol brand disinfectant on tools that cut ohi’a wood.

We are hopeful that scientists can find a cure for Rapid Ohia Death. This is because so much of Hawaii’s culture is linked to the ohi’a tree and its lehua flower. Many researchers and scientists are working hard on this problem. 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 and the billboard ban in Hawaii are inexorably linked together.

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

Are There Kangaroos in Hawaii?

Hawaii has a wide range of 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. Wallabies 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.

Where to Find Them

You can find Hawaii’s kangaroos in the higher, remote parts of Kalihi Valley. This is a section of Honolulu on Hawaii’s main island of Oahu. Researchers last surveyed them during the 1990s. At the time, they estimated that there were approximately 75 wallabies in this one remaining colony in Hawaii. The wallabies only eat vegetation that is readily abundant, As a result, they pose no threat to the environment or to anyone else for that matter. State law prohibits the hunting of the wallaby.

How They Came to Hawaii

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

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

Kangaroos in Hawaii Today

The population of wallabies eventually grew where there were colonies of wallabies in a number of places. But today, Kalihi Valley is only place in Hawaii where one can find the animals today. One could speculate that 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. The State discourages such efforts  as it would require trespassing into private property. Moreover,  wallabies are very shy and solitary animals. So it is extremely rare for anybody to actually view them in the wild. Occasionally, there are rare sightings of the animal. And when people see one, it typically becomes a newsworthy media event.

The Islands Off Oahu

Two of the islands off Oahu.

Rabbit Island and Black Rock, some of the islands off Oahu.

Where Are the Islands Off Oahu?

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

Rabbit Island

Some may think this island has the nickname Rabbit Island because its shape looks like a rabbit’s head. But peopled called it 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 once tried to raise rabbits on the island in the 1880s. Cummins was a prominent member of the Hawaiian royalty. He also ran a nearby sugar plantation in Waimanalo. As one would expect from rabbits, they multiplied so profusely it threatened the fragile ecology of the island. So in 1994, the rabbits were completely eradicated from the island. The island now serves as a seabird wildlife sanctuary. There is a low lying island next to Rabbit Island, Kaohikaipu or Black Rock. But it lacks the more colorful history of its neighbor.

Coconut Island

This island, which people call Coconut Island or Moku o Loʻe in Hawaiian, is in Kaneohe Bay. You can actually see it in the opening shots of the long-running television series, Gilligan’s Island. A number of very wealthy individuals, including an heir to the Fleishman Yeast company fortune, once owned it. The US navy island used the island for a number of purposes. It included using it as a rest and recuperation facility during World War II. It was also a small resort club until it was totally purchased outright by the State of Hawaii in 1995. After that, the University of Hawaii used it as an oceanographic research facility.

Another one of the islands off Oahu.

Chinaman’s Hat near Kualoa Beach Park.

Chinaman’s Hat

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

One of the islands off Oahu.

Puka Island off Laie Point.

Puka Island

Off Laie Point in the town of Laie, there are 5 small rocky islets. According to Hawaiian legend, a giant lizard with the name Laniloa guarded this area. A great warrior Kana fought and defeated Laniola. Once doing so, Kana threw the giant lizard’s heads into five pieces off Laie Point. Today, you can see the remains of Laniloa’s head in the form of 5 neighboring islets. Locals call one of the islands Puka Island. Puka in Hawaiian means hole and Puka Island has a small arch in the middle of it. The tremendous wave action of a 1946 tsunami created this arch.

Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

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

Waterfall at Queen Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden, one of the hidden hotspots on Oahu.

Finding the Hidden Hotspots on Oahu

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.

More hidden hotspots on Oahu

View from Diamond Head summit.

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.

One of the hidden hotspots on Oahu

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

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

One of the unusual foods in Hawaii.

Poi, one of the unusual foods in Hawaii.

Trying Unusual Foods in Hawaii

There are many types of fine foods in Hawaii that you should definitely try. But on the other hand, there may be foods in Hawaii that may not be so appealing to the uninitiated. Here are examples of some 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 indifferent to it when they eat it. Poi is the fermented mash of the taro root. To some, it 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 others, poi, like most of the foods described here, is something you have to acquire a taste for.

Natto

Natto is a dish from Japan. Many local residents whose ancestors came from that country enjoy eating it. People make natto from fermented soy beans. It becomes bound together with a translucent gooey substance during the fermentation process. To some, this gooey substance may look like something out of a science fiction thriller. It sometimes has a pungent odor. If you can get past the appearance and smell, 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. It’s a somewhat popular Chinese dish in Hawaii. People make it by preserving eggs in a mix of ash, salt and lye. This 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

This is another egg dish. But this one comes from the Philippines 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

This fruit comes from the vine Momordica charantia. People widely eat it throughout Asia as well as in the Aloha State. The fruit looks like a shriveled-up cucumber with lumpy ridges on it. You can often find it in Chinese and other Asian stir fried dishes. This is what makes bitter melon unique and what makes people like or hate it. It’s really, really bitter tasting. And this is the reason for its name, bitter melon.

Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

View of Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.

Visiting Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

Fascinated by the history and culture of ancient Hawaiian people? If so, the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is a must see. The National Park Service administers the 430 acre site on the Big Island of Hawaii. It features historically significant statues, structures, art and cultural artifacts.

As in many National Park sites, there is a fee for entering the site. However, you can also use an annual or lifetime National Park Pass to visit this historical park.

History of the Site

This area is a sacred site to Hawaiians. Here, defeated warriors, non-combatants and others who broke sacred laws or kapus could find sanctuary. One could even win reprieve from a death sentence by entering the Puuhonua. Upon reaching its sacred grounds, a priest would perform a ceremony that absolved the lawbreaker of his or her crimes. After this, the person could return to society without facing further repercussions. Hawaiians performed this tradition until the early 19th century.

Park Features

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

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

The Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park will prove to be a most interesting and worthwhile experience. This would be especially true for anyone who enjoys learning about native and ancient cultures.