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Free junior ranger program for kids at Kilauea volcano

free_kilauea_volcano_program_kids_junior_rangersHawaii Volcanoes National Park is looking for a few good junior rangers.

Qualifications? You’ll need to be on the Big Island from June 16 through 19. You should love hiking, studying lava forms, following sea turtles, identifying native plants and birds and want to learn how to use a seriously cool GPS tracker. And—sorry, adult readers—your age will have to fall somewhere between 9 and 12.

Keiki O Hawaii Nei is a free junior ranger program guided by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park rangers. Think three-and-a-half-days of field trips exploring the park’s substantial acreage of pristine Big Island environmental coolness and its relationship to Hawaiian culture and you get the idea.

“The whole idea behind Keiki O Hawaii Nei is to weave the culture and the sciences together, making it fun and exciting for kids,” said park ranger and education specialist Joni Mae Makuakane-Jarrell. “The goal is to get them to love the park and take ownership so they can become rangers or leaders in their own community and, hopefully, make a difference.”

Keiki o Hawaii nei is Hawaiian for “children of beloved Hawaii.”

The annual program is open to the first 24 kids that sign up. All that’s required of parents is dropping their kids off at park headquarters each morning with a bag lunch, and then picking them up in the afternoon. Makuakane-Jarrell (that's her in the pic below) and the rangers take care of the rest.

Here’s a peek at this year’s itinerary:

free_kilauea_volcano_program_kids_junior_rangersDAY 1
A morning hike exploring the cultural uses of native plants at Kipukapuaulu—a forest oasis of rare endemic plants surrounded by Mauna Loa lava flows. An afternoon visit to Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, a San Diego Zoo-managed sanctuary for native Hawaiian birds.

A full day exploring Kahuku Ranch, using GPS (global positioning system) technology. The forest-filled 116,000-acre ranch is on Mauna Loa’s southwest flank.

Keeping tabs on the sea turtle population at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park on the Kailua-Kona coast.

A half-day hike exploring lava formations at Mauna Ulu—a small flank volcano formed near Kilauea’s summit during a 1969-1974 eruption.

Kids participating all four days get a Hawaii Volcanoes National Park junior ranger badge and certificate, a compass and other cool stuff.

“In the last five years, we’ve never done the same itinerary twice for Keiki O Hawaii Nei,” said Makuakane-Jarrell. “With 333,000 acres of park, we never have to take our kids to the same places.”

For more information or to sign your child up, call Hawaii Volcanoes National Park education center at (808) 985-6019.
Photos courtesy of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park


Bill Tapia plays final Royal Hawaiian weekend tonight

Bill_Tapia_plays_final_Royal_Hawaiian_weekend_tonightWith Waikiki constantly changing and evolving, it’s always good to see familiar faces return to its center stage. 

This weekend, it’s Bill Tapia, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Monarch Room.

On Sunday, the venerable Royal Hawaiian will serve its last beachside mai tai before shuttering for a seven-month renovation. But first, it’ll bring back a man who played the hotel's opening night 80 years ago—celebrated ukulele pioneer Bill Tapia.

Tapia will headline an evening of top local performers at the Monarch Room tonight—including award-winning Hawaii musicians Makana, Mihana Souza, Jeff Peterson and Owana Salazar. The show—dubbed “the Concert of the Century” by hotel brass— will honor the life and legend of the one-and-only Tapia, and give the “Pink Palace of the Pacific” a proper retro-tinged send-off.

At 100, Tapia is the world’s oldest professional ukulele player—with no signs of slowing down his performance or recording schedule. His wit razor sharp and colorful, Tapia is also full of great stories. Need proof? Check out this interview clip from Honolulu television station KHON with Tapia recounting a high-flying memory of gigging with Louis Armstrong.

Great stuff.

Another reason to attend? The evening may also be the Monarch Room’s swan song.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel will reopen at the end of December after its $110 million facelift is complete. But the fate of its timeless ballroom, draped in gold and rich red velvet, is still uncertain. We’ve heard rumblings that the space will be filled by a new restaurant.

If you’re on Oahu, don’t pass up the chance to experience Tapia, the Royal and the Monarch together for one more night. Click here for more details, and some Tapia-at-the-Royal history.

While you’re at it, share any memories you have of the trio with a comment below.

Car rental companies OK vehicles on Hawaii Superferry

Car_rental_companies_OK_Hawaii_SuperferryStaying in Waikiki, but want to take your car rental for an afternoon spin on Maui’s scenic Hana Highway?

With Hawaii remaining an island state for the foreseeable future, we’re guessing you won't be able to drive inter-island direct in, say, this lifetime. But Hawaii Superferry today announced agreements with the bulk of Hawaii’s major car rental companies allowing customers to take their rentals on the vessel’s so far sole Oahu-Maui route.

The rental car companies offering the service are Hertz, Dollar/Thrifty, Alamo/National, Avis/Budget, U-Haul, Ryder and JN Car & Truck Rental.

Naturally, there are restrictions and possible surcharges from the individual rental companies for the convenience. Click here for a list of rental company links for more information.

The Hawaii Superferry departs daily from Honolulu, Oahu at 6:30 a.m., arriving in Kahului, Maui at 9:30 a.m.; it departs Kahului at 11 a.m. for a 2 p.m. arrival in Honolulu. A second voyage on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays departs Honolulu at 3 p.m., arriving in Kahului at 6 p.m.; it departs Kahului at 7 p.m. for a 10 p.m. arrival in Honolulu.

For fares and reservations, click here or call 877-443-3779.

Photo courtesy of Hawaii Superferry

Hiking Koko Crater

Hiking_Koko_CraterYou ask. We answer.

HAWAII Magazine reader Veronica Craig writes:

On one of our many walking trips around Oahu, we saw Koko Crater, with a walking track to the top that looked like steps. Nothing was mentioned in our travel books. Could you please let us know, as we would love to climb to the top.

We’re guessing the step-like “walking track” you’re referring to, Veronica, are the ties of an abandoned railway that runs along the crater's west side. This is one of the best trails leading to Pu’u Mai, the crater’s highest peak. The ties were for an incline tram used by the military during World War II, to transport personnel and supplies to a lookout post on the summit. 

Access to this trail starts at Koko Head Park in Hawaii Kai. The first part of the hike is over a newly landscaped hill behind Goeas Baseball Field to the bottom of the old rail track. It’s an exhausting trip. But the real fun is still to come.

Hiking_Koko_CraterYour next mission is a trek up the 1,000-plus “steps” to the top of Koko crater. The reward? A panoramic view of the east Honolulu shoreline—not to mention one heck of a workout.

A note of caution: Parts of the decades-old railway trail are in disrepair, possibly unsafe and recommended for experienced hikers only. If you do go, prepare accordingly and proceed with caution. You’ll find tips from The Division of State Parks for preparing for similar hikes here.

I haven’t hiked to the summit of Koko Crater yet, but it now definitely tops my list of things I need to do this summer. With views like this, I don’t think I can pass it up any longer.

UPDATE, 6/12/08: I climbed the Koko Crater Trail. Read about my adventures here.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia/Commons


In the air over Kilauea

in_the_air_KilaueaHaven’t been to the Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory Web site lately?

We understand. Things have been, for the most part, business as usual at Kilauea volcano lately. The summit’s Halemaumau crater vent is still pumping out a plume of ash and steam. The Pu’u O’o vent further downslope is doing the same, and sending molten magma into the ocean off the Big Island's Puna coastline.

No explosions or evacuations since April. Lots of vog statewide on so-far mercifully few tradewind-free days.

Good time then to take a brief helicopter ride over both vents, courtesy of HVO’s website.

Click here for a Halemaumau flyover with a great view of the crater from 5,000 feet up. Watch the plume change direction from west (foreground) to east (background) as it moves beyond the vent and heads out over the rest of Hawaii. (That’s Mauna Loa in the background.)

Next, click here to gaze down into the glow of a new gas vent at Pu'u O'o from a helicopter hovering just above the vent.

Hot stuff. You’ll feel like you’re there. Many thanks to those hard-working geologists at HVO.

Photo of Halemaumau crater on 5/23/08, courtesy of USGS

Scenes from Lantern Floating Hawaii ceremony

floating_lantern08It is a ceremony both moving and serene.  Yesterday evening at sunset, I stood with my feet in the warm waters off Oahu’s Ala Moana Beach Park, one of hundreds of people about to release a paper lantern—inscribed in my case to my mother, who died this year—the lantern illuminated by a softly glowing candle, and set a top a high-tech miniature surfboard.

Lantern floating is a Buddhist tradition, and the Memorial Day Lantern Floating Hawaii is officiated by colorfully garbed priests of the Buddhist order Shinnyo-en.  But it’s also now a Hawaii tradition, embraced by people of all faiths.

The brief ceremony included Hawaiian chant, music and hula as well as Japanese Taiko drumming.  Amy Hanaialii sang.  Raiatea Helm did a touching duet with Keola Beamer.  The head of the Shinnyo-en Order, Shinso Ito, invoked the Hawaiian concepts of ohana and aloha in her remarks.

Forty thousand people filled the area around the beach.  I felt privileged to be able to float one of the 1,600 lanterns. At the signal, we released our lanterns in the slowly darkening water.  They drifted slowly, gently, out to sea, each glowing square carrying handwritten prayers and remembrances.  The woman standing next to me on the beach cried.

Despite the crowd, the event was remarkably well organized, the mood both reflective and, in its own way, joyous.  The ceremony honors the dead.  But what the Buddhist Order has done here, for free, turning all funds raised during the event over to the city—well, it was gift to the living as well.

The spirit of Hawaii somehow glowed in those lanterns.


Photos by Dawn Sakamoto

Two Hawaii sites make list of best free attractions

Free AttractionsWith the prices of just about everything skyrocketing these days, it doesn’t hurt to save a little. The same goes during vacation time, which is why TripAdvisor.com just released their annual list of the Top 10 free attractions in the country.

 We are pleased to note that a pair of local treasures found their way onto the list: Waimea Canyon at No. 3 and the USS Arizona Memorial at No. 6, respectively. 

Waimea Canyon State Park stretches across 1,866 acres with numerous hiking trails and can be accessed from Waimea on Hawaii state road 550. In addition to breathtaking views and beautiful vistas, the canyon has a unique geologic history— formed by a catastrophic collapse of a volcano along with the continuous process of erosion.

Free AttractionsMeanwhile, the USS Arizona Memorial offers an entirely different experience. The visitor center at the Arizona is operated by the National Park Service and completely free to the public. Access to the memorial is by boat and is limited by numbered ticket. So if you do make the trip, go early! The 4,500 tickets offered daily usually run out by mid-morning.  However, this does not deter the one million plus visitors annually. It’s just that popular.

What topped the list? The dancing fountains of Las Vegas' Bellagio hotel. Go figure.

two_Hawaii_Dr_Beach_top_tenWe didn’t know who Dr. Steven P. Leatherman—a.k.a. Dr. Beach—was until this week when we received his 2008 America’s Best Beaches list.

Two Hawaii beaches were on it: Hanalei Beach on Kauai at no. 2, and Hamoa Beach on Maui at no. 7. Clearwater/Dunedin, Florida’s Caladesi Island State Park was no. 1.

We had no beef with Dr. Beach’s Hawaii choices.

Leatherman is a Ph.D.-wielding coastal scientist with three decades of on-the-beach experience who has been compiling his apparently much-publicized annual best beaches list since 1991. Hanalei and Hamoa are indeed lovely beaches.

Being from an island state world famous for its many breathtaking beaches, however, we were disappointed by Dr. Beach’s serious East Coast bias. Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina beaches took up seven spots on the doc’s 2008 Top 10!


Strangely, the 50-item checklist he uses to judge each beach even seemed to favor Hawaii—water and air temperature, sand color, beach shape, water color, number of sunny days, etc. In our opinion, stuff enough for Hawaii to seriously blow the competition away.

two_Hawaii_Dr_Beach_top_tenSo what gives?

In the fine print, Dr. Beach says he excludes a beach from all future lists once it claims the no. 1 spot. Hawaii has taken the no. 1 spot on Dr. Beach’s list 11 times in the list’s 17-year-history.

• 2006: Fleming Beach Park (Maui)
• 2004: Hanauma Bay (Oahu)
• 2003: Kaanapali Beach (Maui)
• 2001: Poipu Beach Park (Kauai)
• 2000: Mauna Kea Beach (Big Island)
• 1999 Wailea Beach (Maui)
• 1998 Kailua Beach Park (Oahu)
• 1997 Hulopoe, Hawaii (Lanai)
• 1996 Lanikai Beach (Oahu)
• 1993 Hapuna (Big Island)
• 1991 Kapalua Bay Beach (Maui)

So OK, Dr. Beach. We get it. You retired these fine beaches because otherwise Hawaii would be No. 1 pretty much every year.

Kind of makes the list less useful, though, don't cha think Doc?

What do you think, .com readers?

Photos: Hanalei Beach (top), Hamoa Beach (bottom)
Aloha_Tower_Super_Seafood_and_Sushi_BuffetI can’t get enough sushi. One of the places to indulge in this Japanese cuisine is Makino Chaya, located in Aloha Tower Marketplace.

The restaurant’s decoration is a bit cheesy (where else would you find fish and octopus legs hanging from the ceiling?). Aloha_Tower_Super_Seafood_and_Sushi_BuffetBut don’t let that deter you from entering the restaurant.

Makino Chaya has five different food stations: Neptune Island, We Love Sushi, Tempura Bar, Teppen Yaki Ki and Makino’s Kitchen. The restaurant’s setup is similar to a food court, but unlike the mall’s food courts, it’s a buffet!

I ordered pretty much everything I saw: from shrimp tempura, unagi (freshwater eel) sushi, California rolls, sashimi, lumpia, spicy ahi rolls, stuffed crab shell, baked onaga (red snapper), mussels, salmon to tako (octopus) on a stick. There was an endless joy of seafood and sushi in the We Love Sushi section.

Aloha_Tower_Super_Seafood_and_Sushi_BuffetIn addition to sushi, you can also have fried rice, fried noodles, miso soup, grilled-to-order Wagyu beef, salads and several side dishes such as poke and macaroni salad.

A must-try? The sushi covered in tempura batter and then deep-fried. Yes, that’s right. The best of both worlds, sushi and tempura.

I managed to save a room for dessert. We headed straight for the station where Aloha_Tower_Super_Seafood_and_Sushi_Buffetfresh crêpes are made right before your eyes, with your choice of fresh fruits, mixed berries, whipped cream and ice cream. I chose to have strawberries, blueberries and vanilla ice cream in my crêpe, topped with powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate sauce (pictured right). Yum.

Makino Chaya also has a chocolate fondue station (pictured below). As I walked back to my table, I couldn’t resist dipping a marshmallow into the cascading chocolate waterfall. Who could blame me?
I must say, it was a great lunch deal for $13.98 (plus tax). It’s amazing I walked back to the office after lunch.

Makino Chaya is open daily for lunch and dinner. Buffet prices are slightly cheaper on the weekdays. Children 3 years and younger are always free. Call (808) 585-6360 for hours, menu prices and reservations.

Photos by Sherie Char

Cuisine of the Sun coming to The Kahala Resort

Cuisine_Sun_Kahala_ResortThere hasn’t been much Mainland press on this so good thing you’re a HawaiiMagazine.com regular.

Especially if you’re a regular who’s going to be on Oahu on June 13 and 14 and digs food, wine and/or cigars.

That’s the weekend The Kahala Hotel & Resort hosts its first-ever Food & Wine Classic. Think two days of all of the above, with guest chefs and vintners, and the very capable culinary staff of The Kahala.

The theme for this first event: Cuisine of the Sun.

I was at a tasting yesterday at the resort’s award-winning oceanside restaurant Hoku’s. The Kahala’s chef Wayne Hirabayashi crafted two dishes, originals from Miami chef Cindy Hutson, who will be a guest chef at the event—both whipping up gourmet dinners and holding outdoor, oceanfront cooking classes.

The coolest part of the afternoon lunch, besides the food?

Hutson herself, chatting us up via an internet feed while mixing her Caribbean curried crab cake recipe, all while the dinner rush was happening at her Coral Gables, Fla., restaurant Ortanique on the Mile.

Hutson was still mixing jumbo lump crab meat, various curries, peppers and panko, when our version (above) arrived courtesy of Hirabayashi’s kitchen.

This was preceded by a wonderful curried kabocha squash bisque (below), served while the ebullient Hutson praised the Hawaii seafood and produce she flies in regularly for Ortanique.

All press conferences should be as concurrently interactive and palate pleasing.

Cuisine_Sun_Kahala_ResortIt also left us enthusiastic about Cuisine of the Sun weekend, whose entire schedule of multi-course oceanside dinners, hands-on cooking classes, wine tastings and on-the-beach late-night cigar and cognac conversations you’ll find here.

(I was considering taking up cigar smoking after hearing the late night Davidoff-hosted cigar-and-cognac event’s irresistible name: “Toes in the Sand.”)

More good news? The Kahala aims to hold its Food & Wine Classic several times a year, with a different theme for each outing.

Our suggestion for the next one: “Cuisine of the Windy City.” We want Charlie Trotter!
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