Hawaii Today edited by Derek Paiva Page: 1 2 Next>>

Hawaii_food_festYou can’t have a Spam musubi or the makings of a decent Hawaii-style plate lunch without one very necessary ingredient: rice.

So it’s no wonder that (as with Spam Jam for Spam) this starchy staple has a popular local celebration dedicated to it every year.

The 4th annual Hawaii Rice Fest, happening from noon to 5 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 1, at the Ward Centers shopping complex in Honolulu, will celebrate Hawaii’s favorite carb with more than 30 food booths (featuring rice, of course), professional chef demonstrations, and an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record’s largest Spam musubi record, set at last year’s Rice Fest.

In 2012, the Rice Fest team constructed a massive block of cooked rice, Spam and nori seaweed weighing in at 628 lbs., breaking its previous record of 286 lbs. set at Rice Fest 2011. For the record, the official weigh in of this year’s Rice Fest contender will take place at 4:30 p.m.

Hawaii_food_festBefore that grand event, however, Chef George “Marvo” Mavrothalassitis, chef/owner of multiple-culinary-award-winning Honolulu restraurant Chef Mavro, and his pastry chef, Elizabeth Dippong, will put on a rice-themed cooking demonstration at 2 p.m., followed by music performances by ukulele virtuosos Honoka & Azita and contemporary Hawaiian music group Kapena.

If the food booths aren’t enough to sate your rice craving, enter the fest’s official Spam musubi eating contest.

Festival organizers will be also be accepting monetary or brown rice donations for Lanakila Pacific’s Meals on Wheels program. The nonprofit, volunteer-run program is Hawaii’s only island-wide meal service for seniors.

Go ahead, give up that no-carb diet for one day. You can hit the gym after Labor Day weekend.

For additional information about Hawaii Rice Fest 2013, click here.

Photos: Hawaii Rice Fest (top), Derek Paiva (bottom)

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So you're on Maui this Labor Day weekend, consider yourself something of a foodie and, maybe, feel like noshing on some of the best cuisine on the island?

Plan on a visit to the second annual Kaanapali Fresh, a three-day series of culinary events at the hotels and resorts of the Kaanapali Beach Resort, dedicated to showcasing the food and produce of Maui.

You could spend Saturday morning browsing the locally-grown produce at a Maui farmers market steps from the beach at Kaanapali. Near lunch, tour a working West Maui coffee farm. And your plans for the evening? On Friday, Saturday AND Sunday, how about tasting events featuring stellar dishes from Maui’s top chefs and farmers?

Attend all of the Kaanapali Fresh events or pick and choose.

This year’s festival includes a special edition of the weekly Grown on Maui Farmers Market at Whalers Village shopping center at Kaanapali Resort, featuring local farmers, food producers and chefs; a tour of the Kaanapali Estates coffee farm; and a mixology class at the Royal Lahaina Resort where guests can learn the art of crafting cocktails using local ingredients.

The main events of Kaanapali Fresh, however, will be its evening tasting galas, which include:

• Progressive Kaanapali: “A Double Culinary Grande with a Shot of Jake,”
6-9:30 p.m. Fri., Aug. 30
A progressive dinner beginning at the Westin Maui Resort & Spa and ending at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa with an outdoor live performance by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. Chefs at each resort will use local ingredients to create dishes ranging from appetizers and entrees to desserts.

• Signature Kaanapali Fresh Food & Wine Festival: “Kaanapali 5-0”

6:30-9:30 p.m. Sat., Aug. 31
The biggest event of the three-day festival will feature pairings of 12 Kaanapali chefs and 12 Maui farmers crafting dishes using local ingredients, many of these grown especially for the occasion. The tasting will be held under the stars on the Royal Kaanapali Golf Course.


• Malama Maui
6-9:30 p.m. Sun., Sept. 1
This dinner gala at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa officially kicks off the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, a weeklong culinary festival finishing off on Oahu later in the week. Held in the resort’s open-air Sunset Terrace, the dinner will feature six renowned Maui chefs, each highlighting Maui-grown products.

Click here for more information on all Kaanapali Fresh events and seminars, or to buy tickets.

photos: Kaanapali Fresh

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Okinawan_Festival_WaikikiFor more than three decades, the annual Okinawan Festival has celebrated the music, dance and, of course, delicious food of the Okinawan culture in Hawaii.

What started as a small gathering for Hawaii residents with Okinawan ancestry is now a two-day extravaganza at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki for anyone interested in learning about and experiencing the culture—with more than 50,000 residents and visitors attending annually.

This year’s 31st annual Okinawan Festival will feature a stellar lineup of Uchinanchu (Okinawan) entertainment and cuisine, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1. The Okinawan Festival Bon Dance — the biggest of all of Oahu’s summer bon odori dances— will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, is made up of hundreds of islands. Uchinanchu is the term used by people of Okinawan descent in Hawaii to identify themselves as group distinct from the Naichi of Japan’s four main islands. Immigrants from Okinawa began arriving in Hawaii in 1900. By 1908, more then 8,000 laborers had moved to the Islands for work, primarily, on sugar and pineapple plantations. Another wave of Okinawans immigrated to Hawaii in 1946, following World War II.

Today, people of Okinawan descent in the Islands remain a close-knit group. The annual Okinawan Festival is organized by more than 2,000 volunteers from the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, which is made up of families with ancestral roots in Okinawa. Membership through the association’s clubs is estimated at about 40,000.

Here are some of the Okinawan Festival’s entertainment highlights:

• Senbaru Eisa: A folk dance troupe from Kadena Town in Okinawa.
Aug. 31, Sept. 1, 4:30 p.m.
• Hui O Leinani Group: Okinawan dancers skilled in the art of hula perform.
Aug. 31, 3:15 p.m.

• Fashion Designs by Mitsuko Yamauchi: A fashion show featuring apparel by Okinawan designer Mitsuko Yamauchi.
Sept. 1, 12:50 p.m.

• Namihira (Hanja) Bo: A performance by the music group from Yomitan, Okinawa. Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m.


Finally, here's list of must-eat Okinawan delicacies you’ll find at the festival:

• Andagi: An Okinawan deep-fried doughnut (pictured above).

• Andadog: An Okinawan version of the corndog, it’s essentially a hot dog on stick, dipped in andagi batter and deep-fried.

• Fundagi: An Okinawan-style funnel cake, lightly dusted with powdered sugar. (Available only during Saturday evening's bon dance.) 

• Pig feet soup: A rich broth (as billed, stocked with tender pigs feet) garnished with seaweed, turnip, squash and mustard cabbage.

• Yakisoba: Okinawan style stir-fried soba noodles with vegetable and luncheon meat.

• Okinawa Soba: Okinawan style soba noodles served in hot soup and garnished with fishcake, pork, green onions and red ginger. 

• Champuru Plate: Shoyu pork, stir‐fried vegetables, luncheon meat and deep‐fried tofu. 

• Okidog: Hotdog and chili wrapped in a soft tortilla with shredded shoyu pork and lettuce.

• Taco Rice: Invented in Okinawa, it’s a Tex-Mex-style taco on a bed of rice.  

Staying in Waikiki? Just walk to Kapiolani Park for the festival.

Driving to Waikiki? An Okinawan Festival shuttle bus will run continuously during the festival from the main parking lot Kapiolani Community College to the festival area for $2 roundtrip. Parking at the college will be free. Tickets for the shuttle may be purchased at the Okinawan Festival’s information booth and shuttle stop booth at Kapiolani Park.

For more information about this weekend's 31st annual Okinawan Festival, click here.


It’s not uncommon to walk right past an important archaeological site on Oahu and not even know it.

It happens all the time in Waikiki.

Right outside of a police substation on Kalakaua Avenue, near the beachside statue of Hawaii Olympian Duke Kahanamoku, stands a cluster of rocks. Most people walk right past the four stones, surrounded by a metal fence. Actually healing stones, the pohaku (sacred stones) are a part of Hawaiian history and culture.

The legend of the pohaku tells of four healers—Kapaemahu, Kapuni, Kinohi and Kahaloa—who arrived from Tahiti, settled in Waikiki and became renowned throughout Oahu. Eventually planning their return to Tahiti, the healers wanted their presence and power to remain on Oahu in a tangible form. So they placed their healing powers—or mana—in each of these stones to be used by the Hawaiian people in their absence.

The stones were lost for decades and later found after the demolition of a bowling alley in 1958. (They were used in the building’s foundation.) The stones were relocated to Waikiki’s Kuhio Beach in 1963, then moved in 1980 to where they remain today.

Inaccruately called “wizarding stones,” this important archaeological site is now called Na Pohaku Ola Kapaemahu a Kapuni.

Travel around Oahu and you’ll find even more culturally and historically significant sites. Some are more accessible than others, but all are worth visiting.

Here are five to get you started:


Ulupo Heiau State Historic Site

You wouldn’t expect to find a heiau (a Hawaiian temple) right behind a YMCA. But that’s exactly where you’ll find Ulupo Heiau, the second-largest such temple on Oahu.

The structure, located in the Windward Oahu town of Kailua, measures 140 feet by 180 feet with walls up to 30 feet in height. Built on the eastern edge of protected Kawai Nui Marsh, another site important to the Hawaiian culture, Ulupo Heiau may be more than 400 years old.

According to legend, the heiau was built by menehune (a legendary race of little people in the Islands). Oahu chiefs such as Kakuhihewa and Kualii participated in ceremonies at this sacred site, later abandoned in the 1780s when O‘ahu was conquered by Kamehameha the Great. The structure’s origins may have been as an agricultural heiau, with springs feeding crops of taro, sweet potato and banana. Kualii, however, may have converted it in his time to a heiau luakini (sacrificial temple), with an altar, an oracle tower and wooden images.

Next page: Heeia Fishpond

Seeing Stars: A night on Mauna Kea volcano

The stargazing patio at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.

Sunshine! Blue skies!

The sudden appearance of these after a 25-mile ascent through rainy, fog-engulfed Big Island lava forest is a welcome, late-afternoon feast for the senses. Angst about a day of thick, gray cloud cover and heavy rains over seaside Hilo ruining my evening plans at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Center begins to dissipate.

I’m driving the wide, lava-flow plateau separating massive Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes at 6,000 feet above sea level. Low-elevation clouds fall behind me on island-crossing Saddle Road. The likelihood of seeing the perfect night sky I’ve been promised seems finally possible.

The summit of Mauna Kea, a full 13,796 feet above sea level, has long been recognized as one of the best locations on Earth for astronomical observations. The 13 international telescopes constructed there over the past 45 years, and the early Hawaiians’ reverence of this highest point in the Islands as a sacred realm of the gods, are testament to that. But the summit of Mauna Kea is not easy to get to.

Wangle the four-wheel-drive vehicle required to negotiate the steep, seven-mile access road from the 9,200-foot level Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station (VIS) to the summit observatories and you’ll find its telescopes closed to the general public. Plus, post sunset, you’ll be stargazing on an alpine summit often buffeted by brutal winds and temperatures as low as 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Reason enough to be grateful that, on every evening since 2000, the VIS has been hosting stargazing on Mauna Kea for the rest of us.

A collection of telescopes is place on the VIS patio each evening for visitors to use.

Come sunset, a collection of telescopes (each purchased with public donations) is placed on the large, open-air patio of the VIS for all to use, with staff and volunteers offering guidance and stargazing knowledge. After complete darkness sets in, a staff-guided stargazing program offers a remarkably complete look at all things visible to the naked eye in Mauna Kea’s brilliant night sky.

And it’s all free of charge and accessible to anyone with a car healthy enough to make it up Mauna Kea Access Road to the VIS.

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The Pihea Trail begins with this panoramic Napali Coast view.

Midafternoon is slipping away as I happily make my way through a boggy plateau on the Alakai Swamp Trail, a few miles from the rain-drenched summit area of Mount Waialeale.

A metal mesh-topped boardwalk is keeping my feet dry in this place near the mountain once recognized as the wettest spot on Earth by the Guinness Book of World Records. An ever-so-subtle spring in the boardwalk’s underlying wood planks is energizing my pace. The only crack in my contentedness occurs when my hiking friends and I meet a lone trekker returning from our ultimate destination: Kilohana Lookout.

“How much farther?” we ask about the vista above the island’s famously scenic Napali coastline. Turns out we still have a mile or so of hiking before the boardwalk ends at the lookout: a small platform situated atop a 4,030-foot drop into Kauai’s northwest shore.

We pause for a moment to consider our options. Turn around here and we’ll finish an already spectacular excursion well before sunset. Push on and there’s a chance we’ll later be fumbling around in fading daylight. The four of us glance at one another and come to an almost instant consensus: We’re pushing on to Kilohana.

We had arrived at Kokee State Park shortly after midday with backpacks ready for a day hike but no set plan. Tucked into the often cloud-enshrouded highlands of Kauai’s northwest side, the 4,345-acre park maintains more than 45 miles of hiking paths—a few leading to sweeping views of Napali’s sea cliffs and Waialeale’s emerald slopes, others to waterfalls and glimpses of the red-clay walls of neighboring Waimea Canyon further downslope. In all, Kokee offers a hiker’s paradise of 17 designated trails.

Located near the start of several trailheads is Kokee Natural History Museum, a small, rustic space chockablock with facts and figures about the area’s native forests and rare Hawaiian birds, volcanic geology, and pioneering people. Staff members are on hand every day of the year to share the park’s story along with maps, weather forecasts and tips about current trail conditions. 

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Point Taken: Exploring Oahu's remote Kaena Point

Kaena Point is the island of Oahu's westernmost landfall.

We weren’t even three minutes into the craggy dirt roadway to Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve when one of our companions busted a tire on his bicycle. A not-exactly welcome, if unexpected chance to absorb my surroundings.

It was the first time in years I had been on the coastal trail traversing remote Kaena Point, one of the last intact sand dune ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands. Oahu’s westernmost promontory, Kaena Point rewards hearty hikers with sweeping views of the island’s still rugged north and leeward coastlines.

The uneven 5-mile trail around Kaena Point can be entered from two locations—Keawaula Beach (aka Yokohama Bay) at the end of Farrington Highway on Oahu’s western coastline, or Mokuleia at the same highway’s north coast endpoint. Far removed from Oahu urbanity, Kaena Point is one of the island’s last easily accessible pockets of nature left largely untouched. For more than a quarter century, the state has protected nearly 60 acres of land at the point, first as a nature preserve and, more recently, as an ecosystem restoration project for endangered and protected coastal plants and seabirds.

With motorized vehicles verboten in the reserve, the Kaena Point Trail is well suited for hiking and biking—the latter, preferably on durable mountain bikes. Straddling the coastline from our Keawaula Beach starting point, the trail passed steep cliff faces dropping into the ocean and stands of bright green beach naupaka shrubs. On our two-hour trek to the point, we encountered shoreline fishing enthusiasts and families with kids playing in shallow tidepools.

A wedge-tailed shearwater takes flight above Kaena Point's sand dunes.

The coastline, in fact, appeared largely unchanged since the last time I explored it save for one new feature we found as we reached Kaena’s sand dunes. There was now a large fence stretched across the entirety of the peninsula.

In April 2011, the Hawaii state Department of Land and Natural Resources installed a 6.5-foot-tall fence to keep out predatory animals and invasive plant species that had been devastating native and endangered flora and fauna. Painted to blend with natural surroundings, the stainless steel, fine-mesh fence, which crosses a half-mile of the peninsula from the south to north coast, had an immediate positive effect. The area’s population of wedge-tailed shearwater fledglings increased from 300 to more than 1,700 within a year of the fence’s installation. Laysan albatross fledgling populations are up 25 percent this year and native plants such as ohia and sandalwood are now covered in fruit.

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Waimea_farmers_markets_Big_IslandMarlene Bonk’s warm, content eyes gazed into mine as I perused fresh produce, hand-picked from her farm in the bucolic Big Island ranching town of Waimea. My outstretched hands clutched a couple of Okinawan sweet potatoes the size of baby ears of corn.

“How much for these?” I asked.

Piecing together ingredients for a stir-fry, I had chosen the smallest of the bunch of purple potatoes from her Kozen Farms produce stand at the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market. A warm smile spread across Marlene’s face like a gentle tide rolling to shore.

“Just take them,” she said.

“Are you sure?” I asked, hesitating.

“You can come back and buy some bigger things next time,” she teased.

Marlene’s kindness and generosity on my first visit to the relaxed, friendly farmers market a few years back left a lasting impression. These days, my girlfriend, Melia, and I begin each Saturday in town with stops at Waimea Homestead Farmers Market and its younger, if equally down-home, sibling down the highway, the Waimea Town Market.

Planning a lengthy stay on the Big Island’s South Kohala Coast and need edibles for home-cooked meals? Perhaps you’re just passing through Waimea on an around-the-island Saturday road trip. Stop by these homegrown, homestyle country farmers markets and you’ll leave with some of the best locally grown produce in the state, purchased directly from the farmers that raised them, likely right in Waimea. And go ahead and stop for a bit and talk story with growers, too.

Since 1992, nestled on a small parcel of land occupied by a state office complex straddling Big Island-circling Māmalahoa Highway, the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market attracts a weekly pilgrimage of visitors and locals drawn to its assortment of fruits, vegetables, flowers, plants, prepared goods and ready-to-eat foods, nearly all of it grown or produced in the Waimea area.

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Our tour group picks up peanut-sesame candy at a Chinatown bakery.

Just before the start of Hawaii Heritage Center’s guided walking tour of Downtown Honolulu’s 163-year-old Chinatown district, which crisscrosses the heart of this eclectic urban neighborhood and business and arts area, Karen Motosue shares a brief overview of the district’s past and present.

“They were smart,” says Motosue, of Chinatown’s founders. “They gravitated to this area because of instant commerce.”

Such business opportunities were tied to the nascent merchant area’s location near Oahu’s government and financial centers as well as Honolulu Harbor, which then served as the primary arrival site for visitors from the U.S. mainland and elsewhere.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, Chinese laborers were recruited by Hawaii’s plantation owners to work in sugar and pineapple fields. As the decades passed and thousands of workers wrapped up their labor contracts, many moved into what was then a dilapidated stretch of Oahu’s south shore rather than re-up for work in the fields.

These days, Chinatown continues to serve as a gateway or “transition zone” for immigrant groups endeavoring to make a go of it in the United States, says Motosue, who serves as vice present for the nonprofit Hawaii Heritage Center. In addition to China, many business owners and other residents of the district maintain close ties to Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Korea and other points in Southeastern Asia.

Before our morning tour group is ushered along the sidewalk-lined streets of the 27-block district for two hours of exploring, Motosue invites us to return to the Heritage Center later to peruse its gallery of artifact exhibits, photos and various news clippings. The center is a resource offering many stories of Chinatown’s multicultural immigrant population as well as the histories of Hawaii laborers from locales as far flung as Puerto Rico and Scotland to Greece, who settled elsewhere in the Islands.

For me, the Chinatown Historical & Cultural Walking Tour is an almost instant feast for the senses.

Within the first few blocks, we see buildings boasting modern and vintage architectural styles, hear snippets of curbside conversations spoken in Mandarin and Tagalog, savor the scent of awapuhi (ginger), pikake (jasmine) and plumeria flowers radiating from area lei stands, and taste sweet, chewy peanut-sesame candy from a Chinese bakery. 

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Pololu Valley's black sand beach and Paoakalani islets beyond.

On your next visit to Pololu Valley Lookout, at the end of the Big Island’s northernmost highway, do the following.

Take a seat on the lookout’s rock wall. Close your eyes. Inhale the salt-kissed air of the meeting of rugged North Kohala and Hamakua coastline. Exhale slowly. Then open your eyes and take in the visual splendor before you.

You are seeing Pololu Valley the same way everyone who paused here before you has for centuries. Turbulent surf crashing on the black sands of the valley’s rocky beach and shoreline. Emerald, foliage-filled cliffs, cradling Pololu’s valley floor and its winding, freshwater stream. The wave-pounded, offshore Paoakalani islets and, beyond them, the Hamakua Coast’s most remote sea cliffs.

There are no oceanfront resorts. No surf schools. No ziplines cutting across the valley. No manmade anything. Pololu Valley remains as unspoiled to modern-day visitors as it was to its first Hawaiian residents, who settled in the valley in the 15th century, raising kalo (taro) and other staple crops.

My last visit to the lookout was about a year ago. My Big Island-raised husband and I had been searching the North Kohala town of Kapaau for Holy’s Bakery—famed by residents and visitors for its frozen apple, pear and peach pies. It was his suggestion to take a break from our pie quest to show me the stunning view from the Pololu lookout.

I was so captivated, I immediately set a goal of heading down into the valley on my next visit. And so, on a January morning earlier this year, trail shoes, blister cream, extra bandages, water bottles and emergency One-Ton Chips from Hilo’s Maebo Noodle Factory in tow, we set out from the Pololu Valley lookout ready for anything nature chose to send our way on the hike to the valley floor.

Turned out, all we needed was the water and chips.

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