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“Year of the Dragon” Coffee

Welcome the new year in with some great Hawaiian coffee!   Coffees of Hawaii is having a new year sale on their special “Year of the Dragon” coffee!

Coffees of Hawaii’s “Year of the Dragon” New Year’s Coffee – Limited Edition – only available January 1st – 31st – plus 10% off & Free Shipping with code DRAGON12. Celebrate 2012 with this custom roasted 100% Hawaiian coffee while supplies last!

And, if you want to order one of their other coffees from Hawaii, you can get 10% off AND FREE Shipping thru March 31st, by using Promo Code: NEWYEAR10.

And, for member serving in the military, Welcome U.S. Service Men & Women – Coffees of Hawaii ships to all APO & FPO addresses FREE OF CHARGE plus SAVE 10% on all orders with promo code MILITARYSHIP – thanks for serving our country!

Haouli Makahiki Hou

Happy New Year!

May 2011 be a better year than 2010 was!  The country needs some good news and to see some improvement in our current economic state of affairs.  Then again, so could I.

It is also a good time to count our blessings, whether its still having a job while so many do not, or simply thankful for the family and extended ohana we surround ourselves with.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what your life would be like without these people being a part of it?  Wealth is not always measured in monetary terms and while having money is great, having loved ones to share experiences with is what truly matters.

I don’t have a lot of close friends…never have.  But, I am blessed to have two wonderful daughters, a great son-in-law, and a granddaughter who makes getting “old” seem worthwhile.  I see them about once or twice a month, which isn’t a lot, but always remind myself that it could be worse.

I now live in North Carolina and my parents and sister still live in Hawaii.  My parents live on the Big Island near Naalehu and my sister and her family live in Honolulu.  I don’t get to see them near as much as I’d like to  Sometimes, years go by without my being able to go back for a visit.

The last trip back was in February, 2010, and the whole family went back.  My two daughters, son-in-law, granddaughter, and even my ex-wife.  We spent a short time in Honolulu and the remainder of our trip on the Big Island.

We had a ball as I played tour guide and took them around the island over a 4-day period.  As I have written in previous posts, its not something you want to try and do in a day or two.  Besides, its not the easiest thing in the world getting four adults and a 1-year old ready to hit the road each morning.

I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything!  The kids and I, minus my granddaughter, took the hour fifteen minute hike to Papalokea, green sand beach, and enjoyed watching the whales off shore near South point along the way.

Its a long and dusty hike to get to Papalokea Beach

Papalokea “Green Sand” Beach

We made several stops in the Kailua-Kona area, including the Puuhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge) and Puukohola Heiau National Historic Sites.  They even took the short tour of the Kona Brewery, since “dad” was already the designated driver for the day.

We made the drive to Kapaau on the northern tip of the island and saw the King Kamehameha statue there, as well as enjoyed the drive along the Kohala mountains on Hwy 250.  We arrived in Waimea (Kamuela) too late to catch lunch at the Hawaiian Style Restaurant, but will make up for it on another trip.

I’m not sure who enjoyed our stop at Akaka Falls the most.  My granddaughter was just learning to walk and was determined to “walk” each of the many steps that you will encounter along the path to the viewing area.

We did not get to see lava flowing on this trip, but they took tons of pictures along the walk to the Thurston Lava Tube from the Park Headquarters.  We came back later that evening, after having some time in Hilo, to try and catch the night time glow out of Haleakala Crater, but it was a rainy, wet and windy night…not to mention cold.

They had signed up as volunteers to help in the whale counting efforts, but that was the day of the tsunami warning, so we spent the morning like most of the residents of Hawaii, watching the notable lack of wave activity.  Although, I must admit, it was kind of neat to watch the tide come in and out so many times in an hour.

While a little disappointed in the lack of action, we were also thankful that noone got hurt and no property damage was reported.

It seems the older I get, the more I enjoy my trips “home”.  Upon returning to North Carolina this time, I started to think about starting a website on Hawaii to share my love of the islands, as well as give me ample opportunities to keep myself abreast of what was going on back there.

A few months later, I started this blog to supplement my entries on the website.  If you have not yet visited it, I invite you to visit and share the information posted,  There is also a free newsletter that you can subscribe to as well.

Well, that was last year!  And, after spending a great Christmas with all of them, I can’t help but hope that 2011 brings us many more fond memories that we will share with one another for years to come.

May 2011 bring you many happy memories as well!

Mele Kalikimaka!

That’s Merry Christmas for all of you who aren’t as familiar with this Hawaiian greeting as you may be with Aloha!

By now you’ve completed your Christmas shopping and are simply looking forward to getting together with the family, sitting back and enjoying, as the wrapping paper is shredded and boxes torn opened and in mere seconds, days…weeks…months of finding the perfect gift, is over.

These are difficult times that we are struggling to get through, the best way we can.  Hawaii, with its tourist based economy, is especially hard hit by the world economic slow down.  Tourism is down, hotel rooms sit idle, and restaurant revenues are less than they’d like, which means higher unemployment levels throughout the state.

Its a good time to remind ourselves that Christmas is NOT all about the gift giving or receiving.  It is a time to celebrate the Christian beliefs or whatever beliefs in a higher power you may hold.  It is truly a season for giving, but not necessarily in a physical gift.

It is the sharing of the gift of love for one another that no lack of money can take away.  In fact, often the tougher our finances become, the more the power of family, of Ohana, comes through the strongest.

So, with that in mind, I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas!

Now, don’t forget to cheer on the University of Hawaii Warriors at tonight’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl…8:00 PM EST!


Royal Gardens Hit By Lava Again

Royal Gardens Area Lava Flow From 12/4-5/2001

Sorry, but I fell asleep at the switch and missed this great video post at Big Island Video News, one of my favorite sites.

To see this up-close video that was shot 2 weeks ago, go to

To get the latest information posted by the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), you can visit their Kilauea Status Reports, which is updated daily.

Here is their latest post, which updates the status of the flow running thru Royal Gardens:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011 9:12 AM HST

Activity Summary for past 24 hours: The West Ka`ili`ili ocean entry may be intermittently active fed by flows from Pu`u `O`o through the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and expanding across the coastal plain. Glow could be seen from sources within Pu`u `O`o crater. the summit lava lake level was variable. Seismic tremor levels were low and gas emissions were elevated.

Viewing Summary: East rift zone flow field – Active lava flows are within the closed-access Kahauale’a Natural Area Reserve and private property within the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision and can only be viewed from the air and from the County Viewing Area at Kalapana. Pu`u `O`o Cone, the West Ka`ili`ili lava ocean entry, and Kilauea Crater – Pu`u `O`o cone, the lava ocean entry, and Kilauea Crater are within Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park; access and viewing information can be found at

Photos of lava entering the ocean, taken on December 13, 2011


There are some great pictures posted at their website, follow the link above.

Royal Gardens Lava Flow Entering Sea

Small streams of lava cascading over the sea cliff, and entering the ocean

The current lava flow, coming down the pali and traversing the coastal plain, reached the ocean late last week. The ocean entry point is within the National Park, near its eastern border. Today, numerous small streams of lava were cascading over the sea cliff, and lava entering the water was starting to build a small delta.

This photograph shows two channels of lava coming over the sea cliff, reaching the new lava delta.
















Lava continues to flow through the former Royal Gardens subdivision as it makes it way to the coastal plain and entry into the ocean.  This is the first such activity in the area since March of this year.  It is possible to catch sight of part of this activity from the public viewing area located at Kalapana.  This viewing area is located outside of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is maintained by Hawaii County.

This pic, taken on December 2, 2011, gives a great view of the flow going thru Royal Gardens subdivision.

The flow is following the west margin of lava flows emplaced in February 2010, which brings the current flow close to the last occupied residence (orange structure in center of photo) in Royal Gardens.

Hawaii Grown Tea – Another Hidden Gem

Tea Plants First Introduced Over 100 Years Ago

Tea was first introduced to Hawaii around 1887.  Since then, unsuccessful attempts to commercialize Hawaii grown tea production on Kauai and in the Kona region of the island of Hawaii were attributed to the high cost of production in Hawaii compared to the lower costs in other tea producing areas.  This is a recurring problem that faces most commercial crop production in Hawaii.  In the late 1980s, some of the sugar firms tried to establish tea plantations to replace sugar cane, but these projects proved to be unsuccessful and were terminated.

And, once again, the University of Hawaii, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, is involved in research into finding the right plant variety and locations for successful Hawaii grown tea planting.  Partnering with their efforts are the Tropical Plant Genetic Resource Management Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo.

Between 1999 and 2001, half-acre plantings were established at each of three locations on the island of Hawaii in Waiakea (600 ft elevation), Mealani (2800 ft), and Volcano (4000 ft). Preliminary observations of these research and demonstration efforts suggest the following:

  • Tea grows very well at Mealani (2800′) and Volcano (4000) and relatively slower at Waiakea (600′).
  • Most cultivars are ready for harvest in about 18–20 months after planting.
  • Green, oolong, and modified green teas processed from tea leaves harvested at Mealani and Volcano are of excellent quality.
  • Clonal tea plants are recommended over seedlings for their uniform growth, allowing the vegetative cycles to be more readily synchronized for mechanical harvesting.
  • The pest and disease problems of tea are relatively mild at all three locations and can be readily managed by agronomic practices such as pruning and fertilizer management.
  • Some of the pests are spider mites, aphids, and leaf rollers.  No insecticides or fungicides were applied at any of the three field locations for over three years.

For more detailed and expanded information on this research on Hawaii grown tea.

Hawaii Grown Tea – A Cottage Industry Established

Fast forward to 2011 and 12 years of research and development has established a fledgling cottage industry of Hawaii grown tea. There are now several tea growers on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The leaders in this effort, who have been involved during the entire 12-year period, are a husband and wife team of Chiu Leong and Eva Lee, of Tea Hawaii & Company.

They have partnered with three additional growers; John Cross, Sen Woo Fang, and Mike Riley.  Together, they market four distinct varieties of Hawaii grown tea:

  • Home grown garden estate.  Tea growers Chiu Leong and Eva Lee of Volcano Village at 4000 feet elevation.  Grown in the rainforest of Kilauea volcano under a canopy of native Ohia trees and Hapu’u ferns.  Harvested by plucking the top bud and two leaves.  The leaves are long, loose and downy and brew into rich clear golden infusion.  The flavor is floral and sweet, deeply satisfying and comforting. Truly the first shade grown forest tea of Hawaii.
  • Hilo Tea Garden tea estate grower Fang Sen Woo of Mountain View at 2000-foot elevation surrounded by tropical flowers.  He produces Ola’a Green tea.  This tea is a pan fired green tea that is exotic in aroma and pure in flavor. Steeped into a pale golden green infusion with a lingering fresh taste.
  • Volcano Tea Garden tea estate grower Mike Riley of Volcano Mauna Loa Estates at 3600-foot elevation.  His product is named Mauka Oolong.  It is flinty, crisp, smooth and cooling, with mild tropical notes of green papaya and honey that add to the complexity of this enticing tea.
  • Johnny’s Garden tea estate grower John Cross of Hakalau at 900-foot elevation. Makai to face towards the sea is a black tea that is handcrafted with both sinensis and assamica leaves that steep into a crystalline amber infusion. This tea’s flavor profile is smooth and refined with no astringency or bitterness even when steep for long periods. A crisp body that yields delicate notes of caramel, barley malt with hints of chocolate and a slight taste of roasted sweet potato.

Hawaii continues to diversify with more and more premium products that take advantage of the variety of conditions found in Hawaii.  From sea level to altitudes exceeding 10,000′, from arid to lush rain-forest conditions, and with rich volcanic soil, opportunities will continue to expand for those venturesome enough to pioneer new crops.  The Big Island of Hawaii is also the only place where all three major infusion beverages are grown; Hawaii grown coffee, Hawaii grown cacao (chocolate) and Hawaii grown tea.

Hawaii grown tea is just another example of the premiere products that Hawaii continues to bring to us.



Royal Hawaiian (Shopping) Center

Last minute Christmas shopping still needing to be done?  Well,  if you have not yet been to the Royal Hawaiian Center and its 100+ shops, maybe you should check it out.

What’s nice is that many of these shops/stores are locally owned and operated and offer items made by local artisans!  The other nice thing is, its right there in Waikiki, so you don’t have far to travel if you happen to be staying there, as so many do.

Not only do they offer three-plus  floors of shopping, but they also offer something hard to find anywhere in Waikiki…free parking!  Until January 31st, you can get 3-hours free parking by getting your parking ticket validated at one of the 8 restaurants, 2-hours free parking if validated by one of the 8 food court vendors, or one free hour of parking when validated by one of the stores.   Additional parking is just $1.00/hour, which in itself is a pretty good deal for parking in Waikiki.

Kilauea – Not the Peaceful Volcano We Thought

Kilauea is not what I thought!

All my life, I have been told that Hawaii’s volcanoes are of the peaceful type.  They produce breath-taking fountains of lava and flow to the ocean via lava tubes or awe inspiring, cascading rivers of super heated rock towards the sea. Now, I’ve learned that this is not the case.

I just read a report from the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, stating that Kilauea actually has a history of prolonged periods of explosive eruptions!  As a matter of fact, there are longer periods of explosive eruptions than peaceful interludes, such as Hawaii has experienced for the last couple of hundred years.

They also report that the explosive eruptions could resume at any time because they have no way of predicting any sort of timetable.  From 500 to 200 years ago, it was primarily the explosive type of volcanic activity that marked Kilauea’s eruptions.

To quote from an article written by David Perlman and published on (San Francisco Chronicle):

“Eruptions and flows

“The geologic record shows that Kilauea’s activity has been marked by a period dominated by frequent lava flows from about 2,500 to 2,200 years ago, followed by a long period of explosive eruptions that continued for about the next 1,200 years; then another 500 years of lava flows, followed by about 300 years of eruptions, and then by more lava flows that continue today.

More than 100 radiocarbon observations, based on charcoal from the mountain’s burned vegetation, have established the dates, Swanson said.”  [Donald Swanson of the U.S. Geological Survey and director of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.]

He went on to say,

The lava flows are building up the volcano’s summit now, he said, and each period of violent eruptions creates and deepens the volcano’s circular crater, called the caldera. When even a small eruption is about to occur, he said, the bottom of the caldera sinks slightly. So its level is recorded daily as a possible sign that an eruption is due.

“The good news is that we are currently in a period of frequent lava flows, and the hazard of explosive eruptions is small,” Swanson said. “The bad news is that we don’t know when the next period of deep caldera and explosive eruptions will start. We know too little to estimate recurrence intervals.”

Image of Kilauea Changed Forever

So, I guess your perception of Kilauea and the volcanoes in Hawaii has been changed along with my own.  It won’t take away from the magnificence of watching Madam Pele [Goddess of the Volcano] at work, but it does give me pause and gratitude for not having to worry about the explosive eruptions that have occurred in the past.  That could change, of course, but I’d like to believe that this peaceful phase will last for at least another couple of hundred years!

Night Diving with Manta Rays in Kona

Night Diving or Snorkeling With The Manta Rays in Kona

With almost two dozen different outfits offering night diving/snorkeling outings in Kailua-Kona, you can see just how popular this experience has become.  The Manta ray encounters along the Kona coast began back in the early 70’s; a hotel called the “Kona Surf” had bright lights that shined into the ocean and mantas were attracted almost nightly. Scuba operators taking advantage of this, began doing night dives.  While the location gave a reliable chance to see them, the spot was not as reliable because of its vulnerability to large waves and weather.

In 1999, the Kona Surf Hotel closed and the lights were turned off.  The Manta rays found a new spot to congregate in a bay near the Kona airport where plankton concentrated in the late afternoon sun.  This is the spot where most Manta rays appear to be going on a regular basis and this bay offers a much more protected location from ocean swells.

And, in a somewhat symbiotic relationship, divers and snorkelers use strong lights to attract plankton, which in turn attract the Manta rays, which feed primarily on plankton, thus providing the divers/snorkelers the show they desire.  In the video above, the water is not murky, those are millions of plankton that appear as specks in the light.  Since the Manta rays know that this occurs nightly, they tend to show up regularly with over 90% of outings successful.  It may be just a single Manta ray or it maybe a gathering of over 40.

Just about all of the operators offer a guarantee that if you do not encounter any Manta rays during your night dive, you can try again at no charge.  A point to keep in mind is that anyone who goes out on a boat, will be charged the full amount…regardless of whether or not they plan on getting in the water.  Likewise, everyone is charged, regardless of age.  While most operators do not have a minimum age, leaving it to parental discretion, a minimum age of 12 years old is suggested.

Swim With The Manta Rays, a most memorable experience!

The nightly dives with resident Manta rays in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, has been rated one of the top 10 experiences in the world!  Even the most seasoned traveler find it to be a memorable experience.   One of the great appeals is that this experience is not limited to certified scuba divers, although certification is required if you do wish to scuba dive.  Even those with minimal swimming abilities can enjoy this experience utilizing floating devices and snorkels.  Check with the individual vendors.

As a matter of fact, even those who can’t swim or simply don’t want to be in the water with these gentle giants, can still partake in this by going out on the Spirit of Kona, a glass-bottom boat that offers Manta ray cruises on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  You can observe these graceful giants of the sea without getting wet.  You can take pictures, videos, and watch as they often approach within inches of the observation glass.  (Make your reservations online thru the link above and get a $10 discount.)

Manta Ray Facts

The word ‘Manta’ is Spanish for cloak, referring to their large, blanket-shaped bodies. In Hawaiian, they are called hāhalua.

Resident Manta rays grow up to 16′ across, wingtip to wingtip.  The Manta rays in Kona average 8-14′, with the largest recorded at 16′.

They are considered “near threatened”, which means that they are in danger of becoming an extinct species in the near future.  There are two small resident populations of Manta rays in Hawaii under observation.  One of the populations, 176 individual Manta’s have been identified, is in Kona.  The other is located near Maui and contains about 300.

Individual Manta rays can be identified by their unique marking patterns on their undersides.  Similar to fingerprints, no two Manta rays have the same markings.

Manta rays are often called “the butterflies of the sea” … they are shy, harmless, and, as the video captured, quite graceful.  They do not have any stinging spines on their tail.  They don’t bite or chew.  Their mouths are designed like a giant funnel to filter plankton; swimming with them is completely safe for both humans and for the Manta rays.  They truly are gentle giants.

For a more detailed write up on Manta rays, check out the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research, Inc. website.

Protecting the Manta Rays

Manta rays are particularly vulnerable to extinction as they take a long time to reach maturity and they reproduce a single offspring every two or three years.  Hawaii has taken the precaution of banning the capture and/or killing of Manta Rays within Hawaiian waters.

Although Manta rays may approach within inches of divers and snorkelers, it is best not to reach out and touch them.  It has been observed that where touched, they develop sores which take a long time to heal.  The belief is that touching them removes their mucus protective covering and allows infections to develop.  So, please keep this in mind when you make your night dive among the Manta rays in Kona.


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