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International Marketplace – 7/14/2010

What do you think about the continuing controversy of this Waikiki landmark? It appears that the International Marketplace’s days are numbered, as the Queen Emma Foundation (owner’s of the property) continue to review proposals from multiple land developers.

International Market Place, A Waikiki Icon

International Market Place, A Waikiki Icon


Do you think Waikiki really needs another “upscale” shopping mall?  Admittedly, the International Marketplace has grown long in the tooth and some of the kiosks and buildings are showing their age.  Maybe I’m just feeling too nostalgic these days, after years of watching so many of my old haunts disappear.

International Marketplace map

Map of the International Marketplace

Best guess, it will be well into 2011 before anything concrete can be anticipated.  So, at least for now, the International Marketplace will continue on, business as usual.  I, for one, will miss watching my daughters bargain-hunt for that perfect dress to take home.

Target date for some sort of decision has been set as the end of summer by the foundation.

What are your feelings?

Update: The days are numbered for this Waikiki landmark, as the International Marketplace will likely be razed before the end of 2013.  In its place, an upscale mall which will forever change the landscape as one of the oldest parts of this vacation destination disappears.

Update: Well, the wait is over and the International Marketplace is a thing of the past…at least  the original International Marketplace.  Removal of the old Marketplace began the first of 2014 and construction of the upscale mall began a few months later.  Check out a more recent post at


Hilo…lots of rain also means waterfalls

As promised in an earlier post, this post will discuss the Big Island town of Hilo, which retains the look and feel of downtown from 100 years ago, including many of the original buildings.

Hilo is known for being rainy all the time…it does get over 70″ of rain annually, which makes it the wettest city in the US.  What all this rain also brings is the lushness and greenery that people come to expect of a tropical paradise and in stark contrast to the much drier Kona side of the island, which is where all the resorts are.

Another benefit from all that rain are the waterfalls located on this side of the island.  Rainbow Falls is located about 5 minutes outside of downtown Hilo, along the Wailuku River.   Its easy to get to and the viewing area is a short 100 yards from the parking lot.

Rainbow Falls, 5 minutes away from downtown Hilo

If you head back to town and get on Bayfront Highway (aka Hwy 19), head north, and in about 10 miles, you will come to the turn off to 420′ Akaka Falls.

420′ Akaka Falls, Big Island

Back in Hilo, you may want to stop at Waialoa River State Park and see the 3rd statue of King Kamehameha the Great.  This statue was originally commissioned by the Princeville Corporation for placement at the Princeville Resort on Kauai.  Due to Kauai resident resistance, they ultimately gifted the statue to Hilo, which was his political center.

It seems that the residents of Kauai were upset because Kauai was the only island that was not conquered by King Kamehameha.   The king of Kauai, King Kaumualii, wanting to avoid all that comes from fighting what he could see would be a losing cause, came to terms with King Kamehameha and avoided all the unnecessary bloodshed.

(The most renown statue of King Kamehameha stands in Honolulu, across from Iolani Palace and the remaining statue stands in the town of Kapaa in the Kohala District of the Big Island.)

Any visitor to Hilo cannot help but notice the large park area located just south of the downtown area, fronting Hilo Bay.  At first, this seems like a waste of valuable land.  What visitors must understand is the reason this green area exists is because on April Fool’s day, 1946, a large tsunami hit Hilo and killed 146 people and destroyed 1300 homes!

And, if that wasn’t bad enough, 14 years later on May 19, 1960, another tsunami struck Hilo at 1:04 a.m. killing an additional 61 people.  It was agreed that they would not rebuild in that area and the green area was turned into a park dedicated to those who lost their lives.   There is an old style, city square type clock which stands in the park, forever stuck at 1:04 in memorial to them.

Cafe 100, located on Kilauea Ave, is considered to be the home of the popular “loco-moco”.  The original dish consisted of a bowl of rice, topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg, and a generous heaping of brown gravy…a nutritionist’s nightmare meal.  The current menu offers a lot of variations, replacing the hamburger patty with Portuguese sausage, Spam, etc.

Speaking of food, stop at the Big Island Candies factory.  Along with a line of mouth-watering chocolate-dipped scotch-bread cookies and brownies, they also offer some uniquely Hawaiian snacks, found nowhere else.  Care to try some chocolate-covered ika (dried squid)?  (I have to admit, the chocolate-covered ika was not one of my personal favorites.)

Retailer Hilo Hattie had its humble beginnings here in Hilo.  Today, they have outlets in Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, and Kailua-Kona, but there flagship store in Hilo has closed.  It may come as a surprise to you, but they also have stores in Orange County, California; Tempe, Arizona; Miami, Florida; Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando, Florida!  The store got its name from an entertainer who went by that moniker and who sold the marketing rights to this fledgling attire manufacturer before passing away.  Other than that, she never had any financial ties to the store itself.

The Merrie Monarch Festival

Hilo is host to the annual Merrie Monarch (Hula) Festival, held in late April.  This competition sells out quickly every year, so if you’re planning a trip to the Big Island around that time of the year, make your reservations early.  And, even if you don’t plan on attending, but will be on the Big Island at that time, you should know that rooms and car rentals are hard to come by.  Tickets go on sale the day after Christmas.

Add the fact that the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park lies just 30 minutes away versus the almost 2-hour drive from Kailua-Kona, and you can start to appreciate that maybe Hilo deserves consideration as a destination point, rather than just another pit-stop on your around-the-island run.


Airlines Create New Fee…Again!

Newest Airline Fee

You’ve got to hand it to the airlines, they are the kings of creating new fees to  bolster their bottom lines and frustrate the traveling public.  Lets recap the airlines’ progression on assessing us with new fees:

  • Baggage fee
  • Europe’s budget carrier, Ryan Air, experimented with charging a “restroom fee”
  • Do you remember when they wanted to charge us a convenience fee for buying tickets online?
  • Premiere seating upgrade fee, paying for a few more inches of leg room
  • Still a carrier or two charging a “carry-on luggage” fee
  • Where you once tipped a skycap for assistance at curbside, baggage drop-offs, there is now a fee to do so!

And, now, three major carriers will be implementing an extra charge to NOT be in the center seat!   Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and United Airlines will be putting this new charge into affect in the coming days.  The fee?  About $50 more to get a window or aisle seat.

Why?  Because they can!

Government Regulations?

Its not enough that the airlines want to shrink the space per seat even further than they already have.  Attempts to stop this latest move in Congress have failed.  The airlines crying foul and charging Congress with a move back towards regulating the air travel industry.  I, for one, would not mind having some government oversight on an otherwise out of hand industry.

I do believe in free enterprise and letting the buying public have the final say in what it considers to be “too far”, but at some point, where common-sense is replaced by the bottom-line, I think something must be done.  It took an act of Congress, literally, to simply get the airlines to post the total cost of a ticket, rather than the deceptive piece meal way they were doing it.

It wasn’t that long ago that what-you-saw-was-not-what-you-paid.  Airlines would post a low, misleading price to purchase a ticket and when you clicked to select that ticket, the price would miraculously increase significantly as all the various fees were added in…landing fees, airport security fees, etc.   And, that brought us back to “what you see is what you pay” ticket pricing.  That is, it is until you start to add in all the “optional” fees.

You know, the optional checked baggage fee, the upgrade fees for such things as “economy-plus”, where they let you opt out of the space saver seats into what used to be regular seats for an additional charge.  This latest fee falls into the same category of fees, where you will pay NOT to be stuck in the middle seat.  (Didn’t USAirways experiment with the same thing several years ago, where they charged extra to get an aisle seat?)

What’s different this time?  This time, it isn’t just one airline’s experiment.  This time, it involves three of the largest carriers in the country.  This time, you may have to just plan on spending that extra $40-50 per leg fee…unless you don’t mind the center seat.

Unintended Side-Affect

Here’s one side affect that has not been mentioned anywhere that I’ve seen.  I believe that there will be families that will take the center seats to save money (multiply that $40 by 4 or more seats and it adds up, quickly).  Then, once on the plane, they will start asking passengers in the aisle or window seats, if they wouldn’t mind swapping so that they can sit together.

This can be a hard for the all but cold-hearted person to refuse, especially if it involves young children.

In the past, I have accommodated such families, but it usually meant swapping an aisle for an aisle seat or a window for a window seat.  In the future, I’m less likely to be amenable to such requests to swap my extra-cost window or aisle for a discounted center seat, just so a family who chose to split themselves up to save money, can sit together.  Likewise, when the flight attendants ask for volunteers to swap seats to help  families out that the airlines split up, I don’t think they’ll find too many volunteers who will downgrade to a center seat.

Just my thoughts.  Feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.

New Flow Advances Towards The Northern Edge of Pahoa – 12/3/14

Newest Pahoa Flow Moving Northeast

Large scale map courtesy USGS HVO

As of Dec. 2, 2014, the area where the two lines of descent (the blue lines) is approximately 400 yards from the current flow.  At the current rate of advancement, it should reach it sometime today.  So, tomorrow will give a better idea of which direction the flow will take.  It could follow the current line, which would take it toward the Pahoa Marketplace, it could take the more northerly track or split and take both.  On the other hand, as we’ve seen in the past, it could very well take a completely unexpected path or stop, like the original flow.

The original flow, shown in pink above, advanced at an average rate closer to 100 yards or less daily.

This video is from the Dec 1, 2014 update and has some great video shots, as well as good information on what’s happened.

The community of Pahoa and its surrounding subdivisions has been threatened by advancing lava since June 2014.  To date, as far as I know, only one residential property has been completely lost to the lava.  A few other properties have been affected with the lava entering and covering part of their property, but otherwise, damage has been minimal to this point.  Of course, there was ranch/cattle land covered along the way, as well.

The Civil Defense, Hawaii Volcano Observatory, Hawaii County, the state of Hawaii, and the utility companies have all made great efforts to keep the public aware of on-going activity while trying to maintain as much of the utilities and road access available to the residents of Pahoa.  The Federal government and FEMA has been somewhat slow to provide much assistance.  Lava, and its unique properties, is not something national emergency procedures address well.

I’m sure FEMA would act quicker had the entire community of Pahoa disappeared under a massive advance of lava, but the fact that this is a slowly developing situation and with unknown properties affected, they seem to be at a loss as to what to do.  Even President Obama, who likes to claim Hawaii as his birthplace, was slow to declare a State of Emergency which provides access to federal aid to affected families and small business owners.

The problem with not only federal aid, but with homeowners’ insurance, is that they don’t kick in until and unless your residence or business has been destroyed.  They do not consider you’re leaving or evacuating in advance of the lava, as their problem.  In fact, homeowners’ insurance goes so far as to punish those who evacuate by declaring your home as vacant, therefore limited in coverage if covered at all.  The other problem that the state is looking into is the cancellation or non-renewal of policies on properties in the affected areas by insurance companies.


Pahoa Lava Flow Unlikely to Affect Vacation Plans – 11/5/2014

Recent Pahoa Volcanic Activity

The news/media seem to be overstating the impact of recent Hawaii volcanic activity.  I thought I would write this post to un-dramatize the recent volcanic activity and its impending impact.  While it is true the current lava flow is moving towards the village of Pahoa, located to the southeast of Hilo, and fairly unpredictable, there is little chance that the whole town is in jeopardy of being covered over.  The most likely impact would be to split the town in half.

I don’t mean to understate the seriousness of the situation, but due to the lay of the land…the topography, the lava is more likely to continue its unrelenting path to the coast, rather than expand wide enough to impact the entire town, as some news reports have stated.

Its also a very slow moving flow, usually advancing less than 50 yards a day, so residents of Pahoa have had ample warning and opportunity to move their belongings and find alternative living arrangements.  The temporary shelter set up by local authorities has had very few occupants as residents have found places to move to.  They understand that this is not like a hurricane or tornado where the impact is comparably immediate and you can assess your losses and move on.

Pahoa will continue to be under the threat of approaching lava for at least the next few months, if volcanic activity continues as it has for several years.  For those who may be planning a Hawaiian vacation which includes a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii, there will likely be no noticeable impact to your plans.

The largest majority of tourists base their stay in the Kailua-Kona area of the Big Island, which is on the opposite side of the island.  As a matter of fact, Pahoa is located off the main highway that circles the island, so most of the residents of the Big Island don’t feel any impact from this latest development either.  Very few locals and tourists alike ever take Highway 130 through the area affected.

If you are curious and want to keep up to date with the most recent developments, you can “Like” and Follow my Facebook page, My Hawaii Food Fun.  You can also “Like” and Follow Big Island Video News, who posts daily (and sometimes more frequently) updates and warnings issued by the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Hawaii County Civil Defense, and the U.S. Geological Service.

Lava Flow Caveats

Hawaii has passed Emergency laws which make looting a felony and also limits access to the affected areas.  What this also means is that curious people will not be permitted close to the lava flow.  The National Guard has been monitoring traffic in and out of the area, assisting local law enforcement.

Not surprisingly, these new laws are being tested and challenged.

While helicopters provide the best viewing of this latest lava activity, their access has also been limited for both safety and as a courtesy to residents still living in the area.  The helicopter tour companies have been very cooperative with local authorities in limiting their flights below 4000′.

Having said that, this is a serious situation, especially for those who have called Pahao home for years…if not generations.

Please send your thoughts and prayers to the residents of the Pahoa area!


A Must See Theatrical Performance…Ulalena


If you’re spending time on Maui and still have some energy left in you after a day full of sight-seeing, snorkeling, and shopping, you may want to plan an evening attending Maui’s premiere theatrical performance held at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina, called Ulalena.  For over 10-years, this first-class stage production has received rave reviews from everyone who has seen it.  This is not your typical luau dinner show, but a full blown, professional theatrical show that would hold its own in Vegas or Broadway!  But, this uniquely Hawaiian live performance can only be seen at the 680-seat Maui Theatre.



  • “Voted ‘Best Way to Learn About Maui’” –Maui Magazine
  • “It truly represents our oral history, which totally will entrance the viewer with
    the beauty of our past.” –Maui News Opinion, submitted by Hawaiian Cultural
    Advisor Charles Kauluwehi Maxwell Sr.
  • “‘Ulalena, a show about Hawaiian mythology and history, proves there’s a life
    beyond the luau.” –Travel+Leisure Magazine
  • “I go out of my way to not call ‘Ulalena (at Maui Theatre) a show. It’s theater.
    It’s art. It’s wonderful. ‘Ulalena is one of the most brilliant pieces of theater
    I’ve seen in Hawai‘i in more than 40 years.”
    –Honolulu Star Bulletin Columnist Dave Donnelly
  • “There’s nothing like it in Hawai‘i.”- Frommer’s, Maui Edition
  • “…we recommend seeing the ‘Ulalena show, a total departure from the often mindless
    “Hawaiian” productions aimed at tourists.” –The Boston Globe
  • “…the buzz of the millennium and a yardstick by which future productions are
    measured.” –Honolulu Advertiser Entertainment Columnist Wayne Harada
  • “…an evocative experience that often leaves the audience speechless. It is
    interactive, with dancers coming down the aisles, drummers and musicians in
    surprising corners, and mind-boggling stage and lighting effects that draw
    the audience in.” –Frommer’s
  • “…’Ulalena has been bringing down the house.”
    –Conde Nast Traveler
  • “Awarded ‘Best Show’ & ‘Best Attraction’”
    –Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau

Tickets for Ulalena are $59.99, $69.99 and $79.99.  The $79.99 VIP is for seating in the first 7-rows center or first 5-rows side wings and includes a 20-minute behind the scenes session with the cast.  Children 6-12 are $30 less per ticket.

Given the theatre’s 8-channel, 20-speaker, state-of-the-art surround sound system, you may want to pass on the standard seats and spend the extra $10-20.  Speaking of sound systems, the Maui Theatre was designed specifically with this show in mind.  Special lighting and stage hydraulics add to the special efforts that went into giving audiences a great experience.

Performances of Ulalena are held Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and  Friday, starting at 5:00 pm.


Aloha Oi International Marketplace

International Marketplace of Waikiki Closed!

While the many vendor stalls and wagons may still sit in their usual spots, the vendors and merchandise that once made the International Marketplace a favorite of many visitors and locals alike – are gone.  December 31,  2013 marked the last day  for this iconic location and while there are a few storefronts still open along Kalakaua Avenue, they too, will close their doors for the final time at the end of January.

For those who may not have been aware, the Queen Emma Foundation, owners of the land, has opted to replace the International Marketplace with an upscale mall, anchored by Saks.  Viewed from a strictly economic view, this decision makes sense in terms of the increase in dollars that will be generated which can be put to use towards the Queen Medical Center’s west facility.  You can read more about this controversial decision here in an earlier post.

My kids used to always look forward to spending a couple of hours navigating the carts and stores, looking for hidden bargains away from the glitz and glamor of Waikiki.  I think that was the attraction of the International Marketplace for the majority of people.  With its demise, we lose another uniquely Hawaiian experience.

There may even be a small number of people who would say that the removal of the aged International Marketplace is a good thing from an aesthetics point of view.  And, yes, many of the structures were long over do to be replaced, but the true value of this iconic shopping area is probably more nostalgic than practical.  It represents a simpler time before Waikiki became a concrete, metal, and glass jungle, when the Pink Castle (aka Royal Hawaiian Hotel) was a visible landmark…from the street, not just the ocean.

If its any consolation, it is my understanding that both the Monkeypod tree and the International Marketplace sign will be spared and will be incorporated into the new mall landscaping.  I wonder it they’ll also keep the koi pond?

International Marketplace Sign

International Marketplace Sign

I guess this is more of a personal loss for many of us who will miss this Waikiki landmark, but I do believe that more people will miss this more laid-back venue than those who are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Saks.  The cost of progress seems disproportionately high, but economics rule.  It just seems Waikiki has turned into just another shopping mecca, similar to many of those found throughout the US…except, of course, for the tropical setting.

I guess we should be happy that the Pink Palace and the Hilton Rainbow Tower still stand as Waikiki landmarks.  Hopefully, they will remain recognizable for the foreseeable future.

Aloha oi International Marketplace!  You can look for the new mall and Saks sometime in 2015.

Update:  The new projected opening date for the new upscale mall is spring 2016.

Goodbye USAirways…Welcome to the New American Airlines Dec 9 2013

Effective December 9, 2013, the new American Airlines becomes the largest airline in the United States.

Even after challenges from the government and consumer groups fearing reduced competition will lead to higher prices, American Airlines Group emerged from bankruptcy today, months after announcing the intention of merging American Airlines and US Airways.  Why the concern?  With the creation of this newer, larger, and hopefully stronger airline, four airlines will control over 80% of the domestic market.

This is just the latest of several airline mergers as they continue to maneuver to maintain profitability and competitiveness since the industry was deregulated decades ago.  Continental and Northwest Airlines being among the more notable airlines having disappeared in recent years.

Affect on Mainland-Hawaii Airfares should be negligible

US Airways has never served the Hawaii-Mainland routes, so this merger should have no effect on seat availability and pricing of tickets.  However, as route consolidation and the two airlines get fully integrated, it may have an impact in some markets on the mainland.  As a matter of fact, many of those in Hawaii may not be familiar with US Airways since they are strongest along the eastern seaboard.

The question now is, how smoothly they can pull of this merger.  If you recall, the merger between United and Continental Airlines back on October 1, 2011, took the better part of a year before they got their two separate systems integrated.

Hopefully, this latest merger will bring some stability to the airline industry.  Congratulations and best wishes to the new American Airlines!

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