The Honolulu Coffee Experience Center in Waikiki


I love a good cup of coffee. One of the great things about Hawaii is that we have a rich coffee history and we grow a wide variety of different coffees here. Our climate, our soil, our location – they are all perfect for coffee. I’ll talk more about that in a coming post…

For now, I wanted to let you know about a fun coffee experience I had yesterday in Waikiki. Technically, The Honolulu Coffee Experience Center sits on the edge of Ala Moana and Waikiki, but it’s close enough to just call it Waikiki. It’s right across from the Hawaii Convention Center on Kalakaua Avenue on the western end of Waikiki.

The building used to be a Hard Rock Cafe – or maybe a Planet Hollywood – and it went through some other businesses as well. It’s one of those places I drive by all the time and never pay attention to. My friend and I meet for coffee in a new location every couple of weeks and since neither of us had been here – it was a great option.

There is ample parking on the other side from the photo above. Inside there are terrific displays to educate you about coffee, where you can see the coffee beans being roasted while you sit at the bar, and you can watch the talented pastry chefs making their treasures behind the glass wall. A small gift shop and a closed in glass room that I never really figured out the purpose of – there was an espresso machine in there and a college age girl who appeared to be doing her homework inside. I know I missed something there…

The coffee itself was nice. I had an espresso with a croissant and was pleased that it was served on a small wood tray with some mineral water – the espresso itself was tasty with very little of the bitterness I usually find at other places that start with an S. We were able to order our coffee for there so we didn’t have to throw away paper cups and contribute to the garbage issues we face on Oahu. My friend had an Americano and no complaints about it.

The seating was fun with the aforementioned bar seats in the lowered center, a few tables around the lower center edges, and then scattered tables of different sizes on the upper (ground) level and a number of umbrella covered tables outside as well. Overall, it was a nice experience and a good cup of coffee. I recommend it.

HONOLULU COFFEE EXPERIENCE CENTER
1800 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815

King David Kalakaua – The Merrie Monarch – Last King of Hawai’i

King David Kalakaua was a champion of Hawaiian culture, the last King of Hawaii, and is celebrated as the Merrie Monarch – but he also had dreams of a Hawaiian-Japanese empire and was the first monarch to circumnavigate the globe.

He was both a celebrated musician and composer and a dedicated archivist and writer. It was King Kalakaua who first gathered together the Myths and Legends of Hawaii. Friend of Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Edison, he was a technology geek, and all around cool guy – King David Kalakaua was an awesome monarch.

He had a passion for music, dancing, parties, and the finest food and drinks during his 54 years and he lived up to the title of Merrie Monarch. The king’s reign, however, was also marked by tragedy, pain and dark clouds hovering over the Hawaiian kingdom.

Born on November 16, 1836 in Honolulu to High Chief Kahana Kapaakea and the High Chiefess Analea Keohokalole. Per Hawaiian custom, the infant was adopted by the chiefess Haaheo Kaniu, who took him to the court of King Kamehameha III on the island of Maui. When Kalakaua was four, he returned to Oahu to begin his education at the Royal School.

He was fluent in English and Hawaiian when he began to study law at the age of 16 and by 1856, he was a major on the staff of King Kamehameha IV. He was also a leader of a political organization known as the Young Hawaiians who used the motto “Hawaii for the Hawaiians.” At the time, American business interests and missionaries had already subverted the Kingdom and begun the process of making Hawaiians 2nd class citizens.

In December 1872, King Kamehameha V died without having designated an heir and pursuant to Hawaiian law, an election was held to determine his successor. Kalakaua made his first bid for Hawaii’s throne in 1873. The Hawaiian legislature, comprised largely of native Hawaiians and haoles qualified by wealth or landownership to be either electors or elected representatives in the legislature, was presented with two choices: Kalakaua, who ran on a campaign slogan of “Hawaii for Hawaiians,” a sentiment that did not endear him to the islands’ white power brokers, and William C. Lunalilo.

Lunalilo won easily, but he died a year later, leaving no successor. Another election was held to determine Hawaii’s monarch. Buoyed by the support of the influential Walter Murray Gibson, Kalakaua was victorious in the 1874 election over Queen Emma, widow of Kamehameha IV – the bad feelings from this election lasted throughout the two candidates lifetimes. Supporters of the queen rioted and Kalakaua requested help from American and British warships in the harbor, and the uprising was quelled.

The triumphant Kalakaua toured the islands, stopping in every district to affirm his primary goals. “To the planters, he affirmed that his primary goal was the advance of commerce and agriculture, and that he was about to go in person to the United States to push for a reciprocity treaty. To his own people, he promised renewal of Hawaiian culture and the restoration of their franchise,” wrote Ruth M. Tabrah in Hawaii: A Bicentennial History.In late 1874, Kalakaua sailed to the United States amid much fanfare. In Washington, he negotiated the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, which eliminated the tariff on sugar and other Hawaiian products. As a result, Hawaii’s sugar industry boomed and the kingdom enjoyed a period of economic prosperity. Ralph Kuykendall reported in The Hawaiian Kingdom that American minister to Hawaii Henry Pierce successfully argued that a treaty with Kalakaua’s kingdom would hold the islands “with hooks of steel in the interests of the United States, and … result finally in their annexation to the United States.” Kalakaua was the first King to visit the United States.

Upon his return, Kalakaua moved into his palace with his wife, Queen Kapiolani, the granddaughter of King Kaumualii of Kauai. He decided he needed a more luxurious home, however, and had Iolani Palace built at a cost of $350,000—an unheard of sum at the time. It was one of the first buildings in the US to have both electricity and indoor plumbing. Kalakaua’s friend Thomas Edison also came and made the first movies in history of Hawaiians and Oahu.

Many of his ministerial appointments went to native Hawaiians, a reflection of the king’s consistent loyalty to his core constituency. None of this made him popular with the haole community who loathed both him and Walter Murray Gibson, Kalakaua’s American premier, whom they viewed as a traitor. Kalakaua’s white opposition grew increasingly frustrated with their lack of power, and their rhetoric grew increasingly bigoted in tone as their anger grew. “Attempts to build a strong political party of opposition ran into the dismal fact that Kalakaua and Gibson controlled too many votes,” wrote Gavan Daws in Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands. The king though dominated the legislature.

Kalakaua was the first sovereign to circumnavigate the globe and he did it not just once (the first trip in 1881) but twice. On January 20, 1881 His Majesty David La‘amea Kalakaua departed Honolulu Harbor aboard the steamship City of Sydney on a nine-month diplomatic mission around the world. The voyage was one part of a strategic plan to achieve greater recognition throughout the world for the Kingdom of Hawai‘i as a legitimate and sovereign nation-state. Many of the American business interests who had backed Kalakaua in his election victory over Queen Emma were now quickly moving towards greater control of the government. The King also witnessed the loss of sovereignty by Native peoples in New Zealand, the Marquesas and elsewhere, highlighting growing imperialism in the Pacific. Kalakaua saw a formal procession of state visits from the King himself, along with the signing of treaties and conventions, as powerful steps in protecting his nation’s sovereignty.

As the ship carrying Kalakaua touched the landing, the Emperor of Japan had his military play Hawai‘i Pono , the anthem the King himself penned seven years prior. At a luncheon at the Imperial Palace on March 14, the Japanese Emperor conferred on Kalakaua the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum, the highest honor in the Japanese Empire. In a later audience with the Emperor Meiji, Kalakaua proposed an Asiatic Federation to link the two countries, along with others, in mutual support that would attempt to balance British and American dominance. The King sought to further tie the two Nations through a proposed future marriage of the Princess Ka‘iulani and the Japanese Prince Komatsu. Neither of these efforts came to fruition though he was successful in his decision to welcome increasing numbers of foreigners (especially Chinese and Japanese people) to the islands. In 1883 a government representative delivered a speech in Tokyo in which he declared that “His Majesty Kalakaua believes that the Japanese and Hawaiian spring from one cognate race and this enhances his love for you,” reported Kuykendall. “Hawaii holds out her loving hand and heart to Japan and desires that your people may come and cast in their lots with ours and repeople our Island Home with a race which may blend with ours and produce a new and vigorous nation.” Thousands of Japanese families accepted Kalakaua’s offer, to the chagrin of white landowners and businessmen who feared further loss of influence.

The white landowners were also not very keen on Kalakaua’s plan to grant universal suffrage to women and the poor. Such a move would have made the wealthy white male votes far less significant.

Although Kalakaua’s visit to Japan was one of the trip’s highlights, it was certainly not seen as the only success. On this first circumnavigation of the globe by any monarch, the King of Hawai’i met with leaders of nations that included China, India, Egypt, Italy, Germany, Wales, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and others.

The second trip was an incredible journey that began in 1887 and took the King to the Unites States of America, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Siam, Singapore, Malaya, India, Egypt, Rome, London, Belgium, Vienna, Spain, Portugal, France, and back to Hawaii through the United States again. A unique and insightful glimpse into these states and elites at the end of the nineteenth century full of fascinating events, encounters, and stories can be found in Around the World with a King.

The Hawaiian culture enjoyed a revival under Kalakaua, including hula and chants, surfing and indigenous handicrafts. In July 1887, however, an organization called the Hawaiian League which was made up of mostly disgruntled American planters and missionaries forcibly took control of the government and presented the king with a new constitution. Called the “Bayonet Constitution” (for obvious reasons), Kalakaua had no choice but to sign it. The new constitution severely restricted his powers and signaled the end of the monarchy. It also destroyed his dreams of a Hawaiian-Japanese empire in the pacific. When you consider all of these events, it causes one to severely rethink the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Hawaii, after all, was offered to the Japanese but stolen from Kalakaua’s sister and successor Queen Liliokalani by the U.S. government.

In November 1890,after sailing to California for medical treatment. He died at a hotel in San Francisco on January 20, 1891. His final words were, “Tell my people I tried.”

He is remembered fondly in Hawaii with festivals such as the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival. The main street in Waikiki – which is Hawaii’s busiest and most expensive street is named for King Kalakaua – a state of hom stands at the western end of the street and greets visitors as they enter Waikiki. In pop culture, Officer Kono Kalakaua on the popular series Hawaii 5-0 carries his name, though there are no direct descendents of the King living today.

Kailua on Oahu – The Hawaii Town I Dream of Living In

From the moment I first saw it, way back in 2001, I knew that I wanted to live in Kailua. Who wouldn’t want to live there? Gentle trade winds, sandy beaches, lush picturesque mountains behind, and a laid back beach town atmosphere that seemed to have come right out of the movies. The first time I saw it, I wasn’t a tourist, I was breaking up a concrete driveway for my then boss with a pick and shovel for $10 an hour.

After nearly killing myself to get the job done, my boss suggested that I walk down to the beach and take a swim – her house was just a few blocks away from Kailua Beach Park. I walked down there – saw the picture perfect islands beyond the picture perfect sand beyond the picture perfect grass rimmed with picture perfect palm trees and then I got in the water and it was love love love.

Two years later when I moved back to Oahu from Kauai and decided to stay on Oahu, I rented a storage unit and mailbox in Kailua – my first step towards living there. It took a year of living in my van but finally, I found a good job and an apartment in Kailua – a large studio for the then princely sum of $750/month.  It was three blocks from the beach.

 I dream of my daughter riding her bike in Kailua, I dream of living close to my old studio there, but the cheapest small studio I could find was now in the range of $2000/month and there was no way that I could afford it. The prices in Hawai’i have more than doubled in the last 10 years – for housiing and for everything else- and there is no way to live in Kailua, at least not for now, not as an Oahu Tour Guide  – which is pretty sad, actually.

What changed in Kailua (and Hawai’i for that matter)? I can see several things. First of all, President Obama really put Kailua on the map when he took his family vacations there…next was the extreme concentration of wealth after the great recession- the rich have consolidated their holdings and Kailua is the perfect place for a rich person’s vacation home – finally, and perhaps most importantly – AirBnB and similar peer-to-peer vacation rentals have made renting an apartment or house for the night more profitable than renting it for a year – landlords have converted almost wholesale to hoteliers with managed housekeeping and outsourced concierge.

Kailua is a place where you can live if you lived there before all of this or if you have extreme wealth – but other than that – there aren’t a lot of good jobs there, the commute to jobs in town is longer than necessary, and frankly, the landlord class has determined that temporary residents increase their wealth more than long term. All of this, of course, has driven the real estate prices sky high – not just in Kailua but on Oahu as a whole. Median price for a single family home is in excesss of $1 million and median price for an apartment is over $800k – which means there is a lot of competition to buy the very shitty properties that clock in under those numbers….I don’t have the data on who the owners of real estate are in Hawai’i, but when you take out the military (which owns a huge amount) and organizations like Kamehameha Schools, Bishop Estate, and Campbell Estate – what you are left with is ultra-rich absentee landlords – and they have  priced nearly everyone out of paradise – not just out of Kailua, but out of Hawai’i in general.

We manage to survive on my tour guide wages – but it’s not easy. I sell at the Aloha Swapmeet, sell at the antique shows, cruise garage sales and thriftshops in my off time, and sell on eBay too. I’m always doing something to raise money to pay our bills – and it’s worth it even if we can’t afford to live in Kailua -yet. But my heart still lives there. I go there every chance I can. I still get my mail there with a rented post box. So, my address is in Kailua even if my apartment isn’t. Using my post box, my business is actually based in Kailua as well. I don’t plan on changing that – but I do plan on changing my income at some point and moving my family to Kailua. It will happen.

Ancient Hawaiian Death and Burial Practices

When a person died in pre-contact Hawai’i – a kapu was imposed (kapu is taboo) during the time between death and burial. A couple of days for a regular person and ten days or more for a chief or chiefess. So the house and family of the dead became taboo for this period and were not to be touched or interacted with or the interactor would be defiled – in Hawaiian HAUMIA. A haumia person was also kapu until the defilement was lifted. Lots of loud weaping and tears and those most pained would show it by cutting their hair. Not a nice style or fancy do, but an ugly cutting that showed the grief and pain. A tooth might be knocked out with a stick. Ears might be cut off and tattoos might be placed. Personally, the tattoo and the hair sound reasonable to me, ears and teeth, that’s pretty extreme grief. There was also a sort of blistering branding with the ends of burning sticks. Ouch.

The dead were sometimes wrapped in kapa (tapa aka barkcloth). Sometimes the bodies were laid out extended and more often they were put in a fetal position. Some bodies were salted and if the cause of death was sorcery (which happened a lot more than you might think), then a kahuna kuni was brought to cut out the liver, chop it up, put it in dogs and birds, and then burn them to ashes. After this, the body was clean enough to be buried.

Hawaiians were also known to keep the long bones and skulls of their loved ones as momento-mori. The other bones would usually be burned with the flesh. Chief bones were especially valuable because they contained the mana (spiritual power) of the chiefs and so these bones were hidden by trusted retainers who in some cases were said to then kill themselves so that no one would find the bones or know the location.

All of the above explains why it’s not uncommon to find a tooth or a bone disarticulated from the rest of the body. Bone bundles were wrapped in kapa and sometimes tied with a braid of human hair – possibly from the head of the deceased. It is said that Captain Cook was treated this way and confusion over the custom led to the belief that he was eaten – in point of fact, he may have been eaten as it was not unknown to eat a tiny portion of a powerful enemy or ally in order to gain their mana. We will never know if Cook was eaten raw, cooked, or not at all.


In Hawaii, human bodies were sometimes burned, sometimes dessicated and distributed, sometimes buried in the sand, sometimes buriend in the earth, sometimes fetal – sometimes laid out, and occaisionally buried in stone cysts – piles of rocks to mark grave sites. Faces were usually pointed upwards. There are various cave burials scattered through the islands and also a number of royal mausaleums – mostly from the post contact period. Two known mausoleums were moved or destroyed after Queen Kaahumanu forced the abandonment of the old Hawaiian religion on her people in 1830.

The creepiest and coolest of the burials of old Hawai’i are the sennit caskets  which are a sort of woven casket reminiiscent of the Egyptian sarcophagi. There are only a few of these that have ever been found.  And of course, when you have something like that – you are not far from making your kings and queens into immortal gods. One of the most striking implements associated with Hawaiian death and burial are the tall feathered staffs known as Kahilis – it is believed they evolved from fly swishers but they came to signify important and powerful mana.

This small photo shows a large number of artifacts that were plundered from Hawaiian burial caves in 1905. A hundred years later they were repatriated and returned to the cave only to be taken from the cave again at a cost of several million dollars. They are currently back where they were before they were put back in the cave – at the Bishop Museum where no one can see them without cultural reason and a lot of red tape. When I was working as an archaeologist in Hawai’i it was both a blessing and a curse to find anything that might be Native Hawaiian remains because the regulations, the process, and the cultural impact were all so severe on whatever project the reamins might be found in proximity to.

Private Oahu, Hawaii Tour Guide – One of the World’s Best Jobs

I love being a top Oahu tour guide. I always have…so despite landing a job as an archaeologist in Hawai’i (which sounds like the coolest job in the world) – when the opportunity came up to be a tour guide again – I jumped at it. There is something magical about being able to pick people up in Waikiki and then spend the day opening their eyes to the magic of Oahu. I love this island – every bit of it. It challenges me and it rarely makes life easy – but the rewards it has to offer are simply mind-blowing. Not only can I show people rainbows, I can show them rainbows from above!

What other job could compare with being a guide? I loved being a teacher – but I have to be honest here – as a teacher, my lessons were infused with the same things my trips are – a love of life, a philosophy of magnificence in every moment – and sometimes having to break down the mechanics of past participles got in the way of that. The problem was one of supervision – my students loved my lessons but classrooms are too close to administration buildings….a tour on the other hand – you are off and away on trails, in a vehicle, or on far off beaches like the world famous Banzai Pipeline – one of the jewels of the Triple Crown of Surfing…and an absolute wonder of nature. On a tour, I can share this amazing place and also teach about the frailty of life and the pounding voracity of nature, I can get ethereal and metaphysical and talk about mana and life energy or I can simply point out the waves as big as houses or the amazing athletes who ride them…

And, like teaching, there are the moments of other people’s lives that you get to share. The 50th wedding anniversary of a couple from middle America or a wedding proposal on a remote beach – these human milestones become a part of my life – the birthdays, the honeymoons, the tragedies, and more. The stories of my tourgroup’s lives become a part of mine. And my story, becomes a part of theirs. We start as strangers and then we become friends. There is something incredibly fulfilling about seeing genuine smiles, giving people an experience they will remember for ever, and at the same time – being able to experience this place I love with all my heart during the entire time I am doing it. I love being able to share the meaning of aloha, the magic of nature, and the majesty of existence. I am grateful.

Tour ‘Iolani Palace – Hawaii’s Royal Residence in Honolulu’s Historic District

King David Kalakaua was the last king of the Hawaiian Kingdom. His sister, Queen Liliuokalani was the last monarch of the Hawaiian Kingdom, overthrown by American sugar planters and American military interests. King Kalakaua built the palace as a symbol to the people of Hawai’i and a message to all the nations of the world that Hawai’i is an educated, civilized, and advanced society ready to take the place as one of the biright lights of advanced human civilizations.

King Kalakaua had met Thomas Edison and arranged to have electric lighting installed into ‘Iolani Palace as early as 1887. After meeting Alexander Graham Bell, he had a telephone installed in the palace. Indoor plumbing (with flush toilets) was original in the palace when it was completed in 1882. ‘Iolani Palace had a telephone, indoor plumbing, and electric lighting before the White House had any of the three.

To tour the interior of the palace you must first visit Hale Koa aka the ‘Iolani Barracks – this is on the palace grounds and should not be confused with the Hale Koa Hotel (House of Warriors) in Waikiki which is for U.S. servicemen and women. ‘Iolani Barracks was moved from the Diamond Head side of the palace grounds to where it currently sits. It was built in 1870 for the household royal guards of King Kamehameha V. Today it is where the gift shop, the ticket office, and a small video theatre are located. It was designed by Theodor Hacek, a German architect who also designed Queen’s Hospital.

On the ocean side from ‘Iolani Barracks is the Coronation Pavilion built in 1883 for the coronation of King Kalalkaua and his wife Queen Kapi’olani. On the grounds are large banyan trees originally planted as saplings by Queen Kapi’olani and a large kukui nut tree (candle nut) planted by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

‘Iolani means royal hawk in Hawaiian language. The palace itself is built a a unique architectural style called American Florentine. The tour is a poignant reminder of all the Hawaiian people lost. Their kingdom, their monarchs, their self rule, and for many years – their heritage. There are docent tours in the morning but later in the day you can take the self guided audio tours provided. Tour and admission is $27 for adults and $6 for children (5-12). Babies and toddlers under five years old get free admission and there are discounts for kama’aina and military. You can also download the Iolani Palace app here. This is a surprisingly kid friendly tour and our seven-year-old had fun seeing where the real King and Queen of Hawaii lived. She was also livid when she found out that the conspirators charged Queen Liliuokalani with treason and imprisoned her in her bedroom after the kingdom was overthrown. Plan on spending 2-3 hours and if you bring a picnic, you can eat your lunch on the palace lawns after (or before) your tour.

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Flashback Friday: The Majesty and Magic of Mauna Kea on The Big Island of Hawai’i

I suppose I should give a bit of a personal history for the rest of this story to make sense. Here it is in brief – in 2017, I moved my family to Hawai’i. We sold our antique store and little community paper on the Oregon Coast and I came here, found a job, and rented an apartment on Oahu. I lived on Oahu for almost a decade and graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a degree in Anthropology back in 2008, then I left. That and my familiarity with Hawaiian history and culture enabled me to get a job as an archaeologist with a private company here. The pay was below what it takes to survive on Oahu – luckily we had a little bit saved from the sale of our business’ in Oregon which tided us over until I found a job in my pre-university line of business – being a tour guide.  So,  I was a working archaeologist. It was pretty cool. Now…on to the Flashback…

This week I had the opportunity to come to the Big Island of Hawai’i, stay in the scientific dormitories at about 10,000 feet, and visit historic and cultural sites from this level up to the peak at 14,000 feet. I was living among some of the top astronomers and scientists in the world and I was a working archaeologist on the highest mountain in Hawai’i.

This particular job is an annual event in which a team of archaeologists and botanists visit a series of sites to note any changes, vandalism, or other noteworthy events. The biggest challenge is the altitude – any time you go above 10,000 feet, you are putting your body into an altered state – there is not as much oxygen and your body can go through dangerous changes.

Although minor symptoms such as breathlessness may occur at altitudes of 1,500 metres (5,000 ft), AMS commonly occurs above 2,400 metres (8,000 ft).It presents as a collection of nonspecific symptoms, acquired at high altitude or in low air pressure, resembling a case of “flu, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a hangover”.It is hard to determine who will be affected by altitude sickness, as there are no specific factors that correlate with a susceptibility to altitude sickness. However, most people can ascend to 2,400 metres (8,000 ft) without difficulty.

Acute mountain sickness can progress to high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE), both of which are potentially fatal, and can only be cured by immediate descent to lower altitude or oxygen administration.

So, you can imagine what it’s like to be doing strenuous hikes in the neighborhood of 14,000 feet. My understanding is that most of my co-workers have suffered ill-effects. Yesterday, my first day hiking on the mountain, I experienced some light headedness and a bit of vertigo but for the most part was fine if out of breath more than I liked.

My co-worker moves quickly and I was frequently quite a ways behind him. There is not supposed to be any pressure to move faster than feels personally safe, but he has a cold and gets paid a salary instead of being an hourly worker like me – so we’re moving a lot faster than we should be. We’ve got a bright red jeep for the week – but he won’t let me drive it. Kind of lame.

Mauna Kea is mankind’s window to the stars. The dry climate and 90% clear skies have made this the world’s premier location for large scale observatories. The world’s largest observatory is here along with a dozen other giant telescopes for optical and infrared astronomy as well as submillimeter wavelength and radio astronomy. The most familiar portion of the summit is what people here call the 007 array – this was featured in the James Bond movie Moonraker back in the 1970s. We are staying in the barracks that house scientists from 11 countries and support staff for the mountain.

Mauna Kea is not simply a technological treasure. The Hawaiians considered this the realm of the Gods, a sort of Mt. Olympus where the goddess Poliahu dwelled. The Hawaiian name is Mauna a Wakea which means sky father – Wakea is considered the father of the Hawaiian people. This mountain was forbidden ‘kapu’ (taboo) to commoners and the Hawaiian Ali’i were the only ones allowed to make the trek to the top without special dispensation – which was reserved for priests (kahuna) and skilled stone artisans. The rock on Mauna Kea was treasured for the making of stone adzes, knives, and other stone tools.

This is a wahi pana, a sacred and legendary place. This was where Hawaiians would study the stars, make tools, and practice elaboriate religious rituals. My colleagues have recorded 96 sites between 12,000 and 13,000 feet – 76 of which are recorded as shrines. The shrines can be elaborate or as simple as an upright stone jutting from a crack in the lava where it was placed. There are modern shrines, ahu, as well – placed by modern kahuna. There are a whole mountain of laws and regulations regarding these – we keep it simple. Disturb nothing. We pack out what we pack in. We do not photograph human remains but we note their placement.

Mauna Kea is also home to several endemic species and a host of invasive species. Silversword, ‘ahinahina, is an endangered plant species endemic to Hawaii. They can grow for up to 40 years before blooming. Not threatened are mamane and pukiave shrubs which tend to b found at the lower altitudes and provide food and shelter for endangered birds like the Hawaiian palila and the Hawaiian goose or Nene. This bird in the gallery below is an Erckel’s Francolin, a sort of African pheasant which was introduced long ago and is endangered in its native home of Ethiopia but doing just fine here.

This is a magical and majestic place. I am priveliged to be able to spend a week here.

How To Enjoy A Free Dolphin Show on Oahu

A trip to Hawai’i is not a cheap adventure. You are going to be paying for everything and let’s face it – nothing is cheap. Your hotel is expensive, your rental car, your food, your drinks, your sunscreen…and if you live here…well, you already know…every day is expensive.

Isn’t anything in Hawai’i cheap? Isn’t anything in Hawai’i free?

Well, as a matter of fact, the answer is yes. In fact, if you know where to look, there are lots and lots and lots of free attractions, events, and activities in the beautiful state of Hawai’i and nowhere is that more true than in my hometown of Honolulu.

Check out the following…how much would you expect to pay to see this?

$30, $40, $100? That’s what I would think. And then add into it that you can explore a private beach, a beautiful waterfall, pools filled with tropical fish, a sting wray and even sea turtles…and the price is $0, nothing, nada, zip, zero, zilch.

So here is a great secret I’m going to share with you. If you want to swim with dolphins, you are going to pay $800 to $1500 for the experience at the Kahala Hotel and about half of that if you want to do it at Sea Life Park… but if you want to watch a dolphin show, you can go to the Kahala Hotel on the south side of Oahu and you can park at the beach park nearby, then walk down the beach to the Kahala. A beautiful beach, a swimming float, and everything mentioned above.

Are you suppossed to be there? I can’t really answer that. I suppose the hotel would prefer that only their guests are there – but as long as you aren’t making problems, the chances are you will be able to stay and enjoy the show…

 

Mini Golf on Oahu – Tropics in Waimalu – Pearl City – Aiea

My wife works during the week and rarely gets to have time by herself at home on the weekends – so I’ve taken to giving her a few hours each weekend in which she can luxuriate in a bath, catch up on her favorite series, or chat with her friends on the phone. It makes her happy and one of the best pieces of advice I was given before marriage was the simple “Happy wife, happy life”. It’s not just me that needs to find something to do though, we have an intelligent and active 7-year-old that usually wants to get involved in whatever her mama is doing – so the two of us will frequently head out on adventures together to give Mama a break. It’s a win-win-win. My wife gets some much-needed time to herself, my daughter gets to get outside of the house on her weekend and I get to spend time with my daughter having fun on Oahu. 

Back in February, I decided it was time that Sophia learn how to golf. I had fond memories of mini-golfing with my father when I was a kid in the 1970’s, so I was almost as excited as she was when I told her my plans. Oahu has four putt-putt courses. Tiki’s Family Fun Center in the Dole Cannery offers a small glow putt course; there is another small glow-putt in the Windward Mall; Bay View in Kaneohe  has a standard outdoor miniature golf course; and then there is Tropics Miniature Golf near Pearl Ridge Mall in Aiea which offers 9-holes in the great outdoors. We opted to go to Tropics because it was rainy on the Windward side and sunny in Pearl City. 

There are a couple things you should know before you go. 1) This is an old course and while it is fun, it’s not a fancy-pants working windmill or flashy designed course. Many of the holes are falling apart and some of the trick shots (for example, the challenging hole on the volcano) don’t give you any advantage if you hit them. 2) There is a lot of foliage around the course and we got bit by a few mosquitos, so bug spray is a good idea. 3) Most of Tropics is shaded but it can still get pretty hot because of the lack of a breeze – make sure you bring water or go in the evening.

The facility is clean and all the people who work there are very friendly. This is cheap family fun with admission at $9.50 for adults and $6.50 for kids 3-7 years old. Kama’aina and military save a buck off the general admission and kids under three play for free. Admission is good for unlimited play on the day you go – so this is really one of the best bargains going on Oahu. The food at Tropics is good and fairly priced but nothing to rave about – still, it’s nice to be able to get a hot dog, slider and tater tots, or a variety of snacks on site. There are bathrooms on site, located right behind the food/ticket booth. 

As I mentioned before, it’s an old course and not everything works exactly like it is supposed to but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. We played two rounds for a total of 18-holes. Par is either two or three but we both managed to hit a hole in one at least once and both dogged it on the challenging 6th hole to end up well over par (our house rule is five is the maximum you can score). We lost one bright pink ball somewhere in the jungle rough but the girl in the booth gave us a new ball with a smile and no problems. Since my wife wasn’t with us, we were able to have hot dogs, chips and a soft drink for lunch (Mama doesn’t let us get away with that kind of junk food when she is with us!) 

When we got home, my wife was happy to see us and insisted that next time we bring her along when she heard how much fun we’d had. We have been back many times since…and Mama enjoyed it too. 

 

Ice Skating in Honolulu – An Unexpectedly Cool Thing to Do in Hawaii

We live in the Salt Lake neighborhood of Western Honolulu and there are a couple of unique attractions nearby – Pearl Harbor, the Aloha Stadium, the Battleship Missouri, and the Ice Palace – Honolulu’s only ice skating rink.

Not long ago, I took my wife and daughter to the Ice Palace and we skated. We had some falls, we used the cheater carts, and we had fun. It was surprisingly hard physical work and it was cool inside on a particularly hot day in Hawaii. We had a blast until a particularly hard fall took my wife down. At that point the fun was over and we headed on to do something else. But not before I had the chance to introduce my daughter to the Zamboni! Everyone should meet a Zamboni at least once…

When I was working as a guide in the early 2000s, I passed the Ice Palace hundreds of times and never went in – I made jokes about it during the ice (crystal meth) epidemic back in the noughts, and I always wondered how it would be to ice skate in Hawai’i.

Bizarre Personal Remembrances that Having Nothing to Do With Hawaii But Something to do with Ice Skating

I grew up in Big Bear Lake, a ski resort in the mountains of Southern California – we had skiing, but even though the lake froze over every winter – people never seemed to ice skate on it – if they did, I never saw them do it. We had a roller rink and as an adult I had ice skated once in Memphis (which is another strange place to ice skate) and once in New York City which was pretty iconic. In neither place did I acheive anything resembling proficiency. The truth is, ice skating is difficult! It looks easy but it’s not. At least not for me.

I once lived in a squat with a strange 40-year-old virgin who drove an Iowa cab with Indiana plates (and we were in Bellingham, Washington) – he dreamed of being a figure skater and one early morning he forgot to take out the garbage and chased after the truck in his pink tights…it was surreal, but that’s another story too.

 

 

Location and Hours

The Ice Palace is located at 4510 Salt Lake Blvd and to get there from Waikiki you just head West on the H-1 and follow the signs for the stadium. Admission is $10.50 per person regardless of age and the hours are posted here.. And, if you are interested in actually learning how to skate – there are pretty reasonably priced classes available.