Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kauai author seeks support in MeeGenius! national author challenge

Meegenius! is a wonderfully unique and educational app that helps children learn to read by enjoying their favorite stories on your computer, tablet or other portable reading device. The app is designed to enhance children’s stories by reading them aloud while simultaneously highlighting the words that are being read. Recently, Meegenius! has initiated a national author’s challenge.

Local Kauai author, Monika Mira has risen to the challenge with her story, Hector the Hermit. Hawaii children’s authors tend to garner plenty of local support but tend to struggle when trying to acquire national attention. With only a few days left to vote, Mira is launching a campaign to increase her rank in the contest. In order to be successful in the challenge, authors must get their audience to vote for their stories by liking them on Facebook.

Hector the Hermit is the story of one hermit crab’s adventure to find a new shell and how he learns a valuable lesson about recycling along the way. The story is told in classic nursery rhyme style and can be read on the Meegenius! author’s challenge website. You can help this Kauai author by voting for or sharing the story of Hector the Hermit. Feedback is also welcome.

Mira is the award-winning author of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book. Mira holds a Marine Science degree from the University of Hawaii at Hilo, so it is no wonder that her books tend to carry marine life and conservation themes. This is her first attempt to publish a title available for ereaders. You can learn more about Mira’s other works at Lucid Publishing website.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kauai County Parks are great for re-energizing the kids

If you have been touring the island, it is possible that your little might get a little fussy from being stuck in his car seat all day. A trip to one of the many county parks on Kauai can re-energize just about any child, or at least wear them out. The nice thing is that the county parks are located just about everywhere. Parents might even feel energized after running through the grass, having a pcinic or sitting under a tree to get some air.

On the North Shore in Princeville the park is located just behind the Princeville library. This park has playground equipment for both the littlest of toddlers and the bigger kids who want to try scaling rock walls. There are numerous slides and a vast open field with an amazing view. There is even a workout course for the adults situated around an open field.

In Kapaa, I would suggest Lydgate Park, which is actually a community built playground with just about every apparatus imaginable. A 40 ft enclosed volcano slide, tire swing, balance beams, swings, suspension bridge, a hidden “jail”, conveyor belt bouncing bridge, music maker and much more can keep the kids busy while you relax on one of the many benches or tables provided in the shade. Since the playground is located next to Lydgate Beach, your family can take a dip after playing at this wonderful park.

On the South Shore, Poipu Beach Parks sports a playground on the beach. There are no swings here, but who needs swings when you also have the ocean. There is also another park just a mile away, right at the entrance to the tree tunnel.

In Kalaheo, Kalawai Park is little hidden, but if you turn mauka (that means towards the mountains) at the red dirt shirt store, make your first right and follow the road about ½ mile, you will see the sign for Kalawai. This park is a gem because it is quite big and there is rarely anyone there. If you are quiet, you might even hear the song of the Shama Thrush.

On the west side, Hanapepe Park is located right next to the Hanapepe Fire Station on the main highway and is also home to the Thursday afternoon farmers market. This park has a basketball court, a large field with an enormous Monkey Pod shade tree, swings, and a few other bonuses. You may even want to visit Hanapepe town for a snack or a walk across the suspension bridge.

These are just a few of the many playgrounds at your disposal for the enjoyment of the kids. Take advantage of them, the kids will thank you, and they may even fall asleep on the way home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

10 ways to protect coral reefs, they could be extinct if we do not act!

As of 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Services is considering whether to list eighty-two species of coral as threatened or endangered. Seventy-five of these species are found in the Pacific and nine are found in Hawaiian waters. Scientific research shows that coral reefs could be facing extinction due to overfishing, pollution, global warming and ocean acidification. Scientists fear that if we do not work to protect coral reefs they could be lost within decades. The loss of coral reefs could have devastating effects for the planet as a whole. Coral reefs provide food and economic benefits to populations around the globe.

I urge you to take a minute to consider Kauai’s resources and read the tips below. These tips can help you protect coral reefs, both here in Hawaii and world-wide. Many of these tips can be practiced while you are visiting Kauai, but they are also applicable when you return home, even if you live far from the ocean.

1.) Reduce your carbon footprint. Carbon dioxide contributes to global warming and ocean acidification, both of which can have devastating effects on coral reef ecosystems.

2.) Reduce your plastic consumption. Avoid plastic grocery bags (now illegal on Kauai), cut six-pack rings and recycle. Marine debris is a threat to sea birds and marine life by both ingestion and entanglement. Chemical leaching from plastics may provide an additional threat. Did you know there is an island of floating plastic the size of Texas somewhere out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it is wreaking havoc on sea bird and other marine life populations?

3.) Take steps to decrease overfishing and support sustainable fishing practices. One way you can do this is to choose vegetarian and sustainable menu options when visiting local restaurants.

4.) Get educated. Learn more about oceans and reefs so that you can help others understand their value.

5.) Prevent marine water pollution in the following two ways: a.) Avoid the use of potential pollutants and chemicals by choosing eco friendly products and b.) Minimize your own runoff by decreasing impervious surfaces at home.

6.) Support green and reef-friendly businesses and/or encourage businesses to participate in reef protection and education activities.

7.) Support sustainable development, especially the reduction of impervious surfaces. Unsustainable coastal development in particular can present a huge threat to reefs and marine resources.

8.) Support local conservation programs and organizations such as Save our Seas and Surf Rider Foundation.

9.) If you are a boater, never anchor directly onto a reef. Instead, anchor in sandy areas or on moorings and only support tour companies that follow this rule.

10.) If you have a salt water aquarium, be an “informed aquarist”; choose cultured species and avoid purchasing gathered species.

Please feel free to comment below if you have additional tips!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Celebrate the Health and Happiness of Children at the Princess Ka’iulani Keiki Fest in Hanapepe Town

This year, the Princess Ka’iulani Keiki Fest will be held in Hanapepe town on Saturday, October 15th from 9:30am-4pm. Entertainment and activities stations will be dispersed throughout the event grounds from Hanapepe Park to Storybook Theatre and across the road to the Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church.

Festivities will include: entertainment, celebrity story readers, hula performances, a keiki talent contest, coloring and essay contests, a main street parade, food and vendor booths and a visit from the Princess. Curriculum projects from local schools will also be on display.

The Peace Garden at Storybook Theatre will be the Princess’ headquarters. Here children will be delighted by the Princess’ birthday party and special performances on the stage including a presentation of the Magic Paint Box by artist and puppeteer, Margie Rex. Kimo Palama will be offering free pony rides in the park to remember the Princess’ favorite childhood gift: her own pony, Fairy.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Storybook Theatre at 335-0712 or visit their website www.storybook.org.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Driving Under the Rainbow, Magical Afternoons on Kauai

No matter where you are in the world, the late afternoon is a special time to enjoy the outdoors. Temperatures cool, the sun sets, the sky lights up, and the world quiets down, except of course for the banter of the birds. This time of day seems to be especially magical on the island of Kauai. When the trade winds blow and the sun heads for the ocean, the temperatures start to drop a few degrees and a brief afternoon shower is cued. The combination of afternoon showers and sunrays that are low on the horizon is what creates these magnificent rainbows.

The neat thing is that afternoon rainbows can be enjoyed in many different settings, each with its own unique magic. On an afternoon walk in the hills, rainbows can be viewed between valleys, with one leg touching the ocean. In the ocean, they can be seen from the water cascading across the sky against the dramatic peaks of Kauai’s cliffs. While sipping an afternoon cocktail on the lanai, an afternoon rainbow may sneak up behind you, because no doubt you are looking toward the setting sun. One of my favorite ways to view afternoon rainbows is in the car. It seems as if you will never catch them as they keep moving forward and then all of a sudden, YES!, you get to drive under the rainbow as it vanishes behind you.

I like to watch them change as the misting rain becomes heavier and the sunrays more intense. The rainbow will brighten and reflect itself into yet another rainbow right on top of the first. It seems as the day gets later the rainbows take on more red hues and just as the rainbow vanishes, the sun sinks for its final descent only to light up the sky with afterglow. Oh, it is a magical time of day. If you are visiting with kids, you may want to play a game betting on how many rainbows you can count during your stay.

You can see rainbows on any side of the island at any time of day, but remember the sun sets in the west, so you should be looking to the east for rainbows. That means if you are watching the sunset, look behind you. The best beaches for watching the sunset include, Poipu, Salt Pond, Kekaha and Polihale, but you can catch afternoon rainbows anywhere, as long as you keep your eyes and your mind open.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beachcombing on Kauai

Beachcombing is a popular past-time for visitors and locals alike. Wind, waves, and nearby environments can cause different kinds of trash and treasures to end up on Kauai’s beaches. Popular finds include shells, fishing floats, beach glass, driftwood and stones. Different beaches bring different finds, but regardless of what you pick up, a relaxing walk on the beach is always worthwhile.

The east side of Kauai is constantly exposed to strong trade winds. These winds can blow an abundance of interesting debris onto the shorelines. You may find old fishing floats, fishing nets, driftwood, bottles and bits of plastic. Upon further inspection of the debris, you may discover its origin in distant lands such as Japan. However, most of this debris is from fishing vessels. The stretch of beach that begins at the south end of Lydgate Park and continues past the Wailua Golf Course is the best place for beachcombing if you are looking for fishing debris.

Driftwood is also a popular find for beachcombers but sometimes a nuisance to beachgoers when it is present in large quantities after a storm. Driftwood can be found at any beach with a river, which includes most of the beaches on Kauai. As may be expected, bigger rivers bring bigger quantities of wood. As a result, you may expect to find some great pieces of driftwood at the mouth of the Wailua River (see my Travel Advisory post about Lydgate Beach Park).

If you are looking for shells, the North Shore beaches like Tunnels and Anini offer hours of entertainment. West side Beachcombers find bits of pottery, beach glass and rolled metal at Glass Beach near Port Allen. Glass beach defines the phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Once a dumping site, it is now beachcomber’s paradise.

Don’t forget that the tide and surf can influence your finds. If the tide is low after a very high tide couples with strong surf, all the shells or glass may have been removed. The same beach may yield different treasures on different days.
Avid beachcombers know that treasure hunting takes persistence. Most finds however are often incidental. So instead of focusing on beachcombing, make a day at the beach with your family, enjoy the ocean and occasional look down. The more days you spend, the more fun you have, and the more likely you are to find a treasure.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What fish you will see when snorkeling on Kauai

You’ve got the whole family suited up with snorkel gear, floaties and fins and you’re ready to hit the reef. Perhaps you just got out of the water and are feeling that sense of awe that accompanies your first family snorkel trip. Your seven year old asks, “Daddy, what was that black one with the yellow stripes? Did you see that fluorescent pink one with the blue fins?” You will want to know what you saw or what to expect. There are a number of fish that are impossible to miss if you snorkel in Hawaii. Several of these species are described below.

Most likely the first fish you will encounter while snorkeling is the Saddle Wrasse. The Saddle Wrasse is endemic to Hawaii, meaning that you won’t find it anywhere else in the world. Wrasses are a diverse group of colorful fish and are usually the dominant family on the coral reef. The Saddle Wrasse can be identified by the orange band or “saddle” that is present behind its blue-green head. This fish sports an elongated purplish-green body and males may display a white band behind the orange saddle.

It is nearly impossible to snorkel in Hawaii and not run across the Manini or Convict Surgeonfish. The body of the Convict Surgeonfish is ovate with a greenish or silvery cast and displays six vertical black stripes like the prison inmate uniforms seen in the old movies, thus the name. This fish has a small puckering mouth that it uses to feed on algae and a pair of sharp weapons near the tail.

Moorish Idols are very common on the reef. They are often found in pairs or groups and are very easy to spot. Called “Angelfish” by many newcomers for the long filament that trails from the dorsal fin, they are actually more closely related to Surgeonfish than true Angelfish. Moorish Idols display two wide black bars on the body and one the tail. The center of the body is a sunny yellow color and the face is black with a yellow drop that adorns the top of a pointed snout.

Now that you recognize some of these fish, you might be interested in identifying more. Pick up one of those cheap Hawaii Fish ID cards that can be found at all the snorkel rental locations for use at the beach. Then get yourself a field guide like John Randall’s Shore Fishes of Hawaii or John Hoover’s Hawaii’s Fishes. For the kids, pick up a copy of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book, which includes over 80 species of fish that the kids can color in while also learning about their coloration, body shapes, feeding habits and the importance of conservation.

Don’t forget that the reef is a delicate place. Avoid touching the reef and apply your ecofriendly sunscreen 15 minutes before entering the water. For more information about how to protect Hawaii’s coral reefs, please visit Kauai based conservation organization, Save our Seas.

Pictures courtesy of John Coney, UHH MOP

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

East Side Bike Ride

If you live on Kauai, you have no doubt heard the catchy jingle, “Take the Leap” by local artist Michael Ruff. The jingle encourages folks to get out, get active and stay healthy and I just can’t get it out of my head. “East Side, take a little bike ride, West Side drop a little fishin’ line, so many things that you can do underneath the rainbow.” So true! What a great theme for Kauai!

So today I packed up the car with my son’s bike and headed over to the East Side to take a little bike ride. But first, I had to stop in over at the Kapaa Beach Shop next to Otsukas to rent a bike for myself. Mike and Janie are friendly and helpful, their shop sits nearly right on the bike path, and the bike rental rates are reasonable. They also rent boogie boards, beach gear and dive equipment, which is convenient.

Check out the photos above. I think you might agree with me when I say, the Kauai Path has got to be one of the most beautiful bike paths in the world! We like to go slow and make frequent stops to check out the beaches, enjoy the vistas, have a little snack in the shade pavilions, and maybe even hunt for driftwood. I love to see that both visitors and locals are making good use of it, running, walking and of course, biking. I enjoy it every time I go. And with that song constantly playing on the radio, I now have the motivation.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ke'e Beach no longer a secluded paradise

On a recent trip to Kee Beach, I was literally shocked to see the number of people visiting the area. I expect to see large numbers of visitors at Poipu Beach, Kalapaki or even Hanalei. At these locations there are resorts fronting the beach, large parking lots, beachside restaurants and shopping centers. This is not what I expect at the end of the road at Kee Beach. I have had the good fortune in my life to repeatedly visit this area and even get paid to survey the streams here on the Na Pali Coast, but this time was truly different.

The parking situation actually brought my son to tears as we had to pass up the dry cave at Haena Beach Park because there was nowhere to park. At the end of the road, cars swarmed the area parking anywhere, even if they blocked someone in. I waited patiently in a lot down the road and was able to score a spot after about 15 minutes, but if I hadn’t put my foot down, another tourist would have taken it from me.

Arriving at the beach, I could see erosion had really taken its toll. A whole section of the beach was missing, which left a very interesting configuration of tree roots exposed. After driving so far and waiting for parking, I had to use the restroom and was intrigued by the constructed wetland that was in place to take care of the waste as I remember the bathrooms being closed some years back. However, when I went inside the bathroom, it was clear that something wasn’t working. Literally ten pounds of toilet paper was over-flowing from the toilets. It was totally disgusting!

The reason I came to Kee, was that I was looking for a place to take my son snorkeling that would be somewhat protected. We have our regular spots, but Lydgate is having some water quality issues, and I thought that we would go on an adventure. An adventure it was. The snorkeling was poor to mediocre and the reef is definitely feeling the impact from the sheer number of people making physical contact with it. I am sure that all the chemical sunscreen isn’t helping either.

Haena is still a beautiful place, but the delicate environment just can’t handle the sheer number of visitors. Overall, I was disappointed with the trip. Maybe a better description of how I felt was disheartened. I hope that Kee can withstand the environmental pressures placed on it so that our children, my son included, can enjoy this place.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Free Marine Environment Lecture Series at the Hanapepe Library

On the first Thursday of the month from 6-7:30pm, the Hanapepe Library presents a lecture on the marine environment. Last week on August 4th, research biologist, Dr. Robert Baird gave a talk entitled, “False Killer Whales—Hawaii’s Next Endangered Species?” He discussed their behavior, movement, and ecology. He also explained the threats to their existence here in Hawaii and how the resident population of these top predators has significantly declined.

The lecture series will resume on Thursday Seprtember 1, 2011with a talk about the origin of Hawaii’s coralgal reefs and associated beaches. Dr. Chuck Blay, coauthor of Kauai’s Geologic History: A Simplified Guide, will be discussing the different types and composition of nearshore reefs found in Hawaii. This is an interesting topic considering that the dominant portion of many nearshore Hawaiian reefs is comprised of coralline algae as opposed to coral.

On Thursday October 6, 2011, Yumi Yasutake, an Outreach Program Coordinator for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, will be giving an Overview of Reef Fish Abundance and Diversity in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. She will also be explaining how reef fish assemblages differ from nearshore reef communities in the main Hawaiian Islands.

The lecture series is sponsored by Friends of the Hanapepe Public Library and is free and open to the public. For more information, or to request special accommodations, you may call the library staff at (808)335-8418.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Walking tour of Hanapepe Town and the Swinging Bridge

Hanapepe is filled with historic buildings, many of which have been restored and turned into art galleries and bookstores. However, if you are traveling with small children, shops and galleries will be of little interest to them. The following walking tour of Hanapepe was put together specifically to delight small children.

The first stop on the walking tour is the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. If your kids love the swinging bridges on the playground, they will be really excited about the Hanapepe swinging bridge. This suspension bridge is the real deal, even better than Disneyland. In fact, you may even find your brave children suddenly need to be held as the bridge starts to rock and sway over the water. The bridge leads to a neighborhood on the other side of the river, so please be courteous to the residents that live there.

The next stop is the Children’s Peace Garden located behind the Storybook Theatre. According to the Storybook Theatre website, the garden was built to celebrate inspirational leader, Spark Matsunaga and his message of international harmony and inclusion. The garden is quite a sanctuary. Children will see a life-sized Bronze statue of senator Matsunaga nestled amongst both native and exotic plants. A koi pond hosts a variety of unique aquatic plants that attract dragonflies and other wildlife including toads and green anoles. The lizards and frogs tend to be the highlight for children.

Across the street just west of the Storybook Theatre is the Talk Story Bookstore. This store has an unbelievable selection of used books, children’s books and unique hard to find Hawaiiana Books. The draw for the kids is the cats that laze around in the store. Make sure to ask the very helpful owners which of the cats are friendly. Also check out the section devoted to local authors where you will find several children’s books by Kauai authors.

Your final stop should include Hanapepe Park. There’s nothing like a county park and playground to make the kids happy. Hanapepe Park is also a great stop to refresh toddlers and preschoolers that have gotten fussy from a long car ride. A huge monkey pod tree provides shade for moms and dads watching the kids play on the slides, swings and monkey bars. The park is also home to a flock of wild chickens. Children often enjoy feeding the chickens, and they nearly always love to chase them.

If you are coming from Lihue, you can pull off the main highway when you see sign that reads, “Hanapepe, Kauai’s Biggest Little Town”. Shortly after the road curves to the left you will see a beautifully restored green building known as Banana Patch Studios. There is a gravel parking area just past this. Start your walking tour here, by following the path to the swinging bridge.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Five reasons your family will love Poipu Beach Park on Kauai

Poipu Beach has more to offer than just surf sand for families with kids. In fact Poipu Beach offers a number of activities that will keep children busy all day long.

1.) The beach itself is especially designed for families with infants and toddlers. On the East side of the park is a great wading area that is ankle deep on a low tide and waist deep at high tide. The wading pond is protected from waves by the strategic placement of rocks, which keep the pond calm. Bring a bucket and shovel and you can build castles or just let the kids frolic in the water.

2.) When the little ones tire from playing in the sand, there is a large grassy area with a playground. The playground has several slides, a playhouse and monkey bars, which are sure to please. Several benches surround the area so parents can relax while watching the kids.

3.) Once your kids have worked up an appetite from all the playing, you can run across the street to the conveniently located Brennecke’s Deli. Pick up a sandwich and chips, or maybe a shave ice and then pick out a shaded pavilion to sit down and eat on the picnic benches.

4.) After lunch, you can take the little ones to watch wildlife. Nearly all summer, endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals haul themselves out on the beach for a nap. Monk Seals are only found in Hawaii, so seeing them is a unique opportunity. The lifeguards will place stakes and yellow ribbon around the seals for safety. The monk seals are protected and it is therefore unlawful to harass them, but be sure to bring a camera, as they are quite photogenic. You can learn more about Hawaiian Monk Seals on the posted placards in the park.

Then you can take a stroll over to Brennecke’s Beach, which is just to the east (left facing the ocean) of the grassy area. If you stand at the edge of the grass where it meets the rocks and look just off shore, you are sure to see a number of turtles feeding in the surf. Look for their heads to pop up every few minutes. If you are lucky, you may see a turtle over by the lifeguard stand near the wading pool. Turtles are also protected, so please watch from a distance.

5.) Older kids and parents can enjoy snorkeling or body boarding in this area as well. Ask the lifeguards for the best location to snorkel or surf and don’t forget to ask about safety precautions and surf conditions. Just to the west (to the right, facing the ocean) of the “island” is a great place to see lots of fish. Wrasses are prevalent here, a very colorful group that is sure to please.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hanalei Sand Castle Competition

I had the pleasure of taking my son to the Hanalei Sand Castle Sculpture Contest over the weekend. I have to say this is a must-see family friendly event! Usually, we would hit the Koloa Plantation Days Parade and festivities, but we decided to head North and try something we new. Rain had threatened all morning, but after one brief blessing the sky opened up to reveal that the mountains had become heavily laden with waterfalls, and the sun began to shine through the clouds. Another perfect day in Hanalei.

The morning began with some heavy showers, but that did not deter the teams from arriving and as luck would have it, the skies cleared just in time for the competition. The rain also left the surrounding mountains heavily laden with cascading waterfalls. It also gave the sand a good dose of moisture, something that is especially important for building sand castles.

World-renowned sand sculptor Jeff Peterson was on hand to give a sand sculpture class and encourage everyone, especially children, to register and participate. He also reminded folks to have a plan, work as team and use lots and lots of water. After the pep talk, teams gathered and went to work digging and building. It was amazing to see the creativity that abounds on this small island.

By noon, the beach was absolutely packed with both artisans and onlookers, most of which seemed to hang around all day to see the sculptures progress. From mermaids to dolphins, traditional castles to the medieval, octopuses and shave ice, and dragons to shaka signs, there was something for everyone. I highly recommend this event. In fact, I am considering entering the contest next year!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Anini Beach, relaxing for parents, fun for kids

Anini is arguably is one of the most peaceful beaches on Kauai. It is usually less crowded than Poipu or Hanalei and the beach itself is really quite breathtaking. It also one of the safer swimming beaches on the north shore, which makes it a great spot for kids and parents alike. A fringing reef located just offshore keeps the water relatively calm and offers some good snorkeling.

The beach at Anini is lined with Kamani trees, which are great for shade if you plan to spend the whole day here. There are numerous places to pull over and find your own little nook. The park has some nice grassy areas and picnic tables and there are several covered pavilions thart can be reserved for parties. However, if they are not occupied, they can be claimed on a first come first serve basis. Camping is allowed at Anini (and this is a great place to camp!), but you will need a permit.

Most people’s favorite activity at Anini is doing nothing, but many folks like to kayak snorkel, windsurf, kite surf, swim, fish, camp, comb the beach or play horseshoes here. Anini also offers some beautiful views of the Kilauea lighthouse and the complex gradation of blues that occurs when the shallow water reveals the color of the sand and reef then intensifies towards the depth.

Whatever you choose to do at Anini, you are sure to enjoy this beach! To get there, head north past Kilauea and take the second Kalihiwai road, then turn left on Anini drive. Make sure to drive the whole stretch of beach before choosing the perfect spot to relax.

Free admission at historic Koloa Garden

Take a step back into sugar plantation history with a visit to the Pa’u a Laka Gardens. Plantation Gardens Restaurant

is the site of the original plantation manager’s estate also known as the Moir Plantation Manor. Hector Moir was the manager of Koloa Plantation, the first sugar plantation in the state of Hawaii and his wife, Sandy, started the garden as a hobby. Originally she planted tropical flowers but found that this region of the island was too dry to support these types of plants. As a result, she brought in cactus and succulents that thrived in this environment and the cactus garden soon became famous.

Like most avid gardeners, Sandy found interest in expanding her garden by planting other types of plants and trees, many of which were brought to her from around the world by her brother-in-law. She planted a special section of the garden with orchids and Bromeliads. This section of the garden was later supplemented by generous donations from both visitors and some of the resort’s staff. As a result, there are now over a thousand varieties of orchids, which seem to bloom year round.

Make sure to bring your camera because this garden offers a plethora of photo ops. Numerous lily ponds are laid out throughout the gardens. Some ponds are planted with day bloomers and other with night blooming lilies. If you are lucky, you can watch the night blooming lilies open while sipping a cocktail as a guest at the restaurant.

Many of the ponds are filled with koi fish, and others attract wildlife. Occasionally the rare native Koloa Duck can be found swimming in the ponds. In the evening, the Auku’u or Black Crowned Night Heron, can be found fishing in the ponds. Children delight in the enormous toads that are attracted to the water here.

You may also find a number of historical artifacts as you stroll through the gardens. On the front lawn, you will see the grinding stone from the Koloa Sugar Mill. More recently it is used as a table for champagne toasting glasses and flower leis at the many weddings that are held on the lawn. In the cactus garden you may run across an old rusty whaler’s melting pot that is now used as a lily planter. The whaler’s melting pot is a remnant of the whaling days; Koloa Landing is just a few blocks away, which at that time in history was known as one of Hawaii’s largest whaling ports.

To get to the gardens turn into the Kiahuna Plantation driveway from Poipu Rd. and follow the signs to the Plantation Gardens Restaurant.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pilgramage of Compassion at Lawai International Center

It's time for hearts to unite on the sacred grounds of Lawai International Center. The 11th annual Pilgrimage of Compassion, held this year from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday August 7, with gates open at 1:30 p.m., celebrates a timeless spiritual vision in a valley long recognized as a healing sanctuary. On lovingly tended grounds in Lawai Valley, among 88 historic shrines, world-renowned shakuhachi (Japanese flute) Grand Master Riley Lee - the first non-Japanese to attain the rank of shakuhachi Grand Master will issue a call to the pilgrims of the world. Carried by the wind through the trees, the soothing sounds of Lee's shakuhachi are the voice of Lawai International Center.

Built in 1904 by the first generation of Japanese immigrants, the shrines are one of the oldest Buddhist temple sites in the country, replicating the ancient pilgrimage of 88 temples in Shikoku, Japan. In celebrating this legacy, the annual Pilgrimage adds local treasures to the archaeological and historic wonders: chanting by the rarely seen children of Ni`ihau, and the dynamic drumbeats of Taiko Kaua`i.

Riley Lee's Grand Master designation did not come easily. He attained the rank 30 years ago after rigorous training that included practicing barefoot in the snow, blowing his flute while standing under a waterfall, and playing in blizzards until icicles formed at the tip of his flute. The recipient of a 2009 Na Hoku Hanohano award, he remains one of the few such masters outside of Japan. He has performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe and Asia, including at the Sydney Opera House and Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and has released more than 50 recordings on international labels.

Hawaii elders have described Kaua`i as the crown of the archipelago, anchored to the south by Lawai Valley. Those seeking healing have come to Lawai for centuries. Drawn by its healing energy, the ancient Hawaiians walked there from far reaches of the island. The Asian immigrants followed, and they too, built their temples: a Taoist temple, a Shinto shrine and Shingon Buddhist temple. Today this site is all that tangibly remains of this legacy.

Lawai International Center is a non-profit community project driven by its volunteers, whose earnest efforts are bringing the valley back to prominence as an international center of compassion, education, and cultural understanding. A journey to this site will reveal the thread that unites the Hawaiians, the immigrants, and a dedicated community of modern residents. In the folds of this wondrous valley shines a healing and cultural center for all pilgrims of the world—a beacon of aloha and compassion when the world needs it most.

Please bring an umbrella and wear comfortable shoes for this hillside walk. And if possible, please car pool and arrive early to facilitate parking. The gates open at 1:30 p.m. with booths and exhibits open and the program starts at 3:00 p.m.

Donations will be accepted with gratitude. There will be a bake sale, silent auction, bonsai exhibits, and mochi pounding demonstrations. For more information contact LM@hawaii.rr.com , call 639-4300 or visit www.lawaicenter.org.

Travel Advisory: The new and not so improved Lydgate Ponds

The ponds at Lydgate Beach Park have been touted as the best and safest place for families with young children to snorkel on Kauai. Over time however, silt and sand have filled the once deep ponds and the rock wall fell into disrepair. Recently, the ponds were closed for dredging and improvements and the surrounding beaches were fortified with the sand that was removed from the ponds.

Over a month has passed since the ponds reopened, but neither the visibility nor the fish have returned. The engineers have stated that this is the normal course, but no one is certain when the turbid waters will clear. As a result, vacationers looking for family snorkeling should steer clear of Lydgate this summer and head to other spots like Poipu Beach, Salt Pond or Anini.

This does not mean that families should skip Lydgate all together. The playground is still one of the places for kids on the island and is near guaranteed to wear them out. Heavy rains this year have also brought an abundance of driftwood onto the nearby beaches. While this excess debris makes for unsafe swimming, it can also bring hours of family fun. Looking down the beach you will find countless creations constructed by visiting families.

Additionally, after years of anticipation, Lydgate should finally be open for camping before the end of summer. According to the County Director of Parks and Recreation, there will be a small fee, but it will provide another area for locals and visitors to camp on the East side of the Island. The new camping sites should also alleviate some of the difficulty in getting a camping permit during the busy season.

Friday, July 15, 2011

How to get kids interested in science while on vacation in Hawaii

A vacation to Hawaii can be relaxing and fun, but for children, can also be extremely educational. Why is this? Well, Hawaii is the most isolated island chain in the world. From an evolutionary standpoint, this has had some unique consequences for the species that have evolved here. As a visitor, what this means for you and your kids, is that about one fourth of the wildlife that you will encounter on your visit is found nowhere else in the world. Children are especially excited to see and learn about new wildlife. Why not take advantage of this unique learning opportunity to get your children excited about science while on vacation.

What is the best way to do this without your kids even knowing what is going on? First, take advantage of the crystal clear waters and coral reefs by taking your kids snorkeling. They will be excited to see all the colorful fish and will probably start to ask questions about what they saw.

Second, arm yourself with a fish identification guide especially made for kids. The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book is written and illustrated by a local author and will teach your kids all about the different fish they just saw. They can also get creative by coloring them in. Let them browse through the book to learn about their anatomy, feeding habits and coloration before going snorkeling at another location.

Can’t vacation in Hawaii this year? The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book also includes species that are found in other tropical locations around the globe. Have a family night reading about the different fish and coloring them in. This book is being used in classrooms across the country to teach children about the importance of coral reefs and the fish that live there. The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book is also great for home schooling and summer learning programs and is available on the Lucid Publishing Website