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 , call 639-4300 or visit

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