Sunday, April 19, 2015

Surging Tourism on Hawaii Island

Hawaii Island tourists on a cruise
Merrie Monarch is over in Hilo and the spring break season has come to an end.  This time of year on Hawaii Island the beaches are mostly empty and the tourists and part-time residents are thinning out;  but not this year.  This year there has been no end to the crowds, traffic, and beaches packed with tourists.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) forecasted a record-setting year of visitor arrivals across Hawaii for 2015. They attribute the increase to more flights to the islands from the US mainland.  Hawaiian Airlines reported that they transported more than 887,000 people to Hawaii in March, a 7% increase from March of last year. HTA reports that visitors to Hawaii are up 8% from the West Coast and 9.8% from the East Coast. 

Usually our condo complex is empty by mid-April. This year it is as crowed as it was at Christmas time.  Every condo has a visiting family, the traffic is the heaviest we have ever seen, and the nearby stores and restaurants are packed.  Though we hear many visitors speaking German, Italian and eastern European languages, most of the visitors are from North America speaking English.  Surprisingly, the large number of Japanese tourists we see this time of year are not here.  Every evening we sit on the crowded beach and watch families, primarily from the US, throwing balls, snorkeling, running, playing in the sand, and enjoying the beach with seemingly endless energy. 

Having a huge surge of visitors is a boon to Hawaii Island.  The island has limited job opportunities and an improvement in the tourist industry on the island would not only provide more jobs but hopefully increase pay for the mostly minimum wage service workers.  On the other hand, the hotels, restaurants, and tour companies are not staffed for the current demand.   We are seeing overwhelmed workers having a difficult time keeping their cool with endless lines of impatient people wanting to get on with their vacations.

If visitors to Hawaii Island have a great time, they will likely return.  Hawaii Island is less densely populated per square mile than Oahu, Maui, and Kauai with average home prices 50% lower.  Returning visitors could ultimately increase island real estate prices which have taken a big dive since 2008 and improve the island economy.  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Vog and Snow

Snow and clouds cover Mauna Kea
Like most of the world, the weather on the Big Island of Hawaii has been strange this year.  Two weeks ago the island was blanketed in vog from our constantly erupting volcano.  When the winds finally changed, it brought a thick blanket of clouds, rain and very cold temperatures

The heavy vog (volcanic smog) hung over us for over a week as a southern wind blew it north covering the west side of the island. When the vog gets thick, some people have a reaction in their lungs. The lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand from volcanoes, Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, is actually the longest word in the dictionary.  In our case, the vog lowers our energy and we feel like we are down with the flu.  Our only recourse is to stay inside and run the AC to get some of the sulfur dioxide out of our air. 

When the winds changed we got rain with record cold temperatures for March.  Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are covered in snow with high winds and freezing fog. The huge Thirty Meter Telescope, under construction on Mauna Kea, was delayed from the blizzard.

While we bundle up in temperatures in the low 60’s (F), the ocean surrounding the Hawaiian Islands is not cooling down.  The water is warmer than normal by up to 3.6 degrees. Last week NOAA Climate Prediction Center predicted a 60% chance of El Nino conditions because of the unusual warm temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.  The effects of the El Nino last year produced 20 named storms in the Eastern Pacific, the most since 1992.

An El Nino means our cold weather will likely be followed by a dry summer and another active hurricane season.  

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hawaii Avocados

Hawaii Avocado Tree
Hawaii has over 300 varieties of avocados. The variations of shape, size, and taste are amazing. The avocado skins vary from pliable to woody, smooth to rough, and are green-yellow, reddish-purple, purple, or black in color. Some taste buttery and others are fibrous.

The majority of avocados found outside of Hawaii are the black-skinned 'Haas' which originally came from the Guatemala. 'Haas' do not grow well in Hawaii so we have numerous other varieties available in stores and Famer’s markets around the islands.  Over half of the commercial avocado acreage in Hawaii are 'Sharwil', a Mexican and Guatemalan cross.  'Sharwil' have small seeds and greenish-yellow flesh with a rich, nutty flavor which many consider far superior to ‘Haas’.

'Greengold' and 'Murashige' are other green-skinned avocados commercially raised in Hawaii.  However, 'Sharwil'  is the only Hawaii grown avocado authorized for shipment to Alaska and the US mainland in compliance with USDA requirements.

We love the many varieties of avocados and are happy that they are also a great source Vitamin K, Folate, Vitamin C, Potassium, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E.   They also has Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), and Vitamin B3 (Niacin).  The avocado is a great source of fiber which makes it good for the digestive system and very filling.  Unlike other fruits which are mostly carbohydrates, avocados are mostly fat, with oleic acid which is a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid.

The plentiful supply of highly nutritious avocados in Hawaii is one of the reasons people in Hawaii are so Healthy and Happy