Monday, December 30, 2013

A Hot December in Hawaii

During the past three months the trade winds in Hawaii have been constantly blocked by storms from the south.  Without the cooling trade winds, we have been having hot winter days on Hawaii Island and have had to run the AC during scorching afternoons. Recently we found a thermometer gadget that is keeping us cooler and saving us money on electricity.

Temperature differences from afternoon to evening in Hawaii are usually 10 to 20 degrees, which is more than the day time differences between seasons. 

During these windless days, the tropical sun causes the temperature in the house to climb over 90 degrees and fans no longer are enough to keep us comfortable.  We close the windows and turn on the AC to get the temperature down to the lower 80’s.  Once the sun sets, the temperature outside falls quickly, but we were never sure when it had cooled down enough outside to turn off the AC and open the windows.  Our new thermometer gadget lets us know when the temperature outside is cooler than inside which has greatly reduced the time we run the AC.
86 degrees outside with day's range of 70 to 111 degrees
84 degrees inside

The Acurite wireless thermometer gadget displays the inside and outside temperatures as well as the temperature range for the day.  The outdoor thermometer on our porch shows us how quickly the temperature is rising outside and as soon as we see that it is hotter outside than inside, we close the door and pull the blinds.   This temperature switch often happens by 9 A.M., even in December.   We were very surprised to see how hot it was actually getting outside without the trade winds – the thermometer often displays temperatures of 110 degrees or more on our porch.  With the door closed and the sunlight blocked, the house stays cool sometimes for the entire day.  Only during excessively hot afternoons when the inside temperature rises to the high 80’s, do we turn on the AC.   The super heated air outside quickly cools down after sun set, up to 1 degree a minute.  As soon as the temperature is several degrees cooler outside than inside, we open the windows.  With this approach, we turn the AC off hours earlier than we used to and are able to keep the house cooler longer by blocking the sun earlier. 

We were delighted to find that our electric bill was much lower than the month before, even though it was the hottest month we have ever had in Hawaii.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wheat Free Diet Update

We started a wheat free diet last November and although we had some great results weight loss was not one of them.  In July we happened to watch a documentary, “The Perfect Human Diet”, that tells about the original human diet and health issues with grains.  The movie presented a radically different view of the ideal human diet when compared to the currently accepted “healthy” diet and foods. 

Citing research on the skeletal remains of pre-agriculture societies in Europe, the movie concludes that the human body is designed to flourish on the diet of northern European hunter gatherers.  The film makes a lot of assumptions such as the reason all skeletal remains are all tall and disease free is because of diet; it may be that environmental challenges at the time led to a minimum size and food requirement to survive rather than diet alone.  And there is the even greater assumption that a diet ideal for people from northern Europe is good for all humans.  Even so, the journalist CJ Hunt made a very convincing argument that modern grains are a major cause of obesity and diet related illnesses and we were intrigued at his proposal for ancestral eating.

Since becoming wheat-free 8 months earlier, we had come to rely heavily on rice in our diet.  Not eating wheat, spelt, rye, and oats, had just changed, and not reduced, the grains in our diet.  We decided to remove all grains from our diet after watching the movie because our ancestors are northern European and since we had seen beneficial results from taking wheat out of our diet (in particular ending gout flare ups) it seemed possible that removing all grains would offer even more benefits.  We had already stopped eating what we considered “unhealthy” foods years ago like sugar, corn, GMO foods, etc. and although we had lost weight and felt much better, we were still struggling with losing the last pounds.

Going on the diet was fairly simple for us, we just stopped eating rice, which was much easier than removing wheat and bread from our diet a year earlier.  To replace rice at our meals, we added  more vegetables (carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, romaine lettuce, avocados, green beans) more nuts (macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans) and hunter gather fruits (dates, figs, cherries, bananas).  We realize  the  availability of the foods on the “perfect diet” is one of the many gifts of living on Hawaii Island and we doubt we could have made the diet change as easily and inexpensively on the mainland.

Within weeks we started to lose weight and had a major reduction in our hunger.  We noticed that a meal of beef heated us up and we were more physically active during the day.  At night we are sore and more tired than we used to be from our additional activity.   Within three months we had both lost 10 pounds without having to count calories or be hungry.  Even better, our weight has stopped fluctuating so much and seems stabilized.  We plan to get our blood tested to verify the effect of this new diet.

Although the non-grain diet has been positive for us, we are not sure this diet is for everyone. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

How a Hawaii Christmas vacation became a Hawaii move

While relaxing on the beach today, we enjoyed watching the Christmas vacationers revel in the warm sunshine and splash in the ocean.  It reminded us of  how our 2006 Christmas in Hawaii led to moving to Hawaii.  

Before that fateful Christmas, we had been coming to Hawaii more and more frequently to escape the unrelenting stress in our life. We always felt better the day after we arrived in Hawaii, our aches and pains would subside, and our energy would slowly return.  The sun felt like it had magical healing powers and the local food satisfied our deep hunger.  Before we knew it, we found ourselves sitting sadly at the airport waiting to board the plane back to our rat race life.  At the end of every vacation, we were determined to find fruits, fish and beef from Hawaii and to exercise every day.  But the freezing, rainy, grey days kept us huddled inside and we could never find a steady supply of the foods we could easily get in Hawaii. 

In 2006, we rented a condo in Hilo for the month of December and we discovered how wonderful and affordable living in Hilo could be.   That Christmas we decided that going back to the mainland after our Hawaii vacation was just too painful.  Having to return to the cold, the aches, the pains, and lose all the energy we had gained had become unthinkable.  The only way we were able to convince ourselves to get back on a plane to the mainland that year was our decision to move to Hawaii as soon as possible.  It took 10 months to make it happen, but we moved by Thanksgiving 2007.  

We are constantly surprised by the island’s incredible coastline, parks, beaches, towns, and historic sites.  There are so many varieties of trees, flowers, climates, and so many beautiful places to explore the island seems like a continent to us. We have never felt island fever and cannot imagine living anywhere else.
 We believe we made the best decision of our lives on that Christmas vacation in Hawaii. 

Every year since moving to Hawaii, we feel better, stronger, and happier.  We have lost weight, gotten fit, sleep better, and have more energy.  Every year we enjoy living on the island more and find more things to love about it.  Every day we feel blessed to be living on Hawaii Island.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Radiation monitoring on Hawaii Island

We continue to monitor radiation on Hawaii Island and the levels have continued to remain unusually low.  We attribute the low level to the lack of uranium (radon gas) in the island’s lava, being closer to the equator where there is less solar ionizing radiation, and being at sea level. 

Here is a recent video taken along the Kohala Coast where most of the large resorts on the island are located.

When we notice any debris washed up on the beach during our daily walks (electrical wire coverings, residential wall insulation, carved wood structural beams, etc.) covered with barnacles that we assume came from Japan, we check it out with our detector.   So far none of the debris has had any detectable radiation.

There are numerous sites on the internet that display real-time radiation readings from detectors in the US on a map. Some show a disturbing trend of increasing background radiation levels along the western US attributed to the continuing Fukushima disaster.  Other real-time maps show the radiation levels to be within normal ranges.  

Although we believe Fukushima and other nuclear sites are a potential danger, there is a lot of misinformation and unclear messages about whether there is a risk or not.  We think having a radiation detector is an important investment in our family’s well being to make sure there is no reason to worry needlessly while at the same time being prepared with an early warning system in case there is a nuclear incident.   

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ideal Hawaii 2014 Day Planner

For decades we took workshops and seminars about how to achieve our goals in life. We found that goal setting, calorie counting, and weight tracking consistently worked for us. Last year we decided to design and print a day planner with space to track everything we found that improved our life year in and year out. Writing down the food we eat and our daily weight helped us lose 40 lbs each over the past five years. Reminding ourselves each day about what we appreciate having in our life brings us more things in our life that we appreciate.  Tracking our daily tasks has allowed us to accomplish more of our goals.

 Your Ideal Hawaii Day Planner 2014 is set up for goal setting, calorie counting, and weight tracking with space to schedule and record monthly and daily activities.  The 2014 Day Planner is ideal for residents and visitors to Hawaii because it has all the Federal holidays as well as unique holidays and special days celebrated in Hawaii.

Overview of 2014
The Planner is a 9”x 6” paperback book that is sturdy and easy to carry.   The front cover has the spectacular Kua Bay on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii Island and the 150 pages in the interior are black and white.  We often refer to our Planners from previous years to remember what happened on certain days, so we like having a paperback book record of each year in our bookcase.

2014 Goals
The Planner has a page for writing Goals for the year and pages to write your Choices and Plans about who and where to spend your time in 2014.  This year we added a page to write down what we are Thankful for, which is not difficult to list living in Hawaii, but so important to for us to remember every day.

Calendar pages for every month
The calendar pages for each month has a section on the side for writing monthly Goals, Health Choices, Appreciations, Projects, Adventures, and Events.

Pages for each week
Each monthly calendar is followed by two pages for every week.  Each day has room to write down what happened, record food, calories, and weight.  We use our daily food lists to track the relationship between what we eat and our weight loss.  Every week has a place to write down ideas and insights about how we can improve our life.

Overview calendars for December 2013 and January 2015 are also included.  At the back of the Planner are pages to record 2014 Accomplishments and make Plans for 2015.

2014 Accomplishments and Plans for 2015
If you are looking for a uniquely Hawaii Day Planner for 2014, we hope you will give this one a try and let us know how it works for you.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2014 Year of the Wood Horse

It is time for our annual predictions based on the Chinese lunar calendar for 2014 Year of the Wood Horse.  As we predicted, the current 2013 Water Snake year has been about rich people holding on to their wealth and countries becoming increasingly isolationist and possessive.  In contrast to the internal focus of Snake years, Horse years are about energy, expansionism, military power, physical feats, and economic change.  Although Horse years can bring good luck and fortune, they require quick thinking and decisive action.  The time for planning and introspection will be over when the year of the Snake ends on February 3rd, (a bit unique this year since the Chinese New Year is January 31st). During a Horse year we must be ready to react quickly to keep pace with world events and changes.

We find it useful to review what happened 60 years ago, during the last Wood Horse year, to see how events may relate to today’s world.  In 1954, the previous Wood Horse year, the new, secretive Hydrogen bomb project expanded to above ground testing around the Pacific.  The 1954 Congress was attacked by four gunmen with semi-automatic pistols who shot into the US House of Representatives chamber from a balcony and wounded 5 congressmen while they were debating an immigration bill.  The Snake year McCarthyism created new laws in the 1954 Wood Horse year that made being a “communist” illegal, authorized harsh penalties for spies, and approved the CIA opening US mail.  It would not be surprising for the wikileaks, NSA leaks, and other secrecy issues of the 2013 Snake year to result in harsh, new laws in the 2014 Horse Year Congress.

Horse years bring economic growth and chaos.  Although the last Wood Horse year of 1954 saw the Dow Jones close higher than its peak before the 1929 crash, most recent Horse years have seen major stock market crashes.  In the Horse year of 2002 the stock market dealt with the dot-com bust and in the  Horse year of 1990 the stock market took a dive after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.   In the 1978 Horse year, a stock market crash of 22% one day in October came to be known as black Monday and caused a global stock market decline.  No one ever figured out what caused the panic, but protective measures were installed to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

Horse years are military power and transportation minded.  During the last Wood Horse year of 1954 the US Army created the first helicopter battalion, the US Air Force Academy opened, the B52 bomber, C-130 Transport, and Air Force One all had maiden flights.  During the last Horse year in 2002, Fossett made the first solo, non-stop flight around the world in a balloon.  We expect a year of military advancements in space, the formation of drone battalions, and faster vehicles of all types.  We expect to see military coups, the unrest the Middle East and Asia to expand, and rapid changes in world leaders.

Horses are energetic and physically strong and Horse years often break records in human feats.  During that last Wood Horse year in 1954, the four minute mile record was broken and new records achieved for the 5K and marathon.  During the 2002 Horse year, records were broken in baseball, football, cycling, and other sports, by many athletes now accused of using performance enhancement drugs. 

There are health issues associated with Horse years, in particular issues with the lungs.  Smog and contaminated air may become recognized as a world-wide health problem.  Excessive heat, cold, storms, and earthquakes are also common during Horse years.

Horse years bring focus to fairness, equality, and humanitarianism.  We think sexual rights will progress in the Horse year, much like race rights did in 1954 with the ending of segregated regiments in the military and the start of school desegregation.  The Humane Society was formed in 1954 during the last Wood Horse year. 

Horse years are focused on entertainment, communication, and sociability.  During the last Wood Horse year of 1954, Disneyland was announced and construction started; Disney’s TV show and the Tonight show hosted by Steve Allen were started; color TVs became more common in American homes; and the world’s largest mall opened in Michigan. During Horse years, people spend more money and time on entertainment and fun.

From the introspection and isolation of the 2013 Snake Year, the 2014 Horse Year will bring explosive energy, a fast pace, adventure, unique forms of communication, and a focus on fun.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth

We just had a week of intense volcanic emissions, called Vog, that covered the south Kohala Coast. This is the longest stretch of Vog we have had during 18 months of living here.  Actually, the rare occurrence of Vog is one the things we love about the Kohala Coast.  This Vog had a slightly rotten egg smell (caused by Hydrogen sulfide) combined with a “burnt rock” smell, like a ceramic kiln gives off at very high temperatures.  We had smelled rotten eggs a couple of times during our years in Hilo when the nearby Pu’u O'o vent was highly active and the wind was blowing toward Hilo.  But here in South Kohala, we are a long way from the active vents of Kilauea and a rotten egg smell at this distance is surprising.

Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth, is much closer to us.  The volcano covers half of Hawaii Island and has erupted 33 times since its first documented eruption in 1843. Its most recent eruption was from March 24 to April 15, 1984.  The heavy emissions covering the area appeared to be coming from Mauna Loa, but we assumed that it was just an illusion since Kilauea is behind Mauna Loa, but it got us looking more carefully at the web sites monitoring Mauna Loa.

We noticed tilt data from an instrument on the edge of Mauna Loa’s crater showing an increase over the past month. In early September, 350 earthquakes were detected in a 3-day period just west of Mauna Loa’s summit.  The earthquake swarm was in the same area where earthquakes occurred before Mauna Loa's 1975 and 1984 eruptions.  Steam is visible from a live camera located on the northeast rift zone of Mauna Loa’s Mokuʻāweoweo Caldera and the thermal camera shows the heat in the caldera.

The activity on Mauna Loa is not surprising and a future eruption is expected; the question is which direction lava will flow down the slopes. When Mauna Loa erupted in 1950, lava ran down its southwest side destroying  homes near Kailua-Kona.  When it last erupted in 1984, lava flooded the northeastern side of the mountain and stopped just outside Hilo.  In 2008, a magma bump on the southwestern side of Mauna Loa had risen eight inches in just three years.  At the time researchers speculated that the magma may cause a rip in the southwestern rift causing lava to flow toward the K'au District on the southeastern side of the island. Any direction of flow would endanger one or more communities on Hawaii Island.

Living on Hawaii Island, Mauna Loa is a beautiful sight worth keeping a close eye on.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Reasons people leave Hawaii Island

We enjoy meeting newcomers to Hawaii Island and hearing their stories about moving and living on the island.   We have written about issues people have after moving to Hawaii in our Your Ideal Hawaii Move: A Guide for Moving to Hawaii Island book.  Incorrect assumptions newcomers have about island neighborhoods seem to be the major reason that their new lives in paradise do not work out.  Over the last 18 months we have met 7 families who recently moved into our neighborhood in South Kohala and returned to mainland within a year.  Though the reasons they left were similar to the reasons the people we met in Hilo and Kona left the island – family and jobs – the specifics are different.

Most of the families had two or more children.  They chose the resort neighborhood near the beach because the amenities and quiet lifestyle seemed perfect for their family.  They assumed that the  large upscale housing communities along the coast would have great schools nearby.  But the reality is, in spite of thousands of acres of million dollar homes and condo complexes,  very few people actually live here full time.  Most of the houses and condos are third and fourth homes of older wealthy people that visit only occasionally on holidays. We watched the few children here leave early, 6:30AM, and get dropped off by bus in the late afternoon.  The closest elementary school is up on a hill, about 15 miles away.  The public high schools are much farther. The closest high school is Kealakehe,  30 miles south in Kona about a 40 minute drive by car and longer by bus.  The other option is in Honoka’a about a 50 minute drive to the other side of the island.  

After the initial thrill of wearing sandals and shorts to school wears off, students and their parents learn about the tensions in the public schools on the island.   Though Pahoa and Keaau high schools in Puna have the most cases of violence and serious misconduct, Honoka’a and Kealakehe have problems as well.  Last year Kealakehe High School was closed for a couple of days after tensions between groups of  Polynesians escalated into a huge brawl among the students.  The number of offenses at Hawaii Island public high schools over the past 5 years was  published by the Hawaii Department of Education after an open records request. The schools are not like the mainland, where students represent nearby neighborhoods often with similar social and economic backgrounds.  The size and low population on the Big Island means that high schools serve students bused in from large geographic areas with different social, racial, and national backgrounds.  There are several highly rated private schools, which are also over 30 minutes to drive up  to Waimea.  They are quite pricey especially for families with several kids.  Annual high school tuition at HPA is $22,000 and Parker School is $13,800.  Living a far distance from other students in school adds to the difficultly of finding new friends.

The parents we met had not realized how important regular contact with their family and friends were to them until they moved. One mother who had lived in the same town her whole life and was sure it would be wonderful to live somewhere else said “I was amazed at how much I missed everyone, it really took me by surprise.”  They left the gorgeous weather and beautiful beaches behind in less than 12 months to restore their relationships with friends and return to a school system where they felt more comfortable.

We met several families who moved to our neighborhood after many years of a telecommuting job in California and Washington State. Within 6 months of their move, their companies changed their telecommuting policies and required them to show up at their office.  This has happened to so many people we now joke that many companies allow telecommuting, just not from Hawaii.

We find it interesting that none of families left Hawaii Island because of the high cost of living.  They left because assumptions they had made turned out not be true.  On the upside, they all seemed to have had a great experience during their short time here.  As they were leaving they called it their “Hawaii adventure.” We have concluded that they discovered that something about their life on the mainland turned out to be way more important than the island lifestyle that drew them to Hawaii. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Calculating the damage of the government shut down on Hawaii Island

When the US government shut down on October 1, 2013, news stories claimed that Hawaii would be one of the top states affected because of the number of federal employees, military bases, and federal contracts.  Oahu has been dramatically affected by the loss of income to so many residents, however, we are also seeing significant effects on here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The biggest tourist site on the Big Island is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park which normally has about  4,500 visitors a day. The park’s closure means a loss of $1.8 million a week from visitors plus the loss of income to workers at the park, concession stands, the newly opened Volcano House within the park, and other businesses. Other important Hawaiian sites on the island under federal control are also closed including  the Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Park, Puʻukoholā Heiau, and Kaloko Honokōhau National Historical Park.

Since the beginning of October, statistics from the Hawaii Tourism Authority have shown a sharp drop in visitor arrivals from the mainland  as compared to last year. The first week of shutdown, we saw lots of tour buses with just a few visitors on board; this week we have not seen any buses at all. We are beginning to expect a long term downturn in tourism from the mainland if this current shutdown is not resolved soon.

In addition to the economic impact of national parks and historic sites being closed, income on the Big Island has been lost by furloughs of federal workers  and projects funded by federal organizations (USDA, USGS, Department of Interior, Office of Native Hawaiian Relations, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, NASA, etc). that are delayed and may ultimately be cancelled.  The telescopes on Mauna Kea have been affected by the shutdown.  The Submillimeter Array, partially funded by the Smithsonian, has furloughed workers and the Gemini telescope will lose 50% of its funding if the shutdown continues past October. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s “Very Long Baseline Array” already closed its telescope on Mauna Kea due to the shutdown.

Since the shutdown, Hawaii Island has had a 24% increase in unemployment claims. Recent college graduates are shut out of government jobs and from even starting the testing and application process.

Thousands of families on Hawaii Island depend on Food stamps (SNAP) to help to survive on their part-time, minimum-wage jobs in the tourist and resort upkeep industry.  Food stamps not only feed families, they also support independent farmers and ranchers that get income from food stamps at local Farmer’s markets.  SNAP is expected to run out of money on November 1st.  That could mean the loss of food stamps for many Hawaii Island residents at the same time there are less jobs in tourism.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Coffee and Chocolate in Hawaii

Coffee and chocolate are popular on Hawaii Island. They are even celebrated with annual festivals and the harvesting and coffee bean preparation can be experienced on trips to coffee plantations in Kona and Ka’u.  Living in Hawaii we have come to appreciate having the best cup of coffee and dark chocolate.

There is a lot of advice about the best way to brew coffee.  We have heard everything from “just grind it and add hot water” to “steam pressure it in a car-sized  espresso machine”.  Our strategy is to buy the best beans and freshly grind them right before brewing with alkaline water.

We recently replaced our old coffeemaker with a more highly rated Melitta thermal coffeemaker. We really like this new coffee maker.  It has three settings for brew strength and though it takes longer to brew with the highest strength, the resulting coffee is very strong and yet not too acidic. The carafe lid has a thumb spout so we can pour out coffee without having to unscrew the lid and let air in and the flavor out.  Having the hottest coffee on those chilly 77 degree winter mornings in Hawaii is a real treat.

Local stores do not always stock  Melitta coffee filters, so we order them in bulk.  It is a relief to have enough filters for 600 pots of coffee available.

We prefer smooth, low acid coffee. Though we love the local grown Kona and Ka’u coffees, they are very expensive at about $28 or more a pound which is not affordable at the rate we drink coffee.  Fortunately, we are able to buy  excellent coffee beans online for $6.50 to $10 a pound.  We use a Burr Grinder to grind our coffee beans rather than a “spice mill”.  The finer grind gives the coffee a deeper flavor.

We think  a piece of extra dark chocolate makes our coffee taste even better, but extra dark chocolate bars are hard to find in Hawaii.  We order chocolate bars by the dozen on Amazon Prime so we don’t pay for shipping. They arrive wrapped in a special frozen covering and last us months.  

Drinking the best tasting, fresh brewed coffee with dark chocolate every day makes living in Hawaii even more wonderful.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An amazing National park in North Kona

From the road the park doesn't look all that impressive.  We have passed the gate to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park  for years on our trips from Kona to COSTCO and never thought to stop and check it out.  We were finally curious enough to visit the 1160 acre park to see its touted fishpond and  unique fish trap.

Kaloko fishpond, the widest and largest fishpond in the state of Hawaii, is on the northern end of the park.  

To get to it you have to walk across a barren lava field to the coast or be willing to drive over a rough, dirt road accessible by a gate just north of the Visitor’s Center gate on Highway 19.  

The road is deeply rutted which makes for a bumpy ride. Although we drove it in a sedan, we were worried that the sharp rocks jutting up might pop the tires or rip out the transmission.  

The road intersects with the “King’s Trail” that runs along the coast.  

The road also passes by ancient rock walls and foundations.

At the end of the road is a parking lot just a few steps away from the fishpond and a small white sand beach. 

Kaloko fish pond is large compared to the ones we are familiar with in South Kohala, but the massive rock wall that encloses the fishpond, restored after 13 years of effort, was unexpected.  

Local Hawaiians with the knowledge of how to create kuapa walls by setting interlocking stones without shaping them or using cement rebuilt the impressive wall. We walked across the solid and stable structure and looked down at the pounding surf.  We marveled at how difficult it must have been to place each stone so neatly and securely within all the other stones.  

The mason workers say that they “listen” to where the stone wants to be placed.  The recreation of a stone wall of this scale and complexity will hopefully retain the knowledge of Uhau Humu Pohaku (Hawaiian Dry Stack Masonry) on Hawaii Island.

The ‘Ai’opio fishtrap and Honokohau beach are located at the southern end of the park.  You can hike to it or drive to a south park entrance within Kona’s Honokohau Boat Harbor.  The harbor entrance is at Kealakehe Parkway off Highway 19.  The palm tree lined Kealakehe Parkway has a plaque on the side of the road installed in 1964 recognizing the Hawaiian Honokohau Settlement as a National Historic Landmark.  

The park entrance is located near Kona Sailing Club which can be reached by taking a right turn at the first intersection  on Kealakehe Parkway road in the harbor.  A large parking lot is located on the left and the park gate is located on the right.   

Pedestrian and animals on a leash can pass through the gate to an unpaved park trail that leads to the coastline.  

The trail is rocky from the gate to the beach, not wheelchair accessible, but only about a half mile to the beach. 

The beach in front of the fish trap has a restored canoe house and shade for a picnic or enjoying the view.  The day we went, a few people had brought in chairs to spend the day snorkeling or fishing. 

The ‘Ai’opio fishtrap is an usual stone structure in a 1.7 acre pond.  The stone walls surrounding the pond were low enough to allow fish in during high tide but high enough to trap the fish at low tide.  The fish trap captured and stored fish as opposed to the fish ponds where fish were raised.  

At the south end of the beach is Maliu Point Resource Area, a protected historical area with stone walls and remains of a temple.  The view from the point is great and we could see huge fish jumping in the ocean by perching on the rocks.

An alternate walk from the park back to the parking lot is near Mailu Point, where a gate leads to the side of Kona’s Honokohau Small Boat Harbor channel.  We enjoyed the walk along the channel where the boats enter and leave the harbor. 

The Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Visitor’s Center is located 4.2 miles south of Kona International airport on Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway (Highway 19) and a half a mile north of the entrance to Kona's Honokohau Harbor.  The center has a large parking area, bathrooms, and a small store.  Park information and maps are available and a park ranger is on site to talk story.  Entrance is free. The gate is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  (website:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Finding ideal college student housing in Honolulu

Fall term just started in Hawaii and we were once again on the hunt for affordable and safe housing for our college kid.  Honolulu is renowned for being one of the most expensive places in the world to live and housing for college students is no exception.  On the positive side, there are really a lot of housing choices including vacation rentals, apartments, rooms in a house, student suites, and college dorms. But most come with big price tags or have lots of downsides like year-long leases, having to set up electric and internet services, remote locations far from a bus line, or difficult conditions with old or bug infested buildings and appliances.

We waited until the last minute to find housing this time in hopes of having more choices based on the demographics which point to college age students in sharp decline and  the cuts in federal spending which we assumed would mean less military employees to compete with rentals on Oahu.   There were more choices than last year, but when we arrived we were surprised to find Honolulu in a phase of explosive growth. 

Though it has only been four months since we were in Honolulu, every direction we saw spectacular new high rise buildings and the skyline noticeably changed.    We wonder who will live in the thousands of new condos built and under construction and how will Oahu be able to provide the infrastructure for all the new people moving in.  We saw  a large number of Japanese and Chinese families who seemed to be assessing Honolulu as a place to live.  Perhaps the earthquakes, pollution, and Fukushima related health concerns are causing people in Asia to consider relocating to Hawaii.

Honolulu’s freeway gridlock is always a shock to us coming from our unpopulated island community on the Big Island.  During Honolulu’s evening rush hour, it took us 20 minutes to go a mile on the main roads. The roads surfaces were extremely rough with frequent potholes. Honolulu’s traffic and crowds reminds us more of central Tokyo than the Honolulu we remember.  Since we watch the local (Honolulu) TV news we know the homeless problems are growing and driving around Honolulu it appeared the number of homeless had doubled since May.  Sadly, they seem more desperate and in much worse health.

We were able to find a great college housing solution with all the must-haves: cost, security, electricity included, internet access, short term lease, close to a bus line, close to food, and nearby shopping.  And as usual, we had a great time in Honolulu people-watching, shopping, and eating out.  Now back on the Big Island, the quiet and slow pace are a very welcome change and we can feel our blood pressure going back to normal.  We can only wonder what Honolulu will look like next time we visit.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Giant Ant Invasion in Hawaii

Every season we have an “adventure” with a new tropical bug or rodent that we have not encountered before. Recently, a new type of huge ant showed up on the walls and carpet. We are used to dealing with thick trails of ants emerging through a crack from the outside or running up a wall to food or some other attraction. But these ants had no interaction with each other and they appeared in strange places, like at the bottom of our coffee cup.  Every day the number of roaming ants increased around the house.  One day we found a dozen big ants floating in the water reservoir of our coffee maker and discovered a nest in the electrical compartment. The ant baits we regularly use to control other ants, have no effect on these huge ants.  Spraying Febreeze, which we have found to be a deterrent to many bugs, in particular the millipedes that invaded us last summer, also have no effect.

Our quarterly bug spraying, which we were hoping would get rid of the giant ants, began an all-out ant invasion.  A few hours after the spraying, the ants started coming out everywhere. They crawled up out of the thick wool carpet in the living room by the dozens and ran up the walls. Some were winged and flew upstairs. For days we wiped ants off the floor and vacuumed them off the rug. Every morning, while making morning coffee, we squished dozens on the kitchen floor. Since they never bit us, we could joke about them carrying us away.

After some research, we identified them as Hawaiian Carpenter Ants (Camponotus variegates).  Though carpenter ants on the mainland can cause as much damage as termites, Hawaiian carpenter ants do very little damage to wood. They just like living in wood, usually outside in tree stumps and rotting wood,  but they are happy to make nests in crevices, cabinets, cardboard boxes, and other locations indoors where they can find food and grease at night. 

Apparently, the appearance of six or more of the huge worker ants means a nest has been established and since we were seeing hundreds, we figured we were dealing with an entire colony with multiple queens laying eggs.  

Unfortunately spraying insecticide and killing the foraging worker ants does not get rid of the colony.  The only option is to directly spray the nest, assuming you can find it.  Even this approach is not successful unless the ants are trapped and cannot scurry away to a new location.  Even ant baits are usually ineffective with these type of ants.

We determined that most of the ants were coming from the kitchen near the refrigerator.  At certain times of the year, there are winged males and females that swarm and mate.  Worker ants take care of the eggs during the 20 days they take to hatch.  As the colonies develop, various sizes of workers are produced.  The small ants stay in the nest and the biggest ants protect the nest and look for food.  We found a pile of elongated, whitish eggs next to the refrigerator in a small crack in the floor.  We were able to vacuum the eggs up and spray the area. 

Since then the number of ants we had to squish has gone down every day and now they have disappeared.  We wonder what tropical bug we will “learn about” next. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Adventure on the Kings Trail in Waikoloa Beach

The ancient Hawaiian carved pictures and stone wind-breaks at the Waikoloa Petroglyph Preserve in Kohala are advertised as a tourist attraction.  We thought it would be fun to take a leisurely walk on the King’s Trail to see the petroglyphs on a particularly clear and sunny day this week. We parked at the Kings Shops in Waikoloa Beach and after some searching found our way to the King’s Trail by taking a path along Kings Lake at the back of the shops.    The paved path along the lake ends on Pohakulana Place across from the Waikoloa Fairway Villa condos.  We crossed the street and entered the Kings Trail where a sign points the way.

The Kings Trail was built over older foot trails in the 1870’s during King Kalakaua’s reign.  It was used to drive cattle through the rough lava fields from the ranches to the shore to be loaded onto ships. It was built to be relatively straight and level with stone curbs on the edges to keep the cattle in.  The King used prisoners and people unable to pay their taxes to build the road.  The portion of the King’s Trail in Waikoloa Beach cuts across a lava field covered with carvings and lava caves surrounded by the Kings Course of the Waikoloa Beach golf club.

We walked a short section of the trail which intersects with the golf cart road. There were no carvings on that section and it would have been easier on our feet to have just walked next to it on Pohakulana Place (which becomes a golf cart road) to the next entrance. 

A sign indicated that the carvings and wind breaks were a distance down the Kings Trail.

A little way down the trail, it started to have no resemblance to a level path.  We wondered how cattle could have managed it.

The trail was very difficult to walk, the sun began to bake us on the lava field, and the wind was so strong we could not keep our hats on. We had good shoes and are in decent shape, but it was far from a leisurely walk at this point and we had yet to see a carving.

Within a thousand feet we had to start crawling on all fours to get down some extremely steep and jagged drops in the “trail”. Still no carvings.

We continued on, certain that this advertised tourist attraction must have petroglyphs somewhere.  We watched a young couple behind us turn back after giving up on the worst hazard of the trail and we were beginning to dread our walk back. 

Finally the petroglyphs, circles, dots, and surprisingly letters, came into view.

As we progressed, carvings in the pahoehoe lava become frequent.

The most common ancient carvings are dots, holes, and circles. These markings have various interpretations including representations for journeys and indications of children born.  

The age of the earliest of the carvings is estimated to be 800 AD when the Waikoloa area was first settled.

We were surprised to see names carved into the stone in between the circles and other designs.

Lava caves and stone wind breaks are located along the side of the trail.   

Our progress was slow along the path. The howling wind and the sun beating down on us made us appreciate the need of wind breaks for the early Hawaiian travelers.

We reached a “Kapu” sign on the King’s Trail and a path veered to the right.

 The path was well maintained and it exited to the golf cart road. 

Had we known that there was a second entrance to the King’s Trail from the golf cart road close to the petroglyphs, we would have taken that route.  

We had an easy walk back to the Kings Shops on the golf cart road. Our only hazard was dodging a half dozen speeding golf carts.  And we were mighty sore the next day from crawling over rough sections of the trail

If you are interested in an easy walk to a field of ancient Hawaiian petroglpyhs, take Pohakulana Place (off Waikoloa Beach Road) until it becomes a golf cart road.  When the golf cart road crosses the King’s Trail stay on it, go past the bathrooms, and turn left with the lake to your right.  Before reaching the maintenance building, you will see an entrance to the petroglyph reserve on the left with a sign.  The short path from the golf cart road to the King’s Trail is well marked with great views of the wind breaks, lava caves, and nearby petroglyphs.  Watch out for golf carts and golf balls.