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.