Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hawaii Pu’u O’o Lava Flow goes a new direction

Pu'u O'o lava over Chain of Craters Road
We recently toured Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and drove to the end of the Chain of Craters Road where it was covered in lava from Pu’u O’o in 2003.  Pu’u O’o is located on an eastern ridge of Kilauea Volcano that parallels the southern coast of Puna.  Pu’u O’o has been erupting for the past 30 years, since January 1983, sending lava down the southern side of the ridge to the ocean. The lava has destroyed houses, roads, ancient Hawaiian sites, and beaches from Volcanoes National Park to Kalapana.  

USGS map of Pu'u O'o
Now the lava from Pu’u O’o is flowing a different direction.  Instead of the usual southern direction down the ridge to the coast, lava is flowing down the other side of the ridge in a northeastern direction.  In the last few months the lava has flowed 5 miles through a forest heading towards Puna’s eastern coastline. This new flow has been named Kahauale’a 2.

Tim Orr at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recently gave a presentation about the Kahauale’a Lava Flow in an “After Dark in the Park” on January 7.   He presented a map with what he called “fuzzy” predictions of where the lava might flow if the eruption continues.  

These predictions were made using topographic maps and plotting the areas the lava would likely flow.   At the current rate of flow, which stops and starts, he predicts it will not reach a populated area for a year.

When we visit areas around Hawaii Island covered by lava flows, we get philosophical about how fleeting buildings, beaches, and forests can be.
We hope this flow will not follow the predicted path of destruction.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

100 Amazing and Free places on Hawaii Island

Here is our list of 100 fun, beautiful, picturesque, amazing and free places we have discovered during our years of living on Hawaii Island. Most we have visited, others are still on our list to visit, and many we return to over and over.  (Some places have limited public parking and a few charge parking for non-residents.)

  1. Liliuokalani Gardens  *Walk through the gorgeous Japanese garden on Hilo Bay.
  2. Big Island Candies  *Watch candies being made and try delicious samples in Hilo.
  3. Wawaloli Beach Park  *Play in sand filled tide pools next to Kona’s Energy laboratory.
  4. Kailua Bay  *Swim the Ironman route marked with buoys (1.25 miles round trip to the Queens Buoy).
  5. Mokuaikaua Church *Admire the beautiful woodwork in the state’s 1st stone church in Kona and a replica of the ship Thaddeus in the back.
  6. Kipuka Bird park  *Hike through an old growth forest with colorful birds in Volcano.
  7. Lava Tree Molds  *See the unusual collection of lava molds from a Mauna Loa lava flow in Volcano.
  8. Ahalanui Park – *Soak in volcanic warmed water with fantastic ocean views in Puna.
  9. Akatsuka Orchid Garden *See 100’s of varieties of orchids on display in Volcano.
  10. Sheraton Resort history tour *Take a guided tour of historic Keauhou Bay.
  11. Lava Tree State Monument *Walk through a large collection of lava trees from a lava flow in a Puna forest.
  12. Keauhou Heritage Center  *View historic displays in the Keauhou Shopping Center.
  13. MacKenzie State Recreation Area *See amazing ocean views from Puna cliffs covered with ironwood trees.
  14. Lekeleke Burial Site *Walk the trail to ocean cliffs along an ancient Hawaiian battle ground in Keauhou.
  15. Kahuku Ranch *Hike in the new addition to Volcanoes National Park in Ka’u.
  16. South Point *Enjoy spectacular views and fresh air on massive cliffs above the crashing ocean.
  17. Laupahoehoe Point *Watch the crashing surf from the sea level landing on the Hamakua coast.
  18. Rainbow Falls *See the picturesque waterfall on the Wailuku River above Hilo.
  19. Wailuku River State Park  *Watch the Boiling Pots from an overlook created from connected lava tubes in the river.
  20. Kaumana Cave *See a lava tube cave created by the most recent Mauna Loa flow to Hilo.
  21. Star gazing *Look at the heavens through telescopes during the Mauna Kea Visitors Center evening program.
  22. Waipio Look Out *See the panoramic view of Waipio Valley from above.
  23. Caravan to Mauna Kea summit  *Join a group of 4-wheel drive vehicles to the summit of  Mauna Kea every weekend from the Visitors Center.
  24. Mauna Loa Mac nut farm *Watch candies being made in the factory near Hilo and try samples.
  25. Subaru telescope tour *Sign up for a 40 minute guided tour of the Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea.
  26. Hamakua Mac nut factory *Watch candies being made in a factory near Kawaihae and try samples.
  27. Parker Ranch Historic Homes *Visit the homes of Parker Ranch owners in Waimea.
  28. Sadie Seymour Botanical Garden *Stroll through a beautiful garden at Kona Outdoor Circle.
  29. Kahalu’u Beach *Snorkel within a protected wall and see the turtles.
  30. Kona Honokohau Boat Harbor *Watch the boat traffic and fishermen weighing their fish.
  31. Kaloko fish pond *Drive to the massive dry-stack stone wall at the ancient fish pond.
  32. Puako trail to petroglyphs *Hike through a mesquite forest to ancient lava carvings.
  33. Honokohau Beach *Relax on a beautiful white sand beach in North Kona and see the stone fish trap.
  34. Anaehoomalu Bay fish ponds  *Walk the trail around the fish ponds in front of the Marriott Hotel with a recreated Hawaiian village.
  35. Kalahuipua’a Trail *Walk the trail to ancient fish ponds and gorgeous beaches in Mauna Lani resort.
  36. Puako Beach 69 (Waialea Beach) *Drive to a hidden bay with sand and shade.
  37. Mauna Kea beach (Kauna’oa Beach) *Swim at a picture perfect white sand beach (limited public parking).
  38. Waikoloa Beach Kings trail *Walk to ancient lava carvings and stone wind breakers on the King’s trail.
  39. Lapakahi State Historical Site *Take a self-guided tour on a rocky trail through a reenactment of an ancient Hawaiian village.
  40. Ka’upulehu Beach *Share the paved path along the long white sand beach with movie stars (limited public parking).
  41. Kikaua Point *Swim at a private man-made beach in Kukio (limited public parking).
  42. Kua Bay *Enjoy a turquoise bay and white sand beach
  43. Pololu Valley Overlook *See the fantastic view of Pololu Valley from above.
  44. Old Kona Airport beach *Hike the coastal trail north of the runway or lie on the white sand beach.
  45. Kawamoto Swim Stadium *Swim laps in Hilo’s olympic size indoor pool.
  46. Makao Trail *Walk the path through volunteer tended gardens next to the old Kona airport.
  47. Hilo Zoo *Walk the paths through tropical foliage and see the animals and birds.
  48. Rakuen garden – *Take in the view at the Happiness garden on Hilo Bay.
  49. Hilo Bayfront beach *Take a stroll along the black sand beach in front of Hilo.
  50. Waimea Nature Park *Enjoy a picnic or hike at the Waimea Outdoor Circle garden with free wi-fi.
  51. Coconut island *Have a picnic, swim in a cove, or jump from the WWII tower into Hilo Bay.
  52. New Kaimu Beach *Walk over the 1990 lava field to a new beach on a trail from old Kalapana.
  53. St Benedict’s Painted church *See the colorful paintings in a Catholic Church with great views of Honaunau Bay.
  54. Mauka Meadows Gardens *Walk through a botanical garden and coffee farm with great views of Kailua Bay.
  55. Star of the Sea Painted church *See the paintings of St. Damien in a Puna church saved from a lava flow.
  56. Greenwells Farm *Tour a coffee plantation and taste the famous Greenwell Kona coffee.
  57. Kamakahonu Cove *Swim or snorkel in the protected bay in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel.
  58. Hulihee Palace garden *Take in the great views of Kailua Bay from the sea wall and find mementos hidden in the garden.
  59. Magic Sands Beach (La’aloa Beach) *Enjoy the sand and surf at the best surfing beach in Kona.
  60. Manuka State Wayside *Stop for a rest and hike on the trail up Mauna Loa to old ruins.
  61. Akaka Falls State Park *See the dramatic Akaka Falls and walk the trail through a rain forest (parking fee).
  62. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area *Enjoy the best white sand and surf beach on the island (parking fee).
  63. Spencer’s Beach *Have a picnic in the shade at the white sand beach next to Kawaihae harbor.
  64. Kona Brewing tour *Watch beer being made at a Kona brewery.
  65. Dolphins at Hilton *See the dolphins in their tanks at Dolphin Encounters  (parking fee).
  66. Kona Village walk  *Walk from Kailua pier along the sea wall for great views of the bay.
  67. ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center Garden *Walk around a canoe plant garden outside the center (sometimes free displays are inside).
  68. Road to Mauna Loa Observatory *drive past Pu’u Huluhulu through a lava field with Ohelo berrie bushes on the road to the MLO, opposite of the Mauna Kea Access road.
  69. Buddhist temple *Visit a Tibetan temple hidden in Wood Valley.
  70. Whittington Beach Park *See the remains of a sugar plantation wharf in the surf.
  71. Green Sand Beach (Papakolea Beach) *Hike to a crater with green sand.
  72. Ka’u coffee mill *View coffee processing equipment and sample Ka’u coffee.
  73. Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park *Enjoy a view of the  bay, see the Captain Cook monument, and the Hikiau Heiau.
  74. Punalu’u Black sand beach *Enjoy the black sand and turtles in a beautiful bay.
  75. Hokuloa Church *get a view of Punalu’u beach from above at an old church.
  76. Footprint Trail *Hike through the Ka’u desert to footprints fossilized in the ash (trailhead on the south side of Highway 11 between mile markers 38 and 39).
  77. Wailoa River State Recreation Area  *Walk in the grassy expanse and across the Wailoa River on hump bridges.
  78. University of Hawii Hilo *Tour the pretty campus and the university’s library.
  79. Issac Hale Beach  *Enjoy the crowds at Puna’s favorite surf spot and boat launch with volcanic heated ocean water.
  80. East Hawaii Cultural Center *Pop in for an art exhibit in Hilo.
  81. Kona Blue Sky coffee plantation *Take a tour and taste the coffee.
  82. Kalakaua Park and War Memorial *See the King’s statue, a time capsule, Koi pond, and sun dial.
  83. Kona Library *Keep cool in the library and join a monthly book club meeting.
  84. Mountain Thunder coffee plantation *Take a tour and taste the coffee.
  85. Puukohala Heiau *Walk through the last major temple built in Hawaii and see the shark cove.
  86. Hilo Library *Enjoy the quiet in the library and the famous stones in front.
  87. Mookini Heiau *Hike on a deserted dirt road to the oldest temple in Hawaii in Kohala Historical Sites State Monument.
  88. Kona Lea Plantation *Take a tour and taste the coffee.
  89. Banyan tree walk  *Look for wood signs of famous people under each tree along the Banyan Drive next to Hilo Bay.
  90. Kona Joe Coffee *Take a tour and taste the coffee.
  91. Reeds Bay and ice pond *Enjoy the view of ships in Hilo harbor or take a cool swim.
  92. Kalanianaole Ave and Richardson Ocean Park  *Drive along Hilo’s black lava beaches to Leleiwi Park at the end of the road.
  93. KoleKole Beach Park  *Relax in a park under a span bridge with a stream under Akaka Falls.
  94. University of the Nations *Take a guided tour of the Kona campus and see the Plaza of the Nations Fountain
  95. NOAA’s Mokupapapa Discovery Center *See the displays and aquariums in Hilo that describe the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.
  96. Kalopa State Recreation Area  *Hike on a nature trail in a Hamakua nature reserve.
  97. Anna Ranch  *Walk the Discovery Trail around the Waimea Ranch of a famous Pau rider.
  98. Mauna Kea State Recreation Area  *See the views and enjoy a picnic at an elevation of 6500 feet on Saddle road.
  99. Beach 49 (Honokaope Bay) *Enjoy a remote black sand beach in Kohala
  100. Lava tube in North Kona  *Peer into a huge cave on Highway 19 made from a collapsed lava tube.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Hawaii Time Share Benefit

Years ago we shunned offers for Hawaii time shares marketed to visitors to Hawaii. The sales people gave super discounts on activities and deals to stay for a week if you listened to their spiel.  But, we believed buying a time share was a bad financial deal because we viewed it as overpaying for vacation condo ownership without all the benefits.  So we bought a condominium in Kona and used it for our vacations to the island for years and rented it to other visitors while we lived on the mainland.

However, when friends were visiting last month, we advised them to buy a time share for their annual two weeks of vacation, rather than investing in a condo.  Here is why we convinced them:

First, every time we came for a “vacation” we ended up spending the first three to four days fixing a long list of issues with the condo.  It was a lot more work than we would have guessed.  Since we did not have our tools in Hawaii, we ended up buying a new set of tools every vacation. Eventually, we made a small portable tool kit that we brought with us each time.

Second, owning a condo meant that  we always came back to the same place.  If we had a time share we could have visited other places in Hawaii or the world.   We could have upgraded.  In retrospect, that is not a small thing.

Third, the great tax advantage that we anticipated did not happen.  During our high income years on the mainland we were blocked from taking the losses we had from changes in IRS rules and in recent years, our losses on the condo have given us no tax benefit because our taxes are so low from lack of income.

Fourth, any savings from staying in hotels by having a condo was more than offset by the ever increasing Home Owners Association fees that went from $300 a month to over $660 a month. Insurance, taxes, upkeep and the associated bookkeeping to track the money we lose every year is expensive and time consuming.

Fifth, our anticipated equity benefit from real estate prices going up in Hawaii has not happened.  Many properties on Hawaii Island are still down by over 50%. We could have bought a really nice time share for what we have lost in equity over the past 10 years.  Though the condo is in a great location, it is too small to live in full time so it is still a vacation rental.  Even one year of our annual operating losses would have more than paid the annual fees of most time shares.

Looking back at our ten years of our condo ownership, we can see the great benefits of having  bought a time share rather than buying a vacation condo.