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True Hawaii

When you think of Hawaii, do you think of ukuleles, surfing and luaus? Not bad images when plotting your escape, but we’re going to expand your vision of these Pacific isles. We present you with six unexpected, themed adventures.
Walk or hire a mule to take you to the settlement of Kalaupapa on Molokai's north shore. Once home to a leper colony, today you can tour the area, visit St. Philomena Church and see how the handful of remaining residents live at the foot of the world’s highest sea cliffs.
Walk or hire a mule to take you to the settlement of Kalaupapa on Molokai's north shore. Once home to a leper colony, today you can tour the area, visit St. Philomena Church and see how the handful of remaining residents live at the foot of the world’s highest sea cliffs.
/ Source: Islands Magazine

When you think of Hawaii, do you think of ukuleles, surfing and luaus? Not bad images when plotting your escape, but we’re going to expand your vision of these Pacific isles. We present you with six unexpected, themed adventures. Whether you love snorkeling, hula dancing, food, silver-screen scenery, exotic flowers or absolute privacy, we have uncovered just the Hawaiian-island activity for you.

Big Island: A Gourmand’s Journey

Six treats to try
1. Dry roasted macadamias: Drive to Kona Coast Macadamia Nut & Candy Factory, at  Highway 11 and Middle Keei Road in Captain Cook.

2. SPAM musubi: Eat SPAM served on rice wrapped in nori, at Matsuyama Food Mart on Mamalahoa Highway in Kona.

3. Poke: Taste raw fish seasoned with salt and seaweed or with soy sauce, garlic and ginger at the KTA Super Stores in Kona, Hilo and Waimea.

4. Kalua pork quesadillas: Stop in at the Bamboo Restaurant in Hawi

5. Japanese rice cakes: Also called mochi, sampled these cakes at the Two Ladies Kitchen in Hilo

6. Malasada: Try this sweet, deep-fried Portuguese donut at the Tex Drive-In in Honokaa

Back to Basics
Yes, there are first-rate restaurants like Merriman’s in Waimea, where a meal is a fine-dining experience, but you can also learn some of the back story of cutting-edge Hawaiian cuisine by signing on for a Hawaiian Agricultural Adventure with Hawaii Forest & Trail. First you’ll visit Kahua Ranch and Honopua Farm, a working cattle ranch and organic farm in the Kohala Mountains near the island’s northern edge. Then you’ll follow your chosen ingredients a short distance from their source to Waimea and Merriman’s dining room for a four-course dinner showcasing these homegrown items, from beef and lamb to honey-sweet corn and organic greens.

Try This
On the Big Island of Hawaii there are few limits to gustatory pleasure, from scallops topped with spicy guava sauce to the working man’s loco moco (white rice topped with a fried egg and any manner of protein-stuff). While it’s important not to neglect Hawaii’s culinary triumvirate — poi (paste made from taro), kalua pork and lomilomi salmon —there is only one hard and fast rule: “Be adventurous,” urges local food writer Joan Namkoong. “If you see something like saimin (an Asian-inspired noodle dish in broth) or Portuguese sausage, try it,” she says. “We love to eat and we love to share our food. It’s all part of the Aloha spirit.” Recommended dishes: plate lunch at the Hawaiian Style Café in Waimea, and saimin at Nori’s Saimin & Snacks in Hilo.

Poi is a sacred and essential part of Hawaiian life, but this paste, made from the root of kalo (taro) plant has a practical side too. “If your baby has allergies, it’s a nutritious food that most babies can tolerate,” says food expert Joan Namkoong. 

Insider Tip
At Hilo Farmers Market peruse fresh fruit, such as cherimoyas and rambutans. While there, order a passion fruit drink. The market is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Maui: A Water Escape

Six Places to Get Your Feet Wet
1. Waimoku Falls: This is a 400-foot waterfall off the road to Hana just past mile marker 42. Follow the thunder of wai (fresh water) and walk through a bamboo forest to reach it.

2. Molokini Crater: This crater is three miles off Maui’s southwest coast. Depart from Lahaina or Maalaea for a 45- to 60-minute boat ride to the crater. You might spot humpback whales within moments of leaving shore. Descend beneath the surface to hear the whales’ songs pinging off the crater’s walls.

3. Black Rock: This headland juts out into the sea and divides the beaches of Kahekili and Kaanapali on the west coast. Snorkel here in the morning or late afternoon when the water is calm and the light is good.

4. Maui Ocean Center: Located at Maalaea Harbor in Wailuku, this aquarium and marine science center houses Hawaii’s largest and most varied collection of marine life — everything you see is found in Hawaiian waters.

5. Lahaina, Olowalu and Kihei beaches: Surf on Maui’s south and west coasts; these places are typically better for beginners, and lessons are offered at Cove Park in Kihei and Launiopoko Park in Lahaina.

6. Hookipa, Honolua Bay and Paia. Watch expert surfers here. 

Whale Watch
Every year between December and April several thousand Northern Pacific humpback whales journey to Maui to mate, give birth and care for their young. (Their congregational peak is in mid- to late-February.) Take a whale-watching cruise from Lahaina or Maalaea or watch the whales from shore at Kapalua, Kaanapali, Olowalu or Kihei.

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Sea Drink
Enjoy a cocktail straight from the sea. The water distilled in Maui’s Ocean Vodka comes from 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, off Hawaii’s coast. Try it at island restaurants or bring a bottle home (from $15). Kahului-based Hawaii Sea Spirits, which bottles the vodka, donates a portion of sales to ocean-friendly organizations.

The Hawaiian word wai (fresh water) is actually the root of the word waiwai, meaning prosperity. In Hawaii’s ancient agricultural society, fresh water was the most precious resource.

Insider Tip
Remote and removed, Koki Beach and Hamoa Beach, two lovely strands preferred by the locals, are located off Haneoo Road just outside of Hana.

Lanai: A Private Sojourn

Top Three Quiet Corners
Garden of the Gods: In Lanai’s northwestern uplands, this eroded canyon appears as if deities had scattered boulders like birdseed. Go at twilight.Polihua Beach: At the end of a four-mile dirt trail on Lanai’s northwestern shore lies this beach, which is almost always deserted. Kaunolu Bay. Commune here on the island’s southern tip, where spinner dolphins are framed by sea arches (fragile lava carved by the sea).

Take a Hike
Hike the seven-mile (round-trip) Munro Trail up to the 3,370-foot summit of Lanaihale mountain. Foot trails also fork off the main trail. Munro is famed for its panorama; on a clear day, the islands of Maui, Molokai, the Big Island, Oahu and Kahoolawe loom in the distance. To get to the trail head, take Keomoku Road, turn right at Cemetery Road and follow the signs. You can also drive on a one-lane dirt road.

Spin Your Wheels
Lanai has fewer than three dozen miles of paved road. To explore the island fully, rent a jeep or hire outfitters to take you on guided off-road expeditions. Consider these three pit stops: Shipwreck Beach on Lanai’s northeast coast, where you can wander eight miles of shoreline, beachcombing for shells; Kanepuu Preserve, which bursts with rare plant life (and the adjacent weirdness of the Garden of the Gods); and Luahiwa Petroglyphs, carvings that date back as far as the 15th century in lava rocks clustered at the foothills of the Palawai caldera. For guided road adventures, try Trilogy Ocean Sports Lanai,; or Adventure Lanai Ecocentre, If driving yourself, always check out road conditions first.

Kahuna Touch
“Massage” is a convenient European term, but the Hawaiian art of lomilomi, passed down over time through the teachings of the kahunas (priests), is both massage and spiritual reconnection. Recipients of a true lomilomi experience not only experience physical relaxation but also an erasure of anxiety and negative thoughts. The Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele both offer 50- or 80-minute lomilomi massage.

Many people often use Hulopoe Beach near the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay on the island’s south coast as a lookout for spinner dolphins. Its grassy swards are also a favorite local picnic spot. The tide pools along the southernmost stretch of Hulopoe Bay are some of Hawaii’s best, filled with starfish, sea cucumbers and banded coral shrimp.

Insider Tip
Contrary to popular belief, relaxation burns calories. The locals recoup their energy reserves at the Blue Ginger Café (across the street from Dole Park) in Lanai City. Try the mahimahi sandwich.

Molokai: A Storyteller’s Retreat

Three Legendary Places
1. Halawa Valley: Long kapu (off limits), this valley, with its ancient temple walls and sacred taro patches is steeped in myth and inexplicable happenings — home to ancient prophets and rivers said to suddenly change course. A knowledgeable guide is a must to hear all the stories of this valley. Try Molokai Outdoors. 

2. Kalaupapa: Walk or hire a mule to take you to the settlement of Kalaupapa on the island’s north shore. Once home to a leper colony, today you can tour the area, visit St. Philomena Church and see how the handful of remaining residents live at the foot of the world’s highest sea cliffs.

3. Aloha Music Camp: Learn to play the slack-key guitar and the ukulele, study hula and the lovely nuances of Hawaiian language. Also you can build your own ukulele with luthier Dennis Lake. Participants at this weeklong camp stay at The Beach Village at Molokai Ranch, a secluded retreat on Molokai’s west side. Rates from $825 per person per week, including accommodations, meals and workshops.

The Real Swing
According to moolelo, or oral history, a woman named Lai lai made her home at Kaana on Mount Maunaloa in west Molokai. There she astonished all with her beguiling dance. For five generations her secrets passed only to her descendants, who performed their magic only at Kaana. Then Laka, a descendent of the Lai lai clan, spread the knowledge of hula throughout the Hawaiian islands. Now the birth of hula is celebrated each year on the third weekend in May with the Molokai Ka Hula Piko, a festival where you can learn this uniquely Hawaiian dance. Kaana is now private property, but on the Saturday of the celebration the gates swing open from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. – when the rising sun symbolizes renewal and rebirth – for all to experience its mana, or spiritual power.

Playing Games
In January, the island celebrates Ka Molokai Makahiki, a festival of Hawaiian games and competitions, including ulu maiku (a circular stone pitched through stakes), kukini (foot races), kimo (similar to jacks) and konane (similar to checkers) — honoring Lono, the god of peace and fertility.

Molokai was once the spiritual center of the Hawaiian islands, a place where the kahunas, or Hawaiian priests, wielded the strongest mana. “Molokai Pule O’O,”goes the ancient saying, “Molokai with its powerful prayers.

Oahu: A Film Buff’s Quest

Top Six Places To Film Your Own Scene
1. Honolulu. Shop, eat and street walk this capital city, which has served as stand-in for Los Angeles, New York, Iowa, South Korea, Iraq, Nigeria, England and Australia — and that’s for ABC’s Lost alone.

2. Waikiki Beach. The land of Don-Ho, Hawaii Five-O and Elvis, Waikiki lets you play out your kitschy ‘50s fantasies, either by surfing the bunny waves or by shopping at the markets for tikis and worldly tchotchkes.

3. Kapiolani Beach Park. Find a quiet picnic spot near the row of trees made famous in Hawaii Five-O’s opening montage.

4. Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor isn’t just a 2001 movie filmed here. At the newly opened Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor’s Ford Island, you can see artifacts of the real World War II event, including historic planes such as the Japanese Zero and Navy Wildcat. You can also see original film and photos of the December 7th, 1941 attack.

5. Sea Life Park. This marine park in 50 First Dates is scenically placed between the Koolau Mountains and Makapuu Beach.

6. Waimea Valley. The Audubon Center is home to scenes from George of the Jungle and Lost — a good place to lose yourself in Hawaiian nature.

Epic Picnic
Home to Hollywood’ most epic embrace – Burt Lancaster and Deborah Karr locked together in the waves in From Here to Eternity – the cusp of Halona Cove is still missed by most visitors. At one corner of the parking lot (off the Kalanianole Highway north of Hanauma Bay) there is a viewing point where everyone scurries to see the famed Halona Blowhole. Wander to the opposite corner of the parking lot and you’ll spy the cove where the steamy scene was filmed. A short, steep trail gets you there. Powerful currents often swirl through, so swimming isn’t a good idea, but picnicking is.

Hollywood Tour

Oahu Film Set Tours will take you to the vast Kualoa Ranch, where you can see Godzilla’s footprints, the Windtalkers’ battleground and Jurassic Park sets. Much of the tour takes place off-road and includes both the ranch and the verdant Kaaawa Valley on the island’s east side, once one of the most sacred places on Oahu. Here children of the most powerful chiefs were trained for war and schooled in chants and songs. Today much of the Kaaawa Valley remains largely undeveloped, and the ranch belongs to the same family that purchased it from King Kamehameha III in 1850.

Reel Oahu
If you’re eager to see Hawaiian celluloid, time your visit to coincide with the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival, held in late October, which typically screens more than 250 films. The festival gives special play to Hawaiian filmmakers.

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Insider Tip
This tip comes courtesy of Michael Emerson, aka Ben of Lost: “I love the local acid-jazz collective known as gr00ve.imProV.arTiSts with maestro-trumpeter DeShannon Higa and the mighty Maris Remos on vocals. They’re often at Jazz Minds Art & Café on Kapiolani Boulevard on Thursdays.”

Kauai: A Gardener’s Paradise

Five Best Places to Stop and Smell the Flowers
1. McBryde Garden. Located in the south-shore Lawai Valley, McBryde has the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian flora, including the wiliwili, with branches that resemble sea coral, and the peculiar-looking alula, found only on Kauai.

2. Allerton Garden. Also in Lawai, this garden -- once owned by a Hawaiian queen -- is laid out in a series of “rooms,” such as the aptly named Palmetum, enclosed by native and exotic palms.

3. Limahuli Garden and Preserve. At the base of Mount Makana, Limahuli has agricultural terraces approximately 700 to 1,000 years old that ancient Hawaiians carved to grow taro.

4. Na Aina Kai Botanical Gardens. On the north shore its 13 distinct gardens weave around bog, forest, meadow and beach. You might see breeching humpback whales offshore.

5. Iliau Nature Loop in Waimea Canyon. Imagine the Grand Canyon carpeted in green. Look for yellow-blooming iliau; it flowers once, then dies.

Tiny Bubbles
Soap fit for a king. Malie Kauai’s luxe cream bar is made from the oils of palm kerns, coconuts, macadamia and kukui nuts. (Kukuis are crafted into leis and were once worn by Hawaiian royalty.) Malie Kauai combines indigenous ingredients with Hawaiian “Hydrosols” (liquids distilled from flowers that contain healing benefits and aromatherapy fragrances). Choose from the fragrances of coconut-vanilla, gardenia, pikake (jasmine), plumeria or coconut-pineapple. Four ounces for $12.

Wettest Place on Earth?
Kauai’s Mount Waialeale is often referred to as the wettest place on earth, but this extinct volcano in the center of the island takes a back seat to the town of Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, India. Still, it does get an average of 440 inches of yearly rainfall. The summit itself — 5,148 feet — is mostly barren; plant life thrives, however, in the crater. Folks have reached the summit, but that’s rare given the bramble of foliage and lack of discernible trails. But you can get a good look at Waialeale from the Kuilau Ridge Trail. The first mile offers an easy incline through forested hills before reaching a grove of picnic tables with views of the second-wettest spot on earth.

Killer Plants
Banana poka is an invasive weed that threatens Kauai’s native forests, but these pliable vines festooned with pink blossoms can be woven into lovely baskets. On May 27, the Kokee Natural History Museum hosts the Banana Poka RoundUp. West Kauai is cowboy country, and in that spirit, the festival includes bluegrass and Hawaiian music, a human crowing contest (in honor of the island’s wild chickens), basket-weaving workshops and displays of Kauai’s impressive flora. Workshop fee is $15. If you can’t make the poka roundup, the museum also leads Wonder Walks.

Hawaii has one of the highest concentrations of endemic plants anywhere — 90 percent of the approximately 1,200 native plants grow nowhere else on the planet and Kauai is the island chain’s showcase.

Insider Tip
Practical knowledge of Kauai’s botany comes in handy: Ti is said to reduce fevers, while ginger reputedly fights nausea; the kukui nut is an effective laxative; and the liquid from a beach-naupaka leaf also makes a good lens defogger, says David Lorence, director of science at Kauai’s National Tropical Botanical Garden.

Each issue of ISLANDS Magazine explores the most beautiful island destinations in the world, from tropical island outposts to the sophisticated gems of the Mediterranean. Our top-rate photographers and writers discover the quiet beaches, boutique hotels, and unique cultural experiences that make island travel unique.