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Planning a trip to Kauai? Learn about Kauai from local Kauai writers. Fun stories, events and things to do on Kauai.

Volunteers make the ocean accessible for everyone

KORE volunteer helps a disabled young man enjoy the surf. Photo by Pamela Varma Brown

A KORE volunteer helps a disabled young man enjoy the surf. Photo by Pamela Varma Brown

One Saturday morning each month at beautiful Hanalei Bay on Kauai, autistic children and adults, people in wheelchairs, stroke and other brain injury survivors are safely escorted into the ocean by an army of volunteer lifeguards, firefighters and other experienced watermen and women. As participants ride waves into shore with volunteers at their sides, their thousand-watt smiles beam their joy to be alive.

Kurt Leong’s passion for surfing led him to co-found the Kauai non-profit organization Kauai Ocean Recreation Experience (KORE) in 2009.

Kurt Leong: I knew surfers would want to help other people experience the ocean and the good that it does a body, soul and mind. We wanted to spread that feeling to people who haven’t surfed before or who used to surf and can’t anymore.”

It saves your soul when you surf. It gets all the negativity out of your body and mind. I can’t explain it scientifically, but it works. It’s like fishing. It’s good for your mind and soul even when you don’t catch anything.

KORE volunteer Bruce Cosbey, a general contractor, surfer and longtime Kauai resident, has watched the ocean transform people with disabilities. He motions toward an autistic 19-year-old, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with KORE volunteers, looking at photos in a book, laughing, clearly enjoying himself.

Bruce Cosbey: I’ll never forget his first day with us at KORE about six months ago. He was extremely shy, real stand-offish. He didn’t want to be touched. He needed a minimum of 10 to 15 feet space from anybody. One volunteer gently coaxed him in the ocean and on a surfboard. He is now a changed person. Now when you see him get out of a car or off the bus in the morning, he runs to get to us. He’s so fired up. He’s a seal now. He can’t stay out of the water.

A friend of ours who is in his mid-20s is a triple amputee. He likes to come visit our KORE ohana (family) and show everyone how easily he can surf, even without legs and only one arm. He often says, “Impossible is only an opinion, not a fact.” That’s the power of the ocean. It brings it all back.

Read more about KORE in Pamela Varma Brown’s book, “Kauai Stories.” Visit www.korekauai.com

Kauai Ocean Recreation Experience (KORE) volunteers go to great lengths to help people of all abilities enjoy the ocean. Photo by Pamela Varma Brown

Kauai Ocean Recreation Experience (KORE) volunteers go to great lengths to help people of all abilities enjoy the ocean. Here they lovingly place a paraplegic on a surfboard and will accompany him in the water. Photo by Pamela Varma Brown

Kauai Chock Full of Delicious Food

The dragonfruit is one of Kauai's most exotic-looking fruits. It's as delicious as it looks with a sweet creamy interior. Photo by Daniel Lane / Pono Photo

The dragonfruit is one of Kauai’s most exotic-looking fruits. It’s as delicious as it looks with a sweet creamy interior. Photo by Daniel Lane / Pono Photo

Kauai’s restaurants offer more delicious food per square mile than most big cities.

Marta Lane, Kauai’s only full-time food writer and the host of Tasting Kauai “farm-to-fork” culinary tours that include a private four-course gourmet lunch and cooking demonstration at a five-star resort, says there are a lot of great places to eat on Kauai.

“We have a large selection of farms here and we have farmers markets every day so there are plenty of healthy food options,” Lane says. “When Kauai chefs work their magic with local products, you get some great meals!”

Lane’s passion is locally-grown food and establishments that favor using Kauai-grown products as much as possible. In her new e-book, Tasting Kauai: From Food Trucks to Fine Dining, a Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island, she lists nearly 70 restaurants that meet her standards.

When Lane first moved to Kauai, she worked on an organic farm and learned of local farmers’ dedication to growing organically as much as possible. “They do it because they believe that protecting delicate ecosystems, the land, sea and people from chemical pesticides and fertilizers is the right thing to do,” she says.

The bonus for those of us who love to eat: “Restaurants that use organic and locally-sourced ingredients have the most flavorful food,” she says.

Lane recommends that while you’re on Kauai, be adventurous and try new things to eat.

“Kauai’s year-round growing season means farmers markets are always bursting with a colorful selection of sweet and juicy fruit including mango, pineapple, avocado, mountain apple and star fruit,” Lane says. “If you’re at the market and you see a strange looking fruit, be brave and try a sample. Farmers are happy to share. Enjoy tasting Kauai!”

Healthy Sunscreen: Better for you & ocean life

Kauai’s gorgeous, clear oceans are fabulous for snorkeling and seeing lovely tropical fish and when you’re lucky, an occasional endangered sea turtle.

While swimming with the fish, have you ever noticed the coral reef beneath you? Corals are living organisms that provide nourishment and shelter for our finned friends. The healthier the water is around them, the better it is for all of us.

Here’s how you can help keep our coral healthy: avoid wearing sunscreens that contain these four common ingredients that scientists say cause a dormant virus inside coral to activate, causing the coral to bleach then die:

  • Oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) – Some toxicology experts believe that oxybenzone is also linked to hormone disruption in humans and potentially to cell damage that may lead to skin cancer.
  • Butylparaben
  • Octinoxate (Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate)
  • 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC) – legal in Europe and Canada, not in the USA or Japan.

All four of these sunscreen ingredients have been found to have harmful effects on humans as well as coral, according to several studies. Even though the ocean is vast, in popular tourist destinations like Kauai, the effects of these substances is magnified and results can be devastating. According to at least one study, the exposure to a very small dose of sunscreen containing even one of these chemicals is just as dangerous as a high exposure.

Here is a list of several of my favorite natural sunscreen brands that are available in many retail locations and via the Internet:

  • Badger
  • UV Natural
  • Aubrey Organics
  • Nature’s Gate

Remember, a sunscreen that is healthier for marine life is also better for you and your family.

Hukilau – Catching fish the Hawaiian way

Hukilau - catching fish as a community, Kauai-style. Photo courtesy Kauai Historical Society

Hukilau – catching fish as a community, Kauai-style. Photo courtesy Kauai Historical Society

Oh we’re going to the hukilau Huki huki huki huki hukilau Everybody loves the hukilau Where the laulau is the kaukau at the big luau
 Have you ever danced to this song while at Kauai luau? Donna Gomez, born and raised on Kauai, and her brother-in-law, Jay Furfaro, an unofficial North Shore Kauai historian, describe what hukilau were like, catching fish the Hawaiian way. (Excerpted from my forthcoming new book, Kauai Stories II.) Note: Hukilau, like all Hawaiian words, is the same both singular and plural. Donna Gomez: In a hukilau, you leave the ends of one side of a huge fishing net on the beach and take the rest of the net out on a boat. When they spot a pile of fish they throw the net out of the boat. When the net drops, divers surround it to be sure the fish are inside the net. Then everyone on the beach – 50 people on this side and 50 people on that side – start pulling the beach side of the net to bring it onto the sand. That’s what huki is, pull, pull. You can see all the fish in the net and they are jumping! The net is full. One the net is pulled onto the sand, everyone stands in a circle and joins their hands. The man who owns the boat stands in the middle and he throws you a fish. He throws them out like he is dealing cards! If you touched the net, you get a fish – nobody ever goes hungry.

We’re going to hukilau today

Furfaro: Hukuilau were taking place on Kauai’s North Shore, all the way up until the closure of Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company in 1971, whenever there was a good catch coming in. Word just went out. At the sugar mill they would actually blow the whistle to let people know. People knew an evening tide or high tide, “Hey we’re going to hukilau today.” When they did the portioning out of the fish, the mahele, usually it was directed at some level of equity for how much you brought and how much you participated. After the hukilau there was a paina, a celebration, where everybody ate fresh fish and had a nice time.

KUGA Annual Love Life Creative Festival on Kauai

imagesCreative expression counts and that is what the Love Life Creative Festival is all about. The fifth Annual Love Life Creative Festival will begin at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall on Thursday May 30, 2013 at 4:30pm. The festival, which is in its fifth year, offers something for just about everyone. In the main hall, the All-Styles Dance Showcase will kick off at 5pm, with a second show at 7:30pm. The show features over 80 dancers from ages 4 years old to adult and like the name implies, all styles of dance and creative expression are included. Last year, the show opened with an amazing performance by violinist Awol. The performances that followed included poetry readings and dance numbers in the styles of hula, hip-hop, and jazz. Kauai has some amazing talent and this festival gives visitors a chance to see the creativity of Kauai’s youth and adults alike.

The Dance Showcase is just one component of the whole festival. Creative vendors show off their handmade t-shirts, jewelry and art in the craft area and food vendors offer up dishes to satisfy your hunger.

In the Hip- Hop arena spectators will be treated to 2×2 B-Boy Battles, an Emcee Battle, Open circles and Live Djs. All participants are at their best as they are competing for cash prizes.

Day 2 of the festival will take place at Lihue Missionary Church at 6pm. The Musicianary Group and KUGA are once again linking up to bring live music and a special guest into the Love Life Festival.

According to the founder of KUGA, the purpose of the Love Life Creative Festival is to create a drug-free and suicide-free culture on Kauai by inspiring a love for life through creative expressions such as dance, music, visual art, fashion, and food. Love Life provides a platform for youth and young adults to showcase their creativity and talent among peers and to the community at large.

KUGA desires to rekindle an appreciation for life, reminding people they have a purpose, there is hope, and that life is something to be loved! This event started in 2009 and has gained great momentum, making it one of the biggest highlights of the year for the community on Kauai. Dancers, artists and creative vendors utilize their creative expressions to expose Kauai to alternative ways to express a love for life. Last year over 1,300 people attended the festival. The Love Life Festival is unique in that it is an event the entire family can enjoy.

KUGA is inviting everyone to come and support Kauai’s youth as they show off their talent. Tickets are just $10 in advance/ $15 at the door and are available at locations around the island or by contacting KUGA directly. KUGA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) grass roots project, planting seeds of creativity via art, dance, music & lyrics. KUGA is committed to the development of children and young adults in a positive and creative environment by promoting a clean and healthy lifestyle through words and action.

What’s Happening on Kauai Summer 2013

Summer is just around the corner and that means lots of Kauai activities island wide.  What to do with our guest visiting Kauai? What to do on vacation on Kauai? Here is a list to get you started. For up to date events check out the  Kauai Calendar.

We will be adding more events as they come our way.


A beautiful annual show with hundreds of orchids on display and for sale. Friday afternoon and evening, Saturday all day at the Kukui Grove Shopping Center, Lihue. For more information call Lea Ingram (808) 823-6921.

 May 11 May Day By The Bay

This event, May 26, 2012, is presented by the Hanalei Hawaiian Civic Club and is sponsored by HTA and the County of Kaua’i. Our budget exceeds our grant amount so any extra support will allow us to continue to keep May Day by the Bay a viable vehicle to increase awareness of Hawaiian music and culture in our community.


The Kamanawa Foundation presents the 12th annual Kaua`i Polynesian Festival on Memorial Day weekend May 24-26, 2013 at Vidinha Stadium soccer field on Kapule Highway (Lihu`e) from noon through the evening each day. Join us for Tahitian, Maori, Samoan and Hawaiian entertainment, “Polynesian Experience” (hands-on arts and crafts activity), Polynesian Farmer’s Market, solo and group dance competitions, Hawaiian games, food booths, workshops, and moremuch more all day at the soccer field next to Vidinha Stadium on Kapule Highway (Lihue). Attendance fees vary. For more information call Kapu Kinimaka-Alquiza at (808) 335-6466.


banana-poka-2013-kokee-may-26-Poster-v4.2The Banana Poka Round Up, that plucky mountain event that celebrates Kauai’snatural environment, steps into its third decade of forest fun for the whole family in Kōkeʻe State Park’s lush Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow.
Sponsored by Hui o Laka since 1989, the 24th annual Round Up includes severalnew features, including being the finish line for the second annual Pedal to the Meadow bike race, a Kekaha-to-Kōkeʻe race that begins at 7:00 am Sunday morning

May 30th Annual Love Life Dance Festival

There will be 2 shows of the All-Styles Dance Showcase at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall on Thursday, May 30.  More than 80 dancers from 4 years old through adult will give performances at 5pm and 7:30pm.  Local creative vendors will have items for sale.

May 31 – June 1st Kauai Family Music Festival

Two fun days full of free entertainment , local Hawaiian music, poi pounding demonstrations, fire knife dancing and local fresh food.



canoe club runRun or walk one of the world’s most beautiful courses, and enjoy a delicious pancake breakfast at the finish! The 8 mile course begins at the end of the road in Ha’ena at Ke’e Beach, then traverses the scenic stretch of road, and one-lane bridges, along the breathtaking North Shore towards Hanalei town, ending at the historic Hanalei Pier.


The largest, oldest, and best food and beverage tasting event in Hawaii. Over 50 chefs from all over the Hawaiian islands converge to prepare signature dishes. For one admission ticket, you can enjoy food prepared by 50 of Hawaii’s best chefs, imbibe at any or all of 15 beverage stations (beer, fine wines, water, soft drinks, coffee and specialty coffee drinks and smoothies), listen to 14 musical groups perform throughout the afternoon and shop a large silent auction. All set within the beautiful park-like grounds of Smith’s Tropical Paradise. Proceeds support Rotary projects all over the world. For tickets or more information call (808) 246-0857.

A wine, beer, and pupu event plus the evening concert. Jazz acts, eat, drink and be merry. For more information call (808) 245-SING (7464).


July 4th  The Kauai Hospice 24th Annual Concert in the Sky  on July 4, 2013 at Vidinha Stadium, will again be the largest 1 day event on Kauai. We expect that over 6,000 people will attend and that of the ticketed attendees, 40% will be visitors from out of state.

We will provide both visitors and residents with a local style Independence Day celebration with Hawaiian entertainment by local musicians and halau dancers. This event will be a shining example of the kind of event that public/private partnerships can achieve. It will provide opportunities for interaction between residents and visitors with a unique experience as this is the largest aerial fireworks event on Kauai on the 4th of July. Visitors will get to celebrate our national holiday with the local cultural experiences of music and dance.

A four-day celebration of the art of song writing, offering seminar style instruction for small groups of songwriters, lectures, panel discussions, song writing contest, demo recordings, festival marketplace and two major concerts. America’s top performing songwriters will be there. Events to take place at the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort in Lihue. For more information call (808) 634-6237.

July 19-28 Koloa Plantation Days

Koloa Plantation Daysis a celbration every year that brings together the many ethnic groups that came to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations, and the Hawaiians who welcomed them.  Enjoy the festivities that are celebrated through music, dance, costumes, and food throughout this nine-day festival.

July 27th  Hanalei  Bay Swim Challenge

Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge

Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge

Join Namahana Canoe Club and participants of all ages and experience from around the world will take the plunge July 27, 2013, for the Seventh Annual Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge (formerly Namolokama Open Water Swim). Join them!!  Hanalei Bay in the summer – with its warm, clear, gentle waters and sandy bottom – provides the perfect venue for four races for different ages and abilities. Sign up by July 12th and the entry fee is only $10 for the Pier Keiki (children) Races and $30 for older competitors in the 1000 and 3000 meter races. To Register visit www.hanaleibayswimchallenge.com



This race begins at Ko’Olina Marina and Resort on Oahu and ends 78 miles later at the Nawiliwili Harbor,Kauai. Organized by the Nawiliwili Yacht Club on Kauai, the race begins at 7 AM on Friday, July 31 with the first boat arriving Nawiliwili that afternoon. The boats will be greeted when they arrive Nawiliwili on Friday. On Saturday, August 1 the Nawiliwili Yacht Club will host an awards party with pupus and dancing. For more information call Rear Commodore Terry Wells 808-828-1011.

August 3-4   HEIVA I KAUAI
The annual Heiva I Kauai Iorana Tahiti in Lihue is an International Tahitian dance competition, taking place over several days, with solo and group performances, plus traditional and contemporary drumming categories. The Heiva begins with a Blessing, Opening Ceremony and Tamaraa honoring visiting dignitaries and the participating competitors. The program includes the Mr./Miss Heiva I Kauai Pageant. This is a colorful introduction to the festivities that follow, which include dinner and a show. For more information call (808) 822-9447.


kauai event calendarThis fun day on Hanalei Bay is one of  sand castle/sculpting contest and music festival each year on Kauai. The idea is to encourage amazing sand sculpture, relaxation, exercise and enjoying a fun day the beach.


September 27-29   KAUAI POW WOW
Over 200 Native Americans from across America and many friends join in a celebration of cultural exchange with the people of Kauai, accompanied by visiting youth drum groups. Native American and Native Hawaiian-made crafts, clothing, food, musical instruments and hands-on activities. Native American dancing all day. Friday evening; all day Saturday and Sunday. Kapaa Beach Park. For more information call (808) 828-1294



Koloa Landing Snorkeling Underwater Exploration

003-115Koloa Landing is one of the best spots on Kauai for beginning shore dives. Because there are no facilities here, there are rarely more than a few people in the water. Most of the local dive companies use this as their “shore” dive location due to the ease of entrance, deep water, and abundance of marine life, but anyone can access the beach.

Entering the water is as easy as walking down the old cement launch. Divers will find that the water gets deep almost immediately. Mariners originally discovered this deep-water port during the days of the fur and sandalwood trades. Divers will find it full of marine life. The schools of fish are much larger here than they are at other nearby locations like Poipu Beach. Visibility is usually good and divers can encounter many different species here that are seen less frequently elsewhere on Kauai including: mullet, trumpet-fish, and file-fish. Even the invertebrate populations are a little more unique here. The rocks are often covered with red pencil urchins and it is common to spot octopus.

Koloa Landing can also be a great snorkeling spot as long as a few precautions are followed. Snorkelers (and divers) should remember that ocean conditions vary and there is no lifeguard on duty here. The water is typically calm, but it can get a little rough near the rocks and it is wise to stay out of surge areas if there is any swell showing. Visitors should check in with the lifeguards at Poipu Beach Park to find out about ocean conditions along the South Shore before venturing out. Of course snorkelers should always swim with a buddy and follow ocean safety guidelines. You can also check out our tips for snorkeling at Kauai.com.

Due to the deep water, lack of facilities, and the absence of a lifeguard, this location is not recommended for families with children. Only more advanced snorkelers should venture out here, or consider signing up for a guided shore dive.Sea Turtle

Finding Koloa Landing is a little tricky and so is finding a parking spot. From the round-a-bout in Poipu, take the exit marked for Spouting Horn and then make an immediate left Ho’onani Rd. On the right you will see a dirt parking area followed by a bumpy gravel road that goes down to the beach. If there is parking up top, take it, there is rarely parking available below.

To learn more about Coral Reefs, or the fish that you will see while snorkeling on Kauai, check out Monika Mira’s many books about marine life. All are available on Amazon.com

Kilauea Lighthouse celebrates 100th birthday

Kauai's Kilauea Lighthouse celebrates its 100th birthday with the newly-completed $2.5 million restoration.

Kauai’s Kilauea Lighthouse celebrates its 100th birthday with the newly-completed $2.5 million restoration.

The Kilauea Lighthouse, one of the most beautiful spots on Kauai for viewing wildlife including endangered birds, dolphins and whales, celebrates its 100th birthday this month with a $2.5 million facelift and a new name, the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse, in honor of the late United States senator who was integral in securing federal funding for both the renovation work and procurement of additional lands to expand the wildlife refuge.

On the northernmost point of Kauai, 180 feet above sea level, the light of Kilauea lighthouse was long a navigational aid to sailors of all types, letting them know they had found land. The lighthouse was electrified in 1939; a small, automatic and efficient beacon now provides the warning for modern seafarers.

While the renovated lighthouse gleams in the sunlight, fresh coats of paint applied after all rust was removed, long cemented-over windows opened to allow light into the tower, it’s the beautiful original 7,000-pound Fresnel lighthouse lens that remains the most fascinating part of this building.

Installed on May 6, 1913, then the largest clamshell lens in the world, The Garden Island newspaper declared it, “… like the Cyclops of old, which swept the sea with their one fierce eye, (the Kilauea Point Lighthouse) burst forth its shining eye of warning to the mariner …” The light could be seen for 20 miles.

Park Ranger Padraic Gallagher says the original lens, made of 400 hand-ground glass prisms, was floated on a bed of a gallon of mercury and when balanced correctly using compressed air, the lighthouse keeper could rotate it with one finger. The Fresnel lens was decommissioned in 1976 because of mercury exposure.

The Kilauea Lighthouse renovation was the culmination of a four-year project led and funded by volunteers who raised $1.5 million, plus a $1,000,000 donation from the U.S. government, mahalo to Sen. Inouye for that. Tours inside the renovated lighthouse interior are planned to be open to the public in a schedule to be determined.

The Kilauea Lighthouse and wildlife refuge receives 500,000 visitors per year, the fourth highest of all U.S. Wildlife Refuges. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/kilaueapoint.

For more Kauai stories by Pamela Varma Brown, please visit www.kauaistories.net.

Kauai's Kilauea Lighthouse originally lit the ocean for sailors with this 7,000-pound Fresnel lens.

Kauai’s Kilauea Lighthouse originally lit the ocean for sailors with this 7,000-pound Fresnel lens. 

Senator Daniel K Inouye and his wife, Irene, at the Kilauea Lighthouse Wildlife Refuge at the renovation kickoff in April 2009. Photo by Pamela Varma Brown
Senator Daniel K Inouye and his wife, Irene, at the Kilauea Lighthouse Wildlife Refuge at the renovation kickoff in April 2009. Photo by Pamela Varma Brown


Aloha Oe Coco Palms – mahalo…mahalo very much

coco-palms-postcardMade famous by Elvis and Blue Hawaii, most of us who grew up on Kauai remember Coco Palms as a place where we went  for brunch on Sundays after church with our family. We fished for Talapia with bamboo poles as our parents socialized with friends after lunch. We wandered through the maze of coconut groves to the tennis courts where we would spend hours being wildly entertained by the monkeys and peacocks, the residents of  Kauai’s only zoo.  The tennis courts, the little road that connected the Homesteads to the Wailua Houselots, the little church where Aunty was married, having lunch with the queen of hospitality, Grace Guslander and hearing her stories about running the resort and the history of the property.  These are the memories to highlight and share with Kauai keiki.  For anyone born after September 11, 1992, the only memories of  Coco Palms is that of a deteriorating piece of history.

Today the Kauai Planning Commission affirmed the order of Hearings Officer Richard Nakamura to revoke permits held by Coco Palms Ventures LLC’s to rebuild the property which was damaged in 1992 during Hurricane Iniki.photo

Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr. stated, “I am very pleased to hear of the Planning Commission’s action today to accept the Hearings Officer’s recommendation to revoke the permits currently held by Coco Palms LLC.   The property has languished for much too long, and with no alternate plan being proposed by the owners, it’s time to move on to new opportunities.”

coco-palms-2013The mayor added, “I plan to arrange for a community discussion very soon so that we can all envision what the future could hold for this site of such historic and cultural significance.  Let’s put our hopes and dreams on the table, and work toward a collective vision of Coco Palms that will do justice to this special place and will result in a community resource of which we can all be proud.”


Kalapaki Beach Kauai Secret Vacation Destination

Kalapaki Beach Area

Minutes from Lihue Airport, Kalapaki Town is nestled along the white sand beaches of Kalapaki Bay and the tranquil, lush banks of the Huleia River and the spectacular backdrop of Haupu Ridge.

Don’t overlook Kalapaki Beach and surrounding areas, it just might end up being your favorite attraction or vacation destination.

Kalapaki Town offers a colorful mix of resort and boutique accommodations, a myriad of water and land activities and an eclectic mix of shops for the discerning shopper. Kalapaki Beach is the most centrally located and diverse vacation destinations on Kauai.

Find fun and affordable dining options and the perfect mix of amenities, activities and attractions for all ages. Grab a breakfast egg sandwich or lunch at the Kalapaki Beach Hut home of  “The Original Ono Char Burger”. Dine upstairs for ocean views at this casual and family friendly establishment. Take your order to go and sit along the shores of Kalapaki Beach while Hawaiian music drifts through the air and palm trees sway in the light trade winds off the shore.  After a day in the sun treat yourself to a rainbow shave ice at Kalapaki Shave Ice or a Gelatto for Papalani Gellato in Anchor Cove.

Kalapaki Beach is also the perfect spot to take a surf lesson. You can rent stand-up paddle boards, surf boards, & boogie boards within walking distance from the blue waters and white sands of Kalapaki Beach. Why not kayak and zip-line along the Huleia River, or be a spectator along the jetty for the Thursday night Nawiliwili Yacht Club races. The calm waters of the inner harbor is the perfect place to learn to sail or be a guest of one of the competing race boats.

Kalapaki Beach accommodations include the upscale resort accommodations of The Marriott Resort and Beach Club, which offers luxury amenities, spa services and a world class golf course. Romantic boutique hotels and private vacation rental sare also available. There is something at Kalapaki for every budget.

The Garden Island Inn is steps away from the white sand beaches of Kalapaki Beach, dining, shopping and the newly opened Kauai Athletic Club This charming and whimsical  property has beautiful hand-painted island style rooms and lush tropical grounds for the perfect island style retreat.

Located a little further inland is the The Kauai Inn, settled away from the bay, this 100 year old hotel holds the title of first hotel on Kauai, preserving its relaxed Hawaiian charm with comfortable family friendly service at affordable rates.

Kalapaki is not truly hidden, in fact it is easy to find, full of activity and located in such a way that makes exploring Kauai’s other regions simple and convenient. So why not explore Kalapaki Beach as your choice for your next Kauai Vacation.

Haku Lei: Wearable Bouquets

Haku lei by Elvrine Chow of Heavenly Hakus.

Haku lei by Elvrine Chow of Heavenly Hakus.

Gathering elements for haku lei with Elvrine Chow in her garden is like going on a joyful treasure hunt. She sees lei material everywhere, a petal here, a leaf there, colorful seeds and stems, gathering items that will look beautiful once her experienced hands entwine them together into bold yet delicate looking wearable bouquets.

A haku lei is the commonly used name for a garland of blossoms worn around your forehead, a Hawaiian tiara of sorts, a distinctly special form of lei that allows the wearer to feel like the most gorgeous woman around. (Quick language lesson: In Hawaiian, the plural of lei is lei – no added s, and the real name for lei worn around the head is po’o.)

“Rainbow” lei, Chow’s specialty in her business Heavenly Hakus, explode with color in a tightly woven, intricately artful blend of 20 or more blossoms, seeds, leaves, ferns and herbs, freshly-picked and full of color. Picture pink plumeria and small purple orchids next to green and yellow-striped leaves gently looped to make “ribbons,” nestled alongside magenta bougainvillea blooms, side-by-side with tiny white roses and bright orange and yellow flowers. With accents of fragrant sage and thyme leaves between dark purple basil flowers and tiny white cilantro flowers, Chow’s leis smell as good as they look.

“Growing up, we always had flowers in the house and always had a beautiful garden that my parents created together wherever we lived,” Chow says. “Our gardens were magical and my playground. I try to create that now in my own garden.”

Chow, who moved to Kauai when she was 18 years old and married into a local family, became a lei-maker almost by accident more than 20 years ago, when her sister-in-law recruited family members to make lei for their children to wear in a hula performance.

Elvrine Chow of Heavenly Hakus collects flowers, leaves and heavenly-scented herbs in her garden for her gorgeous haku lei.

Elvrine Chow of Heavenly Hakus collects flowers, leaves and heavenly-scented herbs in her garden for her gorgeous haku lei.

“When she started to teach us how to make leis, I got so excited. And when she taught us to make haku leis, I totally fell in love,” she says. “Ever since, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Chow accepts special orders for weddings, graduations and other special events, honoring specific color requests provided the appropriate flowers are in bloom. Depending upon the season, she also collects flowers from her auntie’s garden and occasionally alongside the highway where wild plants often grow.

You can see Chow in action making haku lei at her booth Saturday mornings at Kauai Community College Farmers Market. She can also be reached at (808) 634-9999.

Haku lei by Elvrine Chow of Heavenly Hakus.

A haku lei is a wearable bouquet.

A haku lei is a wearable bouquet.

Hawaii’s sugar industry created opportunities for descendants

A “cane haul” truck laden with harvested sugar cane, featured in the book "Kauai Stories. Photo courtesy Grove Farm

A “cane haul” truck laden with harvested sugar cane, featured in the book “Kauai Stories.” Photo courtesy Grove Farm

When Komakichi Ikehara immigrated to Hawaii from Japan for work in the state’s booming sugar industry, he probably never imagined that 113 years later, his grandson on Kauai would come across his labor contract with Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

The contract dated January 11, 1900 promises Ikehara the sum of $15 per month for 10-to-12 hour days spent toiling in the sugar fields, with $2.50 per month withheld to pay for his voyage back to Japan, should he choose to return after fulfilling his contract.

Ikehara was one of 400,000 immigrant laborers who came to Hawaii beginning in the mid-1800s to work in the sugar industry, creating the cultural melting pot we enjoy in the Hawaiian islands today. Workers came from China, Japan, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Korea, Spain, Germany and the Philippines seeking new lives, opportunity and adventure.

When they arrived, they were assigned to various sugar plantations throughout the islands and given housing in “camps” named for the ethnic group originally placed there, such as Spanish Camp or Korean Camp; for the town in which they were located, such as Koloa Camp on Kauai’s south shore or for the plantation owner, such as Rice Camp, named for William Hyde Rice, who served as governor of Kauai from 1892-1893.

Imagine newly-arrived workers, most knowing only how to speak their native tongue, having to talk with people from other nations to accomplish tasks on the sugar plantations. In order to communicate, they created a language called Pidgin English, a blend of all their languages and English, spoken in the present tense, with most verbs disregarded.

Pidgin is still spoken in Hawaii today. Some of my favorite Pidgin phrases are:

Standard English:  If you can do it, please do so. But if you cannot, I understand.
Pidgin English:  If can, can. If no can, no can.

Standard English:  This is better.
Pidgin English:  Mo’ bettah.

When I look at Ikehara’s contract, I imagine him learning English and bits and pieces of other languages as he created his new home. I imagine how proud he would be to know that his grandson, Jimmy Ikehara, built upon his foundation and became a white collar professional for a salary that I am assuming is more than $15 per month. 

For 150 years, sugar plantations were an integral part of Hawaii life, eventually declining, until one by one, almost all of them closed their doors. Interestingly, the only Hawaii sugar company still operating is Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, the very same one that Komakichi Ikehara worked for upon his arrival in the islands.

The last sugar plantation on Kauai closed in 2009. Looking around Kauai now, one can only imagine what the island looked like with tens of thousands of acres of bright green sugar cane fronds waving gently in the wind.

You can almost still hear “haul cane” trucks rumbling down the highway, bringing their cargo of newly harvested stalks of cane from the fields to the mill for processing, loose pieces falling through the heavy chain truck carriages, only to be crushed on the road by other vehicles, a faint sweet smell filling the air. I give thanks to all those who came before me, braved their fears, and with courage and pride, made Kauai and Hawaii what it is today.

Jimmy Ikehara's grandfather's labor contract w Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co 1-11-1900 for Hawaii Stories

Jimmy Ikehara’s grandfather’s labor contract w Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co 1-11-1900