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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.

Christmas Day 2011 Kauai Message in a Bottle

Kauai Message in A BottleFinding a message in a bottle is one of those things that stirs up stories of sea adventures, long lost love, serendipity and chance. And this time of year there is always a bit of nostalgia surrounding stories of such things. On Christmas Eve of 1996 my husband Thor proposed to me with a message in the bottle. This happened off our tiny beach catamaran, with a blue moon Christmas Eve on Kauai. Before the proposal in the bottle there were years of build up and anticipation about a real message in the bottle that he had sent from a sailboat, at the equator, between Mexico and the Marquesas. During this time I lived in Costa Rica, he was sailing the Pacific. Thor always told me that during our time of traveling, separately for a year, he tried to contact me by mail and phone with no luck. So he tried Bottle Post.

There was always a bit of intrigue surrounding his story. “What did it say?” …He would never reveal. “Where would it end up?”….probably on a deserted reef, and  “Would it really be found?”… highly doubtful. Well crazier things have happened and did. We were married six months later.

Now the story could end here with a romantic proposal and happily ever after, but there is more. A  week after our wedding a letter addressed to my maiden name arrived at the home of my parents on Kauai. With not much thought to it I opened the letter expecting it to be a congratulations from one of the friends I had met it my years of traveling. As soon as I opened the letter it was clear that the sender of this letter was not from anyone I knew, but they seemed to know me. Included in the letter was a xerox copy of a hand written note and a photo of a barnacle crusted wine bottle. The question from the sender was, “Are you still best friends?”

James King from Surfers Paradise, Australia found the bottle.  A bottle that was sent  years before from the sailboat at the equator, between Mexico and the Marquesas and the only wine bottle aboard a small sailing yacht headed to Fiji. This glass bottle would be the courier of a message that would be delivered four years later, after traveling 5,000 miles by way of wind and ocean currents, and the more amazing part is that  Mr. King found it within days of our wedding.

Kauai East Side Beach Message in Bottle

So part of our Christmas Day on Kauai is always spent on the beach, and yesterday was no exception. The strong winds of the past week had died down and the sun was shining. So we packed up our kids and headed to the beach for some sun, surf and beach exploring.

After fun in the waves Thor took the kids on a beach walk along the same stretch of coast, where 15 years earlier where we got engaged. Today a new chapter in the message in the bottle story was added. Thor the sender of our message in a bottle found his own barnacle encrusted bottle and message. There was no cryptic message of long lost love, no S.O.S from a deserted island, just a lone business card from a T.Hunter from Chino, California. The Christmas day discovery  was enough to ignite excitement and nostalgia in all of us.

When we got home we emailed T. Hunter ( a lot faster than bottle post) to find out his story. His bottle was sent only months ago from the coast of California and included  some jabs and teasing from friends. He said he would appreciate it we would send it on to further destinations. So to carry on the fun experiment we too will send this off with an additional note and T. Hunters business card. Hopefully to be found again and spark intrigue in someone else on a far away shore.

This story is a reminder to myself and others to Dare to Dream and Believe in the impossible.

Stranger things have happened!

Happy New Year!


Holiday Lights, a Kauai Tradition

A great Holiday activity on Kauai is to amaze your family with a winter wonderland in a Kauai Christmas Tree Festivaltropical climate. Despite the summer weather, Kauai residents get into the Christmas spirit with outstanding displays of holiday lights. There are numerous displays to be found around the island, just take a drive and you are sure to be dazzled. For those of you looking for more specific locations, keep reading.

The  located inside Kauai’s Historic County Building is a tribute to Auntie Josie Chansky and her Christmas house in Kapaa. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 6-8pm through Christmas Eve, your family can participate in this spectacular island-style holiday celebration.Spam Tree a Kauai Christmas

Highlights include: the “SPAM Can Tree”, and the “ Surfin’ Santa’s Sleigh” pulled by roosters. Auntie Josie is known for recycling ordinary items like six-pack rings, egg cartons and toothpicks to make extraordinary holiday decorations to share with the children of Kauai and beyond. The display has become a Kauai tradition but was missed last year when the County Building was being remodeled.

Neighborhood displays are also popular and plentiful and have become somewhat of a social event. If you are passing through Kalaheo, there are several elaborate displays that are sure to delight you. An entire neighborhood behind the old CampHouse Grill is lit up with thousands of lights, the Polar Express, the Nutcracker House, vintage Snowmen, and of course, Santa is on hand to hand out lollipops to the Keiki. That Santa sure gets around! Just turn mauka on Opu Road and look for the lights.

If you are coming from Lihue, don’t forget to wave to Santa on the roof of the famous Santa and his Chicken SleighLawai Christmas house, just past the intersection of Kaumualii Highway and Koloa Roadd. On the East Side, the Wailua House Lots also boasts a Christmas Street where nary a house declines to participate.

As a reminder, when visiting lights displays, please drive slow as children and families are walking the streets, be courteous to the residents and their driveways and of course, don’t forget your camera. Happy Holidays!

Hawaii Childrens Books – Christmas Gifts with Aloha

New release by Lindy Shapiro

Searching for the perfect gift for a young child can be confusing. All those bright and shiny plastic toys are attractive and are sure to capture a child’s attention and enthusiasm on Christmas morning. Giving a child a book, however is giving a gift that keeps on giving. A book may be overlooked on Christmas morning, but think about the valuable quality time that books give to parent and child each night when reading a bedtime story together. Then there is the gift of literacy. Books will be returned to again and again and is some cases cherished so much that they are passed down to future generations. Whether it be storybook or non-fiction book and the discovery of new fascinations, books are the clear choice for the perfect gift. Below are some new releases and a few classics by Hawaii authors.

Moon Mangoes by master storyteller, Lindy Shapiro

Moon Mangoes is an instant classic inspired by the inquisitive mind of the innocent child. Capturing the spirit of every child’s imagination and combined yearning for and fear of independence, Moon Mangoes explores the what if back-and-forth exchange between child and parent, and the magical before-bedtime hour when anything is possible and love is constant.

Read a great review of this book on the Hawaii Book Blog.

Knuckles, The Hound of Hanalei by Susan Dierker

Follow Knuckles the Hanalei Hound on his journey from the animal shelter to his new life on the beach in this beautifully illustrated children’s book. Author Susan Dierker has also included a Hawaiian Glossary to help children learn some Hawaiian words that are used in the book.

On Vacation with Tutu by Lynne Wykoff, Illustrate by Tammy Yee

For Kainoa, Nani, and little Mehana, being on vacation with Tutu means no bedtime, no baths, and no cleaning up. Being on vacation with Tutu is going to be the best fun ever–or is it? As Tutu’s mynah bird Akamai says, “Tutu is smarter than you think.”

If in the market for children’s books, don’t forget some of the local favorites like Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring BookGoodnight Hawaiian Moon by Kauai author, Dr. Carolan, or bedtime story Benny the Beetle by Carol Peacock. Open the door to the underwater world with Kauai author, Monika Mira’s, The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book.

A Kauai Christmas Vacation

So you are on Kauai for Christmas. Maybe you want to get a little tree for the
family—but all of your decorations are back on the mainland! You don’t want to go
crazy and buy a bunch of the same things you have back at home! What a dilemma.
Here is what we did one year. We searched through Kauai’s unique and fun souvenir shops and craft fairs to get our goodies.

Seriously, it was a cute tree!Kauai Christmas Tree

  • One string of lights (Long’s Drugs)
  • Two clumps of key chains including surfboards, ukulele, palm trees (they come in bunches of 7 to 10)
  • Lei—various types
  • Flowers for the hair

Kauai Christmas DecorationsPut it all together and Voila’! You have a fun, nicely decorated Kauai Christmas tree containing knick-knacks to take back to the mainland to give to friends, co-workers, nieces, nephews, cousins and anyone you may have forgotten. “Oh, we brought this little key chain from Kauai, just for you.”We rounded out the tree with a few distinctive Hawaiian ornaments from Hilo Hattie’s in Lihue. Those we took home for ourselves.

Living here more full time now, we are collecting some unique Christmas treasures and the tree has more traditional decorations—but we still have two keychains—for family tradition.

Banana Joe’s Local Kauai Fruits

Banana Joes Kilauea Fruit Stand A bright yellow Hawaiian hale sits off the highway to your left as you are heading up the road towards Princeville or Hanalei.  An unassuming sign heralding “Banana Joe’s” is visible on the side of the driveway.  It is a classic, old-fashioned fruit stand you don’t want to miss! Ten years ago was the first time we went inside Banana Joe’s to find a perfect white pineapple.  It is a special dessert pineapple that only grows in the summer—usually.  We found so many fun things in the little market we almost forgot the pineapple!Kauai Jack Fruit
They have local produce with strange sounding name like rambutan, lychee, and jack fruit plus many others.  They also carry multiple types of bananas—well, it is Banana Joe’s!  There are also jams, syrups and fresh made smoothies.  You’ll find local citrus from lemons to pomelo. The fun thing is that they never mind explaining all the different things they carry.  “This tastes sort of like….”  or “That might be a little tart.”

There was one farmer who had some of the white pineapple in November.   They knew.  They know quite a bit about Kauai and keep on top of things growing around the island.  After 25 years in business they have made a place for themselves among local people and visitors alike.
Kauai Jackfruit TreeLook around outside.  You might see some of those exotic treats growing on the trees!
One of our first stops when we arrived ‘on island’ was Banana Joe’s to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables.   Now that we are living here, we make sure we take guests to the little yellow fruit stand for local color and island specialties.

Kauai Chocolate Company

Kauai Choclate Company TreatsJust open the door at 4341 Waialo Road, Suite 1B in Ele’ele.  Stop.  Enjoy the fragrance of chocolate surrounding you, swirling through the air.  At this point a real chocolate lover is hooked!  There is a pure chocolate river running from some magic machine behind the counter—but who can concentrate with all of the choices before you in the display cases?

Mounds of Kauai Chocolate, square chunks of chocolate sitting on top of macadamia nuts, fudge, toffee sitting under milk chocolate, dark, mysterious chocolate mixed with Kahlua all meet your hypnotic gaze.

This magical store is somewhat hidden in a shopping center across the street from the Red Dirt Shirt factory and Outlet store on the way to Port Allen.

These chocolate confection inventors are Don and Marleen Greer, a local family. They have been in business since 2003.  Their ‘Chocolatiers’ at the Kauai Chocolate Company are primarily students from Waimea High School.  Ohhh I think I want to be one of those someday!!

I understand they have ice cream with local fruits and things—and I noticed some cute t-shirts for sale, but it was difficult to concentrate with that chocolate before me, in the air and being created.  Their coffee products are from the Kauai Coffee Company, just down the road.Kauai Chocolate Company

What to choose?  What to take and eat in the car and what to buy for later?  The chocolate Ophihi—not related to the ocean ones except in shape, the layered toffee—peanut butter—thick chocolate one?  “Chunk-O-Love,” or Chocoholic?  There is a box of fudge I probably should send to the mainland? Naw.  Let ‘em come visit.  I’ll get my own fudge.  Three varieties??

Well, I had to choose.  Now it is your turn, if you happen to be a person who delights in the smell and taste of chocolate, see you there!

P.S. Tried the S’more and the peanut butter ones.  Excellent.

Waimea Historic Walking Tour

Waimea Hawaiian ChurchWhat a treat to learn more about the historic town of Waimea from a woman who grew up in the area. This tour is available Mondays at 9:30am, and is about 3 hours long.  The first hour of the tour takes place inside the West Kauai Technology and Visitor’s Center, which is easy to find along the highway, at the corner of Waimea Canyon Road.  This is where you sign in and meet your guide.  The hour is spent going through artifacts and old photos.  There are chairs around the museum area, in case you need to sit for a bit.  The information would be fairly standard, except for Puna, the charming guide with a great sense of humor!

There is so much information in the fairly short session.  Who are the pioneers of the Waimea area?  What are the attitudes of the modern descendants of the ancient Hawaiian people? How did they regard the land, the aina? What happened when the native people encountered Western civilization through the sailing ships and missionaries who arrived Hawaii?

West side Waimea Pier KauaiThere were no mosquitoes on Kauai before the European sailors emptied their brackish water containing mosquitoes and larvae into the local rivers!

In case you were wondering about the strenuousness of the walking portion of the tour, our group included a spunky 91 year old lady from Chicago. She led the pack most of the way.

The walk took us past rebuilt churches and businesses damaged in hurricane Iniki.  The tour will take you through a garden of beautiful orchids and hibiscus in all the colors of a rainbow.

Old Waimea TheaterWe heard humorous stories to entertain us along the walk. The uncomplicated way of life Puna described made everyone wish they had grown up in the Waimea Valley of Kauai.

If you wish to take this Monday morning tour, it is free, but you have to call

808 338-1332 to make a reservation.

Don’t forget the  Waimea Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonyand the  Waimea Town Christmas Parade

Kapaa Town Salutes our Veterans

The skies above Kauai Today were filled with grey clouds, a little thunder and the occasional flash of lighting, but that didn’t stop the hundreds of participants and spectators from lining the street of downtown Kapaa to take part in Kauai’s 43rd Annual Veterans Day Parade. Rain or shine local families and visitors lined the sidewalks with beach chairs and umbrellas reserving spots for good viewing.

The parade began at the south end of Kapaa and concluded at the Kapaa Town Park.  Preceding the parade, Kauai Classic Cars led by president Richard Aki honked and threw candy to smiling spectators with a colorful assortment of vintage cars. The Kapaa Junior ROTC led the Posting of the Colors and the official start of the parade.

A special Horse-drawn carriage, provided by Dr Christopher Lyden, carried honored veterans Command Sergeant Major Johnny Rabasa and First Sergeant J.Q Smith, the co-Grand Marshals of this year’s parade and festivitiesCommander Sergeant Major Johnny Rabasa and First Sergeant. Next came the colorful procession of community groups, Boy Scout Troops, High School Marching Bands, Korean War Veterans, US Coast Guard, active military marching units, and members of county government walked in support of our veterans.

The music, laughter and an outpouring of community support lit up the faces of the crowds while the abundance of Aloha Spirit cleared the sky’s for an enjoyable rain-free morning in Kapaa. Keiki Hula Dancers helping honor VeteransThe parade festivities continued at Kapaa Town Park with Master of ceremonies William Honjiyo directing a formal program honoring our Kauai veterans. The National Anthem was sung by Christine Calzado and  Mayor Bernard Carvalho presented proclamations and a plaque honoring the Vietnam Era Veterans  to be showcased at the Kauai Veterans Center in LIhue.

Mahalo to all the supporters of this years 43rd Annual Veterans Day Parade. For more information on upcoming events for Veterans Day contact Aida Cruz at the Kauai Veterans Center or call 808 246-1135.

Haunted Garden and Monster Shindig

"Spooky Days at Allerton Garden"f un for the kids

A big Mahalo to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens for putting on a great family event! It was obvious that the staff at National tropical Botanical Gardens really worked hard to make this event a success, and it was such a treat to have Allerton Gardens opened up to the public for FREE!

This event had so many components I don’t know where to begin. I arrived with my son just a bit before 10 am, to find the parking lot packed. We headed to the tram thinking we would have to wait a long time, but NTBG planned for the crowd and ran the trams continuously. As we arrived in the Garden, the Queen of Hearts and her cards caught my eye playing croquet in the big field. This was not your standard version of croquet, after all it was intended for the little ones. Yoga balls could be kicked, bounced or rolled through child-sized arches. All sorts of silliness ensued on the playing field.

My son was so excited that upon entry, he ran right past the cemetery and the mad scientist in the mist house. A little ways down the garden path as the vegetation started to close in, we were ushered into a small gazebo area where Alice and the Mad Hatter were having a tea party. The children were offered cupcakes before being sent onto their next adventure.

Adventure it was, every boys dream: to be right in the middle of Jurassic Park. After all, this is where they filmed the movie. Among the over-sized tree roots, a dinosaur nest came to life. Giant eggs exposed baby dinosaurs and a life sized T-Rex peeked out from behind the roots. The children were instructed to hunt for plastic Easter eggs. Inside each egg was a pirate coin, and just around the corner were the pirates waiting to have this gold returned to their chest. They were so eager in fact that they were exchanging the gold for candy.

At the mesmerizing mermaid station, glittery mermaids assisted the children in fishing for treats before they were sent off to see the pirates who had set up camp in the shade of the bamboo. After exchanging the gold for candy, the children walked up a steep incline where they came across the bloody pools. Hands and legs could be found resting on the edge of the pool and a very scary witch handed out candy to any child that dare get close enough.

A walk through Ghost Alley lead the children to the haunted house. The little girls weren’t too fond of this feature, but the boys couldn’t get enough. Ghosts and goblins, blinking lights and spider webs dotted the halls of the creepy palace. The fog obscured a werewolf who had chained himself inside a gazebo. Creepy music played and screams could be heard just around the corner. We soon found out why! A ghoul jumped out and frightened the living daylights out of me. Just as I recovered, it happened again. Zombies and creatures of the dead hung out in dark corners leading you to the lab where some unfortunate experiment lay on the table and finally back to the garden. As soon as the sunlight hit my eyes I heard, “Mom, can we go again?”

All in all it was a wonderful event. We will be sure to attend next yearNational Tropical Botanical Gardens Free Event fo Halloween

Kauai in October

The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are turning and the days are getting shorter. It feels like fall. Not on Kauai. Right now, the temperatures are mild, just a few degrees shy of the summer heat. The skies are clear and the ocean conditions outstanding due to temporary pauses in trade-wind activity. All the kids are back to school, so the beaches are empty, but the water is still warm enough for swimming.

The nice thing about late September and October is that the summer crowds have disappeared and it feels like Kauai should…PEACEFUL! Today, my son and I had the beach to ourselves. We went boogie boarding, built sand castles, frolicked in the water and shared lunch under the shade of a coconut tree. It was a spectacular day!

If you are planning a trip to Kauai, fall is a pleasant time to be here. Since peak season has just passed, airfares and hotel rates have subsided a bit. Kauai is also a great place to bring kids, so don’t be afraid to take them out of school. They can learn about a different culture, a different environment and there are a number of unique and endangered species to learn about. Snorkeling offers them a chance to see a whole other ecosystem. Buy them a copy of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book for a lesson on Kauai’s coral reefs. Vacationing with the family during the off-season is a nice way to spend time together, and when is quality time with the family ever a bad thing?