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Share your Kauai experience, stories and photos! Kauai travelers tell their tales.

Lihue Barbecue Inn a Kauai Favorite

Donna Muramoto, left, and her mother, Millie Sasaki, keep Lihue Barbecue Inn a family business.

Donna Muramoto, left, and her mother, Millie Sasaki, keep Lihue Barbecue Inn a family business.

One of the things I love about living on Kauai is the small-town atmosphere and getting to know the owners of my favorite restaurants. One of them is family-owned Lihue Barbecue Inn, opened in 1940 by Masaichi Sasaki who wanted to do something for the people of Kauai. Seventy years later, the business is still thriving.

“People keep coming back because of our menu,” says Donna Muramoto, the founder’s granddaughter who now runs the restaurant. “It’s pretty big and we have a number of specials every day, things like beef stew, roast pork and stuffed cabbage. We also have some Pacific Rim items like a seared ahi salad and macadamia nut-chicken. So even if someone were to come in every day, they could get something different.”

With the name Barbecue Inn, is there any barbecue on the menu? Nope! Not even Donna’s mother, Millie Sasaki, knows where the restaurant name came from because they’ve never served barbecued food! It’s one of Kauai’s mysteries.

Lihue Barbecue Inn's delicious Eggs Benedict with tangy Hollandaise sauce.

Lihue Barbecue Inn’s delicious Eggs Benedict with tangy Hollandaise sauce.

I enjoy Barbecue Inn’s breakfasts. They are tasty and served in a flash – great for days when you want a hearty meal before being on your way. Their eggs Benedict with tangy Hollandaise sauce and breakfast scramble burrito are my favorites, and my boyfriend loves their buttermilk pancakes.

When it first opened its doors, Barbecue Inn’s trademark was that all lunches and dinners would be complete meals with a slice of homemade bread per person, a cup of the day’s soup or a small salad, your entrée, topped off by a slice of your choice of the day’s fresh-baked cream pies for dessert. The wonderful thing about Barbecue Inn is that it’s still like that! I love choosing from a slice of chocolate, blueberry, banana, peach or chocolate-banana pie, or whatever they have made that day. (Their Japanese-style meals come with pickled vegetables and a small somen salad instead of dessert.) If I am in a rush, I know I can enjoy a full, delicious meal and be out the door often in about an hour.

Donna, who literally grew up in the restaurant – Millie, used to keep a playpen in the kitchen when the children were little – says her father treated all his customers as family. Donna and Millie have kept up that tradition, greeting everyone who walks in, asking about parents, children and grandchildren.

“My father always said, ‘The customer comes first.’ He wasn’t about making a killing,” Donna says. “He wanted to make the people of Kauai happy.”

Enjoy small town Kauai at Lihue Barbecue Inn and celebrate a bit of island history, located at 2982 Kress Street in the heart of Lihue. Phone: (808) 245-2921.

Read more about Lihue Barbecue Inn in “Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kauai’s People,” a joy-filled collection of more than 50 stories about life on Kauai available at more than 20 locations on Kauai and also on Amazon.com. Visit www.kauaistories.net for more information.

Kanuikapono School Celebrates Learning

When Kanuikapono Charter School first opened on Kauai 11 years ago, classrooms where wherever director Ipo Torio-Kauhane could arrange for them, under tents with students sitting on lauhala mats or in the gymnasium a Kapaa church.

So it was an especially joyful occasion yesterday when the school’s teachers, 150 students and their parents held a blessing for three like-new portable classrooms at Kanuikapono’s now-permanent Anahola campus.

The classrooms were donated by Kamehameha Schools, who had used the buildings for two years while their Kapalama campus on Oahu was being remodeled. “When our construction was done, the portables were practically new. Kamehameha Schools funds 17 charter schools in Hawaii, so donating the portables was a no-brainer,” says Liz Ahana, integrated strategies manager for Kamehameha Schools. All 17 schools applied for the portables and Kanuikapono and Kawaikini Charter School in Lihue were the two Kauai schools chosen to receive them.

Young Brothers underwrote most of the cost of shipping the classrooms from Oahu to Kauai. “When we saw the barge of classrooms leaving from Honolulu, that was a meaningful moment for us,” says Roy Catalani, vice president of strategic planning and governmental affairs for Young Brothers. “We are glad to assist Kanuikapono and Kawaikini charter schools.”Kanuikapono Charter School

Inspiring Children

The blessing celebrated more than a new building. It marked the success of a school that blends traditional academics with hands-on learning, inspiring children from kindergarten through 12th grade and making things taught in school relevant in their lives.

“I like the fact that they teach core values like kuleana (responsibility), ohana (family) and respect along with reading, writing and arithmetic,” says parent Aaron Leikam, whose son, Tanner, 6, attends Kanuikapono. “They do a lot of projects involving agriculture, aquaculture and our environment and they are really progressive in academics.”

Leikam says children enjoy the small classroom sizes, typically 18 students in each grade from kindergarten through fifth grade, and nine students in each high school grade. “They all get so much personal attention.”

Jessica Gutierrez is impressed with the types of things her son learns at Kanuikapono both in class and on field trips. “One night I asked him what he had learned in school that day and he said, ‘We learned how to measure the volume of a river.’ I was amazed!”

Raye Street’s daughter Lilia, 8, began at Kanuikapono when she was in kindergarten. “Lilia doesn’t want to miss school. She’s stoked to be at school everyday,” he says. “I can’t wait for my son, Jackson, to come here. He’ll be old enough to start in the fall.” A lovely benefit of a school steeped in Hawaiian culture: “Lilia’s hula is amazing.”image

As school director, Ipo Torio-Kauhane, gazes upon her students, a sea of children of all ethnic groups, from dark-eyed children with brown hair to many blond hair, blue-eyed little ones, all getting along and learning together, she sees her dream come alive.

“When I look out here, I don’t see a school. I see a nation of Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians who value learning.”


Read more about Kauai life in “Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kauai’s People,” a joy-filled book available at more than 20 locations on Kauai and also on Amazon.com. Visit www.kauaistories.net for more information.

Kauai’s WWII Veterans Honored

Jiro Yukimura, 92, left; and Turk Tokita, 92, chat with audience members after their presentation at the Kauai Museum and autograph copies of "Kauai Stories" in which their stories about their World War II are included.

Jiro Yukimura, 92, left; and Turk Tokita, 92, chat with audience members after their presentation at the Kauai Museum.

Kauai is home to many veterans who have served our country in United States military actions. Most notable are members of the famed 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, comprised almost exclusively of young Japanese Americans born in Hawaii who fought in Europe in World War II, and Kauai-born Japanese American men who served in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), translating captured Japanese documents for the U.S. government during the war. These Kauai men fought for their country, the United States, against Japan, the country of their parents’ birth.

I had the honor of moderating a talk given this week by two of these men, both now 92 years young, bright-eyed, sharp-witted and as sweet of heart as any Kauai people I know. They recalled their wartime experiences with gravity, grace and honor and a touch of humor to a standing-room-only crowd at the Kauai Museum, where audience members treated them with the reverence and the warmth for which Kauai people are known.

Jiro Yukimura told of joining the U.S. Army after Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan in 1941 and being assigned to guard places on Oahu with a 1903 Springfield rifle.

“After about two months we all got assembled at a school, and they said, ‘All you Japanese guys, you’re out.’ They said they cannot trust those of us of Japanese ancestry. We all cried. They classified us as 4C: Enemy Alien. We were considered enemy alien? My God, that was a big blow. So we all went home. What else could we do?”

Not willing to give up in their efforts to help their country, Yukimura and his friends joined the “Varsity Victory Volunteers,” digging ditches, quarrying rocks and surfacing roads.

One year later, the U.S. Army realized it needed more manpower and began reaching out to Japanese Americans to serve, hoping for 1,500 men from Hawaii. More than 10,000 Japanese American men volunteered.

“We were so anxious to get in. We thought of ourselves as Americans,” Yukimura said.

After training, when the opportunity came to join the Military Intelligence Service, Yukimura applied, passed the Japanese language tests, and served in Australia and the Philippines, among other places. By the end of the war, the MIS was credited with translating 20 million pages of Japanese documents.

Yukimura was eventually made an officer and assigned to the Army’s Public Relations office where, as fortune would have it, he was given front row seats aboard the USS Missouri to watch Japan’s ceremonial surrender in 1945 to end the war.

Turk Tokita fought overseas in France and Italy, where he was wounded twice, earning both of his Purple Hearts. During his training in the southern United States and during his service abroad, he witnessed many inequities among human beings: impoverished Caucasians being treated poorly; African Americans being denied seats on buses when the “Blacks Only” seats were filled, even though there were other empty seats aboard; and American-born Japanese people deemed untrustworthy solely because of their ethnicity, incarcerated in internment camps across the country.

“They were supposed to be Americans, and they were being treated like they were slaves or something. They didn’t have the same opportunities,” Tokita said.

A shy young man, Tokita took it all in, but it wasn’t until he got home to Kauai after the war that he knew he could make a difference. He became Kauai campaign manager for John A. Burns, who became Hawaii’s delegate to Congress and helped Hawaii become a state, joining the United States in 1959. Burns became Hawaii’s second governor and Tokita was his Kauai campaign manager for all of his terms.

Tokita continued his career in politics, serving as Kauai campaign manager for three more Hawaii governors.

“Before the war, I was an introvert. If you knew me before the war, you’d think, ‘What a wimp he was.’ Tokita says. “Because of politics, I became an extrovert. I helped with statehood and became involved in all kinds of things for a better life for everybody.”

Read more about these two Kauai World War II veterans and two of their colleagues in “Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kauai’s People,” a joy-filled book about life on Kauai available at more than 20 locations on Kauai and also on Amazon.com. Visit www.kauaistories.net for more information.

Kauai Music Touches the Heart

Whether I am sitting on a gorgeous white sand beach at home on Kauai or visiting Los Angeles, New York or India, the sweet, melodious sounds of smooth Hawaiian voices, guitars and ukuleles fills me with joy. Instantly I feel happy, relaxed and connected through time with ancient Hawaiian traditions.

Kauai legendary slack key guitarist and teacher, Hal Kinnaman, playing ukulele.

Kauai legendary slack key guitarist and teacher, Hal Kinnaman, playing ukulele.

Legendary Kauai guitar player Hal Kinnaman felt the same way when he first heard Hawaiian slack key guitar being played on a California beach. “I had just gotten out of the water after surfing and a Hawaiian man started playing it. I didn’t know what it was but I just loved it.”

Already an accomplished player and teacher of classical guitar, Kinnaman knew he had to learn how to play this intricate and soothing music of the islands in which one guitar sounds like many, with the thumb playing the bass line and the rest of the fingers playing the melody.

Kinnaman learned some techniques from the Hawaiian man whom he met on the beach that day and with whom he became friends, also teaching himself until he was skilled enough to share the art with students.

“Slack key doesn’t have to be intricate when you first start. It has to be puuwai, from your heart, tell a story,” Kinnaman says. “When my students do these things, it comes out beautifully.

“I love teaching for the joy of sharing and seeing people play when they didn’t think they could do it. I had one student who was so shy, she couldn’t even look up at me when she first started her lessons,” Kinnaman says. “Now she comes in and says, ‘Hi,’ sings and plays slack key.

“I play a lot of different musical styles and I always go to slack key to unwind. It makes you pono (right) in your life. It evens out the stress and helps you get back in balance,” Kinnaman says. “You’ve got to have music. And it’s got to be shared.”

For more Kauai stories, visit www.kauaistories.net for the book “Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kauai’s People.” To watch Hal Kinnaman play Flamenco on ukulele, click the Voices page.

Kauai Style Banana Bread

I am always amazed at the thoughtfulness of Kauai people. Here’s a perfect example that
took place only last year.

My partner, Lincoln, cut down a stalk of nearly 200 bananas from one of the trees in
our yard and placed small bunches in a box in front of our house with a sign that said, “FREE!” All afternoon, neighbors drove by and took what they needed. That evening, there were a handful of bunches of bananas still remaining. Lincoln said, “I’m going to leave the box out there for anyone coming home after working the night shift.”

The very next morning, Lincoln reached his hand into our daily newspaper receptacle and
found, along with our paper, six small freshly-baked loaves of banana bread with a note
that said, “This is in appreciation for the bananas which you shared last night. Enjoy!” It
was from our newspaper carriers, whom we had never met before! The banana bread was
absolutely delicious.

When I mentioned this to a friend, she said she knew our newspaper carriers, a darling
couple who are each in their 70s and told me they are the “huggiest people I know.”
Months later, after corresponding via notes left in our newspaper box, we invited the
couple to a party for the release of my book, “Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island
told by Kauai’s People,” which includes the story of their generosity. Sure enough, as
soon as we met, they each reached out their arms to embrace us in hugs.

Maybe it’s because we are on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and must
rely upon each other, or maybe Kauai people have always been like this. Either way,
every time I have an encounter like this, I am reminded why Kauai has been my home for
24 years.

When you visit Kauai, definitely enjoy our sunshine, rainbows, beautiful beaches,
mountains and soft tropical air. But also make some time to talk with the people of Kauai.
Then you will know why Kauai is one of the most special places in the world.

Pamela Varma Brown lives on the east side of Kauai with her partner, Lincoln, and two
cats and enjoys hiking, swimming in the ocean and gazing at luscious waterfalls. Visit

Kauai Stories Captures Life in Hawaii

Stories about Kauai from Kauai PeopleLife in Hawaii comes alive in a new feel-good book, “Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kauai’s People,” a collection of more than 50 touching, humorous and
inspiring personal stories. As you get to know the people of Kauai, you will feel the joy of living in Hawaii. Written entirely in the first-person, “Kauai Stories” is like sitting down for coffee and a cozy chat with friends as they share their life experiences.

The book includes colorful stories about growing up in the island’s sugar plantation “camp” housing and the sense of community fostered among the many ethnic groups who immigrated to Kauai to work for the plantations; keeping the ancient art of hula dancing alive; and of Kauai residents sailing thousands of nautical miles to foreign countries in a replica of an ancient voyaging canoe, navigating only by the stars, the moon, the sun and ocean currents as Polynesians did when they discovered Hawaii more than 1,500 years ago.

There are surprises, such as a blind man who is a key member of his outrigger canoe
paddling team; how one woman overcame a horrible childhood to become one of the
state’s most revered instructors in the 200-year-old tradition of Hawaiian quilt-making;
and “Chicken Nuggets,” humorous tales of acceptance, and even affection, for Kauai’s
abundant population of hens and roosters running wild across the island.

When you have finished reading “Kauai Stories,” you will have a collection of warm
Hawaii memories as if they are your own, memories such as children making toys out
of tobacco pouches stuffed with leaves or Frisbees from car-flattened toads; of finding
dozens of glass balls washed ashore on a beach, broken loose from Japanese fishing nets
during World War II; and of the splendor and serenity of a remote tropical valley, the pot
of gold at the end of a challenging 11-mile hike along the cliffs towering above the ocean
along the world famous Na Pali Coast Trail.

“Kauai Stories: Life on the Garden Island told by Kauai’s People,” is available in all e-
book formats and will be out in paperback shortly. Visit www.kauaistories.net to sign up
to be notified when the paperback is available, and for excerpts, sound bites, videos of
people in the book and editor biography.

The Voyaging Canoe Hokulea Arrives on Kauai

Hokulea arrives on Kauai

Hokulea Arriving in Hanalei

Clouds hung low over the peaks of Namolokama as the remnants of the passing tropical storm moved slowly out to sea. Along the horizon the Hokulea voyaging canoe and crew made their way into Hanalei Bay Saturday morning. Blowing the conch shell from the bow of the boat signaled to the spectators and welcoming crew on shore that they had arrived.

The Hokulea is now tied up to the Hanalei Pier. This a great opportunity to get up close and view the canoe as well as ask questions and learn a little about their vision and upcoming voyages.

The Hokulea is an important part of Polynesian culture and the Polynesian Voyaging Society does a great job sharing the craft of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration through their program.  For more information on the Hokulea check out the website www.http://hokulea.org/

Kauai from a Musician’s Perspective

Founding members and main composers of Blade of Grass Michael Hurst and Joshua
James have both made many trips to Kauai. It is in places like Kauai that many Blade
of Grass songs have been written – with guitars and tape recorders.

Kauai – Mother Earth’s “Womb”

Kauai is like mother earth’s “womb,” meaning it infuses you with life and
strengthens you whereas almost everywhere else in the world saps you of your
energy and life force on a daily basis. Every day spent in Kauai is a great day and
will make you feel stronger and healthier.

Trips to Kauai should be filled with:
• tons of fresh fruit and vegetables, – of course most of it will be locally grown
on the island
• snorkeling and playing in the beaches as much as possible
• lots of outdoor hiking and activities

A few of our favorite places:

Lumahai Beach – North Shore Kauai
There are many special beaches on the North Shore of Kauai and this one is not a
secret at all, so we will write about it here (although if you go there, most likely you
will be sharing it with only a handful of people). Lumahai is just a perfect little beach
for relaxing and doing some light swimming, but beware because there is definitely
a current here. There are some lava rocks you can walk on out in the water (again,
be careful and use the buddy system!) and the jungle foliage creeps all the way
down to the beach giving you the sensation of being totally cut off from the world.

Hanalei Farmer’s Market – Hanalei
Some of the best food on earth is available at the Hanalei Farmer’s Market. It is
where you will see some freakishly big mangoes and avocados, and a ton of other
great snacks. We like to eat the goat cheese from here and there is just an amazing
array of edibles and also “arts and crafts” type items. The Hanalei Farmer’s market
happens only on Saturday mornings and you will want to have some cash so you
don’t need to walk to the ATM. The prices will be higher than the farmer’s market
you are used to at home, but the prices are fair for delicious locally grown produce.

The Blue Room – North Shore Kauai
If you can find the blue room, you’ve found somewhere pretty special. You hike
up and over a hill away from the beach to get to the Blue Room (it is near the end
of the road on Kauai’s North Shore, but you’ll need some help finding it as it is not
marked). There is a cave with very dark water that is actually fresh water (not salt
water). It is a great and very romantic location.

Polihale State Beach
This has long been a favorite of ours but it is definitely a bit more “off the beaten
path.” All the way on the other side of the island (from the above attractions) is a
magical ancient beach known as Polihale. Polihale is very isolated and can actually
be a little sketchy to drive to (due to sandy road sections), but it is worth the

Polihale is just a huge and endless beach and you can definitely have your own
private section of beach (it actually might even be hard to find people there). There
are a lot less amenities around here (bathrooms, stores, etc) so bring everything
you need for your stay in Polihale. We have camped at Polihale numerous times
and never had any negative experiences or hassles. Polihale is Kauai’s westernmost
point and also called Barking Sands Beach. A great place to truly find yourself “off
the grid” and (in our case) strum guitars and write music.

Michael Hurst and Josh James both sing, play guitar, and write songs for Blade of Grass,
hear the music atwww.BladeofGrassMusic.com or find them on Facebook at

Put a Little Kauai under your Christmas Tree

It’s that time of year when weather gets cold, and you start to think about gift giving as the Holidays approach. If you are feeling the chill, but would rather think of warm tropical breezes, swaying palm trees, the scent of the islands or the taste of Aloha, then I have put together a few ideas to bring Kauai a little closer this Christmas.

For the children in you life, KAuai Reef Fish Coloring BookThe Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book offers hours of entertainment and it’s educational. This award-winning title will teach your children everything they ever wanted to know about Hawaii’s reef fish including: their anatomy, biology, body shapes, feeding habits and coloration. They will also learn about the importance of coral reef conservation. Pair it up with a pack of recycled Kauai Crayons (available at Island Soap and Candle) and you’ve got the perfect gift for the budding marine biologist.

Pamper your friends with the scent of fragrant flowers and exotic fruits. Malie Organics offers a line of all natural, organic, luxury spa and beauty products. A few of my favorites are the coconut vanilla body wash, and the mango body cream. Their island ambiance reed diffuser will keep your house smelling like the islands year round. You could also create a thoughtful gift basket for friends or family by combining the Malie bath products with hand-made, scented candles from Island Soap and Candle Works.

One of the best ways to give a little bit of Kauai is by bringing the flavors of the islands Monkey Pod Jamshome. Wake up to the aroma of fresh brewed cup of Kauai Coffee and pair it with a handmade truffle from the Kauai Chocolate Company. Kauai has dozens of choices when it comes to specialty food items including: Aloha Spices, Anahola Granola, Monkey Pod Jam, Koloa Rum Cake, Kava Boy kava, or infused macadamia nut oils by Oils of Aloha. Stop by Aloha Spice Company in Hanapepe, where they make it easy to find a large selection of  these island treats, available in one location. They even have cookbooks and recipes for your culinary delights.

aFeinberg PhotographyLocal art is always a treasured gift. Order your 2012 AFeinberg Calendars with over 25 stunning Kauai images that will warm your days year-round.

When shopping for the perfect gift for friends and loved ones, remember to look for the Kauai Made symbol to ensure high quality Kauai Made products. If it is from Kauai, your friends and family are sure to love it!