The World’s Tallest Mountain is in Hawaii

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

I know you are thinking that the world’s tallest mountain is Mt. Everest, and if you consider those that only originate on the land (above sea level), you would be right! But of those mountains rising from under the sea, Mauna Kea tops even Mt. Everest. The altitude of Mount Everest is 8,850 meters. Mauna Kea’s total height, from the sea floor, is over 10,000 meters. You can even ski during the winter months when it is covered in several feet of snow – in Hawaii!Mauna Kea rising from the sea, Hawaii

Recently, in August of 2012, we had snow on the top of Mauna Kea, while at the same time it was over 80 degrees in Honolulu. A few years back, we made an attempt to travel to the summit of this huge volcano. We traveled in a rental car up Saddle Road from Route 200. The grade was steep and at about 7,000 feet frost started to form on our windshield, and we became a little alarmed. We could barely see a few feet in front of us and could not look down very far because of the thick white clouds and fog.

Snow on Maunu Kea, HawaiiSigns along the road recommended that we use a four-wheel drive up the mountain, especially with a plan to reach the summit. It was very steep and the wind made it feel as though we may be swept off the side. Continuing on up the winding narrow road, we were lead to a Visitor Information Station at about 9,000 feet. We learned that the main reason for the station is so that we could adapt to the altitude slowly. Here we watched videos, took a bathroom break, and purchased some souvenirs. Afterwards we wound our way up the mountain a bit further, and were soon surrounded by clouds.

We were not lucky enough to have good weather conditions on the day we decided to go up to the summit, so we just stopped by the side of the road to watch the clouds before going back down.

We discovered that there are bus tours that can take you up Mauna Kea (weather permitting). They depart from Honokohau Harbor and spend the afternoon and evening before returning to the valley. Because the temperature changes quickly, you must take along sweaters, long pants and socks to keep warm. They serve dinner at a Sheep Ranch, which is part of the tour. Next time we will take the tour!

At around 11,000 feet up Mauna Kea, there is an adze quarry and then a permafrost lake at 12,000 feet. That altitude can make you feel giddy, and above the clouds, there are some exhilarating views. You must remember to breathe; otherwise you will feel faint and as light as a feather. Mountain sheep and rare native plants are also spotted.

Observatories on Mauna Kea, HawaiiBesides being the world’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea has the world’s largest astronomical observatory. There are over two dozen telescopes which gather information from the expanse. Above the mountain it is dry and the atmosphere stable, so the planets and stars can be studied in more detail than at other observatories. It is also above the tropical inversion cloud, so the air is pure and clear. It helps that it is far from city lights and is very dark.

The actual climb of Mauna Kea above sea level is nearly 14,000 feet, but the majority of it is underwater. This volcanic hot spot resulted in all of the Hawaiian Islands. Native Hawaiians regard Mauna Kea as sacred.

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, but has been living in the South Pacific for the past forty years. She enjoys trying to capture the beauty of the Polynesian islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:



Hawaii: Reasons to Go in the Off Season

If you’ve been planning a trip to Hawaii, you’re probably aware that there’s a “high season” and an “off season” for traveling. To get the most bang for your buck, plan to visit when the islands won’t be mobbed with tourists.

Hawaii Island (the Big Island) Hawaii By cowboy6688As you might expect, school holidays are particularly busy times. The weeks spanning the winter holiday break (from about December 15 to January 10) are the most expensive and crowded. Summer break is hugely popular, and spring break (between mid-March and mid-April) is a peak time as well. Other busy periods include the last week of April (Japan’s “Golden Week” of three holidays and, accordingly, an influx of Japanese vacationers) and Chinese New Year, which falls sometime between January and February. Avoid U.S. federal holidays if you can: Because the locals are on vacation themselves, restaurants are likely to be crowded, and cabs and rental cars will be at a premium.

So, where does that leave you? The best times to travel generally fall between late September and mid-March (with the wintertime exceptions noted above). You’ll get the best values and the best weather — not too hot, not too rainy — if you go during either May (just avoid spring break and Memorial Day weekend) or October. Whale-watching season usually runs from December to early March — in other words, there’s some overlap with the off season. If you’re aiming to snorkel or swim in calm waters, try to visit between winter and summer break (late April to early June) or in October.


The Perks of Cheap Times vs. Peak Times

The first reason to go during the off season has to do with price. If you fly to Hawaii in the off season, when demand is lower, you’ll be more likely to find cheaper flights. Many Hawaii hotels slash their rates during the off season as well. It’s a good idea to save on travel and accommodations — you’ll have more money to splurge on adventures!

The second reason has to do with the atmosphere. If you’re coming to an island paradise to get away from it all, you won’t want to fight crowds for a spot on the beach, or get trapped in traffic traveling from one end of an island to another. In the off season, prices are lower, seating and service at restaurants is better, and parking is easy.

Finally, because of Hawaii’s consistent temperatures, there’s little advantage to summertime visits. On average, temperatures during the off season are 5 to 10 degrees lower (but check the weather for the area you’ll be visiting in advance, since climates vary so much across the islands). If you’re averse to sweltering heat, you’ll enjoy the cooler — but still balmy — winter weather. The rainy season extends from November to March, but rain is localized in Hawaii (the islands’ western and southern coasts are typically drier), and it rarely rains more than three days in a row.


Hawaii’s Playground Pools

Guest Post by: HNLhulagirl

Although the islands have many options for water sports including surfing, snorkeling and diving, many enjoy the allure of a fantastic resort pool where waterslides, coves, kid free areas, kiddies’ play areas and more to round out the perfect Hawaii vacation.

 There are many resort pools in the islands but three come to the top each time, without a doubt. The Grand Hyatt Kauai, the Hilton Waikoloa and the Grand Wailea have by far the best pool facilities in the state.Hawaii Resort Pools

 Here is a rundown of the best of the best in Hawaii-nei.

Grand Wailea – 3850 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, Maui, HI 96753

Hours: 7:00 am – 10:00 pm. Slides are open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Located in the upscale and sunny resort area of Wailea, Maui the Grand Wailea is by far the largest and most opulent resort in the islands. The pool is no exception. No less than 30,000 feet of aquatic bliss that offers something for everyone. Located makai or beachside of the massive resort, it is actually a series of pools that offer something for everyone. The most peaceful pool is the adults only Hibiscus pool. The mosaic lined pool is the spot for serene sunbathing bliss. Located just steps from the ocean and away from the high energy slides and waterfalls, this pool has a large deck, two whirlpool spas and lots of sun all day long. The star of the resort is the Water Canyon Activity Pool. Actually a series of different water experiences connected by a river descending some 40 feet to sea level. This pool offers the active and energetic guests an opportunity to whisk down any one of seven slides, run rapids, ride the river current, rope swing, ride a water elevator, explore caves, enjoy whirlpools, swim up for beverages, wander through jungle pools and even an infant pool and sand beach for the resort’s youngest guests.

Hyatt Kauai 1571 Poipu Road, Koloa, Hawaii, USA 96756

Hours: 24 hours

It’s the best resort on Kauai. Located about 25 minutes from the Lihue airport, the resort at the heart of luxury in the sunny Poipu area. The pool is a fantastic collection of fresh and salt water lagoons, freshwater lazy rivers plus the wide and lush white sands at Shipwreck beach. The best part is that its open 24 hours and the activities run a wide range of activities from soaking up the sun to kayaking. The intermingling pools and lazy river are built on descending levels that offer quiet respite adult areas, private coves and waterfalls. The salt water lagoons are quite unique offering guests the option to enjoy the natural waters without having to venture out into the rough conditions along the shoreline. There is an additional lap pool available at the Anara Spa that offers adults to swim laps undisturbed by other activities.

Hilton Waikoloa Village 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Drive Waikoloa, HI 96738

Hours: 8am-11pm

This affordably priced resort is located about 20 minutes from the Kona International airport. It is the largest man-made pool complex in the islands. There are three freshwater pools and a large salt water lagoon that offers activities that include sunbathing in solace to rip roaring waterslide and numerous waterfalls. The ocean tower pool is enveloped in lush tropical vegetation for those seeking rest and relaxation. The Kohala River pool offers a meandering river that flows through the pool area where guests float and wander under the sunny South Kohala sun. The Kona pool is the largest pool on the resort. It’s the center of resort activity and adjacent to the bar and casual poolside restaurants. The lagoon is a unique man made feature of the resort that allows guests to snorkel with tropical fish, enjoy kayaking and stand-up paddle boards in controlled and safe conditions. The massive waterfall is the focal point of the lagoon which is located adjacent to the dolphin habitat.

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Merriman’s Monkeypod Kitchen in Maui

Guest Post by: HNLhulagirl

Finally, an enjoyable alternative to the overpriced and overdone resorty restaurants in Wailea has arrived, and this one is a keeper. I must admit that I skipped it once only because being from Kauelma, home of Merriman’s notable flagship restaurant and Merriman’s Café in nearby Waikoloa, I felt that perhaps something more unique to Maui would be the better choice.
After a couple of disappointing stints on previous trips at other Wailea resort restaurants, anticipation of Peter Merriman’s casual café was high and my table reservations were confirmed for just after noon.


Merriman’s Monkeypod Kitchen in MauiMaybe it’s me, but being a lifelong island girl, hotel restaurants with very few exceptions fail to impress me regardless of how crisp the linens, how beautiful the ocean views or how attentive the service. Loyalty in the resort restaurant world is unrewarding and runs thin like a badly made buerre blanc. Re-purposing and new trends make changes regular and often seem to result in a much too mainstream experience that fails to delight or even amuse.

I will put my money on the local Hawaiian chefs any day. These folks are the crux of island cuisine and offer patrons more bang for the buck, more creativity for the cash and more ferocity for the funds.

Island chefs like Sam Choy, Alan Wong, Bev Gannon, George Mavrothalassitis, Göran Streng and Peter Merriman not only have the challenge to keep the menu interesting but also have the daunting task to keep the establishments profitable. These chefs have all succeeded in winning over the hearts and appetites of islanders consistently over the years. Each one is successful, creative and offer high-quality dining experiences..

I finally arrive on Maui after a morning of airport security, seat belt fastening, carry-on stowing. After a task-oriented morning, I was looking forward to my early afternoon respite at Monkey Pod Kitchen. The Wailea Gateway location is wonderful. The restaurant is located upslope and on the fringes of the upscale Wailea resort just far enough from the tourist haunts to make it agreeable. Access is simple and quick via Piilani Highway, which negates having to slog along South Kihei Road. The upper-level location provides just a sliver of ocean, and Kahoolawe views and is wedged along the corner of Wailea Ike Drive.

I entered early and was greeted promptly by host staff in a dining room that was more empty than full. For lack of a better description, I will call the décor tropical trendy. It was inviting and fresh without being kitschy or mundane. The bar occupies the length of the restaurant positioned to take in the ocean views and afternoon light while the open kitchen is toward the rear. The bar is quickly gaining speed as a popular happy hour and meet-up place for islanders and the bar staff is certainly the reason for this acclaim. Aside from being cordial and efficient, they mix a list of fantastic specialty cocktails and offer over thirty types of beer. In addition, there is live music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Most of the tables are located on the wrap-around covered patio while banquettes are limited to the air-conditioned interior. For those who enjoy dining alfresco, tables near the front entrance are best to see and be seen while the side patio area offers more privacy but only a view of a resort intersection. For those dining alone, there is seating along the kitchen counter and even a few oversized banquettes for larger parties.

The menu is classic Merriman with a few fresh twists. I was delighted to see his popular white Hamakua mushroom pizza front and center on the menu. I was also excited to see new items, including a designer saimin, dry mein with vegetables and a very interesting Coconut Seafood "Seabury" Chowder that I will certainly try during my next visit.

My visit was filled with a bottomless glass of iced tea, my favorite wood fired pizza (yes the white mushroom one) and a slice of banana cream pie for dessert. Merriman’s pizza is done on a thin crust topped with exotic Big Island mushrooms and parmesan cheese. Their selections of pies are made on Maui. My huge slice was silky and creamy. It was filled with generous slices of banana and a flaky homemade crust.

The dining room was cool and comfortable and even though the meal was a bit on the pricey side, it was worth every cent. This restaurant is the perfect spot for long ladies’ luncheon, business brainstorming, cocktail co-mingling and delectable dining. Overall the service and food was spot on. I cannot wait to return during my next trip to Maui.
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Hawaii’s Hapuna Beach-Breathtakinly Beautiful

Guest Post by: HNLhulagirl

Although the Big Island is more than twice the size of all the other major islands put together, it is dead last when comes to an abundance of large white sand beaches.  However, the few it does have are some of the best in the islands.

Hapuna Beach, HawaiiMost of these beaches can be found along the sunny Kohala Coast where native grasses grow in cracks and crevices of black and dark brown  a’a and pahoephoe lava, where,  dark expanses of lava contrast with the cerulean ocean, foamy white crashing surf and the wide expanses of pale golden sand. On clear days, Haleakala can be seen just beyond the unpredictable Alenuihaha Channel that separates Maui from the Big Island.

Hapuna is a beach that is breathtakingly beautiful. The half-mile stretch of sand is nestled between two lava bluffs where the ever-changing shoreline widens during the summer months and where powerful winter surf erodes the beach to a narrow stretch. Summer or winter Hapuna is always pristine.
Midway between the two lava bluffs is another lava rock feature that divides the beach in half. This rocky outcropping is named Ihumoku which translates into Hawaiian as the ship's bow. These lava rocks mark the official boundary of the Hapuna State Recreation Area. The state park is well appointed with camping shelters that can be permitted for up to four persons. The area also has paved parking lots, picnic pavilions, restrooms, showers, and paved walkways to the beach.

A visit to Hapuna on any weekend and especially holiday weekend will find the park awash with islanders who come from all over the island to enjoy the surf and sand. Locals also find fun in jumping off shoreline cliffs and fishing from the lava outcroppings. Since Hapuna is one of the sunniest shorelines, it attracts many island visitors who seek the sun, snorkeling and more.

Hapuna Beach State Park, HawaiiHowever the beautiful it is, Hapuna is not without danger. Summer is the time when Hapuna is inviting, peaceful and hospitable. Gentle waves and a soft sandy bottom make everything from swimming to scuba-diving irresistible. The beach also gives up a small shallow calm protected cove at the northern end that is perfect for children to enjoy.

Between October and April the mood at Hapuna is drastically different. Rough ocean conditions, pounding surf breaks and strong rip tides make it a spot where entering the water is only for the experienced. Inexperienced body surfers who brave the powerful waves risk neck injuries and even death.

However, regardless of what time of the year, Hapuna is always staffed with lifeguards that are highly trained and knowledgeable on conditons, rescue and more. Lifeguards should be consulted regarding ocean conditions before entering unfamiliar areas.

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Have you traveled to Hapuna Beach? Visited other parts of Hawaii? Do you have any advice or recommendations for our readers?

Share your feedback in the comment section below



Discovering Hawaii’s North Kohala

Guest Post by: HNLhulagirl

North Kohala,HawaiiWhile the mega resorts are clustered near beaches of the South Kohala coastline where the dark lava flows and straw colored brush contrast with the gorgeous cerulean waters of the Pacific and the white sands of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. As gorgeous as it all is, there is more to Kohala, Hawaii, lots more. Divided into two parts, South Kohala has the beautiful beaches, Hawaii’s North Kohala is untouched and scenic. Both have enormous historic importance.

A 4WD is not necessary, a convertible would certainly be nice, but a small SUV or compact car will do just fine. Allow an afternoon or a morning, no less than 3 hours from Waikoloa and 4.5 from Kailua-Kona to insure enough time to wander, picture take, soak up the fresh air and vistas. Combine it with a visit to Spencer Beach for a full day of Big Island fun.

Kohala HawaiiBegin by taking the Queen Kaahumau Highway north, turn right at Kawaihae and head to Waimea then left onto Kohala Mountain Road to Kapaau then right and onward to the end of the road.

To return, head back to Kapaau and continue onward along Akoni Pule Highway to Kawaihae and south toward Queen Kaahumanu Highway. The drive is scenic and easy. Be on the lookout for wild goats and turkeys along the road. Views of the summit of Haleakala on Maui and whales along the coastline in the winter are abundant.

Here are some points of interest along the way:

Pololu Valley
End of Akoni Pule Highway
Niulii HI
Wonderful vistas, optional steep and strenuous hiking trail, small free parking lot.

Statue of King Kamehameha the Great, HawaiiStatue of King Kamehameha the Great
54-3900 Akoni Pule Highway
Kapa’au HI 96755
Quick stop for photos at this iconic statue. This statue is the original, copies are located on Oahu and in Hilo.

Bond Memorial Public Library
54-3903 Akoni Pule Highway
Kapa’au HI 96755
Located across the street from the statue, the books were moved to the new library down the street in late 2010, but the building still retains charm and interest.

Located just 3 miles from Kapaau, this former plantation town is now a collection of galleries, boutiques and eateries. It’s a great place to have lunch, browse the shops and stretch.

Puukohola Heiau
The largest archeological site in Hawaii, this historic site was the war temple of King Kamehameha the Great. A visit is a wonderful experience in ancient Hawaiian culture and history. Not to be missed.

Spencer Beach
Located next door to the Puukohola Heiau, this beach is one of the more popular spots to swim and sun. Bring lots of sunscreen and water.

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