Visiting Byodo-In Temple on Oahu


Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Living in Paradise, there are plenty of things to capture your attention. One that is often overlooked is the Byodo-In Temple nestled deep in a very lush corner at the base of the Ko’olau Mountain range of Oahu. It is located only thirteen miles from the Honolulu Airport. It is a replica of a temple located in Japan that is over 950 years old. There are no nails or screws to hold it together.  It is bound with braided ropes like the original temple.

Byodo-In Temple and pond Copyright Ruth Elayne KongaikaTo get to the temple from Kamehameha highway,  you pass through a well maintained cemetery. The temple is actually part of the cemetery, and the Buddha located in the center of the temple watches over several urns of cremated remains. Children and adults enjoy striking the bell near the entrance with a soft wooden log (shu-moku). You can hear and feel the deep sound of the sacred bell (Bon-sho). The bell is five feet high and made of brass and tin, having been cast in Japan. The sound it emits is supposed to cleanse the mind of all temptation and evil and give you a sense of peace and tranquility. This helps prepare your mind for entering the temple.

Ringing the Bell at the Byodo-In Temple   Copyright Ruth Elayne KongaikaBefore entering the main part of the temple (Hoo-do), you are asked to remove your shoes in reverence to deity. The impressive golden Buddha is the largest carved figure outside of Japan. It is nine feet tall and is covered by three coats of gold lacquer, lastly being covered with gold leaf.  It was carved by Masuzo Inui, a famous Japanese sculptor. There are several smaller sculptures of enlightened beings surrounding the Buddha. Incense burns and fills your nostrils as you peer at the massive Buddha.

The Byodo-In temple welcomes people of all faiths. It is a place of harmony and meditation. The beautiful landscape includes a large pond and some small waterfalls. Black swans and hundreds of koi make their home in the temple grounds. Koi can live to be 100 years old and some of them are huge. An occasional peacock, frog or turtle can be spotted. You can purchase fish food at the gift shop and enjoy watching the koi feed. The temple is a Hawaii State landmark.

Koi and foilage at the Byodo-In Temple       Copyright Ruth Elayne KongaikaBuddhism Prayer Service is led daily by local bishops. There is also a meditation pavilion for personal use. Occasionally guest artists display and give demonstrations of their work. Sumi-e and ikebana are ancient oriental art styles which are often part of the demonstration arts shown. Also local Hawaiian arts including ribbon lei making are offered.

There is a small gift shop where you can find unique items, including oriental art prints, statues and even Japanese wedding gowns. A restroom is located at the back of the gift shop.


The breathtaking location of the Byodo-in Temple is perfect for wedding photos. It is not expensive or busy like many tourist attractions in Hawaii. The gardens are well kept and even the gravel is raked into a contemplative pattern. Large eucalyptus trees and bamboo align the pond. You will enjoy the peace and tranquility at the Valley of the Temple’s temple. It is considered one of Oahu’s hidden gems, and I have often taken guests there. My grandchildren truly enjoyed feeding the fish and roaming the expansive grounds.

Little Angel at the Byodo-In Temple Cemetery     Copyright  Ruth Elayne KongaikaRuth 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 islands through her photography, painting and writing. She has a blog which shares some of her art and favorite subjects at:



The Cost of Living in Paradise

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

There is so much to do and see in Hawaii. Hiking, swimming, golfing, cruising and gardening are just a few things that can be done almost year round. Family and friends visit as often as they can to escape icy winters in the mainland. There are mainly two seasons in Hawaii, the dry season and the wet season.

Beautiful scenery, temperate weather, and beaches abound! Temperatures rarely go below 70 degrees Farenheit. Living in Paradise definitely has some perks but, unfortunately comes with some extra costs. Hawaii is a group of islands in the middle of the huge Pacific Ocean.  Because of the distance from exporters, extra shipping costs are attached to groceries and most items ordered online or brought in from Asia or the mainland United States. Milk is currently nearly $5.00 a gallon since it is imported.Square foot garden in Hawaii Copyright Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Median home prices in Hawaii are half a million for a very basic house plan. The cost of housing can be two or three times as much as on the mainland. It is also usually smaller than what most people on the mainland are used to. Monthly rental costs for a studio only is around $1,000 per month. Rentals with bedrooms and amenities are usually $1,500 plus monthly.

The moist salty air of the islands is perfect for rusting just about everything. Vehicles and appliances seem to suffer the most. Also, mold and mildew can form quite easily especially in places where it is warm and moist like the kitchen and bathrooms. This can be harmful to your health if the mold is allowed to grow. It takes extra effort and chemicals to keep this under control. All of this can up to extra costs for appliances, vehicles and maintenance.

Since the weather in Hawaii is fairly good all year round, the insects and other pests love Hawaii too. To avoid infestations by termites, cockroaches, mosquitoes and other creatures, frequent treatments are required. It is less expensive to control invaders than to get rid of them.Kids playing at Hukilau Beach on the North Shore Copyright Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Food items go bad quicker in Hawaii.  They must be stored inside plastic air tight containers. If the package is left open for chips, cereal or other snacks, the crispness will not last. Electricity needed to run air conditioners, appliances and technology can be very costly. The average charge per kilowatt hour is 30 cents. During the hotter summer months, electricity bills rise as people try to keep cool with fans or air conditioners. Hot showers are a luxury for some. Many homes have installed solar panels to help solve this problem. Wind farms are popping up around the Hawaiian Islands.

Traffic on the island of Oahu can become very frustrating, especially close to Honolulu. There is only one main road going to the North Shore of Oahu, which can also be totally cut off if there is an accident or an electricity pole falls down on the road. If there are surf competitions at Pipeline or Waimea, traffic can come to a halt as drivers gawk at the huge waves. Gasoline is around $4.00 a gallon (2013).

Waves on the North Shore of Oahu Copyright Ruth Elayne Kongaika.jpgIt is wonderful to have sandy beaches and palm trees close by, but living in Paradise does come with increased cost. Prices in Hawaii are some of the highest in the nation.  Fortunately, there are WalMarts, Costco and Sam's Clubs where deals can be found. Despite the cons of living in a Hawaiian paradise, many people make daily sacrifices to stay here.


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



Christmas in Hawaii


Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Having experienced four distinct seasons in Utah, our small children were a bit concerned about Christmas when we moved to Hawaii, the land of eternal summer.  Rarely does the temperature on Oahu get below the high 60s in December, and chimneys are quite rare. How could Santa find us in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and with no snow for his reindeer?

We soon learned a different way to say Merry Christmas, Mele Kalikimaka, together with many new holiday firsts. Our favorite thing to do on Christmas soon became putting together a picnic lunch and heading for the beach. Instead of making snowmen, you can make sandmen at the beach.Sandwoman at the beach for Christmas   Copyright Ruth Elayne Kongaika

I admit that we missed the beautiful snow right after a storm as well as winter sports, and it was a bit hard getting in the holiday mood whilst baking Christmas goodies sweating in the hot kitchen, but some things are quite similar. The first week of December the big town of Honolulu turns on the Christmas lights. It is a very festive and exciting time for everyone. There are rides for the children and plenty of food booths. Choirs, quartets and other groups share Christmas music, and the malls and little stores get involved in the joyous celebrations.

Cousins at the beach on Christmas Day  Copyright Ruth Elayne KongaikaSince winter in Hawaii is usually when we have the largest waves, there are many surf competitions. The North Shore is crawling with surfers and admirers from all over the world. Some of the waves get over twenty feet tall, and only the best surfers can maneuver them.

So, while some people on the mainland are enjoying a winter wonderland skiing on the slopes, seasonal waves in Hawaii are reaching record heights. One competition, The Quiksilver which has only been held eight times in 25 years, happens when the waves are a sustained 20-25 feet high. Some of the faces exceed 40 feet. The last time the competition occurred was in 2009. The surfing competition is held when the waves are at their best at Waimea.Surfer on big waves on North Shore

Although we celebrate a little differently than in the mainland, Christmas gifts are still shared with friends, neighbors and family. It is also time to share delicious Hawaiian delicacies, hang out and sing favorite songs. Often a family will have a luau with poi, kalua pig, laulau, lomi lomi salmon, and haupia or mochi for dessert (they are ono – yummy!)

You may be familiar our Hawaiian Christmas song:

Mele Kalikimaka (Song Lyrics)

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day

That’s the island greeting that we send to you from the land where palm trees sway

Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright, the sun to shine by day and all the stars at night

Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii’s way to say Merry Christmas to you.

Images of Santa in Hawaii may not have a red felt suit on, but rather a lavalava and aloha shirt, and he will be riding a surf board instead of his sleigh. Stores still sell sweaters and warm clothing, since some of the locals who have lived their whole lives here get cold when the temperature goes below 70 degrees. It is not too unusual to see people wearing socks with flip flops.

We learned to adapt in many ways to our Christmas holiday in Hawaii, but have found that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Hawaii.

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



Polynesian Cultural Center on the North Shore, Hawaii


Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika


I live next door to one of the most popular destinations in Hawaii. It had very humble beginnings and is now considered the favorite attraction on Oahu. The Polynesian Cultural Center gives an in depth experience with seven Polynesian Countries. These include Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tahiti, Aetearoa, Marquesas, and the host islands of Hawaii. You can spend a whole afternoon and evening getting familiarized with the cultures and traditions of these Polynesian identities. There is something for everyone at this attraction.

Each Polynesian Culture has a village where you can observe and participate. There are demonstrations by native Samoans, who show you how to start a fire by rubbing sticks together, cut a coconut in two with a rock, and climb a coconut tree.

You can try to twirl the poi balls, play a stick game, or get a temporary tattoo at the Maori village. Play the log drum in the Fijian village or learn basic hula steps in the Hawaiian village. You can also observe Hawaiian quilting and learn about local root crops.

Fijian Dancers at the Polynesian Cultural Center, HawaiiChildren and adults can make crafts in the villages, like woven hats. They can also fish from the pier at the Tahitian Village or learn how to make a fragrant lei. One game everyone enjoys is the shuffleboard in the Tongan Village. Tiki and other wood carving demonstrations by skilled Polynesians can also be enjoyed. You can learn the basics of ukulele playing near the large canoe, Iosepa.

Large canoes drift leisurely over the lagoon guided by a university student with a long pole. Guests are entertained and educated as they pass under several bridges and past the Polynesian villages.

Every day at 2:30 pm there is a canoe pageant. Each Polynesian culture is represented by dancing and singing on the canoes as they are maneuvered around the lagoon. It is a very colorful and exciting show, not to be missed. Visitors are encouraged to capture photos of their experiences throughout the center up until the night show.

There is an exhibit of the Iosepa, a working double hulled canoe made for the center. It is patterned after those used by the ancient Polynesians to navigate the South Pacific.

Part of Canoe Pageant at the Polynesian Cultural Center, HawaiiYou can experience authentic Polynesian food at the various diners, learn about underground cooking or feast at the Ali’i Luau. Light snacks and drinks are available also. Fine dining starts at 5:00 pm, which includes lobster and other delicious favorites.

You can purchase souvenirs to remember your experience at the Polynesian Culture Center at several different shops.

You can take a tour of the nearby community, including Brigham Young University Hawaii, where it all started, and learn of the history of the center. You can also visit the local LDS Temple and visitor's center in the community of Laie.

The Polynesian Cultural Center experience culminates in a large theater including a state of the art light and sound show entitled "Ha, Breath of Life". This masterpiece tells the story of a young boy, Mana, and his experiences of growing into manhood in the Polynesian Islands. It has received rave reviews.

Front Entrance of the Polynesian Cultural Center, HawaiiThe Polynesian Cultural Center is dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation traditions and culturs in the islands of the Pacific. The majority of the employees are the students from the nearby Brigham Young University – Hawaii. Many of these students return to their homelands after graduation to become leaders and share the skills and knowledge they have obtained. The center is considered one of the world’s most successful theme attractions, and was built in 1963 by Mormon labor missionaries (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

The main website for the Polynesian Cultural Center is:


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:



Hawaiian Fishing


Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika


My husband and I inherited two fine fishing poles. It is comforting knowing that  if all the lights go off, and we are stuck in the middle of the ocean with no contact with the outside world, we at least can go fishing.

Weekly, as we drive along the winding road from the North Shore of Oahu to and from Honolulu, we often notice fishing poles stuck in the sand on the shore nearby. Many of these poles have little cowbells dangling on them to indicate that a sea creature is biting the line. Nearby is a dedicated fisherman or woman sitting on a lawn chair with a net and an awaiting cooler chest. What faith and stamina! Either that, or they just wanted to get away from their honey-do list!

Oama, small goatfish, Oahu, HawaiiDuring the summer and into early fall, you may also see lines or circles of people a few yards off shore, standing in waist deep water with their fishing nets. After asking around, I discovered that they are fishing for oama (small goatfish), which can be eaten fried (bones and all). These small (7 inches or smaller) fish can also be used as bait for larger fish.

Hawaii does not require a fishing license. However, it is good to know that there is a law that you cannot sell your catch for commercial gain, or take home fish that are not in season. You have to check with their state Division of Aquatic Resources website for updated information.

Shore Fishing on Oahu, HawaiiNative Hawaiians have passed down their fishing skills down through the generations. Some local Hawaiians fish with a simple bamboo pole with a line, sinker and hook. Many children in Hawaii are taught to fish this way. Then they graduate to spinning reels and rods. Skills include whipping or spinning (casting your line with a lure and quickly reeling it in) and dunking (Casting a baited and weighted line and then waiting for a fish to bite).

Other bait that can be used includes shrimp, eel, crab, squid and octopus. I’ve heard that from the shore on Hawaii, you can even catch some of the big fish, including mahimahi, ahi and ului. Fishing is best near the sandbars, or where the reef is close to shore. Plenty of fish search for food in the sand near the reef.

The farther out you fish from shore, the larger the fish you can catch, albeit with the right equipment. It stands to reason that the larger the bait, the larger your catch, but make sure you have hefty line and a strong reel. Fly fishing is not as popular from the shore in Hawaii. Having grown up in Utah, I remember my father and brother making flies for fishing in the rivers or lakes, but have not seen it as much here.Fishing at Yokahuma Bay,Oahu, Hawaii

With the whole island of Oahu surrounded by ocean, you can find miles of shore for fishing. Of course, if you prefer night fishing, and don’t mind a few sharks as company, you can take a spear with your goggles and flippers for an exciting time. I have some friends whose husbands do this on a regular basis. Their freezers are stock full of fish.

Of course, if you are a well-seasoned fisherman, this hub will be very elementary for you, but that is where my husband and I are at. We are still learning the basics, and hope to share more as we go along. I’ve heard that Yokahuma Bay in Waianae, Oahu is one of the best places to fish. See you on the shore!!


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:



Ala Moana Shopping Center West of Waikiki

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

If I need shopping therapy, I head out to Ala Moana nearby Waikiki. A trip to Oahu would not be complete without a day spent at Ala Moana Center. I always try to take my friends and family who visit us in Hawaii. It has the distinction of being the world’s largest open-air shopping center, the largest mall in Hawaii and the fifteenth largest mall in the United States.

Ala Moana covers 2.1 million square feet and has four levels of shopping. I enjoy the mall not only for shopping, but it is a cultural mecca with dancing, singing and other entertainment on a daily basis. They host hula shows, art festivals, fashion shows, contests, competitions, musical productions and more at Centerstage in the Center court of Ala Moana. Many who have performed have gone on to be very successful in their careers.

Open-air style at Ala Moana, Oahu, HawaiiThere are also over 70 eateries available from fine dining to quick take out. There is a food court so each member of the family can choose a different palate. I always enjoy exploring the nearly 300 world class shops. So much to explore and appreciate, even if just window shopping. One thing I really enjoy is the open-air style. You do not feel closed in since you can look up and see the sky throughout most of the mall. There are waterfalls, ponds with lily pads, koi and many places for you to rest and enjoy it all.

It was interesting to find out about the history of Ala Moana Center. Walter Dillingham purchased 50 acres of unwanted swampland in 1912 from Bishop Estates for $25,000. Actually Waikiki was mostly swampland as well into the 1800′s.

In 1948, plans were announced for the shopping complex. The Ground breaking ceremony occurred in 1955 and construction began in 1957. The world "ala" means street, and "moana" means ocean in the Hawaiian language. The Developers chose the name "Ala Moana" because it expressed the location of the center.

Hawaii became the 50th state eight days after Ala Moana Center opened Hawaii in August 1959.Ala Moana Shopping Center from above with Diamond Head in the back, Oahu, Hawaii

When it first opened, it was the largest mall in the entire United States with 89 stores and 4,000 parking spaces. In 1966 Ala Moana doubled in size and added J.C. Penney and Liberty House. In 1987 a food court with 19 restaurants and 900 seats was added.

In 2005, the Ho'okipa Terrace was opened. It boasts ten incredible restaurants all in one place including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., California Pizza Kitchen, Islands Fine Burgers & Drinks, Mai Tai Bar, Pearl, Romano's Macaroni Grill, Ruby Tuesday, Tanaka of Tokyo, and Tsukiji Fish Market and Restaurant.

Food Court at Ala Moana, Oahu, HawaiiSince the mall is very close to Waikiki, it is convenient for visitors to the islands. A shuttle runs every ten minutes from Waikiki seven days a week. There is also plenty of parking for those who are driving, and it is within walking distance of the Ala Moana Beach Park.

Eleven of the original mall retailers from 1959 are still at Ala Moana Center today, although they may not be in the same location.

  • Sears
  • Longs
  • Foodland
  • Slipper House
  • Crack Seed Center
  • Reyn's
  • Shirokiya
  • Watumul's
  • Territorial Savings
  • U.S. Post Office
  • Dairy Queen

If you plan on visiting Ala Moana Mall, be sure to wear your walking shoes to enjoy the many levels of shopping, dining and entertainment. There is plenty to see and do for all ages and interests. I consider it a real treat when I can take a morning, afternoon or evening to spend in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Center.


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:



Ghost Stories of Hawaii

There is an overabundance of superstition in Hawaii. Almost every hill, valley, road, trail, building or town has a spooky history where spirits, ghosts or other essences have made an indelible presence. Many urban legends have been passed down through the generations. The roads from the North Shore to Honolulu, past Pearl Harbor and onto Kaena Point are marked with floral memorials for those who have met an unfortunate and untimely death on trails and highways. I believe the Polynesians have a close connection with those who have passed on.

Hawaiian history is overflowing with the bereft that have been visited by their ancestors. The Hawaiian Islands are the perfect place to visit for those people who love ghost stories, or who are fascinated by the paranormal. Personally, I have visited a few places on Oahu which gave me “chicken skin” (goose bumps) with no explanation for it. There are many heiaus (sacred burial sites), which are taboo to ordinary folks like you and me.

Old Pali Highway, Oahu, HawaiiCurrently a big issue in Hawaii is the building of a major rail transportation system. Many of the supports for the rails have already been constructed, but the project was abruptly put on hold because unidentified human remains were found on the route. It would be unheard of for the rail to just cruise over the bones of the kapuna (elderly) Hawaiians. It could taint the future of the rail!

I truly appreciate the concern, giving the many horror stories that have resulted in disturbing the deceased in Hawaii. Also, fueled by the stories I am familiar with, I have experienced the oppressive fear and anxiety while driving along the winding roads after twilight on my own. One that stands out is Pali Highway. It has been said that if you carry pork over the Pali Highway, which connects Honolulu and the Windward side of Oahu, your car will stall. You must remove the pork from your vehicle before you will be able to restart and be on your way. I have not tried it myself, nor do I plan to. Another version of the story is that an old woman and her white dog will appear when the car stalls, and you must feed the pork to the dog in order to continue on your journey.Botanical Garden in Wahiawa, Hawaii

On the North Shore is a tourist town called Wahiawa. There is a story about a lady who often visited the botanical gardens of Wahiawa with her children. On one visit, she lost one of her children and he was never found. It is said that she continues to wander the gulch looking for her child, and she may take one of your children as a substitute. Since she has been searching so long, it is been testified that she is covered with moss, and is now known as the Green Lady. As recently as 1980, there was a sighting.

Hawaiian MenehuneProbably the most well-known ghost story in Hawaii involves Menehunes, otherwise known as night marchers. These warriors come on the night when there is no moon (Pokane). For Hawaiians, if they are approached by the night marchers, they must prostrate themselves on the ground and recite their genealogy. Then they will be left unharmed. Perhaps that is why most Hawaiians know all of their uncles, aunties and relatives way back! These Menehunes carry torches and walk on the old Hawaiian trails. If you happen to build your home on their trail, the will pass through your house and you may find yourself somewhere other than in your bed in the morning.


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:



Visiting Foster Botanical Gardens in Honolulu, Hawaii

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

One Aloha Friday afternoon, as my husband and I were making our way through the rush hour traffic on Vineyard Street in Honolulu, we saw a sign that said Foster Botanical Gardens. Since we were not in a hurry, we pulled over into the parking lot. The moment we opened our car doors, the most beautiful fragrance drifted to our nostrils. It was coming from the heavily endowed flowering trees surrounding the entrance to the gardens. That was enough to prod us toward the entrance to check things out further.

After paying a nominal fee, we swooped up our map of the gardens and started our adventure. I honestly felt transfigured to another place and time. Luckily, I had brought along my camera, since I was enthralled with the many beautiful tropical flowers in a various shapes and colors. Just as I would start to put my camera away, I would see something else I was stimulated to capture a photo of. Well-placed signs indicated the name and species of many of the flowers and plants. We were surprised at how many of them we had never witnessed before.Foster’s White Lilies , Foster Botanical Gardens Honolulu, Hawaii Copyright Ruth Elayne Kongaika

We discovered that some of the incredibly large trees that towered over the gardens were planted around 1853. There were trees from many countries around the world including Africa. These giants were so magnificent! They actually refer to them as exceptional trees because of their age, rarity, size, location and historical and cultural significance. They were massive, indeed, and I had to get a few pictures of my husband standing next to the trunks so we could remember how enormous they were.Native African Tree at Foster Botanical Gardens Honolulu, Hawaii Copyright Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Foster's Flame Flowers, Foster Botanical Gardens Honolulu, Hawaii Copyright Ruth Elayne KongaikaFoster Botanical Garden is divided according to the following:

  • Lyon Orchid Garden – a collection of Old and New World orchid species
  • Main Terrace – the oldest part of the garden dating from 1853.
  • Middle Terraces – palms, aroids, heliconia and ginger plants.
  • Economic Garden – herb garden, spices, dyes, poisons and beverage plants.
  • Prehistoric Glen – primitive plants from around the world.
  • The Orchid Conservatory – blooming orchid display.
  • Exceptional Trees – 24 trees designated "exceptional" throughout the Garden

The gardens are very well taken care of, and you easily forget that you are almost in the heart of one of the busiest cities in the United States. The gardens cover 5.5 acres of land off Vineyard Boulevard and Nuuanu Avenue in Honolulu.

The history of the garden goes back to 1853 when the land was leased to a young German doctor, William Hillebrand by Queen Kalama. He built his home on the property, and being a botanist as well as a physician, he planted many trees that still remain in the gardens today. Later, the lot was sold to Captain Thomas and Mary Foster. They continued to maintain and develop the garden. Upon Mary’s death, the garden was bequeathed to the City and County of Honolulu. It was opened as a public garden in 1931, directed by Dr. Harold Lyon. Ten thousand new trees and plants were introduced by Dr. Lyon.

As we strolled through the gardens, I could not help but think it would be the perfect setting for a wedding. I learned that it is possible to have weddings and wedding photos there with a permit. They also offer guided tours and several times a year, school children get to enjoy this enchanting place.

I witnessed flowers and trees that I have never seen before, and had quite an educational and fascinating experience at the Foster Botanical Gardens. It is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation of Hawaii and well worth a look.


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:



Teddy Bear World Museum Hawaii

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Bears in Waikiki! There is a new hangout in Honolulu for teddy bear lovers (young and old alike). We recently visited the new museum with some of our grandchildren, and were very excited and amazed at all there was to see. As we approached the museum on Kalakaua Avenue, we were greeted by a huge smiling bear. We were able to take pictures of the grandchildren with him. None of the kids shied away from the cuddly teddy. He was very warm and friendly. Then we took an escalator up a floor to the displays. After paying a nominal fee, we were given a Scavenger Hunt to challenge us on our journey through the museum, with promises of cotton candy at the end of our hunt, if we indeed found all the items listed.

The idea for a Teddy Bear Museum originated in Korea. There are five in South Korea, created with the children in mind and the calming affect the bears have on people. The Teddy Bear Museum in Honolulu is the first one of its kind in the United States.  The five million dollar attraction takes up 20,000 square feet and features more than 800 teddy bears, many of which are animated. The cute and cuddly creatures are found playing, sleeping, dancing, playing sports and various other activities. It really is a delightful place for the family.

Sports Bears, Bear World Museum Hawaii, Photo by R. KongaikaExhibits featured different scenarios including 8 wonders of America, Save the Planet, APEC Bears, Dinosaur Park, Bears in Hawaii, and an Art Museum amongst others. Enchanting and intricate details are put into each display. In the eight wonders of America, we traveled from New York to Washington D.C., the Rocky Mountains, on to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and also Hollywood. Various bears participate in many sports, and outings with penguins, seals, otters and other friends.

Harley Bear, Bear World Museum Hawaii, Photo by R. KongaikaWe learned the history of Teddy Bears and also entered a theatre where Elvis Bear sang his favorite songs and wiggled as only Elvis can. The kids were enthralled with so much to take in. I thought the dinosaur exhibit was very interesting. I would not have thought to put bears together with dinosaurs! It was like mixing your worst nightmare with the typical antidote for many children’s fears.

Icebears, Bear World Museum Hawaii, Photo by R. KongaikaIn the Art Museum, you can find Mona Lisa Bear, The Bear Thinker statue, as well as other famous artwork bearified. You can even find Mr. Bean’s best friend, Teddy on display.

The displays are created to educate and entertain. The Save the Planet exhibit, in particular, helps children be aware of the endangered bears on the planet due to many current conditions, and how we can help to preserve them.

 Sumo Bear, Bear World Museum Hawaii, Photo by R. KongaikaSince the museum is in Hawaii, there are bears surfing, doing the hula, playing the ukulele, beating the drums and snorkeling. There were even bear mermaids! I could barely keep up with my grandchildren as they darted from one exhibit to the next. And, yes, we completed our scavenger hunt and got cotton candy at the end. It was fun watching the children and appreciating this unique family-friendly venue.

Ruth Elayne Kongaika was raised in the mainland, USA, and 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’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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