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:



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:



My Haunted Lagoon Experience, Hawaii

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

We live very close to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, which has a variety of activities during the year. You can learn about Tongans, Samoans, Tahitians, Hawaiians, Fijians, and other Polynesians all in one place. They have a vast lagoon that goes from one end of the center to the other on which you can take a canoe ride, and see all the villages along the way.

Creeps in the Lagoon, Polynesian Cultural Center in HawaiiI guess I thought I was too old to get scared, but discovered I was wrong. Last Halloween I went together with four of my grandchildren to the Haunted Lagoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, which has become an annual event. Unlike any spook alley I had ever experienced, this one took place on the water.

The canoes can carry approximately 35 people. An oarsman steers the rafts with a long pole as he stands on the deck. As we pulled away from shore and approached the first bridge, the grim reaper appeared overhead with a sign that said, “I would turn back if I were you”. The low bridges across the lagoon were draped with furry material, which hung down in strips and touched our heads and shoulders. It felt really creepy.

On our left after the first bridge, there was a woman standing on a small island with a white dress and long hair. A sinister voice told the story of the poor lady of the lagoon who had lost her lover and son in the lagoon. About this time the lady walked, and then then crawled on the water towards our raft (I'm still not sure how she did that). She then jumped into the lagoon and disappeared. It looked so real!

Lady Crawling on Water Polynesian Cultural Center in HawaiiEveryone in the raft was screaming and holding tight to the next person. My granddaughter was almost in tears. Just when we felt a little bit safe again, creatures appeared out of the water and reached into the canoe. There were monsters on the shore bending and twisting. Eerie music played and chilling sound effects made the whole experience more intense.

Scared Kids, Polynesian Cultural Center in HawaiiWhile going through another tunnel, huge hairy spiders dangled down towards us almost touching our heads. Children sang Ring Around the Rosies and mothers called out for their children. Ghosts flew overhead adding to the frightful environment. Suddenly, lights flickered on the water focused on a creature or a floating graveyard. Kudos to the Polynesian Cultural Center for an excellent haunted lagoon experience.

There is a milder keiki canoe ride for the children or for the faint of heart. The center has the Haunted Lagoon ride starting in late September and running through Halloween. To entertain guests who are waiting in line for their turn on the canoe ride, there are movies, games and entertainment.

People come from all over the islands travel to the North Shore to have their turn at this Haunted Lagoon Experience. It is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit. Polynesian Cultural Center has a ghostly cast of over 100 to make this an unforgettable experience.

The Haunted Lagoon has become Hawaii’s premier haunted attraction. Last year the Polynesian Cultural Center welcomed more than 44,000 guests in 20 days. Each year they choreograph a new show to keep kamaina (locals) and visitors entertained. It is definitely worth a visit.


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:



Leave Your Shoes at the Door

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Growing up with four seasons, we almost always kept our shoes (and sometimes socks) on outside and inside the house. Only on the hottest of days during the summer, did we go barefooted. So when our little family relocated to the South Pacific, I was curious to learn that it is customary to leave your shoes on the porch before entering a home. It took me quite a while to remember this tradition, often finding myself as the only one in the group with my shoes still on in the house and then apologizing profusely.

Leave your shoes at the doorIn Hawaii, where we now live, home owners often put little signs at the doors to remind guests to remove their shoes. There may be a little wood or metal rack specifically for storing shoes just outside of the front door. Most locals are aware that tourists may not be educated in this practice, and so in an effort not to offend them, they say “no need”.

My dear Dad came to stay with us for a while in Hawaii. He is of Scottish descent and has lived all his life in a colder climate. You rarely see him with bare feet, even in the house. He has very tender feet and does not even like the feel of sand on them. I did not force him to alter his routine while he stayed with us. My own feet have toughed a bit while living in the islands. Actually, I prefer to go bare footed and can hardly wait to take my shoes off when I have been away.

Then there is my husband, who was raised in the islands before going to school in a cold climate. He still can’t make up his mind whether to leave his shoes on or off, and I discover his shoes in the oddest places throughout the house! He told me that the first time he saw snow he thought it looked fun to run in and attempted it shoeless! He quickly learned that doing so was quite painful.

In the Fiji Islands, where we have visited, there are certain tribes who get the coals in the fire burning, and then show their bravery by walking on them unprotected. I suppose their calloused feet make it much easier, having gone without shoes most of their lives.

Fire Walking Ceremony South PacificIn some other countries (Asia), shoes are removed so as not to tear the straw floor covering. In Japan the word for outside shoes is “dosoku” meaning “soiled feet”. It is perceived as dishonorable when someone enters the home with outdoor shoes on. They have specific indoor shoes available for guests to wear. In some parts of the world

Since we have so many different cultures here in Hawaii, it is good to consider the owner of the home as you enter their abode. A telltale sign would be if there is a pile of shoes or slippers at the front door. That is what I look for when I pay a visit to someone I do not know well. Often I find a pair of attractive shoes that may actually fit me and wonder what would happen if they would notice if I left mine and took theirs (Just kidding)!

Shoes Sign HawaiiIn scripture, it tells of prophets removing their shoes when they are on “holy ground”. The same is expected in some mosques or chapels today. A person’s home should be considered their inner sanctum.  Consideration of a person’s customs and traditions shows respect and honor. It is always good to learn whether you need to take your shoes off at the front door. Aloha!

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: 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.


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:



Endless Pacific Bliss–Summertime Activities on Maui

It's the cool breeze coming in off of the waves as you approach the Pacific; the sounds of the birds as you make your way through the forest past the tumble of a secluded waterfall–these are the joys of a Maui summer. Whether you're coming from another hospitable climate or turning to the island shores to seek refuge from the cold, taking advantage of every waking minute is essential. With such a myriad of activities available to you, time is at a premium. While packing your itinerary will be the least of your worries, you'll want to escape the crowds, partake in some delicious authentic cuisine, and exercise your adventurous side–all before escaping back to the comforts of your resort. With efficiency and variety in mind, here are a few suggestions to make the most of your summer vacation on Maui's shores.Kaanapali beach Maui, Hawaii By InternetAge Traveler

Never Hit the Same Beach Twice

You've seen them on desktop backgrounds and dream sequences in films–they're the golden sands that continue to entice travelers from all over the world to Maui. You'll undoubtedly spend large chunks of your time soaking in the rays, but a daily change of scenery will open your eyes to the many different landscapes that make up the island's coast. Begin your day at Wailea Beach, just down the road from the Hotel Wailea and other summertime hot spots before escaping up the coast to Napili. Round the horn of the island to discover another wealth of possibilities.Wherever you wind up, you surely won’t be disappointed.

Maui Brewing Company By davemurfRefresh at Maui Brewing Company

If you're parched after a long day out, there’s no better place to refresh yourself than the legendary Maui Brewing Company. Not only do they champion a well-decorated beer list–they can cook a mean meal! Depending on your mood or the weather outside, pick one of their many brews that take full advantage of local tastes and flavors. If you're unable to choose, take the brew tour and end up with a sampler back in the brew pub, where you'll be able to whet your palate with a host of different ales and lagers.

Iao Valley, Maui, Hawaii By InternetAge TravelerHike To Your Heart's Content

It will almost certainly be hot if you're visiting during the summer. Swimming in the waves may feel like you're only respite from the heat,but the views of Maui are not to be ignored.Should you want to marvel in the vast stretches of luscious green landscapes and miles of ocean in every direction, gathering your group and going for a hike is the perfect way to steal your breath. Kualoa Point, which hugs the southern side of the island, will introduce you to some of the island's most remarkable lookouts, and isn’t nearly as strenuous as it looks.


Exploring more of Lana’i in Hawaii

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Last time, I wrote about my first experience on the sixth largest island in Hawaii, Lana’i. It was definitely an adventure, and a rejuvenating change from the bustling island of Oahu on which I live.

The Naupaka Flower Lanai, Hawaii Photo by R. KongaikaAs a plant lover, I was interested in some succulents and ferns I had not seen before. Also, there was a peculiar plant that had flowers with petals on only half of it. Our guide told us that this was the Naupaka plant. It has a sad and romantic legend that goes like this: A Hawaiian Princess named Naupaka fell in love with a man named Kaui. He was not of noble blood, and was forbidden from marrying royalty. Together they sought the help of a kahuna (wise man) who advised that they pray together. The answer they received from the Gods is that they could not stay together. Naupaka took a flower from her hair, tore it in half, and gave the other half to Kaui. The lovers separated, and the sorrowful earth bore flowers with only half of the petals, so their love would not be forgotten, and in hopes that one day they would be reunited.

As our party of five jeeps descended from the mountain top, we were revitalized from the breathtaking vistas and awareness of the gems the island of Lana’i had to offer. We then made our way to the Lana’i Cultural and Heritage Museum. There were pictures, maps and artifacts of the past, and a history line as it took us through the pineapple era, the sugarcane era, and the Christian influences on the island.Lana'i Culture Center Hawaii Photo by R. Kongaika

We had lunch at a little Mormon Chapel in town where we found a chameleon, heard some historical presentations, and ate some yummy grub.

Chameleon, Lana'i Hawaii Photo by R. KongaikaWe took a little drive through Lana’i City. Mostly it was made up of wooden houses with tin roofs, painted in an assortment of colors. There were no traffic lights, malls or crowds. You could understand how someone could enjoy a peaceful life on this laid back island. We were told that most of the residents work for the five-star resorts and golf courses developed on the island. The rest of them fish and grow root crops.    

There is a greenhouse at Hotel Lana’i with beautiful orchids, a photographer’s paradise. The orchids were not on our agenda, but here is a link to some of the orchids from Lana’i: I really want to return again to see them.

From there we made a mad dash to catch the ferry back to Maui. On the way we stopped at the Four Season Resort for a second and saw the marvelous grounds and fountain.

A company called Expeditions runs the ferry regularly from Lahaina, Mau’i to Lana’i every day. It was a very comfortable ride. They even have an air-conditioned cabin with soft seats and large windows for those that don’t mind cruising in an enclosed space. On the way over, in the early morning, we had journeyed in the seats at the top of the ferry, enjoying the fresh ocean breezes and splendid scenery.

Yacht at Harbor Manele Bay, Lana'i, Hawaii  Photo by R. KongaikaWe were told that at certain times of the year you can see humpback whales between Maui and Lana’i. During the summer, the whales are said to travel to cooler waters near Alaska. They come back around October and November. 

The island of Lana’i is mostly owned by one man, David H. Murdock, but it is now up for sale, if you want your own little island.

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:



In the Middle of the Sea on Lana’i

Guest Post: Ruth Elayne Kongaika

Ghost sightings are not uncommon on Lana’i, the six largest island of Hawaii. Perhaps that is why the population in 2011 has declined to only 3,102. Or, it just may be the lack of fresh water on the island. In any case, Lana’i is definitely worth consideration. I’ll tell you why.

Rugged cliffs on the side of Lanai, Hawaii  Photo by R. KongaikaOur excursion began in Lahaina, Maui, where we caught a ferry and traveled across the ‘Au’au Channel to Lana’i. The voyage took about 45 minutes, and it was calm and beautiful that early morning in May. As we approached the island, we could spot imposing sharp cliffs that make up much of the coastline of this volcanic island.

Our jeep convoy Lanai, Hawaii       Photo by R. KongaikaAs we approached the harbor, there were a few yachts, fishing boats and a smattering of tourists. After departing Manele Bay, our party rented five jeeps and began our journey to the Munro Trail headed for the top of the mountain.

Before we arrived at the trail, we crossed the Palawai Basin, which at one time was a pineapple plantation. This island also produced sugar cane for some time. This side of Lana’i is now arid and monotonous, except for long rows of Norfolk Island Pines. These beauties exist because of a ranch manager, George Munro. He discovered that these trees soak water out of fog and clouds, and produce much needed water for the crops. They were then planted across the island. Many of the pines have existed nearly 100 years.

Our mission was to reach the top of trail where you could see the expanse of the Palawai Basin. The dirt road wound through thick brush. The further up we got, the greener and more inviting it became. Although I admit I was a bit nervous at times when I peered down to see unforgiving drop offs, and noticed the driver looking down too!

Norfolk Pines Lanai, HawaiiMuch to my amazement, we passed three couples and one gentlemen hiking along the trail. I was informed by one of the guides that there are two five-star hotels on the island of Lana’i. This includes the Four Seasons Resort Lanai and the Lodge at Ko’ele.

Many sports enthusiasts travel to the island just to take the hiking challenge. There are also world-class golf courses designed by Jack Nicklaus. Surprises all around!

A little further up on the Munro Trail, muddy places appeared on the trail, which made the jeeps slip and slide. We went from dusty thick brush to tropical rain forests with ferns, eucalyptus and magnificent vistas. The first jeep had difficulty getting through the potholes and mud. After several tries, it was determined that we should leave our jeeps on the trail and walk the rest of the way up

One guide said it was five minutes up the hill, but about twenty minutes later, we finally reached our destination. Then we discovered the hike was well worth the effort.

Palawai Basin from the top of the mountain. Lanai, Hawaii Photo by R. KongaikaYou could see three islands from the top of the mountain, including Maui, Moloka’i, and The Big Island (Hawaii). It was incredible.

The Naupaka Flower Lanai, Hawaii Photo by R. KongaikaAfter a refreshing breather and a moment of meditation, while enjoying the gorgeous panorama, we sauntered down the hill to our jeeps.

I saw many plants that were unfamiliar to me.

There is also a legend that goes with the Naupaka flower. To be continued…..


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:


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