Visitors watch land alteration daily at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
I first visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park not long after Kilauea began erupting. That event began in 1983, and one subdivision had already been engulfed in lava. Street signs sticking out of the rock made for good images. It made news then, and still does. Videographers still show up whenever lava from the world’s most active volcano again begins to cascade into the Pacific Ocean. The dramatic footage of red-hot molten lava oozing into the sea and sending up giant steam clouds makes for good television, but seeing the current lava-less activity is also watching a compelling natural force in action.
I’ve returned to the park several times since then, and it changes more frequently than any other major national park. Kilauea’s eruptions from the east rift zone have been constant 24/7 for some 18 years, adding over 568 acres to the southern shore of the Big Island of Hawaii and by now covering 8.7 miles of highway with lava as deep as 115 feet — way over the tops of the signs by now.
Kilauea never sleeps — sometimes pouring out lava, sometimes not. There is no current lava flow but rather a powerful steam plume rising up from a lava lake. From a distance, it looks like an enormous geyser by day and a glowing cloud by night. The US Geological Survey posts a daily update on the status of thermal and volcanic activity in the park.
In addition to adding new land and changing the park’s acreage, the Park Service has to change where people may visit and from where they can look out over current volcanic action. Roads have been obliterated and one road was removed and replaced by a trail and boardwalk past steaming pits and cracks. Currently, Crater Rim Drive is closed between Jaggar Museum and the Chain of Craters Road junction due to volcanic activity.
The park is more than volcanoes and lava, of course. It contains a tropical rainforest, has one of the highest rates of endemic species anywhere in the world (endemic meaning it is found there and nowhere else) and when measured from the sea floor to the top of Maune Kea, it is the highest base-to-summit mountain on the planet. For these reasons, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was lucky enough to join Rob Pacheco, founder and president of Hawaii Forest & Trail, on a twilight tour in the park. He shared so much knowledge, my notebook is so full and my time is so constricted right now (I have to be heading out for dinner in 45 minutes and have yet to shower) that I can’t come up with a coherent post right now. But I’ll try when I have a bit more time to decipher my hasty notes and write a (hopefully) coherent post.
South Bay and East Bay travelers have easy new connection to Hawaii –with no red eye involved
The flag airline of the 49th state has started flying another route to the 50th. Alaska Airlines inaugurated its first-ever nonstops between both San Jose (March 27) and Oakland (March 28), and Kauai this week. The three-times-a week service using Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport is more convenient for Silicon Valley/South Bay-based travelers than San Francisco International (SFO) . San Jose to Lihue flights operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, departing at 7:50 a.m. and arriving at Kauai’s Lihue Airport at 10:29 a.m. The return departs Lihue on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2:20 p.m. and arrives in San Jose at 10:40 p.m.
Similary, East Bay-based travekers can now use Oakland International Airport instead of SFO. Flights from Oakland depart on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:50 a.m. and arrive at Lihue at 10:29 a.m., with return service on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Friday, and Sundays at 2:20 p.m., arriving in Oakland at 10:40 p.m.
Both routes use Boeing 737-800 aircraft seating 157 passengers, with 16 seats in First Class and 141 seats in Coach Class. And in addition to passengers who would rather avoid SFO, both provide alternative to the usual eastbound red eyes from Hawaii to the Mainland.
Tsunami damage on the Big Island of Hawaii is trivial compared the the destruction suffered in Japan, but tourist sites impacted
Of the major Hawaian islands, I especially like the Big Island. The two major cities, Hilo and Kailua-Kona, feel like real towns that welcome tourists rather than tourist towns. Native Hawaiian antiquities, including petroglyphs etched into coal black lava beds, like present-day visitors to a distant past. Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and marveling at Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, fishing, watersports, scuba diving, hiking, golf, cycling and just relaxing are wonderful pastimes.
I’ve been to the Big Island four times — or is it five? — and there’s always something else to see or do. The worst natural disaster to hit Hawaii in a long time was Hurricane Iniki, which slammed into Kaua’i on September 11, 1992 — a prophetic date for bad things. It was the first hurricane to hit the state in a decade, but it was a doozy. High winds caused extensive damage in Kauaʻi, with 1,421 destroyed, 63 swept away by the storm surge and wave action,nore than 7,000 people were left homeless and six lost their llives. Additionally, 5,152 homes were severely damaged, while 7,178 received minor damage. South coast hotels and condominiums took the brunt of the storm and many were severely damaged as well.
When the tsunami unleashed by Japan’s recent earthquake rolled across the ocean at jet-plane speed, I wondered whether Hawaii would be in its path. Reports came out that the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii had suffered some damage — trivial, of course, compared to the great destruction in Japan. Today, the New York Times ran a piece called “Disaster May Deal Blow to Tourism in Hawaii,” citing the pre-earthquake decline in visitation from Japan in the past 15 years. Still, I wondered had happened to the islands as a result of this latest natural disaster thousands of miles away, and today as well, the Big Island Visitors Bureau sent out the following update:
“Last Friday, Hawai’i Island, especially the Kona District, sustained some damage from the tsunami generated by an earthquake near Japan, but nearly all hotels, businesses and attractions are open, tourism officials said.
“On Friday, Marach 11, a tsunami hit Hawai’i following a destructive 9.0 magnitude earthquake near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. Some hotels and businesses along the Kona and Kohala coasts were damaged by wave surge and debris, but most are open and are welcoming guests.
“Two resorts that remain closed are Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, which plans to reopen on April 30, and Kona Village Resort. Phone lines at Kona Village are now working. Kailua Pier was deemed structurally sound, and all charters that normally operate from the Pier, including Body Glove, Atlantis Submarines and Jack’s Diving Locker, are operating as usual. The Norwegian Cruise Lines’Pride of America cruise ship will stop in Kona on Wednesday, March 23 as planned.
“King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is also open, and guest rooms were not damaged. However, the lu’au area, ground floor public areas including the lobby and Kona Beach Restaurant, were flooded by seawater, sand and debris. Cleanup efforts are well underway, and several retail stores have reopened. The swimming pool and Billfish Bar are open, and the cleanup team has removed all of the carpet from the lobby and replaced all of the furniture. The award-winning Island Breeze Lu’au will resume this Sunday, March 20.
“While the sands at Kamakahonu Beach were mostly swept away, Kona Boys have pitched in to tidy up the coastal area fronting King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Kona Boys are continuing to offer outrigger canoe rides, stand-up paddlesurfing (SUP), kayaking and snorkeling on the calm waters of Kailua Bay from their beach hut at Kamakahonu. Hulihe’e Palace in historic Kailua Village is temporarily closed, but two upcoming outdoor events on palace grounds are still happening as scheduled. This Sunday’s band concert is confirmed, as is the annual palace fundraiser, Day at Hulihe’e, on Saturday, March 26.
“Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Guides have resumed charters aboard Hula Kai and Fair Wind II from Keauhou Bay, and Keauhou Pier was not damaged, although Fair Wind’s check-in facility will be undergoing repair. Check-ins are being handled at a modified location nearby. The company reports that the north part of Kealakekua Bay near the Captain Cook Monument where the Fair Wind II moors for its popular snorkeling trip, has excellent visibility.
“The National Park Service reports that two West Hawai’i parks have partial closures due to tsunami damage. Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is open on a very limited basis from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The only areas that are open are the main paved parking lot, the visitors center, amphitheater, and a small portion of the Royal Grounds in front (makai) of the amphitheater. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park is now open normally except for a small stretch of coastal trail at the southern portion of the park between ‘Ai’ōpio Fishtrap and ‘Aimakapā Fishpond.
” At ‘Anaeho’omaluBay in the Waikoloa Beach Resort, the tsunami surge cleaved the beach in half, and waves breached the lava rock walls at Kings’ Pond. The public beach access and parking lot at the south end are closed until further notice. The public can access the northern portion of the beach at the Kolea condominium community. Ocean Sports’ catamaran Sea Smoke resumed charters at ‘Anaeho’omalu today. No damage has been reported at any of the island’s renowned golf courses. There were no deaths or serious injuries reported in Hawai’i from Friday’s tsunami. All airports are open and flights are on time, and all roads are open.”
This all amounts to good news for visitors. There’s more too. Though subsequently damaged but restoring quickly, the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai was awarded Five Diamonds from AAA, and transportation from the mainland to the Big Island is about to a lift from Continental Airlineswith two new direct flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Hilo. The daily nonstop service is scheduled to begin on June 9 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Hilo International Airport (ITO), and June 11 from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to ITO.
Visitors now hear greeting and farewell in Hawaiian first and English second
“Aloha e nā makamaka kipa mai i ke Kahua Mokulele Kau’āina O Honolulu! E nā ‘ōhua e ha’alele ana, no ‘oukou ka maluhia o ka holo ‘ana a ho’i hou mai. E nā malihini i hō’ea mai me nā kama’āina pu kekahi, ke aloha o ka ‘āina iā ‘oukou a pau” are the words with which travelers through Honolulu International Airport are now being greeted every half-hour, whether coming, going or changing planes. It is followed by the English translation, “Welcome to the Honolulu International Airport. If you’re headed out, travel safely and come back soon. Kama’āina, welcome home. And if you’ve just arrived, we hope that you enjoy your stay in our islands!”
Pretty standard stuff, messagewise, but a big cultural deal in an island group — once a nation of its own — that is a true melting pot but where indigenous culture has been on the upswing for several years. The debut of the announcement was reason enough for Governor Neil Abercrombie and VIP representatives from the Hawaiian community and visitor industry to come to the airport yesterday.
“Today is a turning point, it’s about resetting who we are as a people place and culture,” Mike McCartney of the Hawaii Tourism Authority was quoted as saying,” Today is the day that Hawaiian language began a new era in Hawaii,” added the Governor. Also part of the “new era” is a videotaped message in the Hawaiian language for every airline that flies to the state. Native Hawaiians say the move gives a stronger connection between the tourists and the Hawaiian community. The timing ot the linguistic shift coincides with the birthday month of Princess Ruth Ke’elikōlani, a member of Hawaii’s royal family and a strong proponent of perpetuating the Hawaiian language. The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported it like this: “More than a century after native Hawaiians were made to feel unwelcome for speaking their language, the state will begin greeting airport visitors in the language of the host culture.”
How appropriate to initiate this when a Hawaiian-born President resides in the White House.
Sea-level obelisk can be seen easily from the sea — or step by step on a hiking trail
Captain James Cook, the 18th century English navigator who met his end on February 14, 1779, at Kealekehua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii. Cook’s Wikipedia entry is worth reading. An unhappy Valentine’s Day for the adventurer who on his third epic voyage. On previous trips to Hawaii, my husband have seen the Cook monument from across the bay, and my son and snorkeled very close it. It was time to approach it one more way — on foot.
Monday was a cool day (for Hawaii). In fact, Lihue on Kauai registered a record low for the high temperature of the day: 61 degrees. What better day for a sea-level hike? The trail to the Captain Cook monument is off a side road north of the eponymous town of Captain Cook. The unmarked trailhead is across from three tall palm trees (below).
Cars park along the road, which reeks from sewer pipe vents along the way. A few steps and the sewerage strench is mercifully gone. The rail is walled in dense greenery, and rooster and wild bird seranades accompanied us as we descended between old sugarcane fields with trailside trees here and there. The cane fields give way to open woods and then to stark lava flows, which absorb the heat and blast it back at hikers. The current Kiluea erputon is on the other side of the island.
The vegetation thickens near the shore, where sea kayakers pull up. Authorities are concerned about damage to corral, and kayaking is probably going to be banned soon from Kelalekahua Bay.
A short spur trail leads to the monument, which is officially on British soil to this day. Note to the Queen: Your Majesty, send someone to repaint the monument. It’s peeling.
Here is the inscription on the base of the obelisk. A couple of other, small commemorative plaques have been placed around the platform too.
The hike isn’t too long (a tad over two miles each way, with about a 1,300 elevation difference), and there certainly is a lot of oxygen at sea level. However, the heat and the humidity made it feel much longer. In fact, coming up was miserable and ennervating. No matter what the thermometer registered, it felt beastly hot — at least for people like us who live in a low-humidity place. But even as we took sweaty step after sweaty step, it was the least we could do to recognize one of the important early navigators who began mapping the world as we know it. I won’t get into the political aspects of these voyages, “discoveries” and conquests. I’m just honoring the curiosity and courage required to make the months-long voyages to unknown places.
One short delay and one long one from Denver to Maui via San Francisco
I have a refrigerator magnet showing a woebegone Charle Brown saying, “Someday, my ship will come in, and with my luck, I’ll be at the airport.”
Just call me Charlie Brown.
Dateline: San Fransciso International Airport, May 15, 2009, 4:15 pm. PDT
United Flight 415 – DEN-SFO Boeing 767, fully loaded,departed from Denver 40 minutes but landed in San Francisco on time. So far, so good. We arrived at Gate 87, which is the same gate our Maui flight was departing from. Hooray, we thought. They can’t lose our luggage — assuming it was on our plane to begin with.
United Flight 37 – SFO-OGG
Boarded aircraft, scheduled to depart at 1:1o p.m.. Sat and sat and sat. Captain announced a “small drip” from the left engine cowling. Mechanics going to check it out, and “we should be on our way shortly.” Hah!
Flight attendants passed out water and started the movie. Then we were told to get off the plane with all our carry-ons. They didn’t say, “change of aircraft,” but that is what it turned out to be. We moved from Gate 87 to 85, where eventually, a smaller aircraft pulled up. United started prospecting for volunteers to leave tomorrow (free roundtrip ticket, free hotel in San Fransciso). We’re going to a wedding tomorrow so couldn’t accept.
Rescheduled Flight 37 was supposed to depart at 4:00, then 5:00 and now 5:30. It is supposed to arrive in Maui at 7:40. United still needs to offload 14 people and asked for volunteers willing to “leave in 20 minutes” for Honolulu and transfer to an interisland flight from there, arriving in Maui at 9:00-something p.m. And bags would not be transferred but would be waiting at the airport. In theory.
Right now, I have a confirmed seat on Flight 37, while my husband — according to the status monitor — is #12 on the list awaiting seat assignments. If we only have one seat, I’ll give mine to him and try to join him tomorrow. It’s his brother whose wedding we are going to.
Car rental firms jack up rates when using AmEx points
I use frequent flyer miles for flights whenever possible, expedient and/or wise, but I’ve been hoarding American Express points for car rentals for a long time. We are soon going to Hawaii — first to Maui for a wedding and then to the Big Island for a vacation. Two rental car opportunities seemed like a good use of points. I started with the Big Island, because that will be the longer stay.
I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the Avis website trying to figure out what promotion/coupon codes I could use for Avis, so I finally phoned. The AmEx system is that I could redeem points for several coupons to be used toward (but not in full payment for) the rental, which for one week with Avis was going to be more than $450. I was too shocked to write down the exact quote, but it was high. The reservation agent told me that I would be better off not using the coupon at all. He quoted an economy car rate of $242 for seven days, with unlimited mileage and no extra charge for the second driver. Sold.
Then he told me about a service that Avis offers which would net me a $20 gas coupon and 5 percent cash back on the rental. I asked whether this happens automatically when renting, and instead of answering, he switched me to a fast-talking sales type who “upgraded” the service which I could try for a month for “only one dollar” and “cancel any time.” The carrot he dangled over the telephone was a $20 gas coupon plus that 5 percent rebate, but first, he said, I had to sign up. When I balked, he told me that he “has been authorized” to raise the gas coupon to $40. I told him my name, address, etc., but when he asked for my date of birth, I refused and said I wasn’t interested in providing personal information. He huffed, “I’m not asking for your Social Security number.” I said I didn’t want to provide any more personal information, so he hung up on me.
Avis indeed seems to be trying harder — trying harder to sell a “service” that I didn’t really want (although a $40 gas coupon would be nice). No matter what they tried, they succeeded in annoying me. Because I knew that the AmEx coupons would not make sense for Maui either, I simply made the reservation online and ignored the “offer” for the same service that the phone folks tried to force on me.
Hawaii Supreme Court decision scuttles high-speed, interisland ferry service
I cheered when I first heard about the Hawaii Superferry. It promised fast, reasonably priced passenger and vehicle transportation connecting the islands. That seemed like good news for both visitors and locals. Besides, I just plain like ferries. But when I heard the backstory and side effects of this service, I had mixed feelings. To borrow a phrase from Peter Pan, I still believe in ferries. They are efficient mass transportation, but there were disturbing aspects to this one.
The $85 million “Alakai” had problems from the beginning. Inspection delays. Environmental concerns about the big high-speed catamaran’s interference with humpback whale migration. Local protesters on Maui and Kauai — some on surfboards and traditional outrigger canoes — who objected that an additional 866 people a day could land on their shores, adding to traffic and overdevelopment problems. The 2008 spike in fuel costs. Rudder cracks. Unexpected vulnerability to rough winter seas. Legal challenges because of flawed or missing environment impact studies. Ridership that was less than one-quarter of projections. The list goes on.
The “Alakai” had been scheduled to begin service on August 28, 2007, and finally took its maiden voyage on December 13. It lasted just over 15 star-crossed months. It was supposed to begin service on August 28, 2007, and finally took its maiden voyage on December 13. On Monday, the Hawaiian Supreme Court ruled that Act 2, a November 2007 state law permitting high-speed ferry service to commence before the environmental impact study study was completed, to be unconstitutional. The case was sent back to Circuit Court, but Hawaii Superferry president and CEO Tom Fargo threw in the towel, laid off all employees and after one farewell trip to return all vehicles to their islands of origin, pulled the plug on this service.
“We are hugely disappointed with the Supreme Courts decision that Act 2 is unconstitutional. After a year of operations, including a successful winter season, we looked forward to the upcoming spring break with great energy and enthusiasm. The problem before us today is there appears to be no short-term solution to this ruling. To conduct another EIS, even with the work done to date, and move it through legal review might take a year or so. Other options don’t provide the certainty necessary to sustain a business. As a result, we are going to have to go out and find other employment for ‘Alakai,’ for now. Obviously, this is not even close to our preferred outcome. We have believed from the start and continue to believe that there is a clear and unmet need for an Inter-Island High Speed Ferry System for the state. My hope, our hope, is that the conditions will eventually be such that we can realize that vision in Hawaii.”
When I heard the news, I was a little glad and a little sad. I’m happy for islanders on Maui and Kauai, and I’m happy for the humpbacks. But I’m sad about a little trip I won’t ever take that sounded splendid when everything went well. The “Alakai” is reportedly available, so if you know anyone who can use a 340-foot-long catamaran, have them call Fargo. He has one he’d like to lease out or perhaps sell.
Visitors are reminded of President-Elect Barack Obama’s Hawaiian heritage
In June 2007, when Barack Obama was a fast-rising star on the US political landscape, I was in Hawaii and took a fabulous, fascinating Hole in the Wall Food Tour that led to the real, multi-cultural mosaic of Honolulu. You can read about the tour here. In that post, I didn’t mention that as we were driving back to the the highrises of Waikiki, Matthew pointed to a Baskin-Robbins dipping store and said that Obama had worked there as a teenager. Then, we didn’t stop to take a picture. Now, perhaps the Hole in the Wall tour includes a pilgrimage to that dipping store too.
Mainlanders have made much of of his African-American roots, but in Honolulu, he’s still considered a local. Now, Hawaii Convention & Visitors Bureau, which promotes the state’s tourist interests, is pointing out just how Hawaiian the former senator from Illinois and soon-to-be president of the United States is — and the information the bureau is disseminating even references the Baskin-Robbins that Matthew pointed out. The CVB writes:
BARACK OBAMA’S HAWAII
“You can’t really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii.” ~ Michelle Obama
Hawaii will always be home for President-elect Barack Obama. There can be no doubt that growing up in this idyllic, multicultural setting was a major influence in shaping who Obama is today.
KAMAAINA: LOCAL AT HEART The Hawaiian word kamaaina means someone who is native born or who has lived in Hawaii for some time. When Barack Obama returns to Hawaii with his family, he comes as a kamaaina, a local who knows where to go, where to eat and what to do. Here are a few places Obama has visited on his trips back to Oahu:
FOOD: • Plate lunch – Like most locals, Obama frequents the restaurants of Kapahulu on the outskirts of Waikiki. He’s been known to get a local style plate lunch from the Rainbow Drive-In and the 24-hour Oahu mainstay, Zippy’s. • Shave Ice – The Obama family likes to cool off with a shave ice, the local version of a snow cone. Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore is a famous shop and spots like Waiola Shave Ice in Kapahulu are popular with locals.
OHANA: BARACK OBAMA’S FAMILY Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 at the Kapiolani Hospital for Women & Children in the city of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Honolulu is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population and it was here at the University of Hawaii that Barack’s father and mother, Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham, met.
Raised in Hawaii until he was six, Obama spent four years in Indonesia after his mother remarried. Obama returned to Hawaii at age ten to attend the prestigious Punahou School, where Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, and golf phenom Michelle Wie also attended. Far from a Presidential hopeful, Obama dreamed of becoming a pro basketball player, playing on the state championship basketball team.
Obama lived with his maternal grandfather and grandmother, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, a few blocks from school in the neighborhood of Makiki, just ten minutes away from Waikiki. He spent his youth enjoying picnics at the scenic Puu Ualakaa State Park near his home and Kapiolani Park in Waikiki as well as body surfing at Sandy Beach on the eastern tip of Oahu. He even worked at a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream on South King Street that still exists today.
Obama continued on to Columbia and Harvard Law but made frequent visits back to see his ohana, or family, in Hawaii. His mother, who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Hawaii, died of cancer in 1995. More recently, Obama’s grandmother “Toot,” short for tutu (Hawaiian for grandmother), passed away in Hawaii just one day before Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States.
Beyond Hawaii’s natural beauty, the islands are a place of incredible diversity. Dating back to plantation days, Hawaii has been home to a multicultural mix of people. It is this culture of acceptance and aloha that has had a profound affect on Barack Obama and will continue to influence him in the future.
“What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii.” ~ Barack Obama
In the wake of Aloha’s demise, Mokulele Airlines set to fly with larger aircraft
Mokulele Airlines of Hawai’i will begin flying 70-seat Embraer 170 jets on November 19, 2008. The two-class cabin will have large windows, comfortable seating with extra armrest room at the elbow, wider aisles and overhead bins nearly 30 percent larger than standard in most narrow-body aircraft to accommodate large carry-on bags.
Republic Airways Holdings, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is operating Mokulele Airlines. This airline holding company owns Chautauqua Airlines, Republic Airlines and Shuttle America. I just flew Chautauqua, operating in Texas as a Continental commuter partner, from Houston to Midland-Odessa and from El Paso back to Houston. Previously, Mesa Airlines operated smaller Cessnas for Mokulele.
After all the airline failures I’ve written about in recent months, I am happy — really happy — to report on improved air service, especially in Hawaii, which really depends on reliable air service. The carrier’s phone number is 808-426-7070.
Award-winning travel blog. Colorado-based Claire Walter shares travel news and first-hand destination information from around the corner, around the country and around the world.