Monday, July 28, 2014

The Big Island of Hawai'i ~ Luau

Whenever we head to the Islands we always take a day that isn't physically exhaustive. As a photographer this is probably my hardest day. Fortunately, for me, my next trip will be different thanks to a little company called GoPro! (If you don't know what that is, go look it changes the world for photographers and water!) But, on this trip I didn't know about GoPro yet and on our relaxing day we enjoyed snorkeling and hanging out with the water animals that we found on our favorite hidden bay.
 Kahaluu Bay is our most favorite place to snorkel. It's a tiny crescent with two small shell beaches and lots of lava rock outcroppings. But under the water it's like your own private aquarium...with sea turtles!
 Lots of sea birds come to this bay as well for all the little fishes and bugs that swim and fly in and around the lava.
 But the one animal I'd never seen on all of my island trips was the Hawaiian Monk Seal. And for good reason. There are only about 1,000 of these endangered animals left here!
 The area of beach where this little guy decided to catch some rays was already taped off for some construction project so there were no people there. However they are very approachable animals...but that doesn't mean for you to get up on them or touch them. I was happy with my long lens in this case.
 But it's the sea turtles that we see here each and every time we visit that keep us coming back to this beach. You are not supposed to touch them due to the coating on their shells which protects them but this one kept swimming into me and knocking me over or making me trip.
 He actually hung out with me for quite awhile in the shallows while I admired the markings on his shell. I love the textures in this particular photo. 
Eventually he decided to head for deeper waters and he swam away but we had been hanging out together for over a half hour. I'm such a lucky girl!
 Lunch is always a good thing in the islands. Fresh food prepared with the local seasonings, fruits and in the local styles is always amazing. 
 The gardens at the hotel where we were staying, and with each hotel I've ever visited on the island, are lush and blooming. So take some time to just go out and wander your hotel grounds. You will be guaranteed to find something as beautiful as this heliconia!
 And if you get the chance, and you will have LOTS of chances, take a few moments to enjoy the ginger blooming all over the island. The smell is amazing!
 Lastly, while walking around and relaxing don't forget to LOOK UP! Not only will you catch some of the colorful birds and wacky natural formations but you will also see the gorgeous display of palm fronds. How stereo typically Hawaiian can you get?!
 And speaking of stereotypical Hawaii! How about a Luau? Yes, I know it's kitschy. I don't care. I don't go for the food (although if you get the chance the Friday night luau at Kona Village is the best one I've ever been to on my travels. This time KV was closed due to hurricane damage but it's working to get back open again by 2015!) It's always good food but, don't fool yourself, you are there for the show.
 Watching the performers is the highlight of my day. Like going to a Broadway show when you are New York City, a luau is a total must when you visit Hawaii. Just be prepared for the cost! A good one is going to be around the $100 mark. This is the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel and it cost us about $80 per person.
 Perched on the edge of the bay they have set up a very authentic looking Hawaiian village. Even though you know it's all set design it's still beautiful to see.
 The actors playing the Royal Family come in from the bay.
 Just like a Broadway show I love the pageantry! The colors, the costumes, the actors themselves make the show riveting!
 This is a typical Luau seating arrangement. Long tables simply set. You are shown to your table and everyone has a pretty great view of the night's entertainment.
 Most of the shows take you through Hawaiian history with the different cultures represented in costume and dance.
 But my favorite performer from this show was the Fire Dancer. He was simply amazing and seemed to have such a good time showing us how incredible he was with this torch!
 It truly is something magical. And, yes, it's still kitschy and you totally won't care. The performers are wonderful to watch, the announcers are always very entertaining and at least once in the show you will see something like this Fire Dancer and think "Whoa....!"
 And let's not forget that there are very pretty girls and very handsome guys up there performing. Most of the shows are modest in their costuming due to the fact that this is a family show. The women are usually wearing some sort of modest undergarment with their costume over it and the men are usually wearing some sort of biker shorts with their costume over them. 
But ending the day in Hawaii with this as your view? Life could definitely be harder!

Next week I'll be on location in Napa and Sonoma but the following week I'm going to finish up this trip the the Big Island with my favorite part of it. We'll head out to see the Painted Church and Pu'uhonua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. See you then!


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Big Island: Hawi and Pololu Valley Lookout

For the past two weeks I've been working in the Monterey, California area on a new series and I have TONS to share with you all over the next few months. When I travel like this I will often take 200 to 600 frames per day. It takes weeks of work to pair down 2 weeks of images down to the few that I share with you here. This past trip convinced me to write a travel book so I can share more of where I went, what I saw and what you can find in the beautiful state of California!

But today I'm taking you to the northern part of the Big Island of Hawaii. Often people get too wrapped up in getting to a destination and not what is along the way to the destination and when you are someplace like Hawaii you can end up missing a LOT if you don't veer off the beaten path now and then.

 Driving on the 19 heading North we saw this amazing colored bay and decided to try to find our way down to it. We didn't find a way but did find something wonderful...Puako!

  So we hung a left and headed down into Puako and found one of the cutest "villages" yet! We stopped at the "quaint" General Store with it's lovely architecture and got a huge surprise. It's actually less like a mini mart and much more like a real grocery store inside! Happily we were able to get cans of POG (passionfruit, orange, guava juice) and some snacks and continued exploring.

  Everywhere we travel there are always kitties along the way. I simply loved this "eyeliner" kitty who really thought she should be fed again even though we were told she was just fed an hour before!LOL!

 We headed down to the "Beach Access", of which there is plenty, and found a local who directed us into a small parking area and a great place to access the water.

 While we didn't find much "beach" that was sand we did find great bay views and lots of lava formations. The local told us that she often swims with the sea turtles there and that the bay is a gentle current so easy to swim in. We had gone snorkeling earlier in the day and so were not prepared to go again so soon but made notes to definitely come back here on our next trip!

Just walking the area was beautiful. I found these old bleached tree roots that were captured in the lava flow and petrified. Too cool!

 The other thing we found in bloom in Puako were these Flame trees. The flowers are just gorgeous and, in September, they are in bloom all over the island. Think "cherry tree" only with these red blossoms all over it! Gorgeous!

 We kept driving up to the little town of Hawi. It is truly a "one horse" town so when you arrive you will be tempted to stop at the first restaurant you see. We resisted that urge and went to the end of the street where we found Zest Kitchen! Sadly, I found out today that this is now closed. It's really hard to make a go of it with a restaurant, especially when it's in competition with the "big boys" in town. SIGH. I'm still going to share with you the food simply because, if you take the time to look, you will find more like this in the islands.
 Caprese salad is a true weakness of mine. If it's on the menu then it's on my plate. I ordered some for the table and we devoured it! Fresh tomatoes from the Zest gardens out back, fresh basil picked from the plants right in front of us and local mozzarella! YUM!
 This was my first Cubano so I couldn't tell you if it was "authentic" or not but it sure was delicious! Seriously amazing eats here and I'm really sad to hear it's gone.
From Hawi to the Lookout it is a pretty and winding drive. Take the time to take in the views. This is the pastureland section of the Big Island. Here is where most of the beef is grown and here is where you will find some of the best steak in the world. When you get done at the Lookout just hang a left onto the 250 and follow it down to Waimea and the Parker Ranch. This is another way to head back South to Kailua so it's definitely not out of the way and definitely worth the stop if you love a good steak!
 Once you get to the Lookout you will find a teeny parking lot and lots of cars parked up the small lane to the Lookout. Park where you can but always keep a look out for the horses that are pastured there. SO friendly!
 The view is world famous and, as you can see, for good reason. This is a great spot for that family photo you wanted to take in Hawaii!
But if you are hikers then there is a great trail down to the black sand beach. It's a strenuous hike though, so be warned that the climb back up is a rough one.
 We did take that left at 250 and drove down through Waimea to Kailua. Still stuffed from our wonderful lunch at Zest Kitchen's we stopped only for a drink and kept driving but, in the past, we have stopped for some of that famous Parker Ranch beef. You will enjoy the drive back into Kailua-Kona. Such lovely views from there.
 Getting married in Hawaii is very popular and it's not unusual to see a Bride and Groom enjoying their first moments of wedded bliss or, like this couple, having their photo taken in this tropical paradise.
Fittingly enough, this was our sunset that night. Quite the stereotype of a Hawaiian Sunset it surely was. As mentioned in a previous post, the world stops to watch the sunset here. We arrived about a half hour before the expected drop and as we sat on the wall in downtown Kailua-Kona the area filled up. Everyone just wanting to soak up the beauty till the rays had all disappeared. There really is no better way to end each day.

Next week we'll head out to a Luau!