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Planning a visit to Kauai? We regularly add news and information about events, activities, and places to see on The Garden Isle.

About The Author

Sheila Heathcote has lived in Hawaii since 1986. She's a published author on the topic of Kauai and the owner of Hale O Nanakai Bed & Breakfast.

Kauai's Sights, Activities, & Events


Lighten Up, Seven Ways to Kick the Suffering Habit by Deborah Duda

Need a new book to read? Well, here is one that is sure to get you thinking!

A practical guide to increasing the joy in our daily lives by healing the suffering habit.


KAUA’I, Hawai’i: Ask yourself, “When was the last time I felt joyful?” If the answer is not “Today”, reading Lighten Up, Seven Ways to Kick the Suffering Habit will open a door in your life. 

Part memoir, part exposé, Lighten Up is not a book for sissies. It takes courage to acknowledge the sadness and losses in our lives, let them go, and reclaim our joy.

Suffering is the least recognized, most widespread, most pernicious addiction of our time, according to the author. We live in a world where angst is prevalent and, for many, even fashionable.

Most of humanity believes suffering is inevitable. While feeling emotional pain is unavoidable as we make peace with the often-profound changes in our lives, suffering –- pain prolonged -- is optional. Lighten Up exposes the severity of the suffering habit and shares practical, and often fun, options for changing our limiting ideas and behaviors so we can live more light-heartedly.

“We are hardwired for bliss, both physical and divine,” concluded Candice Pert, Ph.D., after thirty years of research as a Georgetown University School of Medicine research professor and a National Institute for Mental Health section chief.

Lightening up is the greatest gift we can give to our families, our communities, and our world.  Being a profoundly contented person who feels a joyful kinship with all of life is the major work of a lifetime. 

Lighten Up is available on Amazon and Kindle, at http://www.amazon.com/Lighten-Up-Seven-Suffering-Habit/dp/1475263783


Jim Denny -- For the love of Kauai's Birds

Jim Denny, an avid bird watcher and photographer has been hiking into the Alakai Swamp for more than 30 years  to get the award-winning photos of native bird featured on a multitude of media about Kauai. 

I worked with him at Kauai Veteran's Memorial Hospital, when I was a traveling nurse and he was a lab technologist. In fact I burned up the brakes of his old station wagon on one of my first trips down the mountain coming from Koke'e State Park.

Denny offers birding tours of Kauai that are unsurpassed, and I can not recommend anyone better to take the avid bird enthusiast to the far corners of the island.

All photos are by Jim Denny 

Excerpted from Jim Denny's website http://www.kauaibirds.com/index.htm  ALL PHOTOS BY JIM DENNY

The Hawaiian island of Kauai offers the visiting birder many opportunites to add species to his or her life list. More than 80 species of birds are present on this Garden Island. In addition to Hawaii's famous native forest birds and wetland birds, there is a great variety of easily seen introduced birds and seabirds.

This site (http://www.kauaibirds.com/index.htm) is designed to help you identify the birds of Kaua'i as well as birds you may encounter on visits to other Hawaiian islands. The images on this site were photographed with a Nikon D2H and D300. The video on this site was filmed with a Canon GL2 and XHA1. All are the work of videographer & photographer Jim Denny and may not be used without permission.

Jim has been photographing the birds of Hawaii for more than 35 years. His articles and images have appeared in many outstanding publications, including Audubon, Smithsonian, and National Geographic magazines.

Jim is available to guide small groups (4 or less) in search of endemic forest birds. He is a 40 year resident of the island. In addition to numerous birding groups, he has served as a guide for BBC London, NHK Japan, and National Geographic photographers/videographers. He has a 4x4 vehicle for easier access to trail heads that comfortably seats 4 passengers. Please contact for availability and tour details. For those not interested in securing his services, he is happy to give birding suggestions.

Jim has written two books and produced two videos about Kauai's birds. (Photos by Jim Denny)

For tours and additional information, contact Jim Denny at 









What guests are saying about Hale O Nanakai B&B

I have never posted an actual review about the B&B on my website, but the review below was so incredibly special and uplifting to me, I decided to share it with the world.

A million thanks to my guests, my employees, my website readers and everyone who has had a hand in helping me make Hale O Nanakai what it is today!

"The perfect place to get away!”

5 of 5 stars
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 27, 2013 on Trip Advisor

"We took a two day hiatus from our resort up in Pinceville to stay at the Hale O Nanakai B&B. Located on the south side of the island in a neighborhood with sweeping views of the coastline, it doesn't get any better or closer to home than this! If you're looking to tour the National Tropical Botanic Gardens, the Waimea canyon, take advantage of the unique, artisan shopping in Hanapepe, or spend some time at the south's incredible beaches, Hale O Nanakai is ideally situated in the middle of the goings on. You can even zip up to Lihue very easily. 

Sheila is a fantastic hostess - prepared for anything and has all the knowledge you need to do any of the magnificent activities on the island. She promptly greeted us when we arrived, and showed us our rooms on the second floor - explaining the breakfast spread, and all of the amenities available to us such as umbrellas, beach toys and really, anything that you could ever possibly imagine you would need for an outing on the island - rain or shine, beach or rainforest. She also spent some time with us, offering us a hiking book and some really great maps, with personal advice as to the activities we had planned. Going further, she even printed out the menu for both The Beach House restaurant which we had expressed interest in, as well as a local gluten-free bakery for my Mom. Personal attention to the details? Check!

As I mentioned, we stayed on the top floor and booked the Kahili Suite and the adjoining Maile Room. We were fortunate enough to have the entire floor to ourselves which included an extra bathroom in the main area, beautiful living room, dining room and kitchen, as well as a huge porch with lots of places to view the fantastic view of the sea. The Kahili Suite is an intimate room with incredibly soft linens and pillows - plenty of room to stretch out. With a private bath and vanity, it was perfect for my husband and I. The adjoining Maile Room was perfect for my Mom - a single bedroom, also with plenty of room to stretch out, very comfortable. We were all very happy to finally have great showers, as our resort up north did not have the greatest showers with water pressure - no problems here, though! The main areas of the top floor are stunning, with many unique and interesting accents such as trinkets, fresh flowers, (heliconias) and local books galore. We really enjoyed sitting at the couch and flipping through the many books Sheila has - from botanical books to Hawaiian history, to hiking, to Hawaiian inspired comics. We also enjoyed eating breakfast with the fabulous view, and playing cards in the evening at the dining room table. I would also like to mention a very important point, free internet access. Not just free internet access, but GOOD internet access. Yay!

The morning breakfasts were more than ample for the three of us - offering almost everything you can imagine or ever want. Bagels, bread, cream cheese, butter, juice, milk, *amazing* coffee, teas, 3 different kinds of cereal, fresh fruit accented with flowers, (white plumerias) yogurt...I could go on. As an added touch, because it was noted that we were staying for our anniversary, Sheila and her staff provided champagne and a very nice card to my husband and I, it was wonderful! We also really loved the dishes - very Hawaiian, featuring red Anthuriums and bamboo accents. Neat!

There is a reason that Hale O Nanakai is rated highly not only on Yelp, but on Trip Advisor as well. Sheila has created a simple, elegant, comfortable balance of accommodations that are truly a pleasure to enjoy. I can only hope that one day I will come back to
Kauai, and if I do, I will certainly spend some time here again, as it was one of the highlights of our vacation. Thank you for everything Sheila!





Upper photos show the Upstairs Traditional B&B; last two photos depict lower level "Laka's Garden" 2 room apartment with full kitchen and Welcome Basket 


Ni'ihau Day at the Makauwahi Cave, April 6

A treasure trove of science, ecology, discovery and wonder on Kauai's South Shore

Some of the greatest living artisans of the fabled Ni`ihau shell lei will be at the cave Saturday, April 6, including Mama Ane Kanahele and her many descendants.

If you’re on Kaua`i, plan to spend Saturday 9-2 at the cave with our friends from Ni`ihau. In support of the Makauwahi Jobs Program, the Ni`ihau community on Kaua`i will mahalo the volunteers and visitors to Makauwahi Cave with a day of traditional music, crafts, and food. Come learn how to make a lauhala mat with the people who make some of the best in the world!

Proceeds from the event will go to support the jobs program for unemployed Native Hawaiians at Makauwahi Cave Reserve. Bring your lunch and picnic with the staff, volunteers, and visitors at this unique site that combines research into the past with futuristic restoration strategies.

The Makauwahi Cave is located on Kauai's South Shore , accessible throughn CJM Country Stables on the dirt road past the Hyatt.Tours of the Cave are conducted every Sunday from 9 AM - 2 PM.

At the center of its many attractions is Hawaii`s largest limestone cave, the richest fossil site in the islands, and a uniquely preserved archaeological site.

It's a living museum dedicated not just to the past, but also to experiments in native species conservation. On abandoned farms and quarry lands surrounding the cave, native plants and animals have returned in response to innovative restoration techniques. Acres of restored forest land, dune vegetation, and wetland habitat feature almost 100 species of native plants, including many endangered species, as well as endangered waterbirds and even an underground ecosystem of blind cave invertebrates. Photos courtesy of Mahauwahi Cave Reserve)

Field School Has a Few Openings

We have been receiving applications for this summer’s field school at the cave, slated for June 15-July 14. There are still a few slots left, so get in your application for 9 units of UH credit in Archaeological Methods and Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands.

Makauwahi Cave Reserve is a non-profit organization with Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. as a fiscal sponsor. The property is owned by Grove Farm Company, and managed by Lida Pigott Burney and Dr. David A. Burney, with the help and support of thousands of volunteers, students, and visitors from the local community and around the world.

Makauwahi Cave Reserve P.O. Box 1277, Kalaheo, HI 96741
(808) 482-1059


Mele Kalikimaka! Merry Christmas to all!

Hawaii is a special place at Christmas time. Balmy tradewinds and twinkling lights make this a very special holiday for locals and visitors alike.

While you won’t see snow except for rare occasions atop Mauna Kea (Hawaiian for "white mountain" -- for that very reason!), you will still see signs of Christmas on every island.

You may not experience frosty temperatures but who is going to complain about wearing a bikini or a pair of surf shorts on the holiday??

We may not have chestnuts roasting on an open fire,because few homes have fireplaces in the Aloha State! But we sure can roast some Macadamia nuts in the imu.

Christmas really can be Christmas in Hawaii. Hawaii residents begin putting up their holiday lights and Christmas trees as soon as the last piece of Thanksgiving turkey is devoured. There are joyous Christmas concerts, community parades and dazzling Festivals of Light throughout the state.


Christmas wasn’t formally introduced to Hawaii until after 1820, the year Protestant missionaries came to Hawaii from New England.

In ancient times, however, the holiday coincided with a traditional Hawaiian festival called Makahiki. This celebration lasted for four months and included great feasts and games. During this time, wars and conflicts were strictly forbidden. As far as the early Hawaiians were concerned, the Makahiki was their time for “peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”

The first Christmas celebration in Hawaii is believed to have occurred in 1786, when Captain George Dixon, docked aboard the Queen Charlotte in Waimea Bay on Kauai, commanded his crew to prepare a Christmas dinner that included roasted pig, pie and grog mixed with coconut milk. The English navigator then led his men in toasts to their families and friends back home.

In 1856, Alexander Liholiho (King Kamehameha IV) declared December 25 to be his kingdom’s national day of Thanksgiving.

Two years later, Santa Claus made his first appearance in Hawaii, arriving at Washington Place (now the governor’s residence) to deliver gifts for the children. Today, you may see Santa arrive on  surfboard, and witness his elves wearing aloha shirts. 

Today, there’s no bigger Christmas celebration than “Honolulu City Lights,” a favorite holiday spectacle put on by the City & County of Honolulu. Held at Honolulu Hale (City Hall), “Honolulu City Lights” features a 50-foot Norfolk pine Christmas tree, elaborate Christmas tree and wreath exhibits, giant Yuletide displays and live entertainment.

Whether you’re young or young at heart, there’s no better place to catch the Christmas spirit in the islands.

Mele Kalikimaka! Merry Christmas!


Emmalani Festival at Koke'e in 22nd year

Step into history and become part of Queen Emma's entoruage who rode horseback from her summer home in Lawai Valley to the Alakai Swamp in 1871. Since its inception in 1988, Eo e Emalani I Alaka’i (also called the Emalani Festival) has quietly become one of the most authentic and powerful Hawaiian cultural experiences in the State.

Each year, for the past 24 years, Koke'e Natural History Museum has honored the Queen's historic trek with a day long celebration of hula performances and Hawaiian music.Each year,kumu hula (hula masters) and their dancers help to create an event that has touched thousands, many of whom return annually to participate.

Saturday, October 13 is the date for this glorious spectacle. Live Hawaiian music, along with historical displays, begin at 10 am and at 12 noon, “Queen Emma” enters Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow on horseback, led by her guide Kaluahi, represented by a local cowboy. Offering of dance are made by hula halau from across Hawaii. Hula groups from Europe andJapanhave also jouneyed to Kaua ito participate.

By focusing each year on a diferent aspect of the Queen’s inspiring legacy as a humanitarian leader, the Emalani Festival affords participants and audience an opportunity to reflect on values of a great leader who took the land to heart.

Come early and stay late. Bring a beach chair or blanket and camera. This is the real deal. You won't see hula like this unless you go to the Merry Monarch Festival.

For more info call (808) 335-9975. (Photos courtesy of Kokee Museum)


Makauwahi Cave hits You Tube

On a wind blown shoreline on the south shore of Kauai is an interesting cave and sinkhole where paleoecologists and archaeologists have excavated.

What they found was a fossil picture of how Hawaii looked 10,000 years ago.

Local Kauai resident and student at Northern Arizona University, Mary Coulombe, served as an intern at the cave this past summer for college credits toward he degree in environmental science. 

Here is the excellent video that Mary produced during her internship: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2L4sluOb-o&feature=colike

Only on Sunday from 9am to 2 pm can visitors tour the cave and the beautifully landscaped trail and surroundings, which have been planted with native and endemic trees, shrubs and foliage.

Drive to Po'ipu and go left toward the Hyatt. The road will turn into a dusty and bumpy dirt but don't worry about the rental car. I used to take my Honda Civic to Mahau'lepu often and never encountered a problem or any sort of damage to my car.

By the way -- don't forget to check out the giant tortoises who are weed eaters "extrordinaire". They don't seem to liket the native plants!

(Photos by Sheila Heathcote) For more information visit this website: http://cavereserve.org/index.php


Kauai County Farm Bureau Fair is in full swing

The Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair opened as hundreds of people poured through the gates starting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Vidinha Stadium Fairgrounds.

The four-day event continues Friday from 6 p.m. to midnight and on Saturday, gates open from noon until midnight. Sunday hours are from noon.

During the fair hours, the commercial and nonprofit booths will close at 11 p.m. Friday and  Saturday and at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Today’s events include a Tropical Floral Design Show, a floral design contest, chef demonstrations, a petting zoo, Las Vegas hypnotist Ralph Maxwell and performances by the Maltese Family Circus.

Check out this video for a real glimpse of the action!   http://kauaifarmfair.org/

Admission is $2 for keiki ages 4 through 12, $4 for seniors 65 years and older and $5 for adults.

Visit www.thegardenisland.com and click on the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair 2012 special section for a complete schedule of events as well as featured sections of the fair. (Photos courtesy of Kauai Farm Bureau and The Garden Island Newspaper)


Where do people from Kauai go on their vacation?

I recently had a friend visit Kauai and had the opportunity to be a temporary tourist. While I planned things I knew she would enjoy, I really had an enjoyable time visiting places and doing things that I don't normally get to do.

'Anini Beach Park  - this picturesque stretch of beach and lagoon inside a fringing reef has a variety of activities to offer including camping (see County of Kauai website for permits), snorkeling, windsurfing rentals and lessons, a great place to lean paddleboard, beach combing for Ni'ihau and sunrise shells, picnicking, and kayaking. We also caught sunrises, sunsets and a full moon! It is an ideal place to stay if you are planning a Na Pali coast kayak trip (that starts at 6:30 AM), and is close to Hanalei Bay, Limahuli Gardens and Ke'e Beach -- the beginning of the Kalalau Trail.  

Wings Over Kauai Air Tours - there is no other more personable business owners and employees than this family-run light airplane sight-seeing operation. Excellent narration of Kauai's cultural, historic and scenic highlights is authentic and accurate, not to mention appreciated while gliding along the coastline and over the emerald peaks. Customers get a beautiful kukui nut lei, a photo of themselves and a video of their tour all for one low price. Don't miss Wings -- it is a fraction of the cost of a helicopter!

Pakala's, PK's and the Waiohai surf spots were highlights of my surf buddy's visit to Kauai. I had never been to Pakala's before, even though I've lived here for 20 years. In addition to some of the nicest waves on the island, Pakala's has a beautiful bay, palm-lined shore, monk seals and turtles. Just watch out for the kiawe!

Four-wheeling on Koke'e's fire break roads, and  along the newly opened Hanapepe to Makaweli dirt road for fishing access on G&R property. Incredible views of Ni'ihau and Lehua, and pristine, rocky fishing spots describe the former and latter.

Biking on the Bike Path from Kapa'a to Anahola. Cooling trade winds pushed our pedals  along as we checked out the waves at Kealia Beach and the fools playing in the surf at Donkey Beach. Donkey is not a safe swimming spot. The Path is a very gentle grade and pleasant at anytime during the day, however, sunset is my favorite time.

Captain Na Pali Adventures boat tour of the Na Pali coast. Exhilarating coastal ride from Kikiaola Harbor -- between Waimea and Kekaha -- along the 3,000 - 4,000 foot spires and cliff sculptures of Na Pali with a few detours for waterfalls, snorkeling, dark sea caves and the "Eye of the Shark" roofless cave. Hang on with your feet and hands as Joe Clark chases dolphins between the white caps.

Maha'ulepu Beach, Maka'uwahi Cave and Lida's Garden - Sundays from 9am - 2pm, the famous Makauwahi Sinkhole is open for tours with guides providing info about the 10,000 year history of Kauai. Hike the trail above which has been replanted with native and endemic trees and shrubs, making the area appear as it might have before human habitation. Be sure to check out the giant tortoises!

CJM Stables Rodeo just happened to be in session when we left Mahau'lepu after our coastal hike. Some really talented cowboys showed us how to rope calfs and cattle. Also heard that CJM does some awesome trail rides along the beach!

Friday Night Art Night in Hanapepe - The mango pie stole the show. Passed dinner and went straight to the "Pie Lady". Great music, snacks and delicacies in the galleries, awesome art and great artists like Giorgio and Robin McCoy -- don't miss their galleries! Also, Talk Story Bookstore has the best selection of books in the islands!


Summertime in Koke'e State Park - Escape the Heat!

Up beyond Waimea Canyon State Park is a place the locals like to call "The Mountain" or "Koke'e". Also a state park, this area is marked by thick forests, sinuous trails, rutted and muddy 4 wheel drive roads and scenery that is without equal. Don't worry, your cell phone will not work up past Mile Marker 10, forget about "On Star" and kiss the Internet good-bye. There is one pay phone -- guarded by a flock of hungry chickens -- in the vicinity of the Lodge and that's it.

A number of public camps, like Boy Scouts of America, the Methodist Camp, the Hongwanji and Camp Sloggett are also available through various churches and organizations. State cabins can also be rented through the Koke'e Lodge or State Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Although camping is available, and there are a few remote cabins for hunters -- free if you can get to them --, most trails in Koke'e can be accomplished in one day. Beautiful treks and bike opportunities can also be found on the contour roads that lead out to the end of the finger-like ridges that loom over the Na Pali coast.

Beginning at the picnic area just before Mile Marker 13, "Polihale Ridge Road" is a rough dirt contour or fire break road that descends along the ridgeline to its end just above the spectacular Polihale Beach and State Park. Breath-taking views of Ni'ihau and the 13-mile Barking Sands Beach can be viewed from this location.

A short distance past Mile Marker 13 is the Pua Hina Hina Lookout. Views of the Waimea Canyon, Koaie Canyon and Po'omau Canyon serve as eye candy and allow the viewer to watch hikers on the Waimea Canyon Trail far below. Accessible from the back of the lookout's parking lot is a trail that leads down to another viewpoint and the trailhead of the Waimea Canyon and Black Pipe Trails. Few people use this convenient trail and park, instead, at the intersection of Halemanu Road, another 4 WD road that winds down to meet the trailhead of the Canyon Trail. Several loop trails and connectors can be accessed from this area including a loop trek around the Canyon Trail, up a dirt road to the Kumuwela Trail, which then leads to the Halemanu Koke'e Trail, and back out on Halemanu Road.

Continuing on the Koke'e Road toward the Lodge and Koke'e Museum, the Nualolo Trail departs from an area just past the state cabins. This trail can be hiked down and back, or in a broad 11-mile table and circuit loop. Starting at the Nualolo Trail head, traversing the Nualolo Cliff (Bench)Trail and ascending the Awa'awa'puhi Trail is a strenuous hike that involves hitching a ride back to your car, or hiking the road to return to your point of origin. (I recommend taking the Nualolo Trail down and the Awa'awa'puhi Trail up because it is much easier than doing the opposite. Trust me!)

The Koke'e Lodge in the center of the great meadow is a spot....the only spot... for food and drink on the mountain. They serve great breakfasts and lunches but close at 3 PM on weekdays and 5PM on Fridays. The neighboring Koke'e Museum is a pleasant Natural History Museum and bookstore with great information about the park and trail conditions.

Leaving the Meadow area, the Camp Ten - Mohihi Road, leading to Camp Sloggett and far beyond is the gateway to the Alakai Swamp and Sugi Grove. This is a serious 4 WD road and make no mistake about it. If it is rainy, don't even attempt it! The primary way to the Alakai Swamp Trail leaves this road on the left across from a picnic area that overlooks Sugi Grove. Continuing down the hill to Sugi Grove is another state camping area and the remote campsites of Sugi Grove. The picturesque Kawaikoi Stream beautiful gurgles along the camp this picturesque area and the Kawaikoi Stream Trail -- a pleasant walk -- trail loops around the stream or joins with the Pihea Trail.

While in this remote area, don't miss the Po'omau Canyon Trail, the Kohua Trail and the Mohihi Wai'alae Trail.

If you don't have 4WD, continue along the paved Koke'e Road past the Lodge and come to a sharp bend in the road with a grassy parking area to the right and a gate across a gravel road. This is the trailhead to the Water Tank Trail and the Pu'u Ka'ohelo (Berry Flats) Trail where wild pigs can be seen grazing on black berries on this easy hike.

Further along Koke'e Road is the Awa'awa'puhi Trailhead and parking lot on the left. This trail has a pleasant descent and ascent and affords supreme views of the Na Pali coast at it's end. It is a short  2-3 hour hike down and back. Another easy trail in the area is the Kaluapuhi Trail. Park at the Awa'awa'puhi Trailhead and walk a short distance up the road. You will see the beginning of the Kaluapuhi Trail on the right. Mostly flat, this trail leads through dry upland forest and affords a gentle hike through the woods.

Back on Koke'e Road the Kalalau Lookout is the postcard photo op and the most breath-taking and spectacular view on the mountain of Kalalau Valley more than 3,000 feet below. If the valley is occluded by mist or clouds, be patient. The mist often clears in about 15 minutes!

Finally the Koke'e Road leads to the very end of the pavement and the final Kalalau Lookout where some seriously construction-challenged folks tried to build a road to Hanalei and failed miserably. The first slope bears most of the destruction, but pass this area with blinders on because the trail that awaits has the highest concentration of native birds and plants in the park. This is the Pihea Trail and it leads into the Alakai Swamp, or up to the Pihea Lookout. The Alakaia Swamp Trail boardwalk commences here and the Pihea Trail can be descended to the Kawaikoi Stream area and Sugi Grove for those without 4WD.

Be careful because this park does not have rangers or sign-in and sign-out stations. Always let someone know where you are going and when to expect your return, whether you leave a note in the hotel room, tell another camper or let the ladies in the Koke'e Museum know. For weather and trail information call (808) 335-9975. 

Please do not throw away lit cigarette butts. Don't start camp fires or burn toilet paper. Forest fires are an ever-present danger!

(Photos by Sheila Heathcote 


"O Bon Festivals" a Japanese summer cultural tradition

When I was a malahini (newcomer) to these Hawaiian Islands back in the '80s, I remember coming aross a spectacular night time festival at a local Hongwanji (Japanese church or temple) in the town of Paia, Maui. Was it the scent of jasmine incense drifting on the evening breeze? Or the beautifully adorned women in Kimono dancing in a circle to strange plunking strands of music? The lavish fruit baskets and full bottles of beer and harder spirits on grave sites? Whatever it was I was intrigued.

I had come upon my first O Bon festival, a summertime Japanese cultural celebration for the ancestors who have passed on. This 500 year old Japanese tradition was brought to Hawaii by Japanese immigrants who came to work in the sugar cane fields. 

Knowing that they could not leave their culture and history behind, they celebrated O Bon to link the living with their deceased relatives, by honoring theses spirits with dance, incense, favorite foods and preferred alcoholic beverages.

I also enjoyed watching the making of traditional mochi, rice that is pounded until it becomes a thick paste, which is then combined with sugar for a sweet and tasty treat.

At this particular event, a taiko drumming troupe performed a riveting and rousing set of traditional warrior drumming on replicas of ancient drums and other instruments.

Dressed in their black slacks and black karate-like jackets, these musicians adorned their heads with brilliant orange and white headbands to soak up the sweat produced by their enthusiastic drumming. Literally, taiko means "fat drum," although there is a vast array of shapes and sizes of taiko. Reputedly, one of the first uses of taiko was as a battlefield instrument; used to intimidate and scare the enemy.

At some O Bon celebration the Lantern Ceremony will take place. A candle is lit for a recently deceased loved one and placed in a decorative bag or open-topped lantern and set adrift on the ocean or on a body of water. The Kapa'a Lantern Ceremony I witnessed at the Wailua River several years ago was solemn and included a religious service and ceremony. The drifting lanterns were a beautiful way to remember someone.

On June 8 and 9 the Kapa'a Hongwanji Buddhist Temple will hold its annual celebration on temple grounds at 4-1170 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa. June 15 and 16 brings the O Bon to the Waimea Hongwanji at its temple at 9554 Kaumuali'i Highway, Waimea. The weekend of June 22 and 23 the Kauai Soto Zen Temple will hold its O Bon dance at 1-3500 Kaumuali'i Highway Hanapepe. Finally, on June 29 and 30 the Koloa Jodo Mission will honor the ancestors at it's temple near Koloa Big Save at 3480 Waikomo Road, Koloa.




End of Kauai's wild chicken population in sight?

According to a report on KHON 2 News, the first live mongoose to be captured on Kauai was trapped at the Marriott Kauai Lagoons on May 23, 2012.

Could this mean that active colonies of mongoose established on Kauai, could knock down the feral chicken problem? Kauai is the only Hawaiian Island where  colorful roosters and chickens can be found in every park, parking lot, back yard and beach.

Originally brought by the ancient Hawaiians as "canoe food", the wild chickens teamed up with caged white farm chickens after several hurricanes on Kauai. The result is history in the form of brightly plumaged roosters and chickens, well, everywhere!

Kauai is the only island where mongoose were not intentionally introduced, which is why there has been success in building populations of ground-nesting birds like nene geese -- an endangered species.

Mongoose eat eggs and chicks, so they can have a devastating affect on wildlife, domestic fowl and game cocks. The Indian Gray Mongoose and others are well known for their ability to fight and kill  venomous snakes, particularly cobras.  They are adept at such tasks due to their agility, thick coat, and evolved  acetylcholine receptors, which render them resistant or immune to snake venom.

Mongooses were brought to Hawaii by the Sugar Industry in 1883 in a failed attempt to control rats in the sugar cane fields. They prey on turtle eggs, birds and other animals, and they can also carry deadly diseases like leptospirosis. Mongooses have no natural predators in the Islands to keep their numbers in check. They are not only a threat to bird populations but also to domestic pets including dogs and cats.

Wildlife managers have long worried that mongoose might get established on Kauai. In 19176 a female was discovered dead on Kaumualii Highway near Kalaheo, but none have been found since then. There have been, however, more than 160 reports of sightings in the last 44 years, with over 70 in the last decade alone. 

Sightings have been reported from Mana to Lumahai, including Kokee, with the highest concentration in the Lihue-Puhi area. KISC and DOFAW have been engaged in active trapping and detection efforts in recent years, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services traps within the airport fence. Rana Biological Consulting Inc., which oversees endangered bird protection at Kauai Lagoons, has been monitoring the resort grounds for avian predators. 


May 5 is Lei Day at the Kauai Museum

The Kaua`i Museum proudly presents our 32nd Annual Lei Contest and May Day Celebration on May 5, 2012. It's a day dedicated to celebrating Hawaiian culture. Visitors and residents will enjoy the fresh, fragrant and colorful lei displayed throughout the museum and guests are encouraged to try their hand at lei making. Lei masters will demonstrate their art on the steps of the museum.

From 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., guests can wander the grounds and make or buy a lei, watch demonstrators and purchase delicious foods from our vendors.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the doors to the museum will be open for viewing. Admission is free for kama`aina and $2 off for visitors.

At 1 p.m., there will be an award ceremony for lei makers on the front porch.

At 3 p.m., the silent auction ends. At 3:30 p.m., a live auction will commence selling all unclaimed lei.

The museum will close at 4 p.m.

In addition to the festivities, the museum is proud to announce the return of the Keiki La Lei Contest. This contest is open to keiki up to 18 years of age.

. . . The custom of weaving and wearing flower leis originated with the Hawaiians so long ago that they have no record of its beginning. . . . When tourists discovered Hawaii, they loved the charming gesture and they spread the word of it until the lei became known around the world.

Lei Day - May first - was the brainchild of Don Blanding. In 1927 he came up with the idea of a uniquely Hawaiian holiday that everyone could celebrate. His editors at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin presented it to the public and the idea was enthusiastically embraced.

Lei Day became an official holiday in 1928. During those first years the event included the selection of a Lei Day queen and court. Lei Day celebrations continue today, marking the first day of May with lei-making competitions, concerts, and the giving and receiving of lei among friends and family. 

The first Lei Day was held on May 1, 1928, and everyone in Honolulu was encouraged to wear lei. Festivities were held downtown with hula, music, lei making demonstrations and exhibits and lei making contests.


The End of the Plantation Era

At the very heart of a popular tourist destination on Kauai’s South Shore rests the old Koloa Japanese Camp – a time worn settlement tucked behind the crowded ranch-style homes along Wailani Street and well out of view of the modern Koloa By-Pass Road. It is perhaps the last vestige of plantation life in the state. It soon will be gone as the camp resident’s remove their belongings from the place they’ve called home for more than a half a century.

Hurricanes and floods have wreaked havoc throughout the years but none were as damaging as the capitulation of the sugar industry in Hawaii and the economic catastrophe of recent years. The final straw came late last year when Grove Farm decided evict the camp residents and tear down the houses. While the residents always banded together, pitched in on repairs, and looked after one another during hard times in the past, they are now adrift. Up to this day of this writing, if an unfamiliar car comes down the dirt road that bisects the camp, residents will come out to see who it is.

“It’s a safe place. We look after one another,” said a resident who came out of his house barefooted to see why I was walking down the road.

Cocks crow and hunting dogs bark, providing a raucous cacophony above the whispered pleas of the ghosts of generations of families who have been born, raised and died in this small area. Catherine Fernandez is a living voice; her deceased husband Cereal Fernandez relies on the wind.

For 56 years three generations of the Fernandez family made Koloa Camp their home. I sit and chat with Catherine Fernandez, age 82 and her grand daughter, Shayda Fernandez, 40, in the shade of one of the largest lychee trees I have ever seen, planted when the family first moved in.

“Grandma would wake up and go pick fresh papaya for her breakfast every morning,” Shayda explains. “It’s going to be really hard for her now that she will have to buy fruit in the grocery store.”

Huge lychee trees and mango – thick with liko, or fresh blooms, indicate a record year for fruit. Papaya, banana and pineapple patches abound in the overgrown garden and yard. Everything grows well in this slightly sunken backwater, which landowner Grove farm plans to bulldoze and elevate to minimize future flooding.

“I have so many papaya trees and pineapple – they take a year to grow, you know -- and this lychee is going to give so much fruit this year, but I won’t be here,” Mrs. Fernandez lamented. 

“What is sad is that each family took care of their home and surrounding gardens,” explains Shayda. “Grove Farm never stepped in to help with repairs or to help us fix up anything on the property. We planted all this that you see. We fed ourselves from these gardens.”

Immersed in the scents of blooming fragrant ornamental flowers and bushes, the Fernandez home has a way of blocking out the hustle and bustle of the modern day world that exists just outside of its periphery.

“This house was separated and brought up here from the mill, “ Fernandez continues. “It used to be a two family farm house.”

The picturesque structure with 3 bedrooms and one bath was home to the 7-member family for 56 years. Two of Fernandez children – now in their middle age – were born in the house, and Grandpa Cereal Fernandez died here.

“Shayda’s mother was born here and Sunita, my other daughter, was born right in this house,” Fernandez reminisces, sadly shaking her head. “ There have been a lot of memories.”

Under a sea of dishwater colored clouds, Fernandez tells me what happened 29 days after her husband – a former supervisor and the last surviving plantation worker in the camp – passed away in September 2011.

 “My husband was the last one that Grove Farm was waiting for.  Within 29 days after he died they called up ad said they wanted to have a meeting with our family so they could discuss the future of the camp”.

Between the last months of 2011 and March 8, 2012 – Grove Farm’s eviction deadline -- residents like Fernandez have been faced with dilemmas such as how to get a mortgage at age 60 and above, or where to find an affordable rental nearby.

“My whole life is in Koloa: my church, St Raphael, my friends. Unless I can find a rental in Koloa, I will have to move in with my daughter in Kekaha, but it is very crowded,” Fernandez says looking longingly at her home.

When asked about the alternative of buying one of the structures that Grove Farm plans to build, Fernandez says that the pre-fab homes Grove Farm has slated for the site are way out of her price range. She also noted that Grove Farm has been no help in assisting residents with a place to go if they can’t afford the alternative.

“This was a good place to raise the family. Everybody knew one another. When one family would roast a pig for a party, everyone along the street was invited. There aren’t many places like that left on the island.”

Asked if she thought there was a chance for a last minute change of heart on Grove Farm’s part, Fernandez was quick to answer.

“Grove Farm is not going to budge. We have to go. It said so in the newspaper. There is nothing we can do.”

Fresh chalk marks adorn the sidewalk that leads to the front door, evidence that her great grand children were visiting over the President’s Day weekend. “The kids will really miss it here,” says Shayda. “Actually 4 generations will miss it if you count us all.”

 “This is the end of the plantation,” said the elder Fernandez when it came time for me to leave. “Why celebrate Koloa Plantation days when there will be no more plantations? “

And, as a way of life where cultures once intermingled to work the fertile Kauai soil, their descendants now disperse and disappear. The same soil becomes the arena for growth of a different sort -- the lucrative real estate business. And, the “old Hawaii “ that has attracted so many visitors, sinks further into obscurity.


Giant Land Tortoises are Super Weed-Eaters

For those who love weeding – watch out. You may soon be replaced by a giant tortoise! Giant land tortoises that eat weeds and avoid Kauai’s precious native plants sounds too good to be true, but it is a reality in the Mascarenes, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, and is proving to work on Kauai, too.

I had to see this for myself,” said Dr. David Burney, Director of Conservation at National Tropical Botanical Garden, who has introduced two giant tortoises from the Sahara Desert to the native and Polynesian plant nursery at Maha’u’lepu.  “The tortoises don’t touch the native plants. They pull the weeds, apply the fertilizer, and germinate the seeds.”

Burney who has conducted research in Madagascar for more than three decades, learned of reintroducing turtles to island habitats from Owen Griffiths, the biologist and owner of both the La Vanille Crocodile Park and Tortoise Reserve on Mauritius, and the François Leguat Giant Tortoise and Cave Reserve on Rodrigues Island, two places where giant tortoises are clearing weeds so that native species can thrive. Burney, along with his wife Lida Pigott Burney, head of the Makauwahi Cave Reserve landscape restoration project, and Professor James Juvik, chairman of the Geography Department at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, decided the time was right for tortoise weeding in a small, fenced-in portion of the 17 acre reserve where they are growing thousands of native and Polynesian plants.

Juvik, a world authority on tortoises and advisor to the Burney’s, explained why these huge, lumbering reptiles, which have been around for 200 million years and out-lived the dinosaurs, were pretty successful at survival – until humans came around.

“Tortoises have been found in the fossil records of nearly every island and land mass in the world,” said Juvik. “They had a pretty good evolutionary tactic -- having their home on their back and a place to hide in when threatened. Then man came along, flipped them over and their shell became a cooking pot.”

Although the two African spurred tortoises (Geochelone sulcata),  who were brought to Kauai by Juvik, are not a species that once lived on Kauai, they serve a similar function to the Turtle-jawed Moa Nalo (Chelychelynechen quassus) – an extinct flightless duck found in the ancient layers of the Makauwahi Cave that browsed in ways similar to the land tortoises. 

“Kauai never had any land tortoises. So, our strategy is to use these tortoises as a surrogate for this ecosystem,” said Juvik. “The tortoises browse at the same height as the extinct Kauai duck, which probably ate the same plants.”

 Regarding the introduction of another non-native species to Kauai’s ecosystem, Juvik and the Burneys plan to keep these reptilian giants in secure fences – there is no intention to release them into the environment outside their native plant sites.

 "Unlike other detrimental alien species on Kauai -- rats, feral cats and feral goats,” Juvik explains, “the tortoises can be easily recalled if they prove to present some unanticipated negative impact."

 Funding is being sought to bring in additional tortoises of several different sizes and species. For more information or to visit the Makauwahi Cave Reserve emailmakauwahi@gmail.com or call (808) 482-1059.

Take the dirt road that leads past the Grand Hyatt Road,make a right at CJM Stables and park on the grass across from the "Hpwdy Partners" sign. Walk up the dirt road and go left toward the crest of the hill. You will find a marked path, the Makauwahi Cave and Sinkhole, and the foot bridge pictured above. The tortoises are located in the fenced in area of the field just mauka of the bridge. Happy Trails!