Travel Experiences That Make a Difference in Hawaii

Posted By : Elite Travel Consulting/ 87 0

PHOTO: The scenic Waihee Ridge on Maui. (photo by Will McGough)

 

These days, many hotels encourage their guests to give back to the destination by holding small beach cleanups as part of their daily activities. It’s a painless way of chipping in for an hour, and hanging out on the beach isn’t all that bad.

The same goes during turtle hatching season. Many hotels block off the nests and even allow guests to help release the baby turtles into the sea. It’s a great idea, and as long as the activities are interesting enough, guests are excited to take part.

In Hawaii, a new website called Travel2Change aims to take that voluntourism concept to a new level.

The idea is to expand outside of hotels and into the local communities on Oahu and Maui, to partner with local nonprofits and eco-friendly companies for an active, engaging volunteer activity.

It goes beyond the meandering beach cleanup (although they do offer some of them) to fun, adventurous outings that pair restoration, education and preservation, making them feel like an organized tour—one in which you take full part. In this way, you are set up to do good, but you’re also guaranteed a good time and to feel like you’re traveling and exploring while meeting the locals.

 

Travel2Change has listings for both free and pay-for experiences; some are of the “clean-up” variety (beaches, invasive plants, etc.) while some focus on teaching tradition and culture. Here are five more examples that give you an idea of what Travel2Change is trying to do. Consider checking one out on your next trip:

 

Island: Maui

Outing Description: This scenic hike through Honokowai Valley showcases an intact example of a native Hawaiian village. Along the way, help clear alien overgrowth from the rock walls and see the layout of the village while your guide shares stories to help you feel the presence of its former inhabitants.

Top Perks: Learn the history of the place that once included a native Hawaiian Village and its artifacts; Visit a site on private land that few get to see; and enjoy a sweeping view of west Maui’s from the Pali Hills in the coffee plantations above Kaanapali.

Cost: Free/Donation

 

Island: Oahu

Outing Description: Run by nonprofit Lokahi Canoe Club, this program aims to educate travelers about the Hawaiian paddling culture with respect to the traditional practice. On this tour, you will paddle an outrigger down the Ala Wai Canal to the ocean in view of Waikiki, Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park and Diamond Head.

Top Perks: Learn to paddle an outrigger canoe; incredible views of Waikiki and Diamond Head.

Cost: Free/Donation

 

Island: Maui

Outing Description: Guava is tasty, but it’s also one of the most invasive plants in the Hawaiian Islands. Take a hike up the scenic Waihee Ridge Trail to help control their spread (i.e. cut some of them down), while learning about the threats they impose on Hawaii’s native rainforests.

Top Perks: Safely hike the Waihee Ridge with a guide; Check out the Makamakaole Waterfall; Pick and eat fresh strawberry guava.

Cost: Free/Donation

 

Island: Maui

Outing Description: If you’re obsessed with sea turtles and have participated in previous activities—such as releasing baby turtles back to the sea, or observing their nests on the beach—this will be a good next step for you. Run by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, this outing allows you to link up with local researchers and help them record data as the Honu (sea turtles) come ashore at Hookipa Beach, a famous windsurfing spot.

Top Perks: Learn what kind of data the Hawaii Wildlife Fund collects on sea turtles; help prevent other tourists from harassing the turtles; hang out with the honu.

Cost: Free/Donation

 

Island: Oahu

Outing Description: If you’ve never heard of an ancient Hawaiian Fishpond, it’s time to get caught up. Hawaiians masterfully used these man-made ponds to ensure the health and sustainability of the fish population.

Unfortunately, invasive plant species have found their way into them—as well as the rivers, valleys and estuaries—encroaching on natural irrigation routes. This outing takes you to Heeia State Park where you will learn about the fishponds and remove invasive fauna (which will be chipped, composted and repurposed on site).

Top Perks: Learn about a traditional Hawaiian fishpond and work in the beauty Kaneohe Bay.

Cost: Free/Donation

Courtesy of Will McGough.

Eating Your Way Across Kauai’s South Shore

Posted By : Elite Travel Consulting/ 133 0

Kauai Cuisine

PHOTO: Fish dish at Keoki’s Paradise in Kauai. (photo by Paul Heney)

 

Mention the lush island of Kauai to some, and they’ll think: green mountain ridges, beautiful beaches or helicopter rides.

Me? I think food.

Sure, I think of those other things, too. But after a handful of visits to the oldest of the major Hawaiian Islands, I’ve discovered there are a lot of good meals to be had in this little corner of paradise. My family recently ate our way across Kauai’s sunny southern strip, anchored by the Poipu area:

 

Eating House 1849 by the award-winning Chef Roy Yamaguchi is in the catbird’s seat at the upscale Shops at Kukuiula. With a lovely view out toward the ocean from the second floor, this restaurant specializes in plantation-style cuisine, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients from the island.

You’ll start out with a complimentary bowl of edamame while you peruse the drink menu. The Hawaiian Martini and Clark’s Poipu Sunset shine while the crispy fried calamari is an excellent choice for an appetizer.

We had a little of everything here, from the burger (fantastic) to the marlin special, which was firm and steak-like. Our teenaged son ordered the whole snapper and didn’t realize he’d get the WHOLE snapper—head, tail, bones and all. (I wish the wait staff had warned him about that, but they were otherwise flawless.)

Josh managed to pick it apart nicely, and it was tasty. The restaurant’s specialty dessert is a chocolate soufflé, which takes 20 minutes to prepare—so your waiter will ask you ahead of time if you’d like to order it. Take it from our family, it’s worthwhile, as were the Deconstructed Smores and the Warm Apple Volcano.

I’ve long felt that The Beach House is one of the best restaurants anywhere. Situated right on the water, the view of the waves, ocean and sunsets is without equal. And while the prices are very high, the food has always been top notch.

So, we were a little disappointed that a couple of our dishes didn’t hold up to some past experiences.

That said, there was a lot to be happy about: The wine list is excellent, and the warm ciabatta bread was so good, I think we could have subsisted entirely on that. The crab cake appetizer was nice, with virtually no filler and a tasty mini salad accompanying it.

 

While we waited for our entrees, we witnessed a beautiful sunset, followed by warm twilight colors while kids frolicked in the waves in the distance. People took turns stepping out of the restaurant to take photos. Tiki torches were lit around sunset; The atmosphere here is absolutely romantic, but it’s a great experience for families, too.

The Beach House has several standard variations on the daily catch—from crab-crusted to wasabi-buttered to grilled. Your server will explain what the day’s featured catches are, and which ones will be served which way.

We all had different fish and, while they were good, they lacked a bit of flavor. On the other end of the spectrum, our youngest, Matthew, said his pasta was “probably the best I’ve ever had.” (I sampled it after that comment, and he was right on the mark.)

Dessert was mixed as well; the sweetness of the banana cream pie was slightly off, although the chocolate cream pie was delightful.

Located in Poipu Shopping Village, Keoki’s Paradise features steaks, ribs and seafood in a unique setting with streams, plants and waterfalls inside the restaurant. Combined with the huge open windows on one side, it almost feels like eating in a south seas pavilion.

Live music and a hula dancer were performing the night we stopped by, making for a lovely evening even before the food came.

Everything here met or exceeded our expectations. Carrot muffins with a delightful cinnamon honey vanilla butter disappeared quickly. Our youngest son’s Volcano mocktail was a hit, too.

There are four fresh fish catches of the day, and you can mix and match any with several standard preparations. Our favorite? The Panko & Mac Nut Crusted red snapper was light but tasty and prepared perfectly. Our only complaint was that we’d stuffed ourselves so much that we didn’t have room for dessert.

We all agreed that all in all, this was the best and most memorable meal of our vacation.

 

Our other favorites include:

La Spezia is a charming little restaurant and wine bar in Koloa town that offers some twists on Italian fare. It’s only open for breakfast and dinner. Or try their weekly brunch on Sundays, which features a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar and an incredible French toast dish stuffed with bacon, brie and strawberry jam.

Stop by the simple Puka Dog stand, also in the Poipu Shopping Village. While I admit I’m not particularly a huge fan of hot dogs, the toppings at Puka Dog and the unique bread they use (instead of a traditional bun) won all of us over. Definitely get the Auntie Lilikoi’s Hawaiian Mustard; We even bought a jar to take home from a nearby shop.

And if you’re in the mood for shave ice, venture west to Waimea, where JoJo’s Shave Ice has to be the best on the planet. Make sure to order yours with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom. If you’re heading to Waimea Canyon, this is a great stop on the way back to Poipu.

Courtesy of Paul Heney