A Little Geography Lesson

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the location of the Hawaiian Islands I tend to think of it as smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Ocean due west of California.

However, it is actually a little bit further south than “due west of California.”  Okay, quite a bit south of “due west of California.”

The Hawaiian Islands lie just below of the Tropic of Cancer–so if you want a “due west of” think Southern Mexico. To put it in USA geography terms, Key West (the Southernmost point in the continental United States) lies north of the Tropic of Cancer.  In fact, Hawaii is so remote that it is not even considered part of the North American continent (see the map from World Atlas below)!

USA map

The reason I’m mentioning this is because we decided to split our trip to the Big Island by spending a couple of nights in Kona and then a night in Hilo.  April & I were in charge of selecting the route and finding fun things to do along the way to Hilo.  We opted for the Southern Route, which afforded us options to drive through the mountainous terrain of Kona, the overlook of Kealakekua Bay (where the fate of Captain Cook was decided), the volcano lava fields, the Mauna Loa macadamia nut company, a green sand beach, and the actual southernmost point in the United States.

After we left Greenwell Farms, we headed south down the main “highway.”  Actually, highway was a bit of a stretch–much like our “yacht” in Greece.  Winding, narrow two lane road is a bit more accurate, but it was scenic, so we didn’t care!  Or perhaps Tracy did, since he was the one driving….but we girls didn’t mind one bit!  😉

Our first stop came only a few minutes down the road when we drove by the South Kona Fruit Stand.  We decided that smoothies were the perfect thing for our trip south, along with some very interesting fruit we had never heard of…or heard of but never tried, like lilikoi, star fruit, and dragon fruit!

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With smoothies in hand and fruit in the trunk, we continued south along the Mamalahoa Highway taking in the picturesque coastline views on one side and the lush mountain on the other side.  Our next destination was Nā‘ālehu, home to both a green sand beach (more about that later) and Ka Lae, the southernmost point on the Big Island, which is the southernmost island, thus is the southernmost point in the United States.

Why, yes, I do like saying southernmost–thankyouverymuch!

So we turned off the “highway” onto an even smaller road and wound our way here and there whilst following signs to the green sand beach and Ka Lae.  We actually went to the beach first but it is deserving of its own post.  After our trek to the beach, we stopped at Ka Lae for a glimpse of what seemed to be the edge of the world.

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For those of you who would love the chance to jump off the edge of the world, there was even a platform–and a group of people willing.

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And just in case you didn’t feel like scaling the steep wall back up or drifting out to sea (although I don’t see why not, after all the Kiribati Atolls are only 1200 miles away!), there was even a ladder to help you.

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I peeked over and decided I was perfectly happy not jumping and drifting off to sea and/or climbing the ladder of death back up.

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A few more quick shots and then we were on our way–having crossed off another item on our Hawaiian to-do list!

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Thirsty Thursday Beer Flights!

In trying to find pictures for Throwback Thursday, I realized I have a lot of pictures of adult beverages (that is said with pride, by the way!). As such, I’ve decided that rather than share pictures of me with bad 80s hair and glasses that legitimately covered half my face, I could easily share glasses of a much tastier kind. So without further ado, I present to you: Thirsty Thursday!

Well of course we couldn’t go alllllll the way to Hawaii AND make the trek to the Big Island and NOT go to the Kona Brewing Company.  I mean, that would be nearly as sacrilegious as skipping out on the coffee plantation tour.

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Besides, we all love beer–especially Tracy and I (okay, not April–she only likes, on exceedingly rare occasions, scotch).  It’s our (Tracy & my) thing.  For example this year I got him a home brewing kit for his birthday.   At this point, I’m sure Christi wants to kill us both.  Don’t bother writing in to defend her–she’s already told me as much (which is EXACTLY why I forgot to mention to her what I sending for his present!).

Point being that we couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to imbibe in some delicious Hawaiian beer–and tasty food to boot (get the fish tacos!)!

Of course as soon as we sat down and opened the menu, we realized that our biggest problem was going to be narrowing down our beer choices.

With so many beers on the menu, we knew that we had only one option: the sampler.  And by “the sampler” I mean we got two samplers because we wanted to try as many as possible–besides we were all sharing (aside from April).

Our selections were the following (in no particular order):

  • Fire Rock Ale
  • Koko Brown
  • Wailua Wheat
  • Pipeline Porter
  • Lavaman Red
  • Duke’s Blonde
  • Lemongrass Lu’au
  • Longboard Lager (alas they were out of the Hula Hefe–I’m mentioning here because we selected this to replace it when our waitress delivered the sad news)

Also a great time to make a public service announcement: if you think you might want to write about something in the future TAKE NOTES.  Because I distinctly remember thinking “these are so fabulous, I won’t forget….” and then here I am frantically trying to remember (although some might point out that if I had written about this a little closer to the trip, it might not have been an issue).

We all tasted and compared and tasted and discussed and tasted and swapped glasses around and tasted and bartered to finish off our favorites.  In the end–because we couldn’t just sample the beer, we had to also drink it!–I chose the Wailua Wheat, hoping that the fruity wheat beer would pair nicely with my fish tacos (it did!).

My final rankings were as follows (hey, I’m doing good to remember mine, there is no way I can remember Christi or Tracy’s–although I’m fairly certain that the Porter was Tracy’s favorite and the Brown was also Christi’s least favorite):

  • Pipeline Porter
  • Wailua Wheat
  • Lavaman Red
  • Duke’s Blonde
  • Longboard Lager
  • Fire Rock Ale
  • Lemongrass Lu’au
  • Koko Brown

What I enjoyed about the first three is how smooth they were.  The porter tasted like silk and coffee and it was magical.  The only reason I didn’t get a pint of it was because after two samplers, I was starting to get full and I need to save room for a pint + tacos!  Plus it would have totally overpowered the tacos.

The Lemongrass Lu’au was interesting.  It was crisp and clean and the ginger and lemongrass added a very different flavor profile.  I’m very glad we tried it, however, I don’t know that I could have finished a pint of it.

Yes, I deliberately left a lot of space before the Koko Brown.  I disliked it immensely.  Now before you start yelling and screaming at me, I fully and proudly admit that I am biased. I HATE BROWN ALES.  Based on the other beers we tasted, I’m sure it’s a good brown ale–I just hate them.  So if you’re one of those weird people (I’m not judging…much) who enjoy brown ales, pleeeeeeeease don’t let my dislike stop you from trying it.

All in all, we had (at least I had) such a great time and if you enjoy beer, the Kona Brewing Company should absolutely be on your list of things to do in Hawaii!

Hipahipa!

 

 

 

The Actual Pilgrimage

As you may or may not remember (or read/didn’t read), the Big Island has approximately 790 coffee plantations/farms.  Narrowing it down to only one was a rather daunting task, but I did a bit of research and history, looked at only those in the Kona region, and further narrowed it down to those who offered tours.  After learning about Captain Cook’s fate, I decided the best thing to do was not show up unannounced any where there weren’t tours, especially given we were only a couple of miles from where he landed!

In the end, I picked Greenwell Farms, located on the Mamalahoa Highway in Kealakekua.  It was not a far trip from Kailua-Kona and is conveniently located on the highway we chose to take to Hilo, filled with lots of fun things to do along the way!

As we drove up the driveway, I could barely contain my excitement and I’m sure that I was out of the car before it was even in park!  Greenwell offers tours everyday from 8am to 4pm–you don’t need a reservation, just show up and wait for the next tour they offer (I think we waited about 4.5 minutes).  The tour itself was about 30 minutes with a coffee tasting following.

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Greenwell Farm was founded in 1850 by Henry and Elizabeth Greenwell, who left England and relocated in Kona.

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Before we even started the tour, we saw several other fruit bearing trees/plants–all of which I had never seen before (the tree/plant that is, I am well acquainted with the fruit), like avocado, banana, and pineapple.

The first stop on our walking tour (don’t panic–it’s an easy walk, you’re not scaling the mountain!) was an up-close look at a few trees with cherries on them.  I think I made EVERYONE take my picture with The Trees.

After I was dragged away from we left the coffee trees, we then headed over to the building where all the magic happens: what happens to the cherries after they are picked.  Aka, they are soaked in water, depulped, and then dried.

After the beans are dried, they are graded, sorted and then packaged in 100lb burlap sacks to store until it is time to be roasted and packaged.

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As our tour guide colorfully walked us through the process, she had on had various coffee cherries/beans at different stages of the process.

The tour concluded with questions and then we headed back for my second favorite part (aside from The Trees): tasting!

Alas, there were no pictures of the tasting because well, WE WERE TASTING!  Greenwell Farms has a very impressive line-up of coffees, in various roasts.  Wahoooo!  I was so excited and it was another reason I chose to visit Greenwell–because I noticed that they have medium roasts in their collection.  I think we all know how I feel about dark roasts. If you don’t, I’ll just keep my rant to a minimum and just say that I liken dark roasts to licking the bottom of an ashtray.  Not that I have ever actually licked the bottom of an ashtray, but in my mind it’s the closest descriptor I can get.

I WILL HAVE TO ADMIT that I did have a few decent dark roasts while in Hawaii because they weren’t too darkly roasted–only a step or two up from a medium roast–so you still got a lot of flavors other than “bottom of the ashtray”.

After we had tasted nearly everything, it was hard not to buy it all!  I did manage to narrow it down to my two favorites–the Peaberry and the Onouli–and then debated/lamented for a good 20 minutes about which one to get.  I mean, in addition to the gifts I was purchasing (I wasn’t going to be totally selfish, even though I reeeeeeeeeeally wanted to be!).

In the end, I went with the Onouli because it is sourced from 100 year old trees and if you’re making a pilgrimage to a coffee mecca, you should definitely splurge and get the really delicious and rare stuff.

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I was a bit sad when it was time to head out, but I knew that we still had a lot of places to see on the Big Island–and besides, I was taking a bit of Greenwell home with me.

🙂

 

 

 

The Pilgrimage to (Coffee) Mecca

Let me start out this post with a bit of house keeping:

  1. Yes, I’m technically late with this posting….although I will argue that it’s still Saturday in Hawaii and since this post is about Hawaii, I’m using that as my justification for the lateness.
  2. When writing don’t forget to click save/update frequently, lest you walk away and the iPad goes into sleep mode and magically erases the last hour of work.  I know this is basic computer 101, but I’m so used to writing on the computer–which automatically saves it–that I forgot on the App, saving is manual.
  3. I realize as I’m typing this for the second time that I suppose I should have started with our time in Oahu, since that is where we started our trip. However, given the fact that I’m retyping this all again, I’m more committed than ever to start with the Big Island. Besides, I don’t know that I’ve ever written about any of my trips in order, so why start now?
  4. Just in case it wasn’t clear in Planning To Get Lei’d, the person who insisted we go to the Big Island so that we could tour coffee plantations was little ol’ me.

Shocking, right?!?!?

I’m just going to pause here for a moment and let all the people who actually know me stop laughing.

For those of you who do not know me and/or haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with me sans coffee, the easiest way to describe my love of coffee is to say that I’m 99.9738% certain that my blood type is C for coffee–or perhaps more accurately, K for Kenya and Kona, my two favorite types of coffee.

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So there was no way in hell that I was going to fly allllllll the way to Hawaii and not go to Kona.  Period.  End of discussion.  Perhaps that is why everyone acquiesced to my suggestion of visiting the Big Island.  Of course, I could have easily made the entire trip about coffee, but I didn’t.  Since my darling friends were kind enough to agree to travel with me to the Big Island, I was kind enough to agree on visiting only one coffee plantation (the parameters set to me went something like “fine, we’ll go to A coffee plantation.  You pick.  You pick ONE.”)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Yes, that’s right.  I’m a big, fat tease and am NOT going to tell you about our trip to the coffee plantation–just yet.  First I want to introduce you to Hawaii, the Big Island.

The best part of the Big Island (aside from THE best pina colada I’ve ever had in my life) is that every where you go, Kona coffee is on the menu.  I was like a kid in a candy shop anytime we went somewhere and I saw it on the menu.  I mean, sure you expect it but when you get there and see that it is an actuality, it’s quite delightful.  Well, delightful to me–I’m not sure everyone else in the group felt the same!

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Here are some more delightful…or rather informative tidbits about the Big Island.  Most of my information comes from hawaii.com, which should be your first stop when planning to visit Hawaii.  And they’re not even paying me to say that, although I would be perfectly a-okay if they wanted to pay me to say that–and visit more often.  Just saying…

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  • Hawaii, aka The Big Island, is so named because it is the biggest of the Hawaiian islands.  Just in case you were confused, thought they were being ironic, or wanted to be argumentative.
  • It is just over 4,000 square miles and is the youngest of the islands.
  • It has 12 distinct climate zones ranging from rainforest to snowcap peaks.
  • It was formed with 5 volcanoes, although only two of them are still active.  One of which is Kilauea, the longest continuously erupting volcano in the world (this eruption phase started in 1983!).
  • One of the most fascinating aspects is how different the weather is on each side of the island.  Hilo boasts an average rainfall of 128 inches, whereas directly across the island a mere 75 miles away is Kawaihae, who only receives about 10 inches of rain a year!
  • It is home to four coffee regions: Kona, Ka’u, Puna, and Hamakua. There are approximately 790 coffee plantations (do you know how hard it was to only pick one?!?!?!) on the Big Island, however, the largest coffee planation is actually in Kauai!
  • The Big Island is home to both a green sand and a black sand beach (more about those later!).
  • The southern most tip of the Big Island is actually the most southern point in the United States.
  • And just in case you thought it was all fun and games and coffee, Captain Cook was captured, killed, and eaten at Kealakekua Bay (just south of Kailua-Kona).

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Aloha!

 

 

Fresh Open Air…Port?

I have been to a lot of airports in my life, but thus far, have never experienced any quite so open as the ones in Hawaii. 

Literally.


I haven’t really traveled much in the tropics, so perhaps all airports in the tropical places of the world are like this?  Certainly no airports that I’ve been in, not even the bane of my existence LAX, where you have an outdoor trek to get from terminal to terminal.  


I do confess that I didn’t notice it in Honolulu, other than to think that the walk from the gate to the outside was like 30 seconds, especially when compared to places like JFK, DFW, or even smaller airports like Tampa that tease you with views of the outside, but it takes a train ride and a walk to actually breathe fresh air.

Not true on the Big Island or Kauai, where there was plenty of fresh open air inside the airport terminals. It seemed that pretty much just the walkways, seating areas, and restaurants were covered and not much else. It was a little surreal (in a very good way) when we deplaned on the Big Island and could see palm trees and stars.


A very nice reminder that we were, in fact, no where near home.


PS–in case it wasn’t clear because I did write about other airports, ALLLLLLL of these pictures were of Hawaiian airports, like Kona, Hilo, and Lihue…but maybe not in that order. OBVIOUSLY if you saw yesterday’s post, you know that copious amounts of adult beverages were consumed and things start to go fuzzy. 

PPS–I know there are (and I have been to) multiple airports where you have to walk outside to transfer terminals, however, I never miss an opportunity to remind the world LAX is the bane of my existence.

Aloha!