Hawaiian sunsets: A cliché worth witnessing (and photographing)

Some moments in life just take your breath away. It sounds so cliché, but there is magic in Hawaiian sunsets. Photographer Catherine Opie said, “The biggest cliché in photography is sunrise and sunset.”

Sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay on the Big Island

Sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay on the Big Island

There’s this legend of the Hawaiian green flash—an optical phenomena of a blast of green that occurs right before or immediately after the sun sets. It’s there and then—poof—it’s gone in a split second or two. Intense. Fleeting. Elusive. I can’t say for certain I’ve seen a green flash, but I could easily spend my days trying. I know it exists.

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On a visit earlier this year, we caught the most magical sunset at Anaehoomalu Bay—also known as A Bay—near Waikoloa on the Island of Hawaii. The brilliance of the most amazing purple sky I’ve ever witnessed. Shades of red and blue combined to a purple hue like I had never experienced before.

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Then, the sky turned a deep and peaceful red and orange.

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Someone lucky enough to be a Hawaiian resident told us that over the course of a year she took a photo of every single sunset. That’s 365 days of ever-changing, magical moments. Long before the days of the iPhone camera, she had the images printed and put them in a book. I can only imagine. She told us that some of the best sunsets happen in August. I think this is a good excuse to plan a late summer visit.

These untouched, no filter (and yes, iPhone) photos show the progression over the evening of that sunset. It started out innocently enough. And then…whoa. By the end of the evening, everyone was trying to capture the moment with cameras. People were giddy. A young girl on the beach asked me to take a photo of the sunset and text it to her. If trying to capture the cliché of a Hawaiian sunset is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

A reminder, once again, that the best things in life are truly free.

Aloha.

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Sunrise at Mount Haleakalā on Maui

There are few places in the world more surreal than watching sunrise on Mount Haleakalā on Maui. If you get the chance, yes…it is worth is to get up at 3 a.m. to make the drive to the summit. It’s not always spectacular each day, but it’s still worth it even if it is somewhat cloudy and hidden. And yes, you should sit an linger and hike for a while after everyone has hopped in the car to drive back down. Or, hopped on a bike to bike down the hill–if you can call it that. We heard from some of our neighbors at this dazzling site that they made the drive up two days in a row to catch a spectacular sunrise. Probably worth it. Well, actually worth is.

It’s gorgeous, breathtaking, out of this world. Aloha.

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Fifty shades of grey

The gratuitous headline actually fits the photo below perfectly. This is February in the Midwest—cold, often cloudy, always monochromatic.

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Compare and contrast to the vibrant colors one experiences on the islands of Hawaii—reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues, indigoes and violets. Yes, a rainbow of colors wherever one turns. Even in the rain, there is usually a rainbow to be discovered.

The minute you step off the plane it’s apparent. It doesn’t matter if you land in Honolulu on Oahu, Kona or Hilo on the Big Island, Lihue on Kauai, Kahului on Maui, or if your final destination is via a smaller aircraft to the Lanai or Molokai airports.

Kua Beach

This photo above, from March 2014, was taken at Kua Beach on the Big Island—officially known as Manini’owali Beach. It’s a gem of a beach with crystal clear waters, white sand, sea turtles, reefs for snorkeling. This photo, taken on a whim from my cell phone, shows the entrance area to a walkway to the beach. I love how a coconut near the rustic, weathered picnic table looks as if it was positioned there on purpose. When we returned from this trip, I sent this one off to Canvas on Demand, so that I could hang in on my wall for days like this when it’s 3 degrees outside.

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This quintessential beach above is in front of Mama’s Fish House on Maui. The palm trees provide just enough shade from the sun. If you stop for lunch or dinner, this is the view.

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On Kauai, home to one of the rainiest spots on earth at the summit of Mount Waialeale, beautiful color is everywhere—even in the rain. This photo is from a lookout near Princeville. I love the serene colors and landscape. So peaceful.

On Lanai, the landscape has its own beauty and is completely different on the shore as it is in upcountry Lanai. This view below is of the lush gardens at the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele. The air is crisp here. The manicured Japanese gardens are stunning. Icing on the cake is the orchid house they have onsite. Rain or shine, gorgeous.

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Pick an island, any island. Really, you can’t go wrong. Need. To. Go. Back. Soon.

Love at first sight

Not sure if I believe in love at first sight when it comes to finding that certain someone, but I sure do believe in love at first sight when it comes to places. For me, that place will always be Hawaii.

The past year has been a whirlwind. Almost too many milestones to digest at once: graduations, entering the empty nester phase, a couple of family health detours, new adventures and our self-proclaimed year of travel. Our philosophy on airline miles and hotel points? Use them now. Life is short and you never know. Carpe diem.

We went to Istanbul. We went to Greece, Italy and France. For my husband’s milestone birthday, we went Costa Rica. And then there was a trip to Oahu that we had planned for our anniversary in March: Now on hold with work and other obligations.

They say that April is the cruelest month, but I disagree. In the Midwest, it is March. February is a close second. The holidays have come and gone. The snow, cold and ice remain. Even in a mild winter, there is darkness. There is sleet. There is black ice on the roads. In April there is hope—the days finally seem longer after the cold and we rejoice in the fact that we’ve turned a corner. Although I painfully remember that we had snow in May of last year.

So, in the meantime, I think of my one true love. Yes, that would be this guy—the one I married on my first visit to the Island of Hawaii many moons ago. For anyone contemplating the idea of a Hawaiian wedding, I highly recommend Rev. Libby from Weddings A La Heart. Here she is with us on the Kohala Coast signing our marriage certificate—before they went electronic. Our ceremony could not have been more perfect. Love.

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For today, I’ll dream of the place in the world where it all began. The thermometer tells me that it is -2 degrees outside today. In my heart, it’s 78 with a light breeze. Happy Valentine’s Day. Aloha.

 

 

 

 

 

Iselle and Julio

The weather reports and warnings about Hurricane Iselle and Tropical Storm Julio approaching the Hawaiian Islands are worrisome. It’s a rare double threat for the Hawaiian Islands. These two tropical cyclones present a back-to-back risk within as few as 10 days apart.

Meteorologists say that they have to go back to 1949 to find a case when tropical cyclones with direct impact to the Hawaiian Islands were 10 days apart. These two storms are predicted to hit Hawaii within two to three days. “Unprecedented in the satellite era,” is how Kevin Roth, lead meteorologist at The Weather Channel, described it.

In travels to the Islands of Hawaii, the one word that always comes to mind is peaceful. So, this forecast warning residents and visitors to prepare for a state of emergency makes my heart break.

The Big Island will be affected first. The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for the entire state of Hawaii from 4 a.m. on Thursday until 6 a.m. on Friday. This means that conditions on all islands may develop and lead to dangerous flash flooding.

One would have to go back more than six decades to find a case of two tropical cyclones with direct impact reaching the Hawaiian Islands—and they were 10 days apart.

In 1994, there were three storms that passed the Hawaiian Islands—Daniel, Emilia and Fabio. Two out of the three, however, had fizzled out quite a bit before they hit land.

The current models predict that there is a 50 percent chance of tropical storm force winds affecting Hilo on the Big Island, a 44 percent chance of tropical storm force winds in Kailua-Kona and a 42 percent change for South Point between Thursday and Friday.

My thoughts are with the residents of the Hawaiian Islands—and the visitors.

Below is a photo of a sacred place on the Big Island—Waipio Valley. This photo was taken from the Waipio Valley Lookout in March of this year. Waipio means “curved water” in the Hawaiian language. Wishing all in beautiful Hawaii safety from the storm.

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Merriman’s in Waimea on the Big Island

Anyone who places a large sign in his restaurant with the following quote is a hero of mine:

“My heroes have always been farmers.” – Peter Merman

IMG_7472That’s exactly what you’ll find at the Merriman’s in Waimea on the Big Island. Restaurateur and Hawaii regional cuisine expert Peter Merriman’s establishments are well known and loved and for good reason. Merriman is known as the original locavore and for more than 25 years he has been a champion for local farmers, fisherman and ranchers on the Hawaiian Islands.

My respect for farmers is immense. In the Midwest, we suffered from severe droughts in 2012 and 2013. This spring, we are dealing with the wettest year since 1871 with three to five inches of rain predicted for today alone and the threat of severe flooding. Today, we may break a 60-year record for rainfall in a 24-hour period. Farmers are always dealing with conditions completely beyond their control. And yet, they go on.

Which brings me back to Peter Merriman and the concept of Hawaii regional cuisine. Interestingly, I recently learned that Merriman got his start at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, a place of which I am extremely fond of and have raved about in earlier posts. The story goes that Merriman arrived from the mainland with one suitcase, plans to stay for a short time and so he took a job at the Mauna Lani as a cook. Two years later, he was named executive chef and the rest is history.

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In 1988, Merriman’s opened up as his signature restaurant in Waimea. Waimea is a charming, upcountry town on the Big Island. The overwhelmingly positive and well deserved reviews came flowing in soon after Merriman’s opened from the New York Times, San Francisco magazine and on and on and on. He was one of the chefs who put Hawaii on the map as a foodie destination. Over the years, he expanded to other islands, including two additional locations for Merriman’s Kapalua on Maui and Merriman’s Fishhouse in Poipu on Kauai. In 2014, he opened a new venture called Monkeypod Kitchen, with locations on Maui and Oahu, which I previously wrote about here.

A hula dancing waitress and live Hawaiian music for lunch on a Friday? Yes, please!

A hula dancing waitress and live Hawaiian music for lunch on a Friday? Yes, please!

This past March we visited the original Merriman’s in Waimea for lunch on a Friday and it was as wonderful as ever. The minute we were seated our waitress told us that we were in luck as they have live music on Fridays. It got even better from there: One of the waitresses graced the dining room with a hula to accompany the music—a true Hawaiian dining experience.

 

IMG_7478Looking out the window from our table, you could see the kitchen garden. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. We were amused by a father and his elementary school-aged daughter seated at the table next to us. She asked to be excused for a minute and stepped outside for a quick walk through the garden. We saw her sneak a leaf of lettuce for an appetizer. If that isn’t a sign that the produce is fresh and tastes like all produce should, then I don’t know what is. She also ordered a salad for her lunch—exactly how a child’s taste buds should be.

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The website description of the menu explains it all: “The menu at the original Merriman’s in Waimea starts on the farm, reflecting Hawaii’s rich flavors that are alive with freshness. Drawing inspiration from the surrounding green pastures, cattle ranches and fields, Merriman’s Waimea is the true Home of Hawaii Regional Cuisine. Featuring a menu of grass fed cattle, fish caught off the Kohala Coast and farm fresh produce from neighboring Nakano and Hirabara Farms, each quality ingredient used at Merriman’s celebrates Hawaii’s rich bounty of flavors, harvested at the peak of perfection. A truly Hawaii Regional menu, experience signature dishes that originated right here such as Merriman’s Classic Wok Charred Ahi and Kahua Ranch Naturally Raised Lamb.”

IMG_2689If in doubt, order the wok charred ahi. But, be sure to start with one of his signature salads. It doesn’t get fresher. To add to the appeal, he also offers a wonderful wine list. Merriman’s is consistently, as the Hawaiians would say, “ono.”

 

 

Time flies

It’s been six weeks since my last post. During that time, we had two kids graduate—one from high school and one from college. We also said good riddance to one of the nastiest winters on record. It was painful. Snow and cold and then more snow and cold, plus sleet and freezing rain to add to the misery index. Today, it’s a lovely 75 degrees and mostly sunny, which reminds me of my favorite place on earth.

We were able to escape the cold, gray and ice for a week in late March to this favorite place of ours. This time we visited the Big Island. Heavenly. Here’s the view of what we gladly left behind in the Midwest. It was snow and ice as far as the eye could see. Okay, it sort of looks pretty from this angle, but it really wasn’t pretty to live with day in and day out.

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The biggest obstacle for us spending more time in Hawaii is the flight. There is no doubt about it: It’s long. The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated place on earth in terms of distance from land. Los Angeles is more than 2,500 miles away and Tokyo is even further at more than 3,500 miles away. I try not to think about the fact that there is nothing in between, but for some reason we always seem to get the pilot who wants to remind us of this fact on takeoff.

Most return flights to the mainland leave at night. A blessing since this seems to be the only time I’m able to sleep during a flight. On the flight over, I do my best to focus on the destination, but I am not a big fan of long flights.

For most of the flight, you look out the window and see something like this.

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And then, magically the southernmost island of Hawaii is in sight. What a sight it is. Even from 10,000 feet its beauty and majesty always get me.

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The Kona International Airport feels familiar and welcoming to us with its charming outdoor baggage carousels and lack of jet bridges. Down the stairs to the tarmac you go. This time, we were greeted with an afternoon shower. It was warm, smelled like paradise and we could have cared less that we were soaked by the time we picked up our luggage.

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For the first time in months, the landscape is filled with color, flowers, a familiar tropical perfume that once experienced you do not forget.

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We made it just in time to watch the sunset near Kona.

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Aloha indeed.

 

 

 

Torch lighting ceremony at Black Rock on Maui

Each evening in Ka’anapali, as the sun begins to set in the ocean, a torch lighting ceremony followed by a cliff diver’s plunge into the sea is held at Black Rock on Maui.

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The beach near Black Rock is directly facing the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, which conveniently offers the Cliff Dive Grill and Mai Tai Bar–a great place to watch the traditional ceremony and enjoy a tropical beverage or appetizer (pupus as they are called on the Hawaiian Islands). The beach is spectacular and the sunsets here do not disappoint. This area is also known for excellent snorkeling.

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The sunsets from this viewpoint paint the sky with brilliant shades of pinks and blues. Black Rock, formed by a volcanic eruption in ancient times, was considered by ancient Hawaiians as the sacred place where souls would leave the earth and join with ancestors.

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Yes, the daily cliff dive ceremony is a tourist gimmick and yes, you should go. Watching the cliff diver reach the summit as he casts his lei into the sea and takes a magnificent dive into the sea is well worth a stop.

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Tropical blue jade

The exotic blue jade is a tropical perennial plant. It is a climbing vine with vivid sea green-colored flowers. The green-blue unique color makes this plant stand out in any setting.

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Its flowers, typically two to four inches in length, are sturdy enough to be used decoratively to make gorgeous leis and other floral decorations. Although they are native to the Philippines, they fit in perfectly on the Hawaiian Islands. When you see them, they are a showstopper—one of those flowers to stop you in your tracks.

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Tropical fragrance of gardenias

The gardenia is a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family.  In Hawaii, there are several species of gardenia plants and they are known as na’u. The gardenia flowers have a strong, sweet fragrance that seems to last and last, even when cut. This bunch of gardenias is from the Keauhou Farmers’ Market on the Big Island. The fragrance from the brilliant white flowers lasted for days and days.

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