Wanted: trade winds and a cool breeze

Make your own bouquet of tropical flowers

Make your own bouquet of tropical flowers

Always a great selection of island fruits and vegetables

Always a great selection of island fruits and vegetables

Colorful flowers always seem to be plentiful in Kona

Colorful flowers always seem to be plentiful in Kona

In the Midwest, land of temperature extremes, we are dealing with record-breaking heat and humidity this week. Yesterday, the relative humidity hit 79 percent, which we were told made the temperature outside feel like 108 to 111 degrees. As the saying goes: It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

This dry and hot late August weather wreaks havoc on the flowers, trees, vegetable gardens and lawns unless they are watered regularly. Although it’s steamy hot, we desperately need rain. Most of the blooming flowers look exhausted and ready to be replaced with mums or other autumn plants and flowers once the heat subsides.

Yes, we have color everywhere and the farmers’ markets in our region are bursting with vegetables, herbs and plenty from the harvest season. It’s here, and then—poof. It’s gone. So, we enjoy it.

Hawaii residents and visitors are so fortunate to experience color, flowers, nearly perfect weather year-round.  I’ll take the high temperatures any day over the cold and snow of January, February, March and sometimes even April. (Yes, it sometimes snows in April, the cruelest month.) One weather newscaster told us yesterday that the temperature was 140 degrees warmer than our coldest day last winter. Yet, today I dream of the next visit to Hawaii. This time it’s to cool off from the heat.

Kona Farmers Market

Kona Farmers Market

Kona coffee is the real deal

For most coffee lovers, a cup of 100 percent Kona coffee will be love at first sip. The smell of Kona coffee brewing is enough to get you hooked.
 
Kona coffee is the official name for coffee grown in the North and South Kona districts on the Big Island. The weather in this region is apparently ideal for growing the coffee, with the volcanic soil and sunny days with a mix of light clouds in the afternoon. Other islands grow and produce coffee, but the Big Island is the home of pure Kona coffee.
 
A fun way to spend an afternoon is to go coffee tasting, sort of like wine tasting in Napa or Sonoma except you don’t need a designated driver. On our first trip to the Big Island, we discovered Greenwell Farms. We have since been back to visit and our tour guide was once from our home state. We were hooked and have been members of the Greenwell Farms coffee club since—sort of like a wine club, except you don’t need to worry about your shipment freezing in our frigid winters.
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We get a quarterly shipment of chocolate macadamia nut coffee. In the middle of January, it’s heaven in a cup.
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There are many wonderful coffee farms to visit. Many of them are located on the Mamalahoa Highway 11, south of Kona and hear the Holualoa area. Many of the farms will offer tours, which are well worth the time, often provide a scenic view of the ocean in the distance, and will make you want to sit and sip and stay a while.

The breathtaking end of the road

A visit to the Big Island is a study in ecologic and geographic diversity. Drive in any direction and the landscape and weather are likely to change, often rather dramatically. Now, I am not an expert in climate zones, but depending on the classification system used there are at least eight on the Big Island—from humid tropical to arid and semi-arid, to temperate and even polar on the tops of two of Hawaii’s mountains. Yes, skiing and snowboarding in Hawaii. It’s possible and yet another reason to love this island.
 
One way to spend an amazing day on the Big Island is to drive to the northern tip, past the charming town of Hawi. Be sure to stop at the local stores and restaurants on the way. There are some gems here and besides, you aren’t in a hurry.
 
Be sure to enjoy the jaw-dropping twists and turns of this road and drive slowly (and quietly) to take it in.
 
When you get to the end of the road on the Big Island’s Northern Kohala Coast, you are in for a stunning, gorgeous vista—one of the places forever ingrained in my mind for its breathtaking beauty. Welcome to the Pololu Valley Lookout. This is the image one might imagine from a postcard or calendar of Hawaii. The cliffs and the sounds of the waves crashing against the shores. It’s almost overwhelming. Stop and look—and listen. This is a sound that never gets old.
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More to come in future posts on this gem, including a hike down to the beach. For now, enjoy the view.

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Sunday brunch, Hawaiian style

In March 2012, we biked for 10 miles plus so that we could enjoy the delicious breakfast and brunch at the Bay Terrace at the Mauna Lani Hotel on the Big Island. With its outdoor tables overlooking the gorgeous grounds, pool and ocean, you can’t go wrong. We get the sense that many of the waiters and waitresses have worked at the Mauna Lani for years. Since this is the type of place that people seem to return to year after year, it wouldn’t surprise me if they eventually learned your name and waited for your return.

IMG_4714 2IMG_4715We enjoyed the Hawaiian-inspired eggs benedict and coconut French toast with bananas. So tropical and so delicious. Paired with a freshly brewed cup of Kona coffee, it’s perfect for a Sunday brunch. Or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Good morning, paradise.

Orchid memories

IMG_6110It’s May 1 and we are once again bracing for a winter snow, sleet and slush storm. Yes, another winter storm in spring.

The forecast is for six to nine inches of snow. Yes, it’s May 1 and the tulips and daffodils in the Upper Midwest were just starting to make an appearance. Poor things. So, instead of snow, I’ll dream of orchids.

These photos are from March at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. The Garden has a fantastic collection of orchids.

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To see orchids in a natural garden setting instead of potted is a thing of beauty—something to hold onto until spring decides to arrive.

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Blooming bougainvillea

IMG_0217Bright purple, red, white, orange and pink, the bougainvillea colors in Hawaii are unforgettable. They border the highways and add bursts of color to yards, public spaces, beaches and rugged terrain.
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They even seem to thrive in fields of lava, which gives a colorful contrast with the black rock and other tropical plants and trees. With deep green leaves, the bracts (the leaf-like structures just below the flower) offer the bursts of color. If you look closely, you will see a tiny white flower inside.

 

They are most impressive in mass plantings, hedges or barriers and seem to flower the most from September through late spring. Some years we have noticed that they seem to be more vibrant than other years, most likely depending on rainfall as they thrive in slightly dry conditions.

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For scent, plumeria is one of my favorite flowers in Hawaii, but when it comes to bursts of beautiful color, bougainvillea never disappoints.