Bonding Together, Hand in Hand

The 18th Honolulu Festival - Sub Theme is now set.

Bonding together, hand in hand

This is the Sub Theme for the 18th Honolulu Festival determined by the Honolulu Festival Foundation officer.

The Sub Theme uses the word "kizuna" or "bonding".  
It is most appropriate theme for the next Honolulu Festival as a number of Pacific Rim regions faced recent disasters and were able to overcome and support each other by bonding through cultural understanding.

The 18th Honolulu Festival is being planned with exciting events that will reflect this Sub Theme.


Nagaoka Fireworks

One of the greatest fireworks displays in the world is coming to Waikiki Beach March 4, 2012. Are you ready for it?
Are you ready for a fireworks display that will literally vibrate your very core?
Are you ready for something more from your fireworks than just a common celebration?
Well we've got you covered!
The Honolulu Festival is proud to be teaming up with the city of Nagaoka to bring this amazing treat all the way from Japan to Waikiki Beach, so hurry up and mark your calendar, Sunday March 4, 2012 you are BUSY.

This is going to make the Friday night fireworks look like sparklers.

These fireworks are not just visually stunning, they are emotionally loaded with the gunpowder of prayer and peace. Check out this interview from the 2011 Honolulu Festival to learn more about the message of peace these fireworks serve to bring to the lucky viewers.


Hiking Hanauma Bay

Good Morning Hanauma Bay~!

Our day started with the alarms announcement that dark-thirty had arrived.


Plan of attack ---- Haiku Stairs, Up and Over.

The Haiku Stairs, often referred to as Stairway to Heaven, are more of a spiritual journey than a hike. As you cling to a shaky wet metal ladder, clouds roll up the hillsides along side you, looking down the vertical drop below your feet toy cars on the H3 give you a proper scale to imagine the kind of fall that would happen if the wobbly step beneath were to come off its squeaking rusted bolt.

It's not just in your head, people not having respect for the physical demands of this hike have been seriously injured. That's why the trail is officially closed and guarded (thus the need for an O'Dark-Thirty wake up).

As we made our way to the hidden trail head the rain began.


It was still dark, but the sky was lit just enough to make out a stretch of grim gray clouds queuing up to take turns dumping buckets of rain on the exactstretch of ridge-line that was to be the day's great adventure.

And THAT'S why there are pictures of Hanauma Bay here instead!

I've been fortunate enough to spend the last three years of my life in Oahu (hubby has more than double that) and this has been the closest we've come toHanauma Bay. And I must say, not a bad hike at all! It's a short walk to the trail head from street parking and you are rewarded with gorgeous coastline most of the way. The path to the top is a little steep, but paved, ending at a power station type of barbed wire government thing. After that the trails are red clay andpahoehoe lava (smooth and easy to walk on).

We spent about 2 hours taking every tail around the Bay. Some were for people, some were not. We made an error in assessing a few that turned out to be pig trails (-_-). At one point we came to the ancestral home of 'Ihi'Ihilauakea (a little bit of research shows her to be the sister of a more well known Makapu'u). We snacked on Fiji apples and strawberry pop-tarts. And after a futile attempt to find a new trail (stupid pigs, making us back track, rablerablerable) called it a day and went home for a nap.

Occasionally we would glance at the darkness surrounding the originally intended hike, and were happy to have aborted it for the time being. Another day stairway, I will wait for you to be ready.


A Rainy Day's Drive to Yokohama Bay

A Rainy Day’s Drive to Yokohama Bay

Hawaii is best known for its sunny skies and warm balmy breezes, but today it’s raining. And you know what? It’s not so bad. The rain is warm. The breeze is still warm. And when you step in the sand, that’s warm too. Visitors from the mainland, where the snow is falling in areas that haven’t had it for years, are thrilled to be here. Those of us who live here have got to stop taking our paradise for granted.

Do you know that there are people who live on Oahu who have never been to the West side? Or taken a drive to see the treasures of Wahiawa in the center of the island, or even Hau`ula on the windward side? Unbelievable! Such a relatively small island begs us to discover every corner.

Yokohama Bay is at the end of the road, the farthest you can go on Oahu’s west coast. And it’s spectacular. I don’t know how long it is, but it looks like it stretches for miles. Hardly anyone is on the white sands today, possibly because of the weather, but we’ve been here on fair days and it’s the same. Unspoiled, vast, beautiful, unpopulated. The locals would rather keep it to themselves, but if the occasional visitor shows up, they’re willing to share.

For the adventurous among us, from Keawaula Beach (Yokohama Bay’s other name) is a great hiking trail to Kaena Point State Park, the island’s northwestern tip. Bring your hiking boots or at least running shoes—you don’t want to walk it in slippers. It’s pretty rocky. Bring water, too, and a sandwich, because you’ll want to stay awhile to see the monk seals that are protected here. Turtles, dolphins and sea birds also hang around, and in whale season, like today, you’re in for a treat. You can see for miles, and whales are bound to show up.

In the winter months this beach is no place for a novice. High, powerful surf pounds in, and the pros are the only ones allowed in the water by the lifeguards. In the summer, though, swimming, snorkeling and diving are dazzling in the clear, flat conditions. Don’t go out alone, as sometimes the swells can take you a little further out than you expect!

What’s its name mean? Known originally as Keawalua Beach (red harbor), large schools of squid used to gather near shore in mating season. Normally transparent, muhe’e change color to bright red during this time. The more common name of Yokohama refers to the home town of the Japanese workers who immigrated to Hawaii to work in the cane fields and often came here to fish.

Oahu has many sacred locations, and Kaena Point is one of them. In Hawaiian legend, the point is a "jumping off" point where souls join the spiritual world. Also nearby is Makua Cave, also known as Kaneana Cave, another sacred spot. Named after Kane, the Hawaiian god of creation, legend says that mankind emerged from here. The cave is 100 feet high and 450 feet deep, although most of us stay near the entrance since it’s kind of spooky. If you’re one of the brave ones, bring a flashlight and wear covered shoes.

Rain or shine, Yokohama Bay is a treasure you’ll want to discover. Take a drive! It’s less than a couple of hours no matter where you are on the island.


The 17th Honolulu Festival

The Experience

Underlying the celebrations of this year’s Honolulu Festival was the sorrow and uncertainty generated by the earthquake and tsunami off Japan on March 11th. (Why do these major events seem to happen on the 11th?) But in spite of that, organizers decided to carry on with festival events, and I’m glad. This year’s theme, “We are all neighbors, around the world,” has never been more true.

I’m not Japanese. I’ve been around for most of the 17 years of The Honolulu Festival, but this is the first year that I really paid attention. The 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami kind of woke me up, you might say, and made me want to find out more about the island of Japan and its people, where so many people in Hawaii have ties. I had family members in the Tokyo area at the time of the earthquake, which made the disaster hit home all the more. Anxiously waiting to hear from them, glued to the TV for hours on end, I realized more than ever that we are all connected. So I went to Hawaii Convention Center, and to Waikiki Beachwalk. I went to Waikiki Shopping Plaza, Ala Moana Shopping Center, and to the Grand Parade.

At all these venues, groups of people from many Pacific regions shared their colorful heritage on stage or in displays and demonstrations. I enjoyed the photography exhibit “peace gallery” at HCC. Many locals tried their hand at calligraphy, or origami. At one popular exhibit a visitor laughingly struggled to remain upright as portions of a heavy samurai costume were placed on his head and shoulders.

Suga-Ren was a huge crowd favorite with their beautiful costumes and tremendous enthusiasm. The Alaska Heritage dancers were a boisterous group, not to be outdone by the Aborigines from Australia, Descendance. Several of Japan’s many Hula Halau participated, paying tribute to Hawaii’s own traditional dance, and further cementing the Japan-Hawaii bond. Singers from many different genres from traditional all the way to modern wailing rock entertained both locals and visitors.

And everywhere you looked at the various venues were yellow-shirted volunteers and workers. I spoke to several people, some who were helping out for the first time, and others who make it a point to volunteer every year. They enjoy the connection of this international high-spirited coming-together of cultures that seems to grow exponentially.

The Grand Parade kicked off at 4:30 in the afternoon, and as daylight gave way to evening, the crowds lining Kalakaua Avenue seemed to grow ever larger. The groups’ performances along the way were varied and colorfully exuberant. The sound of taiko and shamisen lifted spirits as participants, many of whom had performed on the other stages over the weekend, paraded down the street.

Traditional and modern dancers entertained viewers. Authentic hand-made Samurai costumes took us back into Japan’s history. It’s a good thing the parade route isn’t that long—those costumes are super heavy. Imagine how difficult for them as they fought hundreds of years ago, toiling under the weight! Several mikoshi (portable shrines), Honolulu Daijayama and Neputa floats were carried or pushed by volunteers, many of them students, dressed in traditional happi coats.

Unfortunately the planned Nagaoka City fireworks demonstration scheduled as the finale had to be cancelled, but most people understood.

All in all, it was a terrific display of culture and pageantry. What a great opportunity to share with people you may not interact with on a daily basis. Don’t miss it next year!


Escape to Kaua'i

Escape to Kaua`i

There’s no other place on earth like the beautiful Garden Isle, Kaua`i. About 20 minutes by air from Honolulu, it’s Hawaii’s fourth largest island, and the oldest. Time has created tropical rainforests, lush green valleys, spiky mountain cliffs, tumbling waterfalls and a large number of rivers. The northernmost of the Hawaii chain of islands boasts seven distinct microclimates—all in about 550 square miles.

From lush tropical forests and spectacular beaches (what you expect when you think of paradise) to dry desert-like areas on the west side, Kauai is different from the other Hawaiian islands. Much of the interior is uninhabited, including Waimea Canyon and the famous Mount Waialeale (elev 5,148 ft) where over 400 inches of rain fall per year. Any time of year Kauai will embrace you from the moment you step off the plane into its 80-degree warmth. Balmy trade winds will keep you comfortable as you explore, or just kick back and do nothing!

Laid-back Kauai is smaller and less populated than Oahu, Maui or the Big Island, and it’s the preferred destination for many visitors to Hawaii for that reason. This secluded getaway is also a favorite for celebrities, some of whom have homes here. Because of a local rule that nothing can be built taller than a coconut tree (about 40 feet), Kauai will remain without the huge developments that dominate some areas of the other islands.

Beyond its undeniable beauty, visitors to Kauai can enjoy many outdoor activities. Try kayaking on the Wailua River, snorkeling off Poipu Beach, hiking on the trails of Kokee State Park. The dramatic Napali Coast is accessible only by sea or air—but if you take the time and can afford the expense to check it out, you won’t be sorry. You’ve never seen views like these anywhere else on earth. Sheer cliffs drop thousands of feet onto perfect white sand beaches. Hidden caves can only be accessed by boat.

Kauai’s rich culture makes it truly timeless. Old Koloa Town is the site of its first sugar mill. Take some time to follow the Koloa Heritage Trail in Old Koloa Town and learn about Kauai’s plantation past. On the North Shore, the Waioli Mission House provides a peek at missionary life in the 19th century. Kauai Museum holds exhibits, artifacts and murals portraying the history of Kauai and its people.

Because it’s the oldest of the islands, Kauai’s history is filled with colorful legends. You’ve heard about the Menehune, a mythical race of forest-dwelling little people who were famous for their construction and engineering abilities. Legend has it they used their talents to create aqueducts and fishponds. Outside Lihue you can see Alekoko (Menehune Fishpond), supposedly built by them nearly 1,000 years ago.

Many varieties of crops are grown in Kauai’s fertile soil, including guava, papaya, mango, avocado, star fruit, kava and pineapple, as well as coffee. Visitors are always surprised at the familiar sight in Kauaʻi alongside the roads (or anywhere!) of the thousands of wild chickens! Brought in by the original Polynesian settlers as a food source, they roam freely, and since they have few natural predators, their numbers continue to increase.

Kauaʻi over the years has been a featured spot for movie-making and television shows. South Pacific, Blue Hawaii, Jurassic Park, Lilo and Stitch, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and many more were filmed here.

Take a trip over and experience the wonders of Kaua`i for yourself!


Makapu'u Trail

Makapu`u Trail

On a weekend in winter or early spring, be sure to climb up the Makapuʻu trail on Oahu’s east side. While this easy paved trail is scenic at all times of the year, it’s especially popular with hikers of all abilities from November through April, whale-watching season! The islands of Moloka`i and Lana`i may be seen across the Kaiwi Channel, and on a particularly clear day, Maui is also visible.

The hike is a little less than 2 miles to the top, and the huge expanse of open ocean offers a panorama like no other. You won’t even notice the effort it takes to climb it because you’ll be distracted by the turquoise blue of the shallower waters in close on out to the dark navy of the expanse of ocean to the horizon. It’s absolutely breathtaking. And you won’t want to miss the thrill of possibly seeing a humpback jump high out of the water.

Known as the Kaiwi Coast, this wild and wonderful area is protected from development and offers us city folks a chance to get back to nature. It’s spectacularly picturesque at all times of the year, but it’s even more special during whale watching season. Today it’s a little on the voggy side, and the tradewinds are nonexistent so it’s a little sticky, but no matter, press onward and upward! Your neighbors are up here too, along with their aunties, uncles, keiki, and of course, the attendant pooches. Everyone has an eagle eye pointing oceanward to note the spouts and splashes that can only hint at the huge whales’ underwater size.

Humpbacks breed, calve and nurse here in these warm waters prior to their return to polar areas to feed. At 45 feet long and weighing 40 tons, the adult whales are terrifically acrobatic. You might see a tail slap, a pec slap, or the most miraculous of all, the breach, where the entire body rises out of the water. And the babies learn by mimicking their parents—equally phenomenal activities, although with slightly less splash. And it’s kind of unbelievable that the parents don’t eat the whole time they’re here!

Makapuʻu Point is located about a mile east of Waimanalo Beach on Kalanianaole Highway (or, if you’re coming from the other direction, about a mile past the Hawaii Kai Golf Course). It’s the easternmost tip of O`ahu and is the location of Makapu`u Point Lighthouse. The 46-foot-tall US Coast Guard lighthouse is inaccessible to hikers, and although unmanned, it is still active. The steamship Manchuria ran aground on the reef off Waimanalo in 1906, which prompted the construction of the lighthouse, completed in 1909. The lighthouse was automated in 1974, and contains a 12-foot-tall hyper-radial lens, the largest in use in the U.S. The lens can magnify and intensify the illumination of a single electrical 1,000-watt, 120-volt light bulb. It was once damaged by a bullet, but remains in service.

The beauty and wildlife of this protected area, along with its history, are interesting facets of our home in the islands. Take a couple of hours to explore and check out Makapu`u--you’ll be glad you did.


Magical Butterflies

Magical Butterflies

Looking out over my sunny Honolulu yard and seeing several beautiful Monarch butterflies flitting from flower to flower makes my heart take flight with them. Trying to catch up to photograph them with my digital camera is a losing proposition, however, although I did manage to get a couple of shots.

These magical creatures, pulelehua in Hawaiian, are declining in our islands. The main reason is man’s intrusion into their environment: Concrete, pavement, and overbuilding are not favorable butterfly environment. Our use of pesticides damages their immune systems so they are unable to reproduce. Also, many species of birds have decided that the baby Monarch caterpillars are very tasty. Predator lizards, ants and wasps devour their eggs.

There are several butterfly preservation missions in Hawaii, whose purpose is to educate us on the importance of butterflies. They also encourage the creation of butterfly gardens in the midst of our urban areas. Creating a butterfly haven, even if only on your lanai in a crowded city, may help preserve the remaining butterflies. Let’s learn a little about this wonderful being, the butterfly.

Butterfly Life Cycle

Butterflies have four stages of life: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult.

After mating, the adult female lays eggs on leaves and stems on a plant the caterpillars will eat (a host plant). The eggs are tiny, and can be round, oval, or cylindrical. The eggs usually hatch within a few days, and tiny caterpillars emerge. Their job now is to eat and grow. Caterpillars are often colorful with interesting stripes or patterns. They will shed their skins at least four times to enclose a rapidly growing body.

Children love to look at and play with the curious looking caterpillars. Generally speaking, the majority of caterpillars are not dangerous to handle, but don’t eat them!

To pupate, the caterpillar finds a sheltered spot and then sheds its skin one last time to reveal the pupa, or chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the structures of the caterpillar are broken down and dissolved, and the butterfly’s structures are formed. Then the imago (adult butterfly) emerges.

The adults then experience courtship, feeding, mating, and egg-laying, all within about a two-week period, their life span. Some butterflies can live longer than that, but it’s not typical.

Some interesting butterfly facts:

  • Adult butterflies and moths are attracted to certain nectar plants for their food

  • Butterflies are pollinators, that help flowering plants to reproduce and bear fruit

  • Monarch butterflies eat poisonous plants when they are caterpillars and are poisonous themselves as adult butterflies. If a bird should eat an adult butterfly, he finds that it tastes really bad, and he will become sick and vomit after eating one. No wonder he learns not to do it again!

  • The dust on butterfly and moth wings is called scales. The scales form the bright colors, sometimes with hidden ultraviolet patterns. They have several purposes:

  • They are signals to the other sex to attract mating

  • The colors warn birds or other predators not to eat them

  • Their patterns help the butterflies blend into their background and thus escape predators

  • Butterflies are cold-blooded. Dark colors formed by the scales can soak up warmth from the sun to allow their bodies to warm up to flight temperatures

  • When butterflies cannot keep their temperatures at activity levels, when it's cloudy, or at night, they become inactive. This resting is not the same as human sleep.

  • Butterflies always have their eyes open, since they don’t have eyelids, and they probably don’t dream.

These beautiful creatures are declining in our world, but perhaps we can help restore their population! Check with the preservation societies in your area on how you can help.




Super popular in Hawaii, kayaking is a great way to get out and explore the ocean. There are several wonderful locations for paddling on Oahu, but Kailua and Lanikai are the most popular. With the Mokulua Islands nearby to explore, Kailua Bay welcomes you to an adventure that’s not to be missed. An offshore reef keeps the larger waves ‘at bay,’ so even the novice can feel comfortable while skimming along on the turquoise blue waters.

Ocean kayaks are usually made of brightly colored polyethylene, and are very stable. Kayaking is a little different from canoeing because of where the paddler sits and by having two blades on the paddle instead of one. Kayak designs can accommodate a wide range of usage. They come in many lengths, with shorter boats being more maneuverable, and longer boats, used by the more expert paddlers, usually travel straighter and faster.

Several kayak rental companies can help you find just the right type of boat and place to explore. Adventuring alone? There are single-seat kayaks available. Spending the day with your family? Rent several double-seater ocean kayaks (some even have backrests!) and everyone can help out with the paddling. Definitely get someone to take your picture sitting in your colorful boat, lifejacket on! Ready? Get paddling!

Three small, uninhabited islands in Kailua Bay are easily reachable in a short time, even by a beginner. On your way there, chances are really good that you’ll be thrilled by the sight of one of the large endangered sea turtles that populate the warm waters. They’re huge! And green! And wonderful! They’ll pop their heads out of the water to check you out on your way by.

At your destination, you can park your boat and enjoying sunning yourself in a secluded spot, or swim or snorkel along the shore. There are coral reefs nearby inhabited by many varieties of colorful tropical fish. Imagine your excitement at seeing these beauties in their natural habitat! One of the islands is a bird sanctuary, where you can see some wedge-tailed shearwaters and many other species.

A little afraid of the ocean? Its vastness and power definitely takes some getting used to. If you don’t feel comfortable venturing out on your own, guided kayak tours are the ticket. Your knowledgeable guide will point out highlights along the way—an occasional dolphin sighting, schools of fish passing by, the view of the majestic Koolau Mountains—as well as affording you the security of knowing you are in good hands.

Kailua is definitely not the only place to kayak. Other popular paddling spots around Oahu are Kaneohe Bay, Kualoa Beach Park, Maunalua Bay, and Waimanalo Beach Park. Pick any one! Find your own favorite!

Leave the hustle and bustle of your everyday life behind and paddle away your stress. The natural rhythms of paddling, gentle waves, and soft breezes will relax you and re-energize your soul. You’ll return to shore in a much better frame of mind!