Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LIVE ALOHA! - A circle tour of the gorgeous Big Island of Hawaii

Aloha everyone!! Today I am homesick… Homesick for the sultry heat of the islands that rarely overwhelms. It wraps around my skin like a piece of silk sliding across my body. My spirit instantly feels lighter, freer. I feel connected to myself and the island, to the ancestors. I slip into my island skin and shrug off my Mainland wrapping…instantly feeling like a different person. 

One I like much better.

When I’m home, I go to the beach every second day. I drink cocktails like they’re normal things. I drive slowly along Ali’i Drive, just to take in the gorgeous blue water. I drive slower generally…all islanders do. Big decisions of the day—Honaunau or Kekaha Kai? Snorkeling or swimming? Four Seasons for lunch or Royal Kona?

I love having visitors and showing off the island. She’s the most diverse of all the Hawaiian Islands and I love to showcase her in my stories. She’s a living, breathing entity in her own right.

So come with me today and I’ll take you on a partial circle, island tour. We’ll only get so far because there’s so much to see and do, but we’ll come back every couple of weeks and do the rest of it. We’ll stop at all my favorite spots, eat at my favorite restaurants and shop here and there. Cocktails and a sunset at the end of each day if we’re on the West side of the island. Someone commented that my piccies of the sunsets are photoshopped. They’re not. They’re real. Each day we get something different. It’s magical.

The allure of the beautiful exotic Hawaiian Islands still calls my soul and it seems to call other people as well. So come with me. Put your togs (swimsuit) on under your sundress or shorts because we’re bound to find somewhere to hop in the water. All locals carry plenty of towels, snorkel gear, chilly bins and beach crap in the back of their cars or trucks. So just bring yourself…

If you’re staying at my place, it’ll be in Kona on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Officially called Kailua-Kona but none of us call it that. There’s another place called Kailua on O’ahu. The whole island is home to Kona coffee, Macadamia nuts, plumeria farms, orchid farms, the slow moving active volcano, the best snorkeling in the Hawaiian islands, gorgeous beaches, every type of sea life you can imagine and fabulous restaurants. 

Even better, it’s local. Laid back, cruisy, Hawaiian-American energy rather than the energy of Maui and O’ahu which is American-Hawaiian. There’s a distinct difference. Even on O’ahu they look at us strangely when we stop to let people cross the road.

We’re from the BI we say and they nod and grin…that answers a lot of things. J

There’s still an old island feel to the place. Anyone who comes to live there and doesn’t settle in within a year, tends to go back to the Mainland. If you’re going to freak out because you can’t get a coffee grinder for a month until the next barge comes in—you’re in the wrong place.

It’s the perfect mix between American high energy and convenience and island laidbackness and community. We accept more interesting people. We worry less. We smile more. We’re casual… We live aloha. 

You’ve just arrived and the air is warm and humid, coating your skin in sensuality. You’ve been anointed with a traditional, delicately, sweet smelling plumeria or orchid lei. Even if you’re a local and you’re coming home, you get one. It’s that instant island connection that lets you know you’re now back in Paradise.

Let’s stop at the Harbor House bar just up the road from the airport at the Honokohau Marina. It’s a local bar that caters to everyone. They have good snacks here. You can sit at the rail and watch the boats come into to dock. Plus, they have the BEST drinks. 

You’ve probably already been given some POG on the plane coming into Kona’s Keahole airport, but I’m thinking something a little more alcoholic. POG is a passion, orange, guava mix of fruit juice that is unique to the Hawaiian Islands. It’s gorgeous! The local passion fruit are called Liliko’i at home but LOG probably wasn’t a great selling name. They’re a sweetie, yellow skinned passion fruit and they grow all over the island. We use them in everything we can think of, even our local beers!

At the Harbor House, they keep their ENORMOUS fishbowl schooners in the fridge, and all the ‘fizzy’ drinks are served in them. Icy cold beer, Mikes Hard Lemonade etc and anything else carbonated. Ono—that means they’re damn good. Try some of the local sashimi—Ahi tuna sliced or mahimahi in a fish sandwich. Fresh off the boat! 

The Bite Me boat is in and you wonder what fresh fish they’ve brought in today. You might take a wander down to the shop near the bar afterward and see what they have. There’s always Mahimahi and Ahi tuna. But maybe they’ll have some Onaga or Opakapaka today too… sweet tasting snappers in various shades from the pale pinks to the ruby’s. Lovely fresh, marinated in a wee bit of Lawrys lemon sauce and barbecued. Yum!!

Alan Wong's Onaga ~ gorgeous dish!!

We make it home before the sun goes down and shuck our shoes in a big pile by the front door. The sign, PLEASE REMOVE YOUR SLIPPAHS, means everyone. Nobody wears shoes inside on the island. It’s an old Japanese custom that’s been adopted by all islanders. It’s easy to wear slippahs/slippers, flip-flops, thongs or jandals and just slip them off your feet when you enter a house. There’s dress up slippahs and casual, but nearly everyone has pairs for all occasions. And it would be an odd restaurant that turned you away because we were wearing them. Even the flash ones. :)

Now you’ve removed your shoes and your bra…slid into some casual shorts or a wee dress, come outside onto the lanai (the patio) and have a cocktail or three. We can watch the velvety colors coat the west coast of Hawai’i. Some days it’s reds, other’s oranges, yellows, purples… it’s gorgeous!!! And it’s quick. Within half an hour, the sun has set, dipping below the horizon where the view is endless. Being out in the middle of the Pacific means there’s no other energy for thousands of miles. It’s soothing.

Toast to the neon green geckos running around catching bugs for their dinner. They’re not dangerous or scary. They’re very cute actually and we all like them inside—good bug catchers. If you’re lucky, when you're having your juicy, bright orangy, half papaya for brekky with fresh lime juice, and a sprinkle of mac nuts, one will pop up and have a wee lick of the juices. LOL. They like the local Kona brewing companies beer too. Gourmet locals!!

We’ll sit outside and put our feet up. Casually eat island food, sip on drinks and talk all evening. There’s a deep peace that steals over the Kona coast at night. When we go to bed, the ceiling fans will be turning lazily and the sliding doors will be pulled back, with the screen doors letting in some coolness. If the nights very still, you can hear the waves breaking gently on the shoreline, even from up the hill. It’s hilly over most of the Big Island, giving us spectacular views from all angles.

You’ll probably wake surprisingly early… I always do and I’m a classified night owl. But the island energy always gets me up early. The first lights coming up on the water in Kona Harbor. In winter, you’ll probably be able to spy some Humpback Whales going past with the binoculars. They cruise up and down the Kona coast, often coming down to us from the cooler Alaskan waters to give birth.

If you go up in a small plane, you’ll see them under the water. They give off an iridescent blue for some reason and you’ll be able to see their bulk. Circle them with a small plane and they’ll follow the noise of the plane around. I’ve never been out on a whale watching boat and not seen one up close. Magnificent creatures.

 Breakfast can be anything, but I always like to give people the sweet papaya for a starter. Pure 100 percent Kona is a must. Spend a wee bit more and get the pure stuff. It’s smooth…rich and deep. I like Bayview the best and the Bong Brothers.

When you through South Kona, you’ll go past farm after farm of coffee. The naturally draining, rich lava rock soil and the warmth is ideal for growing coffee, along with the elevation. We’re the only island that still hand picks it—the slopes are too steep for machinery. That’s what gives Kona its distinctive mellowness. You’ll see signs on the side of the road advertising. "Now buying Cherry." When you have to handpick the "cherry," (The red ripened coffee pods) you get an even roast.

The Arabica coffee trees were first in Kona from about 1828 or 1829, brought by a missionary Samuel Ruggles. Every morning the farmers get out and do a pick of what’s ripe. And there are four different grades of beans.

Kona Coffee Grades:
Kona Extra Fancy
Size: Will not pass through a 19/64" round hole
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 10 or less, full imperfections per lb.
Other Beans: 50 or less, other type beans per lb.
Undersize: No more than 10% by weight

Kona Fancy
Size: Will not pass through a 18/64" round hole
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 16 or less, full imperfections per lb.
Other Beans: 50 or less, other type beans per lb.
Undersize: No more than 10% by weight

Kona Number 1
Size: Will not pass through a 16/64" round hole
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 20 or less, full imperfections per lb.
Other Beans: 50 or less, other type beans per lb.
Undersize: No more than 10% by weight

Kona Prime
Moisture Content: 9% to 12%
Defects: 25% defective beans, by weight.
Included therein no more than 5% by weight sour or black beans.

 Kona Coffee from Cherry to Roast - Learning the Terms

Kona Snow
White sweet-smelling blossoms that cover the trees at intervals from January through May.

The fruit of the coffee tree, starts as green berries, turning through yellow to orange and picked when deep red.

The two flat seeds formed within the normal cherry - Type I.

When coffee cherries produce only one round seed instead - Type II of two flat ones.
Separating the beans from the outer red skin.
Processing (wet-method)
The beans are fermented from 12-24 hours, and then washed in fresh water.
The washed beans are laid out on decks and sun-dried to a moisture level between 9-12.2%. Some mechanical drying may be used, but most Kona beans are sun-dried on large concrete pads.

The dried seeds covered with a stiff white skin, called parchment.

Removal of stiff parchment skin and the thin silverskin below it.
Coffee beans milled and ready for roasting.
Cooking the green coffee to the desired taste.

I’m not generally a coffee drinker, but I love the smell of it. I find it too bitter and acrid, but Pure Kona calls to my soul. Mellow and soothing but don’t be taken in by it mildness. It’s still got the fuel level of regular coffees. Try eating a few (about 3 should do it) choccie covered coffee beans and you’ll see what I mean. Gorgeousy delicious but I shake like a leaf after them. LOL.

Now you’ve had your breakfast, let’s think about where we’d like to go for the day. I’m thinking Kekaha Kai or Two Step at Honaunau for snorkeling. We’re a little late in the day to go up to Mauna Lani but we’ll go another day. So…swimming or snorkeling? When you decide, I’ll take you to some of my favorite spots around Kona and the coast on our next circle tour blog.

Until then, a hui hou (until we meet again.) Mahalo (thank you) for visiting my gorgeous island home and souls sanctuary. I hope you love the magical Hawaiian Islands and Aloha State as much as I do. :)

Guava Cake!

Donnie and I at the Royal Kona :)

 Meg Amor
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  1. Aloha, Meg. I loved this. You are such a gifted writer. I've never been to Kona or Hawaii, but you have sold me on it, with all of your posts that I've seen. I would love to go someday.

    Love your photos, your Hawaiian spirit and enthusiasm. Great post.

    Aloha, Susan

  2. Aloha Susan :-) Thanks!! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-) It is a terrific place. I hope you guys get to take a visit soon.

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting Susan :-)

    Aloha Meg :)