Papakolea Green Sand Beach, coffee and honey

Green Sand BeachThe Papakolea Green Sand Beach is  a long drive (1.5 to 2 hours from the house) and a long hike (1-1.5 miles for the 3 mile hike) to the green sand beach, but worth it for the day excursion, especially if stop by one of the coffee farms in Ka’u for some coffee, local honey and short tour of the coffee farm, and hang out at the beautiful beach for a bit.

Some thoughts and pointers:

1) Stop by a Ka’u coffee farm and stand on the way there. We stopped at Paradise Meadows. They grow coffee and bees. The honey ranges from winter, spring, summer blends to the creamy Ohi’a tree white honey. I loved the winter blend (from coffee and avocado blossoms), but the others were distinctive and good. Ended up buying a lot of honey and great Ka’u coffee.

2)  the sand on the beach is ‘greenish’ more than an Irish green :) . That said, it’s one of the few green sand beaches in the world (2-4 depending on who you talk to) AND… here’s a pointer, take the hike in. Because there is a spot, about half way in, just at the coast, where the sand is very green. It’s not a ‘beach’ you can swim on, but some spots on the lava rock where sand has washed up. It’s a beautiful sparkling green.

3) the hike is about 3 miles. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes. It’s quite level, but a lava rock and gravel path, so it’s a bit rough. But it is not difficult to walk at all. We had 10 year olds to 60 year olds (almost) on our hike and we all were fine. When you get to the beach, there is a cliff you have to navigate down. Again, we didn’t find it hard at all, there are stairs and rock steps on the way down.

4) There are local ‘guides’ who will offer you a ride either inside their 4-wheel drive SUV or on the back of their 4-wheel truck. You will have no problem finding them either going or coming back. They charge 15 round trip as of this writing, per person. We decided, for time and some were tired after hiking 90 minutes and  swimming an hour or more, to take one back (20 minute drive). They charged us 10 for the 1way trip. We were all on the back of a truck, standing, with rails. One of our fellow travelers dubbed it the “Hawaiian Roller Coaster.” And it was indeed that. It was an adventure. If you don’t want an adventure but want to save an hour of hiking one way (or 2 hours round trip), try to find one of the SUVs so you can sit inside belted. It will still be bumpy and roller coasty, but a bit less of an adventure!


Our Hilo Home
27-1993 Enoka Place PapaikouHI96781 USA 
 • 415-252-7123

Getting to the Waterfall and Stream Next Door: Pahoehoe Stream

The waterfall & pond

The waterfall & pond

Pahoehoe Stream is a most beautiful place, which includes a private swimming area fed by three gorgeous waterfalls.  It is a definite MUST DO under safe conditions!
Please wait for a stretch of sunny weather before exploring the river.
Be aware that after rains the trail can be muddy and slippery, so wear good water shoes.
We like to apply mosquito repellant before going down.
The entry steps to the trail are located at the left, house-side, corner of the yard where the green rail ends.   The steps descend very steeply at first, but after that the trail is fairly level for a ways.  There are two pleasant areas to enjoy, the upper area just 5 minutes down the trail, and the spectacular swimming area, no more than 10 minutes away from the house, 3 or 4 hundred yards.
As you navigate the trail, staying to the left all the while, you will soon see a gorgeous, expansive, flat rock area, with rapidly moving water forming pools.  We refer to that area as

our King’s and Queen’s baths.   It’s great to just lounge there on a sunny morning.  Early in the day the best sun is directly overhead at the recreation areas.  You will also hear and see the very top of the waterfalls from there.

In order to continue to the swimming hole and waterfall area, return to the trail you were on and keep staying to the LEFT.   You will encounter a steeper rise very soon.  Over that rise you will find a completely natural, solid rock ‘staircase descending directly down to the edge of the swimming area.   Take care for hand holds as those natural steps are uneven, and can be slippery the nearer you come to the water.
We keep a variety of FLOTATION rafts and chairs, tethered on the rope or set up very high on the banks.  you are welcome to enjoy them, but please return them to exactly where you found them, because when the river rises, they are history!  (we have lost quite a few!)
Ray, and Benjamin, and I (Ethel) live in the separate ranch-style house.  Ben is the river master, if you want to inquire about changing river conditions, or need a guide.  Ben maintains our river access.
ALOHA~~   the Todds

Hawaiian Fruit Salad (rummed :D)

I’m calling this Hawaiian fruit because I can get all these fruits in my backyard or within at the farmer’s market in town. I’ve taken an old recipe I had for rum spiked fruit salad and changed it to the point that the only similarity is the rum :) .

It’s basically a bunch of fruit grown here in Hawaii. Now, you can substitute fruits, and if you like coconut, please add some shaved coconut. Unfortunately, I’m allergic, so… none for this recipe. The secret is the rum :D .

1 pineapple, peeled cored and cut in bite size pieces.
1 ripe papaya, peeled, seeds scooped out and cut into bite size pieces. Clean and reserve seeds.
1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
1 cup of lychee, peeled and seeded, cut in half
1/2 cup rum
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp vanilla

Put all the fruit in a bowl and mix. Stir in remaining ingredients. (option: Sprinkle about 2 tbsp papaya seed on top, adds color and crunch, but some people might not like it). Chill in fridge for about 3-4 hours.

Serve over or with vanilla ice cream. The photo above is from wikipedia, I’ll take my own soon.

(other fruits you could use: Mountain apples, star fruit, banana, guava. Heck, use any fruit, it has rum :D )

Weather on the leeward big island of Hawaii

I am going to give you the Hilo Hawaii summer weather forecast for the rest of the century (barring global warming): Partly cloudy with intermittent showers and long sunny periods and a high of 83.  Winter isn’t much different, generally cloudy with showers and shorter sunny periods and a high of 80. It does rain a lot in Hilo and the gorgeous (because of the rain) windward side of our island. But as I’ve mentioned in our ‘fine print,‘ there is a secret: don’t trust the forecast. Every time we have guests they worry about the weather forecasts showing rain. Yes, it will rain here, almost daily (274 out of 365 days a year). But as often as not, that rain will be a short rainfall in the evening or morning and sunny afternoons. That’s not always true, sometimes it rains all day. But that seems rarer.

Let me give you an example. Last week the forecast looked exactly like the picture here from this week. In fact, the 5 day forecast will often look like that. Rain, clouds, 80-83 degrees. Sometimes you’ll see a ‘partly cloudy’ graphic. Sometimes a fully sunny graphic. But usually cloudy and rain. I feel like I’m giving away a secret when I say though, don’t believe it. The main reason is that on the island there are a lot of microclimates on the big island. From  desert to alpine to tropical rain forest and more (go to Waimea and you’ll swear you are in Ireland). Even the windward side boasts differences. So, when it says rain, it might be raining in one part of our side of the island and sunny on another. Often, when we are at the ocean it will be sunny and warm, only to drive into the rain as we go home. Just bring an umbrella, or better yet, go swimming in the rain! But trust me, you’ll have a good amount of sun to go swimming or walking around in.

Sunday the forecast called for 70% chance of rain and cloudy. It did rain, for about an hour in the morning. The rest of the morning and into evening? Like this:

We were going to go to the beach, but the girls decided to fill up the pool (just started here) and play in the backyard. They played for 4 hours with some neighbor kids with the weather just like you see behind them. It started raining again around 6pm, but by then they were back in eating dinner.

Obviously, that means you need to be a little flexible in your plans and be willing to rearranged schedules a bit. And perhaps be willing to walk in the rain (it’s warm remember).

Termites suck

Ticks and mosquitoes suck actually. Well, termites might not suck, but they definitely chew. Before humans, Hawaii had no native species of termites, ants, ticks or mosquitoes. What a paradise it must have been! I mean, it’s a paradise now, but can you imagine a warm, breezy lush climate… with no mosquitoes? no ticks? Absolute heaven. Well, that didn’t last long. From the Polynesians to the Europeans, humans have been introducing ticks, mosquitoes, ants and termites accidentally and  many other invasive species on purpose. So, anyway, we are stuck with the nasty creatures (ticks, ants, ticks and mosquitoes I mean :) .


We have a short paragraph on how to keep mosquitoes at bay, repellent, mosquito coils, and picking the right time of the day. I won’t recommend a repellent, but this Consumer Reports study suggests effectiveness of different repellents. Mosquitoes are an annoyance for the most part, luckily so far Hawaii has had no cases of West Nile Virus and only rare small (a half-dozen people or so) outbreaks of Dengue fever and even rarer larger (100 people) outbreaks, the last being in 2001 ( there have been no deaths). They are an annoyance, but with a little repellent we’ve not been bothered much and rarely at the beach. Oh, and as to the question as why they bite you more than other people? Not sure.

Ticks just suck. There are several species of ticks now on the islands. And with them come rare, but reoccurring, cases of lyme disease. Frankly, I’ve never had a tick in Hawaii, I’ve walked a lot through the greenery and never had a tick. Doesn’t mean there won’t be a first time, but I get a lot more when I’m in my home state of Virginia than I ever do here. Still, the same repellent you put on for mosquitoes? Put some on your ankles and legs for ticks and check your body (and your kids’) if you’ve been traipsing through the greenery.

Ants are just a nuisance. Just don’t leave food out and clean your dishes. You’ll be fine.

Ticks you’ll never have to deal with if you are just visiting. But sadly we do. It’s what has prompted me to write this post about the nasties. There are several termite species on the islands and they are extremely voracious eaters and very destructive. Our house is actually two homes connected by a lanai. The 3 bdrm home is older and not built to resist termites. The other half is 3 units and newer using building techniques with termite abatement (link is a pdf) in mind.  The older half of our home is infested with termites. So, today our termitehouse is being tented. Luckily we don’t have any short term visitors, but we and our long-term tenants have to go to a hotel tonight as our house is gassed with poison. Before we left the house this morning we had to double bag all our food and medicines and remove living plants and animals from the house (that we wanted to remain living) and remove plants from around the house. It’s a nasty business. But, it’s that or a pile of termite poop instead of a house. They assure us that since it’s a gas it dissipates and does not remain on surfaces. They’ll check after it’s all said and done. I think next time if we build a house in Hawaii, we are going to make it termite proof.

O-Bon Dance in Honomu

Honomu is just a 15 minute drive North up the coast from our house and is on the way to Akaka Falls State Park (another 5 minutes from Honomu). The village (of about 500) itself is a nice place to grab some ice cream or lunch and then check out the Buddhist temple and the huge banyan tree.In June of every year, the Honomu Henjoji Mission holds its annual O-Bon dance ( the community news section of the Hawaii Tribune Herald in June to find details). . As the article from 2011 states:

Japanese immigrants brought many traditions to Hawaii. One of them is the annual O-Bon festival season running from June through August with ceremonies honoring ancestors.

That would make a nice afternoon, go for some ice cream, walk the falls trail and then return to Honomu for the dance.

Ukulele: make your own, learn it, learn about it.

The ukulele has a long history starting in Portugal and migrating to Hawaii where it morphed to suit local needs and desires. It’s not the only Portuguese import to Hawaii, that list is not short: Portuguese sausage, malasadas, sweet bread, Portuguese bean soup, and perhaps even Lomilomi salmon.

Anyway, I digress. I was reading a recent issue of Hawai’i magazine and there is an article about Sam Rosen and Holualoa Ukulele Gallery. It’s on the Kona side of the island, but if you are over there, you might want to give it a quick visit. Check out the ukuleles and more. But what I found fascinating is that Sam teaches visitors how to make their own ukulele. In an intensive 10 day, 7hr/day class, the student can learn to and build his or her own ukulele. Check out the video on the site for a slide show of some of the people who’ve built their own, quite beautiful, ukulele. Ok, so the time and money ($1,000) commitment is not trivial, but if you play, want to learn to play or have a loved-ukulele player you want to give quite a gift to, it might be something to consider. I’m putting it on my ‘what to do in retirement’ bucket list :D .  If you don’t want to spend the time and money to make your own, you could always buy one.

Want to learn more about ukuleles and how to play them? There’s lots of help from the Ukulele Guild of Hawaii and sites or blogs like UkuleleHunt and Live Ukulele. Hmm, maybe instead of a guitar I’ll learn ukulele :D .

Below I’ll leave you with some ukulele recordings:

A recording of some traditional Hawaiian music with the ukulele:

A popular and beautiful rendition of “over the rainbow” by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole (may he rest in peace):

And a ukulele rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody by one of the biggest ukulele stars today, Jake Shimabukuro. Amazing player, cute and has a great stage presence as you can see on this Ted Talk presentation:

Hawaiian Paella: the challenge

I was thinking today about dinners to make. And, as we are in Hawaii, I’m trying to make food that can be sourced locally and is at least loosely based on local tradition. It’s the basis of my banana bread with rice flour. I was thinking our girls loved the quick paella I made for them a while back, and thought “hmm, most of the ingredients or equivalents can be sourced locally” and perhaps I could make it based on Hawaiian traditions and history. Paella seems to epitomize Hawaii today, a tasty mix of cultures :) .

Well, just had to google “Hawaiian Paella” to find I’m not the first to think of that.. by far. Unfortunately the ingredients for most of those recipes are not locally sourced, or at minimum, could be. This one comes closest. So, I’ve given myself a challenge: Create a Hawaiian “paella” that uses almost exclusively locally-sourced ingredients. Now, this will mean it won’t be technically a “paella,” and it definitely won’t have saffron (won’t grow in the islands). In fact, my mind is going to places very un-paella like. I’m thinking green tea, ginger, ʻInamona and seaweed.

We’ll see, I’m going to the market this weekend with paella on my mind.

Grilled cilantro-lime shrimp w/ avocado dip

Try this recipe for grilled shrimp w/ a spicy avocado dip. If you are lucky (and a bit adventurous), you can get three of the main ingredients at our house: shrimp, lime, avocado. Talk about local! Lime tree is just in the back of the yard, the huge avocado tree is to the far left near the house. Shrimp? well, if you are adventurous you can walk down to the river and fish enough out (with a trap) to have a nice dinner for a family. Alternatively, the farmer’s market will be a good source of inexpensive shrimp, avocados and limes, though I think there are almost always enough limes and avocados in the yard :D .

So, I’ve made this recipe with a few changes (of course, I can’t leave well enough alone). I substituted parsley for cilantro. I have a genetic mutant in the family for which cilantro tastes like soap. In fact, I usually believe you should leave cilantro out of a recipe when entertaining guests of unknown genetic makeup.  Don’t want them hating the meal because of a genetic mutation do we? I also substituted light sour cream. I don’t taste the difference, avocado gives that fatty texture just fine. Lower the calories a little at least.


Shrimp marinade-

  • 2 limes, juiced and zested
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact. Jumbo are best, large work.

Avocado dip -

  • 3 ripe, fresh Avocados, peeled, seeded and scooped out
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1 green jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions, slightly modified, from recipe:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the lime juice and zest, parsley, cumin and oil and whisk well.
  2. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Do not marinate shrimp longer than 5 minutes or the lime juice will begin cooking the shrimp.
  3. Preheat a barbecue or grill pan to medium-high heat.
  4. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper to taste and grill for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until lightly charred and cooked through, making sure not to  over cook the shrimp.
  5. Remove the cooked shrimp from the grill and place on a serving platter, with a small serving bowl of the Spicy Avocado Puree.

Avocado dip:

  1. Mash and mix the avocado, lime juice, sour cream and jalapeño with a fork till smooth.
  2. Season mash with salt to taste.
  3. Place in a covered airtight container and refrigerate until serving.

This was a huge hit. The shrimp was liked, but the dip was LOVED. I even had some leftover pork that I grilled and dipped in. Great! I’m thinking it might make a great dip for chips too, or veggies.

Keeping Safe in Kanaloa’s realm (i.e. the ocean)

Being at the beach in Hawaii is a huge part of why people are here (and why those who live here love it). But the ocean isn’t to be trifled with, especially in Hawaii, Kanaloa can be a bit capricious.

Before I go into this, let me tell you that don’t use this to get so paranoid you never go to the beach :) . We’ve been to Hawaiian beaches a hundred times and have yet to have a single incident, not even a close call. All you need to do is use common sense and make sure your children know what to do at the beach.

First of all, pay attention to signs (like the warning signs you see here). They weren’t put there to look pretty. Hawaiians know their beaches pretty well, if a warning sign is up, pay attention.

Second, keep a look out for creatures who aren’t too human-friendly. I’ve seen all the creatures on that list in my time here, never have any given me problems. But of course I’ve been careful not to stand on coral or urchins, not to bother the moray eels, keep a look out for jellyfish and man-o-wars (btw, I’ve only seen those rarely and even then far off), and the only time I saw a shark it was a harmless one (what I’d LOVE to see is a whale shark though).

Third, be mindful of the water currents, waves, tides, etc.

Be mindful of the sun. Sunburns suck. They hurt and can really kind of mess up a stay. They can even be dangerous. Too much sun exposure increases risk of skin cancer. You’ve heard it all. Just use SPF 15 or above (though above 30 becomes a bit redundant). Never mind the scare about sunscreens, the skinny? There might be a minuscule risk of a

type of rare skin cancer from sunscreens, but the risk of cancer from not using sunscreen is _known_ to be magnitudes greater. I’ll let you decide, don’t use sunscreen an know your chance of skin cancer is high, or use it and maybe, might have a very low chance of skin cancer. I’ll take the latter. And if that doesn’t convince you to limit your sun exposure,

how about this?:
You might get a nice tan, but what you are trading it for is a face like this guy in the photo. Look closer and read the article. There is not a more clear picture of what sun exposure does to your aging. The guy was a truck driver, his left side exposed to the sun, his right in the shade of his truck. His right side looks 10-20 years younger (HIS right side, the left you are looking at).

Lastly, remember, drowning doesn’t look like drowning as most would think it looks like. There is no waving of arms and screaming for help. Read the link to understand what drowning really looks like.

Now, all that said, go out to the beach and have fun!! ;-)  Because, with just a little common sense, you will. You’ll see amazing sea creatures, have fun swimming and enjoy the beauty.