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BIG ISLAND ADVENTURE

BIG ISLAND ADVENTURE

By Gerrye Wong  September 4. 2019

There is no better place for a summer getaway far from bumper to bumper commute traffic and hustle bustle of crowded stores and streets than a quick flight to Hawai’I where roads are filled with silent lava rocks rather than honking horns.  So off I went with my Annual Favorite Girls Getaway Groupies Dali Jones, Patsy Ja and Jeanette Yee….and Big Island, off we went !! Hawai’i is its official name, according to Jourdyn Kaarre, Anthology Senior Account Executive Public Relations Group, who was a great resource on what to do, see and experience as well as where to eat, rest, sightsee and enjoy on this Big Island. She said for ladies who want to relax and not stress behind the wheel of a rental car, taking an around the island tour is best and Kailani Tours is a definite  recommendation!

Kailani Tours CEO Chris Paterson , right, welcomes us to his company tours with guide Grant.

 

 

Kailani Tours Owner Chris Paterson was flying all over the Mainland at Travel Shows to tell about his company tours, but I was lucky to have him meet our group at the Coffee Joe’s breakfast part of our Kailani Tours Deluxe Circle Island Experience 12 hour tour.  A very enthusiastic young man, he told us of his own love for the Island and his desire to show it off in the best way for tourists. Most first time visitors , he said, know they want to visit the Volcanoes National Park, visit the famed Black Sand Beaches, hike to the noted Rainbow and Akaka Falls, learn about coffee growing and manufacturing  but trying to do it on their own is bit formidable.  So he said his DeLuxe Circle Island Experience was designed for just this in mind, and takes the visitor in comfortable Mercedes Benz Sprinter  Mini-Coaches with knowledgeable guides for a 12 hour journey for a complete island experience.

Guide explains topography of the island with recent eruptions.

Beginning at 6:30 off we went on a wonderful all day tour that Trip Advisor had ranked Kailani Tours as the #1 Tour company in Kailua-Kona with over 1000 star reviews on Yelp, Facebook and Google+.  Our Mini coach was perfect with top-of-the-line TV screens that could be viewed by our 13 passenger group to enhance the scenery we whizzed past so comfortably. We stopped at a popular fruit stand where guide Grant picked up a recommended energy drink and the owners showed us exotic fruits of the Island found fascinating by our fellow visitors from all over the Mainland and Australia.

Tour group sees different exotic fruits on tour

Our next around the island  stop was at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where the very knowledgeable Guide Grant deftly explained what had happened during the 2018 eruption which made the caldera the largest ever in modern times. The mini coach TV screen had shown a documentary on the eruption itself which enhanced our Kailani Tour experience to make this whole area come alive knowing what had happened thousands of years ago up to just the recent 2018 explosive eruption. Lunch was provided at Kilauea Lodge which gave us leisure time to eat and walk around the viewing areas on a very clear day.

 

Guide explained the different exotic fruits native to the island to Gerrye

Hawai’i scenery goes from passing lava fields, coffee plantations, volcano topography and flat cattle grounds of the famed Parker Ranch.  We pass many small towns which seem to resemble what they may have looked like 100 years ago.  Everything is very laid back with old style wooden buildings and our tour of the complete island showed us everything.  We joined beachcombers on the famous Punaiu’u Black Sand Beach and as CEO Chris told us, he felt with smaller and more personal excursions of small groups would provide more memorable and authentic individual experiences for the traveler.

 

Tour walks us through the Black Sand Beach

His Kailani Tours also offers a Deluxe Volcano experience where one can travel on the Saddle Road past Moana Kea and Mauna Loa on the way to the most active volcano Kilauea and  explore Kaumana Cave near Hilo.   So watch out, Big Island – I want to learn more about your volcano history and see the aftermath of the 2018 eruptions on my next visit through the  professional guidance of another Kailani Tours. If you’re headed to the Big Island of Hawai’i,  phone 808 938 4057 or  check out kailanitourshawaii.com to get the best island experience.

Tour group gathers in front of huge volcanic caldera.

For a bit of upscale living, there’s no better place than the Fairmont Orchid, and we ladies got a bit of Hawaiiana taking a hula lesson on the Luana Lounge overlooking the ocean with Director of Hawaiian Culture Ka’iulani Blankenfeld. A true lover of her own culture she gave us wonderful insider look into the history of the Hawaiian hula, which was at one time outlawed by the Missionaries.

Taking Hula lesson Fairmont Orchid veranda

Luckily an appreciation of Hawaiian culture has subsequently emerged and our treat was learning a few movements of the beautiful peaceful hula dance. In addition to the dance, we learned the wellness benefits one gained while doing the Hula.  A beautiful adventure one must all try to appreciate the uniqueness of this part of Hawaiian culture.

Fairmont Orchid PR Director Catherine Cambra

 

Fairmont Executive Catherine Cambra showed us around the beautiful Fairmont Orchid Resort site and we could easily see her love of Hawaii where she was born and bred and would never want to leave, understandably. Telling her how much we enjoyed the Hawaiian culture and hula lesson, she told us that this is one of the distinguishing commitments the Orchid has in sharing the knowledge of Hawaii Island’s rich cultural heritage  through their unique HOLOKAI BEACH AMBASSADORS.  These experienced guides give the guests experiences to introduce them to Hawaii culture, such as lei making, ukulele lessons, canoe paddling in the open Pacific ocean, and “turtle talk” sessions (telling the real story behind the Hawaiian green sea turtles that could be seen basking on the shores just fronting the hotel). Catherine added an especially popular expedition are the archaeological hikes on the nearby petroglyph fields, the largest in the Hawaiian Islands as well as the tours to ancient lava shelter caves and man-made fishponds stocked with seafood once restricted only to Hawaiian royalty.

 

We noticed that while we were at the Fairmont Orchid, we observed there were many multi generational families there enjoying the Orchid’s special programs including weekly complimentary stargazing program, and activities enjoyed by all in the calm waters of the pristine Pauoa Bay fronting the hotel.   Upon Catherine Cambra’s recommendation, we dedicated golf hounds treated ourselves to the nearby beauty and wonders of the nearby Mauna Lani Golf, where she said Fairmont Orchid has many popular Stay and Play Packages partnering the hotel and golf experience for families of all age groups.

Excitedly we prepare to start experience on Mauni Lani Golf Club South Course

We couldn’t have found a more friendly atmosphere at the course.  Golf Sales Manager Aaron Rego welcomed us in the Golf Shop as did Golf Pro Jeffrey Keyes and Sales Clerk Katie Cooper. One of the largest shops we’ve encountered, it is chock full of women’s fashions from many makers, not often found in many traditional golf clubs who cater  more so to the men golfers.

Mauni Lani Golf Sales Manager welcomes us to his beautiful golf shop

The friendly logo blue-shirted guys loaded us up in such a friendly manner, we relaxed a bit although admitted we felt a bit intimated by the course’s world-wide reputation of many holes  where the primary challenge is to avoid the lava formations usually bordering both sides of the pristine fairways.

 

Admiring the most photographed hole in the world on Mauni Lani South which goes over ocean inlet.

When on the South course we came upon the famed signature 15th Hole which features a Par 3 hole crossing a wide Pacific Ocean inlet, the beauty of the hole overcompensated for our misdirected balls. And of course we had to stop and take photos of this one of the most photographed over-the-water golf course holes in the world. This South Course was once the home of the Senior Skins games in the 1990s and its fairways played like lush carpet as the holes snaked through the stark rugged a’a lava of the prehistoric Kaniku lava flow.

Jeffrey Keyes and Margaret Cooper welcome us to well stocked Mauna Lani golf club. 

Aaron Informed us August and September are the slowest months for the golf course, so we felt privileged feeling like we owned the course when not seeing any golfers before or after us when we went out as first foursome of the day at 7am, trying to avoid the unusually hot weatherthe islands were experiencing this week.

Although we confessed to loving the Mauna Lani South Course, Aaron Rego said we had to see the differences between the two totally unique courses.  The Mauna Lani North Course, he said, “represents the quintessential golf experience on the Big Island of Hawaii. Built on a lava bed, the North is characterized by rolling terrain punctuated by Kiawe (mesquite) forests. A very challenging but beautiful Hole Number 17 was a Par 3 tucked into a natural lava amphitheater and definitely is another one of Mauna Lani’s signature holes where players take many “I was here” photos.

Petroglyth discovered on golf course.

We even discovered a Petroglyth on the course as we tootled around in the brand new golf carts, equipped so handily with USB ports and a very helpful GPS screen with visual hints. Being women who travel light, we played with Mauna Lani’s rental clubs which were top of the line Callaway equipment. Of course with their great rental clubs, superb golf conditions, and minus the usual California crowds, the whole package enabled us to hit further and straighter, if you want to believe our boastful remembrances, ahem!  We heartily recommend Mauna Lani to any visiting golfers to the Island and we know you’ll enjoy the friendly atmosphere we found for us first time rather neophyte players, short on talent but big on enthusiasm and love of the game.

 

Our last day on the Island found us driving the Saddle Road in the middle of the Island for the ride from our Waikoloa base to Hilo on the opposite side of the Island, about an hour or so ride.  The lure drawing us there was to see the Flagship Store of the world famous BIG ISLAND CANDIES STORE, a must-see destination for the many fans who have enjoyed its products for over 40 years.  It has consistently been the most popular “bring home” Hawaiian item for visitors to share with hometown friends in the US and especially Japan, whose natives are its biggest fans.

Brightly colored display in Big Island Candies showroom.

When we walked into the 40,000 square-foot store and factory, we were greeted at the front door with a free sampling handful and a free cup of welcoming coffee to begin the Aloha spirit of welcome there.  Of course we couldn’t resist devouring the sweet treat right away, but our eyes were also treated to eye-catching displays of products in colorful wrappings of specialty gifts.  The gorgeous packaging of brightly colored hues seemed to celebrate the joy of the season and the natural beauty of Hawaii.

Owner Allan Ikawa shows his pairing product with noted Japanese cooking teacher. 

We were privileged to meet owner Allan Ikawa and daughter Sherrie Holi who proudly showed us around their store.  With them we saw the large windows at the side of the store which allowed us a look into the factory at how some of the confections are created. For me it was fascinating to see how each of my favorite shortbread cookies are hand dipped in chocolate at the angle which has been a favorite dessert item in my family for many decades.

Workers behind window dipping cookies into chocolate.

 

Born and raised in Hilo, owner Allan Ikawa and wife Irma started their family business in 1977, he recalled, armed with a chocolate melter, a shrink wrap machine and a mere two years of experience working for a chocolate confectioner. In typical Asian fashion, he worked 16 hour days to begin producing and distributing its own line of chocolates. When adversity hit the business, he wisely changed his focus to the high-end gift market and exporting high-quality candies to Japan.  Opening a 22,000 square foot gift shop and factory in 1989, he attracted residents and visitors who participated in the popular Asian concept of “omiyage” (gift-giving), a tradition embraced by many in Hawaii, whether they be visitors from Mainland or especially Japan. Even today, Ikawa’s Big Island Candies treats are made exclusively in Hilo from only the finest ingredients, such as freshly roasted Big Island macadamia nuts and 100 percent pure Kona and Ka’u coffee from farms on Hawaii Island.  As COO Sherrie pointed out to us the many shelves of different products they have diversified to produce lately, many were hastily grabbed as busload after busload of tourists descended upon the store in buying frenzies.

COO Sherrie Holi describes many new products on scene.

Sherrie shared that along with its perennial favorites such as the chocolate dipped shortbreads, their Big Island Candies company regularly are creating new confections for people to enjoy.  She was already gearing up for huge holiday rush where people all over the world will be buying online from their mail order catalogue which shows over 50 hand crafted selections. A special Apple Pie is a new item which our little group bought to bake later at our Condo.  With instructions how to bake for an hour to its golden brown crispness, we agreed with its popular fans, it is a cut above any comparable in Hawaii or back in our California bakeries  too.

Founder owner explains his rise to success story.

We could see this as the perennial American Dream come true in the business life of Allan Ikawa and his family where now he can sit back and see how people of all over the world come to the quiet sleepy town of Hilo just to visit his Big Island Candies premises. Like everyone leaving the store, we packed shopping bags full of Big Island Candies Store products to bring home to the delight of very appreciative friends in the spirit of omiyage!

Think ahead and put your orders in now for holiday gift giving. Check www.bigislandcandies.com to see the many products they are selling as the holidays get closer.  Allan Ikawa told us his life is now blessed with following his love for daily golf and for playing grandpa to one precious granddaughter.  And at the end of every workday, all 365 of them each year, he goes to the store microphone and thanks his loyal employees and the visitors for helping Big Island Candies  40th Anniversary year in 2017  win Honolulu  Star Advertiser’s BEST LOCAL CHOCOLATE STORE”title !

A MILESTONE BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

Sixty five friends and family gathered recently to honor Helen Sue Owyoung on her auspicious 95th birthday. Decorative handmade flowers and photographic memories of an incredible life added to the festivities. Four generations of the Henry and Helen Owyoung Family included four children, 13 grandchildren and soon-to-be 11 great grandchildren who celebrated her birthday at her son Brian and Gina Owyoung’s home in Castro Valley.

The family celebration for Matriarch Helen Owyoung.

Born on farm in Fairfield, CA during the hard Depression years , she and her family ultimately settled in Oakland. Helen worked in various federal agencies and although long retired, it is said she is the true Matriarch of the family and the “glue” that holds the family together with her tremendous love for all the generations of her family. Congratulations Helen!

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