HAPPY TIMES IN KAUAI, HAWAII
HAPPY TIMES IN KAUAI, HAWAII
By Gerrye Wong February 3, 2023
When people come to the Hawaiian Island of Kauai they hear of its reputation of being the greenest island because of its rainier weather than the other islands and head for its hiking trails through lush greenery and spectacular views or its beautiful beaches backed up against picturesque cliffs. There is no better place for a family vacation because there are things to see, taste, experience and adventure throughout this Hawaiian island.
For my visit this time, I found something new – a Chocolate Farm Tour and Tasting at Lydgate Farms on Kauai’s East Side in the foothills above the town of Kapaa. In Hawaiian, the phrase Malama ‘Aina means to care for the land so it can sustain life for future generations and that is what the fifth generation Lydgate family is doing. They take the role of stewards of both the land and local culture and have been since 1885 through the family’s experience of a running a small-scale sustainable cacao farm, making exquisitely crafted chocolate and now presenting educational farm tours on their historically rich property.
Taste and Tour of Lydgate Chocolate Farm on Kauai was most interesting to our family to learn about the growing of cocoa trees
As we strolled through the three hour tour, there were interesting parts which intrigued my three generational family members. On week days the farm has a welcoming gift store which is open to drop ins where friendly guides show chocolate trees, vanilla vines and even offer chocolate samples as well as other products of the farm for sale. To truly learn more about the Lydgate farm operation, taking the “branch-to-bar” educational tour has been recognized twice as the best in the world at the Cocoa of Excellence Awards in Paris, so we joined their popular often sold out tours one drizzly morning. All of us admitted to the guide we knew we liked eating chocolate, but we really didn’t know the fine points of what made some better than others.
So the education began with a very knowledgeable guide who told us Hawaii is the only state where the chocolate tree grows so what better place than at the Lydgate family’s 46 acre farm can we get to see and learn about the growing cacao trees, the taste of fresh chocolate fruit, the harvesting, fermentation and sun drying of cacao beans.
He gave us samples to highlight the fascinating diversity of flavors found in Hawaiian cacao. With that and tasting of multiple tropical fruits also grown on the farm, the tour was an eating as well as visual feast to be sure. Especially fun for fruit and flower lovers was the stroll of the gardens, stopping frequently to taste the tropical fruits in season like the Tahitian lime, Hawaiian sugar cane, lilikoi, rambutan, logan, lychee, eggfruit, ka’u orange and the Farm’s award-winning honey, Seated in a comfortable tented area the chocolate orchard, the guide cut open a ripe chocolate pod so we could taste fresh cacao fruit. We happily learned that dark chocolate is actually health food with guide Russ explaining its antioxidant and other health benefits, making us feel less guilty over enjoying all of the samplings of chocolate he fed us.
Similar to wine tasting, we were taught how to taste chocolate like a connoisseur, while learning chocolate’s history from its discovery by the first Mesoamericans to its revered status as a divine plant in the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec cultures before its introduction to Europe in the 1500s. And then we learned of the rise of interest of industrial milk chocolate to the modern bean-to-bar chocolate movement and Hawaii’s place in the new American chocolate scene. The staff at the Farm were well versed in the work of the farm and informative to everyone’s questions.
Family friendly for those over 7 to all ages, the tour is only about 200 yards in total with frequent stops at tasting stations. As this farm tour has become more known and popular by word of mouth recommendations, I’d advise calling 808 821 1857 or check online for reservations and information. For any chocolate lovers, this is the place to experience as Lydgate Farms has been recognized as growing the top 50 best cacao beans in the world in a global competition that was sort of like the chocolate growing Olympics by the Cocoa of Excellence ratings in 2021.
VISITING A PLACE FOR HEALING
After a day of beach bingeing, I found a place to relax the mind and body, and find our inner selves. Doris Hong, a Board member, took me to the Lawai Valley international Center, where since the days of the first early settlers who arrived on Kauai has been a place for healing of minds, body and spirit. It is said that Hawaiians once came from every corner of the island and subsequent immigrants from all parts of the world also were drawn to this sacred valley.
Today a new generation is dedicated to restoring LAWAI VALLEY’s 32 acres to establish the LAWAI INTERNATIONAL CENTER which is already greeting visitors to share the Hawaiian history in this center for peace, compassion and aloha for the world, said Lynn Muramoto, LIC President. She informed us that in the earliest days of this valley, there were a heiau (temple) and other sacred sites where Hawaiians and later, the Asian immigrants brought their wounded and sick to heal
We saw the temple, which the group commissioned to be built adjoining a hill where 88 Buddhist shrines, had been made by hand in 1904 by the workers at Koloa Sugar Company, Hawaii’s first commercial sugar plantation. These shrines stood unseen after years of neglect hidden under vines and alien plants . As Lynn further explained, “Between 1904 and 1940s, people on the island walked barefoot to Lawai to be healed or to ask for miracles.
Due to Muramoto’s diligence and dedication, this 32 acre complex, the only one of its kind outside of Japan, has seen much renovation work done by volunteers who have come from all over the world. Some have sold native products at markets to raise funds, while others have made large donations to “honor a shrine” in the name of loved ones or deceased family members.
Future plans call for a gathering pavilion and learning center for education and the arts, guest cottages, sweeping paths for reflective walks all around, making the area accessible for people to enjoy the beauty of a valley that has long been a refuge.
We found a peaceful atmosphere when visiting, and I would encourage all visitors to Kauai to come and find their place for restful meditation here. Contact Muramoto for tour or information where she can share the spiritual and physical reality of Lawai International Center with the world. Call 808 639 4300 , LM@hawaii.rr.com or visit www.lawaicenter.org. Seeing the dedication of so many of the volunteers, including our guide Dora Hong and Lynn Muramoto, I definitely want to support their project and hope you will visit them too, while on the island or sending support donations from afar. Join in supporting of this spiritual site through Lawai International Center, 5678 Ani Street, Kapaa, Hawaii 96746.
OTHER ADVENTURES TO SEE IN KAUAI
Tasting local food is always a pleasure to try in Kauai so adjoining Poipu Beach we found Puka Dog to try the imbedded hot dog oozing with special sauces within an uncut bun. Enjoying the local flavors, we joined many of the local natives at the counters of Hamuras Saimin, long favored by tourists and locals alike for their selection of different saimin dishes, followed by their special very popular lilikoi chiffon cake. The favorite Hawaiian plate of loco moco oozing with gravy was enjoyed by all at Tip Top Café. While checking out the Na’Pali Coastline, we couldn’t resist stopping for the Shrimp Station lunch of local flavors and Jo-Jo’s Shave Ice delight.
Poipu Beach at sunset is a destination for crowds of tourists as that’s when the giant turtles come in to rest. We saw 10 one night from the cordoned off area so that the preservationists could keep the crowds from disturbing the turtles, but someone mentioned they had seen 23 the day before. The Beach House Restaurant has great viewing window tables to watch the sun go down and the approaching turtles too.
There are countless hiking trails to see Waimea Canyon and the lush waterfall areas on this very green isle. Golf is also a big attraction on Kauai because there are many golf courses with views of
Kauai’s spectacular backdrops of ocean and mountainside views when looking for that elusive white ball.
Just watch out for the chickens which are everywhere. As per the tourists saying- they are Kauai Island’s mascots so don’t run over them as they own the roads too.
Aloha Kauai …….. the paradise isle of Hawaii!