Restaurant review: Teshima’s Restaurant

Teshima’s Restaurant has become a firm favorite among locals and tourists on the Kona Coast. Located in Kainaliu, just south of Kona, they serve a mix of simple Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine. We stopped in for lunch, early on a weekday.

We arrived at Teshima’s on Monday morning at 11:30am in time for an early lunch. Surprisingly it was already busy, but we didn’t have to wait long for a table.

Teshima’s is next to the Buddhist temple at the juncture of the old and the new Mamalahoa Highway. There is parking in front of the restaurant and also in the parking lot directly to the right of the building (in the direction of the gas station).

There is plenty of seating inside, with a mix of booths and tables.

The interior has been nicely decorated and is spacious with large ceiling fans. They do not take reservations but they do accept take-out orders and serve alcohol.

The menu

The menu is an eclectic mix of Japanese and Hawaiian. From traditional Japanese dishes, like sashimi, sukiyaki and shrimp tempura to Hawaiian dishes like ‘Kona Up-Country’ Chop Steak, homemade corned beef hash patties and Kona Coast fried ahi.

What we ordered

(Above). Beef Teriyaki with miso soup and rice ($17.99)

(Above). No. 1 Teishoku – Miso soup, sashimi, sukiyaki, tsukemono, sunomono, rice ($17.99)

(Above). Sakura Tray (Mondays only).  Sushi, beef teriyaki, fried fish, sashimi and served with rice, miso soup, tsukemono, suomono and hot green tea ($17.99)

Service was quick, friendly and efficient. The dishes we had were delicious, and the flavors simple. The range of Japanese dishes isn’t as extensive as a dedicated Japanese restaurant (there are only a couple of sushi options on the menu) but the Hawaiian dishes are very popular with the locals.

Make sure you check out this local institution when you’re next in Kainaliu.

Teshima's Restaurant

Teshima's Restaurant Hawaii

79-7251 Mamalahoa Highway

Kealakekua

Hawaii 96750

Ph. 808 322 9140

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-8pm

https://www.teshimarestaurant.com

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Visiting Green Sand Beach Hawaii (Papakōlea)

Green Sand Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of the most unique beaches in the world, in one of the most isolated places in the world. Access to the beach isn’t easy and we explore the best ways to get there.

Kau District

Green Sand Beach is very close to Ka Lae (South Point) in the Kau district of Hawaii. South Point is the southernmost point in the United States and is also well-worth a side-trip or a separate trip on a different day.

Green Sand Beach is not far from the small settlement of Naalehu, one of the few towns on the main highway between Volcanoes National Park and South Point. The beach is about 2 hours south of Kona.

How to get there

Drive towards South Point, between mile markers 69 and 70 on Highway 11. At the end of the road it will fork. To the right is South Point itself and to the left is the Green Sand Beach parking lot.

We visited Green Sand Beach on a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon and found the parking lot at the end of the paved road already close to full. There are a couple of options for visiting Green Sand Beach from this point:

  1. Take your own car – keep in mind that you will need a 4×4 and you will need to check your rental car company’s policy to ensure that you can take it off-road in this location (we recommend against this option – the road is extremely challenging and the landscape had been devastated by the off-road activity).
  2. Hitch a ride with a local. Locals do a roaring trade here by offering a ride on the back of truck for around $20 per person. (We also recommend against this option. Potentially dangerous, you’ll be standing in the back of pickup truck hanging on as best you can while the truck bounces precariously around like a demonic rollercoaster).
  3. Hike. Our recommended option. Park in the parking lot and walk in.

The hike

The hike to the beach is approximately 4.5 miles roundtrip. Key to making this an enjoyable hike is avoiding the sun. There is no shade on the hike and it will be dusty (passing cars kick up significant amounts of dust). Start early, bring plenty of water and proper hiking shoes.

From the parking lot, make toward the boat ramp and once there head to the left and onto the trail. The hike will take about an hour each way depending on your pace.

There are no restrooms but there are port-a-potties in the parking lot and also back at South Point.

Papakōlea Beach

Did you know that Green Sand or Papakōlea Beach is one of only four green sand beaches in the world? The others are located in Guam, the Galápagos Islands and Norway.

The beach used to be a cinder cone volcano. The lava ejected from the volcano was full of olivine. Subsequent to the eruption, erosion caused by wave action and weather began to erode the basalt rock until only the olivine was left remaining – hence the green sand!

We discovered the hard way that the road from the parking lot to the beach is in fact a collection of roads, many of which are treacherous, even with a 4×4. Unfortunately, these dirt tracks have caused significant damage to the landscape and the land is deeply scarred by the effects of large-scale traffic. 

We had to backtrack a number of times when we found that the route we had taken would not be passable, or the ground too unstable. At one point we followed a local truck ferrying people to and fro which turned out to be the best strategy. 

A parking area is visible just above the access to the beach.

Access down to the beach by foot is steep. A ladder makes the descent easier but make sure to wear sensible shoes, especially if you intend to hike there and back.

What is olivine?

The olivine group is made up of eight minerals, including forsterite (magnesium silicate, MgSiO4) and fayalite (iron silicate, (FeSiO4). These minerals are end members of a solid-solution series based on the mutual substitution of iron and magnesium.

Olivine crystals are formed at depths of at least 25 miles below the earth’s surface, in the high pressure zone of the Earth’s upper mantle. Volcanic eruptions bring the magma to the surface and these magmas solidify into basalt and basaltic pumice.

For example, Kilauea has a magma chamber that is between 3 to 6 miles beneath the surface but draws magma from much deeper where olivine crystals are present.

Visiting Green Sand Beach is well-worth the effort but how you get there is just as important. Off-road access is causing significant damage to the landscape, while catching a local ‘shuttle’ is not only considered illegal by the state it’s also dangerous. We recommend reducing your environmental footprint by hiking in and enjoying one of the Big Island’s amazing natural attractions.

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Safe sunscreens for Hawaii: 5 zinc oxide & reef-safe sunscreens from worst to best

I tested a number of mineral zinc oxide sunscreens in order to find out what works the best, doesn’t leave a thick white residue, is easy to apply, and most importantly is good for the environment.

I tested 5 different sunscreens and rated and reviewed these from worst to best.

My skin type

I have a Scottish/New Zealand background and as a result my skin is extremely fair. I burn easily and do not tan (at least not naturally!). I was looking for a sunscreen that was going to meet the guidelines being set by the state of Hawaii in regards to the marine environment and the coral reef, and that would also work for my skin type.

Nano and non-nano oxide explained

Nano sunscreens refer to those that contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide which have been broken down into nanoparticles. This means that you get the sun protection without the residue often found in non-nano sunscreens (the bigger particles that reflect the sun’s rays more easily). There are concerns over the safely of nanoparticles if inhaled (see research by the Environmental Working Group, EWG, and also the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens).

Does this mean that nanoparticles can be absorbed into the body? Research suggests this NOT to be the case (see research by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration).

If you are still cautious you might consider using sunscreens which are non-nano. Please note, there is no agreed upon threshold for what differentiates nano from non-nano, so some claims can be misleading.

5. Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen SPF 50

Kōkua Sun Care Hawaiian Natural Zinc Sunscreen is SPF 50 with up to 80 minutes water resistance. It contains no fragrance, phthalates or parabens. It contains 25% zinc, as well as 7 Hawaii-grown antioxidant ingredients. These ingredients include, kukui, macadamia, noni, spirulina and plumeria.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: The lotion is a noticeably thicker than some of the other products we tested and I found it was harder to apply as a result. There was a noticeable residue on application, although it did eventually fade. There is also a faint natural scent due to the additional natural ingredients, which wasn’t overpowering but for those looking for something completely unscented they may want to reconsider using this brand. It was also difficult to rinse off my hands and left a greasy residue.

Rating: 5.5/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

4. Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen SPF50

Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face sunscreen is SPF 50 (water resistant for up to 80 minutes) and contains 12% zinc oxide. It is formulated with zinc and prebiotics as well as vitamin E.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: The lotion is light and application was easy. There is some white residue but it fades quickly and there is no scent or oily texture.

Rating: 7.5/10 for performance of this product BUT downgraded to 3/10 for the reasons below.

Cruelty Free: No, Cetaphil is not a cruelty-free skincare brand. Even though they claim to not test on animals, they choose to sell in a country (China) that requires imported cosmetics to be tested on animals.

Vegan: Cetaphil is not considered to be vegan because they test their products or ingredients on animals, or allow others to do so on their behalf.

Non-nano: No

3. ThinkSport SPF 50 Sunscreen

ThinkSport sunscreen SPF 50 is a non-nano mineral zinc oxide sunscreen. It contains hyaluronic acid which attracts moisture for added hydration, and also vitamin E which helps to condition the skin.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: This lotion is quite thick but was easy to apply to the skin. There is definitely a white residue left behind but this does fade somewhat, though it will make you look noticeably paler. It was also difficult to wash off my hands and does seem to have a greasy base to it.

Rating: 7/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

2. Raw Elements Certified Natural Sunscreen SPF30

This organic certified natural mineral sunscreen contains no synthetic chemicals. It contains sunflower oil, cocoa butter and vitamin E among other nourishing antioxidant ingredients. It contains 23% zinc oxide and offers SPF 30 protection.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: This product is thicker than the others we tested but I loved the way this feels. It goes on smoothly, most likely due to the sunflower oil and cocoa butter ingredients, and does not leave a white residue. Despite it feeling thick (it’s a little tougher getting it out of the tube) it doesn’t feel thick on the skin.

Rating: 8/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

1. Native Mineral Face Lotion Unscented SPF30

Native specializes in creating products that are as free of chemicals as possible. Their range of sunscreen includes the Mineral Face Lotion. This product contains 20% zinc oxide, and advertises itself as absorbing quickly, with no residue as well as being lightweight and non-greasy.

Contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate. Also contains no avobenzone or octocrylene, the two ingredients that will be banned from January 2023.

Verdict: Definitely lives up to the description. The lotion is lightweight and not all greasy. It absorbed quickly and did not leave a white residue that is common with zinc oxide-based sunscreens. We also tried the body sunscreen which was slightly thicker but just as non-greasy. The face lotion contains avocado oil which gives it a lighter consistency.

Rating: 8.5/10

Cruelty Free: Yes

Vegan: Yes

Non-nano: Yes

 

The Native Mineral Face Lotion was the clear winner. It is light and non-greasy and doesn’t leave a white residue. It’s also non-nano, cruelty-free and vegan. The Raw Elements Sunscreen was the runner-up, some might find it on the thicker side however it does go on smoothly.

(*** NOTE: the opinions expressed in this review are our own and we have not been sponsored or paid in any way to promote any of the brands mentioned above ***)

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Fresh Mango Cake

It’s mango season on the Big Island, and what better use of mangos than for making a cake! This recipe for fresh mango cake has been adapted from Ina Garten’s peach cake recipe. Fresh mangos make a great filling for a cake but if you can’t get hold of fresh mangos then fresh peaches (or canned peaches) will work just as well.

Ingredients

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/4 pound)

1 cup of sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 cups of fresh mango, diced

Topping

½ cup sugar

1 tsp of cinnamon

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F (325F convection). Cream together butter and 1 cup of sugar until fluffy.

Add room temperature eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each.

Add sour cream and vanilla extract, mix until blended.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add the mixture to the creamed ingredients and mix together until just blended.

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the mango cake, the faithful baking assistants – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via adoring looks. More Cleo and Ele

Butter a 9×9 baking dish. Pour in half of the batter and smooth out.

Add half of the diced mango, distributing evenly.

Mix second measure of sugar with cinnamon in a separate bowl.

Sprinkle half of the topping mixture onto the mango.

Add the remaining batter and cover with the remaining diced mango.

Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon mixture on top.

Bake at 350F for approximately 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm! Goes well with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

How did your fresh mango cake turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Reef-safe sunscreen in Hawaii and why it matters

Kealakekua-Bay-HI
Kealakekua Bay. Photo credit: dolphin discoveries.com

Ingredients in sunscreen having been doing damage to the coral reefs in Hawaii for years. These chemicals cause damage to the DNA of the coral, resulting in deformities, bleaching and sometimes even the death of the coral itself.

What's in the sunscreen that causes the damage?

Coral bleaching Hawaii
Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology

In January, 2021 SB2571 came into effect in the state of Hawaii. This bill banned the sale of any sunscreen that contained oxybenzone or octinoxate (unless prescribed by a healthcare provider). The Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources had banned the use of these sunscreens a year earlier in Kealakekua Bay. This specifically targeted the tour boats that operate in the bay every day.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are both FDA-approved compounds and are present in approximately 80% of all sunscreens. 

Kaneohe Bay – coral bleaching. Photo credit: Shreya Yadav/Madin Lab/Hawaii Institute of Marine Biolog

Sunscreens that also contain petrolatum, also known as mineral oil, often take years to biodegrade and are also harmful to marine life.

Titanium Oxide does not easily biodegrade either – in fact it reacts to warm water by forming hydrogen peroxide which causes damage to marine life. However, reef-safe sunscreen that contain low concerntrations of the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide are considered safe.

Environmental Impacts

Coral reefs in the Hawaiian Islands are flooded with 6,000 tonnes of sunscreen every year. 

It doesn’t take much to cause harm to the coral reef. Only a very small amount of oxybenzone (the equivalent of one drop of water into an area the size of 6.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools) can cause harm. Unfortunately, testing has revealed that some Hawaiian beaches show levels 10 times that amount.

Impact from sunscreen chemicals is only one factor among many causing ongoing damage to marine environments. Ocean acidification, water pollution and rising sea temperatures are all causing systemic problems to the ecosystem.

More changes ahead

In January 2023, a new law will ban the sale of sunscreen containing the ingredients avobenzone or octocrylene.

Maui has also passed a law which will come into effect October 1st, 2022 which will ban all non-mineral sunscreens.

What can you do to help?

Photo credit: Cindy Ellen Russel / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Make a concerted effort to buy reef-safe sunscreen. Look for the label on all certified sunscreens. Alternatively, try to reduce your reliance on sunscreens:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10am – 2pm
  • Use an umbrella
  • Wear a sunhat
  • Wear UV-protected sunglasses
  • Wear sun shirts and other UV protecting clothes where possible

The following are a list of some of the available reef-safe sunscreens in Hawaii:

  • Kokua Sun Care Hawaiian
  • SPF 50 Natural Zinc Sunscreen
  • Mama Kuleana Waterproof SPF 30 Reef-safe Sunscreen
  • Little Hands Hawaii SPF 35+ All-natural and Organic Sunscreen
  • Manda Organic SPF 50 Sun Paste
  • Raw Love SPF 35 All-natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
  • All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
  • Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
  • Suntegrity Natural Mineral Sunscreen
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
  • Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
  • Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
  • Loving Naturals Clear Body SPF 30+ All-natural Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Simply Protect SPF 50+ Sunscreen (spray, not lotion)
  • Olita Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30

Make sure you buy reef-safe sunscreen and do your part to reducing the human impact on the fragile coral reefs and the larger Hawaiian marine ecosystem.  

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Restaurant review: Black Rock Pizza

Black Rock Pizza has become a favorite with locals and tourists. Located in the center of Captain Cook they make a large array of delicious pizzas and tasty salads, plus they have local beer on tap. We stopped by for an early dinner.

We arrived at Black Rock Pizza on a late Sunday afternoon and the restaurant was in a languid quiet phase before the dinner rush.

Black Rock is opposite ChoiceMart on Mamalahoa Highway with a small number of parking spaces directly outside the restaurant as well as adequate parking on a nearby side street.

The interior has been nicely remodeled and there is plenty of seating inside as well as outside in front. But of you want to sit outside (but not look directly onto the highway) there is also a spacious lanai at the rear with views of the ocean.

The outside seating is a big plus when it comes to remaining socially distant from other patrons when eating out, and enjoying the late afternoon breeze. We grabbed a table at the far end with a great view.

The menu

Black Rock has an extensive menu of pizzas and salads (they even do dessert – check out their cannoli) and they make their own special sauces. We ordered the Veggie Head (red sauce, spinach,  mozzarella, red onion, eggplant, zucchini, artichoke, roasted red peppers, black olive) in medium size, and the BBQ chicken (Kiawe Mango BBQ, chicken, bacon, red onion, roasted red peppers and smoked mozzarella) also in medium. They also serve wine and local beer on tap (from the Kona Brewing Company and the Ola Brewing Company).

What we ordered

(Above) Veggie Head ($20) – the pizza was delicious. The crust was just the right thickness, not too thick and not too thin. The sauce was great, and the combination of veggies was extremely tasty.

(Above) BBQ Chicken ($22) – The BBQ sauce was delicious and the chicken was crispy. Great flavor combinations.

The medium-sized (12″) pizza was a lot of pizza for one person and we both agreed that next time the 8″ pizza would have been just the right amount. Having said that, we ate every slice and were well-satisfied!

Service was quick, friendly and efficient. Black Rock Pizza also has an option to pickup uncooked pizzas so you can take them home and bake them in the oven (which might be a good option if you’re far from home). Best to call ahead if you want to pickup during the busy dinner rush. Check out their menu here.

Black Rock Pizza

82-6127 Mamalahoa Highway

Captain Cook

Hawaii 96704

Ph. 808 238 0571

Hours: Mon-Sun, 11am-8pm

https://www.blackrock.pizza

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Easy to make Ginger Banana Bread

This recipe for ginger banana bread is packed full of amazing ginger flavor. By using three types of ginger, and a dash of cranberries, this banana bread makes a great snack.

Ingredients

Bananas – approximately 1-2 pounds or 6-10 ripe bananas

Dry ingredients

4 cups flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 TB cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp mace

Wet ingredients

4 large eggs

2 cups Canola oil

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped crystallized ginger (or non-crystallized)

1-2 TB chopped fresh ginger

1 cup cranberries (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 6 loaf pans or 4 bread loaf pans.

Peel bananas and place in a bowl or stand mixer.

Mix on low to thoroughly mash.

Add the remaining wet ingredients and combine.

We’ve discovered non-crystallized ginger chunks and we love them! Highly recommended. Without the added sugar but just as flavorful. 

Cute kitchen moment!

On duty during the making of the ginger banana bread, the faithful baking assistants – providing helpful and encouraging feedback via adoring looks. More Cleo and Ele

The cranberries are optional but do add a nice extra flavor.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together.

Ginger Banana Bread Hawaii

Then add to the wet mixture (after you stop the mixer). Mix together, gently at first, to combine.

Pour into greased loaf pans and bake at 350F for 35 minutes (or up to 1 hour if you are using four bread loaf pans).

Cool loaves on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

How did your ginger banana bread turn out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Horizon’s LEGO Star Wars Collection: Ewok Village 10236

The LEGO Ewok Village is a large set with a huge number of minifigures and some unique design elements. I took the display a step further by modifying it with LED lighting, a forest backdrop, and also added a forest floor using additional LEGO pieces.

The Ewok Village is home to those cute and furry creatures that made their first appearance in Episode VI Return of the Jedi. This LEGO set has lots of great features including a tree-trunk hideout, a secret lightsaber storage space, a spider web, a net trap, a slide (located inside one of the trunks itself), catapults and a throne – where C-3PO sits and which also ‘hovers’.

There are rope walkways, interesting forest elements – like vines, and multiple rooms located on the tops of each tree trunk. The set measures 13″ (35cm) high, 21″ (55cm) wide and 13″ (35cm) deep.

The set includes the following minifigures:

Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, 2 rebel soldiers, 5 ewoks (including Wicket, Teebo, Chief Chirpa and Logray), 2 scout troopers and 2 stormtroopers.

Modifications

The first step to modifying the Ewok Village was to create a realistic forest floor using additional LEGO pieces. Most of these I sourced directly from LEGO via their Pick a Brick service, and from Bricklink. The key was to cover enough of the green base plates as possible with foliage pieces in a way that looked as natural as possible. I used the brown pieces to create the look of natural pathways through the forest.

To encase the entire display I used a set-specific case from idisplayit, a UK company that specializes in LEGO display cases. The case is made of clear acrylic and fits together using a system of clever screw fittings. The top part of the case is screwed together and can be lifted completely off the base plate.

I wanted to create a unique backdrop to the diorama that would give the feeling that the village was actually in a forest and that the pathways matched with the background image. I found some adhesive Endor backgrounds made by Diorama Decals on Ebay.

I ordered two of the Endor backgrounds and then cut them to fit the back of the display case. I aligned the LEGO paths on the forest floor so they would match up with the paths in the background image.

The final step was to create lighting that would bring the entire display to life. I used a set specific kit from Game of Bricks which included green LEDs and then used some additional flickering flame LEDs from Brick Stuff. The key was to hide the thin wiring as much as possible and also to make sure the LEDs weren’t directly visible so that they created a glow effect, rather than a spotlight effect which is too bright and difficult to look at directly.

The Build

I worked on the build over the course of 2 to 3 days, for 2 to 3 hours at a time. It was relatively straightforward, and each tree trunk was unique enough that it didn’t feel repetitive when building one after the other. There are a large amount of really interesting features and clever detail in this build and it was fun to put together.

However, some of the reddish brown LEGO pieces were quite brittle and I did manage to accidentally crack a few of these, forcing me to order replacement parts via Bricklink. This does seem like a common complaint for this set and it is something to take care with as you work on the build.

Installing the light kit was straight forward. The lighting sets from Game of Bricks are not my favorite as the wiring is incredibly thin and the lights are wired in series which means if one light doesn’t work the others next in line also won’t work. Unfortunately, this happened to me and it meant I had to get creative with the overall placement of lights.

My recommendation for lighting kits for other sets is Briksmax – they can purchased directly from them or through a third-party seller like Lighttailing. Briksmax has a better system of wires and connector boards which allow for more customization. 

Ewok Village 10236

Overall the Ewok Village was a really fun set to build. Creating my own diorama by enhancing the display with a forest floor, background and lights was also enjoyable. Using a display case is a great way to keep the set secure and also dust-free. This set is now retired and the best place to find it is on eBay.

Look out for future blogs on our LEGO collection. We have a number of sets waiting to be built and will feature them as they’re constructed. These include:

USC AT-AT 75313

Tantive IV corridor diorama (custom build)

Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder 75341

 

Look for these in the coming months!

Angus
Horizon Guest House

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The Big Island from the air: helicopter and fixed-wing tours

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Photo credit: volcanotours.com

What could be better than seeing the Big Island from the air! There are a number of options when it comes to helicopter and fixed-wing tours of the island.

Book a tour and get a better idea of the natural landscapes on the island, see the volcano from a unique perspective, or perhaps create your own custom tour of the island.

1. Paradise Helicopters

Circle Island Private Helicopter Tour in the Big Island (Paradise Helicopters)
Photo credit: paradisecopters.com

Paradise Helicopters is Hawaii’s largest locally owned and operated helicopter company and is committed to caring for the local community – you have the option of offsetting the carbon emissions from your flight via the planting of native and endemic trees. They even hold a sustainable tourism certification! 

Choose from a large number of different tour packages depending on the location of the airport (they have offices at Kona, Waimea and Hilo airports).

Selected tours include:

  • Circle Island Experience Tour – the tour starts at Kona airport and heads south over the Kona Coast coffee district, over the western slopes of Mauna Loa to the southern tip of the island, before heading for Kīlauea Volcano, Hilo and then the Kohala valleys and waterfalls. ($795 per person – 2 hours).
  • Kohala Coast Waterfalls & Remote Hike – explore the Kohala valleys and hover over huge waterfalls. At the halfway point the helicopter will land at a remote location and you’ll enjoy a short hike in the forest. ($564 per person – 1 hour plus 45-60 mins hike).
  • Experience Hawaii – explore all five volcanoes, fly over the island’s amazing beaches, valleys and coastlines. Departs from Kona, and heads south to the volcano before skirting the Kohala Coast ($725 per person – flight time varies).

For more information paradisecopters.com

EcoTourismCertified_anpwta
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: NPS / Walsh

2. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Big-Island-Heli
Photo credit: bigislandhelicoptertours.com

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is known as one of the premier aerial tour operators on the island. Super quiet, eco-star helicopters and knowledgeable pilots make for a great experience. 

Blue Hawaiian offer three main tours of the island:

  • Big Island Spectacular – Get a bigger picture of the island with this island tour. You’ll see tropical rain forests, waterfalls, valleys and of course the volcano ($649 per person, 1 hour 45 minutes). There’s also an option to add a waterfall landing. Departs from Waikoloa.
  • Circle of Fire – Take in the amazing Hawaii Volcano National Park and experience Kīlauea in all its beauty ($369 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Hilo.
  • Kohala Coast Adventure – Explore the breathtaking Kohala coast on the island’s northwest. Stunning sea cliffs, Waipi’o Valley, and the dramatic valleys of the Kohala Mountains make this an amazing experience ($359 per person, 50 minutes). Departs from Waikoloa.

Got something else in mind? Why not book a private charter! Create your own itinerary ($3200 per hour).

For more information bluehawaiian.com

bluehawaiian
Photo credit: bluehawaiian.com

3. Safari Helicopters

Photo credit: safarihelicopters.com

Top rated by Trip Advisor, Safari Helicopters has been operating since 1987. They fly tours on the Big Island and on Kauai. 

They have just one tour on the Big Island and that’s the Volcanoes National Park & Waterfalls Safari. This tour takes in the park and the amazing waterfalls nearby (As low as $264 per person, check the website for the latest rates, 55 minutes).

Book as a private tour for $1450 and get better value per seat.

For more information safarihelicopters.com 

safari-helicopters
Photo credit: bigislandguide.com

4. Big Island Air Tours

big island air
Photo credit: bigislandair.com

Big Island Air has been operating fixed-wing tours of the Big Island for over 35 years. They use a Cessna P337H Spymaster which is air conditioned and pressurized. Every seat is a window seat and the plane holds three passengers, pilot and co-pilot.

There are four tours available to choose from:

  • Premier Island Tour – this tour takes in the entire island and departs daily from Kona Airport ($598 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Twilight Tour – Timed to take in the amazing Big Island sunset, this is a unique tour. Includes the volcano, valleys and coastline ($688 per person, 1 hour 30 minutes).
  • Summits & Waterfalls Tour – This tour takes in the Kona Coast and heads first to Mauna Loa and the Volcano, before flying over Mauna Kea and then the Kohala Coast ($599.99 per person, 1 hour flight time).
If you’re in Maui you can also try the VIP Air Adventure tour. This tour takes in Maui and the Big Island before returning to Maui.
 
For more information bigislandair.com
 

Aerial tours are a great way to explore the island and for those wanting a close-up view of volcanic activity there is nothing better than a flight over the crater! 

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What to do in South Kona: Our top 5 attractions

South Kona has a charm of its own. We’ve compiled a list of our top 5 attractions so you can find out what makes this part of the island so special!

web1_Kainaliu-Kalikimaka_0044
Kainaliu Town. Photo credit: West Hawaii Today

South Kona is famous for its coffee plantations, spectacular snorkeling, one of the best ancient Hawaiian historic sites, and its arts community. Make sure you get your snorkeling in early – the light is better first thing, and you’ll beat the crowds, especially at popular snorkeling spot, Two Step. Later, head to a coffee farm, like Greenwell Farms, to find out how coffee is produced, shop locally in Kainaliu Town, or just relax by Kealakekua Bay or at a favorite local beach – Hoʻokena Beach Park.

1. Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Place of Refuge) & Two Step

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Royal Grounds. Photo credit: Lovebigisland.com

This well-preserved historic site is one of the best in the state. The park covers 420 acres and was once a safe haven for those seeking redemption for crimes or the breaking of certain taboos. Once they reached the boundary of Place of Refuge they were safe! The wall still stands and is awe-inspiring.

There’s lots to see at Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau but if you’re stretched for time we’ve picked the highlights:

  1. The Great Wall – the wall measures 12 feet tall, 18 feet wide and over 950 feet long. Over 400 years old, the wall is constructed entirely using the dry-set masonry method (uhau humu pohaku) in which are stones fitted together without mortar. 
  2. Hale o Keawe – the main temple housing the bones of the 23 ali’i (chiefs). The temple is only able to be viewed from the outside, but it’s worth an up close visit to appreciate its mana.
  3. Pu’uhonua – take a walk past the Great Wall and into the Pu’uhonua itself. 
  4. Keone’ele – this sheltered cove in the Royal Grounds was only for the ali’i to land their canoes. Look out for turtles here, but make sure to keep a safe distance. 

For more information check out our in-depth blog post on the park here.

NPS Walsh
Hale O Keawe. Photo credit: NPS / Walsh

Two Step

Two Step Hawaii
Photo credit: bigislanddivers.com

Located just next door to Place of Refuge, is the amazing snorkeling spot known locally as Two Step. Two naturally-formed lava steps make entry into the water incredibly easy (hence the name two step). It’s mostly lava here, and not a lot of sand, but the snorkeling is easy, the currents non-existent and the parking is free. It can get busy here, so either try for first thing in the morning, or toward the end of the day. Alternatively, park in the national park next door and walk around to the bay (it’s an easy 5 minute walk).

Photo credit: Bigislandguide.com

2. Kealakekua Bay

Fair Wind Kealakakua Bay
Photo credit: fair-wind.com

The crown jewel of South Kona is undoubtedly Kealakekua Bay. This beautiful bay is part of a marine reserve and is home to beautiful coral and an amazing array of tropical fish. Dolphins are commonly seen here as they use the sheltered bay as a place to avoid predators and to sleep.

On the south side of the bay is Napoʻopoʻo Beach, a small beach where access to the water is easy, though there are no lifeguards and limited facilities. 

On the north side of the bay is Captain Cook’s Monument. To access the monument you’ll need to hike down from Napoʻopoʻo Road. Read more about this hike in our blog post about top hikes on the island here. The north side of the bay is where the best snorkeling is located and you’ll find that the tour boats typically congregate here.

There are tour operators offering snorkeling and kayaking tours, or you can rent kayaks yourself. This means you can kayak across the bay, and snorkel off the kayak (we’ve done it and we recommend this, especially if you aren’t keen on hiking down to, and back up from, Captain Cook’s monument).

Kealakekua Bay
Yellow Tang. Photo credit: thatadventurelife.com
Captain Cook trail Kona
Captain Cook Monument Trail. Photo credit: Lang Parker

3. Greenwell Farms

Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com

Don’t miss out on the internationally famous Kona coffee! We always recommend Greenwell Farms if you’re looking to visit a local coffee producer (and there are many!). The Greenwell Family were crucial in the production of the very first commercial coffee in Kona. Take one of their frequent tours around the property (the tour lasts between 45-60 minutes) and then sample some free coffee afterwards. The gift shop is the perfect place to stock up on Kona coffee or take some back home as a gift. 

No reservations are needed for a tour. The farm is open daily for tours (9am-3pm).

For more details https://www.greenwellfarms.com

Greenwell Farms Hawaii
Photo credit: greenwellfarms.com

4. Kainaliu Town

Kainaliu Town Hawaii
Kainaliu Town. Photo credit: thisldu.com

Kainaliu Town is the first town you’ll come across when you head south from Kailua-Kona. It consists of a small stretch of both old stores, that have storied histories, and the new – including clothing boutiques and galleries. The Aloha Theatre is also located in Kainaliu, so keep a lookout for their regular productions and you might be able to catch a show. Stop for a bite to eat at Rebel Kitchen, a local institution. Stretch your legs in Kainaliu and get a feel for small-town Hawaii!

Aloha Theatre Kainaliu
Aloha Theatre. Photo credit: lovebigisland.com

5. Hoʻokena Beach Park

The Hoʻokena Beach Park is located at the end of a 2.5 mile road that winds through classic Hawaiian ranch country. This coastal settlement has quite a history. In its heyday it used to be a bustling port town for steamships. It had its own post office as well as a number of stores. 

The beach park itself is now managed by a non-profit and is a local favorite. The sand is a mix of dark brown and gray, and a stretch of cliffs line one side of the beach. Swimming and snorkeling are both easy to do here. Facilities include showers and toilets. You can even camp nearby. Find out more on our blog post about the beach park here.

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