Versatile almond cookies

These almond cookies are incredibly versatile. This recipe from Jennifer Mchenry at Bake or Break allows for three distinct variations. The first is the classic almond cookie with or without an almond in the center, the second is a thumbprint cookie filled with jam, and finally a thumbprint cookie with almond butter. These cookies are the perfect companion with a cup of tea (or coffee). The not-so-secret flavor? Almond flour. It makes all the difference.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour

  • ¾ cup (75g) almond flour

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • ¾ cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened

  • ½ cup (100g) granulated sugar

  • ¼ cup (50g) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

  • sliced almonds, for topping the cookies

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

2. Whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk and almond extract.

4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until combined.

5. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared pans, leaving about 3 inches between cookies. Flatten each cookie to about 1/2-inch thick.

6. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with sliced almonds.

Or use the thumbprint method to create space for a delicious filling. We used jam and almond butter for another batch. Use any sweet filling that works for you!

Almond Cookies

7. Bake, one pan at a time, 12 to 14 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned and the tops appear set.

Cool on the pans for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Let us know how your cookies turned out in the comments below! 

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South Kona restaurants: the 5 best places to eat in 2021

Like most of the country the pandemic has caused a number of restaurants on the Big Island to close – some permanently and others just temporarily. Our up-to-date guide for summer 2021 profiles the best of what’s open again in South Kona. From Kainaliu to Captain Cook, these eateries are great places to enjoy a meal along the picturesque Mamalahoa Highway. Whether it’s pizza, tacos, fried fish, burgers or coffee and a sandwich at sunset, it’s all on the Kona Coast.

1. The Coffee Shack

There’s no place better to sit and have a coffee than The Coffee Shack. With a panoramic view over the Kona Coast (26 miles of uninterrupted horizon line) it’s the perfect pit stop on your way to or from Kona. The Coffee Shack serves its very own coffee grown on the slopes below the restaurant, where 85 year old coffee trees produce Kahauloa Estate Coffee.

Menu highlights include the Pan Sautéed Ono Fish sandwich, the Papaya Special (Half Papaya filled with mixed fruit, lilikoi yogurt & coconut, served with two scrambled eggs with cheese, and coconut pound cake). And don’t forget the French Toast (made with homemade Luau Bread and sprinkled with powdered sugar) or the Kona Lime Pie!

Open Thursday through Monday, 7am to sunset. Closed Tuesday & Wednesday

83-5799 Mamalahoa Hwy,
Captain Cook, HI 96704

808-328-9555

https://www.coffeeshack.com

Drive time from Horizon: 15 mins (8.8 miles)

2. Black Rock Pizza

Newly established, Black Rock Pizza has quickly become a popular eatery with both locals and tourists. Pizzas are made with fresh artisan dough (made daily) and gourmet sauces. Dine in or take out, they have a large menu of pizzas and salads, along with local craft beer on tap.

Menu highlights include the Local Boy pizza (Kalua Pork, Ham, Bacon, Red Onions, Mushrooms, Topped w/Smoked Mozzarella) and the Mexican (Refried Bean Base, Mozzarella, Seasoned Taco Meat, Red Onions, Black Olives, Topped with Chopped Romaine Lettuce, Cold Tomato, crushed Crunchy Tortilla and a Spicy Sour Cream Drizzle).

Open Monday through Thursday 11 – 8 pm, Friday and Saturday 11-9pm and Sunday 10-8pm

82-6127 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704

808-731-6162

https://blackrock.pizza

Drive time from Horizon: 18 mins (10.3 miles)

3. Shaka Tacoz

Shaka Tacoz has quickly become the best place to get the tastiest tacos on the Big Island. You can’t miss the big blue sign right on the highway in Captain Cook. Order at the food truck and then eat inside with a great view out over the ocean. The perfect place for a quick stop when the hunger pains hit after a day of snorkeling or relaxing at the beach!

Menu highlights include everything taco! Choose from pork, chicken, beef, veggie or fish. All tacos are served with onion, cilantro, cheese, lettuce, pickled onion, Shaka sauce, and lime crema.

Open Sunday through Thursday 11-8pm and Friday and Saturday 11-9pm

82-6167 Mamalahoa Hwy, Captain Cook, HI 96704

(808) 896-7706

https://shakatacoz.com

Drive time from Horizon: 18 mins (10.5 miles)

4. Rebel Kitchen

Rebel Kitchen prides itself on fresh flavors, local ingredients and their very own hot sauce! Hawaiian-inspired burgers and sandwiches are served along with salads. The menu is sourced as much as possible from local farmers, butchers and fishermen.

Menu highlights include the Blackened Ono sandwich, the Rebel Burger (made with Big Island grass fed meat) and the Thai Steak salad. And don’t forget to try their amazing sauces – Kona Ketchup, Hawaiian Fire Sauce and Mauka Mustard (also available to purchase in-store or online).

Open Tuesday through Saturday 11-8pm. Closed Monday & Tuesday.

79-7399 Mamalahoa Highway, Kealakekua, HI 96750

808-322-0616

https://rebelkitchen.com

Drive time from Horizon: 24 mins (13.8 miles)

5. Teshima’s Restaurant

This Big Island institution is still going strong. Originally a family-owned store, this eatery has been operating as a Japanese/Hawaiian fusion restaurant since 1957. Specialties include shrimp tempura and sukiyaki.

Menu highlights include the Japanese breakfast (fried fish, egg, fish cake and Japanese tea), sukiyaki (thin slices of meat, tofu, and vegetables cooked in soy sauce and sugar) and “Kona Up-Country” Chop Steak! Drop in and find out why Teshima’s continues to be a local favorite.

Open Monday through Sunday – 7-2pm for breakfast and lunch and 5-9pm for dinner.

79-7251 Mamalahoa Hwy
Kealakekua, HI 96750

808-322-9140

https://www.teshimarestaurant.com

Drive time from Horizon: 25 mins (14.5 miles)

All these great restaurants are just a short drive from Horizon Guest House and located along the stunning South Kona Coast section of Mamalahoa Highway. 

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The Big Island’s wild cattle secret

Wild cattle have a long history on the Big Island of Hawaii. They first arrived as a gift for a king but within a short time they grew to become a widespread pest. The introduction of cattle may have been the reason for the birth of Hawaiian cowboy culture but wild cattle in the 21st century present ongoing challenges to the environment.

History

In the late 18th century cattle were introduced to Hawaii. After a small number of cattle were gifted to King Kamehameha I they were declared protected and no cattle were allowed to be slaughtered. By the middle of the 19th century there were over 25,000 wild cattle on the islands. Eventually the burgeoning cattle population began to damage crops, as well as proving dangerous to the general public. The ban on hunting cattle was lifted in 1832.

Did you know? Kamehameha III invited vaqueros (cattle herders) from the mainland and Mexico to train Hawaiians on how to control the growing wild cattle problem on the islands. This was the beginning of what is now known as the paniolos, or Hawaiian cowboys. Interestingly, the ukulele is a product of this cross culture mix between Hawaii and Mexico.

A wild breed

What is now the modern Hawaiian wild cattle is in fact a fairly distinctive feral breed. Smaller than the average Hereford cattle, the wild breed tends to have longer legs and is thought to have a stronger temperament. They also have a unique capacity to survive without a significant source of water for long periods. In order to survive, the cattle must glean water from dew-covered foliage or wherever they might find sitting pools of water after a rainstorm.

Ecological Damage

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands have identified wild cattle as having a distinct negative impact on the forest environment. Cattle contribute to the spread of Rapid Ohia Death, the devastating fungal infection affecting the Ohia tree population, and even the spread of gorse.

Hunting

Because the state of Hawaii considers wild cattle to have an adverse affect on the Hawaiian forest environment hunting is welcomed. They are not just hunted to control numbers but also as a food source. Wild cattle meat is enjoyed by those locals who make the effort to hunt them, braving the rocky mountain terrain of the forest and the sometimes elusive cattle herds.

A mature Hawaiian bull can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. This means that killing a bull is one thing but carrying the animal out of the forest is quite another. Bulls are also prone to charging when cornered so care is needed, especially as wild cattle tend to be faster and more agile than the average cattle.

McCandless Ranch

Horizon Guest House is bordered by McCandless Ranch (all photos were taken along the boundary fence), one of the many large ranches on the Big island. It’s along this boundary that herds of wild cattle can be seen emerging from the forest to graze beside the fence line. At night you may even hear the calls of bulls in heat from deep within the forest. This unique call almost sounds like it might have more in common with a dinosaur roaming the forest than a common cattle!

Wild cattle on the Big Island have a unique history and are now a well established part of Hawaiian rural life. But controlling the cattle population remains the key to conserving the forest ecosystem and protecting the flora of the Big Island.

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Sunny’s shoes: a visit from the farrier

The rocky terrain in Hawaiian pastures can be tough on horseshoes due to the unforgiving volcanic rock. As a result it’s important that Sunny’s shoes are checked regularly and kept in good shape. When the shoes need attention it’s time to call in the farrier!

Sunny Big Island HGH 10
Sunny waits patiently with Poncho in the background

What does a farrier do?

Farriers are specialists in hoof care for horses, and also donkeys. The profession itself has a long history, dating back hundreds of years.

The word farrier derives from the Latin ‘Ferrarius’, meaning ‘iron’ or ‘blacksmith’. Before there were farriers, who worked almost exclusively with horses, it was the blacksmiths that made and fitted the horseshoes.

The farrier’s job consists of the following key elements:

Observation – they must have a keen eye for when a horse might be injured or about to become lame. They must also be able to identify other illnesses or infection related to a horse’s hooves.

Trimming – it’s important that the length of a horses hooves are properly maintained. A farrier will use rasps and nippers to remove excess hoof material. 

Cleaning – a horse’s hooves need to be kept clean to avoid infection. Farriers need to carefully cut out excess hoof walls, dead sole (dead material in the hoof) and dead frog (a thrush infection, usually a black goo) if present. 

Sunny Big Island HGH 12
1. Cleaning the hooves
2. Using the nippers to clean
Sunny Big Island HGH 8
3. Fitting the new shoe
Sunny Big Island HGH 9
4. Attaching the new shoe

Our local farrier

Every six weeks it’s time for Sunny to get new shoes. Our longtime farrier, Cliff Lorenzo (above), has been doing our horses here at Horizon Guest House for many years. Cliff shoes horses on the Big Island and Maui. Among his clients are the many ranches on the Big Island, including McCandless Ranch which borders the property.

Don't forget the nails!

After the shoe has been fitted it’s time to file down the nails. Cliff uses a custom made horse stand to make it easier for him and the horse.

Where did the horses come from?

Horses were first brought to Hawaii in 1803 as a gift to King Kamehameha I. Soon after, the cattle trade increased and so did the need for horses and experienced cattle handlers. Horses became the standard mode of transport on the growing number of ranches and continue to be used on the ranches today for cattle control.

What about the donkeys?

Donkey’s are best equipped for rocky terrain and usually have sturdy hooves that don’t need shoes. Poncho and Lefty (above) don’t have shoes and the rocky environment tends to wear away any excess material on their hooves. They can even trim their own hooves in the right environment by rubbing their hooves against rocks if they need to!

The Big Island’s ranch culture has meant that farriers continue to be in demand today, making sure that horses like Sunny are kept shoed and able to comfortably graze the rocky pastures.

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The Big Island Cycling Experience

Cycling the Big Island is a great way to see the island and connect with its unique natural environment. One of the best ways to do this is with a customized biking tour of the island with Lifecycle Adventures who specialize in custom cycling vacations.

Lifecycle offers either self-guided tours, which give you the flexibility of determining your own route and schedule with support in the background, or fully guided tours with on-hand full-time support.

How does it work?

Choose when you want to start and the duration of your tour, as well as the type of accommodation that suits your needs (budget, classic or luxury).

1. Self-guided tour

The self-guided tour focuses on the northern and the western parts of the Big Island. This package includes a transfer from Kona, bicycle setup, followed by an outline of the route by your guide.

2. Private Guided Tour

A private guided tour means you’ll have a local guide and a dedicated support vehicle. Along with GPS units and maps, your guide will take care of all the details of the tour from advice on the route to washing your bottles!

Both types of tours include luggage transferred between accommodations, and transfers back to Kona at the conclusion of your trip.

Customizable itinerary

Day 1: Waikoloa to Honoka’a

Day 2: Honoka’a Loop Day

Day 3: Honoka’a to Hawi

Day 4: Hawi to Captain Cook

Day 5: Captain Cook Loop Day

Day 6: Captain Cook to Kailua-Kona

This route suits all riders from beginners to experienced. Choose from hybrid bikes (a cross between a moutain bike and a road bike), a road bike, a premium road bike (light and fast racing bikes), or an eBike. You can even organize to bring your own bike to the island!

South Kona and Horizon Guest House

What does an average day on tour look like?

Day 4: The Hawi to Captain Cook Leg

Head to the Kona coffee district and take in the expansive sea views of the South Kona coast as you cycle south.

You determine what type of cycle ride you want to attempt. 

Choose Leisure and you’ll start above Kona at Holualoa and sail down to Captain Cook on the downhill. Opt for Intermediate, and you’ll start just north of Kailua-Kona and end your day in Captain Cook. Looking for something more? Try the Challenge option and cycle from Waikoloa Village to Captain Cook over a distance of 75 miles, or boost it further with the Epic option and cycle the entirety of Hawi to Captain Cook. Note – where you choose to stay will affect the overall distance of your route.

Day 5: Captain Cook Loops

Choose from a variety of local rides to explore the area. An easy cycle ride to Kealakekua Bay, or an intermediate ride to Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park).

Horizon Guest House has been an established Lifecycle Adventures accommodation partner for many years. Choose Horizon Guest House for your stay in Captain Cook and end your day of cycling at Horizon with a sunset soak in the hot tub, and a restful sleep in one of our comfortable private suites.

Your guides

3-Cycle-tour-arrival-Horizon-Guest-House-Hawaii-768x576
Bruno at Horizon Guest House

Bruno & Gabi will be your Big Island guides. Residents since 2011, they are passionate about cycling and the Big Island. 

Cycling and COVID

Lifecycle has taken all necessary steps to protect your health. By it’s very nature the private tour means you won’t be exposed to strangers on your tour and all guides wear masks and adhere to social distancing. Bicycles and equipment undergo regular sanitation between guests and all accommodations have been pre-screened to ensure they follow COVID precautions.

For your peace of mind Lifecycle has modified its cancellation policy to be more flexible due to ongoing changes related to COVID measures. Please check here for more details.

Traversing the Big Island by bicycle is a great way to view the island up close. Build your own tour and enjoy your vacation with the knowledge that you have on-call support and a place to relax at the end of the day. Find out more about Lifecycle Adventures.

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Wind and cloud patterns on the Big Island

Clouds 5 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Kona Coast

The Big Island is dominated by a pattern of east-northeast trade winds with an average wind speed of 18 miles an hour for the majority of the year. The terrain of the Big Island, with its high mountain peaks, causes the trade winds to flow around the mountains. This means there is less rainfall on the summits of these mountains. It also means that the leeward side of the island (and the other Hawaiian islands) is typically drier than the windward side of the island – hence Kona is generally dry with low rainfall while Hilo experiences a high annual rainfall.

Clouds 3 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Big Island

Wind and cloud patterns on the Big Island

The heating and cooling processes of the islands in conjunction with patterns of trade winds contribute to causing these puffy cloud trails. Scientists have determined that as the sun heats the islands, clouds begin to form over the leeside of the island, with the trade winds carrying the warmed air downstream. The surface pressure downstream drops and the convergence increases. The warm air rises, condenses and the cloud trail extends in length. At night the islands cool and the cold air hinders cloud formation as the air moves downstream.

Clouds 1 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Big Island

On the Big Island the Kona Coast has its own unique cloud processes. Typically clouds begin to form along the coast before noon, while the ocean remains free of clouds. By early afternoon cloud along the coast has extended out to sea. By nightfall the temperature has dropped in the coastal area covered with cloud – indicating that a cloud deck (a bank of cloud that has formed a layer at a specific altitude) has formed.

Clouds 2 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Big Island

The topography of the Big Island greatly influences the wind and cloud patterns. The strong easterly winds around both the northern and southern ends of the island form a ‘westerly reverse flow’. This flow reaches up to 2000 meters in altitude, just below the dominant easterly trade winds. During the day, as the island heats up, the westerly reverse flow grows stronger and moist air is carried to the Kona Coast. Clouds begin to form on the slopes along the coast, but the reverse flow stops the warmth created by the island from forming the cloud trail typically seen on the other islands.

Clouds 4 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Mauna Kea, Big Island

The Hawaiian names for wind, clouds and rain

Hawaiians have many names for sky and cloud formations. These names demonstrate the Hawaiian culture’s profound connection to the physical environment.

  • ao puaʻa – these are cumulus clouds of different sizes massed together. These types of patterns are common on the Kona coast, and indicate that good weather is ahead and not a storm.
  • ao pehupehu – common in summer, these refer to cumulus clouds increasing in size. Often present with trade winds, these formations grow darker (especially at their base) causing rain on the windward slopes.
  • hoʻomalumalu – sheltering cloud
  • hoʻoweliweli – threatening cloud
  • ānuenue – rainbow, considered to be a favorable omen
  • ua loa – an extended rainstorm
  • ua poko – a short spell of rain
  • Kūkalahale – the name of a type of wind and rain famous in Honolulu.
  • kili hau – an ice-cold shower, or a cold drizzle.
  • makani – a general term for wind. The prevailing northeast trade winds of Hawaiʻi are called moaʻe, aʻe, aʻe loa, Moaʻe Lehua, or moaʻe pehu. A leeward wind is a Kona wind.
  • Kaiāulu – the name of a gentle trade wind famous in song at Waiʻanae, Oʻahu.
  • ʻōlauniu – the name of a wind on Hawaiʻi. The figurative translation means promiscuous, and a literal translation means coconut-leaf piercing.

The Hawaiian Islands’ cloud patterns are influenced by winds and mountain height as well as the heating and cooling processes of the island itself. These factors affect the cloud formation on the leeside of the islands helping to create this puffy cloud trail phenomenon. On the Big Island though, clouds are formed by more complex processes that create a typically sunny morning, followed by a cloudy afternoon with an increased chance of rain.

Further reading

International Pacific Research Center. (2008). The Cloud Trails of the Hawaiian Isles. IPRC Climate, 8(2). http://iprc.soest.hawaii.edu/newsletters/newsletter_sections/iprc_climate_vol8_2/cloud_trails_hawaii.pdf

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Bees on the Big Island

Big Island Bees
Photo credit: hawaiimagazine.com

Bees are big business on the Big Island. It’s where 90% of all hives in the Hawaiian Islands are located. Beekeeping happens year round. Between November and January there is a reduction in the available nectar but soon after January the Macadamia nut trees flower, the nectar is plentiful again, and the bee populations increase!

Kona Queen Hawaii Photo by Ronit Fahl
Kelly O’Day, Kona Queen Hawaii. Photo credit: Ronit Fahl

Did you know

European bees were introduced to the islands in the late 1800s. 80% of food production on the Big Island requires bee pollination. Producers of coffee and macadamia nuts need the help of honey bees. Those who supply avocados, lilikoi and other crops to farmers markets are also reliant on bees for helping propagation.

  • Sales from bee-pollinated crops in Hawaii are more than $200 million.
  • There are approximately 15,000 hives in Hawaii.
  • Hawaii’s honey production was $3.2 million in 2018.
  • Hawaii supplies 25% of the queen bees on the Mainland and 75% of those in Canada.
bees3 Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Photo credit: HomesteadinHawaii.com

Queen bees are exported from Hawaii to the rest of the world. Hawaii exports more than $10 million a year in queen bees. Because of the climate Hawaii is able to supply queen bees all year round. 

Queen bee shipping cage. Photo credit: Ronit Fahl

The majority of the queen bee producers are here on the Big Island. These include Kona Queen Hawaii. While Kona itself provides the perfect weather for cultivating queen bees – warm weather, not much rain – Hilo, with its high annual rainfall is less ideal. However, this environment still produces some unique nectar flows.

Photo credit: Big Island Beekeepers Association

Plants that help the bees

The Big Island’s many climatic zones create numerous areas for beekeeping to take place.The amazing variety of flowers means there are a large number of specific nectar flows, resulting in some amazing honey varieties. There are a number of artisan honey producers that supply these type of niche flavors, including those produced from the Ohia Lehua and Christmas Berry trees.

Varroa Mites

In the 2000s varroa mites almost completely destroyed the beekeeping industry on the Big Island and Oahu. As a result, importing bees into Hawaii is now illegal.

Bee Culture Big Island Hawaii
Photo credit: beeculture.com

What do bees need in the tropics?

Bees need the morning sun and then later in the day they need some shade. If bees are grown at slightly higher altitudes, then full sun may be suitable since the overall temperature may be cooler. Bees also need easy access to water. This might be as simple as a bird bath or a shallow dish of water. Shelter from the wind is also needed, since wind can cause rain to be driven into the hives, disrupting the temperature of the hive. Bees also like their privacy, and flourish when kept away from heavy foot traffic or other human activity.

Big Island Bees Hawaii Horizon Guest House
Photo credit: manoahoney.com

Types of honey

Pure Honey: This means it’s 100% honey, no other ingredients (such as corn syrup).

Raw honey: Is pure honey that has not been heated to the point of pasteurization – retaining all the extra goodness of honey, such as the natural enzymes and vitamins.

Organic honey: Organic honey is produced using pollen from only organically grown plants (no pesticides).

Unfiltered honey: Is honey that has not been filtered – the process by which very small particles are removed. This makes the honey close to the honey that is removed directly from the hive.

Where to get it!

Big Island Bees
Photo credit: Jeffsetter.com

The Big Island Bees honey farm is only a short drive from Horizon Guest House. Visit the farm and experience a beekeeping tour, visit the museum and enjoy a free honey tasting! 

The Big Island is the home of Hawaiian honey, so make sure you try some of Hawaii’s best kept secret!

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Humpback whales on the Big Island

Humpback whales are magnificent creatures and seeing them for the first time makes even the most jaded traveler giddy with excitement. If you’ve booked your trip to Hawai’i during humpback whale season, make sure to pack your binoculars and keep a look out for the whales as you make your way around the Big Island.

Where do they migrate from? And when?

The north Pacific humpback whales make the journey all the way from Alaska, appearing in Hawaiian waters between January and March. The journey is more than 3000 miles and takes the whales more than a month to complete in one direction.

Why do the whales come to Hawai'i?

Humpback whales leave Alaska for Hawai’i in order to mate, give birth and then raise their young calves. The warmer waters are more conducive to breeding, while the oceans around the islands lack the natural predators found in the northern Pacific. There isn’t much food for the whales in sub-tropical oceans and they spend their time in Hawai’i fasting while surviving off their fat reserves. Because it takes almost a year from conception to birth, humpback whales mate during one visit and then give birth the following year when they return to the Hawaiian Islands. Hawai’i offers a relatively safe training ground for new calves to learn the skills they’ll need to survive on their return migration to Alaska.

How do they know how to get to Hawai'i?

Humpback whales have a metalloid substance in part of their frontal lobe. This substance allows the whales to distinguish any changes in the earth’s magnetic field, enabling them to migrate directly to their usual breeding areas.

Fun facts about humpback whales or koholā

6 Humpback Whale
Photo credit: scubadiving.com
  • The Hawaiian word Koholā refers to both reef flats and the humpbacked whale. This is because of the connection between the spray of the surf on the reef and the spray from a whale’s blowhole.
  • Their numbers are on the increase. In the 1960s there were only 1,400 but by 2014 their numbers had grown to 21,000.
  • The average life expectancy of a humpback whale is 50 years.
  • They can weigh close to 40 tons and can reach almost 60 feet in length.
  • They migrate from Alaska to not only Hawai’i but also to the waters off western. Mexico and the southern island of Japan.
  • Almost 10,000 humpback whales visit the Hawaiian Islands every year.
  • Humpback whales can blow bubble nets in order to snare fish.
  • They don’t have teeth, they have bristles (baleen) made from keratin (very similar to the structure of human hair and fingernails).
  • Humpback whales can be identified by their unique markings on the underside of their tail fluke. This makes it relatively easy to identify returning whales.

In 2020, the numbers of whales visiting Hawai’i was the largest it had been for five years. There was also a distinct increase in whale singing activity as tracked by researchers at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary includes the shorelines of Maui, Kaua’i, O’ahu and the Hawai’i Island’s Kona and Kohala coasts.

Whales in Hawaiian Culture

5 Humpback Whale
Photo credit: AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries

Whales feature prominently in Hawaiian culture. The koholā migration to Hawai’i from Alaska is interpreted as a homecoming to the islands. The humpback whales are born in Hawai’i and are therefore considered native born (kamaaina) as well as family guardians (aumakua).

Where to see humpback whales on the Big Island

4 Humpback Whale
Photo credit: viator.com

There are a number of places to view whales on the Big Island. They are often visible on the Kohala Coast and Hilo Bay – where they can be seen from the shore. On the west side of the island, try Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, which has great views over Kawaihae Harbor, and of course here at Horizon we have binoculars and a panoramic view of the ocean from which to spot breaching whales. Your best chance to see whales is in the morning. Be patient and look for the blow, the first indication that a whale has surfaced (when it blows air through its blowhole, forcing a spray of water into the air).

Otherwise, for a more up-close experience try a whale watching tour.

Humpback whales are part of the unique marine ecosystem of Hawai’i. Donʻt miss out  – if you’re on the Big Island during whale season keep an eye out for the majestic humpback whale!  

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Off the beaten track: Ho’okena Beach Park

South Kona has many hidden treasures and one of them is Ho’okena Beach Park. Tucked away at the end of a winding road through ranch land and quietly grazing horses, this hidden beach is an understated local favorite.

Ho’okena Beach Park is located in South Kona on the west side of the Big Island. Camping, swimming, snorkeling or boogie boarding – Ho’okena has it all. Nestled at the end of Kauhako Bay near the cliffs, the beach consists of a mix of black and white sand. The sand can get hot so make sure you pack your flip flops. A line of large trees along the beach edge creates an oasis of shade, making it the perfect spot to spread a blanket and have a picnic.

Where is it?

Hoʻokena Beach Park is located 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Highway 11.

Directions from Kailua Kona

Turn right onto Hoʻokena Beach Road just after the 102 mile marker. Follow the road down to the beach park (approximately 2.5 miles). When you reach the end make sure you take a left down a narrow road to the parking lot.

Directions from Hilo & Volcano

Head north on Highway 11. Continue past the 101 mile marker and Kealia Ranch Store. The next left will be Ho’okena Beach Road. Look for the big green road sign.

Amenities

Concession stand with ice, food, cold drinks, ice cream, camping and beach supplies (credit cards accepted)
. Outdoor showers, county restroom facilities, 
camping
 parking
 and picnic tables. 
No pets allowed.

There are sites available on the beach for tent camping. A permit is required. For more information, check out Camp Ho’okena.

The History of Ho'okena

In the 1880s Ho’okena Beach Park was the location of a steamship mooring site. At the time Ho’okena village was a vibrant port, with trade bringing prosperity to the area. There was a wharf, school, courthouse, livery stable and jail. Robert Louis Stevenson stayed a week in Ho’okena when he visited the Big Island in 1889. He mentions Ho’okena in ‘Travels in Hawaii’.

In the early 20th century Ho’okena village began to decline as steamship visits were reduced. By the late 1920s the wharf was receiving so little in the way of regular freight that stores as well as the local post office were forced to close. Storms in the 1930s permanently damaged the landing at Ho’okena and gradually the town’s population dwindled as residents moved further inland to be closer to the highway.

Termites and then an earthquake in 1951 caused the Puka’ana Church to collapse. Take a hike north along the beach to view the old church ruins, stone house platforms and what remains of the old wharf.

Support Ho’okena

The Friends of Ho’okena Beach Park (FOHBP) was formed with the express purpose of preserving the cultural integrity of the beach. Part of this objective is developing sustainable business opportunities that both enhance the beach and provide employment to the local community.

Ho’okena Beach Park is steeped in local history. The site of a once important commercial port as well as the site of one of the last Hawaiian canoe fishing villages in Hawaii. The beach itself offers great swimming as well as snorkeling without the crowds seen at nearby Two Steps. Bring your lunch and make a day of it or camp out overnight – sunsets at Ho’okena Beach Park are worth getting off the beaten track for!

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Clem’s apple and cherry pie

The holidays are always a great excuse to make a pie. This apple and cherry pie is super easy to make and the cherries make a nice variation on a Christmas staple. Use store-bought pastry or make your own (we prefer homemade)!

Prepare the filling

Mix together the corn starch, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and zest.

Peel, core, slice 4 Granny Smith apples. Layer sliced apples into a pastry lined pie pan. Sprinkle 1⁄2 c dried cherries over the sliced apples, then sprinkle over the dry mix. 

Add the top pastry

Cover with top pastry (if solid layer, cut vent holes).

Bake 375 degrees convection (400 regular) for 45 minutes or until bubbling.

Let cool and then serve with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. Let us know how your pie turned out in the comments below! 

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