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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The Art of Hawaiian Rock Wall Construction

Ancient Hawaiians were prolific when it came to building walls. Remains of these ancient rock walls date back to the 12th century, and can be found in places like Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park) as well as along highways and in commercial and residential areas.

Kona Rock Wall Hawaii
Kona

The Big Island has a plentiful supply of lava rock, making it the perfect place for residents to build a rock wall. Hawaiian blue rock is the staple for use in creating the walls, and although they can be created using the dry stacking method (see below) most are constructed using a mix of cement and sand in order to hold the rocks together. Placing the rocks is like building the perfect jigsaw, and it’s a skill that takes stone masons years to perfect.

Entrance to Horizon Guest House

Not just walls

There are two main types of rock walls. Moss rock walls and blue rock walls. Moss rocks have a particular rugged, aged appearance and often come in different color tones, giving the wall an interesting patchwork aspect. The Hawaiian blue rock is so-named for its natural blue color. Other types of lava rock include a’a lava, and pahoehoe lava. Lava rock can be used to build retaining walls, terraces, garden paths, driveways – the list is endless. The interior of rock walls are usually filled with rubble. The top of a rock wall is either finished with cement or flat pieces of lava rock are found and fitted together to form an even, flat finish.

Horizon Guest House Rock Wall Hawaii
Horizon Guest House

Ancient Hawaiians

Walls that have been created using the dry stacking technique litter the Big Island. They run across ranch land, form the remains of important ancient Hawaiian cultural sites and remind residents and visitors of the skill of ancient Hawaiian stone masons.

Dry stacking or uhau humu pohaku (pohaku means rock) is to make a construction without any mortar or joinery. Dry stacking requires a high degree of skill as the rocks must be fitted in such a way that they lock together like a series of interlocking teeth.

Dry stacking, as it’s practiced today, involves setting foundation rocks into the ground at a depth of about half a foot. The exterior of the wall is created by stacking the rocks on either side while filling in the center with smaller stones. All of these rocks are wedged together without any assistance from cement.

Place of Refuge
Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park) (Photo credit: https://www.nps.gov)

The Great Wall

Place of Refuge is the site of the Great Wall, or Pā Puʻuhonua. This wall stretches along the eastern and southern sides of the puʻuhonua, the ancient site where Hawaiians who broke the law could avoid almost-certain death by seeking refuge within the walled space. The wall itself is about 12 feet in height and 18 feet wide, with a length of almost 1000 feet!

9-Top-of-South-Wall
Place of Refuge at Honaunau (Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park) (Photo credit: https://www.nps.gov)

The wall served to protect the ancient Hawaiians within the area from the outside world. The wall is especially notable for it’s evidence of two dry stacking techniques. The first is paʻo (caverned), a technique involving laying lava slabs on top of columns. Evidence of this technique has not been discovered anywhere else in Hawaii. The second is the classic haka haka construction technique in which stone rubble is used to fill the interior space between the two outer walls.

Rock wall construction has a strong tradition in the Hawaiian Islands and continues to remain a popular choice for walls and gardens. Get up close to an awe-inspiring example of an ancient Hawaiian rock wall with a visit to Place of Refuge on the Kona Coast.

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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

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.

Parking

Parking is available only within the beach park area. Please note: respect the residents – do not park alongside the roadway, or in anyway that might block the one lane road from the top of the hill down to the beach, or prevent access to nearby residential homes, properties, or cause damage to exposed water lines (that supply water to residents). 

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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Top 7 native birds on the Big Island

Hawaiian Owl 2020
Photo credit: Jack Wolford

The Big Island is a great place to whip out the binoculars and get to bird watching. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve profiled seven of our favorite Hawaiian native birds so you’ll know them when you see them. From the striking Hawaiian hawk to the brilliant colors of the ‘Akekeke, these seven represent some of the most unique birdlife you’ll see in Hawaii or around the world!  

We’ve also included a helpful link to where you’ll most likely be able to see these birds on the Big Island.

1. Hawaiian Owl (Pueo)

Hawaiian Owl 2020
Photo credit: Pride of Maui

The pueo is endemic to Hawaii and is commonly found in upland forest and woodland areas on the Big Island. The owl is one of the physical forms taken by ‘aumākua, the ancestor spirits in Hawaiian culture. The pueo tend to nest on the ground, making them easy prey for their eggs and their young. The Asian mongoose is one of their main predators.

They are also attracted to car headlights which they mistake for prey. As a result many are killed in vehicle accidents. Recently they have also been found in large numbers in a confused state on public highways. This phenomenon has been called ʻsick owl syndromeʻ, or SOS. The cause of this syndrome remains unknown but may be related to pesticides.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/puu-waawaa-halapepe-and-ʻohiʻa-trails/

2. Hawaiian Hawk ('Io)

Hawaiian Hawk 2020
Photo credit: Jack Jeffrey

The Hawaiian Hawk, known as the ‘Io, is only found in Hawaii and is a symbol of royalty in Hawaiian culture. It is considered taboo to harm or kill this bird. The ʻIo have a shrill, high-pitched call, almost like an echo of their name!

Deforestation has caused the biggest changes to the habitat of the Hawaiian hawk, and the ‘Io remains the only native member of the hawk family in the Hawaiian Islands. The ‘Io is sometimes seen on Maui, Oahu and Kaua’i but they breed only on the Big Island. The ‘Io often nest in native ‘ōhi’a trees. Their small population, as well as ongoing threats to their native habitat, mean they remain endangered.

Where to see them: At Horizon! We see the ‘Io on a regular basis here at the property. Otherwise, another popular location is https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/honuaula-forest-reserve-makaula-ooma-section/

3. 'Apapane

Apapane
Photo credit: Owen Deutsch

The ‘Apapane feed heavily from the ʻohiʻa flowers and have special brush-tipped tongues in order to get to the nectar. Itʻs the males that have the distinctive calls. They have at least six different calls, composed of a variety of squeaks, whistles and clicking sounds, all interwoven with melodic sequences. 

Key to the future protection of the ‘Apapane is protecting the native forest from development, whether itʻs conversion to agriculture or suburban encroachment. The ʻApapane is found on the Big Island, Maui, Lanaʻi, Kauaʻi, Molokaʻi, and Oʻahu. But the Big Island is where the bulk of the Hawaiian population is situated.

Where to see them: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

4. Hawaiian Goose (Nēnē)

Photo credit: Jack Jeffrey

A local favorite, the nēnē is endangered but has had a remarkable journey from near extinction in the 1940s. The nēnē are found on the Big Island as well as Maui and Kauaʻi. They are related to the Canadian goose, although the nēnē are smaller in size and are white with black streaks across the neck.

The nēnē population is currently 2,500, making it the world’s rarest goose. It is likely that there were about 25,000 Hawaiian geese living in the islands when Captain James Cook arrived in 1778. Subsequent hunting as well as the impact of introduced predators, such as the Asian mongoose, pigs, and cats, reduced the population to 30 birds by the end of the 1940s.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/puu-waawaa-halapepe-and-ʻohiʻa-trails/

5. White-tailed Tropicbird (Koa'e Kea)

The Koaʻe kea have long white tail feathers allowing them to gracefully glide over the ocean. They have a wingspan of three feet and are white with black streaks around the eyes and on the edges of their wings. They feed from the ocean on a diet of fish and squid, and at night they nest on cliffs and in rocky crevices. 

Originally their long tail feathers were used in the making of kahili, the feather standards that surrounded Hawaiian royalty.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/keahole-point/

6. Hawaiian Petrel ('Ua'u)

The endangered ‘uaʻu have a 36 inch wingspan and are usually seen near land during their breeding season which is between March and October. This oceangoing bird was originally valued as a source of meat when populations were abundant. 

The ‘au’u are a sooty color on their head, wings and tail, while the underside remains white.

The ‘au’u remains vulnerable to loss of habitat from development and predators such as feral cats, the Asian mongoose, and rats. The Hawaiian petrel was at one time considered to be the same as the Galapagos petrel, and both were known as the dark-rumped petrol. In 2002 the two species were considered to be independent of each other based on genetic and morphologic distinctions.

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/keahole-point/

7. Ruddy Turnstone ('Akekeke)

The ʻakekeke, or ruddy turnstone, visits Hawaii from August to May. For the rest of the year they live in the arctic. They measure about 9 inches and are brown with white undersides as well as black markings on their heads and chests. During breeding season their bright orange legs and distinctive plumage are hard to miss.

They feed along shorelines and fields when in Hawaii, often turning over rocks, shells and other debris – hence their common name, turnstone! And donʻt forget, their call sounds exactly like their name, ʻakekeke!

Where to see them: https://hawaiibirdingtrails.hawaii.gov/birding_hotspot/kaloko-honokohau-np/

There are plenty more birds to discover on the Big Island. For more details on birdlife on the island check out Hawaii Birding Trails.

Let us know in the comments if you sighted any of our listed birds during your Big Island adventure!

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Chocolate brownie pecan tart

Chocolate brownies are the best, so why not turn them into a fabulous tart! One of the best things about this easy recipe is the homemade pastry crust. Don’t worry if you’ve never made pastry before, it’s a straight-forward recipe and easy to make (and a lot better than store-bought). Perfect for the holiday season!

Make the pastry

Put the flour, cocoa, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse again, until you have a sandy texture and the butter has disappeared into the mixture. Pour mixture into a bowl. Add ice-cold water (1 tbsp at a time) mixing in between until the pastry comes together in clumps. Don’t over work the pastry or it will become too tough. Tip onto a sheet of plastic wrap and draw up on all sides – gently press the pastry into a ball. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes (you can also freeze for up to 3 months).

Heat oven to 350F. Roll out the pastry and use to line a 9.5-inch tart tin. Chill for 15 minutes in the freezer or 30 minutes in the fridge. Line with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10 minutes. Take out the beans and paper and bake for another 5 minutes. Let sit while you make the filling.

Make the filling

Melt the butter and chocolate in a large glass or metal bowl set over a pan of boiling water. Remove bowl from heat. Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla, then the flour. Stir in the pecans, pour into the tart case and bake for 30 minutes.

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

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Easy to make cinnamon & raisin bagels

This is our very own hybrid bagel recipe. A combination of what we’ve found works best and results in the most delicious, chewy bagels. Bagels have a reputation for being time-consuming and difficult for beginners. We disagree! This easy to make recipe for cinnamon and raisin bagels couldn’t be easier, and don’t let the boiling part put you off, it’s not as hard as it looks –  in fact, it’s a lot of fun.

In a mixer bowl sprinkle the yeast over 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. Add 1/4 tsp of sugar and stir gently. Allow to sit in a warm room until the yeast dissolves and is foamy (about 5 minutes). 

Sift together the flour and then add to the bowl along with salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar and vanilla. 

Mix until combined by hand.

Kneading by hand

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes by hand.

Add the raisins and cinnamon, fold in until combined. The dough should form into a ball easily and be smooth and not too sticky to handle. Add additional flour if necessary.

Place the dough in a bowl which has been lightly greased with oil, cover and allow to rise (about an hour in a warm room or until doubled in size).

After your dough has doubled, punch it down and allow it to rest for 1 to 2 minutes. While it’s resting, preheat your over to 400F and cover 2 cookie sheets or baking pans with parchment paper. 

Whisk together the egg and 1 1/2 teaspoon water to make an egg wash.

Turn your dough onto a floured surface and divide it into the number of bagels you require (makes 8 large bagels).

Shape each piece into a ball and using your thumb make a whole in the middle (or roll out each piece and then join to make a doughnut shape). Allow dough to rest for 15 minutes in a warm place.

Time to boil the bagels!

Bring a large pot 2/3-full with water to a boil and add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and the baking soda.

Place 3-4 bagels in the water at time. Cook for 1 minute and the flip to boil the other side for 1 minute. Remove from boiling water using a slotted spoon or a strainer.

Place the bagels on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the sheet with cornmeal (so your bagels won’t stick).

Brush bagels with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving. Cut in half before freezing – this makes it easier to place straight into the toaster 

Happy bagel making! Let us know how your bagels turned out in the comments below! 

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