- Return to Paradise – A Special Show Scheduled for June 5-16, 2012
- New Jimmy Buffett’s Luau Combos!
- Join the Roberts Hawaii Ohana!
- Aloha & Welcome to Our New 2012 Website
- Drift Away with Lantern Floating Hawaii
- Making Merry at the Merrie Monarch
- Congressional Gold Medal Event
- Visit us at the Great Aloha Run Expo!
- Enjoy Fun and Romance this Valentine’s Day!
- Spend Valentine’s Day with Lani Misalucha and Jordan Segundo
- Make this Valentine’s Day a Magical One!
- Valentine’s Day Ideas: More Than Dinner and a Movie
- ‘Iolani Palace: A storied past and living history
- Getting Beaky with Hawaii’s Favorite Bird
- Making Merry at the Merrie Monarch
- Hawaii’s Humpback Whales: The Gentle Giants’ Yearly Visit
- Music & Magic Mother’s Day Brunch
- A Reception at the Philippine Consulate General
- Alii Kai is going GREEN!
- Alii Kai Catamaran Celebrates Chinese New Year!
- March 28, 2013
- March 20, 2013
- February 15, 2013
- Plan your whale-watching trip during peak population months, from November to May, with February and March being the most active.
- The islands of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii see the greatest concentration of whales during the migration, although kohola can be found throughout Hawaii waters.
- Obey regulations, and keep a proper, safe distance of at least 100 yards when viewing from a vessel.
- Participate in preservation efforts by keeping beaches clean and debris free, participating only in responsible whale watching activities, support efforts to stop whaling, and support legislation, research and preservation efforts.
When many travelers book a trip to the islands they’re ready to trade in the inclement weather back home – hail and 30-degree temperatures in April?! — for Hawaii’s balmy trade winds and sunny skies. And what better way to cool off in the islands than with some local flavor or shave ice (locals typically omit the “d” in shaved ice, which is what the dessert is referred to in the rest of the United States).
On a warm Saturday in the middle of summer you’ll often find long rows of keiki (children) lined up on benches fronting their favorite shave ice shop, slurping at their favorite flavors from paper or plastic cups.
Resembling a “snow cone” (which consists of crushed ice) Hawaii shave ice is made quite literally from shaved ice, giving it a very delicate, snow-like texture. The best shave ice doesn’t require a straw since the flavors are married throughout the ice and don’t puddle down at the bottom of the cup.
While many visitors and locals alike enjoy their shave ice with traditional flavors, such as vanilla and strawberry, in Hawaii syrups are inspired by local fruits and treats with options such as guava, li hing mui, lychee, lilikoi, mango and coconut.
Though shave ice may be a dessert most frequently associated with Hawaii it actually originated in Japan, where they know it as kakigori. Created during the Heian Period, the most popular kakigori flavors today include strawberry, cherry, lemon, green tea, grape, melon and “Blue Hawaii” – a sweet plum flavor with a colorless syrup. In Japan kakigori is sold as a street snack as well as at festivals, convenience stores, coffee shops and restaurants, and is most frequently topped with ice cream, azuki beans (sweetened red beans) and tapioca pearls. The dish made its way to the islands when Japanese plantation workers immigrated to Hawaii bringing this cool concoction with them.
An International Indulgence
Shave ice is a dish bringing diners brain freezes around the world – from Mexico and Nicaragua, where its known as raspado, to India where it’s known as chuski.
In Taiwan the dessert is known as baobing and is also found throughout Malaysia and China. This popular snack has been enjoyed from as early as seventh century A.D. when it was created by using a large mallet to crush ice into fine pieces, and drenched with sugarcane juice to add flavor. Today, Taiwanese shower their large mounds of ice shavings with fresh fruit toppings — such as strawberries, mangoes and watermelon – and other popular treats such as taro, azuki and mung beans, yams, sweetened peanuts, grass jelly and condensed milk.
Another country that enjoys its shave ice is the Philippines, where the dish is referred to as halo-halo (in Tagalog, meaning “mix-mix”) and topped with a selection of boiled sweet beans, such as kidney beans or garbanzo beans, and fruits, and dished up in either a tall glass or bowl. Here the natives throw in their favorite ingredients (from fruits and beans to other popular sweets) and then top it with the shaved ice. To seal the deal, halo-halo gets a sprinkle of sugar and a dollop of leche flan, sweet potato, ice cream or evaporated milk.
The Coolest Stands on the Island
In Hawaii your favorite shave ice stand tells as much about you as the high school you graduated from. And the truth of the matter is that if you asked 20 locals what their favorite shave ice shop is — chances are that you would get 20 different responses. Below is a sprinkling of some of the most well-known stands on Oahu.
Matsumoto Shave Ice (66-087 Kamehameha Hwy)
One of the most celebrated shave ice stands in the state, Matsumoto Shave Ice on Oahu’s north shore regularly attracts busloads of visitors to its wooden storefront and churns out more than 1,000 cups of shave ice daily for locals and visitors from around the world. Located in quaint Haleiwa Town, the tiny wooden shop focuses solely on serving up truckloads of shave ice – spooning up buckets of finely ground ice and a selection of logo items, such as totes and tees, for travelers to pick up for family and friends back home.
Started by Mamoru and Helen Mamoyo Matsumoto in 1951, Matsumoto Shave Ice has a story as sweet as the syrups it offers. Mamoru Matsumoto sailed to Hawaii with his brother to make a new life in America. He started out as a laborer on a sugar plantation, and also worked on the railroad, before becoming a salesman at Sakai Store. Through friends and family he met his wife, Helen Momoyo Ogi, and together they dreamed of owning their own business. The young couple had the opportunity to make good on their dream when Kazuo Tanaka offered them a storefront – the old Tanaka Store – in Haleiwa. The couple set up a grocery store there and quickly expanded their business to include a shave ice stand, attracting hordes of surfers and hippies to sip up the couple’s cool treats and homemade syrups.
Today Matsumoto Shave Ice is run by Mamoru and Helen’s son, Stanley and his wife Noriko and has expanded upon its original offerings, showcasing a wide variety of flavors – guests can select from more than 40 different syrups – including lesser-known options such as tangerine, pickled mango, lilikoi, papaya, mizore and melona.
Hours: Open daily from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Waiola Shave Ice (2135 Waiola St)
An island staple since 1940, this off-the-beaten-path stand is a family owned and operated business which serves up two locations (one in McCully and another off Kapahulu Avenue) offering what many consider as some of the smoothest and finest shave ice in town. Waikiki-bound guests without a car need not fret missing out on their island shave ice experience. Located just a few miles drive from Oahu’s hotel hub – Waiola Shave Ice is situated in the heart of McCully, serving up perfect cones of soft ice from a storefront literally etched into the side of a building.
New-to-Waiola guests will want to keep a few things in mind before hitting up this shop – including Waiola’s unique and precise ordering system. To order first state the size of your shave ice, the “goodies” (any add ons such as ice cream, azuki beans, condensed milk, mocha balls, etc) and then your flavor(s) of choice. If your memory can’t serve you – never fret, there is a sign clearly placed at the front of the shop with their requested ordering method. And don’t forget to bring cash, credit cards aren’t accepted here.
If you think you’ve spotted Waiola before – you probably have. A beach-side location was erected at Ala Moana Beach Park for a segment for the hit TV show, Hawaii 5-0 in 2010.
Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (820 W Hind Dr #116)
Settle your shave ice sweet tooth at Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (or “HOPA”) a place where aloha, and some of the best shave ice, is dished up daily. Here, customers can enjoy a taste of pure aloha with a variety of all-natural, homemade shave ice flavors and treats made to spread aloha and share the magic and beauty of the islands – one cup of ice at a time.
More than 50 years ago “Uncle Clay” visited his neighborhood candy shop and decided he would one day own that store. In 1996, that dream became a reality and Clay became the fourth owner of “Doe Fang” at Aina Haina Shopping Center. In 2007, Clay’s nephew, Bronson, inspired with the idea of social entrepreneurship and in an effort to keep the business afloat, launched Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha, focusing solely on serving up shave ice.
The flavors here are as uniquely Hawaii as the aloha – enjoy local sweet potato syrup sweetened with Maui sugar and ice cream made from fresh Big Island milk and cinnamon. If you’re ready to try something new branch out with their kale flavored syrup!
Hours: Open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Friday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
For those who practice the ancient and storied art of hula, the annual Merrie Monarch Festival is considered the Olympics of the dance. Each year the annual event hosted in Hilo, Hawaii brings together the top echelon of hula dancers – the most talented and dedicated halau from across the globe — to participate in exhibitions and competitions.
The Merrie Monarch Festival has done to hula, what the X Games has done for skateboarding and Michael Phelps for swimming. Worldwide recognition has helped bring about a renaissance of the Hawaiian culture and put the art of hula and Hawaii’s unique history and culture on a national stage where it can eagerly be passed on from generation to generation.
Today the Merrie Monarch Festival is one of the state’s most highly anticipated annual events. Thousands make the regular pilgrimage to scoop up highly coveted tickets or find themselves riveted to their TV or computer to catch dancers every move.
This year marks five decades of the Merrie Monarch Festival (while the first festival was held in 1964, organizers have determined this year’s event to be the 50th anniversary since planning started in 1963). Scheduled to run from March 31 through April 6, 2013, this year’s event will attempt to revive some of Merrie Monarch’s original elements including decorating Hilo’s 150 storefronts, a King Kalakaua beard lookalike contest and coronation pageant at the Hilo Armory, where it was first held decades years ago.
This year’s festival committee led by Luana Kawelu hopes to dig back to the festival’s roots (though unfortunately for some, some events like the four-mile relay race to deliver a live mullet to the king will not make a comeback). Previous winners — such as Hau’oli Hula Studio and 1971 Miss Aloha Hula, Aloha Dalire — will also play a part in Wednesday night’s Ho’ike exhibition, sharing a stage with the 30 hula halau competing in this year’s event.
These special features are in addition to the Merrie Monarch Festival’s traditional events like the Ho’olaule’a, hula exhibitions, craft fairs and hula competition.
For those hoping to attend this year’s events tickets have already been assigned and all Hilo rental vehicles and hotel rooms are sold out. A complete schedule of this year’s 2013 festival activities is available at: www.merriemonarch.com/the-festival. All proceeds from the festival support educational scholarships, workshops, seminars and symposiums in order to support the perpetuation of the festival.
Hawaii’s Merrie Monarch
As King David Kalakaua said, “Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian People.” It was his legacy in keeping this heartbeat alive, that the Merrie Monarch Festival is named for and in honor of King Kalakaua. During his reign from 1874 till his death in 1891, Kalakaua was fondly dubbed the “Merrie Monarch” for his support of the arts and work to restore many Hawaiian cultural traditions, including mythology, medicine chant and dance – an art form which had been outlawed after years of missionary influence. He encouraged the transcription of Hawaiian oral traditions and also helped to oversee the construction of ‘Iolani Palace, a structure which today is a symbol to many of Hawaii’s independent monarchy.
For King Kalakaua’s 50th birthday in 1886 – also known as the “Silver Jubilee” – a two-week celebration of Hawaiian culture was held on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace. Festivities included ho’opa’a (chanters), and ‘olapa (dancers) — performing in public for the first time after years of suppression by Christian missionaries – as well as a parade through downtown Honolulu. Today the Merrie Monarch Festival works to continue the king’s work by evoking the spirit of King Kalakaua’s Silver Jubilee through music, crafts, art, demonstrations and hula competition.
History of a Hula Festival
The first Merrie Monarch was held in 1964 with Helene Hale, then executive officer of Hawaii, at the reigns as a way for the island to drive tourism after the sugar industry collapsed. That year, Hale sent her administrative assistant, Gene Wilhelm and George Naope, promoter of activities to Lahaina to find inspiration at the Lahaina Whaling Spree on Maui. The first Merrie Monarch Festival included a King Kalakaua beard look–alike contest (at the inaugural festival Robert Kaula Jr. a Parker Ranch cowboy, won $100 for his mustache and sideburns most closely resembling Kalakaua’s), a barbershop quartet contest, relay race, a recreation of King Kalakaua’s coronation, and a Holoku Ball.
After several years the festival faded in popularity until Dottie Thompson took the reigns as executive director in 1968 and along with Na’ope, transformed the festival into a private community organization. Thompson served as the festival’s head for more than three decades, until her death in 2010.
As part of her legacy as director Thompson fought to keep the focus of Merrie Monarch on hula. In 1971 Thompson and Na’ope introduced a hula competition, with nine wahine (female) halau entering that first year. The competition opened to kane (male) halau a few years later in 1976.
Thompson – or Auntie Dottie as she was fondly referred to — also worked to keep admission prices affordable. To this day ticket prices have stayed at the incredibly reasonable price of $5. Thompson’s influence has also kept the festival based out of Hilo’s Edith Kanaka’ole Tennis Stadium — which seats a “mere” 4,200 — as opposed to a larger facility. Half of the tickets available go to participating halau while the remaining tickets sell out at lightning speed within 24 hours of being released, with requests spanning from around the world.
In recognition of her impact on Hawaii Island and hula, in 2010 Mayor Billy Kenoi proclaimed February 13, 2010, Auntie Dottie Thompson Day.
Schedule of Events
The Merrie Monarch Festival is held every spring, starting on the morning of Easter Sunday and concluding the following Saturday. The first four days of the festival include free, non-competition events, such as performances by hula halau from around the world at venues around Hilo, as well as numerous art and craft fairs. The Ho’ike Night, a free exhibition, is held on Wednesday night and attracts crowds of attendees to take in international halau from other Pacific islands and Japan. On Saturday morning, the final non-competition event of the festival features the Merrie Monarch Parade, which winds its way through downtown Hilo with a procession of floats, pau queens and marching bands.
The hula competition is held at the Edith Kanaka’ole Multipurpose Stadium in Ho’olulu Park. During the competition dancers perform individually and in groups. The first competition event takes place on Thursday night with individual female dancers competing for the title of Miss Aloha Hula, performing chant (oli) as well as both modern (hula auana) and traditional (hula kahiko) forms of hula.
On Friday night, male and female halau compete in the group hula kahiko division, performing ancient styles of hula. Halau compete in hula aunana, the modern style of hula, on Saturday night.
Every performance is given seven minutes, and is judged on a number of categories including entrance (ka‘i), chant (oli) and dance (hula). Judges look closely at the interpretation of the song being performed, expression of the hula, chant or song, posture, precision, grooming, the authenticity of the costume, as well as the dancer’s exit off stage.
For more information and a complete schedule of this year’s Merrie Monarch events please visit www.merriemonarch.com.
Hawaii enjoys several kinds of seasonal visitors to our shores each year, visitors that have become iconic, a pivotal part of the Hawaii experience. Tourists throng beaches heavily in our winter and summer months. Giant surf arrives on the North Shore every winter, attracting thousands of surf crazed visitors from all over the world.
An Annual Journey
Also enthusiastically awaited each year is the arrival of humpback whales, known to native Hawaiians as kohola. Their annual migration brings them to Hawaiian waters beginning in November, and their migratory peak population here comes in February and March.
The kohola travel thousands of miles from frigid Alaskan waters, and arrive in Hawaii to calve and to mate. The whales travel in pods, with males competing for the attentions of the females. During this season, calls of the whales can be heard from up to 20 miles away. Scientists have learned through years of extensive research that all of the males in a pod will sing the same “song”.
Incredibly, the whales do not feed in Hawaii waters, and will not feed again until after their long journey back to Alaskan waters.
Protecting the Kohola
The kohola were hunted to near extinction by a thriving whaling industry in the 19th and 20th centuries, which led to an eventual whaling moratorium in 1966. Humpback whales were declared an endangered species in 1988, and are now protected.
Each year, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whales National Marine Sanctuary conducts a whale count to provide important data about population and distribution. Part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the program invites volunteers on all Hawaii islands to participate. Interestingly, individual whales can be identified by unique marking on their flukes, or tail fins.
Humpback whales are protected in Hawaiian waters, and approaching a humpback whale within 100 yards without a federal research permit is prohibited. Among the dangers faced by humpback whales in Hawaii waters are collisions with vessels and entanglement in fishing gear.
Whale Watching Tips
For those seeking to witness the annual migration, several tips are particularly useful: