ArchiveCategory Archives for "North America"
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in North America.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in North America.
Sunny Kailua-Kona is a busy seaside village consisting of many historic sites tucked among the open-air shops and oceanfront restaurants along the banyan-shaded Ali’i Drive. Kailua was once established as the capital of the newly unified Kingdom of Hawaii by King Kamehameha I. Later the capital was moved to Lahaina then to Honolulu. Kona is home to the world-renowned Ironman Triathlon and big game fishing. Next to the active Kailua Pier with cruise ships, deep-sea fishing charters, sunset cruises and glass bottom tours, King Kamehameha I maintained his royal residence at Kamakahonu until his death in 1819. Ahu’ena Heiau is a thatched shrine guarded by sacred wooden images restored by King Kamehameha the Great in 1812 to honor the god Lono. Significant history was made on the royal compounds when Liholiho, who became King Kamehameha II, dined with the women breaking one of the most rigorous kapu. This bold act brought on the abandonment of the ancient kapu system and opened the door to Christianity.
Hawai’i’s oldest Christian church was originally a thatch hut built in 1820 when the missionaries arrived aboard the Thaddeus traveling over 18,000 miles from Boston. Moku’aikana Church was rebuilt in 1837 from an abandoned heiau made of lava and crushed coral. Across the street is Hulihe’e Palace, which once served as a vacation residence for Hawaiian royalty. Today it houses a collection of beautiful furniture and rare collections. Traveling south on Ali’i Drive, you will come upon some beautiful beaches to swim, snorkel and bask in the sunshine. Head up to Holualoa, a quaint little town surrounded by lush tropical foliage, and visit the art galleries, antique stores and charming boutiques. Just south of Kailua lies Keauhou, the birthplace of King Kamehameha III and home to important historical sites. Kuamo’s Battle Burial Grounds dates back to 1819 where an estimated 300 Hawaiians were killed and Ku’emanu Heiau is an ancient surfing temple next to St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
Kealakekua Bay, a marine reserve, offers outstanding snorkeling with a wide variety of colorful fish and spinner dolphins playing close to shore. Captain Cook’s Monument rises across the bay where he was killed in 1779. Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, Place of Refuge, with its heiau and wooden images of Native Hawaiian gods makes this sacred spot a must-see. Beautiful landscapes captivate you in south Kona with splendid coastlines that hug the highway and charming little towns giving you glimpses of what life was like in Old Hawai’i. Cultivated on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa, the world-famous Kona coffee with its deliciously rich flavor, thrives in their perfect climate.
If you are seeking seclusion or tranquility, there is plenty just south of the Kona Coast in Ka Lae, the southernmost point of the U.S.
This is where the first Polynesians were thought to have landed around 400 A.D. Be inspired as Mark Twain was by the raw beauty of the Ka`u district with its breathtaking views of the coastline and catch an unforgettable sunset on one of the unique, beautiful black or green sand beaches. Mark Twain wrote about his journey through Ka`u as, “Portions of that little journey bloomed with beauty. Occasionally we entered small basins walled in with low cliffs, carpeted with greenest grass, and studded with shrubs and small trees whose foliage shone with an emerald brilliancy. One species, called the mamona [mamani], with its bright color, its delicate locust leaf, so free from decay or blemish of any kind, and its graceful shape, chained the eye with a sort of fascination. The rich verdant hue of these fairy parks was relieved and varied by the splendid carmine tassels of the ‘o’bia tree. Nothing was lacking but the fairies themselves.”
It’s always winter in paradise. And—it’s always summer. Actually, it’s generally everything in between as well. Hawaiian weather contradicts convention. This may sound strange but only because on most of the Earth, it’s possible to predict likely weather and climate based on latitude. In the high northern and southern latitudes, we get cold snowfall and tundra regions. At around 50 degrees (north and south) we find temperate forests. The desert and arid 30-degree latitudes are generally dry and hot, while the equator is home to the tropics.
But Hawai’i defies this logic. The main Hawaiian Islands, sitting at 20 degrees’ latitude, contain all of these climate zones and more, on just a few specs of land hidden amidst one of the most isolated island chains in the entire world. Unique to this blue planet, the Hawaiian archipelago blasted forth from deep beneath the Pacific, creating the towering volcanoes of Mauna Kea and Haleakala, the rolling fields of Waimea, the tropical beaches of Waikiki and Makalawena, and the ancient forests of Kohala and Kaua`i—each with unique climate patterns, creatures, topography, and character.
Hawai’i became no ordinary place, particularly as weather and climate microcosms gave breath to countless divergent species. The ancient process of metamorphic birth and renewal has forged one of the most unique evolutionary powerhouses anywhere on Earth. Changing climates, topography, and temperatures are nature’s playground. Offer Mother Nature a flat expanse and she will give you a limited number of trees and animals that fit and flourish in such a uniform environment. Offer her towering mountains from sea to sky in that same expanse, and she will create countless creatures that thrive and subside in every nook and cranny of the changing landscape. This is essentially the story of Hawai’i.
Long before humans were even a twinkle in the evolutionary eyesight of Mother Nature, the forces that would govern our lives here on the Big Island were already taking hold. The Hawaiian-Emperor Seamount Chain first emerged as a crumbling mass of molten lava thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean around 70-80 million years ago. As the enormous Pacific Plate began to drift northwest at a lumbering pace of only a few inches per year, a “hot spot” of seeping magma from the Asthenosph ere under the plate began the slow, laborious formation of the Emperor Seamounts and the Hawaiian Ridge. At that time, the northernmost atolls in the Hawaiian chain, Kure and Midway, were situated in the present-day location of the Big Island and were much larger than the flat eroded islands slowly sinking beneath the waves that we see today.
Fast forward to present-day. The southernmost end of this chain, the Big Island, gives daily reminders of this arduous birthing process—the constant explosive flows of Pele’s wrath and the quiet daily rumblings from deep below as the island’s ever-growing mass settles onto the Pacific Plate. Laid out over thousands of miles of endless ocean, it is apparent to the inquisitive observer that the southern islands, such as Hawai’i, form towering volcanoes cresting high above sea level. Slowly moving northwest, the height and topography of the islands are torn away by time and the erosive processes of wind, water, and gravity. Eventually, the islands become atolls until they reach the Darwin Point (so named for it was he who first described the life and death of atolls), when the sea reclaims the land that once broke free of it.
Each of the 130 Hawaiian Islands, which include atolls and islets, has passed through this gauntlet of climate and weather. Even the eight main Hawaiian Islands are at slightly different stages in this journey today. Therefore we find so many climates spread across such a small geographical area. As the youngest member of the chain, the Big Island is exposed to the most primitive throes of this ancient cycle. The changing landscapes and climates have also created the breeding ground for a multitude of unique creatures to evolve and occupy all the varying conditions that can be found on this one small island. The Big Island is home to 4 of the 5 main climate zones and 8 of the 13 sub-zones (more on this later). Considering that these zones represent the major climates found throughout every region and habitat on Earth, that is nothing short of amazing. Where else can you go skiing in the morning, diving at midday, explore a rainforest before dinner, and watch the stars from a grassy pasture at night?
Unquestionably, even to the casual observer, dramatic shifts in weather, topography, and climate are only a short drive away from anywhere on the island. Which has created much debate over exactly how many climate zones and classifications can be found on the Big Island. You may have heard over the coconut wireless that Hawai`i has 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 of the 13 climate zones? Or is it 12 of the 30 sub-zones? It’s hard to keep track, mainly because there are so many different systems used to classify climate. There is the Aridity index, Koppen climate classification, and the Holdridge life zone classification system, to name a few. Scientists have developed differing systems based on air mass types, plant hardiness, evapotranspiration (whatever that is), biomes, and many other criteria. Even Aristotle got into the climate naming game. So, depending on which classification you choose and how you define it, the results will be different. Complicating the matter is that systems change over time as scientists refine their methods. So, what is a budding climatologist to do? Easy, just pick the most common and simple system.
Most scientists, scholars, sorcerers, and snowmen consider the Koppen climate classification system the most widely accepted and accurate method for sorting out the wet from the dry. Using this system, based mainly on average annual and monthly values of temperature and precipitation, the Big Island has 4 of the 5 main climate zones and 8 of the 13 sub-zones, as previously noted.
Now we could get really deep and dorky into how these zones are laid out on the island (see map), but the real wonder of this phenomena is how these varying climate zones commixed within unique landscapes and lit the spark that ignited a process evolutionary biologists love to discuss—adaptive radiation (sticking with the dorky bit here). Darwin’s famous example of finches on the Galapagos is a well-documented example of how fragmented landscapes and climate can encourage evolutionary diversification or adaptive radiation. It was these finches, as well as the diversity of life throughout the rest of the Galapagos that would inspire and inform his groundbreaking theories on natural selection and evolution.
Too bad Darwin never made it to Hawai`i. He would have been enveloped by an even more profound diversity of climate and creatures. His finches diverged from just one or two into 14 distinct species. Impressive, but the Hawaiian equivalent, honeycreepers, have metamorphosed into at least 56 species from just two distinct finch-like birds who accidentally landed on these remote, birdless islands 4-8 million years ago. But birds are just the tip of the iceberg. Hawai`i is home to over 5,000 endemic species of insects including carnivorous caterpillars (Eupithecia mphoreas), giant dragonflies (giant Hawaiian darner), and more than a quarter of the world’s endemic flies. There are up to 70 distinct species of coral, a quarter of which are native, and over 450 species of reef fish, like the ‘a`awa (Hawaiian hogfish) and mamo (sergeant major). Hawaii has about 9,000 endemic species. These include some of the smaller, less thought about creatures like the 1,200 native land snails that evolved from between 22-24 original snail immigrants. And keep in mind Hawaii occupies about .01% of the world’s terra firma.
All of these evolutionary exploits are made possible by the countless environmental niches created by the multitude of climate zones clashing with the varying altitudes, valleys, streams, wet and dry sides, emerald bays, exposed coastlines, currents, weather patterns, and on and on. Perhaps one of the most unique and unlikely zones is Hawaii’s polar tundra region high above the clouds of mighty Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Divided by Saddle Road, atop the tallest volcano in the world (Mauna Kea) and the most massive (Mauna Loa), resides two of the most sacred locations in all of Hawaiian culture.
“White Mountain,” as the native Hawaiians called Mauna Kea, was so named for the snow-covered summit that can usually be seen throughout the winter months. Mauna Loa, or “Long Mountain,” is often capped by snow and has a base larger than some states. The Hawaiians believe that the fire goddess Pele thrust her (digging stick) into Mauna Loa’s summit and created the fiery lava chambers and fearsome forces we still feel today. Pele was chased to Mauna Loa by her sister Namakaokaha`i, goddess of water and the sea, after seducing her husband. Hawaiians considered these regions the origin of space, a place of creation where the sky and earth separated to form the heavens. Adopted into the scientific community, these heavenly gates have gained prominence as one of the premier astronomical observatories on Earth. A distinction often at odds with the spiritual and sacred value they hold for many Hawaiians.
Home to 13 of the most powerful telescopes in the world, Mauna Kea’s peak rises above 40% of the Earth’s atmosphere. The ground consists of permanently frozen soil and, in most months, the average temperature is below 32° F (0° C), The unique and special characteristics of this high altitude, polar tundra region are perfect for a modern-day form of sky worship—astronomy. The air above Mauna Kea is very low in turbulence and extremely dry—two important requirements for measuring infrared and submillimeter radiation in far away galaxies. The number of clear, cloud-free nights is among the highest in the world due to its unique geography and height. Water vapor and air pollution are held well below the summit observatories by a tropical inversion layer about 600 meters thick that isolates the upper atmosphere from the lower. But that is not to say it’s always clear above the summit. In the winter months, it’s not uncommon for the National Weather Service to order blizzard warnings for the summit regions!
But the Big Island is not unique among the Hawaiian Islands for distinct and diverse weather, climate, and creatures. From desert and semi-arid plains to mountain forests, pastoral plains, and rainforests, Kaua’i possesses more climate variations than many countries. The four major islands (O`ahu, Molokal, Maui, Lanal) lying in between Kaua’i and the Big Island also have varying climactic zones relative to their sizes and levels of erosion. Hawai’i’s unique weather patterns are intrinsically tied to its geology as the size and mass of each island’s volcanic peaks and mountains create the stage for a breathtaking natural play where the forces of nature act like dueling antagonists.
Most of the Hawaiian Islands have a leeward side, to the south and west, and a windward side, to the north and east. The former is much drier and the latter is much wetter (often called the dry and wet sides). The northeast trade winds gather moisture as they run uninhibited over miles of the endless Pacific. Once the trades have the Hawaiian Islands in their sights, the monumental natural forces of rock and wind crash violently into one another. The windward side pushes weather and moisture up into the atmosphere causing it to then fall as rain, creating the lush, tropical rainforest conditions of the east and northern shores of many of the Hawaiian Islands.
This “orographic” rainfall often carves lush, breathtaking valleys (like Waipi`o and Pololu on the Big Island), as it winds its way back towards the ocean, eroding the eastern flanks on its journey back to the sea. As the relentless forces of wind and water are cleaved by the presence of the mighty islands, they have left windward coastlines characteristic of this ancient struggle, such as the 3,315-ft high sea cliffs on Molokal (the world’s highest) or Maui’s famous Pali Coast. The wind, of course, carries on to the leeward side of most the islands, but lacking moisture it creates the arid and semi-arid zones characteristic of the areas in south and-west Kaual and the Big Island. Therefore, the valleys and landscape of the leeward sides tend to be less dramatically eroded and not as steep. Sheltered by the windward flanks, they have been spared the worst erosive effects of Mother Nature and instead we are blessed with calmer beaches and sandy shorelines, like Hapuna Beach on the Kohala Coast, consistently voted as one of the world’s best!
The Hawaiians had perhaps the simplest system to describe these varying climates and weather. They believed in two seasons: Kau—the fruitful season when the sun was overhead from May to October, the trade winds blew consistently, and the waters were calmer. And ho`oilo—when the sun fell into the south from November to April, the weather cooled, and the trades became less predictable. Perhaps more so than modern people, they also recognized not just the diversity of life that the abundance of climates created within the bountiful islands, but also its sanctity. Although certainly they had some negative impacts on species and habitats, they created and adopted a community-based structure of ecosystem management from mauka (mountain) to makai (sea) for the ‘aina (land), thepo`e (people), and the holoholona (creatures).
Sadly, the influence of subsequent colonization would eventually create an extinction catastrophe, reversing millions of years of nature’s work in barely an evolutionary blink. Today, over half of all endemic birds in Hawai’i are extinct, with 31 of the remaining 42 native species threatened with extinction. Nearly 25% of US endangered species are found in Hawaii, even though it occupies only a fraction of the country and receives a tiny percent of endangered species funding. But the many (spiritual power) and biological power plant that created these islands still rumbles deep within the belly of Pele’s fiery home.
The one constant in Hawai’i is rebirth and renewal. The ancient evolutionary forces that forged the climates and creatures into this vibrant paradise the world has come to know still simmer in the mists of its hidden forests, lush valleys, lofty peaks, and countless clouded corners. Hawai’i continues to be a refuge for travelers and locals alike to find community, to gain deeper understandings of our place in time among the stars, to witness the brilliance of nature’s creativity, and to experience the massive forces shaping our climate, culture, and creature’s destiny. So, toss on a raincoat, don a pair of slippers, bundle up in winter gear, slip into some hiking boots, light the fireplace, or kick on the air conditioner because Hawaii is no ordinary place.
Two hundred feet high above Kawaihae Bay on a calm summer day in 1791, the king of all Hawaiian kings—Kamehameha—waited on guard atop Pu’ukohola Heiau. From this lofty temple on Hawai`i Island, he gazed makai (seaward) over a calm ocean fully expecting his prophecy to unite the Hawaiian Kingdom to commence. Following the prophet Kapoukahi’s rigid guidelines to honor his war god Krildilimoku, Kamehameha built a sacred heiau upon the hill (pu’u) of the whale (kohola), even helping with manual labor, per the prophet’s instructions. The Hawaiian word for whales—palaoa—was originally used to describe any whale, but subsequently came to denote just toothed sperm whales and whale ivory. Kohola replaced this general term for whales, but furthermore came to describe mainly the humpback whale. High atop Pu’ukohola Heiau, Kamehameha waited for his prophecy to begin. So too, the mystery of the kohola and its unearthly incantations also begins.
Of the many Hawaiian myths, histories, chants, and gods, those surrounding the whale are mysterious, obscure, and often debated. It’s been suggested that the kohola was an ‘ aumakua (deified ancestor) of King Kamehameha. Since he would voyage across the sea and unite the Hawaiian Kingdom, his family connection to such a powerful seagoing creature was auspicious mana (spiritual power). Even the name of the heiau he built has multiple meanings as kohola also translates into “chosen day.” So which namesake was more important to Kamehameha, the “chosen day” or the “hill of the whale?” And herein lies the beauty and mystery found in much of Hawaiian mythology and lore, particularly those associated with whales—often the same chant or myth can be interpreted many different ways. The Hawaiian legends of whales are often as mysterious as their musical language we still try to decipher today.
Passed from one generation to the next, Hawaiian oral histories are living entities with intricate dynamics and abstract often profound messages—much more than simple descriptions of the past. And just as we endeavor to unravel and reveal the meanings of these myths, so too, we hope to interpret the wisdom of the enchanting incantations of the mighty humpback. Though our understanding of Hawaiian whale myths and the mysterious whale songs is often incomplete, we continue to listen and learn, as the story of how to find Hawai`i is hidden within both. The Hawaiians had no written language. And, like the humpbacks, both of their stories—past, present, and future—have been sung over and over again, on and on since time eternal.
Like any oral tradition, to grasp the meaning, significance, and subtleties of these chants requires an intimate awareness of the hidden context that only the singer and the intended audience understand. A skilled chanter can create multiple layers of possible translation. And much like our incomplete understanding of the verses, stanzas, and repeated choruses of the humpback’s language, modern interpretation of Hawaiian mythology is often a guessing game of varying perspectives.
For example, Kamehameha has also been called Pai’ea, which resembles closely the pronunciation of a Maori prophet called Paikea (Pai’ ea pronounced in Maori) who rode a whale from what some describe as Hawaiki (similar sounding to Hawai’i). Does this connection have extra meaning in context of the temple on ‘whale hill” from which he crossed the seas and united his island kingdom? And what about his family `aumakma, the kohola? This powerful earthly form of an ancient Hawaiian deity certainly seems celestially aligned with his strength, character, and ambitions.
The family `aumakua provided spiritual guidance and a connection between the physical and spiritual worlds often appearing in dreams or visions. The kohola is said to be the greatest form of Kanaloa, the primordial deity for the ocean, its creatures, fresh water, saltwater, and all the growth on earth and in the sea. It has even been sung that Kanaloa, in the form of a whale, led the ancient Polynesian mariners safely through the vast expanse of endless blue, to the Island of Hawai’i. As one of the four major gods of Hawaiian folklore, Kanaloa, in the form of a whale, would have been a powerful force to help Kamehameha navigate his destiny.
However, he was not the only chief to align his powers with the kohola. The ali`i (royalty), seeking the strength and mana of the whales, wore lei niho palaoa (whale tooth necklaces) whenever possible. The rare ivory from the whales was difficult to find, but for those who wore it, they literally encompassed a physical manifestation of the mighty sea god, Kanaloa, around their neck. This immediately afforded them characteristics and knowledge reserved exclusively for the gods. The necklace was composed of braided human hair and a tongue-shaped pendant made from the ivory of a toothed whale, such as a sperm whale. Humpbacks have baleen filaments, in place of teeth, that filter out their microscopic meals. So although the lei niho palaoa could not be from the kohola, these sacred necklaces—the second most prized artifact a royal member could posses (the feather cloak being the highest)—demonstrated the spiritual importance Hawaiians attributed to whales as sacred beings.
Not surprisingly, there are even ancient petroglyphs of what appears to be a human riding a whale found on Lanal, Maui, and the Big Island. The most interesting on Lanal is located in an area called Palaoa Hill (Whale Hill) and many consider it a representation of the legend of Makua’s Prayer. Makua was a priest who prayed to his gods, Kane and Kanaloa, asking that his son would become an even greater kahuna (priest) than himself. One day, Kane (god of procreation that sustains life) and Kanaloa visit Makua and grant him the wish. Many years pass and Makua thinks the gods have forgotten their promise. Until one day while working near the beach with his son, a whale washes ashore. As the villagers rush to glimpse the spectacular sight of this transcendent creature, Makua’s son climbs on its back. Suddenly the whale returns to life and carries the boy far away to the spiritual realm of the gods. Makua ‘s heartbroken at the loss of his son until one day his gods return in a dream. They tell him the whale was a messenger whom they sent and not to worry as the boy is well and learning the ways of their ancestors.
Retold through the generations, this myth is important as it shows the connections ancient Hawaiians had with whales, but also it further links Hawaiian culture to the whale riding myths of their ancestors, the Polynesians. Although the full extent of the humpback whales’ significance is shrouded in Hawaiian culture, there are many sacred places associated with the kohola throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Off western Maui is located the smallest main Hawaiian Island known as Kaho’olawe, or Kanaloa, in ancient chants. It shelters Ahupu Bay, the western point of which is known as Lae o Na Kohola, or Cape of Whales. From here the ancient poetic pauku (verse) tellers captured and retold the story of the seasonal migratory route of the great Pacific humpbacks as they passed over the seven-mile Alalakeiki Channel between Maui and Kaho`olawe.
On the Garden Isle of Kaua`i and the Orchid Isle of the Big Island (just south of Pu’ukohola Heiau) is an area known as Kapalaoa (The Whale). Legend tells of when Kane and Kanaloa sent a whale messenger to Kapalaoa to transport a worshiper named Makuaka’umana to Kane’s hidden land of Kanehflnamoku. And on Lana`i, an ancient island inhabited by man-eating spirits and fiendish ghouls controlled by the sorceress, Pahulu, is the place of Halepalaoa or the “Whale House.” But its significance remains clouded among the myths of the kohola.
Surrounded by the spirited depths of the Pacific, the Hawaiians associated many sacred places with the kohola, such as Koholalele (Leaping Whale) on O`ahu, Mokohola (Cut Whale) and Kukuipalaoa (Whale Bone Lamp) on Moloka`i, Kaipalaoa (Whale Sea) in Hilo, and Palaoa Hill (Whale Hill) on Lanal Many of the winds around Hawai`i have also been given names such as Koholalele (Leaping Whale), perhaps in reference to the acrobatic breaching behavior of the humpbacks. And despite their expertise in hunting and navigating as seafaring people, there are no records of ancient Hawaiians hunting these sacred creatures until the arrival of American pelagic whalers in 1819. However, whales were being hunted recklessly and relentlessly throughout the world at the time of Kamehameha.
Interestingly, the Kumulipo chant—the Hawaiian chant of creation—foretold of this eternal bond that humankind disrespected, at its own peril, between the ‘aina (land) and the kai (sea). It spoke of the palaoa (original word for whales) and their spiritual guardians, the ‘aoa (sandalwood trees), living on the ‘aina. One constantly watched over and protected the other. Hanau ka Palaoa noho i kai; Kia`i ia e ka Aoa noho i uka (Born is the whale living in the sea, Kept by the sandalwood living on land)! But during the 18th century, the ‘aoa tree was overharvested to near extinction for its fragrant wood. Once devitalized of its spiritual guardian, the whales had little protection from the enormous appetite of the whaling ships and most species joined their depleted brethren in near or total extinction.
Thankfully, the mighty humpbacks narrowly escaped extinction and continue their annual migration to calve and give birth to a new generation of kama’aina (children of the land) here in Hawai`i. It comes as no surprise that whales are shrouded in Hawaiian myth and legend. Much like their operatic vocals, the mana which whales possess may have been so sacred that few but the ali’i were allowed to speak or know the whale’s secret knowledge. But doubtlessly, this mana in both legend and mythical presence is continuously felt.
The sun rises over the sacred whales places across the Hawaiian Islands, the seas ebb and flow, and the whale returns again and again. The story of Hawai’i’s past and future is hidden somewhere in the melodic songs of these whales, just as the story of the whale is hidden in the poetic pauku (passages) of the ancient Hawaiians and the deepening conversation we cultivate with our ocean brethren. Spoken loudly across time and space, the ancient words of the Kumulipo creation chant flow through generation after generation, telling how palaoa (the whale) was brought into creation—Hanau ka palaoa noho i kai (Born is the whale living in the ocean)! Hanau ka palaoa noho i kai (Born is the whale living in the ocean)!
Great spots to whale watch from shore
Nearly 10,000 whales visit the Hawaiian waters yearly. Some great locations to whale watch: Katiptilehu, A-Bay, Kauna`oa (Mauna Kea) Beach, Hapuna Beach, Lapakahi State Park, Kiholo Bay, Punalu`u Black Sand and Ka Lae.
Sightseeing at its finest
Watch the majestic humpback whales as they frolic in our warm waters while relaxing on a comfortable catamaran with food and drink. If you are lucky, you might even hear the hauntingly beautiful whale song. Try Body Glove Cruises (888) 980-7513 or Mauna Lani Sea Adventures (808) 885-7883.
Canada – Bolstered by the wave of positivity unleashed by its energetic new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and with dynamic cities that dominate global livability indexes – plus its reputation for inclusiveness and impeccable politeness – the world’s second-largest country will usher in its sesquicentennial in 2017 in rollicking good health. Marking 150 years since confederation, the birthday party promises to be heavy on bonhomie and highly welcoming to international gate-crashers. The weak Canadian dollar means visitors should have plenty of pocket money to spend on Canada’s exciting fusion food and mysteriously undeerrated wine.
Colombia – Decades of civil war and violent crime meant Colombian passport stamps were once for hardcore travellers only. Fast-forward to the present day, and the lost years seem but a dust speck in Colombia’s rear-view mirror. There are no world wonders here, but the country’s mix of vibrant culture, nature and hospitality is a rich tapestry woven by welcoming arms. More than a decade into its dramatic about-face, this South American jewel is even expecting a visit from the world’s No. 1 Catholic. When Pope Francis kisses Colombian soil in 2017, it will mark the Andean nation’s first papal visit in 30 years.
Finland – Long fought over by Russia and Sweden, Finland finally gained independence in 1917, The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto: expect everything from outdoor concerts and communal culinary experiences to sauna evenings and vintage travel poster exhibitions. There’s even anew national park: 27,000 acres around the village of Hossa, studded with pine forests and crisscrossed with rivers. With the country also playing host to the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2017, there’s never been a better time to discover Finland’s proudly unique culture and landscapes.
Dominica – Locals joke that if Christopher Columbus rose from the grave and returned to the Caribbean, Dominica is the only island he would still recognise. One glimpse of its prehistoric ferns and deserted shores, and you’ll see what they mean. For decades, an absence of shiny white beaches has helped keep at bay the resort development that has swept through other parts of the Caribbean, Coconut palms are the only skyscrapers you’ll see here. Visit before Dominica gets its first large-scale chain resorts in 2018, which will pave the way for anew era of tourism.
Nepal – Even natural disasters can’t keep Nepal down for long. The 2015 earthquakes caused devastation, but what is most striking from a traveller’s perspective is not how much was lost but how much remains. Landmark temples crumbled, but others came through with just the odd tile out of place, and whole swathes of the country escaped serious damage, including most of the popular hiking trails, Nepal has all the skills required to repair monuments and infrastructure, but what it does need is income. By visiting Nepal now and supporting local culture and people, you could help a nation rebuild and bounce back even stronger.
Mongolia – In 2017 Mongolia will raise the curtain on a b rand- new capital – city airport, a state-of-the-art facility that symbolises the rapid modernisation of this country of steppe nomads. Ulaanbaatar has been the biggest beneficiary of an economic boom – the capital’s transformed skyline bristles with glass and steel towers. At the centre of this development is a £380 million Shangri-La hotel complex, to be completed by 2017. Beyond the city lies Mongolia’s stunning and sparsely populated countryside. Lake Khovsgol, known as the Blue Pearl of Asia, is an undoubted highlight. In 2015 the lake was connected to Ulaanbaatar by paved road, cutting driving time by 10 hours.
Mynmar – Change has been a long time coming in the nation also known as Burma, but the election of the first civilian government in half a century has all eyes on the future. No-one is pretending that all of Myanmar’s problems have gone away, but things are moving in the right direction, and Southeast Asia’s most secretive country is now poised to receive an influx of travellers. Visiting comes with challenges, but the reward is a window onto a vanishing Asia, where the difficulties of travel are part of the appeal. You’ll find a land with more stupas than office towers, where life moves to the timeless rhythms of chanting monks and monastery bells.
Ethiopia – With its own calendar (where else can you get 13 months of sunshine?), timekeeping, script, language, cuisine, church and coffee, Ethiopia is as exotic as countries come. And whether you’re hiking through the Simien Mountains to see wildlife that roams nowhere else on Earth, climbing to a church carved into a remote cliff face in Tigray, or boating across the waters of Lake Tana to visit an age-old monastery, you’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape. In 2017, new airline links will make the country more accessible than ever; be one of the first to get on board.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE – Outgoing President Obama inaugurated this latest addition to DC’s already thriving museum scene. The building’s three-tiered shape was inspired by a Yoruban crown, and exhibits include potent symbols of the black American experience, including clothing worn by civil rights activists.
WATERGATE HOTEL – Best known as the site of the 70s scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon, this historic hotel has recently reopened after renovation. Rooms reference its heritage with vintage-inspired design, and the rooftop bar has 360° views of the Potomac River and Washington Monument.
POD HOTEL – Now taking bookings for December, this will be the first POD Hotel to open outside of New York City. Offering small, smartly designed rooms in the diverse downtown district of Penn Quarter, it’s excellent value for money. Mostly-millennial guests can congregate in bar-diner Crimson, serving Southern comfort food and whiskey cocktails.
RADIATOR – Celebrating mid-century DC, when the street on which it sits was lined with car dealerships and auto repair shops, the interior of this small-plates eatery features garage-style doors and old car parts. Fun, ta pas-style dishes include grilled octopus, bacon fat fries and lamb belly tacos.
LA JAMBE – Run by a French woman wistful for the culinary experiences of her homeland, and by her DC-bom husband, this neighbourhood bar and restaurant is big on all things fromage and charcuterie. The decor is a nostalgic nod to Paris, no mean feat in such a thoroughly modem building. Around 20 wines are available by the glass, and twice as many by the bottle.
DISTRICT DISTILLING – A change in the law means it’s newly legal for DC premises to produce their own alcohol on-site. This distillery-bar is the first to do so, making vodka, gin and whiskey in an atmospheric 19th-century town house. Book a tour of the handmade copper pots before heading to the bar for a negroni.
FARE WELL – Part bakery, part diner, part bar, this ha rd-to-define new opening on H Street services Washingtonians from dawn to dusk. By day it serves a veggie-focused menu in a dining room reminiscent of a retro diner, but in evenings and weekends the focus shifts to drinks, including local beers on tap, root beer floats and well-crafted cocktails.
All you need is love. Florida supplies the rest sunshine and sea breezes, bouquets of tropical flowers and resorts that excel in celebrations.
Here is a look at Florida’s diverse and dazzling choices for heavenly honeymoons, wondrous weddings and leisure for the modern family: straight, gay, blended or other. Look for perks such as a complimentary suite on the big night and entertaining features from swimming with manatees to bonfires with Champagne and s’mores.
The sophisticated Lago Mar Resort and Club is part of Fort Lauderdale’s Luxe Collection. Traditional and secluded, Lago Mar excels at white-glove service and ceremonies on the beach or in the ballroom.
At the southern end of Greater Fort Lauderdale, the exciting Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort is a tropical beach parry with posh interiors and fabulous photo ops on a spectacular glass terrace with a panorama of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Hollywood Beach Marriott also has a spectacular oceanfront, but traditional interiors with mahogany panelling and brilliant chandeliers. The Vow to Get Away promotion, when available, offers triple Marriott Rewards points.
The classic queen of Hollywood Beach, The Diplomat Resort & Spa is one of Florida’s largest resorts, with two pools, a sublime spa, a kids’ club—and weddings to remember.
The rainbow spirit is strong in Fort Lauderdale, the No. 1 LGBT resort destination in the US, with nearly 20 gay hotels and hundreds of LGBT-owned businesses. The Grand Resort & Spa is a haven for gay men who love its terrific spa and clothing-optional pool. Several mainstream hotels also are strong on same-sex unions, including the B Ocean Fort Lauderdale, which has a private swatch of sand, and the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, popular for its penthouse ballroom and oceanfront terrace.
The cool town of Delray Beach is more intimate. The deluxe Seagate Hotel & Spa is a gorgeous getaway with wedding options, such as the Wine Room in the Atlantic Grille, the Country Club and the truly distinctive Beach Club, a beautifully restored 19205 oceanfront colonial pavilion.
Sundy House in Delray Beach has charm, history and fine cuisine. The ambrosial botanical area called the Tam Garden encompasses a gazebo, tropical foliage, a flowing waterfall and pretty ponds.
The high-society landmark of Palm Beach, The Breakers is a matchless destination for prestige and pomp. The Breakers’ wedding blog dishes on food, drinks, fashion and the best parties, so you are sure to have a creative celebration and an indulgent honeymoon.
The all-suite Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort offers variety with bonfires on the beach and cocktail soirees on the veranda.
Florida is a vacation dreamland for sports enthusiasts. For those who love watching great sporting events, the Sunshine State has NFL teams in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, NBA teams in Orlando and Miami and NHL teams in Tampa and Miami. If you want to participate, the options are plentiful ranging from deep-sea fishing charters at countless marinas to snorkeling and scuba diving at state and national parks brimming with nature, biking and hiking trails and canoe/kayak-friendly waterways.
Baseball fans flock to Florida during the month of March when 15 teams train and play exhibition games prior to the season. It’s a great way to see your favorite players when they’re more accessible for autographs and you can be closer to the action. The engaging venues include George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, where the Yankees train and which has a massive Yankees memorabilia store, and Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers, a Boston Red Sox training venue featuring a replica of Fenway Park’s Green Monster. From April to October, you can enjoy regular season Major League Baseball in Miami with the Miami Marlins, who play in the National League, and in St. Petersburg with the Tampa Bay Rays at the domed Tropicana Field, who compete in the American League.
You’ll have little difficulty teeing it up in Florida, which boasts more than 1,400 golf courses and over 50 resorts where golf is the main amenity. Many of Florida’s golf resorts are world-renowned and home to iconic courses like THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral in Miami and Copperhead at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort near Tampa. In addition, there is a plethora of superb daily fee courses to play with designer tags like Jack Nicklaus, Torn Fazio and Robert Trent Jones.
The PGA Tour utilizes Florida every year as sites for some of its most prestigious tournaments. You can stroll among the lush fairways and palm trees and watch some of golf’s greatest stars. The tournament lineup includes The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens in February; Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, a Salamander Golf & Spa Resort in Palm Harbor in early March; Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando in mid-March; and THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach in mid-May.
You can follow the bouncing ball in Florida from October to May with the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Miami Heat. Both teams play in the hotly contested Southeast Division, which also includes the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards. Check schedules because it’s a great chance to see the NBAs brightest stars like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant play against the Florida teams. The Magic play their games at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando and the Heat play at the American Airlines Arena.
For major college basketball, the menu is impressive led by the University of Florida two-time NCAA champions. The University of Miami and Florida State University annually field strong teams.
If a Florida vacation is a ritual to you look forward to every year, now is a great time to purchase a home or condominium in the Sunshine State. Ranging from elegant beachfront properties overlooking the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico and townhouses or estate homes in golf and country club communities to retiree communities and moderately priced homes or condos, your choices are endless. Whether you’re retired or working, owning a home in Florida can offer significant financial benefits; there is no state sales tax and a “homestead exemption” discount on property taxes applies to residents. Even if you’re not ready to buy, you might consider a seasonal or long-term rental for your next visit.
When searching for a Florida home, there are two basic approaches to consider: location and lifestyle. You may already know where in Florida you want to live. If so, you should familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods, look at typical houses, townhomes or condos, get a sense of prices, and contact a real estate professional who understands the local market and can help you make the right choice.
Another strategy is to focus on your desired lifestyle. Do you picture yourself in a private golf community, a high-rise on the beach or in a scenic, rural location? Then, you’ll want to compare homes, prices and amenities in different locations around the state. Those over age 55, for example, might want to compare the offerings at On Top of the World in Ocala with The Villages northeast of Orlando. Again, a real estate professional can help you make a well-informed decision.
If you’re considering a move to Florida, be aware there are some differences in home design and construction compared with houses in cooler climates. For instance, few Florida homes have a basement because of the underlying hard limestone rock and high ground-water level. Newer homes may be more spacious and feature modern kitchens, baths, flooring and fixtures.
A number of leading homebuilders in Florida develop residential communities throughout the state. For example, in Southeast Florida, the family-owned Minto Group Inc. recently broke ground on the final phase of Artesia, featuring an additional 123 townhomes and bringing the total number of residences to 837 in a 75-acre, resort-style community in Sunrise. This award-winning developer also designed LakePark, a small-town charmer at Tradition in Port St. Lucie, one of the top 10 best places to retire in the US according to portfolio.com. Just five miles from Walt Disney World is Festival, Orlando’s newest vacation resort community surrounded by 200 acres of natural Florida woodlands, lakes and walking paths. Nearby, Minto’s affordable single-family homes on Lake Nona feature award-winning designs, open green space and recreational facilities. On the Gulf coast, Minto offers a variety of options: The Isles of Collier Preserve in Naples; TwinEagles, a premier country club also in Naples; Sun City Center, one of the country’s premier 55-and-over communities located between Tampa and Sarasota; and the gated community at Harbour Isle on Anna Maria Sound in Bradenton.
Condos and apartment buildings vary widely in design and construction and often develop distinct “personalities.” A high-rise condo with 600 units is akin to a miniature city with many services and amenities, which command a higher monthly maintenance fee. However, if the purchase price and monthly fees are a big consideration, you may prefer a smaller building with a pool, spa or entertainment area or no amenities at all.
Condos have been a major part of the Florida market since the 19705, so the age and condition of a building can affect its desirability and price. A recently constructed residence may have a more appealing design, new appliances, marble baths and other modern features compared to an older unit that has never been updated. However, the older unit may still appeal to buyers on a tight budget.
If you love the Florida lifestyle, but aren’t ready to buy, consider a seasonal rental. You can enjoy the beach, boating, golf, shopping and all the attractions for several weeks or months without making a permanent financial commitment. It’s also an excellent way to “sample” different locations and lifestyles to see where you feel most comfortable if you do decide to purchase in the future.
Almost any type of home, condo or apartment around the state can be used as a seasonal rental. For example, Royal Shell Vacations, voted “the Best Vacation Rental Company on Sanibel Island” for 10 consecutive years, offers hundreds of quality vacation rentals on Sanibel and Captiva, as well as in Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Naples and other locations in Southwest Florida.
Buying a vacation club membership or a time-share unit is another “in-between” option. With a timeshare, sometimes called “interval ownership”, you can purchase one or two weeks in a professionally managed community located in your favorite destination. Many buyers like the familiarity and peace of mind that comes from returning to the same Florida community year after year. Most vacation clubs and interval-ownership programs allow you to “swap” your vacation weeks and spend that time in other locations. Or you may be able to put your unit into a rental pool if you will not be using the time yourself.
A trip to Florida is not complete without experiencing the thrills and fascination found in the state’s iconic theme parks. Lucky for you, the most revered of those attractions are within driving distance to one another. From Tampa to Orlando, Central Florida is the undisputed king of theme parks. So, put on your fun hat and be prepared to be thrilled.
For more than 50 years, the mission at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a leading theme park and entertainment company, has been to help guests explore animals and the world in which they live and to be inspired by what they learn as well as take action to help protect them.
As one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a worldwide leader in animal welfare, training, husbandry and veterinary care, SeaWorld collectively cares for one of the largest animal collections in North America. Over the years, it has helped lead advances in the care of species in zoological facilities and in the conservation of wild populations.
SeaWorld Orlando continues to captivate visitors with new and exciting rides and shows. A must-do for thrill seekers is the new Mako, the tallest, fastest and longest coaster in Orlando, reaching speeds of 73 miles per hour along 4,760 feet of steel track. Named after one of the fastest shark species in the oceans, Mako is a hypercoaster that sits in the middle of the park’s seven-acre shark realm, where guests can learn all about (and watch) these fascinating creatures.
Still need more? Manta is the only flying roller coaster of its kind in the world. Ride headfirst and face-down on this exhilarating journey.
At Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, visit the icy South Pole and learn about and visit with a colony of more than 200 penguins. If you’d rather enjoy animals in a warmer climate, consider spending time with bottlenose dolphins at Dolphin Cove. Adjacent to Dolphin Cove, the popular Dolphin Nursery becomes more interactive in 2017. Large-scale acrylic windows offer enhanced viewing and multiple levels allow kids a face-to-face view with mothers and calves.
Also new in 2017, Kraken will be transformed into a virtual reality roller-coaster experience. Travel alongside sea creatures inspired by extinct and legendary animals of the past in the only VR experience in Florida.
When it’s time to cool off, venture over to Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark. Brave Roa’s Rapids, mastering white water swells and turns. Or dare to take on Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, the free-fall drop slide. It’s the tallest and steepest in Orlando. For the kids, Kata’s Kookaburra Cove is where it’s at with a beginner’s body slide, water spouts and silly rides.
With idyllic coastal beaches and sprawling nature preserves, plus loads of entertainment and shopping opportunities, Southeast Florida is packed with tons of fun things to do for every style of traveler.
Begin your day with breakfast in the outdoor courtyard of Blue Heaven. Then wander the Old Town district enjoying colorful Victorian architecture. Snap a “mandatory selfie” at the Southernmost Point in the continental USA. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Grab lunch in the Historic Seaport before embarking on a reef snorkeling excursion. Catch a beautiful sunset and the action at Mallory Square. Dine at an Old Town restaurant and sample the nightlife on Duval Street.
Start your morning with a tour of the beautiful historic Bonnet House Museum & Gardens or snorkel or dive to explore 69 miles of natural coral reef just offshore. Board a water taxi and cruise through the 300+ miles of Intracoastal waterways while viewing some of the most incredible mansions and homes. Revel in a unique dock-and-dine experience at one of many waterfront restaurants before taking in a show at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. End with a stroll along picturesque Las Olas Boulevard.
Relax poolside at one of many chic hotels and hit the waters of South Beach. Stroll down Lincoln Road for shopping al fresco and enjoy a world-class meal while people-watching at an outdoor restaurant. Visit the art collection at the Perez Art Museum Miami next to beautiful Biscayne Bay, and take an afternoon walk through Museum Park. Head over to Wynwood to take in the vibrant street art. Dine at one of the Miami Design District’s unique restaurants.
Start your day at the iconic Jupiter Lighthouse and cruise south down to Loggerhead Marinelife Center to check on the sea turtles. Next up: Lunch in West Palm Beach. Ride the trolley through CityPlace and down Clematis Street; with so many local hot spots to choose from, the decision is guaranteed to be difficult, but delicious! Head to Boca Raton for the afternoon, renting bikes to experience the Ocean Boulevard Path, or stroll around Mizner Park. End the day dancing and dining along Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.