Posted by: LZ | August 17, 2009

Polynesian Cultural Center












When friends who are first-time visitors to Hawaii come stay with me, I often recommend a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center located on the northern end of the Windward coast.  I like to think of this place as the Williamsburg of Hawaii.  

There are seven distinct areas representing the different islands – Tonga, Tahiti, Marquesas, Hawaii, Fiji, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Samoa. The “islands” feature the houses, crafts, activities, music and games of each area.

There’s lots to see, so you’ll want to plan your day so you don’t miss the various performances — especially the 2:30 p.m. “canoe pageant” that features costumed dancers performing on boats on the central waterway.

There are also mini-concerts of traditional island instruments and demonstrations of traditional skills like climbing a palm tree or opening a coconut. But best of all are the activities you can participate in yourself, like learning to do the hula; weaving palm fronds; playing the drums; or throwing a spear.

For those who are interested in the educational aspect, many of the islands include re-creations of typical houses and high-quality authentic exhibits of arts and crafts. One of the coolest things about the park is that the people working there come from the islands they represent. And in the evening, there is a luau and show featuring the tradition and culture of the various islands.

For those of you who live here, they have a great kama’aina deal going on now where you can get an annual pass for only $20.  This will get you into the park all year long, plus you can receive a 20% discount on admission for up to four guests.  Lucky you live Hawaii, yeah?

Posted by: LZ | June 27, 2009

Rode the Raging River at Wet-n-Wild Hawaii

Raging River at Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii

Raging River at Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii

I went back to Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii yesterday to see if the new Raging River was open yet.  It was!   The ride is described as a family white water rafting ride.   The rafts are delivered to the top of the ride via a conveyor belt and riders walk up the steps, which are a huge improvement over the former pathway that used to lead to the top of the Cliff Hanger.

The top of the ride consists of a clover shaped loading area where you climb on board the round yellow rafts.  There is a minimum of three people required per raft, so some groups of two are put together with either 1, 2 , or 3 other people. 

Riders sit in a circle around the raft leaning back with their feet in the center holding on to the handles on top of the raft.   The ride attendant spins you around and pushes you on your way.

The raft twists and turns down the ride and slides up and down the side walls creating the sensation of white water rafting.  Halfway down you encounter a section of rough water that is created by water jets along the bottom.  It feels like you’ve hit a  bumpy rough patch of road, much like the Pali after a rainstorm. The ride finishes up in a shallow pool where you exit the raft.

The excitement factor of this ride varies depending on the position you are in during the ride down.  If you are lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your point of view) to be going down backwards, it’s a thrill a minute.  If you are facing forwards, it’s pretty tame.  If you go down sideways, you seem to get a little wetter when the raft veers from side to side up and down  the walls.

You don’t have much control over your position unless you are the only one in the raft who wants to go down backwards and are not afraid to ask (hence why I went backwards twice!).

All in all, a nice addition to the water park.

Posted by: LZ | June 20, 2009

Rode the Island Racer at Wet-n-Wild Hawaii

Island Racer at Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii

Island Racer at Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii

I went back to Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii yesterday to check out the two new rides.  The Island Racer is a huge improvement over the previous Volcano Express.  There are twisting tubes attached to the top of the previous slide that makes it a faster, longer ride.  

You still use the same blue mats and ride on your stomach head first.  It’s a little  intimidating looking down into the dark tunnel when you first enter the ride.   You gain speed as you progress down the tunnels and the last section of the tunnel has a steep drop which sets you up for the open-air slide finish.  A ton of fun!

Raging River was not open yet

Raging River was not open yet

What’s a sadder sight on a hot day than a cool-looking water ride that is closed?  I didn’t get to go on the Raging River ride yesterday because its opening has been delayed.  I asked a couple of park employees about why it wasn’t open and heard the phrases  “safety issues”, “paperwork”, “permits”.   No opening date was given but I got the feeling that whatever problems they were having were minor and that it would be open any day now.

Here is a video I just uploaded to You Tube as part of my website:

Click to play my new Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii video

Click to play my new Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii video

Posted by: LZ | June 6, 2009

Wet-n-Wild Hawaii Video

For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, here is the new promo video by Wet-n-Wild Hawaii featuring their new water rides: Island Racers and Raging River. Click below to play the video from their official Facebook page:

Click here to see the video

Click here to see the video

Posted by: LZ | May 28, 2009

Bumper Stickers You Only See in Hawaii

I’ve lived in seven states spanning from the East Coast to the Midwest to the West Coast and, of course Hawaii.  I’ve probably driven through at least 30 states.   Hawaii seems to have the greatest number of “local”  bumper stickers.

For the past couple weeks, I made a list of bumper stickers I saw while driving around from the mountain to the ocean from the windward to the leeward side.   (if I may borrow the words from a song they play here ad nauseum – with apologies to John Cruz fans)

Hawaii bumper






The bumper sticker I see most often is “Live Aloha“.  The first time I saw it, I felt all warm and tingly.  The 100th time I saw it, I still felt all warm and tingly.

Next up, the cranky favorite:  “SLOW DOWN – THIS AIN’T THE MAINLAND”.  They definitely got that one right… Hawaii is not the mainland – for better and for worse.

Eddie would go





“EDDIE WOULD GO” – a tribute to Eddie Aikau, the Hawaiian lifeguard and surfer who would brave the huge waves to rescue swimmers in  trouble.  Sadly, he was lost at sea when the Hokule’a, a double-hulled voyaging canoe, capsized in 1978.   Eddie paddled off to a distant shore to get help for the rest of the crew and was never seen again.

KEEP IT KAILUA”  – I see this one a lot since I live in Kailua.   This sticker is favored by Kailua residents who aren’t happy about the proliferation of tourists and vacation rentals in Kailua (sorry, Mr. President…)

SHARE KAILUA” – This one was created in response to the above one.

KEEP THE COUNTRY COUNTRY” – This sentiment is popular with residents living on the North Shore who oppose development there.

GOT POI?” – Hawaiian twist to the “got milk?” slogan

SAMOAN PRIDE” ; “TONGAN PRIDE“; “HAWAIIAN PRIDE” –  reflects some of Hawaii’s cultural diversity.  Maybe I can get a “SLOVAK/HUNGARIAN PRIDE” sticker for my car.

KAU INOA” – this literally means “place your name”.  Native Hawaiians are encouraged to sign the Kau Inoa registry as a first step in establishing a new Native Hawaiian government.

HAWAIIAN CULTURE – NOT FOR SALE” – I guess this one is self-explanatory.  You are not likely to see this one along with a  “Live Aloha” sticker.

I’M HAWAIIAN AND I VOTE” –  OK, now this is a slogan I have never really understood.  This is along the lines of “I’m the NRA and I vote” or “I’m Pro-Life and I vote”, etc, etc.  

I have to ask:  Does this imply that most Hawaiians don’t vote, but the driver of this particular car does? 

Or, is it supposed to influence a potential political candidate driving behind the car who then may think twice about their position on Hawaiian issues because here is a Hawaiian that votes?  

The fact that you vote should be a given; not something you proudly proclaim and then use as some kind of veiled threat… I’m not trying to specifically pick on Hawaiian voters here.  I think anyone with a “I’m xxxxx and I vote” is misguided.  IMHO.

Now that I’ve not-so-carefully treaded through the above minefield, I will end this post with this appropriate bumper sticker:








“AINOKEA” – a local pidgin term meaning “I don’t care”.  Don’t even get me started on that one!

Posted by: LZ | May 18, 2009

Riding the Tornado at the Water Park

The Tornado

The Tornado

I went to the Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park this past weekend and rode the new Tornado.  The large raft can hold up to four riders.   Once you lug the raft up to the top, you position it in front of a large tube and climb on board.  The ride attendant then pushes the raft and sends you on your way.

As you enter the tube, the raft turns a corner and starts to head downhill and the large funnel comes into view.   Next comes a variety of experiences depending on your position on the raft.  If you are lucky (at least from my point of view), you will be facing forward and you will experience a steep rapid drop into the funnel, up the other side and back down again several times before being flushed out the end. 

If you are not so lucky, you will head into the funnel backwards and feel like you are headed over Niagara Falls with the certainty that you will fall off the raft and slam your head!   (Those must be the people you hear screaming while you are waiting in line). 

Should you end up headed sideways down the funnel, you will be whipped from side to side and end up with what feels like a pint of water in your ear. 

As you can imagine from my description, I try very hard to end up going down the funnel facing forwards.  Be warned, however, the ride attendants like to spin the raft around as they push it down the tunnel, so your final position is often out of your control.   WHICH IS WHY I WILL NEVER RIDE THE TORNADO AGAIN!!  But, that’s just me…

This is where the Tornado funnel empties out - Note the 4-person raft

This is where the Tornado funnel empties out - Note the 4-person raft

Posted by: LZ | May 12, 2009

Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii Coming Soon

(Updates: 6/20/09 – Rode the Island Racer at Wet-n-Wild Hawaii                      6/27/09 – Rode the Raging River at Wet-n-Wild Hawaii)

Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park will become Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii this summer.  The sale of the Kapolei water park to CNL Lifestyle Properties was announced last week.  According to the article in the Honolulu Advertiser, the park will continue to be operated by the current owners, Village Roadshow.

This is great news for those of us who love to spend an afternoon at the water park.  The current owners added the new Tornado ride and are in the process of replacing the Volcano Express and Cliff Hanger with two new rides.  For those of you who are fans of the Volcano Express, fear not, your favorite ride will only get better.  They are adding a winding tube section to the top of the slide and are renaming it  “Island Racers”.

Here are  the tunnels being added to the top of the old Volcano Express

Here are the tunnels being added to the top of Volcano Express

Here is a front view of the new Island Racers (under construction)

Here is a front view of the new Island Racers(under construction)

For those of you who are fans of the Cliff Hanger, oh wait, there are no fans of the Cliff Hanger.  I’ve been to the water park at least 20 times and have seldom seen anyone actually riding the Cliff Hanger.   Plans call for a new whitewater raft ride (the Raging River) in its place.

The water park also opened a putt-putt mini golf course a while back that requires an additional fee to play.   I can’t imagine that the owners are happy with the results of this million dollar upgrade.  I seldom see people playing the course.  Who wants to play putt-putt at a water park?   I predict this attraction will be replaced in a few years.

Posted by: LZ | May 1, 2009

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii


For those of you who don’t live in Hawaii, schools throughout the state hold May Day performances this time of year (preferably on May 1st, if the date works out with the school schedule).  

I just got back from my 6th annual May Day show, and like the other five years, it was filled with children dressed in aloha wear wearing leis singing Hawaiian songs;  playing various Hawaiian instruments such as the ukulele (pronounced oo-koo-lay-lay here) and the ipu (hollowed-out gourd); and of course performing the hula.

Here are the words to the traditional song sung at the end of the May Day show:

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii
Garlands of flowers everywhere
All of the colors in the rainbow
Maidens with blossoms in their hair

Flowers that mean we should be happy
Throwing aside a load of care…
Oh May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii
Lei Day, our happy day is here

Posted by: LZ | April 26, 2009

I finally went inside the Army Museum

Army Museum

If you spend any time in Waikiki, you will eventually stumble across Fort DeRussy.  Located next to the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Fort  DeRussy is an Armed Forces Recreation Area.  It was originally built in 1915 as part of the Honolulu coastal defense system.  

 Today, it is a large shaded grassy park that backs up to the beach and is used by hundreds of local residents and visitors daily for cookouts, frisbee throwing, and family gatherings.

Not too far from the park is the Army Museum.  After years of walking past the large tanks parked outside the museum, I finally ventured in.  Admission is free and donations are welcome.  They recently (just last week!) added an audio  tour option for $5.00.  Since it took me so long to finally go inside the museum, I figured I’d go all out and take the audio tour.

The museum is located inside Battery Randolph, which is a reinforced concrete emplacement built in 1911 that was part of Honolulu’s coastal defense system back then.  Today it houses exhibits depicting the military history of Hawaii, from the early Hawaiians to present time.

There are a number of interesting exhibits that range from early Hawaiian warfare to the Pearl Harbor attack to the Korean War and Vietnam.  My favorite exhibit was the one that traces General Eric Shinseki’s  impressive military career from West Point through Vietnam, Korea, and Bosnia to his appointment as Chief of Staff and now the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  General Shinseki was born on Kauai.

There were over 40 numbered exhibits that were part of the audio tour.  By clicking on the number on the audio wand, you could choose to listen to the narrative  along with some period music and related audio clips.   The audio tour is well-done, but it would take some time to listen to each and every one.  I probably listened to about a quarter of them; the ones that were of most interest to me.  It definitely enhanced the tour.

You can find more information about the Army Museum at their official website.

Posted by: LZ | April 11, 2009

Too Bad about the Hawaii Maritime Center

Hawaii Maritime Center

Hawaii Maritime Center

The Bishop Museum announced yesterday that they are going to close the Hawaii Maritime Center on May 1st.  Ouch, that hurts.  That’s really unfortunate since the small museum was well worth a visit for anyone interested in maritime history.  It had a nice collection of exhibits and a free self-guided audio tour.

I first visited the museum in 2001 when you could still tour the 1878 fully rigged iron ship, The Falls of Clyde.   The ship fell into disrepair and remains docked next to the Maritime Center awaiting towing to a dry dock facility where it will hopefully one day be restored by the Friends of the Falls of Clyde organization. 

The Bishop Museum cites the economy (what a surprise) as the main reason for the closure.   The museum has been hit with the double whammy of state funding cuts and steep declines in investment income due to the stock market crash.   The daily attendance of 40-50 didn’t help either.   It is definitely a loss for us all.

The main site of the  Bishop Museum will also be closed on Tuesdays beginning in May.   The Hawaiian Hall renovation project has not been affected and is still scheduled to be reopened in August  (just don’t show up on a Tuesday…).

Not totally unrelated, I read a story today in the Honolulu Advertiser that says more than 130 businesses and organizations have cancelled plans so far this year for conventions/meetings in Hawaii.  It’s only April and 130 groups have cancelled their travel plans? 

The Hawaii boondoggle effect is in full-force this year with the slumping economy and consumer backlash against corporate waste.  I guess it would be hard to justify holding a convention in Hawaii in this economy.   Bad news for the Aloha state.

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