Hawaii Island: Big Birds
Calling all birders: a dedicated group of Big Island birding and tourism professionals is creating the very first birding trail in the state. The group won a grant to develop the first Hawaii Island birding festival, with proceeds going to help fund and maintain the trail. The Hawaii Island Coast to Coast Birding Trail will eventually be a 90-mile cross-island series of paths from Kona to Hilo, linking a varied set of locales that include a broad representation of island birdlife, nature, geology, history and scenic vistas. The proposed route will run from Kaloko-Honokohau National Park in Kona up Hina Lani Street to Highway 190, and then on to Route 200 (the old Saddle Road), to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, to Wainuenue Avenue in Hilo via Kaumana Drive, to Kamehameha Avenue and finally to Loko-Waka Pond off Kalanianaole Avenue. Because the route consists of a network of sites rather than a complete linear trail, users can join or leave it at any point along the way. What will you see? Reflecting the diversity of the island’s climate, the feathered friends that may appear include waterfowl, migratory shorebirds, endangered wetland birds, parrots, a collection of songbirds representing five continents, owls, hawks and Hawaiian endemic forest birds, among these Hawaiian honeycreepers, one of the world’s most endangered bird types, with one group thought to exist only on this island. “This has been a dream of mine and local birders for many years,” says Rob Pacheco of eco-minded tour company Hawaii Forest & Trail, “because it will raise awareness of our island’s unique birds and encourage the conservation of their habitat.” To raise both awareness and funds for the trail, the group will hold a family-friendly festival called Haakula Manu, or festival of the birds, on September 24–25 at the Kona Sheraton.
Maui: Calling All Mermaids
For the ultimate in underwater sightseeing, how about being a mermaid for the day? Luckily, if you’re heading to Maui, it can happen. Lila Jones, a newly minted marine biologist from Hawaii Pacific University, has just invested in a quiver of strap-on tails and is open for business. Her company, Light of Lemuria Retreats, is named after the mythological ancient civilization Lemuria, the Pacific Ocean counterpart of Atlantis. “I always loved the ocean,” says Jones, who grew up in Concord in the East Bay, and “I was lucky I was born at the perfect time to become obsessed with mermaids” — the late ’80s, when the Disney movie The Little Mermaid was showing. Jones’ mother continually encouraged her daughter to create a vision for her life. “When I was little and told her I was going to be a mermaid, she looked worried and told me that wasn’t a real job,” Jones recalls, “and she tried to convince me to visualize other things, so I picked marine biology,” having seen “Free Willy at the age of 5.” After some parental nudging, Jones moved to Hawaii to pursue a marine biology career and worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but has now found a way to make mermaids part of her métier. “Now I’m using my degree and working as a mermaid to teach people about the ocean I love in a way that sticks with them when they leave,” she says. “It’s a magical experience, especially during humpback whale season when the whales are constantly singing.” It’s also “a unique type of family retreat with a dash of education,” she adds. “This is how you make an impact on a personal level to inspire global change.” Clients leave with a smile, a deeper appreciation of the world we share with so many fragile sea creatures, and “a really great new profile pic for their Facebook page.”
Oahu: Touch of Glass
Glass-bottom boats have been popular for decades, but Oahu visitors can enjoy an enlarged view. Barbara Whitman Howell, owner of Under the Sea Hawaii, says she operates one of only two fast-moving magnified- glass-bottom boats in the country. The hyrdofoiling vessel can seat up to 18, but she usually caps the on-board number at six guests plus three crew members. “These are adventure tours,” she says. “We just happen to have a huge glass bottom in our boat ideal for those who don’t want to actually get into the water.” The magnification extends downward visibility as far as 80 feet. Howell and crew offer a variety of trips; the basic day tour leaves Koolina Harbor for a six-hour adventure spotting whales (seasonal), dolphins, turtles and many smaller creatures. Two-hour bioluminescence night tours are another option. Meals and snacks are included in each trip.
Kauai: Zip and Dip
Kelley Carwell Haneberg is the fifth generation of her family to be born in Hawaii, and these deep roots inspire her to make sure all the tours she leads through her company Kauai Backcountry Adventures focus on keeping the island’s culture and history alive. “In creating our zip-line and water rafting tours, we have helped to restore sections of the old plantation irrigation system,” she says. “We are pleased to be able to set a standard for balancing recreational activities and preservation of our amazing resources here on Kauai.” Unique experiences are a priority too: in her new Waterfall Zip Line tour, instead of returning to the tour offices right after the zip line, everyone loads into a Swiss Army Pinzgauer and travels about five miles deeper into the island’s interior, where a half-mile hike to Halii Falls, a swim and a picnic lunch await.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Go Natural.”