Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Historic Iao Theatre in Wailuku, Maui

As lovers of live theatre, my husband and I discovered many years ago that Maui has an abundance of talent in this area of the arts. Our favourite venue, and home to Maui On Stage, is without a doubt the historic Iao Theatre in Wailuku.

The last production we saw was "The Sound of Music", and we were delighted by the high standard of singing, dancing, and acting as the cast recreated this timeless musical.

The program revealed that the Iao Theatre is celebrating its 80th birthday this year and just recently has undergone some fantastic changes, such as air-conditioning, new paint and a cleaner carpet. We also learned that the Maui Onstage cast volunteer on special days to help with these restoration projects. It is so wonderful that this grand old building is still in operation, with plans for more upgrades in the future.

We have come to realize over the years that the Maui Arts Community is just that, a community of people working together as a team to make great things happen.

We have heard that Maui on Stage has some great selections coming up in the remainder of 09 and into the 2010 season.
If you are a tourist on Maui or a local, you may be lucky enough to take in one of the following performances.

The Odd Couple - Sept 18.27/09
Annie - Nov 27th - Dec 13/09
To Kill a Mockingbird - Feb 26 - March 21/2010
Godspell - April 30 - May 16/2010
The Wedding Singer - July 9 - August 1/2010

Don't forget to check out some Maui Vacation Rentals for your next visit to Maui.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal

My friend Nancy in West Maui, sent me some photos the other day that were taken by an outstanding Maui photographer named Jimmie Hepp. He has given me permission to show them on this blog and I am very proud. Did you know that the Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered species? Read more Jimmie somehow got these great shots of Hawaiian monk seals coming onto various West Maui beaches for a rest.

This one is just checking things out before he decides to relax.

Thankyou Jimmie for sharing with us. What a treat. I have only seen two monk seals in all our years of coming to Maui. The last one I saw was resting on a black sand beach when we stayed at a fantastic Hana Vacation Rental.
The Maui News had an interesting article about Hawaiian Monk Seals on March 16th. It basically says that even though humans haven't slaughtered the Hawaiian Monk seal since the 19th century, scientist have discovered, through a DNA study, that the Hawaiian Monk seal, for mysterious reasons, has the lowest genetic diversity of any mammal ever studied. According to the article, by staff writer Harry Eagar,this probably means that they have reduced ability to cope with changes to the environment. This has given wildlife biologists a huge challenge as they try to reverse the catastrophic decline in the species, which has been about 4% per year. This article is really worth reading so click here if you are interested.
I was horrified to receive the following letter, the other day from my sister in Canada. I had no idea that commercial hunting of seals was still allowed in my home country. How terribly embarrassing! At the end of the letter there is a link to a petition that you can sign if you would like this slaughter stopped. It may be that only Canadians can sign.

Dear Friend,
On March 3rd, Senator Mac Harb introduced a historic bill to end the commercial seal hunt in Canada. For the first time, Canadians can support a legislative initiative in our own country that would save hundreds of thousands of defenseless seal pups each year from a horrible fate. Sadly, no other Senator has yet stepped forward to support the Bill, and many are organizing to work against it. We risk the “Harb Seal Bill” being lost if we do not act quickly. Please join me in letting our leaders know how you feel about this issue. Send an email to your Senators right away to urge support for Bill S-229(the “Harb Seal Bill”) to end the seal slaughter. It will only take aminute. Click here:http://e-activist.com/ea-campaign/clientcampaign.do?ea.client.id=104&ea.campaign.id=2968

I welcome any comments you have or seal stories you can share with us.
For vacation rentals on Maui Try this site: Ideal Vacation Rentals - Maui

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Puunene Sugar Museum in Maui Hawaii

If you have ever wondered how Hawaii became a melting pot of many races and cultures then take a visit to the Sugar Museum in the old Plantation town of Puunene, Maui. It was here that I learned a fascinating tale of how the sugar cane industry made Maui the culturally diverse place it is today. Not long after the Polynesians brought sugar cane to the islands in the 1800s, it soon became evident that there were not enough native Hawaiians to handle all the labor. This is when sugar entrepreneurs decided to recruit labor from various countries offering free passage and a paid guaranteed job as the incentive. The Chinese were the first to come in 1952, followed by South Sea Islanders, Japanese, Portuguese, Puerto Ricons, Filipinos, Spaniards and Russians, forming a multi-ethnic workforce. Even though the Plantation Housing was divided into ethnic "camps" with names such as "Ah Fong" for the Chinese, it wasn't long before the communities started sharing food and customs. Everyone liked the Portuguese bread, and the island has quite few of their historic ovens, reminiscent of this time (see photo). We also saw one in Hana, another early plantation town. Another custom shared by many were the communal "bath houses" built by the Japanese.

It is so hard to imagine the struggles encountered, in those early days, to provide adequate irrigation for growing cane, never mind the drudgery of working the fields and harvesting them. Water had to be brought in from the rainy east coast by open ditches that sometimes had to be tunneled through rock because of the rugged terrain. Maybe the workers liked the balmy Maui weather but life was not a vacation for them as they toiled long hours in the fields. The museum has a picture of a Japanese woman dressed from head to toe, hands and feet included, in order to keep out the dust and centipedes, a stark contrast to my weather friendly tank top and shorts. In those days the cane was harvested by hand and the jobs were allocated by age and strength. The youngsters and women had the lighter chores such as weeding, while the men had the more arduous tasks of cane-cutting, lifting and carrying. Working and living conditions were always an issue of contention with the immigrants, but finally housing became more attractive and families were encouraged as a way of stabalizing the working communities.

You may be wondering who these sugar entrepreneurs were and the museum gives very detailed histories of some of the early plantation owners.
In 1849 a sea captain named George Wilfong created Maui's first sugar plantation in Hana. A few years later his mill burned down and so he quit the business. After that two Danish brothers, August and Oscar Unna, started the Hana Plantation in 1864.
Samuel Thomas Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin established Alexander and Baldwin Co. in 1869 and it wasn't long before they had a rival in Claus Spreckels, who befriended King David Kalahaua, with the sole purpose of influencing Hawaiian politics to obtain water rights, land and desired legislation. He apparently was later kicked out of the county, so it goes to show that "Honesty is the Best Policy". For more detailed information about Maui's sugar mills Click Here.

An interested story which has not been documented in history, is that burning the cane as a reliable harvesting method was discovered by accident. Rumor has it that a jealous sugar entrepreneur set fire to his rival's field with the hope of destroying him. It backfired however, when they discovered that the inner stalks of the cane, which held all the sugar was not burned because of the large water content. Not long after this incident burning the cane became the sole method of harvesting.

Along with telling the history of the sugar cane industry, the museum also has a video playing which describes the life cycle of the cane from planting, to harvesting and processing in the mill. There is also an excellent working model of the mill showing the various stages of the process. Of special interest is that "bagasse", one of the by products is stored and then used as fuel for the boilers, and to generate electricity.

In conclusion, a visit to the Puunene Sugar Museum not only offers an important insight into the industry that became the backbone of Maui's economy for so many years, but gives us an undertanding of many interracial communities sharing a common spirit and experiences, which hopefully is still contained in that wonderful five letter word, Aloha.

A question to ponder is What is the future of the sugar cane industry in Maui. Even though Hawaii supplies 1/3 of all US sugar cane, tourism has been the major industry of the islands since the 1960s.
With environmental issues so foremost in peoples minds these days, it will be interesting to see how long the burning process which can't be healthy for our atmosphere, and the smelly smoky mill operation, will be tolerated. I for one would rather see Maui grow more food for the locals on the vast amounts of sugar cane land. We have to start having a more sustainable lifestyle or things will only get worse in the future. It is amazing to me that the production of sugar, which is no good for you, can take up so much of our green space.

We welcome your comments on Maui's Sugar Cane industy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free Hula Shows on Maui

For me the Hula (Hawaiian for dance) is synonomous with the magic of Hawaii. My first memory of watching hula, was in 1985, during our first visit to the Hawaiian Islands. Kodak used to host a free hula show at The Waikiki Shell in Kapiolani Park in Waikiki. (see photo) Apparentely this show started way back in 1937, but unfortunately has recently been canceled. Developed in the Hawaiian islands by the ancient Polynesians, the hula was danced as part of a religious program, and they even had a goddess of Hula called Laka. When the missionaries arrived in the 1830s they convinced Queen Kaahumanu that it was bad and so she made a decree that banned the hula in town. Most Hawaiians, paid little attention to this and still continued dancing. In the 1870s King Kalakaua made the hula popular again, and to this day Hula is an important aspect of Hawaiian life.In early days the hula was accommpanied by chanting, drums and gourds, but over the years song, ukulele, guitar, and even double bass were added, as a result of the western influence. The heart of Hula is the song or poetic story which is referred to as Mele. Each graceful movement of the dancers, tells the story with a kind of beautiful flowing sign language that expresses a love of nature and all the elements that make up life. Read more about the History of Hula. Below I have listed some venues in Maui, where you can be treated to a free hula show.

Kaanapali Beach Hotel - nightly torch lighting ceremony and free hula show- 6:30 - 7:30 in the Tiki Courtyard.
Lahaina Cannery Mall - Tues. and Thurs at 7:00 PM - Free Keiki (children) Hula Shows at 1:00 PM every Sat and Sun
Napili Kai Beach Resort - Keiki Hula every Tuesday at 5:30 PM
Whaler's Village - Mon, Wed & Sat - Hula and Tahitian Show - 6:30PM - 8:00PM
Every Thursday from 3:00 - 4:00 - Free Hula Lessons
Lahaina Center - Keiki Hula - Wednesdays at 2:30 PM. Fridays at 3:30 PM
Maui Mall - Sat & Sun 1:00 PM - Hula Fridays 6:30 - Hawaiian Entertainment

We welcome your comments, and let us know if there are any other places on Maui that offer a Free Hula Show.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Best Ingenious Invention on a Maui Beach

Some people will go to any lengths to get attention, as we discovered while walking on Waiohuli Beach in Kihei the other day. These creative locals had rigged up a salt water hot tub right on the beach. First they dug a large hole, and lined it with heavy plastic. Then they filled their one-of-a-kind hot tub with water right from the ocean. The pump operated by inverted energy which came from their car battery. For heat they had an old solar panel with a small barbeque underneath. Everything was somehow hooked up to the hose which fed the hot tub and circulated the water.

As you can see by the photo they even had a floating table for their drinks and they were having a ball on their day off!!! Since there was no sunshine that day, this seemed like a very sensible thing to do and they certainly didn't mind the trouble it took. We give these guys top marks for the best ingenious invention on a Maui Beach.

Incidentely, Waiohuli Beach is just a one minute walk from The Maui Garden House, a great Kihei vacation condo.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Favourite Maui Restaurants

One thing Maui does not lack is restaurants, and over the years we have compiled a list of some of our favourite ones. My husband has been on a low fat diet since a heart scare about 6 years ago, so we always make sure there are vegetarian or low fat choices on the menu before we decide to stop and eat.
When we are craving a hamburger, The Cool Cat Cafe in Lahaina is where we head. It is no surprise that they apparently have been voted "Best Burger on Maui" for five years running. My favourite here is the "Jail House Rock" burger which comes between two wonderful fresh slices of french bread and is smothered in grilled mushrooms and onions. For an extra splurge you can order a basket of half fries half onion rings. (Heh, I'm not on a low fat diet yet!) My husband who loves veggie burgers is impressed by the choices they have and he usually goes for one named after Jack Lalaine, the old fitness guru? I remember my mother exercising with his TV show and he is still alive at 94. The restaurant itself has a funky 50's sort of theme, and sells real icecream milkshakes (like they used to make them) and root beer floats. The setting, overlooking the famous Lahaina Banyan Tree, makes this the perfect place to stop for lunch. If you are interested in dinner they have live music here every night.

When we used to stay at Maui Sands on the Lower Honoapiilani Rd. we discovered the Honokowai Okazuya and Deli. It is a take out place so you can call in your order and enjoy a fantastic meal in your condo or on the beach. The Kung Pao chicken is to die for and my husband's favourite is the Mahi Mahi Lemon Caper broiled.

Also on the West Side, The Sea House on the beach at Napili Bay is a gem of a place. You can have a wonderful ocean front lunch and watch whales at the same time. My very favourite item on the menu here is the Coconut Crusted Prawns. They are huge and delicious, especially when you dip them in the yummy sauce. Guess what Mr. Fitness himself has? You guessed it, he chooses the low fat fruit salad and cottage cheese.

For fine dining on the West Side, The Plantation House Restaurant in Kapalua on the Plantation Golf Course is our favourite. A few years ago, while having lunch with our friends and their teenage son Kevin, we looked out of the window and there was Michael Jorden, getting out of his golf cart about 100 yards away. Kevin was so excited he could hardly contain himself.

Swan Court in the Hyatt although pricey is lovely for a special treat. It sits on a man made pond with swans swimming almost right to your table. We went there once for my birthday and I have a special memory of a beautiful Hawaiian dancer doing the Hula just for our table. The breakfast buffet there is also quite a spectacular event.

We also love Canoes, just north Lahaina town, because every Sunday from 3:00 to 6:00 they have live jazz in the lounge. If you stay and have the early bird special in their restaurant before 6:00 you get a 3 course meal for a very reasonable price.

There are also many great restaurants in Kihei. Stella Blues, in the Azeka Makua centre, is a mainstay for reasonably priced, breakfast, lunch or dinners. The food is consistently excellent and my favouite sandwich on the lunch menu is the BLT with fresh roasted turkey. Fresh is the key for me because one thing I don't like is when restaurants use processed meats in their sandwiches. 

The Cafe O' Lei, in the Kihei Rainbow Mall, has to be one of the most popular restaurants on the south side so make sure you make a reservation. It is pricey but the food is fabulous and the service is excellent!

Mulligans on the Blue is another favourite of ours. It is located on the Blue Golf Course in Wailea across from the Fairmont Hotel.  If you like entertainment during dinner don't miss Joyce and Gord, a fantastic Jazz duo, who play there on Monday nights. (Call first to make sure they are going to be there)  Famous local entertainer Willie K also has a dinner show there on Wednesdays.

Kihei has a wide variety of restaurants to suit every budget. We haven't tried them all yet but if you just drive down South Kihei Road you can find, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Greek and almost any type of food your little heart desires.
I can't leave this blog without a mention of some North Shore and Up Country restaurants. The Paia Fish Market has excellent fresh fish at bargain prices, and Cafe Mambos, with it's easy going ambiance, is another great place to get a burger, as is Charlie's on the main drag just as you go out of Paia towards Hookipa. Charlie's is a favourite hang out of Willie Neslon, so if you get lucky, he may drop in and play a few tunes. If you keep driving towards Hookipa lookout you will come to the famous Mama's Fishhouse, which is a classy, very pricy, restaurant on the beach with valet parking, and scrumptuous food.
In Makawao, up in cowbow country we recommend Casanova Italian Restaurant and in Kula our favourite is at The Kula Lodge. Situated at an elevation of 3200 ft. the restaurant overlooks beautiful tropical gardens, and spectacular sweeping views from mountains to the ocean.
This just about wraps up our favourite Maui restaurants. If you have a favourite Maui restaurant please leave a comment and let us know what we have been missing.
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