Thursday, March 8, 2018

Niihau- The Forbidden Island

You probably are familiar with most of the better known islands in the Hawaiian island chain. But there may be one you've never heard of- Niihau.  This remote and pristine island is often referred to as the island where "time has stood still".


Niihau (Nee-ee-how) is a remote island that is 72 square miles in size.  It is a privately owned island. The island is located southwest of the island of Kauai. On a clear day, you can see the tall silhouette of Niihau rising from the sea as viewed from Kauai's Kekaha Beach. Niihau is the oldest island in the Hawaiian island chain.

Niihau was purchased from King Kamehameha V in 1864 by the Sinclair family for $10,000 worth of gold.  The purchase was finalized with the understanding that the new owners would honor King Kamehameha's wish that the island would be a place where Hawaiian culture, language, and traditions would be honored and maintained. The island has been owned by one family since that time. Today, the island is owned by descendants of the Sinclair family, the Robinson family.

Native Niihauans- circa 1880's

Here are 10 interesting facts about Niihau:

1. Niihau has no paved roads, no cars and no hotels, and no telephone service. Some residents (referred to as Niihauans) have radios and televisions, though a lack of services and internet means that these residents must rely solely on DVDs and older VHS tapes for entertainment.

2. On Niihau, residents speak the Hawaiian language almost exclusively in keeping with the wishes of King Kamehameha V, although many do speak and understand English. Emphasis is put on a simpler way of life without the noise and chaos of modern city life.

3. The Niihauans still fish and hunt for their food, with some supplies brought in by air or sea by the owners of the island. Niihauans hunt with ropes and knives, and fish using nets and spears.

4. Due to a lack of a variety of flowers found on other islands, Niihau has become famous for their exquisite, beautifully crafted leis
Niihau Shell Lei Necklace
made from tiny shells
that populate the beaches of Niihau. Some of these delicate creations can sell for thousands of dollars due to the expert craftmanship of the Niihauan people.  

5. When the island was purchased in 1864, the Niihau people who were already living there were allowed to stay. The island is strictly off limits to outsiders including those from neighboring islands. The 2010 Census put the island resident number at approximately 170 people. This includes the residents and members of the Robinson family. The occasional guests are allowed if invited by the the Robinson family. Because the Robinsons are not required to submit population data, this number may fluctuate as some residents do leave the island to seek employment or opportunities elsewhere, or leave to travel for pleasure or work during the summer months.

6. Niihauans are not required to pay rent.  They travel by bike or on foot and retrieve their water by rain catchments and the use of generators for electricity. Many island residents used to be employed on the Robinson cattle ranch which was eventually shut down in 1999. During that time, they earned salaries, free food and housing and received education for their children and families.

7. Residents are expected to follow island rules set by the Robinsons. Alcohol and guns are not allowed. Anyone caught breaking the island rules can be evicted and asked to not return.  There were earlier reports from a prior resident that the men of Niihau were not allowed to wear their hair long or have earrings, and everyone is expected to attend church on Sunday.

8. Even though access to Niihau is extremely restricted, there are ways to view Niihau from water, or on select parts of the island. From Kauai,, tour boats do offer views of Niihau's beautiful pristine waters with their day-long dive and snorkel trips that head to the Lehua Crater, which is a volcanic "cone" that is north of Niihau island.  The Robinson family offers very limited half-day guided tours and day-long hungting safaris on Niihau. The guided tour starts by picking up visitors on Kauai by Niihau Helicopters. The helicopter tour starts with an aerial tour of the island,
Nanhina Beach on Niihau
Photo Credit: Bob Abraham, Getty images
followed by lunch and snorkeling on a remote beach on the island.  Travel by visitors anywhere else on the island is not allowed. The day long hunting safari costs $1,700 and allows a bit more access to safari participants. These tours offered by the Robinson family help support
Niihau, but the Robinsons are very careful not to expose the Niihauan people to outsiders or allow visitors near their main village of Puuwai. In a rare interview given by Bruce Robinson long ago, he said, "The tours are solely for people to come see an unspoiled Hawaiian Island. We will not take them (tourists) to the village or put the residents into a fishbowl-type of situation. We don’t even fly over the village. That is not what we’re about. We respect their privacy, we respect their desire to live untouched by the outside world and we intend to preserve that."

Monk Seal pups

9. Because of the insulated environment of Niihau, wildlife is abundant. There is a healthy Hawaiian monk seal population along with good numbers of free roaming Polynesian Boar, Hybrid Sheep, Eland and Oryx.

10.  Sitting atop a 1,300 foot cliff sits a small Navy installation which accounts for approximately 80 percent of Niihau's annual income. This installation contains remote control tracking devices that are used along with Kauai's Pacific Missile Range Facility for tracking and training purposes. This income allows the island residents to maintain their way of life and live in peace without the need for industrial development, new technologies or tourism. 

So is Niihau an island sanctuary where time truly has stood still?  Some would call it a paradise where a simpler way of life is enjoyed and one where Hawaiian culture and traditions are nurtured and survive.  However one views this island, the allure of its mystery and the curiosity it creates for those not allowed to visit will forever carry on. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Whale Watching In Maui

Each year, we celebrate the long awaited return of our beloved humpback whales. The humpback whales are a revered and respected island treasure.  People travel from around the world to witness this annual event and to enjoy whale watching in Maui. 

Evidence of the importance of the humpback whale (the Kohola) in Hawaiian culture has been found in ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs found on many of the islands in the Hawaiian island chain.  It has been estimated that the humpback whale has been traveling to Hawaii since the Polynesian Era (1-600 AD). The petroglyphs showing the whales importance in ancient culture can be found at Palaoa Hill on Lanai, Olowalu on Maui, and Pohue on the Big Island.

Representations of the stories and legends of the whale are seen throughout Hawaiian culture; in wood carvings, artwork, artifacts, poetry, chants, and musical instruments. Ancient whale tooth necklaces have been found which anthropologists believe were only allowed to be worn by Hawaii's chiefs and royalty.

In Hawaiian mythology, the Humpback Whale is believed to be the ancestors of Hawaii's people, and a powerful representation of Kanaloa, the god of the sea and its creatures.

The height of whale season runs late November thru the end of April each year. Although humpback whales inhabit all major oceans, the North Pacific Humpback Whale population travel from the coast of California and from the cold Alaskan waters of the Bering Sea to arrive at the subtropical climate and warm water of the Hawaiian oceans. Scientists have estimated the whale's journey one way can take as long as 4 to 6 weeks. Some whales have been tracked making the journey in a little over one month. On average, 8,000 to 10,000 whales visit Hawaii each year, and this number is growing as the population increases. They come here to breed, give birth, and to provide a safe environment to raise their young calves.  Hawaiian waters offer greater underwater visibility and the lack of natural predators make it a perfect sanctuary for the whales.

The gestation period of a humpback whale is 11-12 months, so in theory, a calf can be conceived in, then birthed in Hawaiian waters. A newborn whale calf averages 13-16 feet in length and weigh 2,000 pounds. Humpback whale mothers are extremely affectionate, playful, and protective of their calves. Calves are weaned from their mothers within 4 to 6 months of age. It is not uncommon to have the amazing experience of sighting numerous mother and calves frolicking in our waters.

As the seasons move into the first part of Spring, you can see the growing calves playing and surfacing. As the calves play and dive, they are learning critical skills which ensures their survival as they grow into adulthood.

While out on the beautiful open sea enjoying these majestic creatures, here are just a few of some commonly seen whale behaviors to look for:

BLOW -  Although adult humpback whales can stay submerged for up to 45 minutes, they usually come to the surface for air every 10-15 minutes. Calves will surface every 3-5 minutes.  The best way to first sight a whale is to look for the "blow spray" as they rise above the surface.

PECTORAL SLAP -  Humpbacks slap one of their pectoral fins (or both in alternating movements) against the surface. This is believed to be a form of communication between whales.

SPY HOP - Also called a "head rise", this is when just the whale's head comes up vertically straight out of the water.  This behavior is believed to enable the whale to determine what is happening at the water's surface.

TAIL SLAP - When a humpback raises just its tail (fluke) out of the water and forcefully slaps it back down onto the surface.  This is called a tail slap. Thought to be a warning signal by scientists, it is often done repetitively by the whale in succession.

PEDUNCLE SLAP - The humpback will raise its entire tail out of the water and dramatically slap it down onto the surface.  This is called a peduncle slap.

PEDUNCLE ARCH - Also called a "round out", this behavior is where you really don't see much of either end of the whale, but just see the rounded arch of their back as they prepare to dive down below the surface.

BREACH - One of the most spectacular shows provided by the humpback, and one not easily forgotten!  This is when the humpback quickly gains speed below and propels their entire body out of the water, landing back onto the surface with a tremendous amount of splash and resulting wake. Breathtaking!

The island of Maui offers numerous whale watching tours, along with the exceptional educational experiences by taking the PACWHALE Eco-Adventures provided by the non-profit Pacific Whale Foundation.

During peak whale season, around mid-January thru mid-April, whales can be spotted from the shore. We recommend using high-powered binoculars for viewing as the whales can be very far off shore. Of course, we think the best way to experience these gentle giants is up close and personal, which you can do by enjoying an unforgettable whale watching cruise.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

5 Waterfalls To Experience On Maui

For Hawaiians, water is life. Mineral rich cool mountain water flows down from the mountains nourishing crops on farms below. The waters continue their natural path down to the sea where it provides food for marine life and coral. It supports critical reef ecosystems which continue to thrive and flourish from this perpetual cycle.

Maui offers some of the most stunning waterfalls in the Hawaiian island chain. Most are located on the north side of the island and many are found on the famous Road to Hana.

From waterfalls surrounded by rock outcroppings located deep in the rain forest, to stunning "bridal veils" and plunging pools, any traveler will be in awe once they've experienced one of these natural wonders.  

Following are just a small selection of the many incredible waterfalls to visit during your stay on Maui.

Waimoku Falls

Set above East Maui's Sacred Pools of Ohe'o, these falls are accessible by the Pipiwai Trail.  The trail is a two-mile hike each way.  The trail is moderate to challenging in difficulty level, but the surrounding groves of banyan trees and bamboo along the trail make you feel like you've entered another world. Waimoku Falls are an incredible 400 feet high and a sight you won't soon forget.

Alelele Falls

Referred to as a "hidden" waterfall, it also happens to be located on a hidden road. When driving the back road to Hana, this is also the last waterfall you'll probably find. At the end of this fall's glorious 50-foot dropping cascade, you will find an amazing and secluded plunge pool below.  Because the falls diminish to a slow trickle during summer months, this fall is best visited in the winter season.

Twin Falls

Although these falls are very popular and can get crowded, the ease of access and beautiful jungle setting definitely make these falls a sight not to miss. Even though it is called Twin Falls, there are actually more than two. The biggest falls, including the breathtaking "Caveman", are only about a mile hike in from the road. You can even get away from the crowds by taking many different trails to view smaller falls. There is also a great roadside fruit stand to buy fresh fruit while you're there!

Honokohau Falls

Being Maui's tallest and virtually inaccessible waterfall, one can only view the the majesty of this 1,100 foot stunner by helicopter.  Located in a remote valley, conditions needs to be just right to experience Honokohau Falls. Best viewing is in the early morning to eliminate the chance of heavy cloud cover.
To book your helicopter waterfall adventure, you can find information here:

Wailua Falls

If you or someone in your party has limited mobility, Wailua Falls is a great option. This waterfall is nearly on the road- making it accessible to everyone. Many guided tours of the Road to Hana stop here. For the more adventurous, you can also follow a very short trail to arrive at the very base of these beautiful falls and soak in the sounds and pounding energy of these magnificent falls.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Choosing the Best Maui Luau

Photo credit: Te Au Moana Luau

You cant go on a Maui vacation without experiencing a traditional Hawaiian Luau. With so many luau options, how do you go about finding the right one? Your decision will be based on what matters to you most, whether it be price, food, performance or atmosphere. Regardless of which one you decide on, its a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy great food and entertainment. 

A buffet style dinner is usually served at most luaus and includes Kalua pork,island fish, local style chicken, steak and an assortment of side dishes and salads. Imagine yourself on the shores of Maui having an amazing feast with live music, hula dancing and incredible sunset views. Theres nothing quite like it!

Each luau is unique in its own way; some are more suitable for families while others are more on the romantic side and ideal for couples. Below is a list of the most popular luaus found in Maui.

Drums of the Pacific Luau (Hyatt Regency Resort in West Maui) - Reservations: 808-667-4727

Photo credit: Drums of the Pacific Luau

Your exciting journey begins with a shell lei greeting and culminates with a spectacular fire-knife dance. Complete with a traditional Imu ceremony,the buffet dinner includes kalua pork, mahi mahi, huli huli chicken, ulapalakua beef, polynesian rice and other authentic dishes. Includes an open bar and great entertainment. Enjoy a memorable evening of Hawaiian culture. 

Te Au Moana: Ocean Tide (Wailea Marriott Beach Resort South Maui) - Reservations: 877-827-2740

Photo credit: Kathy McCartney

Te Au Moana, The Ocean Tide is an exceptional luau experience which takes place on the beachfront of the beautiful Wailea Marriott. Enjoy a traditional Hawaiian feast while experiencing ancient Polynesian stories brought to life through traditional dance, music and games. Includes a fresh flower lei greeting or carved wooden fish hook necklace, traditional Imu Ceremony (Hawaiian underground oven cooking), Polynesian crafters and many pre-show activities. An unforgettable family experience!

Feast at Lele (505 Front Street, Lahaina West Maui) - Reservations: 808-667-5353

Enjoy a traditional Polynesian menu with music and dance from the Pacific Island nations of Aotearoa, Tahiti, Samoa and Hawaii. Known as the most romantic luau in Maui, every table is intimate and offers a prime view of the West Maui sunset. The setting is perfect for an anniversary celebration or for a couple wanting to experience an unforgettable romantic evening.

Grand Luau at Honuaula (Grand Wailea Resort, South Maui) - Reservations: 808-875-7710

Photo credit: Grand Luau at Honua'ula

Considered one of South Mauis Best Luau, youll enjoy a wide range of menu options such as fried macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi, baked molokai sweet potatoes, kalua pork and so much more! Youll also enjoy an assortment of Island Style desserts like traditional hawaiian haupia, guava mousse and pineapple upside down cake just to name a few. The activities include hula lessons and photos with cast members in full costume. Expect to have a fun-packed evening with lots of memorable moments.

Maui Nui Luau at Black Rock (Sheraton Resort, West Maui) - Reservations: 877-846-5554

Photo credit: Maui Nui Luau at Black Rock

Known for having one of the top rated shows in Maui, the Sheraton is a great spot for you to watch the torch lighting ceremony and cliff diving off of Black Rock at the beautiful Ka'anapali Beach. As you enjoy the luau buffet, performers from Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Rarotonga, New Zealand and Samoa will be providing authentic cultural entertainment.

Old Lahaina Luau (1251 Front Street, West Maui) - Reservations: 800-248-5828

If you want to enjoy a traditional hula and feast, the Old Lahaina Luau is considered as one of the most authentic. Youll enjoy a premium open bar and an outstanding luau buffet with Polynesian mahi mahi, Pulehu steak, kalua pig and other delicious regional cuisine. The food and award-winning entertainment makes this luau an excellent choice. Be sure to book way in advance since this is one of the most popular luaus on Maui!

Royal Lahaina Luau (Royal Lahaina Resort, West Maui) - Reservations: 808-672-2520

The Royal Lahaina Luau, also known as the 'Myths of Maui Luau', is considered a great luau for children (keiki). They offer some great family deals such as free admission for a child under the age of 11 with each fully paid adult. Youll enjoy an open bar, shell lei greeting, traditional Imu ceremony and both a keiki and adult buffet. Their fire dance finale is one you dont want to miss!

Photo credit: Grand Luau at Honua'ula

Wailele Polynesian Luau (Westin Maui Resort, West Maui) - Reservations: 808-661-2992

Serving a four-course meal family style, the Wailele Luau at Kaanapali Beach is a Maui favorite. Youll enjoy an open bar, traditional cuisine, Fiji and Maori performances and an exciting torch lighting ceremony. With a stunning oceanfront backdrop, this dinner show offers a perfect setting for an authentic Hawaiian cultural experience.

Maui video a sampling of some of our luaus

With luau options in Lahaina, Kaanapali and Wailea, it is easy to find one that is close to you. Regardless of which one you attend, its a unique opportunity to soak in the rich history of the Hawaiian people, their hospitality and delicious cuisine.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oprah Winfrey speaks live on Maui at the MACC - June 26, 2017

Living here on Maui, "Magic" just happens!

June 26, 2017, Oprah Winfrey, our celebrity resident on Maui, was called upon to give a speech at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center (MACC) to promote Maui living, good health, focused intention, gratitude, and talk story!  She is a wonderful motivational speaker and she knows how to entertain with her great sense of humor.   I really enjoyed the presentation.

Over 5,000 people attended
The event was advertised June 19th.  Eventually Maui’s coconut wireless reached my friend Rob who told me about the event with only 24 hours left to enter the sweepstakes.  I said, "YES let’s do it!"  It was not easy for him to enter, and I also tried with no success.  I however gave up, but pleaded and encouraged Rob to keep trying :).  And try he did for more than an hour until he finally got us entered.  He had to go as far as to make several telephone calls.  Mahalo mahalo Rob!  I spoke with other people who  also experienced technical difficulties and they gave up.  So we were lucky to get entered at the last minute and awarded two free tickets to the event sponsored by Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) and its app called Sharecare.

Those who downloaded the app to their cell phone were entered to win tickets. Sharecare allows HMSA subscribers to track their health, fitness, level of happiness or stress etc.  Sharecare app goes beyond HMSA members, their goal is to have the app go statewide.

HMSA Chief Executive Officer Michael Gold called the event a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"We know that her ability to inspire will be a huge boost to our efforts to advance health and well-being across Hawaii,” he said.

More than 5,000 people showed up for the free event.  There was a long line stretching out to Kahului Beach Road.  The mood was festive and positive.  The day was warm in the sun, but well worth attending to see Oprah speak in her first ever live appearance on Maui.  This was a dream come true for me and many others.

I created a 4 minute video with snippets from her speech that focused on the “why” she moved here and her take on the Maui Magic.  My visual quality is not very qood on the video, for that I apologize.  Take in the message the audio is good and her message profound.  She reveals the reason why she moved here.  I added some pictures of upcountry, Kula, the beautiful land she speaks of on Maui so you will get an idea that our island is more than just pretty beaches…We have forests and jungles too.

It is a great place to live for those brave enough to take the leap but if not, an annual visit to our lovely island will leave you rejuvenated and in awe.

For the full hour Oprah Winfrey speech click this link to see the video.

Remember bring the Aloha spirit and mindset with you and take it back to the mainland with a full heart.  Let us make this world a better place.

Kathy McCartney RS#77317
La Costa Realty Hawaii LLC
Maui Vision Rentals LLC

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Maui Ocean Center: Hawaii's Premier Aquarium

The Maui Ocean Center allows you to explore Hawaii’s marine world up close and personal. With over 60 exhibits that include sharks, stingrays, turtles and a diverse collection of tropical fish, that reveal Maui’s colorful marine life.

With the world’s largest collection of live Pacific corals and breathtaking exhibits that capture the magnificence of the thriving marine ecosystems of Hawaii’s underwater world, it’s no wonder it was given the recognition as Top 25 Best Aquariums in the U.S. by Trip Advisor. Guests of all ages will enjoy discovering the beauty of Hawaii’s marine life as it unfolds in front of them in this intimate setting.

The Maui Ocean Center offers a mixture of interactive presentations, behind-the-scenes tours and indoor-outdoor exhibits, such as the 750,000 gallon shark tank, 360 degree glowing jellyfish tank, Marine Mammal Discovery Center, Living Reef and Turtle Lagoon. There are also multiple pools where you can touch and interact with the sea life. Most notably, the facility’s Shark Dive Maui® program is Maui’s only shark diving activity. This fascinating experience allows SCUBA certified individuals to enter the Open Ocean Exhibit and dive with sharks, stingrays and exotic fish.

Also known as the The Hawaiian Aquarium, the Center integrates Hawaii’s rich cultural history within its exhibits, defining the strong relationship of its people and the sea. This is beautifully captured in the Hawaiians and Sea Exhibit, which continues to be a highlight of the Aquarium. There’s no other place that provides such a unique learning experience and allows its guests close interaction with Hawaii’s marine life.

The Seascape Ma’alaea Restaurant is an ocean view dining option that is open 10:30 am-3 pm daily for the Center’s guests. There is also a gift shop (Maui Ocean Treasures) that is open 9 am – 5 pm daily where you can pick up souvenirs and locally made products.

For more information regarding ticket prices and hours of operation, visit the Center’s website:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Diana Ross Motown legend performs at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center June 2015

I have some more Maui fun and Maui music to share with you.  I went back through my archive of concerts and created a few short videos of different performers.

It's a treat to have famous performers visit our state like Motown legend Diana Ross June 2015.  I heard she was here for a family wedding and she decided to perform during her Maui stay.

Mahalo Diana Ross for the amazing show!