Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Hawaii, the big island of love and extremely friendly people was definitely worth the long plane trip and temporary jet lag. I would have liked to have spent more than 6 days, but work on the mainland beckoned and reluctantly,I had to get back…

I am dedicating this blog to my good friend Steve Spiers, a 30 year natural products veteran who traveled to heaven on June 28th . He and his loving wife Trixi,  were some of my role models for becoming a diver and shared my sense for adventure  for living life to the fullest. They traveled to Europe , the Caribbean , Belize , were married in St. John (the very best wedding ever!)  and could not wait to go diving again when their son, Max  was old enough. During his illness, Steve asked me to take photos and to share my travels with him and of course, pray …since he was unable to go.  Steve brought  so much happiness, camaraderie and a smile wherever and whomever he was with. He suffered tremendously these last 6  1/2 years but always managed to smile and stay positive. He was a leader, a friend, a fabulous husband & father, one of God’s very special children. Steve would have loved Hawaii and he was even  in my spirit while I was diving. He is at peace now with the Lord. Praise God. He inspired all of us and we will miss him.

Traveling  to Hawaii to  work with a  longtime friend of mine, Andy Jacobson, who is the current president & CEO of my favorite Spirulina company – Cyanotech ( wwww.cyanotech.com) was fun.  As a longtime user of green super food products, I have been using this nutrient for years as it is the key ingredient in Greens+, a unique blend of super foods & herbs . Cyanotech Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica is also sold separately under their retail brand, Nutrex www.nutrex-hawaii.com

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The pristine weather conditions of the Kona coast – sunshine and 5-10 inches of yearly rainfall – offer a unique environment for growing both Spirulina and Astaxanthin,potent micro-algae’s that should be part of everyone’s daily health regime. Spirulina is one of the best super foods to slow down the natural aging process and fuel the body with naturally occurring B-12 , Vitamin C, SOD, Fiber, Protein, Zeaxanthin, and additional  Carotinoids along with a vast array of color rich phyto-nutrients. Astaxanthin is popular for joint-related and inflammation issues and is also a skin saver for those who love the sun.

Cyanotech is blessed to have its own beach and oceanfront real estate  on a 90-acre lava field.  The facility is amazing to visit and well run. The colors of the brilliant blue-green Spirulina (phycocyanin gives it the blue color) and the coral color are Astaxanthin and beautiful and beneficial for both inside and outside the body. A research video is in the making and will air sometime this year on PBS. Stay Tuned!

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Gerald Cysewski,  the original owner and founder of Cyanotech, and the visionary behind the process  is a humble genius and a forerunner for nutrient dense Superfood production in the natural products industry… What a pleasure to work with such dedicated folks who care about nutrition, the environment and about being the best they can be.

Landing on the Big Island, you might think you have landed on Mars , the charcoal- brickett-dry ground of dark Lava-land instead of a lush landscape elsewhere on the island. There are 13 different climate zones on this island, enough to satisfy everyone. Tourism is down, but the majority of the people are happy, willing to help folks, and a pleasure to interact with -even mailing things home from the local Kailua-Kona post office was fun plus you get to sample homemade chocolate “macadamia nut honus” (or turtles in English) for free since the Kailua candy company operates there  too… locally owned they only use real natural ingredients… no corn fructose or GMO foods and pure sugar cane as the sweetener … check them out at  800-622-2462 www.kailua-kandy.com. This location is on the way to Costco, a life-saver for your grocery budget  if you are renting condo  or apt with a kitchen.

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The Kona side is growing with the big-box  retailers moving in providing the locals more choices. However, I frequented the local places to get to know the people who live there and experience the true Hawaiian lifestyle. A guidebook you can’t live without is HAWAII-The Big island revealed by Andrew Doughty who actually lives in Kailula-Kona. The locals confessed to me that when they want to travel around the island they use this book as their reference.

A quick 2 night stay at the Sheraton, just south of  Kailula-Kona  in Keauhou, was a nice facility with large, clean rooms, but had overpriced and bland food. They have been warned by many guests,  so hopefully they will improve. In the meantime,  eat local. The highlights of this hotel were the immaculate grounds with ocean front lava gardens and the nightly visits from the Manta Rays. The staff was friendly and helpful. One local favorite restaurant is Jackie Rey’s O’Hana Grill, located on Kuakini Hwy, across from Walua Road. Their unique and locally grown food with a colorful & friendly atmosphere, reasonable prices, open air seating and a good wine list is a must do on my list. The Molokai purple sweet potatoes and organic turnips, fresh Mahi Ahi, Organic Chicken and leafy greens made my day. Another local restaurant, Jameson’s By the Sea offers fabulous sunsets but so-so food. They aim to please but Jackie Rey’s  is so much better. However, the only view is the beautiful Frangipani trees that ladies pluck the fragrant blossoms for their hair before entering the restaurant.

For casual dining and picnic foods that are healthy, the Island Natural Foods store on Kawai Ave offers a fabulous salad bar, fresh fish and vegetarian entrees too. I was amazed at the selection here in Kona. If you are diving out of Kona, the store makes terrific food for lunches or the Manta-Night Dives. Sure beats the sub sandwiches or the local spam, rice , french fries and gravy dishes popular with the locals.

Moving up the coast to the tourist area, Waikoaloa Beach area offers everything from a family-filled theme park adventure stay at the Hilton, to a moderate resort at the Marriott, to Luxury at the Four Seasons, Mauna Lani Bay and Mauna Kea Resorts. Staying frugal and wanting a blend of comfort too, I opted for the Marriott, oceanfront for an amazing 185.00 per night as tourism was off this week.  Their restaurants were just ok but they did offer brown rice instead of french fries with my fish . The fresh fruit juices were good (passion fruit is my favorite thirst quencher) and being active, we chose to eat lightly and picnic style most of the week. Bring your snorkel gear here (Ocean Sports on site also offered 4 hours free daily for mask, snorkel & fins) to  go early in the AM to swim the local green turtles in the sanctuary… the reef is good but the visibility is best in the AM. The Marriott has their own sandy beach and great sunset viewing in a casual atmosphere. You will use your own gear if you have a car to hit all the cool snorkel spots in on some of the best beaches right off route #19.

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The Queens Market convenience store less than a mile away offered fresh meats, sushi, soups, goat & sheep cheese, fruits, herbs & veggies, and even wheat-free crackers for me… this market although pricey was a blessing. Most mornings we ate fresh fruit and Greens+ bars, local macadamia nuts, Guayaki Yerba Mate & Itoen Green teas (available from Kona Natural Foods, Island Natural Foods (in Kona) Healthway II (in Waimea)  and Abundant Life (in Hilo) and the new Vitamin Shoppe in Kona ...I  like to  eat lightly before diving.

The Kohala Divers in Kawaihae harbor (only a 15 min drive) were an amazing dive shop that welcome both divers & snorkelers. They do not touch critters and are environmentally and ecologically sound. They also spoil you with impeccable service and offer a friendly, knowledgeable crew. I will definitely go back…www.kohaladivers.com/808 -882-7774. My favorite spot for morning dives was off of Puako beach… a turtle cleaning station and home to a  couple of white tipped reef sharks, 100 ft visibility and schools of colorful fish, healthy hard corals made for interesting and easy diving. They did not offer access to the world famous manta ray dive so I went into Kona and booked with Kona Honu Divers 808-324-4668. www.konahonudivers.com. Their large boat, friendly crew and the incredible 10 mantas that showed up made this a favorite dive. A must do.

For those non-divers or divers who don’t carry underwater cameras with them… who may  want fabulous photographs of the turtles, rays or other creatures, contact  Stephen Eitel at 808-895-0877 www.diveeitel.com. He is a friendly, educated and talented 20 year Hawaii resident, a  renowned ocean photographer who will sell his photos  out of his home (I bought his turtles & rays) . You can also contract him for a dive or snorkel for personalized underwater photos. For readers  interested in healthy reef maintenance you may want to check out www.reefcheckhawaii.org or call 808-953-4044.

Sightseeing on the northwest coast offers the most beautiful beach of Hapaku &  Puako, Mauna Kea and Spencer… or for hiking the trails and national parks in north Kohala… it is worth some exploration. The towns of Hawi and Kapaau offer a respite from tourism . They are quaint, artistic, folksy and offer healthy fresh food. The casual Bamboo Restaurant (votes one of the best on the island) was fantastic with fresh fish & greens and a guava & passion fruit on ice slushie … their were many choices on their menu I could eat plus a gift shop with local talented artistic wares is a fun place to browse around.www.bamboorestaurant.info The Coffee place across the street Kohala Coffee offered so much more than the local coffee… I would have gone back another day to eat here too… green tea, healthy food options like fish & sweet potatoes, homemade soups & fabulous ice cream in a more casual setting. A dessert place with a few sandwiches,  Short & Sweet bakery even offered flour less chocolate cake. Hawi( pronounced havee )  is about 20 minutes north of  Kohala divers making for good afternoon of food and exploration.

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A Couple of miles north of Hawi , is the small town of Kapaau where we stumbled on King Kamehameha day -June 11th. The Snack Shack (formerly Kohala Rainbow Cafe)  808-889-0099 is located across from the Kamehameha statue; offers sandwiches, salads, brick oven small pizzas & desserts that are all fructose free… they only use natural cane sugar and Alyssa Slaven, the owner  is open to exploring some gluten free menu items too. Please let her know you are interested.

Next store, owned by the same family for over 30 years  is an amazing art gallery …Ackerman’s gallery that features local artisan wares. I was able to replace my Dichronic glass pendants (when my backpack was stolen in Italy) with new ones here for less money and I met the artist, Brian Dugan who is Ayssa’s sister next store….small town . Exploring the beaches off road with a 4WD  jeep was also fun.

My sister Hove  from Easton , CT who joined me on this trip is a master gardener and her goal was to see the Botanical gardens. There are several. The  newer World Botanical Gardens included the Umauma waterfalls in their $13.00 ticket price and we spent almost 3 hours there hiking around…Their master gardener Brian may be out and about too…what a pleasure to meet such a vibrant young man who loves the environment. 808-963-5427. The original Tropical Botanical Gardens located off the 4 mile scenic road outside Hilo (not to be missed by every guidebook & they are right) the dept of agriculture to enter the US . I bought a red plumeria to try out… Ticket price here is 15.00 pp. Bring your bug repellent for all the gardens and hiking around the Hilo side. The Jason ” Quit Bugging Me “ spray and a few extra drops of the Aura Cacia geranium essential oil mixed with my ASAP Gel ( American Biotech ) did the trick . The popular What’s Shakin’ on this road offers good smoothies and great service but their sandwiches could be better-the local Mahi was deep fried and had a batter coating – not good for me and bland. Another smaller, simple take out shop (I didn’t write down the name but going North on the left hand side) with local honey & fruits offered a better menu they offered a good rice bowl with veggies and protein of your choice, plus homemade macadamia nut ice cream .

I didn’t have the time to go horseback riding  in Waipi’o Valley where the best views are, so I opted for a sunset ride with Paniolo Adventures that I heard was good from other divers. We ended up with no sunset due to rain but the experience was still worth it… to ride across a wide open range with hundreds of grass fed cattle, I felt like I was in a John Wayne western film. The lady wranglers let you trot and canter and my high spirited horse needed no urging. Herds of baby wild pigs, the constant moos of the cattle grazing and following you  and the mystique of the misty dusk were different than any other ride I have experienced. www..panioloadventures.com/ 808-889-5354

The town of Waimea, a naturally-oriented place had a terrific reasonably priced restaurant called Charlie’s Thai. Offered great summer rolls, soups, green tea and brown rice, fish and stir fries. Check it out 808-885-5591. The natural food store there Healthyways II in the Parker ranch shopping center across the street has wonderful smoothies and great takeout healthy food choices too. They will customize any menu item for you. Sheila runs a wonderful nutrition dept for all your supplement needs.  808-885-6775.  Merriman’s is also another interesting restaurant option here with good salads and passion fruit lemonade.

To finish off the trip , my other sister Sara gave Hove & I a birthday present  (as we are both 50 +  now) of a helicopter ride with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and did the 2 hour spectacular with a comfortable craft and an educated pilot. The tour was terrific but we did not buy the DVD as it recorded all conversation and the people in the front seats… did not work for us. I just liked the scenery-the waterfalls and northern coastline were magnificent and the lava flow was interesting… the best part was the new land mass evolving when the lava hit the ocean. A truly unique perspective than just being underwater or on land . The Eco Star, more expensive offered us better & individual seating and viewing than the A Star and the pilot was quite conservative, it was easy to take photos. Be sure to watch the time you select if you are diving or hiking in the Volcano park -they want you  to allow 24 hours to decompress . call 800-786-2583 for reservation . Extra charges for persons over 250 lbs.

Not enough time to do as much as I wanted and certainly not much time to relax. Had a fabulous time …worked with the natural food stores and met many great folks. Would love to come back and do more… The only negative thing happened as we were leaving ….someone at TSA stole my large Princeton Tec dive light and left the clips that attach to my BCD… probably needed for the Manta Ray night dive. So my advice for any diver with camera equipment or lights… you may want to store them in your carry on baggage .

Remember to use a natural oil-free sunscreen like ZIA SPF 15 or 30 to protect both you and the reef (oil based products are damaging reefs). Bring a skin, even for snorkeling so you don’t get burned because there is so much to see, you won’t want to get out of the water once you are in.  In June the water was 77-79 degrees so I was very comfortable in my 3/5 wetsuit w/ a hooded vest for multiple dives.

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So as natives say… Mahalo (thank you) to the wonderful people who work so hard to keep this Island a paradise  & Aloha (hello / goodbye)  until next time. Facebook has some photos posted now…

In Continued health,

Sally Byrd

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