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Hawaii's Back Yard

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On New Year's Day 2010, while sailing off Kawaihae on Hawaii Island, Tania Howard and several friends spotted a humpback and her calf a quarter-mile away. Shutting off the Maile's engine, they decided to wait and see what the whales would do.

For centuries, rum has been associated with tales of adventure, romance and intrigue. The rum-loving pirate Blackbeard terrorized ships around the West Indies and eastern coast of the American colonies between 1716 and 1718.

Waialua residents will be the first to admit their town is not a happening place; the biggest event of the week might be an exhibit of local art at the public library. But that's precisely why Kyoko Johnson and her husband, Tor, decided to live and work there.

Clifford Naeole's life-changing story begins in the kalo loi (taro patches) of his paternal grandfather, whom he lovingly nicknamed "Granddaddy Mauka."

Nick Fidelibus likens wreck diving to a treasure hunt. "It's thrilling, it's fascinating, it's mysterious," he said. "Seeing a plane or ship underwater makes you want to learn more about it.

In the late 1970s, Maui whale activist Greg Kaufman would round up two dozen volunteers to put on annual festivities at Kalama Park in Kihei in honor of Hawaii's most famous winter visitors, the humpback whales.

Kumu Keala Ching hopes kamaaina and visitors will gather at Hawaii island's Makahiki and Healing Garden Festival in the same spirit of peace, gratitude and enjoyment.

Ninety-two-year-old Santa Barbara, Calif., resident Anna Cochran is returning to Hawaii island's Royal Kona Resort in two weeks specifically to attend the third annual Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival.

Twenty-two years have passed, but Mike Richardson, co-owner of Climb Aloha, clearly remembers the adventures that inspired him to become a rock star.

During a career that spans more than 20 years, Emmy, Billboard Music and Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner Ken Martinez Burgmaier has worked with a who's who of gold and platinum singers and musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Wynton Marsalis, B.B. King, Dave Brubeck, Lionel Ritchie, Roberta Flack, James Taylor and Kris Kristofferson.

Kamaui Aiona, director of Kahanu Garden, was perturbed. On his daily check of the property one afternoon about five years ago, he spotted a young man and an elderly woman walking off a trail, down a slippery slope. Why would they be going off the path into that area? Aiona wondered.

When Cyril, Martin and Bla Pahinui took the stage together for the first time, it was not in a prestigious venue. They didn't perform before a horde of reporters, and there wasn't a single TV camera in the house.

Christi Heinen-Sears loves hanging out with kids. It’s not surprising, then, for the tour guide and saleswoman at Surfing Goat Dairy to spend her lunch breaks in the pasture.

Like fine wine, coffee and cigars are meant to be savored — their aroma as important to the sensory experience as their flavor. That's one of the things visitors will learn on a tour of Blair Estate, which cultivates three acres of coffee and two acres of tobacco in the lush hills of Kapaa, Kauai.

Several years ago Rob Pacheco, president and founder of Hawaii island-based Hawaii Forest & Trail, took a van load of mainland doctors, all avid birders, to Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge.

During his 55-year career as a seaplane pilot, Pat Magie has flown hunters, fishermen and freight of all kinds (even a full-grown grizzly bear) in wilderness regions in Minnesota, Alaska, Florida, Canada, Southeast Asia, the Arctic and the Caribbean. He has also piloted numerous medevac flights, sometimes at night in adverse weather conditions and over unfamiliar lakes with no lighting.

Maui Ocean Center kicks off the summer with a full slate of special events and activities that reveal the wonders of the undersea world without wetting a hair on visitors' heads!

Imagine being on a mo-ped — helmet on, hands poised on the throttle, ready for the rush that comes with cruising in the open air. Total freedom! Total exhilaration!

When Liz De Roche was looking for a venue to hold the inaugural Hilo Inter-Tribal PowWow in 2006, Wailoa River State Park called to her.

In 1999, Kauai kumu hula Kehaulani Kekua and her hula school, Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipuwai, joined other halau, native Hawaiian families and organizations throughout the state for a 24-hour prayer ceremony aimed at raising awareness about traditional Hawaiian cultural practices and the proper care of sacred places.

On a trip to New York City two years ago, Jim Reddekopp and his wife, Tracy, decided to take an afternoon cooking class at celebrated chef David Bou­ley's eponymous restaurant.

To most people, the 100-foot albizia growing on a West Maui family's property was just a big tree. The young boy in the family looked at it and envisioned a canoe.

"Stand-up paddling is amazing! It's as though you're walking on water, and it's much easier to do than you'd think. Because you're standing, you can see deeper into the water and farther across it than you would in a kayak, and the only sound you hear is the relaxing swish-swish of your paddle."

The waters off Waihee were murky that memorable day five years ago, but Clifford Nae­ole decided to go spearfishing alone anyway. He was familiar with that area of North Maui; it was where his grandfather used to dive almost every day to catch fish for his family.

For 20 years, Spencer Leineweber ran her architectural practice in the "mini" Mendonca Building, which she owned with her husband, Michael. Constructed in 1913 at the corner of Smith and Hotel streets, the building measures just 980 square feet on each of its levels — a basement, first floor and second floor.

Toronto executive Ann Marie Keating checked into Wailea Beach Villas on Jan. 12. She extended her stay at the exclusive residential vacation resort twice — the first time for five days, the second time for a month. She won't be relinquishing her ocean-view penthouse until April 12.

In October 2009, when Bill Wong saw water trickling down the three-quarter mile section of the Kohala Ditch that borders his family’s ranch just outside of Hawi, he recalled, "I was thrilled, ecstatic! It was like seeing gold slowly rolling toward me — water is that precious to our ranching and agricultural community in North Kohala."

Dick Quinn has lived at the foot of Diamond Head since 1980, but until five years ago he didn't know much about it. The retired medical malpractice and hospital law attorney had often walked and jogged around Diamond Head, but except for a rock concert in 1970, he had never been in the crater.

Before moving to Kauai, Alohi lived in Iowa, where she was a beloved member of an Amish family. Hitched to a wagon, she took the children to school on weekdays and the entire family to church on Sundays.

In the 77 years since it was founded, Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center has ignited the creative spirit of thousands of budding artists who've run the gamut in age from toddlers to retirees.

Derek Lanter clearly remembers his first date with the "dark side." In 2001 he was living in Berkeley, Calif., when Scharffen Berger, the company that reputedly makes America's finest dark chocolate, was setting up its operation there.

As legend goes, a man named Seriokai lived with his wife in a forest in Guyana, where avocado, his favorite food, flourished. To ensure he always had an ample supply of the tasty fruit, he spent many hours each week gathering it.

Five years ago Richard Bailey was overweight, lonely and a bit down on life. After reading a magazine article about the benefits of hiking, he decided to walk the easy, 1-mile Jackass Ginger Trail near his Nuuanu home.

"Art speaks to our souls. It enriches and enhances our lives. Artists transform their thoughts, feelings and impressions about life into something tangible that motivates others to nurture their own creative energy. Art is also educational. It can teach viewers about a certain time, place, tradition or spiritual aspect of a culture. Art is much more than just a 'painting' or a 'sculpture.' It's an experience that awakens all the senses."

Whenever her job gets hectic, Tanya Aynessazian, chief executive officer of the Volcano Art Center, heeds the call of the Niaulani Rain Forest just outside her office. Along a loop trail — one-seventh of a mile that meanders at the foot of giant koa and ohia trees — she often finds a place to sit, relax and listen.

"Two hundred sixty Hawaiian music artists and 28 years ago, I was a Hawaiian music illiterate," said Carol Yotsuda, founder of E Kanikapila Kakou. No one thinks of her that way now.

HiSAM's exhibitions spotlight creations by Hawaii's earliest internationally known artists, award-winning contemporary artists and emerging artists.

Every morning shortly before 9 a.m., Theo Morrison, executive director of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, opens the door to the Plantation Museum. She turns on the lights in the 650-square-foot attraction, then starts playing the video "The Last Harvest," which documents the closure of Pioneer Mill Co.

Imagine a friendly neighborhood farmer's market. Combine it with a pau hana party complete with live music, appetizers and a wine and beer garden, and you have the Kauai Culinary Market, which has become a popular gathering place for friends, families and foodies since it opened six months ago.

Historic Kailua Village really knows how to throw a Christmas party! Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, the community kicks off Kailua Kalikimaka, a monthlong celebration sponsored by the Kailua Village Business Improvement District.

Mike Atherton's employees call him "Coach" for good reason. Since he bought Maui Tropical Plantation in 2006, the affable entrepreneur has been overseeing a comprehensive game plan to re-energize the 26-year-old attraction.

In olden times, as soon as the small cluster of stars known as the Pleiades appeared in the night sky, the Hawaiians set aside their weapons and tools and prepared for the makahiki. This period of peace and festivities began in late October or early November and lasted for four months.

For once, Olivia Wu was at a loss for words. In 2005 the staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle's Food and Wine section was on deadline for a story about eating locally grown food.

Parades down Waianuenue Avenue and Kamehameha Avenue, potluck picnics at Wailoa River State Park, matinees at the Palace Theater, summer fun programs at the old Cow Palace, an old warehouse-turned-recreation center-- whenever Alice Moon talks about "small-kid time" in Hilo, the rush of memories brings a big smile to her face.

Ghost stories, haunted houses, horror films — what would Halloween be without a good scare? Here's a wrap-up of some of the spooky events that are planned on Oahu.

Right before the gates opened for the inaugural Lahaina Plantation Days last year, electrician Clifton Akiyama was adjusting lights in the Plantation Life Tent when a photo in one of the displays caught his eye.

Janet Kahalekomo has been making paakai (sea salt) in the salt ponds of Hanapepe on Kauai for more than 60 years. In ancient times only a few were chosen for this arduous work, and the knowledge was passed from generation to generation.

His name might not be listed when the credits roll, but you could say John Morgan, president of Kualoa Ranch, had a part in "The Descendants," which wrapped up filming in Hawaii in May.

Legend says barren Kahuku, in the southern district of Kau on the Big Island, was once lush with forests, fruit trees and taro fields. Many villages dotted the area, and when the people were not tending their crops they enjoyed competitions, including holua (sled) races down steep grassy hillsides.

If Kahau Manzo is right, "biodynamic" will soon become as much of a household word in wine lexicon as "body" and "bouquet." "Biodynamic agriculture is the newest concept in winemaking," said Manzo, executive chef and director of food and beverage for the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas on Kauai.

Allan Mendes loves the life of a paniolo (cowboy). He loves being on horseback every day. He loves the fresh air and sense of freedom that come with working outdoors. And he loves his simple, but rewarding life.

In 1997 I visited Kruger National Park in South Africa, the largest game preserve in Africa. One day my group came to a bridge that was flooded, and we had to double back on a longer road to reach the next camp.

Donald Pascual, owner of Paani Ranch on the Big Island, describes it as a "one-stop shop" for fun and adventure. "Five generations of my family help operate the ranch, and to us there's nothing more rewarding than spending time with each other in nature. That's an experience we want to share with visitors."

Most people think of good health as the absence of physical pain, illness or disease. Pat Makozak sees it as strength of the mind and spirit as well as the body.

Adventurous by nature, Jill Robins and her husband, Brad, lived in a tent for more than two months before renting a house when they moved to the Big Island from Australia in 2006.

In 2003, when Jeanne Sunderland and her husband, Dr. Robert Watkins, started clearing the 50-acre parcel they had purchased in rustic North Kohala, they found it was covered with invasive lantana that was so thick and tall, they had to remove it by hand.

Rancher, community leader, philanthropist and equestrienne extraordinaire -- Anna Leialoha Lindsey Perry-Fiske left an indelible mark in rustic Waimea, her beloved home for 95 years.

Walter "Kamika" Smith III is luckier than most executives. When work gets too hectic, he heads for the 30-acre oasis that his family operates on Kauai's east side. Smith's Tropical Paradise is just three minutes from his office by car.

Roy Sakuma credits the ukulele with shaping -- and saving -- his life. He was a troubled teen growing up in Makiki when he heard the song "Sushi" by ukulele virtuoso Herb "Ohta-San" Ohta on the radio.

"It was surreal! We had just presented the last award during the ceremony that capped the first Maui Photo Festival & Workshops (MPF).

Lorna Jeyte clearly remembers the evening her chef didn't show up for work. It was just three months after she and husband Albert opened Kilauea Lodge. She needed to be the restaurant's hostess that night, so Albert donned an apron and assumed command of the kitchen.

The location manager knew what he wanted audiences to see when the fictitious Costa Rican setting for the mega-budget movie he was working on first appeared on the silver screen. "A secluded, super-awesome site," he told Curt Lofstedt, owner of Island Helicopters, who was piloting his scouting expedition over Kauai.

Sleek and stately as a sub, the humpback rose from the sea 10 feet away from an astounded kayaker off Kahana Valley. After releasing a 12-foot plume of spray, the mammoth whale dipped beneath the kayak and came up for one more breath of air before vanishing in the deep blue of the Pacific.

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