things to do in kona

Chocolate Tour at Kokoleka Lani Cacao Farm in Kona

cacao farm in kona

We missed the tour of the cacao farm in Kona last week because I used the wrong GPS and was halfway the wrong way when I figured it out. But the owners were nice enough to reschedule us for the following week. The cacao farm in Kona was fascinating and inspiring. Above is a photo of me holding a pod I just cracked in one blow with the raw seeds inside.

Of course, I immediately shot a photo of a cacao pod and sent it to my husband, asking if he knew what it was. That’s because he is in California while I am in Hawaii. Although, we did tour the Vanillerie together not too long ago, and I imagine he would really enjoy this particular tour as well.

cacao tour in kona

His reply to me was “deformed papaya?” Followed by “hand grenade in disguise.” Then he wanted to know if I had found this pod on our property, as there is an entire area down the hill that I have not yet explored due to improper shoes at my disposal. 

Greg Colton, co-owner of the Kokoleka Lani Cacao Farm, planted more than 2,000 cacao trees. They have many locations, and the chocolate they make is different depending on where it was grown. Each microclimate on Big Island is unique, and we have 8 basic climate zones.

cacao farm tour in kona

After the tour, we cracked open our cacao pods, which we cut off ourselves from the tree. Inside are raw cacao nuts. At the moment, I have a plate of them on my kitchen counter, covered with wet paper towels, waiting to sprout. They need a canopy, like a madre de cacao, to provide filtered light, and we have perfect conditions on the lower side of our home in Kona.

Don’t plant one of everything, is sound advice for gardeners in Hawaii. It’s just so danged hard to choose.

At the end of the cacao tour in Kona, we sampled a wide variety of freshly made chocolate. Which a visitor can also buy in the gift shop. Each variety was slightly different. Our guide asked for a show of hands regarding favorites and hands shot up at random, making it very clear that tastes are personal.

You can find chocolate tours in Kona that cost more than a Ben Franklin, or you can sign up at Event Brite for $25. See the Puna Chocolate Company for more information on its Cacao Farm Tour in Kona. They are located just past the Central Bark Dog Park in Kona, by the Water Plant off the highway.

Elizabeth Weintraub
Elizabeth Weintraub

Photos of Manini Beach at Honaunau on Big Island

Manini Beach

Manini Beach at Honaunau is close to Two-Step Beach but very different. For one thing, it’s nestled right next to that huge sloping hill (Kealakekua Cliffs) in a secluded cove. For another, it has soft grass and not hard pahoehoe lava on which to rest your derriere. Manini Beach is also very quiet. A lot of people come here to read and relax.

If you don’t know where it is, Manini Beach can be difficult to find. Fortunately, I had my friend, Anita, to show me the way. Just take Napoopoo from Mamalahoa and hang a left. Keep your eyes open for the sign Manini Beach Road on the right and turn right. Park across from the bamboo house.

Manini Beach

Although we brought our snorkel gear, we sat on the grass and talked. If we had gone into the water, this is where we most likely would have entered. There were quite a few snorkelers in this channel.

Manini Beach

Many photos of this spot show water entering the tidal pool and being sucked back out underneath. But this particular image shows a reflection in the water, and it seems so peaceful, I did not want to distort the tranquility.

Manini Beach

This is wild cacti growing by the sea. It is extremely hardy to survive the harsh conditions and salt air. I figured it would be hard to kill. Anita found a piece of cactus with the roots still attached, so I took it back to our house in Kona and planted it.

Manini Beach

The orange color of the Hawaiian crab against the gray lava was striking. Ordinarily I don’t take photographs of dead sea creatures, but I could not resist this particular opportunity.

Manini Beach

According to my favorite plant app, Plant Snap, this is called the Devil’s Backbone. It grows all over Manini Beach on the rocks. What I did not immediately recognize was it also sports flowers, shown below.

Manini Beach

At first blush, I thought these were coral bells until Anita pointed out they are growing from the Devil’s Backbone. We had similar flowers on a few cacti in Sacramento, so I should have recognized it right away, but I didn’t.

Manini Beach

If you were to rent kayaks to paddle out to the Captain Cook Monument (marking the spot where he died), this is the cove where you would rent them. Too much paddling for me. In fact, when I was at Planet Fitness last week working out on the rowing machine, I look out on the ocean from that spot in Kona. All I can think about is if it were up to me to row a canoe to Maui, we would all drown or starve to death.

coffee shack captain cook

We decided to blow off snorkeling and go to lunch. It was after 2 PM by the time we finished exploring Manini Beach. The closest place I could think of to go was the Coffee Shack. Since Anita has stopped in for coffee but never lunch, that pretty much sealed out fate to go there. Anita liked the background behind me so she shot this photo.

Anita at Coffee Shack

We closed down the place since lunch is over at 3 PM, and we were still there. On the way to the car, Anita shot photos of the mural in front of the Coffee Shack, so of course I shot a photo of her. Someday I will return to Manini Beach, and this time I will probably go snorkeling. It was gray, overcast and a bit chilly, so I don’t regret not jumping in the water.

It’s a beautiful spot, and I have Anita to thank for showing me how to find it. Only one more day in Hawaii and I will return to Sacramento real estate.

Elizabeth Weintraub

Mamma Mia! at the Aloha Theatre

mamma mia at the aloha theatre

OMG this was a fantastic performance of Mamma Mia! at the Aloha Theatre on Sunday. Blown away. The woman who introduced the musical from the stage said it was the most highly grossing musical ever in the history of the Aloha Theatre, which is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit established in 2004. I thought I enjoyed the Addams Family Musical, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this production.

The guy who played Uncle Fester in the Addams Family, Miguel Montez, had the role of Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia! at the Aloha Theatre. What a beautiful voice. So many great performances. From Amanda Trusty (Donna) who belted the number The Winner Takes It All to such extremes audience members high-fived each other, to the adorable Pepper character (and an audience favorite), Christian Aragon, a sophomore at Konawaena High School, the performances were incredible, outstanding.

Mamma Mia! at the Aloha Theatre was a Sunday matinee, so there was not the kind of tipsy enthusiasm that is often displayed at late evening shows. Plus, most of the audience was comprised of older men and women. Yes, a lot of men, surprisingly.

You know, I’d like to take a moment to address the fact there is a kind of cynicism I see prevalent in some types of people who make fun of Abba music. As though there is something wrong with music that makes you feel good and elicits joy. I’m not sure I understand that kind of attitude. Why would people want to avoid embracing sheer happiness? And that’s what Mamma Mia! elicits, it makes you happy.

The music won’t win awards, and the lyrics are simple, but it makes you want to groove. There is nothing wrong with expressing joy. All I have to say to those people who think Abba is silly, is embrace the silliness. Just do it. Let go. Be happy. Be goofy. Lighten up. Have fun.

What an experience to witness such talent in the Kona area. A friend in the production, Erin Deskin is in the ensemble. She is a second grade school teacher and is 23. Just bought her own condo down by Captain Cook, so my friends and I stopped by after the performance to check out her new place. So many interesting people live in the Kailua-Kona area.

Erin told us that shortly into the production of Mamma Mia! at the Aloha Theatre, a lot of performers caught a bug. To counter act throat problems, some of the actors poured Tabasco sauce down their throats or they devoured jalapeño peppers like no tomorrow. We had also stopped by Donkey Balls in Kealakekua to try habanero and chocolate-coated mac nuts, but they had sold out.

I am a firm believer that if a food doesn’t pair well with jalapeños, it might not be worth consuming.

If I had anything to offer to improve the show, I would say the sound did not fill the theatre, and it could have been louder. But it’s an older vintage building, so probably not much could be done. And, no, I am not going deaf.

P.S. The photo above is of Mamma Mia in New York, not Kealakekua.

Elizabeth Weintraub

Sheraton Expo Hawaii Living and Design

sheraton expo

Seemed like a good place to explore yesterday was the Sheraton Expo Hawaii Island Living and Design, sponsored by the Kona Kahala Chamber of Commerce. The Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa is located in Keauhou Bay, which is about 10 minutes down the Queen K from Kona. I have never stayed at this resort, not like almost every other resort up the northern coast. It’s a bit isolated, there is no direct beach, and Sheraton is not in my top list for hotels.

Well, smack my snobby face, this is a rather nice hotel. Instead of walking directly into the Sheraton expo by going up the driveway, my friend and I walked around the entire resort.

sheraton expo

Altogether, there were probably 50+ vendors at this small space. Fortunately, I am finished with our Kona kitchen remodel. But my friend is planning to remodel her kitchen, and she is inspired by the blue cabinets in the Great British Baking Show.

We found cabinet makers at the show, but they seemed to be reps for a product line and did not have an office yet. Although, not everybody needs an office, I would hate to see my friend get involved with a vendor who works out of a storage unit, like I started with. But they seemed OK, and she might end up ordering cabinets from them.

They say she can pick any Sherwin Williams paint color and they will paint the cabinets. The warranty, though, on that paint job, is an unknown at this point. What bugged me a bit was the reps were so salesman-y. Apologizing for doing this or saying that, humbling themselves before us. Ick! That kind of behavior always makes me wonder why can’t they just talk to us like regular human beings? Don’t employ such obvious sales talk. You can sell without a script, and I would certainly know that as a Sacramento Realtor who believes in letting my authenticity be my guide.

sheraton expo

This display won “Best in Show” at the Sheraton Expo. I’m not sure what you get for winning an award. Probably your name in the West Hawaii Today, alongside a photograph of the owner holding that coveted ribbon.

We stopped to talk with these guys, too. They have a Kona office but work out of Hilo, Honsador Building Products. When I asked if they could give me a price for two French doors with louvers to replace icky bypass doors on our hall closet, they said sure, it would be about $500. Usually you don’t hear that kind of direct answer at an Expo.

sheraton expo

What a view, yes? This is Ray’s on the Bay, a restaurant and cocktail lounge in the Sheraton. I don’t know why I’ve never gone here for dinner, again, probably due to my preconceived idea of the Sheraton brand, but this place is lovely. You don’t get much closer to the ocean and, with tourism down in Kona, probably not too difficult to get a reservation.

All it takes is one lousy little exploding volcano and tourists back off. Our air is so clean, and the volcano is no longer erupting. Kona is too far away from Kilauea to worry about hot lava, but vog was a concern earlier this spring and summer. However, there are so many sales promotions now, it’s a really good time to visit Kailua-Kona!

sheraton expo

Ah, I have saved the best photo for last. This is a photo of Keauhou Bay. Way to the right, inside the calmer waters of the bay, is where I first tried out my Lahui Kai paddle board. There is talk now of re-doing Keauhou Bay, and that would be such a shame. It has retained its wild and pristine force in nature for so long, one of the last places like it. It doesn’t seem pono to disturb the setting when there is nothing wrong with it.

Elizabeth Weintraub

Hawaii Avocado Festival in Kona

Hawaii avocado Festival

If you look closely at this photo of the action at the avocado booth at the 13th Hawaii Avocado Festival, you will see Avocado Man. He is in the back behind the juicer wearing an avocado costume. At first blush, my friend Linda thought he was having a medical problem; whereas I thought he was carrying a baby in a knapsack. But it was just an avocado costume with the seed in the center.

We are not accustomed to staring at half avocados because it is only the whole avocados you generally see. Except a whole avocado is not a terribly attractive outfit.

Hawaii avocado Festival

Linda and I had gone to Holualoa for our Saturday morning yin yoga class. It is a wonderful experience, stretching what was once beyond our abilities. The class is taught on the third floor of a historic building, and all the windows are open to let in the ocean breezes from the spectacular view. Taking the class with others over 50 is pleasant too. There are no show-offs in class, and everybody struggles.

Amazingly, I can almost touch the floor with folded arms by bending at the waist, so I am making excellent progress. After class, we stopped at a gallery to view Anita’s artwork, the random woman from New York I met yesterday. I bought a beautiful ceramic soup spoon holder, handmade with a small turtle perched on its edge.

We toured a few open houses along Guava Road off Hualalai in a gated subdivision. One was atrocious. I had viewed it online and, as a Sacramento Realtor, I cringe for that listing agent. It is horribly ugly, no curb appeal, awful updates. Much of the design looks like they were created by the seller saying, “Oh, look at how cheap this product is, let’s buy it. Better yet, let’s install it ourselves without training or reading directions.” No rhyme nor reason for the design, and there is nothing you can do make it better short of tearing it down. Price tag is almost $1 million.

The view in the photo above is of our walk along Ali’i Drive toward the Hawaii Avocado Festival at Hale Halawai, just past the Waterfront building. Many spring flowers are beginning to bloom.

Hawaii avocado Festival

Inside the building, we spotted Avocado Girl! She is wearing a costume commissioned from a shop in Hollywood that cost $500 to make. Our local newspaper, West Hawaii Today, reports she is to possess supernatural powers of some sort, but see, dogs like her.

Behind her is Dr. Tim’s Medicine Band, which played a lot of old cover songs from the 1960s. They probably played indoors — which doesn’t carry sound well for a band — because it was sprinkling a bit outside. There would have been people dancing if alcohol was served, but these family-rated events do not serve even beer or wine.

Hawaii avocado Festival

Because we were so busy touring open houses and doing yoga, Linda and I had a really late lunch at the Hawaii Avocado Festival. She chose a bento bowl without kimchee and I went with the spicy noodles over lettuce. Primarily because I will eat almost anything that is served with jalapenos and is only 10 bucks.

Hawaii avocado Festival

Of course, this is the view of the back yard of the Hale Halawai, the beautiful lava beds, beach and ocean. Even a light sprinkling rain was not enough to draw crowds away from the Hawaii Avocado Festival.

They featured sharwil avocados and a large assortment of others, including the avocado named Linda. Which is almost as big as my head. The focus seemed to be on shipping avocados to Japan. Apparently, even though USDA decided last month to lift the ban of sharwil avocado shipments to 32 states in the U.S. but only during November to March, that is not enough. Further, 25 years was a long time to wait to ship avocados to the Mainland.

According to West Hawaii Today and the executive director of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers Association, almost 80% of the 9 million pounds of avocado production in Hawaii goes to waste due to restrictions on shipping by the federal government. We have no choice, Hawaii is saying enough is enough, we’ll ship to Japan then.

Elizabeth Weintraub

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