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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Big Island Off the Beaten Track, Part Three

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches
 
This is the last post about my May 2018 week in Hawaii. For this one, I'm going to focus on a few unusual and not-to-be missed sites we visited other than the ones already described in Holualoa and Hawi. So much fun!
 
One day, driving along, my daughter and I saw a small sign on the side of the road for the Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary. We both love to be outdoors so we gave the botanical garden a try. We were not disappointed in the hours we spent wandering the paths through unique plant and rock arrangements, orchards, and groves, including the world's first galaxy garden, a 100-foot diameter outdoor scale model of the Milky Way, mapped in living plants and flowers. Who knew?
 
Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a US National Historic Park on the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (ancient law) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge, or puʻuhonua. The offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave. While it has a slightly reconstructed hokey feel, I was glad to understand more about historic Hawaiian communities from long ago through an archeological site tour including: the authentic 400-year-old "Great Wall," temple platforms, thatched structures, and royal fishponds. 
 
Many people recommended "snorkeling with Manta Rays experience" which was cool but crowded (so be prepared). Due to bright lights shining from hotels on land, plankton and the manta rays which feed on them have concentrated in certain areas on the Big Island. We went out with Fair Wind Charters on their evening Manta Snorkel, leaving from Keauhou Bay, and were surrounded by other boats and lots of excited tourists. Mantas are very gentle - no teeth, stingers or barbs -- and, while we were holding onto a floating frame looking down, they swam all around us in a graceful show, taking in large quantities of plankton through open mouths. This outing requires a comfort with wearing a wetsuit, being in the water for a long time, and using a snorkel, but no special "skill". Definitely something you won't see or do ever again! 
 
In the Hawaiian language, lomi means "to knead, to rub, or soothe," and lomilomi massage practitioners use their palms, forearms, fingers, knuckles, elbows, knees, feet, and even sticks and stones. Historically, future practitioners were selected in childhood, around age 5, based on birth signs such as weather events, birthmarks (especially on the head), and kind behavior, and they required a decade or more of study. Lomilomi today, like so many ancient art forms, has been corrupted. Beware if you are trying to get a lomilomi massage; seek someone specially trained, like Teresa at Ka Lima Hana Kukui. Her massage is still a modernized version of lomilomi, but she grew up watching her grandparents performing lomilomi massage using Kukui nut oil, and her massage was wonderful. 
 
Please contact ActiveTravels if you are interested in any aspect of Hawaii and ask Amy for Big Island recommendations. We'd be glad to help. Don't worry too much about heading to the Big Island with the unpredictability of the Kilauea volcano; it is 100+ miles away from the Kona airport!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/13/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Big Island Off the Beaten Track, Part Two

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches

After our time in and around Holualoa, my daughter and I headed to the northern half of the Big Island. Our base there was Hawi, pronounced "hah-vee," a really fun and unique town. Located on the slopes of the Kohala mountain, Hawi has become a popular tourist destination in recent years due to its artists' shops, delicious restaurants, and beautiful scenery. During the 19th century, profitable sugar cane plantations were established bringing many Japanese and Filipino laborers. With the decline of the sugar cane industry in the mid-20th century, Hawi adapted. We stayed on a small lush farm just outside of town, enjoyed the produce there, and also ate very locally and happily at Sweet Potato Kitchen, Sushi Rock, and Bamboo Restaurant, all housed in former plantation buildings. 
 
The best experiences we had outside of Hawi was driving the Kohala Mountain Road from Hawi to Waimea, horseback riding on a ranch near Waimea, visiting the Waipio Valley, and then hiking in the Pololu Valley. As you drive north to Hawi from Kailua-Kona, you see mostly black lava fields along the road, then enter an incredibly green area, full of ranches which date back to 1840s, older than the oldest ranches in the continental United States by more than 30 years! Kohala Mountain Road, which we traversed on our way to horseback riding at Dahana Ranch, is stunning. At Dahana, we grew to understand the paniolo (cowboy) world better through a guided ride (which required no real horse knowledge, just a willingness). Dahana is a working ranch, not a tourist trap: they breed, raise and train a variety of horses and ponies, and also manage a 140 head cow/calf operation for beef and rodeo bucking stock. 
 
After riding, we wanted to stretch our own legs. From Waimea to Honokaa, our destination was the Waipio Valley Overlook. We didn't have a chance to really explore the Valley floor as we had no 4WD car, but we admired the view and walked a way. We saved our real hiking for the Pololu Valley on the way back to Hawi. This was a highlight, recommended by a friend who had lived on the Big Island. Down a steep trail for about ½ hour, after parking at literally at the end of the road, we soaked in the dramatic northeastern Big Island coastline. At the bottom, we were rewarded by a fairly isolated black sand beach, a lone woman practicing yoga, and a few brave souls camping overnight. Spectacular!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/12/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Big Island Off the Beaten Track, Part One

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches 

Traveling in Hawaii has long been on my bucket list of adventures. Finally, last month, I spent a week with my 20-year old daughter on the Big Island. Ahead of time, we rerouted our itinerary to avoid the small area in the southeast affected by the Kilauea volcano. And the journey was truly memorable. I'll be sharing three separate aspects of our trip. Rent a 4WD vehicle, explore the full range of possibility, and enjoy. 
 
After landing at Kona Airport on the Island's west side, we began our trip with several days in Holualoa. Holualoa is a small artist and coffee community in the hills above Kailua-Kona. Mamalohoa Highway winds through the heart of the town, past the wonderful Holuakoa Gardens and Cafe, where we relished several meals, including one with fresh "opah" fish and our first taste of Kona Brewing Company's Longboard Island Lager. Most of the ingredients are locally sourced (organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, and fish), and eaten under twinkling lights woven into the wood framing. 
 
Satisfied after eating, we wandered into a dozen or more art galleries, bought jewelry, and chatted with folks who have chosen to live and create in this historic island town. We also visited Hula Daddy Coffee Farm, which, like many other coffee producers on the upland slopes of Kona, use the high elevation, constant cloud coverage, and rich volcanic soil to create quality coffee. In fact, one of their coffees (Hula Daddy Kona Coffee, 100% Kona SL-28, Roast: Medium-Light) was selected as the No. 2 coffee on Coffee Review's list of the Top 30 Coffees of 2017.
 
Our destination on yet another outing was to pay homage to Holualoa's past as a small Japanese village. We stopped at several sites including a Japanese cemetery, many old buildings from the early 1900s, and Doris' Place grocery. Japanese immigrants came to Hawaii primarily as sugar laborers in the late 1800s and then worked the coffee country. The cemetery was full of coral and lava rock headstones inscribed with kanji. The markers on buildings included "Dr. Hayashi's Office and Home, 1897." Lastly, Doris' Place, staffed since 1948 by Doris herself. We walked in on the store's 70th anniversary celebration, quite a treat. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/11/18 at 08:00 AM
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Friday, June 01, 2018

Best Summer Drives in New England

One doesn't drive in New England simply to get from Point A to Point B at the fastest possible time. No, we like to linger, savor the beauty, cherish the history. We're fortunate to be blessed with a diverse landscape full of majestic sights like the jagged shoreline of Maine, the granite notches of New Hampshire, the verdant farmland of Vermont, and the long stretch of white beach found in Rhode Island. We stop not only to post photos to our Instagram and Facebook accounts, but to dine on lobster rolls and fried clams at renowned seafood shacks, hike on the same shoreline and forest paths that inspired Winslow Homer and Robert Frost, and stop to stay at legendary inns or a new cabin built into the vast Maine wilderness. To read my story for Yankee Magazine on 8 Great Summer Drives, including maps, please click here

I'm off to Medellin and Cartagena, Colombia next week. We'll be back on June 11th with posts from Amy's recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. In the meantime, enjoy this glorious summer weather and see some of the countryside. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/01/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 31, 2018

SeaDream Releases Mediterranean Voyage in July

With only 56 staterooms, SeaDream likes to call its ships yachts. But there's no denying this all-inclusive cruise line is one of the best in the business, the reason Forbes named it the "Best Small Luxury Cruise Ship." Its small size is also the reason why one of its two yachts is often booked for private charter. In the case of the upcoming July 12-21 Mediterranean cruise, it was booked privately from a resident of Saudi Arabia, who just cancelled! SeaDream has just opened up the trip to the public and has only sold 7 of the 56 rooms so far. It's a wonderful itinerary, starting in Rome and visiting Capri, the Amalfi coast, Sicily, and Corfu, ending in Dubrovnik. Dining, premium wine and beverages, gratuities, and all activities are included in the price, starting at $5199 per person. Please let ActiveTravels know if you're interested and we'll help book the berth and find flights. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/31/18 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Boating Cayuga Lake with Ithaca Boat Tours

We enjoyed a memorable Memorial Day Weekend with our extended family at our son's graduation from Cornell University. On Saturday, after an inspirational speech from film director Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time, 13th) at the Convocation, Lisa made the wise move of booking a private boat tour on Cayuga Lake with Ithaca Boat Tours. We met at Ithaca's Farmers Market, bustling on a Saturday in late May with stands selling fresh greens, flowers, local wines, cheeses, coffee, and much more. Then we boarded the pontoon boat with our stash of wine and munchies and met Captain Dave and his first mate, Jamie. They cranked up the Afro-Cuban sounds as we danced on the deck and took in the sights of the shoreline, seaside cottages with boat houses and far modern estates high above the cliffs. We learned a little about the history of Cayuga Lake, how crowds used to pack the lakeshore to watch world-class rowing races. But mostly we took in the scenery with our loved ones to celebrate Jake's graduation. One of the many highlights of the weekend! 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/30/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Caribbean Comeback, Hotels Picks in Ireland, and MuseumHack in May ActiveTravels Newsletter

In a May 2nd travel story in the Boston Globe, writer Christopher Muther noted that due to the battering of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Caribbean "lost nearly 1 million visitors and an estimated $900 million in tourism-related spending." He goes on to add that "the Caribbean could see losses totaling more than $3 billion during the next four years until visitor rates climb back." Thus the reason why it's imperative to support the region now more than ever or thousands of jobs will be lost. Thankfully, many of the top properties have spent the year rebuilding and have announced opening dates for the upcoming winter season. Please consider staying at one of the resorts we mention in our May ActiveTravels Newsletter when thinking about escaping the cold this coming winter. Also in this month's issue is a round-up of our clients' preferred properties in Ireland and why Williamsburg, Virginia is far more than a historic hub. Please have a look! 

We're off to Ithaca with the family to celebrate our son, Jake's graduation from Cornell. Have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend! We'll be back next Wednesday. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/24/18 at 05:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What’s New at Hurtigruten

Lisa and I went to an all-day seminar on Monday with Tourism Norway to meet with a dozen travel reps from all over this Scandinavian country. I'll probably write a longer piece on Norway for the newsletter, but I wanted to report on all the exciting new developments at Norway's signature cruise line, Hurtigruten. They will debut a new hybrid vessel, the MS Roald Amundsen, this coming July. Not only will it cut fuel by 20 percent, but they can turn off the engines off when coasting within the fjords and you'll won't hear a sound. The interior was designed by Rolls Royce so expect the finest details. The ship will be heading along the Norwegian coast late May 2019 on a glorious 15-day cruise that starts and ends in Hamburg, Germany. We just booked it today for two of our clients. Already sold out in 2019 is the 14-day Northwest Passage cruise that starts in Greenland before crossing the Davis Strait and venturing into the Canadian Arctic Archipelago of Nunavut. If interested, ActiveTravels will be happy to look into the 2020 voyage. Lastly, Hurtigruten cruises run year-round in Norway and they mentioned that one of the best times to see the fjords is in the October/November months, when the mountains are snowcapped and you have a good chance of viewing the Northern Lights. In fact, Hurtigruten will guarantee you see the Northern Lights on one of their 12-day itineraries from October 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019 or receive another weeklong cruise for free!  
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/23/18 at 05:59 AM
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Backroads Rolls Out Custom-Designed Titanium Bikes This Summer

Backroads, the world's number one active travel company, has just announced that all trips this year will feature their custom-designed titanium bikes. The bikes are lighter than last year's bikes and offer electronic shifting. The company also offers e-bikes on all trips. New Bike Tours in 2018 include Chile's Lakes District, Croatia & Slovenia, Cuba, and Portugal. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/22/18 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 21, 2018

Book Rooms Now For Next Summer’s Fête des Vignerons in Vevey, Switzerland

I had the pleasure of having lunch last week with PR Maven, Gayle Conran, and Cindy Maghenzani, head of communications for Switzerland's Lake Geneva Region. They reminded me that next summer, from July 26 to August 11, 2019, the Fête des Vignerons or Winegrower's Festival returns to the glorious lakeside town of Vevey, located between Lausanne and Montreux. Why is this significant? Because the event only occurs once every 20 years! Join singers, dancers, wine experts, and loads of other performers for the extravaganza. It would be wise to book rooms now to ensure you have a place to stay. Grand Hotel du Lac, the property Lisa and I stayed on our last visit is a great choice, especially since it's celebrating its 150th birthday, as Everett Potter reports in his latest column for Forbes. While in Vevey, visit the relatively new Chaplin's World, where Charlie Chaplin spent his last years, and the majestic Chillon Castle, always a must-see sight when I'm in the area. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/21/18 at 06:00 AM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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