Best Sight Seeings:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rebun and Rishiri Islands "cone-shaped extinct volcanic peak Islands"

Rebun Island

Rebun Island is alongish island, about 10 km north of Rishiri Island and 50 km off the northern tip of Hokkaido. Together with Rishiri Island, Rebun belongs to the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
Rebun Island is most famous for its rich flora, which features many alpine flowers, some of which cannot be found anywhere else on the world. The flowers are in bloom from around June to August, the best time to visit Rebun. Not many tourists come to the island during the long and harsh winters.
The alpine flora, the beautiful natural scenery of Rebun and views of nearby Rishiri can be enjoyed from a network of pleasant walking and hiking trails.

Cape Sukoton (Sukoton Misaki)

Cape Sukoton is the northernmost point of Rebun Island. Besides the fine views and a souvenir shop, there is not much to be found. Cape Sukoton is a terminal point of the beautiful 4-hour and 8-hour hiking courses.
Cape Gorota (Gorota Misaki)

Cape Gorota is a beautiful cape in the northern part of the island. A scenic walking trail, part of the 4-hour and 8-hour hiking courses, connects Cape Sukoton via Cape Gorota with Gorota Beach.
Gorota Beach (Gorotahama)

Gorota Beach is a sand beach on the western coast of Rebun, popular among wind surfers. It offers beautiful views of nearby Cape Gorota. The 4-hour and 8-hour hiking courses pass along the beach.

Rebun Usuyukiso Area

This is an area with a relatively high number of Rebun Usuyukiso, the Rebun version of the Edelweiss. The Rebun Usuyukiso is one of several protected, very rare kinds of alpine flowers found on Rebun Island.

Motochi Motochi

Motochi Motochi is the name of the island's southwestern region, which is characterized by a scenic, steep coastline. A small village with ryokan and distinctively shaped rocks resembling a cat's head and a Jizo statue, can be found along the coast.


Momoiwa ("Peach Rock") is a roundish hill in the Motochi region. Alpine flowers in combination with views of nearby Rishiri Island can be enjoyed from the Momoiwa observation deck and the hiking course that leads along the ridge of the hills to Shiretoko.
Rishiri Island

Rishiri Island isa remote, small island about 20 kilometers off the northern tip of Hokkaido, with a circumference of about 60 kilometers and Mount Rishiri, a dormant volcano, at its center.
Together with neighboring Rebun Island, Rishiri belongs to the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. Many of the island's 6000 inhabitants are making a living from tourism and fishing.
Rishiri Island offers various hiking and walking opportunities. The climb to the top of Mount Rishiri takes a full day and is quite challenging. There is also a cycling road along the island's northern coast.
A visit to Rishiri Island is most attractive during the summer months (June to August), when the island's alpine flora is in bloom. Not many tourists visit the island during the long and harsh winters.

Mount Rishiri

Mount Rishiri, commonly referred to as Rishiri-Fuji, is a 1721 meter tall dormant volcano in the center of Rishiri. Cars can proceed as far as the 3rd Station on the Oshidomari side and as far as the 5th Station on the Kutsugata side.

Pon Yama (Mount Pon)
Mount Pon (444 meters above sea level) is a small peak at the side of Mount Rishiri. Its summit can be reached in a pleasant 30-45 minute walk from Mount Rishiri's 3rd Station or in about 60-90 minutes from Hime Pond.
Mount Rishiri 5th Station From the Kutsugata side of Mount Rishiri, cars can proceed as far as the 5th Station. An observation deck with nice views can be reached in a short walk from the 5th Station's parking area.

Cape Peshi

Cape Peshi is located just next to the port of Oshidomari, Rishiri's largest town. There is a walking trail up to the top (5-10 minutes), from where nice views of Oshidomari and Mount Rishiri can be enjoyed.

Rishirifuji Onsen

Onsen is a hot spring with indoor and outdoor baths. It is located at the southern end of the town of Oshidomari. Admission costs 400 Yen.

Hime Pond
Hime Pond (Himenuma) is a man made pond at the foot of Mount Rishiri. The views of the mountain reflecting in the pond are well advertised.

Cycling Road
A road for exclusive use by bicycles follows the northern coast of Rishiri from Hime Pond to Kutsugata for about 20 kilometers. Bicycles are provided by many of the island's accommodations and some rental shops.

Otatomari Pond

Otatomari Pond is a beautiful pond in the south of the island. The view of the pond with Mount Rishiri as backdrop is splendid.

Fishing Villages
Small fishing villages can be found along the whole coast of Rishiri Island. Rishiri is particularly famous for its sea urchins (uni) and konbu seaweed.

Ferry service to Rebun, Wakkanai, and Otaru
Air link to Wakkanai
A bus runs the circuit route around the island.
Rishiri Airport is located in Rishirifuji.

Hokkaido "Japanese Island Of Nature"

Hokkaidō 北海道 literally "North Sea Circuit", formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island and the largest, northernmost of its 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaidō from Honshū, although the two islands are connected by the underwater Seikan Tunnel. The largest city on Hokkaidō is its capital, Sapporo, which is also its only ordinance-designated city.

Asahidake Onsen

Asahidake Onsen is a small hot spring resort at the foot of Hokkaido's highest mountain, Mount Asahidake (2290 meters), in Daisetsuzan National Park.
The small village consists of only about a dozen buildings, wooden lodges, a beautiful youth hostel and two or three large hotels. Shopping and dining opportunities are limited to the hotels and the ropeway station. For weather forecasts, maps and other tourist information, head to the visitor center.
The Asahidake Ropeway (1800 Yen; 2800 Yen from July to mid October) leads from Asahidake Onsen to within a two hour hike of Mount Asahidake's summit. Even though the ropeway's upper station is "only" 1,600 meters above sea level, it stands in a tree less alpine tundra landscape with beautiful flowers in summer.

Sightseeing Boats

By taking a boat cruise along the rugged western coast of the Shiretoko Peninsula, you can get a look at the more remote parts of the national park, which are otherwise only accessible on foot.
From May to October, two companies are offering sightseeing boat cruises on two different routes from Utoro: The shorter cruises go half way up the peninsula as far as the Kamuiwakka Falls, while the longer cruises go all the way to the tip of the peninsula.

Kamuiwakka Falls

A visit to Kamuiwakka Falls is one of Japan's ultimate hot spring experiences.
In order to reach the waterfall, bathers first have to hike up a warm mountain stream for about 20-30 minutes, wading through the water and climbing minor waterfalls. Once you reach the top, you can take a hot spring bath in the natural basin at the base of the waterfall. Unlike in most other Japanese hot springs, people use swimming suits.
Be aware that the climb up the stream is very steep and slippery in some places, and that you have little choice but to actually walk in the water (it is less slippery in the water than at the stream's edge). Therefore, it is highly recommended to bring appropriate footwear, such as special climbing socks (see picture above) or traditional straw sandals.
Due to its tremendous beauty, the Kamuiwakka Falls can become crowded during the high season in July and August. On the other hand, the falls are not accessible during the winter months.

Shiretoko National Park
Shiretoko National Park, located onthe Shiretoko Peninsula in eastern Hokkaido, is one of Japan's most beautiful and unspoiled national parks. No roads lead further than about three fourth up the peninsula, and the northern tip can only be viewed from boats or be reached on multi day trekking tours.
The peninsula is home to a variety of wildlife, including brown bears, dear and foxes. In winter, the peninsula's coast along the Sea of Okhotsk becomes one of the northern hemisphere's southernmost regions to see drift ice.
In July 2005, Shiretoko was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites for the irreplaceable value of the peninsula's ecosystem and biodiversity.

Rishiri Island

Rishiri Island is a remote, small island about 20 kilometers off the northern tip of Hokkaido, with a circumference of about 60 kilometers and Mount Rishiri, a dormant volcano, at its center.
Together with neighboring Rebun Island, Rishiri belongs to the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park. Many of the island's 6000 inhabitants are making a living from tourism and fishing.
Rishiri Island offers various hiking and walking opportunities. The climb to the top of Mount Rishiri takes a full day and is quite challenging. There is also a cycling road along the island's northern coast.
A visit to Rishiri Island is most attractive during the summer months (June to August), when the island's alpine flora is in bloom. Not many tourists visit the island during the long and harsh winters.

Rebun Island

Rebun Island is a longish island, about 10 km north of Rishiri Island and 50 km off the northern tip of Hokkaido. Together with Rishiri Island, Rebun belongs to the Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
Rebun Island is most famous for its rich flora, which features many alpine flowers, some of which cannot be found anywhere else on the world. The flowers are in bloom from around June to August, the best time to visit Rebun. Not many tourists come to the island during the long and harsh winters.
The alpine flora, the beautiful natural scenery of Rebun and views of nearby Rishiri can be enjoyed from a network of pleasant walking and hiking trails.

Showa Shinzan

Showa Shinzan is one ofJapan's youngest mountains.
Accompanied by earthquakes, the mountain suddenly rose from a flat wheat field to its current height of 290 meters between 1943 and 1945. The mountain was named "Showa New Mountain" according to the contemporary reign of Emperor Showa (1926-1989).
Still venting sulfurous fumes today, Showa Shinzan stands directly next to Mount Usu, which bears responsibility for the new mountain's birth. You can get good views of the young volcano by taking the Usuzan Ropeway.

Lake Toya

Lake Toya (Toyako) is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. In addition to the lake itself, the Toyako region features hot springs and an active volcano, Mount Usu, which last erupted in the year 2000. The area also offers many fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities.
The picturesque lake was chosen as the location of the the G8 summit which Japan hosted from July 7 to 9, 2008. The leaders of the world's eight major industrialized democracies met at the Windsor Hotel Toya Resort & Spa.

Odori Park

Odori Park is the broad median of Odori ("large street") in the center of Sapporo, separating the city into North and South. The park stretches over twelve blocks and offers pleasant green space during the warmer months, while staging the annual Sapporo Snow Festival in February.
At the eastern end of Odori Park stands the TV Tower with an observation deck that offers nice views of Odori Park and the city of Sapporo.

The Sapporo Snow Festival

The Sapporo Snow Festival (Sapporo Yuki Matsuri) is held during one week every February in Hokkaido's capital Sapporo. In 2010, the Snow Festival will be held from February 5 through February 11, 2010.
The Sapporo Snow Festival was started in 1950, when high school students built a few snow statues in Odori Park. It has since developed into a large, commercialized event, featuring spectacular snow and ice sculptures and attracting more than two million visitors from Japan and across the world.
Besides about a dozen large snow sculptures, the Odori Site exhibits more than one hundred smaller snow and ice statues and hosts several concerts and events, many of which use the sculptures as their stage.
The Susukino Site, located in and named after Sapporo's largest entertainment district, exhibits about one hundred ice sculptures. Susukino is located only one subway stop south of Odori Park. The ice sculptures are lit up daily until midnight (until 22:00 on the festival's final day).

The Historic Village of Hokkaido

The Historic Village of Hokkaido (kaitaku no mura) is an open air museum in the suburbs of Sapporo. It exhibits about 60 typical buildings from all over Hokkaido, dating from the Meiji and Taisho Periods (1868 to 1926), the era when Hokkaido's development was carried out on a large scale.
The open air museum is divided into a town, fishing village, farm village and mountain village section. The Historical Museum of Hokkaido (kaitaku kinenkan), which documents the history of Hokkaido's development, can be found nearby.

Mount Hakodate

Mount Hakodate (Hakodateyama) is a 334 meter high, wooded mountain at the southern end of the peninsula on which much of central Hakodate is located. On clear days and nights, the view of Hakodate from the mountain is spectacular.
Facilities at the summit include observation platforms (free of charge), souvenir shops, a cafe and a cafeteria style restaurant.

Hakodate is Hokkaido's third largest city, located at the island's southern tip. Hakodate is best known for the spectacular views to be enjoyed from Mount Hakodate (see picture above) and its delicious, fresh seafood.
As one of the first Japanese harbor cities to be opened to international trade after the country's era of isolation, Hakodate has experienced notable influence from overseas, and the foreign population's former residential district and a Western style fort are among its main tourist attractions.
Onuma Park, a quasi national park with beautiful, island dotted lakes, is located only half an hour north of Hakodate and is a worthwhile side trip from the city or a nice stop on the journey between Hakodate and Sapporo.

Onuma Park

Designated as a "quasi national park" and located only twenty kilometers north of Hakodate, Onuma Park (Onuma Koen) is known for its picturesque, island dotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake.
Onuma Park can be easily visited in either a day trip from Hakodate or on a stop over on a journey between Hakodate and Sapporo, since most limited express trains between the two cities stop at Onuma Koen Station, the central railway station.
The park's most attractive area is located between the two lakes Onuma (large lake) and Konuma (small lake) and can be explored entirely on foot. Attractive walking courses let you explore the lakes' peninsulas and islands, several of which are connected with each other by small bridges, in easy 15-60 minute walks.
It is also possible to rent bicycles (500 yen/hour, 1000 yen/day). A cycling course leads around Lake Onuma (about 10 km), but follows the main road rather than the lakeshore for most of the distance. It is a nice way to explore the area, nevertheless.
Furthermore, there are sightseeing boat tours offered once per hour, lasting about 30 minutes (830 yen per person). Other activities to be enjoyed in Onuma Park include canoeing, tennis, golf, fishing and camping.

Hokkaidō's only land link to the rest of Japan is the Seikan Tunnel. Most travelers to the island arrive by air: the main airport is New Chitose Airport at Chitose, just south of Sapporo. Tokyo-Chitose is in the top 10 of the world's busiest air routes, handling 45 widebody round trips on four airlines each day. One of the airlines, Air Do was named after Hokkaidō. Hokkaidō can also be reached by ferry from Sendai, Niigata and some other cities, with the ferries from Tokyo dealing only in cargo .
Within Hokkaidō, there is a fairly well-developed railway network (see Hokkaidō Railway Company), but many cities can only be accessed by road.
Hokkaidō is home to one of Japan's three Melody Roads, which is made from grooves cut into the ground, which when driven over causes a tactile vibration and audible rumbling transmitted through the wheels into the car body.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hawaii "The Pearl Harbour and Polynesian subregion of Oceania"

The State of Hawaii is a state in the United States, located on an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of Australia. The state was admitted to the Union on August 21, 1959, making it the 50th state. Its capital is Honolulu on the island of Oʻahu. The most recent census estimate puts the state's population at 1,283,388.

This state encompasses nearly the entire volcanic Hawaiian Island chain, which comprises hundreds of islands spread over 1,500 miles (2,400 km). At the southeastern end of the archipelago, the eight "main islands" are (from the northwest to southeast) Niʻihau, Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe, Maui, and Hawaiʻi. The last is by far the largest, and is often called the "Big Island" or "Big Isle" to avoid confusion with the state as a whole. This archipelago is physiographically and ethnologically part of the Polynesian subregion of Oceania.

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala is the 10,023 foot (3,055m) tall inactive volcano which makes up over half of Maui. The National Park is a slice of the mountain from the summit down to the sea at Kipahulu to the east.

The top features are the view from the summit of the entire island and the view of the most recent cinder cones from Kalahaku Overlook. Birders will enjoy the short trail at Hosmer Grove where some of the original species of Hawaiian birds are seen. The Grove itself was an early experiment at planting imported pine and eucalyptus trees. The other major activity for visitors is hiking the many trails of the park.

The road up is quite good although curvy and steep in places. The main impediment on the drive is the hundreds
of tourists who after being driven to the top for sunrise, then bicycle down. Tourists who have also driven up for the sunrise (a highly promoted attraction) are then caught behind the bikers on their way down.

Like every mountain in the Hawaiian chain, clouds start forming after 10 a.m. While many visitors arrive prior to sunrise (having left their hotels at 3 a.m.), arriving before 9 a.m. provides all the same vistas, except the colors of the sunrise. The clouds tend to clear up again towards the end of the day.

Maui - Hana Road

While 360 is often called the Hana Road, visitors should not be fooled into thinking the tour is over when they get to the village of Hana. Some of the best attractions are beyond Hana including the Oheo pools which are on the coastal tip of Haleakala National Park, Wailua Falls and the grave of Charles Lindberg.

The road continues as a track beyond these attractions, but rental car companies stress it is a violation of their contracts to continue beyond Lindberg's grave to complete the circle of Haleakala Volcano.

The Hana road on the eastern Windward side of Maui, starts at the town of Pa'ia and traverses rainforest which contrasts with the almost desert conditions found everywhere else on the coasts of the island
While the distance between Pa'ia and Hana is roughly 40 miles, the fact that the road follows a curving coastline, that many sections and bridges are one lane and that there are many attractions and viewpoints means that a round trip takes at least four hours of driving and that for most it is a full-day's excursion.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is a sandy bay located in south-eastern Oahu. The Koko Head peninsula borders the bay on the west side.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Among the many places of interest that the Hawaiian Islands, and in particular Big Island, have to offer, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is undoubtedly the most important. Here in the Halemaumau crater on the southern side of Kilauea is the home of the fire goddess Pele. According to Hawaiian legend, a volcano will erupt if she gets in a bad temper. Since July 1986 a new series of eruptions has spewed enormous quantities of lava up on to the surface. The island has grown by about 358,800sq.yd/300,000sq.m. Kilauea is one of the most impressive volcanoes in the world and its activities can be observed everywhere in the national park. Witnessing a fire-spitting eruption, however, would prove highly unlikely as these occur, on average,
only once every eleven months.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park lies to the south-east of the Island of Hawaii and was founded in 1916. It includes a large part of Mauna Loa, all of Kilauea, including its eastern and southern sides, as well as the Puna Coast - in all, a considerable area of 21sq.miles/

The most accessible part of the national park is the Kilauea Caldera region which is signposted off road 11 when traveling from either Hona or Hilo.

The last violent eruptions of the Kilauea crater occurred in 1790 and 1924, since when it has not appeared active. However, the neighboring Halemaumau crater in the middle of Kilhauea Caldera, is more active. Eruptions on the slopes and in the thick forests are described only as flank eruptions, which are not as spectacular as summit eruptions as they usually bring only lava and are not accompanied by rivers of fire.

Lava flows have caused permanent changes to the landscape around Kilauea. Red-glowing magma, reaching temperatures of some 2200°F/1200°C, forces its way almost constantly through lateral channels to the outside, streams out of holes down the sides of the volcano and leaks out of weak spots known as fissures. One of these stretches out from the crater in a southerly direction as far as Ka'u, another east-north-east via Puna to the sea.

Lava sometimes flows through small valleys, which become filled in, and can destroy entire forests. But at the same time a new floor forms on which vegetation can grow, as demonstrated by the Destruction Trail in the National Park.

Lava masses bring great destruction - time and again houses are buried and roads made impassable. In April 1990 all the houses in the coastal village of Kalapana and the greater part of the world-famous Kaimu Black Sand Beach were destroyed. Since then road 130 between Kupaahu and Kalapana has also been partly destroyed. Only one of the village's two churches, the Star of the Sea Painted Church, could be successfully dismantled before the lava reached it; it was later rebuilt on stilts near the end of the road.

Despite all this the recent eruptions are considered mild compared with earlier ones. It was reported in 1790 that Keoua, a Hawaiian island chief and opponent of Kamehameha I, was resting with his troops near Kilauea when they were surprised by an eruption. The majority of the army died, leaving Kamehameha's troops little difficulty in defeating the remainder.

Current methods of assessing natural phenomena such as volcanoes and earthquakes have prevented any loss of life through volcanic eruptions on Hawaii in recent times.

Lyman House Memorial Museum

The Lyman Museum began as an 1839 missionary home in the New England style, reflecting where David and Sarah Lyman were from. The Lyman Museum houses a collection of artifacts, fine art, and natural history items.

Hilton Waikoloa Village

There are very few resorts anywhere in the world which compare to the care which has gone into creating a magical environment for guests at Hilton Waikoloa Village.

While the resort is large, guests can move around the grounds using a sleek transit system or beautifully appointed wood paneled boats which cruise the canals on the grounds.

Those who prefer to walk do so through art galleries containing millions of dollars of Hawaiian, oriental and other art or through tropical gardens set with sculptures grouped by theme. Parrots, flamingos, crowned cranes and other species are found throughout the gardens which surround a salt water lagoon where wild green sea turtles come. The place is so special that even non-guests should
find a reason to visit.

One highlight of the resort is a dolphin area where guests (especially children) may wade and interact with the dolphins and learn about them. The resort also runs a camp for the children of guests so that parents may relax on their own.

Sports activities include swimming in the several pools some complete with waterfalls and long water slides, tennis, several team sports and golf.

The grounds also hold a convention center.

USS Arizona Memorial

The Arizona Memorial is Hawaii's most-visited attraction, with more than 11/2 million visitors a year. In memory of the dead who drowned aboard the sinking USS "Arizona", a memorial was opened in 1962 which accommodates up to 3000 visitors daily thanks to the Visitor Center, completed in 1980.

The memorial was erected above the sunken battleship, parts of which still project above the water. The gleaming-white floating building, about 197ft/60m long, contains a large semi open-air room in which visitors gather. At the end of the memorial there is a shrine on which the names of the 1177 victims, including the commander and his deputy, are engraved on a wall of Vermont marble.

The memorial is reached via the
Visitor Center where free entry tickets are handed out. A purpose-built cinema shows a 20-minute film about Pearl Harbor and the Japanese attack (the first showing begins at 8 a.m., the last at 3 p.m.). A naval cutter then ferries visitors to and from the real memorial at regular intervals.

From Kewalo Basin boat trips can be made to Pearl Harbor and back although this is regarded as an expensive alternative way of viewing the USS Arizona Memorial as the boat sails past it. The advantage of such a trip, however, is that much of the harbor which is only visible from the water can be seen. Trips are offered by several companies including Paradise Cruise and Pearl Harbor Cruise.

Bishop Museum and Planetarium

Museum, Hawaii's state museum, contains one of the best collection of Polynesian arts and artifacts in the state, including an important collection of the feathered royal standards (kahilis) which essentially served as flags for past royalty. Hawaiian feathered capes and helmets are other highlights. There is a large collection of artifacts from the South Pacific.

Other major collections include the objects brought by the Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese, German and other early settlers.

Natural history exhibits, including whaling artifacts complete the museum.

One interesting aspect of the museum is the building itself. Founded in 1889 the staircases and display cases are of rich woods
The main display wing boasts original display cases lining the balconies which wrap around multistoried atrium. There is great charm in this antique of a museum.

Iao Needle

In the middle of the valley stands Iao Needle, a pointed lump of basalt, reaching 2215ft/675m above sea level - a monolith standing alone in the eroded valley.

This unique overgrown rock was apparently used as an altar in prehistoric times. A legend surrounds Iao Needle's origin. It is said that the demi-god Maui took captive an unwanted suitor (the water sprite Puukamoua, comparable to Triton, son of the Greek god Poseidon) of his beautiful daughter, Iao, and wanted to kill him. But Pele, the fire goddess, ordered Maui to turn him to stone - hence the needle!

The valley is said to be full of manas - the ghosts of Hawaiian gods.


Kaanapali lies in western Maui and belongs to Lahaina. It is reached via road 30. A superlative tourist center has developed here since the 1960s in place of sugar cane and pineapple growing.

Ranged along the 4 miles/6km beach, Maui's finest, stand six luxury hotels of which the Hyatt Regency and the Sheraton Maui stand out, although the others - the Maui Marriott, the Westin Maui, the Kaanapali Beach and the Royal Lahaina - are among the best and most expensive hotels in the Hawaiian islands. In each of these hotels there are several restaurants to choose from. There are golf courses and tennis courts as well as one of Hawaii's finest shopping centers with the Whalers Village Museum and its superb collection of memorabilia from
Maui's whaling times.

A small new airport offers quick connections to Kahului and to the other Hawaiian islands. The "Sugar Cane Train" railway line runs from Lahaina to Kaanapali and is used for excursions through the sugar cane fields which still remain today.

National Tropical Botanical Garden / McBryde and Allerton Gardens

Developed about 20 years ago, the Botanical Garden is combined with a research station for tropical plants. It is the only garden of its type in the U.S. and is recognized, according to a charter of the U.S. Congress, as a public institution. However, it is funded privately. The Botanical Garden can only be visited as part of a tour, part of which is undertaken by vehicle. As a result, no more than 15 people can join the tour at any one time. It is imperative to book a day ahead of a planned visit.

The long, narrow garden, which covers just under 1/2sq.mile/, stretches to the Pacific. The Lawai, a small river, bisects the garden. As both endangered and useful tropical plants are grown here, there are a considerable number of
plant varieties on view. Only part of the extensive selection can be mentioned here - about 800 types of palm; about 60 different banana plants; coconut trees, a large number of ginger bushes with different colored flowers; herbs such as cardamom from Southern India; cloves from the Spice Islands; Jamaican pepper and other spices; native bread fruit trees; Java plums; the similarly native taro and countless tropical flowers with anthuria. Above all, the garden includes water lilies with their large, round leaves, one of which, it is claimed, could bear the weight of a small child - namely the Victoria Amazonica from Brazil.

Polynesian Cultural Center

After Pearl Harbor the Polynesian Cultural Center (built in 1963) is Hawaii's second largest attraction. Despite high admission charges and its considerable distance from Honolulu (33 miles/53km), its various productions are attended by more than one million people a year. The Polynesian Cultural Center was founded almost three decades ago by Laie's Mormon community in grounds of about 14 hectares. Its purpose is to portray as authentically as possible, through music and dance, the culture and daily life of the Polynesian islanders in Hawaii, Tahiti, Marquesas, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji as well as that of the Maoris in New Zealand. The center is set out in the style of a village with each group of islands represented by several houses in which the respective island inhabitants practice traditional handwork and other daily activities. Two performances, the "Festival Production of the Long Canoes" by day and the evening show called "This is Polynesia", are dance displays in the style of an exotic musical with the most modern lighting and sound effects.

Munro Trail to summit of Lanaihale Mountain
From Lanai City, follow the Munro Trail to the summit of Lanaihale, at 3371ft/1027m Lanai's highest mountain. The trail can be covered either in a four-wheel drive vehicle (very bumpy and not recommended for those who suffer from back problems) or on foot. The route begins on road 440 leading to Shipwreck Beach. After no more than 2 miles/3km turn right at the first big gravel path. About 1 mile/1.5km further on, turn left at the next crossing and continue to the next. Turn right along the main path, past several ravines, until the path ends at the summit. A fine view can be enjoyed here. Clear conditions, usually experienced in the morning, afford a view of all the large Hawaiian islands (with the exception of Kauai) and, above all, of Haleakala Crater on Maui

Sea Life Park

Oahu's eastern tip at the foot of the impressive Makapuu Cliffs can be found the Sea Life Park - a favorite destination for outings. More than 2000 types of fish swim about in an enormous pool which can be viewed through a glass wall.

Displays given by dolphins and sea lions are very popular and their feeding times are a major attraction. Particularly impressive are the tricks performed by dolphins. In the shark section visitors learn about sharks that can be found in the waters of the Pacific and, in particular, whether swimmers might encounter these predators.

Shipwreck Beach

Lying on the windy north coast of Lanai, this beach owes its name to the wrecked ships and boats found there. The hull of a Liberty freighter from the Second World War is the largest wreck there. Strong winds pushed vessels on to the reef here, from which there was no escape.

Following road 440 from Lanai City, this area is easy to find. Up until 1 mile/1.5km from the coast, the road is made up; along the coast is a sandy track not suitable for vehicles.

From here, walk for 8 miles/13km along the coast via the Garden of the Gods to Polihua Beach. The sea is shallow but dangerous here (swimming is not recommended) and often throws up shells and interesting flotsam and jetsam, which can be found when walking on the beach

Waipio Valley and Overlook

This valley on the north-eastern coast of Big Island, about 50 miles/80km north of Hilo, has often been described as a sort of "Shangri La" - a timeless place cut off from the outside world.

The valley, about 1 mile/1.5km wide, dissects the Kohala Mountains and is difficult to reach because of the steep cliffs on the three landward sides. Strong waves make it equally unapproachable from the sea.

Bananas, papayas, mangoes, avocados and grapefruit grow on the fertile valley floor and colorful ginger trees, orchids and hibiscus decorate the landscape.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon rivals the most scenic canyons on earth. Not only is it deep, but the area's red soil, the green jungles which line its streams and waterfalls, black volcanic rock and mist cascading from the plateaus make it a colorful scene. There are two major lookouts and several hiking trails starting from the road which runs along the rim.

While the Canyon runs to the sea along Waimea Canyon Drive (SR550), the deepest part of the canyon is within Kokee State Park.

Maui Ocean Center

This Maui Ocean Center houses a collection of Hawaiian reef fish, corals, green turtles, sting rays in a series of well-designed aquariums. One highlight is a glass tunnel through a shark and ray tank, allowing visitors to sit and contemplate the varied life around them.

Other displays explain the life cycles of the humpback whales which migrate to Hawaii each December to March (no whales on display) and how the Polynesians who settled Hawaii used the sea.

Signage and educational materials are well done and experts are readily available to answer questions.

The Center displays many pieces of original art. The store on the grounds sells a range of gifts up
to original works of art of exceptional quality for the serious

Na Pali Coast State Park

The Na Pali Coast in the north-west of the island is one of the most inaccessible parts of the Island of Kauai. The chain of mountains, climbing in places to 3938ft/1200m, forms steep cliffs plunging into the sea, whose beauty can only be appreciated from the water or from the air. Steep valleys on the landward side divide the mountain crests. All attempts, until now, to create a road along the coast have had to be abandoned. Thanks to this seclusion, a unique variety of vegetation has been able to survive here, which, together with the high, steep cliffs, offers a fascinating view of nature. The bizarre shapes of the weathered volcanic mountains with caves and water courses, forming waterfalls, the intense greenery of the thick layer of
vegetation and the hidden sandy beaches at the foot of the mountains are all worth experiencing.

It is easiest to survey this part of the coast by boat or helicopter, from which a good view of these impressive cliffs can be gained. Those who want to spend more time here and who are not afraid of strenuous exercise can explore part of the Na Pali Coast on foot.


Hawaiʻi has four federal highways: H-1, H-2, H-3, and H-201, all located on Oʻahu and all part of the Interstate Highway System. With the exception of H-201, which begins and ends on H-1, all the highways have at least one end point at or near a current or former military installation. A system of state highways encircles the each main island. Travel can be slow due to narrow winding roads on the coastlines. Travel can be significantly congested during morning and evening commute times in and out of Honolulu, particularly on the leeward side. H1 was constructed after Honolulu was well established, and on/off ramps are diverted throughout the city. Honolulu's public transit system, known as TheBus, was ranked number one in the country for 1994-1995 and again in 2000-2001 by the American Public Transportation Association.

Aviation is an important part of Hawaiʻi's transportation network, as most interisland travel takes place using commercial airlines. Hawaiian Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, and go! use jets to travel between the larger commercial airports in Honolulu, Līhuʻe, Kahului, Kona, and Hilo, while Island Air and Pacific Wings serve smaller airports. These airlines also provide air freight service between the islands.

A ferry linked to TheBus began service in September 2007 known as TheBoat. Fare for TheBoat is $2.00, and it runs from Barber's Point to Aloha Tower Marketplace daily. Norwegian Cruise Lines provides American-flagged passenger cruise service between the islands. The Hawaii Superferry was scheduled to begin in the second half of 2007 between Oʻahu and other major islands. Legal issues over environmental impact statements and protests from residents of Maui and Kauaʻi temporarily delayed the implementation of this service, but service to Maui started in December 2007. On March 17, 2009, a court ruling prevented the Superferry to continue operations thus shutting it down.

There is a Hawaiʻi Electric Vehicle Demonstration Project (HEVDP)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hanalei Bay nation's No. 1 beach "Heaven"

HANALEI, Hawaii – If life is a beach, Hanalei Bay must be heaven.

This remote, two-mile crescent-shaped beach on Kauai where the emerald mountains meet the sparkling sea was selected No. 1 on "Dr. Beach" Stephen P. Leatherman's 2009 list of top 10 beaches, which was released Friday.

Hanalei beat out other shores stretching from San Diego to Cape Cod.

"The sheer beauty of Hanalei Bay is breathtaking," said Leatherman, director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research. "It's really an idyllic setting."

Hanalei features postcard views from every angle and is untouched by the feverish development that has transformed the coastlines of other islands. It's cherished by both locals and tourists as the perfect spot to swim, surf, snorkel or simply escape and unwind.

"It's just gorgeous," said Annie Meredith, who regularly surfs in the bay. "You've got green mountains, white sand, blue ocean — that's kind of hard to beat."

The runner-up on Leatherman's list was Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Fla., followed by Coopers Beach in Southampton, N.Y., on Long Island; Coronado Beach in San Diego; Hamoa Beach in Maui, Hawaii; Main Beach in East Hampton, N.Y., on Long Island; Cape Hatteras in Outer Banks, N.C.; Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Fla.; Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod, Mass.; and Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, S.C.

Leatherman based his selections on 50 criteria, including water quality and temperature, cleanliness, weather, sand, safety and facilities. And Hanalei is his personal favorite "getaway beach" in Hawaii.

"If I want to get away from it all and forget about the rest of the world, Hanalei is about the best place to go, as far as I know," he said.

Hanalei is located on Kauai's North Shore around the corner from the Napali Coast, the most stunning corner of the state. One side offers lush valleys, dramatic waterfalls and sculpted mountains with peaks that rise 4,000 feet. On the other is the Pacific, where dolphins and sea turtles can be seen.

The big attraction here is that it's not a big attraction. Unlike in the high-rise jungle of Waikiki, where thousands of glowing-pale tourists sprawl across the sand like eggs in a carton, there's plenty of breathing room in secluded Hanalei.

Newlyweds Dirk and Courtney McNealy, of Gainesville, Fla., noticed that there were only about 50 people along the entire two miles of beach on a recent weekday.

"Back in Florida, it seems there's 50 people in a 10-foot stretch," Courtney McNealy said.

The McNealys chose the so-called Garden Island for their honeymoon because they wanted a peaceful retreat.

"The water is nice. The sand is nice," Courtney McNealy said. "It's really beautiful."

Duane Kutsch, of Richland, Wash., said he enjoyed the slower pace and the space.

"It doesn't seem so big and commercial like Oahu," he said. "Oahu to me feels like Chicago, a huge city on the edge of the water. This still has a hometown feel to it."

The flight to Kauai from Honolulu takes less than a half hour. The 30-mile drive from Lihue Airport to Hanalei, however, takes nearly an hour along two-lane Kuhio Highway. The roadway eventually runs down the mountainside and crosses a one-lane bridge before entering the tiny town of Hanalei.

Egos, shoes and watches should be checked at the bridge. No one's in a hurry in this ultra-mellow community.

The village is a throwback to old Hawaii. There are sprawling plots of taro, which is used to produce poi, a staple in the Hawaiian diet. Neighborhood kids sell fresh leis on the corner. Gift shops, art galleries, surf stores and casual restaurants line the main drag.

"Most of us who live in the city are used to the hustle and bustle. This is anything but that," Leatherman said. "It's about as laid-back as you can get."

In the winter, swells and rip currents pick up in the bay and lifeguards are kept busy. Hanalei and surrounding areas have several top surf breaks. This is where three-time surfing world champion Andy Irons lives and honed his skills.

Even when the surf is up, parts of the bay are protected by an outer reef, so people can still swim safely. However, visitors should be aware of conditions and posted signs and check with lifeguards.

"Because of the beauty, it's deceiving," said Mark McKamey, who has been a lifeguard in the area for 17 years. "It's paradise so it gives them a false sense of security."

In the summer, the waters flatten out. Locals can be seen throw-net fishing, catching opelu and akule, a Native Hawaiian tradition.

"There's a good vibe overall," said McKamey.

There are three parks within the bay: Black Pot, Hanalei Pavilion and Waioli. Several surfing schools offer two-hour sessions for $50-$60 and rent gear.

Nestled between two rivers, Hanalei is the largest bay on the island of Kauai.

Leatherman said one of his favorite views of the bay is from The St. Regis Princeville Resort, located on the bluff. The 252-room hotel reopens in October after nearly a year of renovations.

Hanalei first gained fame when the hit musical "South Pacific" was filmed here five decades ago, and it hasn't changed much. The sailors sang "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame" at the bay, while neighboring Lumahai Beach is where Mitzi Gaynor made famous "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair."

More recently, the North Shore served as the backdrop in films from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to "Tropic Thunder," which starred part-time local resident Ben Stiller, one of many celebrities who vacation or live here.

Ranked No. 2 in 2008, Hanalei will now be retired from the Dr. Beach's list. Its selection returns the top spot to Hawaii, which has won 12 times since Leatherman started the list in 1991. Florida beaches have been named tops six times, including last year with Caladesi Island. North Carolina won once. California placed No. 4 this year with Coronado Beach but has never claimed the top spot.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Phuket "Pearl of South East Asia"

Phuket is one of the southern provinces (changwat) of Thailand. Neighbouring provinces are (from north clockwise) Phang Nga and Krabi, but as Phuket is an island there are no land boundaries. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, approximately the size of Singapore. The island is connected to mainland Thailand by a bridge. It is situated off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. The region has an area of approximately 570sq. kms. and is made up of 1 large and 39 small islands. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign trader’s ship logs. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.

Promthep Cape

The view from the cape is like a huge eternity pool from which you can mentally project the far-flung shores of Sri Lanka and the Indian Subcontinent and when night falls here you can peek down to the twinkling lights of Nai Harn Beach and Le Royal Phuket Yacht Club. Some people make the rather demanding trek down to the end of the cape but most stay up in the viewing part for sunset. By the car park there is a handicraft shop and a series of stalls that sell shells, batik, snacks, sarongs, shawls, toys and beachwear.

Windmill Viewpoint

Not far up the coast road from Phromthep you will see several tall, slim white windmills that look just like airplane propellers on top of a hill and facing out to sea. This is the Phromthep Alternative Energy Station and the wind-driven electricity generators stand at this great viewing spot with a vista not unlike that of Phromthep Cape itself - only with much more intimacy as there is just enough room for a few cars to park here.

The daytime view down on Nai Harn and Ya Nui beaches is the sort of stuff that will have you kicking yourself if you have left your camera at the hotel. There is an open-sided sala, or pavilion where a rather eccentric (but harmless) jewelry maker plies his wares and a snack bar to the side. Local enthusiasts fly model airplanes up here to ride the thermals and if you are lucky you will witness sea eagles hunting over the sea between here and Kho Man, a beautiful uninhabited island lying off the coast below this cape.

Pub Pla
Halfway between Chalong and Kata on the hill there is a sign saying 'Hilltop Restaurant.' This is the now-closed-down Plub Pla site. There is a one-way system operating on this side road and it's a good thing as the gradient is very steep. Park at the top and peek down at both Chalong and Kata from the gardens above the restaurant.

Phuket FantaSea show

It's wacky but fun and very professionally done. Trapeze artists, elephants on stage and pyrotechnics combine in a Las Vegas-style show. You'll see nothing else like it anywhere on the planet. Combining Thai traditional myths with humour, fantasy and a loose plotline that keeps getting more and more amusing, FantaSea's extravaganza is a highly entertaining theme that must visit.

Phuket Simon Cabaret

Simon Cabaret - probably the biggest "transvestite" cabaret show to be found locally. This show features a spectacular musical floor show performed by the world famous "ladyboys" of Simon Cabaret. See for yourself - guys, can you tell the difference? And ladies - wouldn't you just die for a figure like that? Fabulous costumes, glitzy and fun.

Khao Sok Jungle Safari Overnight Tour

Rafting down Mountain Rivers, elephant trekking through the leafy jungle, observing wildlife in its natural habitat and witnessing the spectacle of Phang Nga Province's Ratchaprapha Dam; you can do all this on the Khao Sok Safari Overnight tour. 'Base Camp' is made up of tailor-made luxury tents and from here you can venture forth to see wildlife unique to this area – the largest tract of tropical rainforest in southern Thailand. You will never forget the majestic Ratchaprapha Dam with its Cliffside walls rising vertically out of indigo-blue water and its teeming wildlife.

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay is another world by night. Its silent serenity can leave a lasting impression on you and the sense of timelessness in this beautiful place is tangible. This cruise brings out the romantic in you: watch the sun sinking behind Phuket into the Andaman as you sip a glass of wine and watch the amazing scenery float by. Enjoy a Thai buffet while drifting in the velvet darkness listening to the night's million sounds all around you. Stretch out on the cushions strewn out on deck and count the stars above.

Full Day Phi Phi Island Tour by Speedboat

Our Number One tour gets you away from it all to one of the world's most beautiful islands and its surroundings in a matter of minutes. While everyone else is on their way to Phi Phi you're already there, island hopping, dropping in on the monkeys at Ao Ling, snorkeling the crystal clear waters in Hin Klang, and enjoying a fabulous lunch buffet on Phi Phi Island itself.

After lunch relax for an hour of two, get some shopping in and then check out beautiful Maya Bay, where 'The Beach' was filmed and also where tropical fish swarm around you as you swim among them.

Similan Island Stopover

It takes just 90 minutes to reach the Similans from Phang Nga Province. Majestic rock formations and lush verdant jungle await you with a marine life as rich and varied as it is world famous.

The diving and snorkeling at this nine-island archipelago is legendary and all this is augmented by the fact that there's absolutely no hurry to leave. You're here for the night so let the sounds, sensations and the atmosphere of these magical islands sink in and work its magic.

Phang Nga Bay Cruise on June Bahtra Junk

Our Number Three tour comprises good food, fantastic seascape and leisurely cruising; surely the hottest recipe going for a great day out. There are several ways to visit the majesty of Phang Nga Bay but this, cruising in a genuine Chinese junk, is the most laid back and idyllic way.

Visit a sea gypsy village perched above the water on stilts at the top of the bay, check out the 'Man with the Golden Gun's' lair at James Bond Island and take in some of the most impressive rock formations in the world. All this and a delicious Thai buffet, too. Superb.

Golf at Blue Canyon

Hit the green with the greats. If Tiger Woods says Blue Canyon is, "One of the best I have ever played on" then who are we to argue against? With 720 acres of lush greenery and the mountains of Phang Nga Bay as a backdrop as you tee off at one of the two award-winning 18-hole courses, Blue Canyon at once impresses with its easy rapport with Mother Nature.

Built around, not over Mother Nature's contours, the courses are sumptuous yet challenging. Take the family – there are great facilities, including a top-rate spa, a large swimming pool, shopping and fine dining.

Sea Kayaking Hong by Starlight

The best of both worlds; Phang Nga Bay is rated tops in the 'Wow' factor by day but just imagine exploring it by night… Head off after lunch to discover the unforgettable sights of this scenic wonderland.

Dine on board your 'mother ship' and as the sun goes down paddle silently into the 'hongs' or caves of this magic domain and discover just what Mother Nature gets up to by night. Access to these hongs is only possible at certain levels of the tide so put yourself into the experienced hands of John 'Caveman' Gray and take it all in.

Whitewater Rafting and Elephant Trekking

The watery arteries of lush Phang Nga Province, just north of Phuket, are gush down from the mountains from June to November each year and this is when you can experience the thrill of your life by whitewater rafting down them.

Everyone knows that elephants are gentle creatures and what better way to get to know them better than by gently riding through the jungle on the back of one? You'll be amazed just how dainty a powerful pachyderm can be!

Phuket Eco Extreme by ATV
What's better than learning fascinating facts? Learning fascinating facts while having loads of adventurous fun, that's what. Zoom through the jungle, along beaches, through mud puddles while learning about the flora and fauna of Phuket. Experienced guides stop at key locations and point out unusual and interesting facets of wildlife on Phuket. The great thing about this tour is that although it's top-drawer adventure, it's very well thought out and absolutely safe as houses so take the kids along and discover more in a few hours than in days of reading about the jungle.

Old Phuket Town

Sino-Portuguese splendours and funky shops in the most unlikely places will surprise and delight you in the heart of Phuket's sleepy provincial capital. Phuket town offers much more than you think with some excellent restaurants and local sights. The unique blend of colonial and Chinese architecture along with a tangible quaintness makes for a fascinating and unforgettable afternoon spent sauntering around Phuket's Old Town. Expect the unexpected and don't forget your camera.

Patong's Bangla Road

There are few things in this world to prepare you for an after-dark stroll down Patong's Bangla Road. However, a sense of humour and an open mind are prerequisites if you're looking to have some fun. In fact, there's only one undeniable and obvious fact about Bangla – it's nothing like home. With its ladyboys, exotic girls, enchanted westerners (mostly male) and enough extraverts to fill a Disney cast of thousands, shopping or sipping on a beer at Bangla Road at night is a definite 'Dear Diary' moment.

Wat Chalong

Wat Chalong is one of Phuket's most important temples and visited by thousands each year. It's beautifully decorated with infinite reflections from hundreds of tiny glass pieces and several pagodas. On special holidays Wat Chalong hosts 'country fairs' with a real local flavour where you can buy just about anything and snack on Thai food to your heart's content. Wat Chalong has an interesting history and is Phuket Island's spiritual centre. You haven't seen Phuket if you've never visited this fascinating temple.

Phuket's waterfalls

Phuket's waterfalls are not the biggest in the country but they are interesting gathering places for those seeking a cool place for a dip or a picnic. There are two major falls, Ton Sai and Bang Pae and they are both located in Khao Praew Thaew National Park 22 kilometers north of Phuket Town. Best visited in the monsoon season from May to October, the surrounding jungle is great for trekking through and there's also the worthy Gibbon Rehabilitation Project right by.

Chalong Big Buddha
Visible from most of the south of Phuket, the Big Buddha is a recent arrival to the island. The image stands on the top of the Nakkerd Hills and looks down over Chalong, Kata and Rawai. It cost 30 million baht to construct and is 45 metres high. Next to it stands a smaller, golden image that is actually made of brass and there is a shrine near the site's car park. The drive up to the Big Buddha takes you through the 'real' Thailand and the view from the top is enhanced if you take a map to identify the many, many sights.

Vegetarian Festival and Gay Festival

Whether they're held to honour a religious belief or just for fun, the festivals of Phuket are exciting, sometimes bizarre spectacles – and they're certainly never bland. The Vegetarian Festival draws people from all over the world. It's colourful, it's deafening and sometimes fascinatingly gruesome. Vegetables gruesome? Come and see for yourself… Phuket's Gay Festival falls at the same time as Thailand's Songkran Water Festival and both are fun-filled, full-on parties that celebrate life's exuberance in a most decidedly Thai way.


The Phuket International Airport is located in the north of the island. There are many scheduled flights and chartered flights from domestics and other countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America landing in Phuket.

There is no rail-line to Phuket, but the trains do run to nearby Surat Thani. Songthaews (passenger pick-up vehicles) are a common mode of transport on Phuket. Phuket’s songthaews are larger than those found in other areas of Thailand. They travel between the town and beaches. There are also conventional bus services and motorbike taxis. The latter are found in large numbers in the main town and at Patong Beach. The traditional Tuk-tuks have been replaced by small vans, mostly red or some are yellow. Songthaews are the cheapest mode of transportation for travel from town to town.

Google It:

Custom Search