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Section 1: EDITOR'S NOTES
Welcome to the November 2006 newsletter. This month, we have the first of two parts of our report on Hawaii - the Big Island. Next month we'll be reporting on our visit to Kauai, Hawaii.
This Month's Travel Articles
This month we have a great column about Savannah, Georgia from Don & Ray. Thanks, guys! We also have a great article from Paul at Earlfield Travel about The Rockies in the Summer - Thanks, Paul!
Innkeepers - write us an article about your area, and we'll include it in a future issue of this newsletter with credit and links to your website and email addresses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Late Availability/Special Offer Accommodation Notices
As always, we also have our Late Availability & Special Offer notices (150 offers in 16 countries/regions) all at http://www.purpleroofs.com/lateavailability.html, or just check your favorite destination page - these notices are also right there on the regular listings.
Travelers - Try a Home Trade Membership for Just $60 for 3 Years...
...and stay for free with other gay, lesbian, and gay friendly travelers around the world. More details on our Mi Casa Su Casa site at: http://www.gayhometrade.com.
Innkeepers: Our Inns for Sale Listings are On Sale thru November 15th!
... for just $99 for 6 months - save 25% on these real estate listings:
Seen Our Real Estate and Wedding Sites Lately?
We've been beefing up our realtor, mortgage lender, and wedding vendor listings over the last several months, and now have over 500 real estate professional listings in 45 US states, Spain, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. We have over 500 Wedding Vendor listings in 42 US states, Asia, Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, Europe, Mexico and the South Pacific.
That's it for this issue.
Section 2: PURPLE ROOFS TRAVELS
Gay Big Island, Hawaii
Welcome to the Big Island
Flying to Kona from the mainland isn't a direct proposition - you can fly direct into Honolulu, but then you have to transfer to an inter-island flight to the Big Island (note: there are some exceptions to this, depending on where you fly from - check with your airline). Fortunately, the transition is pretty seamless - the gates are close together, and our layover was relatively short. And as a great bonus, you can take some fantastic aerial shots from the plane coming into and out of Honolulu:
Honolulu, Oahu; Kahoolawe Island; Lanai Island
The views aren't nearly as impressive when you reach Kona, as the airport is well north of town and the approach doesn't lend itself to great shots of the island. But on the way, watch for the islands of Molokai and Lanai, (and the small island of Kahoolawe)which you'll pass almost directly over, and the island of Maui off to the north of the plane's trajectory.
Kona is a small airport that takes full advantage of the wonderful Hawaiian climate - no stuffy indoor waiting rooms here, and plenty of cover if you get caught in a rain shower. The rental car area is accessible only by shuttle, which is a negative, but it is really close - you could actually walk to it across the parking lot if you really wanted to.
We chose to visit the Hilo side of the island first (and decided belatedly we could probably have flown right into Hilo), but it did give us the chance to see some of the northern and eastern parts of the island. The only significant part we missed was the Kohala Coast.
Big Island Wildlife
The Big Island has a lot of flora and a bit of fauna, including a few of our favorites - sea turtles, mongeese and geckos. Sea turtles are found in the south at Punalu'u black sand beach - we saw one right on the main beach here, and apparently there's a hatching ground with many more just over the hillside on the next beach. We decided this poor little guy had been chosen to represent the herd... he sat there very patiently while we photographed and taped him. For a short video, click here.
There are also many geckoes here - when we first ran across these cute little guys in our condo in Kauai back in 2000, we kinda freaked out - we had these little lizards running around inside the house, and once even had one pop out of the toaster when we were making breakfast - poor little guy was probably as freaked out as we were. But we got used theo them - after all, they do eat lots of bugs - and locals consider them good luck. Here are a few we saw while on-island:
Finally, folks familiar with our websites may know that our web design company is called Mongoose On The Loose - when we decided to move to Hawaii in 1998, we knew we needed something we could do that wouldn't be tied to the volitile ups and downs of the Hawaiian economy. We decided on web design, but still needed a name.
When we returned from Hawaii, we heard about several violent crimes on the ride home from the airport , and we remembered that while we were on-island, the worst thing we heard on the radio was of a possible mongoose on the loose.
Mongooses (I know, I wanna call 'em mongeese too) were introduced to the islands in the 1800's by plantation owners to reduce the rat population, but unfortunately, mongeese are diurnal and rats are nocturnal, so the mongooses instead began to eat the local bird population.
On Kauai, as the legend goes, a longshoreman picked up the crate that had the mongeese bound for that island, and was bitten by one of the mongooses inside. He reacted by throwing the crate overboard, drowning the mongeese inside, and so Kauai is the only one of the major Hawaiian islands without them.
We adopted the mongoose as our mascot, symbolizing both the aloha of the islands and a sense of whimsy we wanted to include in our designs. But we'd never seen one in the wild, until this trip - there were several of these little critters in the bushes outside the Kona Brewing Company, pictured in this section. We were thrilled to see them!
The Coqui Frog
All animal and plant species in Hawaii were at one time invasive species - broght in from somewhere else by wind or sea or human importation. But one of the most recent imports has cosed a great deal of consternation in the Hilo area - Coqui Frogs. These are thumbnail-sized tree frogs native to (and endangered in) Puerto Rico. They came to the island (and to parts of Maui) in the 90's, some folks believe on plants brought in by Walmart, as they are heavily concentrated around the store. They breed like crazy - a breeding pair can create millions of descendants in just a few months, and they don't require water - they have no tadpole stage, so they emerge as little frogs from their eggs.
All this wouldn't be a big deal, except that they love to chirp and sing. Loudly. From dusk to dawn. Several thousand can live in a small patch of jungle. Think of a thousand birds right outside your window chirping nonstop for 12 hours. Now some of them have started chirping during the day too - evolution at work as overcrowding squeezes the population.
The county of Hawai'i apparently dithered about the problem when it first arose, preferring to do study after study, and now it's probably too late, as the frogs have firmly established themselves on the island, and were spreading up towards Volcano at our visit. Many locals have organized Coqui patrols, hunting down the cute little buggers by sound at night with flashlights and killing them with Caffeine or Citric sprays.
There are several schools of thought on the island - kill 'em all, or live and let live. The kill 'em all folks are about at wits end with the noise, and/or want to prevent another invasive species from spreading across the island.
The live-and-let-lives think the problem will eventually solve itself, as the local ecology adapts and mongooses and other local predators start eating the frogs and/or the frogs eliminate large chunks of the insect population and start to starve.
The take-away lesson from all this is to ask your innkeeper about the frogs, and if they are in the area, which room is quietest. Many local innkeepers thoughtfully provide earplugs to block out frog noise and street noise as well; some offer a/c so you can close the windows at night and solve the problem. Just be aware that you may run into this with any of the inns in the area, and you'll be fine.
From Kailua-Kona to Hilo
Driving north of the airport, the country along the coast is very dry - in fact, this area is the driest place in the island, with only 15-20 inches of rain a year, making it essentially a desert. There are two highways that run north from the Kona area, 19, and 190 - we chose 19, in part because it followed the coast, and in part because the other highway was a lot harder to get to from the airport, requiring a slow drive across surface streets or a detour south.
One of the first things you notice are the lava flows that abound here. Black lava rock runs along the highway for miles, a remnant of flows from the Mauna Loa Volcano in 1859 and from the Ka'upulehu Crater in 1800-1801. The colors are amazing, from the deep blue hues of the ocean to the black lava rock to the greens and golds of the sparse vegetation growing tenaciously atop and between the rock.
The second thing you notice are thousands and thousands of little white rocks. Depending on who you talk to, these are either a wonderful example of social expression or a plague of grafitti on the land.
According to one of the locals we met, the whole thing started either with someone announcing his or her undying love for someone, or with an announcement of some sort - somebody took some of the white coral prominent in the area and spelled out a message on the black lava rock. Think those little magnetic letters some folks have on their refrigerators gone wild, and you have a good idea of what it's like. Now folks paint little lava rocks white and arrange them in all kinds of messages, and for miles you see things like "Mike loves Dana" or "Hawaiians!!!" spelled out along the road. Grafitti or art, they are kind of endearing, and give you something to look at as you drive the long dry stretch up from the airport.
As you travel north, watch for Mauna Kea to the east - on a clear day, you can see a number of the telescopes perched up there where the air is unusually placid and the city lights are far away and dim.
When you reach Kawaihae, if you want to see the beautiful Kohala Coast, continue northward. We, unfortunately, had other plans, and had to head east, across the island's interior, just north of Mauna Kea. To the north, you'll see a green ridge, the start of the Kohala Mountains. You'll also start to climb up from the coastal plain, arriving shortly in the town of Waimea. Here you'll see the first of the island's 7 Starbucks - if, like us, you have more than a passing addiction to the chain's frappucinos or cafe mochas, you can stop here. Otherwise, remember, Kona is famous for its coffee - take the time to sample the local blends while you are here.
You'll start to notice a change as you pass through this area. The arid but beautiful lavascapes start to give way very quickly to green, and by the time you cross the midpoint of the island, the area looks much more welcoming, with wide meadows and lush tropical growth.
When you arrive in Honoka'a, you've reached the eastern coast. Starting south from here, you'll enter the jungle, where vines filled with red and peach and white and yellow and purple flowers climb over everything, and deep valleys split the hillsides on the mauka (Mountain) side of the road.
This area is fairly sparsely populated until you get down to Papaikou, and the edge of the Hilo area.
Hilo sits between north and south Puna. South Puna is a wide, jungle-covered peninsuyla sandwiched between Kilauea crater/the current lava flow and the ocean. Hilo is on Hilo Bay, along the north end of the peninsula, and has a cute plantation downtown and several resort hotels.
From what we were told by locals, the hotels here are on leasehold land, and so when the leases run out, the hotels may have to be torn down if the lease owners do not renew the leases. So there's little incentive to update and renovate these hotels, and they tend to be old and run-down.
Hilo is also where the cruise ships dock on this side of the island, and there's one in almost every day.
Hilo Farmer's Market
One of Hilo's main draws is the Farmers' Market - a large gathering of local farmers and artisans/craftsfolk selling a huge variety of local fruit, vegetables, flowers, and arts and crafts. We bought some beautiful jewelry from Lily Haywood at Lily's Crafts, a local artist who imports gemstones and other materials from around the world and the local islands to make necklaces, bracelets, and other jewelry.
There's a FANTASTIC restaurant in Hilo - Kaikodo (60 Keawe St., Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii, 808 961-2558) - right in the old downtown.
The cuisine is an italian/asian fusion, and was excellent, including such specialties as red curry chicken and edamame raviolis - while they sound a bit odd, they were amazing, a blend of edamame paste and cheese that was light, delicious and addictive. We also tried the spring rolls with ginger sauce, and the chicken with red curry sauce was also fantastic.
The decor was nicely upscale, including glass chandeliers imported from Murano and a gorgeous magnolia bar that came from the mainland (New Orleans or somewhere on the east coast, depending on who you ask). There's also a saxaphone player here on Wednesday nights.
Ask for Kevin, our favorite server here - he's cute, professional, and friendly, and will take great care of you.
Other things to do in-town include movies at the Kress Theater - second run movies (in theaters elsewhere a month or two ago) for just $1.00. The Palace Theater in town shows more current movies at regular movie prices.
We also ate at Cafe Pesto after getting several recommendations, and the food was just passable and the service very slow. We hoped for a bay view, but when we asked, they told us the only table near the windows was a six-seater, and they couldn't seat the two of us there. They then proceeded to seat us at a six seater at the back of the restaurant, and gave the next party (three people) the close to the window table. We also had to request the bill three times. needless to say, we didn't go back.
There are a number of devout Christians in Hilo, and we saw the Ten Commandments posted in one shop window and a man walking around with a Jesus T-Shirt at the Kress. But no one was hostile, so we figured live and let live.
Also, the whole town pretty much closes down after 5 pm (except restaurants) and is closed on Sunday.
For groceries, there's a safeway down in the newer part of town.
Just south of Hilo lies the small plantation town of Pahoa and the bulk of the Puna District, a heavily forested tropical peninsula on the Big Island's South-Eastern Tip.
Puna is new land, created by the volcanoes in the last few thousand years. Some areas have recent (last 10-50 years) lava flows that cut through lush tropical foliage, covering entire subdivisions of homes and one beautiful black sand beach. The land is so new that there are no rivers in the lower Puna - they haven't had a chance to be carved. Instead, the water seeps directly into the porous ground very quickly after the rainfall.
If you take Highway 130 south from Hilo, through Pahoa, and down to the sea, you'll reach the edge of the current eruption - it started in 1983 from a vent on the side of Mauna Loa, and has resulted in a number of flows that have erased a long stretch of highway and a small town on the southern part of the island. From here, if you stop and stare west over the miles of new lava, you can often see steam rising from the sea where the current flow is steadily creating new land.
The current flow has created over 600 acres of new land, and the town of Kalapana was entirely covered by the current flow, along with one of the nicest black sand beaches on the island. One of the former residents of Kalapana started a movement to plant palms along a new stretch of beach, and someday it may rival the old beach in beauty. More about Volcanoes National Park in the Volcano section later in this travel report.
We met Didier, one of the hosts at gay-owned Absolute Paradise, on a gorgeous fall day in September. The property is close to Kehena Beach in lower Puna, not far from the end of the highway where the hardened lava from the current eruption closed off the ocean-front highway. But don't worry - they're far from the current actual flow. It's about 30 miles from Hilo, and maybe 45-50 miles from Volcano and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The property consists of the main house and pool and a separate guest house - you can rent a room in the main house, or opt for more privacy (with your own separate entrance) in the guest house/cottage. The main house has three rooms, each with ocean views, two with en-suite baths. There's also a beautifully decorated common area, with attractive stained concrete floors. This is a very comofortable, upscale-feeling place.
The Paradise Suite (the guest house) is huge, with two story garden views and a private outdoor shower, one of the perks of the tropical environment.
The property is architecturally fascinating - with the buildings tiled with beautiful blue and white mosaics and the entire property accented by some of the most beautiful volcanic rock walls we've seen anywhere on the islands - the picture above will give you a bit more of an idea. And the property sites next to the 1955 lava flow, so you can walk right outside the main house and onto an old lava field - and hey, the volcanoes are one of the reasons you came here, right?
The clientele is primarily gay men, and the entire property is clothing optional. This property is a great choice for singles and couples who want to get away from it all, but who still enjoy the comforts of civilization.
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Bay House B&B is super-close to downtown Hilo - just across the bridge (the Wailuku River) and across the street from old town Hilo. You're literally less than a five minute walk from the shops, movie theater, Farmer's Market, and restaurants in town.
Christine, one of the innkeepers, is a wonderful host, and has learned how to take great care of her guests over her 10 years in the business. This gay friendly B&B is small, just three rooms, allowing her to provide very personalized service.
The rooms are next to one another on the top floor (with a covered car-park area below), and all feature warm wooden floors, tropical furnishing (including locally-made bed covers, gorgeous wicker furniture, and whimsical touches like the wooden giraffe above). Each room has bay views (including the eastern part of Hilo off to the right) - from here, you can also see the cruise ships when they come in. You're also surrounded by jungle vegetation, especially in the end room. The property is non-smoking.
There's also a hot tub behind the main house, which also has great bay views. Breakfasts here include some unusual local fruits, and are fantastic - we had a chance to sample them on our visit. If you're staying in Hilo and want to be close enough to walk to downtown, this is a great choice - clean, beautifully decorated, and friendly with great water views.
In Pahoa, just 10 minutes south of Hilo, 5 minutes from Pahoa Town, and 30 minutes from Volcanoes National Park, you'll find a beautiful tropical oasis. This gay friendly bed and breakfast sits in the midst of Puna, in a residential development that features huge lots and still has lots of open space. The owners, Petra and John, bought the lot next to theirs, and extended their own HUGE yard into this lot, creating an open, grassy two-acre area that's tailor-made for large weddings or commitment ceremonies, surrounded by carefully tended tropical palms, ferns, flowers and other green growth.
The property features 3 suites (two with kitchenettes). each with private en-suite bathrooms, lovely hardwood floors, and separate entrances. You're miles from the ocean, so no water views, but there are fantastic tropical jungle views.
Breakfast is served on a screened-in deck beside the main house, where you can also enjoy Petra's collection of exotic orchids. Petra herself was very friendly, making us feel at home during our short visit.
This is a great location for a quiet getaway for singles or couples, and for anyone looking for a place for a Puna/Hilo wedding.
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Hilo Oceanfront B&B is the second-closest B&B to Hilo's old downtown, but it's a bit far to walk - it takes 5-7 minutes to drive, though, so it's still convenient. The property is nestled along the water near the easternmost end of Hilo - quiet, and while not entiely secluded, still with a nice sense of privacy, due mostly to the small creek and accompanying vegetation that grows along its western side.
Hilo Oceanfront is a homestay. This gay friendly B&B has been in the family since the 1970's. Jay, the innkeeper, currently offers two rooms, which were under extensive renovation during our visit in preparation for the winter season. Jay's a really nice guy, and we enjoyed finally meeting him in person.
The studio, at 880 square feet, features a private lanai and bay view, along with a private kitchen and bath. The suite is more apartment-like, sleeping up to nine, with a full kitchen and bathroom, and is perfect for families or larger groups traveling together - the inn welcomes children. You can also rent both units, which share a common deck. Both rooms also feature air conditioning, a great benefit on the sunny side of Hilo.
There's a private path down to the water, where there are several beautiful natural pools for swimming, and there are deck chairs (pictured above) for ocean viewing.
This is a great property for folks on a budget, for families looking for a bit of room, and for folks wanting to be near (but not in the middle of) Hilo, with great views and a private atmosphere.
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