Big Island Travel Blog

It is a Hawaiian tradition to talk, share, and enjoy the company of others. It's called "Talk Story" and we post some of our thoughts here.

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou New Year in Hawaii

By Amanda Kurth
Published: 12/08/21 Topics: Comments: 0

Photo credit: Amanda Kurth

The ancient Hawaiian New Year festival known throughout the island chain marks the celebration of Makahiki. And this white girl wants to be a part of the conversation.

The year is 2005, and I'm on my way out of high school when a book was re-released as a limited edition. My advanced placement (AP) Literature teacher at the time picked it up and brought it into class, waxing poetic about his formative writing years.

The book was like a wild ride into another dark side of Americana. It's to Hawai'i what Fear and Loathing was to Las Vegas: the crazy tales of a journalist's "coverage."

Infamous gonzo-style writer Hunter S. Thompson describes his time on the Big Island in an article commissioned by Running Magazine to report on the Hawaii Marathon in 1980. A few years later, his book, The Curse Of Lono, was released, and only 1000 publications were ever produced.

In the book, Thompson often breaks away into excerpts of The Last Voyage of Captain Cook. And on occasion, details clobbering his ocean catches to death with Samoan war

On Kaua'i, Makahiki celebrations take off at the beginning of October with morning ceremonies at a south-shore heiau. The variance of the season's arrival depends on who you ask. This ancient celebration is a four-month period of truce, harvest, taxes, games, relaxation and mo'olelo (the Hawaiian word for story) amongst the neighboring islands.

In antiquity- women, men, and young children would mark the beginning of the Hawaiian new year when a specific collection of glittering space-gems against the black velvet drape of night. Na hiku o Makali'i (Pleiades) appeared at sunset, and the Kanaka Maoli (commoners) would invoke the bounty and protections the god Lono provided.

Often associated with 'ikua (the noisy month), Lono's visualized as storm-clad clouds, like thunder, the partial rainbow, whirlwinds, and even waterspouts.

Fast forward to the present day, Ka Moloka'i Makahiki festival has been celebrating this time of year en masse since 1981. They "are beginning to see the second and third generation of Moloka'i youths assist with the program," says Maria Holmes, a Hawaiian cultural activist who handles publicity for Ka Moloka'i Makahiki.

Her attitude is that "Education" is a major aim of the Organization. No one else in the state has a cultural program that has worked with so many youths for such a long period of time."

Sure, many families or grandfathered-in-stewards still live and work in the heart of these chartreuse and sage landscapes, passing on those traditions to the next generation. But the historical obligations and recognition of Lono, the akua of the Makahiki season, are not synonymous with how the residents of Hawai'i remember it today.

Generally speaking, Hawaiian customs and folklore live on through the margins of modern hotel resorts, replete with games and festivities for its travelers. Some schools and churches include food drives too. Items are then donated to charity and distributed island-wide throughout the holiday.

However, this season, traditions are getting a new show of appreciation by locals. Hawaii Farm Trails- a statewide concept of agri-tourism as a responsible alternative to conventional tourism, will host a Makahiki event on Kaua'i in mid-January.

Hawaii Farm Trails works closely with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii Agritourism Association, USDA, Cultivate Resilience and many more to further perpetuate Hawaiian culture, food from farm to table and boundless mo'olelo.

Although the Kaua'i Festivals and Events webpage has not officially saved the date, the event is slated to begin Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 9 AM in the Lihue area of Kaua'i. It will feature ancient Hawaiian games, cultural demonstrations, displays and crafts by community groups, and ono street food.

Living in Hawaii comes with education and recognition of indebtedness. It's a privilege to live on the shores of this sea-cradled state. Where you can fancy-free night-time sparklers.

The fascinating history of this island chain consumes me every day. It's my hope that this love letter reflects my gratitude for cultural diversity in itself and expresses genuine tributes of thanks to the Hawaiian people for cultivating my curiosity.

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou

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Author: Amanda Kurth
Blog #: 0851 – 12/08/21

Pele Awakens

By Joe Giglio
Published: 11/25/21 Topics: Comments: 0

It is no secret that the Kilauea crater on Hawai’i Island has reawakened with a furious and magnificent splendor, ending Pele’s relative hiatus since the volcano’s last eruption event in 2018.

Kilauea is the only active volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, and a majority of its eruptions occur at its Halema’uma’u crater. Kilauea is well known for its angry spurts exploding lava plumes and fountains more than 30,000 feet into the air. The Kilauea crater is perched precariously on the southeastern most shore of the Big Island, cascading magma and rock debris into the sea below.

Eruptions on Big Island are often felt throughout the islands, accompanied by earthquakes and a heavy volcanic fog cover that distributes across the archipelago. The Halema’uma’u crater is considered by Hawaiians to be the sacred home and body of Pele the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes.

She is credited with forging the Hawaiian Islands and is referred to as Madame Pele or Tutu Pele. Ancient legend describes Pele as the offspring of Haumea, the deity of fertility and childbirth. She is said to have had many brothers and sisters in deities of water, waves, clouds, wind, rain, and other elements. Legend tells how Pele lit a fire on the islands as she traveled from Tahiti to Hawai’i. Her sister Namaka chased and fought Pele, having battles on many of the islands. Pele was eventually killed, her body destroyed, and her spirit preserved in the crater at Kilauea.

Hawaiian culture describes Pele’s body as the steam and lava erupting from Kilauea, and geologists have connected that spirituality and cultural significance in many aspects of their volcanic classifications. Several volcanic phenomena unique to Kilauea have been named after Pele with geological features like Pele’s hair, Pele’s tears, and Limu o Pele.

Her spirit can take many forms, and many residents claim to have witnessed her walking along the roads in the Volcano National Park, vanishing if a passerby stops to help her. A friend of mine raised in Hilo told me if I ever drove through Volcanoes at night and saw a woman with white hair on the side of the road, I need to pick her up because that is Pele’s spirit. Pele may appear in many forms but is most commonly seen as a mysterious old woman with white hair, a beautiful young woman accompanied by a dog, and dressed in a red muumuu. Her appearance is thought to offer a warning of impending eruptions, and you will succumb to misfortune if you do not stop to help her at night.

Other legends surrounding Pele, Kilauea, and the Hawaiian Islands are Pele’s Curse employing bad luck on anything or anyone who takes objects away from Hawai’i. The curse is often associated with sand, rock, and pumice taken from sacred places, creating bad luck for whoever took it until they return it to Hawai’i. The origin of Pele’s Curse is thought to originate in the mid-20th century as tourist industries created the Hawaiian taboo to fuel the native lore of the volcanoes or discourage taking rocks and minerals from the park. Many natural items are received every year by mail at the Volcanoes’ National Park Service, as tourists seek Pele’s forgiveness for taking earthen materials.

No matter who started the legend of Pele’s Curse, it is a well-established aspect of Hawaiian cultural identity and the lore surrounding the islands. National Parks have since made it illegal to take any rocks, minerals, or materials out of the park, further protecting the valuable resources and sacred region.

Pele is intertwined in Hawaiian culture, and there are many hula dances dedicated to her intense prowess and the sheer power of the volcanoes. Hawaiian art, stories, and language are saturated with Pele’s origins and her journey throughout Hawai’i. She embodies power, beauty, fire, and passion. Her presence indicates rebirth and the growth of new land while also shrouded in destruction.

What does Pele awakening bode for Hawai’i today and into the future? As Pele awakened in late 2021 with a wondrous summit eruption and crater Lava Lake, tourists and national coverage were once again focused on the Big Island. People from all over the world flocked to the steep park slopes of the crater walls to witness the fiery inferno of Pele and her home. With the pandemic nearing an end and restrictions easing, many more tourists are likely to take their chance to see Kilauea as global travel begins to resume. Tourists and travelers should check the United States Geological Survey website for the Kilauea Volcano Updates to ensure their trip will coincide with an active event.

The Halema’uma’u crater is subject to rapid and unannounced changes, and active eruptions are not often sustained for long periods of time.

Increased tourism will lend a helping hand to the damaged local economy after multiple lockdowns the state has faced over 2020 and 2021 but it is too soon to tell how local populations will react to increasing traffic returning toward pre-pandemic levels. Maui already experienced overcrowding as tourism began to open there earlier this year. The new eruption also emits a warning to nearby residents who are all too familiar with the destruction posed by Kilauea and Pele.

The previous eruption event lasted from 2008 to 2018, erupting lava flows over the eastern rift zone into the surrounding Kalpana and Kaimu communities. Lava destroyed property and created new land before continuing into the Puna district toward the end of the eruption. Many of the affected residents in the region had to deal with a uniquely Hawaiian law that states any new land created by the erupting volcano voids any prior ownership claims on the area. Damaged property will remain as the property owner’s but requires reassessment for evaluation.

No matter what is in store for the island’s future, tourists and locals should keep an eye out for Pele because she is awake, and her spirit is alive and thriving in Hawai’i.

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Author: Joe Giglio – Travel Blogger
Blog #: 0839 – 11/25/21

Why Tip? - Lodging Newsletter February 28, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 02/28/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

A new vacation rental landlord was appalled to find that the management firm put "Housekeeper Tip Envelopes" into homes. She incorrectly concluded that the housekeepers were not paid sufficiently.

Seems she has no idea how to be in the hospitality industry. Certainly housekeepers appreciate tips, but tips are not really there for the money.

  • Tips show appreciation.
  • Tips show recognition of the hard work.
  • Tips show respect for undesirable work.
  • Tips are the price you pay to avoid the job.
  • Tips show you are a kind person.

Maybe if she scrubbed floors, unclogged toilets, and pushed a vacuum until her hands grew callouses, and did it for years on end, just maybe she would begin to feel what it's like to be disrespected.

During the Covid crisis, it has been reported that customers are tipping restaurant servers, delivery drivers, and other service people, less than ever before. Of course, some consumers have less money available to leave tips, but for everyone else - shame on us.

Millions have lost jobs. Some have taken positions at lower wages. Some have been forced into part-time work. So now is the time to show more respect for people, not less.

Without much forethought our family has been trying to tip higher than usual nowadays. But this ungrateful client gave us a brand new idea. Not only is it time to tip everyone well, maybe it's time to start a movement - it's time to double tip everyone.

Tonight we stopped for fast-food take-out and tipped $20 on a $25 order, plus a big heartfelt THANK YOU to people willing to work in a steamy hot restaurant kitchen so we could have an easy meal.

The wonderful young clerk said, "Oh, that’s too much." To which we had to say, "Oh no, that’s just right." And the best part of tipping double is that you will get more out of it than the recipient. Generosity always benefits the giver.


Do we brag too much in these newsletter? Or maybe we promote too little, because it is our duty to help clients make a good decision when choosing to become vacation rental landlords.

There are signficant differences in how to run a vacation rental, how to hire a thoroughly competent managers, how to deal with guests, what to think about all the advertising websites and their usurious fees. And even bigger issues confront someone cavalierly deciding to become a "Do It Yourself" owner.

Why would anyone want to DIY vacation rental management? There are those who need a hobby. Some feel it would be a joy to "talk" with guests. Some love the idea of sharing a home they are so proud of.

Those reasons are fine, of course, but the hidden factor in lodging managemement is that guests don't care about what owners want. It's not about the owner, it's about the guest.

Any owner can feel some success because, with today's online websites, most anyone, for most any kind of property can secure some bookings. But getting some bookings and getting all bookings at the highest possible rates is just not possible for most owners.

As the old saying goes, "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then."

So the question is how much are owners losing by going Do it Yourself?

Without the kind of completely comprehensive marketing, advertising, distribution, cross selling, hospitality grade cleaning, quick maintenance, and reservation experts like ours, most owners are earning half what they should be earning. And working twice as hard.

A study revealed that owners spend an average of 9.2 hours per week dealing with rental issues. And some of those are in the middle of the night.

Self managing may give owners a sense of control, but unfortunately many such owners are overly selfish and fail at the good hospitality test. Some think they are "cutting out the middle man" (manager's fee), but most are actually cutting their income and increasing their work greatly.

By speaking with hundreds of guests on the phone each week, we hear them scream complaints about dealing with owners directly. They talk about owners who are non-responsive, not clean enough, rude and demanding. Not everyone is cut out to be in the hospitality industry.

If you don’t love people, even when they are difficult, you can't succeed fully in this business.

During Covid we have received calls from DIY owners everyday whose housekeepers failed to show up to clean. These owners lived hundreds or thousands of miles from their rental homes. They thought all they needed was someone to come over immediately to clean their homes,

They begged, "Hey can you help me out just this one time?"

We helped where we could, but our time and allegiance must be to home owners who value the stabilty, reliablity and quality of what we do and realize the value of having a trusted management firm ready to handle every little thing.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0811 – 02/28/21

Sponsor: Vortex VIP – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. –

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