Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Aunty Irene flashed a wide, genteel smile as I arrived for the Ho’okipa Cultural Program offered by the Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i. Seated on a sofa in the lobby of The Lodge at Ko’ele, her red flowered mumu draped to the floor and the large yellow flower tucked behind her left ear perfectly complimented her wavy silver hair, pulled back in a prim bun. On the coffee table in front of her lay all the accoutrements of her lesson: Plumeria blossoms for lei making, ti leaves for weaving bracelets, and two gleaming wood ukeleles. Great, I thought, I’m finally going to learn a little bit more about traditional Hawaiian culture. What I had not anticipated was the “price” attached to the lesson. Aunty Irene and her cousin, Aunty Sandra were not there to demonstrate; they were there to teach.

Aunty Irene and Aunty Sandra (left to right) display the most important accoutrements of Hawaiian culture

Aunty Irene and Aunty Sandra (left to right) display the most important accoutrements of Hawaiian culture

She handed ukeleles to me and my sister, Nancy, and, balancing the diminutive instrument against her ample body, began demonstrating how to hold it and where to place our fingers for certain chords. I must digress here to explain that I have not one whit of musical talent. I have tried to play the organ, piano, flute and guitar, all with disastrous results. My one and only modicum of success has been with the tambourine, and even then I can barely hold a beat. Unsurprisingly, the ukelele was no different. On the rare occasions I got my fingers in the proper places for the chords, my forefinger kept getting tangled up in the strings when I strummed. And doing both things at once? Impossible. I left the learning to my more talented sister and did what I do best, filmed. Read More

When my sister Nancy and I checked into Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i – The Lodge at Ko’ele, the front desk clerk explained how we would prepare for moving to their sister property, Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i – Manele Bay, two days hence:

You can leave everything hanging in the closet. We’ll cover your clothes with plastic and move them, along with any luggage you have, down to the beach. Just bring us the key and let us know you are ready to check out.”

Four Seasons Resorts Lana'i - The Lodge at Ko'ele

Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i – The Lodge at Ko’ele

I could hardly believe my ears. Fast travel usually means I live out of my suitcase without unpacking, but this unique offer meant I could actually hang my clothes up for a change. I decided in that instant that I liked this resort and over the next four days in Lanai, Hawaii I discovered just how much the two properties had to offer – and how very different they were.

The Lodge at Ko’ele has been carved into a verdant forest of Cook Island Pines that march halfway up Kolo’iki Ridge, which stands statuesque behind the lodge. We tackled the trail to the top first thing after checking in, taking a circuitous path through gorgeous manicured grounds and crossing Ko’ele’s signature golf course – The Experience – on our way to the trail head. Just beyond the golf course the pine needle padded path climbed steeply before descending sharply to connect with the Munro Trail, perhaps the most famous trek on Lana’i. We followed the Munro for a while before veering off to the left and pushing upward to the top of the ridge. Wishing I had more time to soak in the beauty of red volcanic hills crowned with apple-green bushes and herds of spotted Axis deer munching on nearby tender grasses, I snapped a few photos from the top and turned to leave, as I was due back at the lodge for a massage. Read More

I love cats. I mean, I really LOVE cats! I’ve had them as pets most of my life. The last one lived to the ripe old age of 17, which is part of the reason I didn’t start traveling earlier than I did; I simply couldn’t leave her for any length of time. So when I learned that the Lana’i Animal Rescue Center (L.A.R.C.) in Lana’i, Hawaii allowed people to visit the 372 felines they care for, I just had to see for myself.

Co-founder Kathy Carroll, Lana'i Animal Rescue Center Hawaii

Co-founder Kathy Carroll, welcomes us to the Lana’i Animal Rescue Center

Co-founder and executive director Kathy Carroll met us with a big smile on the morning we arrived. Before escorting us through the chain link gate she provided a brief overview of the operation. L.A.R.C. is a no-kill sanctuary in a park-like setting, located on 3.4 acres of land that is leased from the majority landowner on Lana’i. The cats dwell in a 14,000 square foot cat-proof fenced area where they are free to run and play, climb trees, and lounge in the Hawaiian sun. The “kitty kamp,” which includes a number of weatherproof, safe shelters scattered around the grounds, was created entirely with recycled and donated materials. Read More

For quite some time, I’ve wanted to make my blog more of a family affair, as both of my sisters are also very talented writers. Neither of them seemed much interested until I hired my youngest sister, Nancy Judevine, as my virtual assistant a while back. Since then, she’s accompanied me on two trips, most recently to Lana’i, Hawai’i as part of their #VisitLanai Artist in Residence program. Her price of admission? She had to write an article for the blog. I’m a devious sort of devil sometimes, but I think you’ll agree that she’s got a natural talent for travel writing. And I hope she’s hooked, because I’d like to read much more about her personal travels, with and without me. Please help me encourage her by leaving comments after reading her debut post below. Barbara Weibel

I’ve never been a sporty girl. I couldn’t make the bat hit the ball or throw with any accuracy. And dribble a ball? While running? Forget about it. Oh sure, for years I taught aerobics, step aerobics and kickboxing, but that doesn’t make me athletic. It just means that I can move to a beat and count to eight. So, six years ago, when I first swung a golf club, actually hit the ball, and it went somewhat in the direction I thought I aimed, I was hooked. Finally, a sport I wasn’t horrible at! And, no one to compete against – just my golf ball and me.

Challenge at Manele Bay golf course, Four Seasons Resorts Lanai, Hawaii

Driving over a ravine at the Challenge at Manele Bay, Four Seasons Resorts Lanai, Hawaii

Fast-forward to my first trip to Hawaii, the beautiful island of Lana’i, which boasts two world-class golf courses – the Four Seasons Resorts Challenge at Manele and the Experience at Koele. As Barbara’s virtual assistant and traveling companion I was offered the opportunity to play a round at one of the courses. I chose the Challenge at Manele mainly for the spectacular ocean views and fantastic photo opportunities for Barbara, who planned to ride along. Read More

When the Lana’i Visitors Bureau invited me to the tiny Hawaiian island of Lana’i, I jumped at the chance. Over the years I had spent considerable time on O’ahu, Kaua’i and the Big Island, however I found these well known destinations so overrun with tourists that it was difficult to make a local connection. I yearned to visit Lana’i, one of the smallest of the islands, where it is said the authentic Hawai’i of 25 years ago still exists.

The old caretaker's cottage at the Dole guest house has been converted to a charming cottage for guests at Lana'i Hotel

The old caretaker’s cottage at the Dole guest house has been converted to a charming cottage for guests at Lana’i Hotel

Appropriately, my sister, Nancy, and I began our six day stay at the Hotel Lana’i, a plantation style guest house built in 1923 by pineapple pioneer James D. Dole as a retreat for his executives and important guests. When pineapple farming ceased in 1992, it was converted into the first hotel on Lana’i, offering just ten rooms and one small cottage. As Mike Charles, one of the inn’s owners, led us to the beautifully appointed cottage, complete with queen size bed, bath, and separate living room with a giant big-screen TV, we peppered him with questions about the history of the hotel and the island. He set our luggage down and suggested our questions would best be answered with a visit to the Lana’i Cultural Heritage Center (LCHC), located just steps from the hotel.

The next morning, following a delicious breakfast of miniature quiche pies, fresh fruit and chocolate chip scones at the hotel, we made a beeline for the Cultural Center. We were met by Mikala, who explained a bit about the Hawaiian race.“Hawaiian folklore, if you listen to the chants, speaks of a homeland called Ka’hiki. That sounds very much like Tahiti, so many believe that the original inhabitants of Hawai’i sailed from Tahiti, or perhaps the Marquesas, and probably came from Asia before that.” Since most Hawaiians today are a mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, Filipino, Samoan, Anglo, and even Puerto Rican heritage, most consider themselves to be Hawaiian if they have even a drop of Hawaiian blood in their lineage. Mikala insisted that what defines a Hawaiian today is not blood or genetics, but “having a responsibility to this place.” Read More

I know I’m coming up in the world when I’m invited to judge a travel contest! I’ve just agreed to be a judge for the $1,000 Splits Competition hosted by Leap Local, the service that puts travelers in touch with recommended local travel guides. BUT – there are only three days left to enter for your chance to win. Entries must be completed by midnight in your time zone on September 30, 2012.

Leap Local Splits Travel Competition holeintheonut.com

Recommend a local guide in Leap Local’s Splits Travel Competition for your chance to split $1,000 in prize money with the local operator

The winning travel writer will split the $1,000 prize with the local guide, driver, tour operator, homestay owner, guesthouse owner, teacher, or expert they recommend on Leap Local’s website (a local is an individual who lives and works at the point of destination). The recommended local service must be new to the website and there is no limit to the number of entries travelers may make. As judges, we’ll be looking for a recommendation that makes us want to go on the adventure safari, or take the exact same eco trip, or stay with your favorite nomad family, based upon nothing but the power of your recommendation.

So why, with my very busy schedule, did I agree to judge this competition? Simple. I always seek to connect with local individuals who can provide me with an authentic cultural travel experience. In many, if not most cases, these are solo operators who do not have the benefit of a big tour operator behind them, yet they provide a richer experience than any tour. These folks struggle to earn a living, just as I do, so I’m really thrilled to be able to help one of them out (and maybe learn about a new culture in the process). Read More