Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hilo Hawaii Tropical Rainforest Zoo

If you get a chance to visit Hilo on the east side of the Big Island, then consider visiting the Pana’ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens. The 12 acres of gardens are the only tropical rainforest zoo in the United States, located in a forested area which borders Hilo and the Puna districts.

Hilo’s zoo is the perfect place to spend a couple of hours strolling along the paths lined with flowers, palm trees, bamboo and tropical plants.  Along the way there are cages of brightly covered birds, lilly ponds, peacocks strutting free. It is home to over 80 animal species including the Hawaiian State bird, Nene.

The most magnificent resident is Namaste – a white Bengal tiger from India. He lives in a huge enclosure and is usually napping near the fence line with one eye on his visitors. You can watch the tiger feeding every day at 3:30PM.

The zoo is a great place for kids to have fun. There are interesting displays like the huge butterfly cage that you can walk through. On Saturday’s from 1:30-2:30 a petting zoo is open for the children.

There are benches to rest, many in the shade, and picnic tables if you want to bring lunch or a snack. You can rent a stroller and there is a a gift shop at the front entrance.

The Pana'ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens is open 9am-4pm daily (except Christmas and New Year’s Day) and entrance and parking are free.

The Zoo is located on the outskirts of Hilo Town at 800 Stainback Highway. From Hilo, take Highway 11 (Hawaii Belt Road) South towards Volcano. About two and one half miles past Prince Kuhio Shopping Plaza look for the "ZOO" sign on a lava rock wall, just after "Kulani 19." Turn right on Mamaki.

Bring water and sunscreen and a camera.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mark Twain in Waiohinu on the Big Island of Hawaii

Mark Twain visited the island of Hawaii in 1866 after touring other Hawaiian islands known then as the “Sandwich Islands”.

Twain landed at the village of Waiohinu, just west of Na’alehu in the district of Kau as a part of his trek to the active Volcano on the Big Island. There are many stories about his visit as well as his own writings for the Sacramento Union newspaper about the islands.

Twain’s trip to Waiohinu has been memorialized in the South Point area in Mark Twain Street, Mark Twain Square, the residential area of Mark Twain Estates, and the historic Monkey Pod tree. The story goes that Twain spent the night in Waiohinu at the home of Captain Charles Spencer who later became Minister of the Interior under King Kalakaua. Twain is credited for planting a monkey pod tree on the property in June 1866, though no one seems to know why. The tree was destroyed by high winds in 1957, but was re-grown from a sprout of the original tree.

The property in Waiohinu, named Mark Twain Square, is owned privately but you can stop at the historic site marker to admire the tree and from his description easily imagine what the area was like when Twain arrived in 1866.

“We went ashore in the first boat and landed in the midst of a black, rough, lava solitude, and got horses and started to Waiohinu, six miles distant. The road was good, and our surroundings fast improved. We were soon among green groves and flowers and occasional plains of grass. There are a dozen houses at Waiohinu, and they have got sound roofs, which is well, because the place is tolerably high upon the mountain side and it rains there pretty much all the time during September. The name Waiohinu means "sparkling water," and refers to a beautiful mountain stream there.

A sugar plantation has been started at Waiohinu, and 150 acres planted, a year ago, but the altitude ranges from 1,800 to 2,500 feet above sea level, and it is thought it will take another year for the cane to mature.”

We had an abundance of mangoes, papaias and bananas here, but the pride of the islands, the most delicious fruit known to men, cherimoya, was not in season. It has a soft pulp, like a pawpaw, and is eaten with a spoon. The papaia looks like a small squash, and tastes like a pawpaw.

In this rainy spot trees and flowers flourish luxuriantly, and three of those trees - two mangoes and an orange - will live in my memory as the greenest, freshest and most beautiful I ever saw - and withal, the stateliest and most graceful. One of those mangoes stood in the middle of a large grassy yard, lord of the domain and incorruptible sentinel against the sunshine. When one passed within the compass of its broad arms and its impenetrable foliage he was safe from the pitiless glare of the sun - the protecting shade fell everywhere like a somber darkness.”

If you want to stay in the area longer, there are Bed and Breakfast's nearby like the 8 acre Macadamia Meadows Farm near Mark Twain Square and the Hobbit House.

Location: Mark Twain's Monkey Pod tree is located on Highway 11 between mile marker 65 and 66 next to Waiohinu Park.