Local Grinds: Hawaii’s Food

Sep 16 2011

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I grew up going to Hawaii from the time I was little to visit family.  I’m sure I’ve had an atypical Hawaii vacation experience but despite that, or maybe because of that, one of the things that has always excited me most about the trips is the food.  Now granted, I grew up in the Midwest where the food options were a bit limited (they have since gotten better), but I would still say that Hawaii has a menu all its own.

Spam Musubi

Spam Musubi

Many of the foods special to Hawaii have their place in Hawaii’s history.  For example, the huge popularity of SPAM can be attributed to the large military presence in Hawaii circa World War II.  Hawaii has the highest consumption of SPAM per capita of any US state and you can even find it on the menus of McDonald’s and Burger King.  One of the most popular ways of serving SPAM is as SPAM musubi which combines SPAM into the popular Japanese lunch or snack food, musubi (which consists of rice, seaweed and a filling).  SPAM musubi can be purchased at many restaurants and convenience stores.

The Japanese influence in the food of Hawaii can be traced to the large immigration to Hawaii primarily in the late 1800s during the sugar boom.  The Japanese influence can be seen throughout many other popular foods including saimin, a noodle soup which actually has roots in Japanese, Chinese and Filipino foods and is unique to Hawaii.  It is believed that it actually originated through shared food preparation among the workers on the Sugar plantations.

Hanalei valley taro fields

Hanalei valley taro fields

Other foods have even older roots in Hawaii.  One of these, which is particularly important on Kauai is Poi.  Poi is a purple  starch with a similar consistency to thick pudding made from mashing the cooked taro corm (the bulbous portion of the plant stem that is underground).  Poi traces back to the ancient Hawaiians who considered the taro plant to be the original ancestor of the Hawaiian people.  The Hanalei valley on Kauai is home to one of the largest taro growing areas in Hawaii and you can get a tour with one of Lat22′s activity providers, Ho’opulapula Haraguchi Rice Mill and Taro Farm Tour (check out our app, Lat22 Kauai available on iTunes for both iPad and iPhone and on Android Marketplace).

As you may imagine, I have only scratched the surface of all of the great food unique to or originating from Hawaii including haupia, cornflake cookies, loco moco, huli huli chicken, lomi lomi salmon, kalua pig and much, much more.  So next time you’re there, try to sample something new or as a Hawaii resident might say, try some local grinds.

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Lat22′s Top 22

Jul 15 2011

Kauai from the Air

Whether you’ve been to Kauai once or many, many times, the Lat22 team has a number of things we think everyone should see, should do or should taste at some point while visiting Kauai.  We recently put together a list of our top 22, which we have added to the brand new Aloha tab in our app (available on iTunes for both iPad and iPhone and on Android Marketplace).  However, we want to share these ideas and suggestions with everyone, so we’ve decided to also mention them here.

There are many amazing things that we weren’t able to mention in our top 22 as well, including some of my favorites like getting lilikoi chiffon pie from Omoide  Bakery in Hanapepe (also sold at Hamura Saimin Stand in Lihue) and some that my Uncles suggested such as Kauai’s famous fried chicken from Hanamaulu Café or getting some local Poi, both of which people from the other Hawaiian islands always try to bring home when they visit Kauai.  However, even without these, I think we managed to get a wonderful list with a good mix of activities, food and sites.

You will find more information about each of these activities in the Lat22 app (we haven’t included it all here to keep this post from getting too long), but without further ado and in no particular order, here is our top 22 things to do on Kauai.

1. See Kauai by Air – Approximately 80% of Kauai is uninhabited and challenging to reach by road. Download the app to see our list of Air Tours.

Na Pali Coast by Boat

Na Pali Coast by Boat

2. View the Na Pali Coast by Boat – Take a leisurely sail at sunset, a high adventure rafting tour, or paddle along the coastline exploring caves and remote beaches.  Download the app to see our list of Cruises.

3. Visit Waimea Canyon – Take photos at the lookouts, go for a hike, or try a downhill bike tour, it’s all good. See for yourself why they call Waimea Canyon the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” (Take Hwy 50 West, turn right on Hwy 550.)

4. Spend the day at Poipu Beach – This beach has it all: a good place to boogie board, a shallow area great for the keikis (kids), snorkeling, and of course, swimming.

5. Hike Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail – Amazing views, dunes, petroglyphs, and a sinkhole are a few of the highlights on this beautiful and interesting 4-mile hike.

Snorkelling at Tunnels

Snorkelling at Tunnels

6. Snorkel at Tunnels (Makua) Beach – Probably the best snorkeling beach on Kauai.

7. Lunch at Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. – Run by a local family that still has a working taro farm. Their super tasty lunches feature fresh local produce and taro.

8. Venture out to Polihale Beach – On a weekday, you could have the beach to yourself. It’s absolutely stunning, but very hot with strong waves and no shade. Go early, bring water and snacks (and a sun shade, if you have one), and please be careful!

Fish Tacos from Island Taco

Fish Tacos from Island Taco

9. Eat Fish Tacos – Three of our favorite spots are Island Taco in Waimea, Kilauea Fish Market in Kilauea andMonico’s in Wailua. Yum!

10. Learn to Surf – There’s no greater feeling than standing up on your board and riding a wave for the first time.  Download the app to see our list of Surf Schools.

11. Relax at Tahiti Nui in Hanalei – Live music, daily happy hour, interesting crowd and VERY good mai tais.

12. Hike Alakai Swamp – Wet, slippery and muddy to start, but at the end you’re rewarded with a great view at the Kilohana vista.

13. Go Deep Sea Fishing – We can’t promise that everyone will catch a 316 lb. marlin like we did with Captain Don’s, but fishing off the coast of Kauai is always an adventure.

Farmer's Market

Farmer's Market

14. Visit a Farmer’s Market – Check out fresh produce and local products at one of the many Sunshine marketsaround the island. Download the app for our list of daily farmer’s markets and their locations.

15. Play Kukuiolono Golf Course – A local 9-hole course with amazing views. The best part is it’s only $9 to play. If golf isn’t your game, there are also lovely walking trails and a Japanese garden.

16. Try a Malasada – Hawaii’s Portuguese have made malasadas a popular pastry. They’re similar to donuts but even better! Get them from the lady who has a stand right in front of Kmart. She cooks them up fresh, available after 10 am on weekdays until she sells out. (Kmart in the Kukui Grove Shopping Center, Lihue.)

Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden

17. Visit a Botanical Garden – Kauai is the national headquarters for the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. Nearly 2,000 acres of gardens and preserves allow tropical plants to flourish in a natural environment.

18. Snack on Taro Chips – Taro chips are a great snack during a day of exploring or shopping. You can find them freshly made at the Taro Ko Factory in Hanapepe.

19. Drive through the Tree Tunnel – You’ll feel like you’re being transported to another world when you drive through the tree tunnel down the winding road to Koloa Town and Poipu.

20. Sip a Cucumber Mojito – For a refreshing drink after a hot day, try a cucumber mojito at Plantation Gardens Restaurant in Poipu.  The food is also very good.

21. Eat a Puka Dog – Try these hot dogs with a Hawaiian flare including tropical relishes and lilikoi mustard. (located in the Poipu Shopping Center)

22. Spend the Day at Hanalei Bay – A crescent-shaped bay with beautiful white sand and majestic mountains in the background.

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Graduation time, Hawaii style

May 27 2011

Graduation Lei

My cousin Abby at her University of Hawaii graduation

Since it’s graduation season, I thought it was only appropriate to do my first Lat22 post about leis.  The Hawaiian word, lei, means garland or wreath and traditionally they represent children, family, love and honor.  Leis are often thought of as a wreath of flowers used to welcome someone as they arrive or to bid someone farewell on departure.  However, in Hawaii, leis are used as an expression of love to celebrate many occasions including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, funerals and of course graduations.  While many leis are still made out of flowers, shells or nuts, it has also become popular to give leis made out of folded money, candy, ribbon, yarn and even cans of spam.

The tradition of the lei in Hawaii probably originated when the Tahitians first came to Hawaii and there are many associated customs:

  • Leis should never be thrown away; instead they should be returned to where they were gathered from or otherwise returned to the earth.  It is also acceptable to dry and save a lei.
  • Pregnant women should only wear open leis or haku head leis because it is thought that closed leis represent choking and is bad luck for the child.
  • Never refuse a lei.  This is considered extremely rude.  It is also considered rude to remove a lei in the presence of the person who gave it to
    Ribbon Lei

    Ribbon Lei

    you.  If you are allergic to the lei, you should remove it discretely and with an apology and then either display the lei in a place of honor or give it to your spouse.

  • The flowers have significance and while usually innocent enough, there are a few that are taboo in certain situations.  For example, you should never give a hala lei to someone in public office because the hala tree represents moving on.
  • To appropriately wear a lei, it should hang from the shoulders, falling equally in the back and the front, not hanging from the neck as is most commonly seen.
  • People often accompany the giving of a lei with a kiss on the cheek and will put the lei over your head.  However, both of these are new traditions and in fact, the ancient Hawaiians considered the head sacred and would never touch another’s head and would instead present the lei with a bow and the receiver would take the lei and put it on themselves.
  • Each of the eight main Hawaiian islands has its own traditional lei.  Kauai’s lei is mokihana, which are small, round, light green seeds that smell of anise as they dry.
Lat22 Team

The Lat22 Team Celebrating with Lei

The most important thing to remember about leis is that there is no wrong time to give or wear a lei and any graduate would be happy to receive one.  So to celebrate this season, stop by your local florist (if you are in Hawaii) or buy one online (if you’re not) or make a ribbon lei with your favorite graduate’s school colors.  Spread the aloha and from all of the Lat22 ohana, congratulations to all the 2011 graduates!

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Aloha and Mahalo

May 20 2011

Aloha, and welcome to my first blog post. I am the self proclaimed tech ninja here at Lat22, and I recently got back from my first trip ever to Hawaii. First, a little bit about myself: After graduating in 2008 from MIT with a Masters in computer science I went to work for a medium sized tech company in San Francisco. I quickly realized the job was not for me and after six months moved on to pursue some personal projects. In the meantime I met Susan, who was working on this cool new start up. The concept was awesome, but the timing wasn’t right for me, so I recommended an old college friend instead. Together Susan and Joy have created the coolest app Kauai has ever seen. Fast forward to 2011 and now the time is right. I have been working at Lat22 since January and it’s awesome ( including business trips to Hawaii =) )

Brian catching a wave!

Recently, with the rest of the Lat22 team, I took my first trip to Hawaii, specifically the island of Kauai. I had a blast! Not only was it my first time to Hawaii, but it was a week of firsts for me. I got to go surfing for the first time and I am hooked. I seemed to catch on fairly quickly and I can’t wait for another chance to catch a wave.


Brian holding his 30lb ono in front of the 316lb marlin

The other cool new thing I did was deep sea fishing. I had been wanting to do that on just about every tropical vacation I went on but could never make it happen. However, I am glad I waited! Lat22 went deep sea fishing and after catching some good sized Ono to eat for dinner, we snagged a 316lb Marlin! It was such a rush to reel in a fish of that size and to do something that doesn’t happen every day on one of those boats. Check out Lat22 Catching a 316lb Marlin.

The coolest thing about all these fun new activities I got to do was an opportunity to check out some of our activity providers and get a real taste of how our app is used in production. The Lat22 retreat to Hawaii was both a fun and informative trip, I can’t wait to go back!



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Top Five Things I Learned From Surfing

May 12 2011

It’s been over a week since I left Kauai, and I can’t stop thinking about surfing.

Lat22 surfing in Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Lat22 team gets schooled by Hawaiian Surf Adventures instructor

On the Sunday we were there, the Lat22 crew went for surfing lessons with Hawaiian Surfing Adventures on Hanalei Bay.  We spent twenty minutes on the beach learning and practicing the steps we needed to master to get up on our boards, and then we waded out to catch our first waves (much assisted by the HSA instructors who watched the waves for us and gave us a push when we were trying to catch one!).  It was so much fun being out there that day, but I learned a lot, too.  Here were my favorite lessons from the day:

  1. Look up and set your sights on where you want to go, and you will naturally head in that direction. Look at what’s right in front of you  — your board, the water — and you will never reach your goal.
  2. Be patient. A lot of surfing is actually just waiting and watching the waves, judging when to act. So in the meantime, enjoy the feel of the water on your skin and the beauty around you. (The views from Hanalei Bay were magnificent.  Next time you’re there, see if you can spot Puff, the Magic Dragon!)
  3. Timing matters. You may spend a lot of time waiting, but when you see your chance, move decisively: start paddling!
  4. Find a good balance. You shouldn’t be too far back or forward, right or left on your board.  Find the sweet spot that gives you both speed and stability.
  5. Don’t fight the tide too hard, but don’t let it carry you away, either. Swimming back out again can be exhausting if you don’t find a way to be soft (not pushing too hard) and strong (swimming ever forward) at the same time.  Lifting your head above the wave helps.
Lat22 surfing in Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Riding a wave in Hanalei Bay

I’m finding it harder and harder these days to experience moments of pure focus and motivated concentration (what psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls “flow“), but with surfing, it’s easy.  You have no choice but to bring all of your attention to the task at hand, and your mind and body must work in harmony with the wave to carry you forward.  Every second of your ride, you are learning and responding to what you feel. And when it all comes together, it’s beautiful: you are completely present in the moment, gliding along the water with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair.

No wonder I miss it.

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Welcome to Lat22!

May 03 2011

This week the Lat22 team is in Kauai. We’re meeting with activity providers, looking for more fun things to do on the Garden Island, and sampling a lot of Mai Tais. (I’m convinced that rum helps the creative process.) Inspired by our surroundings, we’re planning the future of Lat22’s mobile app.

I founded Lat22 because Kauai is one of my favorite places and I loved the idea of being able to access information about activities, events, and island news, from my iPhone. More than once, my husband and I were at the beach, or the pool, or on a hike talking about what we should do the next day. Then we discover that we left the guidebook in the car, or the room, or at home in San Francisco, right next to the camera. Oops. What time did that boat tour start tomorrow morning? Was the farmer’s market in Kalaheo or Kekaha later today? Is the rice mill tour in Hanalei on Tuesday or Wednesday?

The solution: I should build an app for that! There’s only one problem. I have never taken a computer science class. Ever. I don’t know C or C++ or Objective C. I bought a few programming books but I was too dumb for “iPhone Application Development for Dummies.” I needed help.

Luckily, I was introduced to Joy. It was fate. An MIT grad in the Bay Area, Joy grew up about an hour from my hometown in Iowa and her mom was originally from Hawaii. Yes, HAWAII. So perfect!

Joy and I worked away last summer and released the first version of the app in September. With only seven activities and just a few features, it was a start. We’ve made a lot of progress, and a few team members joined us along the way. A classmate of Joy’s from MIT, Brian is a self-proclaimed “tech ninja” assassinating engineering obstacles in his way. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but he’s a darn good developer. Sara is our content manager; she has a great eye for detail. She makes sure that our spacing is even, our grammar is correct and we stay reasonably organized. It was no surprise that she instantly became the official photographer of the 2011 Lat22 Retreat.

I’m too lazy, I mean busy, to blog every week, so all of us are taking turns writing blog entries about what we love about Kauai, what we’re working on now and what’s happening with Lat22. We have a lot of great things planned for this summer so stay tuned….

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We’re bloggin’

Apr 25 2011

Aloha! Welcome to our new blog giving you the inside scoop on what’s new with Lat22. We’re putting the final touches on our new website and getting ready for our retreat to Kauai. We’ll be back to blog soon.

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