“F” is For Fabulous French Polynesia-Our Pacific Island Adventure

There is perhaps no destination more exotic than French Polynesia.  The very term evokes images of colorful tropical flowers, blue skies and lush green jungles.  So it was that we approached with great enthusiasm.  We had been at sea for 4 days as we cruised from Hawaii along our first leg of the Islan Princess Wold Cruise.  We were ready to get back on land.

We quickly immersed ourselves in culture and some of the most beautiful landscape that we have ever seen.

French Polynesia is actually made up of 121 islands and atolls. As of 2017 on;y 70 of them were inhabited.

“T” is For Temple-Our Oahu, Hawaii Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our cruise stopped at the island of Oahu.   We spent the day at the top rated Polynesian Cultural Center, located in the tiny town of  La’ie.  With a population of just under 6,000, the area attracts over 700,000 people a year.

The Polynesian Cultural Center, a project of the Mormon church is La’ie’s main attraction.  This is particularly famous for its authentic luau, however located a short distance from the center,  the  La’ie Hawaiian Temple should also be high on every travelers list.

The Laie Hawaii Temple stands adjacent to Church-owned Brigham Young University–Hawaii.  Many of the students work at the Cultural Center, as a way to offset their tuition, most are native to the surrounding islands.

In 1864, the land was acquired by Mormon missionaries and settled by a colony of Hawaiian Mormons.  The Laie Hawaii Temple sits on the Church’s original landholdings in Hawaii,  known as La’ie Plantation. The 6,000-acre parcel was purchased in 1865 for $14,000.

The impressive white La’ie Temple, where “the highest rites of the Mormon church can be performed”, was built in 1919 on the site of an ancient Hawaiian “city of refuge” (puuhonua: “a sanctuary for the pursued”), now known as La’ie.

Surrounded by lush Hawaiian flora,on a gently rising hill that features cascading pools and a large fountain, the La’ie Hawaii Temple graces the north shore of Oahu, just a half mile from the Pacific Ocean.

At just 10,500 square feet, the La’ie Hawaii Temple was the smallest temple the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) had ever constructed, though it has since been enlarged to over 40,000 square feet.

Often called the “Taj Mahal of the Pacific,” the La’ie Hawaii Temple was the first temple built in the Pacific islands (and in the state of Hawaii).  It was also the first to be built outside of the continental US.  The temple is also the oldest to operate outside Utah (where the Church Headquarters are located), and is the fifth-oldest LDS temple still in operation.

Travelers along Kamehameha Highway can’t miss the striking Hale Laa Boulevard that leads the short distance from the highway to the temple. The exquisite boulevard features a tropical garden on one end and palm trees and decorative lights on the other.

The concrete exterior of the temple was created using crushed rock and coral.

Carved friezes, created by sculptor Avard Fairbanks, decorate each side of the top of the temple, depicting four dispensations of time: Old Testament Dispensation (west), New Testament Dispensation (south), Book of Mormon Dispensation (north), and Latter-day Dispensation (east).

Before construction of the Laie Hawaii Temple could begin, the existing 30-by-90-foot chapel had to be relocated over a period of days using jacks, tackle, ropes, horses, steel pipe, and timbers to pull and push the nine-ton building down the hill. The building was later lost to fire on July 11, 1940, during a renovation project.

Construction of the temple came to a standstill when the supply of lumber ran out. Prayers were uttered, and two days later, a freighter was discovered stranded on a nearby coral reef. The captain offered his entire cargo to the saints if they would unload it for him. His cargo? Lumber—enough to complete the temple.

This beautiful structure is definitely worth a couple hours of your time.


55-600 Naniloa Loop
Laie, Hawaii  96762-1299
United States
Telephone:  (+1) 808-293-2427


Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

More info:

Admission is free to the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center.  Grounds to the temple are open to the public but you must be a member of the church to enter the temple.










R is for Royalty-Our Oahu, Honolulu Adventure

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our first stop was the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The cruise ship docked at 9am.  We would be in port from 9am-11pm.  Our first tour wasn’t scheduled until noon.  We had a 10 1/2 hour exploration at the Polynesian Cultural Center planned to fill our afternoon and evening hours.   Never ones to waste time, this meant we had a couple hours we could still explore.  A scout around at the internet gave me a historical/architectural walking tour, which I figured we could complete in a couple of hours. Hand in hand we set off from the dock, our goal was to see the Capitol Building, the Eternal Flame, the church, the King Kameamea Statue and the beautiful Iolani Palace.  We stepped up our pace.

“P” is for Polynesian Cultural Center-Our Hawaiian Adventures

The fully immersive Polynesian Cultural Center can best be described as part education, part museum,  part Disney Theme Park and part Broadway.   Wear your walking shoes, this full day of activity spans a full 42 acres!

Founded in 1865, this area was originally desolate and uninhabitable. Prior to the building of this amazing location, the lovely town of Laie hosted weekly hukilaus, a community fish fry meant to entertain, instruct and support the community to raise money for the constuction.  Through tender loving care and tenacity the area, also known as ‘The Gathering Place’,  grew into a beautiful center of spirituality, education and ethnic harmony. The Polynesian Cultural Center first opened its doors in 1963 as a way for students at the adjacent Church College of Hawaii (now Brigham Young University-Hawaii) to earn money for their education, while preserving and portraying the cultures, arts and crafts of the people of Polynesia.   We’ve come a long way since 1963.


Upon entering the park you may assigned a guide or left to explore the park on your own.  Everything is dependent upon the type of ticket you have purchased and the inclusions they have.


The park is divided into various Polynesian villages: Aoteareo (New Zealand), Figi, Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga.  Personally we chose this adventure specifically to get an overview of the various areas we would be seeing during the course of our 45 day Pacific Adventure.

Each village contains replicas of statues and buildings indicative of the actual location.    Each village also offers cultural activities such as dances, foods, games, stories, music and more.  The costumed “villagers” are mostly    students from the nearby Brigham Young University. With another nod to the authenticity,  these students often come from the islands they are representing.  Demonstrations take place at each village throughout the afternoon and visitors are invited to get hands on and participate in many of them.

Living Museum

Tucked away among the villages of the Polynesian Cultural Center is a halau (a place of learning) which holds an almost 60 foot long double-hulled canoe made of Fijian dakua wood.  Twice a day there is a presentation about how the Iosepa is used by BYU – Hawaii as a sailing classroom, where students learn about now the ancient Polynesians navigated across the Pacific Ocean.  When the Iosepa is not being used during the spring and summer months it is stored at the Center.  Visitors to the exhibit will also learn about how a celestial navigation compass is used, how the canoe is prepared and the activities the “crew” will perform during an ocean voyage.  This is just a single example of the many museum pieces scattered among the grounds.


Just as they are in real life, the villages positioned along a waterway.   A long river connects them and eventually leads to a lagoon.  Along the waterway is where you can paddle your own outrigger canoe, take a gentle float trip around the entire park or spend time in the afternoon watching the Parade of Long Canoes as it floats by with representative dancers and musicians from each village.

All tickets allow you to partake in each of the villages.  For an additional fee you may add one of two dining options.


The Buffet at both lunch and dinner time.  Many traditional foods are served.  This is held in the

Evening Luau

A Traditional Luau is, complete with the lifting of the roasted pig from the imu (in ground oven), a buffet style feast and more entertainment including a royal procession, dancers and musicians.  The luau is held in the .

Following the meal all guests will make their way to the

Evening Show

Ha-The Breath of Life is a spectacular Broadway style story with over 100 performers.  There is no photography allowed at this venue, which leaves us limited only to the photos available online.  Trust me when I say this is a show you won’t want to miss.  In fact, many of the performers have been awarded the top awards for their dance skills.

This tour has earned the distinction of the  “Peoples Choice Award” and draws over 1 million visitors a year.


“O” is for Oahu-Our Hawaii Adventure

Oahu, also called Honolulu, is one of the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, it is situated just below the Tropic of Cancer, 2,390 miles west of San Francisco, California. The island stretches for just 44 miles in length and 30 miles in width.

With a population of 905,266 in 2011, it contains one of the largest population densities.

The island offers spectacular beaches, lush vegetation, exotic plant life, stunning landscapes, world-class surfin and awe-inspiring history. With so much to offer it is easy to understand why 4.5 million people visit each year.

“M”is For Mai Tai-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Not normally drinkers, we had committed to trying traditional drinks in each new location along our World Cruise. So of course while we were in Hawaii, that meant we would be taste testing Mai Tai’s.

Although Mai Tai’s were first introduced in California by Victor Bergeron (owner of Trader Vic’s restaurants) when he brought the recipe to Hawaii in 1953where he created a cocktail menu for the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Moana Hotels. The cocktail became an instant hit and was called the “top tourist tantalizer” in 1959. In the years thereafter, pineapple juice, orange juice, and a dark rum float became commonly used in Mai Tais produced in Hawaii.

The name was allegedly taken from maita?i, the Tahitian word for “good” or “excellence”, although the drink is usually spelled as two words, sometimes hyphenated or capitalized.

The Mai Tai was also prominently featured in the 1961 Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii.

Following our taste test we concluded we really enjoyed the sweet rum punch.

If you want to make the sunny drink for yourself, here is the traditional recipe:

Base spiritRum
Servedshaved or crushed ice
Standard garnishpineapple spear, mint leaves, and lime peel
Standard drinkware Old fashioned glass
IBA specified
30 ml amber Jamaican rum
30 ml Martinique molasses rhum
15 ml orange curaçao
15 ml orgeat syrup (almond)
30 ml fresh lime juice
7.5 ml simple syrup
PreparationAdd all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake and pour into a double rocks glass or a highball glass.
NotesThe Martinique molasses rum used by Trader Vic was not an Agricole rum but a type of “rummy” from molasses.
dagger Mai Tai recipe at International Bartenders Association

“M” is For Malama aina-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Take care of the land

Whilst every US state is different from the next, Hawaii is special. The culture is rooted in ancient Polynesian traditions, and thankfully over the past decades there has been a resurgence of interest and enthusiasm for these. Luaus, hula, malama aina (taking care of the land, and the land taking care of you in return), are all uniquely Hawaiian traditions and rituals which have returned to society. And finally in the 1980s, the ban on teaching the Hawaiian language was lifted.

“L” is For Lei-Our Hawaiian Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, we visited several Hawaiian islands.  As we came off of our cruise ship, on our first island of Oahu,  we ported near the Aloha Tower, the same place visitors use to arrive by boat as they immigrated to these islands.  We were greeted with a lei.

The wearing of Lei in ancient Hawaii symbolized riches, monarchy, and status.

The lei custom was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by early Polynesian voyagers, who took an incredible journey from Tahiti, navigating by the stars in sailing canoes. With these early settlers, the lei tradition in Hawaii was born.

Leis were constructed of flowers, leaves, shells, seeds, nuts, feathers, and even bone and teeth of various animals. In Hawaiian tradition, these garlands were worn by ancient Hawaiians to beautify themselves and distinguish themselves from others. The Maile lei was perhaps the most significant. Among other sacred uses, it was used to signify a peace agreement between opposing chiefs. In a Heiau (temple), the chiefs would symbolically intertwine the green Maile vine, and its completion officially established peace between the two groups.

A Hawaiian Lei is a decorative garland worn around the neck or on the head. Lei comes in various lengths and materials.

The materials (flowers, leaves, nuts, ribbons, candy, money, etc) used to manufacture the colorful neck adornments, are gathered with great care.

The mana (or spirit) of the Lei’s maker is believed to be sewn or weaved into it as this is done. As a result, when you offer a Lei, you are really donating a piece of yourself. Similarly, you acquire a part of Lei’s creator when you receive one.

In Hawaiian culture, Lei was traditionally offered to symbolize love, affection, peace,  friendship, honor, celebration, and greetings.

With the advent of tourism in the islands, the lei quickly became the symbol of Hawaii to millions of visitors worldwide.

Today, the Hawaiian Lei is regarded as the universal emblem of aloha, whose term is used to define a “force that holds together existence”.

Hawaii is a state made up of eight major islands. Each island has its unique Lei, reflecting a harmonious combination of texture and color. Due to rigorous agricultural rules, most of these Lei cannot be shipped to the mainland.

  • Hawaii (Big Island) – Red or the Ohia Lehua flower
  • Oahu – Yellow with the gold ‘Ilima
  • Maui – Pink and the Lokelani rose
  • Kauiai – purple with the Mokihaa
  • Molokai – Green with Kukui
  • Lanai – Orange with Kauna’oa
  • Niihau – White with Pupu o Ni’ihau (shells)
  • Kaho’olawe – Hinahina

Many elderly Hawaiians reminisce about their “boat days” of the early 1900’s with fondness. This was before the familiar hum of airline jets,when tourists and visitors came to Hawaii by boat.  As the boat arrived at the pier near the Aloha Tower to welcome malihini (visitors) and kama’aina (locals) back home, it was a social party with lei greeters, hula dancers, music, and photographers.

Legend says that departing visitors and locals would throw their lei into the sea as they sailed passed Diamond Head, in the hopes that, like the lei, they too would return to the islands again someday.

There are very few “rules” when it comes to wearing a Hawaiian lei. Anyone can wear one, anytime – there need not be an occasion. It is perfectly fine for one to purchase or make a lei for themselves. In fact, it is common for locals to have a nut, seed or shell lei on hand ready to wear on special occasions.

Lei giving is a regular part of any special occasion such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and graduations. It is not uncommon for a graduating senior to have so many leis around their neck that they can no longer see!

There are, a couple of “unspoken” rules one should know when receiving a lei for the first time. A lei should be a welcomed celebration of one person’s affection to another. Therefore, always accept a lei, never refuse.

If you are allergic to the flowers, you must tell the person presenting the lei, then drape it over your significant other.

The proper way to wear a lei is gently draped over the shoulders, hanging down both in front and in back. It is considered rude to remove a lei from your neck in the presence of the person who gave it to you, so if you must, be discreet.

May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii

Fearing that Hawaii’s rich tradition of lei making was wilting, poet and writer Don Blanding conceived the idea of creating Lei Day.  Each year on May 1(the same day May Day is celebrated on the mainland), Hawaii celebrates “Lei Day.”  Lei Day became an official holiday in the territory of Hawaii in 1929 and continues today.

Many celebrations take place across the island on this date, but in Oahu, Lei Day festivities are centered at Queen Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, where people of all ages compete, State Fair style, to see who can make the best lei.  This day is also filled with pageantry, dances and other customs celebrating Hawaiian heritage.

“K” is for Kawaiaha’o Church-Our Hawaiian Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our first stop was the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The cruise ship docked at 9am.  We would be in port from 9am-11pm.  Our “official” tour wasn’t scheduled until noon.  We had a 10 1/2 hour exploration at the Polynesian Cultural Center planned to fill our afternoon and evening hours.   Never ones to waste time, this meant we had a couple hours which we could still explore.  A scout around at the internet gave me a historical/architectural walking tour, which I figured we could complete in a couple of hours. Hand in hand we set off from the dock, our goal was to see the Capitol Building, the Eternal Flame, the church, the King Kameamea Statue and the beautiful Iolani Palace.  We stepped up our pace.

We set out on our Historical tour of Honolulu.

Our first stop took us to the Kawaiaha’o Church.  The name means the sacred water of Ha’o who was a high ranking female cheiftess who frequented the springs in the area.  Today, the church is referred to as Hawaii’s Westminster Abby.  It has been the location of royal weddings, christenings, innaugurations and funerals.  The church was built in 1820 and was the first church to be erected on the island of Oahu.  Perhaps the only one of its kind, it has been created from giant slabs of coral, harvested by local labor.  The coral was hand chiseled from the nearby reefs from depths of 10-20 feet, before being carried to shore.  Nearly 1000 people assembled to dig the foundation which needed to be set in bedrock to support the weight.  At a cost of about $30,000, it would take nearly 6 years to construct. Today the church is registered on both the national and state rolls as a historic landmark.

“F” is For Fern Grotto-Our Hawaiian Adventure

Today marks the 8th day of our 55 days of world exploration. Since leaving home on January 17, 2023, we have already played in Los Angeles and on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Alan and I would begin the day early again, so we started the morning with a breakfast on our balcony. The sunrise was beautiful as we arrived in our second port of Hawaii, the island of Kauai. We were Malahini, or newcomers to these lands and we were once again refreshed and ready to explore.

Kauai is a small island at just 33 miles wide by 55 miles long. There is only a single road which only accesses about 1/3 of the small island. After much studying I had learned that the best ways to view this island was by boat or plane, so I had booked tours for us to do both. Our first stop would be the Fern Grotto.

A grotto is a cave which occurs naturally or is man-made. The pictures which I had seen of the Fern Grotto were spectacular and I was very excited to see it. The tour was touted as a visit to a geological wonder of Kauai promising an ampitheater, where ferns grow upside down from the roof of a grotto, which had formed millions of years ago.

There is only one way to get to the Grotto and that is via boat! In fact, The Wailua River is known as “the only navigable river” in all Hawaii, which would make the adventure even more exciting. I felt as if we were discovering hidden places.

There are a couple companies which offer tours on the 22.5 mile long river. We would be traveling with the Smith family for just two of those miles. This family has been navigating the river since 1946. Our boat for the day was called the Whitney K. She was one of several on the river that day.

Besides the few boat companies, the only other way to get to the grotto (which is owned by the Smith family) is by kayak. These could be rented or one could take the half hour journey up the river in their own kayak. Except for the rain which was falling off and on, I think we would have preferred this mode of travel.

Instead we had chosen what I affectionately refer to as a cruise ship “Granny tour”. These are the kinds of trips which are sedate and slow. perfect for the elderly, which we are not yet quite there. This was a float trip down a winding river, while relaxing, it was boring. Don’t get me wrong, the river is pretty enough but the view doesn’t vary much and powering under our own efforts would have at least given us something to do.

The saving grace to our boredom was that we were treated to a pretty spectacular rainbow, which spread across the river as the sun peaked out for a moment after one of the many showers on this day. It was a short lived reprieve from the gloomy day and we soon found ourselves back in our soggy conditions. Thankfully we could remain under cover on our boat while being regaled with the history of the river, as we made our way to the Fern Grotto.

We learned that the water which feeds the river comes from Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale, one of the wettest spots on the planet receiving about 465″ of rain a year! Kauai is the forth oldest of the Hawaiian islands. I was interested to learn that lands along the river were the sacred capital of ancient Kauai and the birthplace of the island’s ali‘i, or royalty.

After about half an hour we reached the dock to disembark for the short walk to the grotto. Normally there would be a performance of The Wedding Song and a hula dancer at the Fern Grotto where they would perform The Wedding Song at the amphitheater, but the rains were preventing it on this day, so the musicians performed on the boat, as we waited out yet another shower.

I had seen spectacular images of the Fern Grotto, so it was disappointing once we finally arrived. There was a lot of greenery but I was very disappointed to realize much of the old grotto had collapsed leaving only a fraction of the original glory. A little creative photography and I was able to capture a piece of the former glory.

In fact, the decline of the Fern Grotto’s began when it was hit by Hurricane Iwa in 1982. It was then nearly destroyed as Kauai was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Most of the ferns hanging from the grotto were torn from the rocks, With nothing to hold the ground together, the roof of the spectacular amphitheater began collapsing. In 2006 a woman sued the Smith family after being injured by falling rocks. The grotto is no longer accessible by foot and may only be viewed from a distant wooden platform. Although much of the plant life has rebounded, the grotto has had a difficult time recovering as new plant life has sprung up with increased light which now floods the gully.

All was not lost on this tour. After viewing the gully we were able to return to the boat via a flower lined walking path. My camera clicked from one flower to the other, as I attempted to capture the beauty of the native Hawaiian plants which surrounded us. Walking among the colorful exotic tropical plants sproting from the floor of this rain forest I realize I am in my most perfect element of serene peace. It was in this way that I would come to continue recommending this tour for others to enjoy. Perhaps the float trip had been more fabulous than even I had imagined it could be. Perhaps “Granny trips” are exactly what my soul needs as I learn to relax into this sixth decade of my life.

“E” is for Eternal Flame-Our Hawaiian Adventures

While on our Pacific Island Tour, our first stop after departing Los Angeles was the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  The cruise ship docked at Pier 2.  We would be in port until 11pm.  Our first tour wasn’t scheduled until noon, where we had a 10 1/2 hour exploration at the Polynesian Cultural Center planned to fill our afternoon and evening hours.   Never ones to waste time, this meant we still had a couple of hours available to explore the capital city of Waikiki, before the tour began.

A scout around the internet had given me a historical/architectural walking tour, which I figured we could complete in a couple of hours. After being at sea for four days, we were more than ready to explore.  Waving over our shoulders to the ships camera, with the hope of our family seeing us, Alan and I were off the ship by 9am.  With the time changes, we had already been up for several hours as we had watched the ship pull in.

Hand in hand we began walking, our goal was to see any of the 8  historical landmarks in Hawaii.  Many of these are Heritage Sites. These locations provide cultural explanations and the history behind them.  Today we had a goal of seeing the Kawaiahao church, the Capitol Building, the beautiful Iolani Palace, the Parliament building and the King Kamehameha Statue and finally the Eternal Flame monument. This is how the Eternal Flame Memorial became our letter “E”.  It was a 30 minute walk and we had a lot to see before getting there, so we stepped up our pace.  The flame is located directly across from the Capitol Building at 420 So. Beretania St.

The original Eternal flame has burned since 1944, in memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but this sculpture was re-dedicated in 1972 to all the men and women of Hawaii who have bravely served.  A palm lined path gently guides the visitor past the homeless population which often hangs out in the area.  It makes sense that they find the area inviting as this area overlooks the beautiful land which is Hawaii.  With the capitol of Waikiki behind us, the Eternal Flame lends a quiet, contemplative air in contrast to the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

The flame is protected from the elements by an interesting metal sculpture which shields it from the wind, ensuring that it burns non-stop.  Perhaps this is the same embrace we should offer to all our vets.

Many of the homeless here are former vets.   As they huddle beneath the statue, I can’t help but be honored to be in the presence of those who have protected us.  After all, isn’t awareness the real reason that this flame burns endlessly?