Meet Hawaii’s greenest farmers market

Searching for local produce with a minimal eco-footprint? Look no further than the Hale’iwa Farmers’ Market, which claims — convincingly — to be Hawaii’s greenest.

Hale’iwa Town is located on Oahu‘s legendary North Shore, in the heart of the big-wave surf scene. Its market is open every Sunday from 9pm to 1am, and aims to be Hawaii’s first totally green, zero-waste market.When I visited, more than 40 vendors had laid out their finest fresh produce, crafts and prepared foods. Most came from the North Shore, though a few items came in from elsewhere on Oahu or neighboring islands. I cruised along the rows of stands and bought a mango and pineapple smoothie that had been blended using the market’s solar power. The smoothie and the avocado sandwich I went for next were both served to me in corn-based disposable containers — unlike their plastic cousins, my containers were biodegradable.

In the midst of the vendors I found the Zero Waste Station, where the market’s trash was sorted. Food scraps go to a local pig farmer, the disposable dishes get composted, glass and cans are recycled, and a last — hopefully unnecessary — bin takes any remaining garbage.

Hale’iwa’s market may not be on wheels, but its commitment to minimal waste puts it on the cutting edge of American farmers’ markets. If you can tear yourself away from the surf (and the surfers), it makes a great Sunday breakfast or lunch stop on Oahu’s North Shore.

Check out the gallery below for some shots from the market. Fresh produce fanatic? Gadling has more farmers’ markets recommendations for you.

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[Disclosure: My visit to the Hale'iwa Farmers' Market was part of a trip sponsored by the Oahu Convention and Visitors' Bureau. Nonetheless, my opinions about the epic rightness of blending mango and pineapple together are my own.]

Fourth of July travel deals from Viator

Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. If you’re looking for some last minute Independence Day deals, our pals at Viator have pulled together a list of Fourth of July bargains to help travelers get the most out of their three-day weekend. From New York to Oahu, below are some suggestions that will have you seeing red, white and blue without spending a whole lot of green.

New York: Watch one of the best fireworks displays in the country with Viator’s once-in-a-lifetime July 4th VIP Exclusive: Fireworks from the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck. A limited number of tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to this two-hour, private evening event, guaranteed to sell out quickly.
Washington, D.C.: See 100 of the most popular monuments and points of interest in America’s capital after the sun goes down on the Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour by Trolley, currently more than 50 percent off.
Philadelphia: There’s no better time to visit our nation’s first capital than during a weekend to celebrate America’s Independence. Travelers will save more than 45 percent on admission to six of the city’s premier attractions with a Viator Philadelphia CityPASS.
Las Vegas: Hit the highway out of Las Vegas and spend the day touring two major tourist attractions on the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam Day Trip, currently on sale with savings more than 50 percent.
Orlando: Get two days for the price of one at Kennedy Space Center, a short drive from Orlando and the launch site for every U.S. human space flight since December 1968.
San Diego: Tour one of the largest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy fleet at the USS Midway Museum, San Diego’s newest visitor attraction. A visit to this historic naval aircraft carrier museum is an essential experience for patriots of all ages.
Boston: Travel north from Boston to historic Marblehead, the birthplace of the American Navy. Along the way, visit Salem, the Witch City and learn about the history of witchcraft and the reasons why the trials occurred.
Niagara Falls: Visit New York’s first state park on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls from New York City. Along the way, experience the state’s diverse ethnic heritage and the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes, one of the country’s premier wine producing areas.
Oahu: Take a sobering journey through U.S. history on a tour of the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, the last battleship built by the U.S. Navy. Tickets include skip-the-line access to make the most of a day at Pearl Harbor, complete with a tour of downtown Honolulu and a drive through Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific. An added bonus: receive one free child ticket for each adult ticket purchased.
Memphis: Walk in the footsteps of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll at Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland Mansion – the number one thing to do in Memphis, Tenn. Upgrade to the Elvis Entourage VIP Package and also receive entrance to a VIP Only Exhibit, Front of the Line Access to the Mansion, and more.

[Photo by J.W. Photography, Flickr]

Hawaii’s living ghosts: Retelling of lives at Hawaii cemeteries

In Hawai`i, everything in nature-trees, rocks, wind, rain-evokes a chicken-skin ghost story. It’s in the air, our blood, and retold on dark winter nights. The hair on the back of your neck will rise and prickle when you visit these spots.

Nuuanu Pali Lookout and the Old Pali Road

I grew up in Nu`uanu, the luxuriant valley that leads up to one of the best views of O`ahu, the Nu`uanu Pali Lookout. In 1795, King Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian Islands and drove O`ahu’s defending warriors up our valley. Rather than surrender, O`ahu’s warriors leapt 1000 feet from the Pali to their death. When the Pali Road was constructed in 1897, crews found the skulls and bones of over 800 men at the base of the Ko`olau Mountains.

During World War II, a few servicemen emboldened by alcohol leapt off the Pali. Powerful gale-force winds pushed the drunks back to safety. Lucky, they said. Our ghosts and gods, locals said.

Since ancient days the Old Pali Road was the only land route between Honolulu and the Windward side of the island. It was, and still is, a spooky road. Eerie winds whistle through the tree tunnel, waving vines drape from arching branches of the jungle forest, and leaves dart in the darkness like nervous fingers. At night we hush our voices and hold our breath until we emerge into the lights of Honolulu.

hawaiiMy grandparents warned us, “Never carry pork on the Old Pali Road.” The unwise who did told how their car would die. Attempts to restart were futile. Sometimes an old woman or man would appear at the side of the road. If one offered them a ride, their passenger, and the pork, would disappear before they got to town.

When I was in college my boyfriend and I returned from a party in Kailua via the Old Pali Road. The police stopped us so they could carry up from the ravine below the bodies of four young Hawaiian men whose skin shone unusually pale in the moonlight, victims of an accident. At a beach bonfire with fellow students a year later, two brothers, Harvard medical students, told us they had just returned to Honolulu along the Old Pali Road and at a certain curve they heard knocking on their windshield, as if someone wanted to get in. The brothers immediately backed up. Unnerved, they slowly started forward but each time they reached that spot in the road, they heard knocking, and retreated. The fifth time, the younger brother shouted, “Just drive! No matter what, don’t stop! Go!” His older brother floored it back to Honolulu.

“Where exactly did you hear that knocking?” I asked. They were athletes and fraternity men, not easily frightened. They described the curve in the Old Pali Road and the ravine below, the exact spot where the four boys had crashed the year before. We Hawaiians gasped; the dead youths were looking for someone to take their place.

Hours: Daily during daylight hours; no entrance fee. $3 parking; portable toilets; trash cans; food concession; interpretive signage; no drinking water.

O`ahu Cemetery

O’ahu Cemetery offers one of the finest collections of 19th century graveyard art in Hawaii and is one of the known ghost haunts. Through the Sailor’s Home Society, seamen from New England, Australia, Scotland, Peru, and even Iowa were buried here in the 1800s alongside the most distinguished and powerful landowning families such as the Campbells, Castles, and Dillinghams. The only full-sized statue, of Maria Kahanamoku, sister of Olympian Duke Kahanamoku, looks gently down among the palm trees lining the interior road.

Take one of the occasional tours. Step back into Hawaii‘s culture and history marked by marble statuary, granite obelisks, sarcophagi, ornate Celtic crosses and cryptic symbols. These landscaped grounds from are one of the most important historic sites in the islands and at night, alive with voices.

In the early 1900s, my grandmother’s uncle told of returning to Honolulu after his round of deliveries on the Windward side. Whenever his horse and cart passed O`ahu Cemetery late at night he encountered ghost seamen, probably from the 1800s whaling days, playing cards right outside the cemetery wall on the corner of Judd Street and Nu`uanu Avenue. The salty spirits, furious at being disturbed, would yell at him. “Go away! Leave us alone! Begone!” Leaves whistled through their bodies when they rose and chased after my great-grand uncle, hurling stones and curses as he urged his horse, ‘Faster!”

To this day, my aunts and uncles drive out of their way to avoid this corner which is on their direct route home. www.O`ahuCemetery.org 2162 Nu`uanu Avenue, Honolulu, HI. Phone 808-538-1538

oahu hawaii

Pu`u o Mahuka Heiau

High above the beach where surfers flock to surf the legendary 30 to 60 foot waves on the North Shore sits Pu`u o Mahuka Heiau, the largest religious site and temple on O`ahu. It covers almost 2 acres. As you drive up Pupukea Homestead Road off Kamehameha Highway you head up into the mountains through wild shrubbery. Nothing prepares you for what you are about to see.

Constructed in the 1600s, stacked lava rock walls from 3 to 6 feet in height define three walled enclosures. Within the walls were thatch and wood structures. It is conjectured this heiau was used as a sacrificial temple, perhaps for success in war. Situated on a ridge with a commanding view of Waimea Valley and the northern shoreline of O`ahu, signal fires from here could be seen as far as Kaua`i.

Stay outside the walls to avoid further damage to the site. You will see offerings of stones wrapped in ti leaves on the wall.

I’ve noted that at these Hawaiian heiaus, the air feels unusually still and no birds sing, as if it is still imbued with the sacredness of long ago. Everyone I bring here gets chicken-skin; the hairs on their neck and arms prickle as if the spirits of those who died here still roam. This is the ancient side of Hawaii, a layer most tourists miss.

More information here. Hours: Daily during daylight hours; no entrance fee; trash cans, interpretive signage & walkway; no drinking water.

Pam Chun’s award-winning first novel, The Money Dragon, was named one of 2002′s Best Books in Hawaii. Born and raised in Hawaii, she has been featured on NPR and has spoken at the Smithsonian. Read her blog on Red Room.

Top ten overrated U.S. travel destinations/attractions

Whether or not you’re an American, there are certain places that are on almost everyone’s must-visit list. Some tourist traps, like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland, are worth joining the masses and ponying up the entrance fee (although I just checked the Magic Kingdom’s website, and Mickey and friends are bilking the parents of children under nine for $68 a pop).

Other much-lauded, highly anticipated hot-spots are simply not worth the time and expense. This is, of course, highly subjective: one man’s Las Vegas dream vacation is another’s Third Circle of Hell. It can also be fun to visit certain craptacular or iconic landmarks.

The below list is a compilation of my picks, as well as those of other Gadling contributors, in no particular order. You may be offended, but don’t say you weren’t warned.

1. Hollywood
Unless you love freaks, junkies, hookers, crappy chain restaurants and stores, and stepping over human feces on the star-inlaid sidewalks, give it a miss.

2. Las Vegas
I understand the appeal of a lost weekend in Sin City, really. And I will not dispute the utter coolness of the Rat Pack, Vegas of yore. But in the name of all that is sacred and holy, why does the current incarnation of glorified excess and wasted natural resources exist, especially as a so-called family destination?

[Photo credit: Flickr user Douglas Carter Cole]3. Times Square
A dash of Hollywood Boulevard with a splash of Vegas and Orlando.

4. South Beach, Miami
At what point does silicone become redundant?

5. Atlantic City, New Jersey
The poor man’s Vegas

6. Orlando
Toll roads, herds of tourists, shrieking children, an abundance of nursing homes, and tacky corporate America, all in one tidy package.

7. Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco
It’s hard to hate on San Francisco, but the once-glorious Wharf is a shadow of its former self. Hooter’s, Pier 39, seafood stands hawking overpriced, previously-frozen Dungeness crab cocktail, aggressive panhandling, and vulgar souvenir shops kill the mood.

8. The Washington Monument
The nation’s preeminent phallic symbol is admittedly an impressive piece of architecture. It’s also possible to get a great view from the car en route to other, more interesting historic sites and tourist attractions.

9. Waikiki
There is so much more to Hawaii, including beaches that aren’t man-made.

10. Mt. Rushmore
Faces carved into rock. Moving on…

[Photo credits: Times Square, Flickr user Falling Heavens; Waikiki, Flickr user DiazWerks]

Top 10 farmers markets in U.S.

There’s an innate pleasure to eating seasonally, especially this time of year, when berries, stonefruit, peppers, corn, and tomatoes are at their peak. Farmers markets are one of the best ways to enjoy these ingredients, not only because they afford the chance to connect with growers, ranchers, fishermen, and food artisans, but also because they’re a window into the soul of a community.

I’ll be the first to admit I can’t afford to buy all of my groceries from my local market, and I get toilet paper and other household essentials from generic grocery chains. In our present era of food-related pretense, being on a first-name basis with your local farmer has become a form of culinary oneupmanship. Forget all that. The best reason to shop local and grower-direct, besides supporting family farms and local food security, is that you have access to fresh food, which is higher in nutrients, and often just tastes better. The bonus is usually a lively scene, with music, cooking demonstrations, tastings, and seasonal events.

Based on my ten years of working at markets in various states, below are my picks for the top ten farmers markets in the nation. I’ve based my criteria on their “green,” growers only (i.e., vendors must sell their own product and adhere to sustainable practices) policies, diversity and quality of product, and community involvement. If a visit to one of these markets isn’t on your Labor Day travel itinerary, not to worry. With over 5,000 markets operating throughout the U.S., there’s sure to be one near you.1. San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market

Top honors go to this thriving market for its gorgeous food displays, Bayside location, and nationally-acclaimed educational programs. Taste olive oil, cheese from Andante Dairy, June Taylor’s heirloom fruit preserves, and Marshall’s Farm Honey, and ogle the exquisite produce from Knoll Tairwa Farm and Dirty Girl Produce. Afterward, stroll the adjoining Ferry Building Marketplace and visit permanent shops from some of the state’s top food artisans.

2. Union Square Greenmarket, New York

The ultimate urban market boasts everything from Blue Moon’s spanking fresh Atlantic seafood, and artisan cheeses from Cato Corner Farm and Bobolink Dairy, to farmstead maple products and a staggering array of apples and cider from Upstate. Go with ample empty shopping bags; you’ll want souvenirs.

3. Santa Fe Farmers Market, New Mexico

Alongside pristine, high desert-grown produce, you’ll find Native American growers from local pueblos selling grassfed buffalo and heirloom crops descended from 300-year old indigenous seed stock; dried posole, and more varieties of dried chile than you knew existed. Come with an empty stomach, so you have room for tamales, bomber breakfast burritos, or goat milk fudge.

4. Boulder Farmers Market, Colorado

Regional farmers prove that a short growing season can still be spectacular in the form of red sunchokes, fingerling potatoes, maroon heirloom carrots, and peaches to die for from Morton’s Orchards. A kaleidoscope of cut flowers and an adjoining prepared food section make this bustling market a colorful-and delicious- community hot spot.

5. Berkeley Farmers Market, California

Although just 13 miles across the Bay from San Francisco, this revered urban market has a distinct flavor all it’s own. Grab a rustic loaf from Brickmaiden Breads, pâté or charcuterie from Fatted Calf, cheese from Redwood Hill Farm, and some produce, and you have the ultimate picnic.

6. Dane County Farmers Market, Madison, Wisconsin

Even in frigid winters, this college town market keeps on, providing hearty fare such as artisan brats and sausages, rabbit, delicate Fantôme Farm chevre, honey, and sweet, Northern European-style baked goods. This time of year, expect an abundance of produce, including cherries, elderberries, foraged hickory nuts, and other wild foods.

7. Seattle “U-District” Market

Seattle’s most popular neighborhood market is “farmers only,” meaning it’s limited to food products. It hosts over 50 regional growers who gather to sell free-range eggs, hard cider, hazelnuts, a multitude of berries, foraged mushrooms and other wild foods, goat meat, fresh and smoked salmon, and native geoduck clams.

8. Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market, Washington DC

Credited with teaching Washingtonians to add produce to their agendas, this immesely popular, yearround market offers a regular “Chef in Market” program, and sells everything from ice cream and handcrafted soap to meat, seafood, pasta, and cow, goat, and sheep’s milk cheeses. Most of the product comes from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and is grown, raised, or caught within a 150-mile radius.


9. Austin Farmers Market, Texas

This beloved market is limited to local (within 150 miles) farms, and boasts a distinct Southwestern flavor. Pick up Creole pralines, pecans, heirloom zipper, cream, black-eyed, and purple peas, then dive into locally made empanadas and Oaxacan and Cuban food.

10. Kapiolani Community College (KCC) Farmers Market, Honolulu, Hawaii

Co-sponsored by the Hawaii Farm Bureau and the Culinary Institute of the Pacific at KCC, Oahu’s most thriving market requires growers to be in attendance, and provides locals and tourists with a real taste of the islands. Purchase grassfinished beef from Haleiwa’s North Shore Cattle Company, farm-raised moi (a tasty, white-fleshed fish once reserved for Hawaiian royalty), Molokai purple sweet potatoes, vanilla beans grown by the Big Island’s Hawaiian Vanilla Co., and produce like taro, lilikoi (passion fruit), and guava. Finish up with a plate lunch of kalua pig and lau lau, and prepare to tackle a hike on nearby Diamond Head to burn off the calories.