‘World’s Best Mai Tai’ Announced at Don the Beachcomber Festival


Hundreds enjoyed the 8th Annual Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival in August, where bartenders from around the world vied for the $10,000 top prize and title as the “World’s Best Mai Tai.”

Every August for the past eight years, the iconic on the “Big Island” of Hawaii pays homage to the legendary Mai Tai cocktail.  Hundreds of visitors gather at the resort on beautiful Kailua Bay in Kona for a fun filled Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival.

The day begins at 11 a.m. with the Battle of the BBQ.   Local restaurants and chefs competed for the title of “World’s Best BBQ.” This year’s Judges winner was Cool Runnings Catering of Kailua-Kona, which received a 5-night stay for two in a deluxe ocean view room at the Royal Lahaina Resort on Maui, a luau for two, round of golf for two at one of the neighboring courses, and a $500 food and beverage credit at the resort.  The People’s Choice award went to Umeke Restaurant, also from Kailua-Kona.


While the BBQ competition was heating up, the Mai Tai Marketplace was opened for all to enjoy the arts, crafts and products of local vendors and artisans from throughout Hawaii.  The delicious island produce and other food treats tantalized for every palette.

Grammy-nominated musician Henry Kapono and his band took center stage at the Royal Kona Resort’s main swimming pool in the early afternoon for a free concert.  Guests kicked back with their own Mai Tais and relaxed to the island rhythms of this world renowned, award winning performer.

The main event started at 4:30 p.m. at the resort’s Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Bar.  The Mai Tai Mix-off attracted over 20 bartenders and Mai Tai aficionados from many parts of the globe, all vying for the prestigious title as the creator of the “World’s Best Mai Tai.”

The First Place, $10,000 winner and new title holder was Art Deakins from Bar Leather Apron in Honolulu, HI.  Second place and $5,000 went to Tim Rita of the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas, NV.  The third place prize of $2,500 was awarded to Kevin Beary of Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, IL.  Contestant Carl Kimura of 3 Fat Pigs in Waikoloa won a free, 7-night stay in a one-bedroom suite of his choice at any Diamond Resort in the United States valued at up to $6,300.

Throughout the Mai Tai competition, an enthusiastic audience cheered their favorite mixologists in a rousing tribute to the classic rum drink.  The bartender concoctions were judged by a special panel based on taste, creativity, and name in the wild, 3-hour contest that produced lots of laughs and some amazing recipes.

And, after the Mix-off, visitors stuck around at Don’s Mai Tai Bar to reflect on a fabulous day and take in the sun setting over the blue Pacific.  It’s a full day of merriment that shouldn’t be missed next year.

For more information, go to www.donsmaitaifest.com or www.royalkona.com.


6th Annual Maui Jazz & Blues Festival

Warm surf, golden sand, and hot sounds will greet those attending the 6th Annual Maui Jazz & Blues Festival at the Royal Lahaina Resort September 10, 2016 on spectacular Kaanapali Beach.  A star-studded show of top Jazz and Blues artists will emanate from the resort’s oceanfront stage from 5 to 9 p.m.  Gates open at 4:30 p.m.

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The 6th Annual Maui Jazz & Blues Festival is set for September 10, 2016 at the oceanfront Royal Lahaina Resort on famous Kaanapali Beach, featuring top artists to heat up the night.

A who’s who list of musicians will thrill the audience, including blues guitar legend and Blues Hall of Famer Joe Louis Walker, jazz guitarists Larry Coryell and Benny Uyetake, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, Grammy-winners The Band Courtbouillon, saxophone masters Javon Jackson and Rock Hendricks, jazz trumpeter Gabriel Mark Hasselbach, and many others to be announced.

This amazing night of hot sounds under the stars, overlooking the beautiful Pacific is just $50 per person for general admission, $100 for Premiere VIP seats, and $1,000 for Premiere VIP tables for 10.  This event is always a sellout.  To purchase tickets and for more information on the Festival itself, go online to www.mauijazzandbluesfestival.com.

To round out the weekend, the Royal Lahaina is presenting a special Jazz Brunch, featuring some of the Festival artists and The Jazz Alley TV Trio on Sunday, September 11. The meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

All of the action will be at the Royal Lahaina Resort at 2780 Kekaa Drive, Lahaina, HI. For JAZZFEST room rates at the property, call 808-661-3611.


‘Big Island’ Golf to Remember

The “Big Island” of Hawaii has been called the “Golf Capital of Hawaii” for good reason.  There are 16 public courses throughout the beautifully diverse island, including many, magnificent resort courses along the famous Kohala Coast that shouldn’t be missed.

If you’re a serious golfer or just want to experience some of the best golf in the Islands, make sure your bucket list has on it: Mauna Kea Golf Course, Waikoloa Beach Resort’s two courses, the two courses at Mauna Lani Resort, the Big Island Country Club, and the Kona Country Club.  Each is uniquely designed, offering postcard perfect signature holes and lots of challenges for all skill levels.

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Golfers on Hawaii’s “Big Island” can experience magnificent ocean views on courses cut into ancient lava fields. Other venues run into the hills, overlooking the blue Pacific. It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Often cutting through lava fields and jetting into the blue Pacific, these courses will take your breath away (and probably a few golf balls).  Away from the ocean and at 2,000 feet in elevation, the Big Island Country Club is in the foothills of 14,000-foot Mauna Kea Volcano, with the Kona coastline below.  Also in the mountainous area above Kona is Makalei Golf Club, with its 900-foot elevation changes.  It just doesn’t get much better than these venues for golfers.

The Royal Kona Resort is the perfect headquarters for your golf adventures on Hawaii Island. You can arrange tees through the resort’s Activity Center and, after your rounds, relax at Don’s Mai Tai Bar overlooking Kailua Bay or dine at Don the Beachcomber’s restaurant or take in the amazing “Voyagers of the Pacific” luau spectacular.

For more information on the resort, go to www.royalkona.com.


Maui: The Valley of Golf

The Valley Isle of Maui is a golf nirvana, boasting some of the finest courses in Hawaii.  The resort areas of west and south Maui are beautiful and challenging, but the Maui airport side of the island offers some outstanding links, as well. You could golf every day for nearly two weeks and never play the same course twice.

Kaanapali Golf Course - couple

Two of the Kaanapali golf courses are next to the Royal Lahaina Resort and feature holes right down to the ocean or spectacular mountain views.

Adjacent to the Royal Lahaina Resort on the golden sand of Kaanapali Beach, there are two championship courses—Royal Kaanapali, which runs along the ocean, and the Kaanapali Kai that moves up the nearby mountainside for some spectacular elevation changes. Staying at the resort can get you some good rates, including a special golf package and free club rentals.  For details, go to www.royallahaina.com.

Northwest, a few miles from the Royal Lahaina, is the famous Kapalua Resort, which features the professional-grade Plantation Course, where the PGA’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions is played.  The Bay Course will also stir your Tour ambitions and test your golfing skills.

South of the Royal Lahaina is the lesser-known, but terrific Maui Nui Golf Club.  Located in Kihei, you will enjoy the venue that is suited for all levels of play.

Further down Maui’s west coast is Wailea with three fantastic courses.  You can immerse yourself in golf for several days at the Gold, Emerald and Old Blue courses for unforgettable play.

Next up is the private King Kamehameha Golf Club and its sister Kahili Golf Course.  The King Kam does allow outside play and shouldn’t be missed, if you’re a serious duffer.

Across Maui toward the Kahului Airport side is the Dunes at Maui Lani, which is a links-style course at the base of a mountain.  The sand dune terrain and elevation changes make for a nice change up from the ocean venues on the island’s west coast.

Near the airport is Pukalani Country Club with its tree-lined Par 3 course that will test your short game.  There’s one hole that features two greens and an interesting risk-reward approach option.

If you have a golf bucket list, there is plenty to fill it on Maui. The Royal Lahaina Resort, in the heart of Maui’s golf country, is an ideal headquarters and the resort’s Activity Center can make all of your golf dreams come true.


‘House of the Sun’ Welcomes Visitors


Sunrise atop Haleakala is an almost mystical experience, as magnificent colors emerge from the crater floor.

Haleakala, called “House of the Sun” by Hawaiians, is actually a massive shield volcano that makes up 75 percent of the island of Maui.  It’s also one of the top visitor attractions for hikers, nature lovers, campers, star gazers, horseback riders, and those who simply appreciate magnificent views of the island and the skies above it.

Ancient Hawaiian legend says the powerful demi-god named Maui lassoed and held the sun captive until it agreed to go more slowly over the crater each day.  Who is to say? But what can’t be denied is that the sunrises crawling up the slopes of Haleakala are truly spectacular and draw thousands of visitors each year.

At its highest point, the in-active volcano is 10,023 feet above sea level.  From the peak’s summit, you can look down into the huge crater that is seven miles across, two miles wide, and 2,600 feet deep.  The surrounding walls are steep and the interior is mostly barren-looking with some scattered volcanic cones. Nonetheless, some unique plants and animals have evolved here and cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.

Haleakala National Park surrounds and incorporates Haleakala, encompassing a total of over 30,000 acres; two-thirds of which is wilderness. To the southeast is Kipahulu Valley and Oheo Gulch (and pools), extending to the shoreline in the Kipahulu area. From Haleakala’s summit, there are two main trails leading into the crater: Sliding Sands Trail and Halemauu Trail.

Because the daytime and evening temperatures vary so dramatically, take warm clothing if you’ll be there before sunrise and after dusk.  There are some simple cabins for overnight renters, but there are no gas or food outlets in the park, so stock up before taking the trek.

You’ll want to come before the glorious sunrise and stay after the sun comes up for an amazing show of color that spreads across Haleakala’s vast landscape.  The Activity Centers at the Royal Lahaina Resort can arrange your adventure to the House of the Sun.




Hawaii’s Marine Life on Display

fish3Each year, thousands of visitors of all ages from around the world come to the spectacular Maui Ocean Center just south of the Royal Lahaina Resort.  Perched above beautiful Maalaea Harbor, with spectacular ocean views as the perfect backdrop, the aquarium is a wonderful place to encounter the amazing sea life found in the Islands, including about a quarter of the species only found in Hawaii. Guests will also discover the importance of the ocean and its creatures to the Hawaiian people.

Since its opening in 1998, the Center has faithfully created an environment that fosters an understanding and Turtle-Reefappreciation of Hawaii’s marine animals.  There are hundreds of tropical reef fish, octopus, moray eels, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, sea jellyfish and lots more amazingly colorful and unique ocean specimens.

Here, Hawaii’s natural ocean ecosystem is presented in a warm, inviting setting that features over 60 exhibits of live corals, interactive displays, touch pools, and a 750,000-gallon “Open Ocean” aquarium with a 240-degree, acrylic tunnel.  There are daily interactive presentations by marine experts at various times throughout the Center, plus behind-the-scenes tours, turtle encounters, presentations by special guest speakers, and other educational programs to delight and inform the entire family.

For the more adventurous, some visitors can actually swim with the sharks, stingrays and thousands of tropical fish in the Shark Dive Maui®.   The Center allows certified divers to get face-to-face with these unique sea denizens.  Most divers in the ocean would rarely come across many of the sharks living in the Hawaiian waters, but they can here, including sandbar sharks, blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, hammerhead sharks and even a tiger shark.  The diver’s friends and family can also watch everything from a special viewing area and follow along the diver’s incredible underwater journey in a 54-foot-long acrylic tunnel through the exhibit.

The Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (‘til 6 p.m. in July and August).  For more information and reservations, call 808-270-7000 or go online at www.mauioceancenter.com.  After a visit, check out the collection of items at the Center’s Maui Ocean Treasures gift shop or enjoy a great meal at the Seascape Maalaea Restaurant or Reef Café, overlooking the harbor.  The Activity Centers at the Royal Lahaina Resort can also help with your arrangements to see Hawaii’s magnificent marine life up close.


Big Tastes on Hawaii’s Big Island

The Big Island’s tropical climate and rich, volcanic soil are ideal for growing many crops used in everyday life by locals and in the outstanding cuisine presented to visitors. Some foods produced here are unique to the Islands and found nowhere else in the United States.

Hawaii is the only state growing commercially produced coffee, such as the world famous Kona coffee. The Big Island also grows other tasty coffees in its Kau, Puna and Hamakua districts.

Chocolate is another exotic, Big Island product, as are the healthy Hawaiian macadamia nuts. And, while beer is not unique to the Islands, there are many micro-breweries making great local suds everywhere from Waimea to Kona to Hilo.

There are also many Hawaiian eats that have become part of food scene over the centuries. The diverse cultures and ethnicity of the Islands that have melded here brought about a treasure trove of tastes that shouldn’t be missed on vacation.

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Hawaii’s diverse culture and ethnicity have brought about an incredible menu of foods to tantalize any taste buds.

Poke is raw fish typically marinated in soy sauce, onions and lemon. Poi is the traditional Hawaiian starchy “pudding” made from the taro root. Lomi Lomi Salmon is a fresh tomato and salmon salad often served as a side dish. Laulua is fish, chicken or pork wrapped in taro and ti leaves, smoked in an underground emu oven for hours. In a like manner, Kalua Pig is cooked underground with hot rocks and covered in leaves for a wonderfully tender and smoky taste.

Crunchy Spam Musubi is a local favorite that you at least should try when here. Huli Huli Chicken is slowly roasted and turned over a grill. Chicken Long Rice is not a Hawaiian standard, but is very popular with meals, including luaus. Portuguese Sausage will put a little zing in your breakfast.

Mochi are little Japanese rice cake snacks. Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian dessert made of coconut milk and cornstarch. Malassadas are Portuguese sugared and fried yeast dough balls that will melt in your mouth.

When you are at the Royal Kona Resort of the Big Island, try out the many tastes of the Islands in the restaurants and at the famous luau.  For more information, go to www.hawaiihotels.com.

Maui By Horse

Everyone knows Maui is an amazing vacation spot with fantastic resorts, some of the best beaches and water activities in the world, fine restaurants, and spectacular scenery.  But if you’re interested in horsing around on the island, it doesn’t get much better than saddling up at any of the many ranches and riding stables here.

Equine excursions can take you through beautiful valleys, verdant rolling hills, tropical rainforests, and along sea cliffs with incredible views of the Pacific and neighboring islands.  Riders of all experience levels can hit the trail and even go on a cattle drive.

Haleakala Riding

Horseback riding on Maui can take you from the desolate Haleakala Crater to lush rainforests and sea cliff vistas. Groups of all sizes and all experience levels can easily be accommodated.

Trail rides are available throughout the Island, from Kapalua to West Maul to the south in Makena to the east in Hana. You can actually ride through Haleakala Crater. Then there’s the 20,000 acre Ulupalakua Ranch with some of the most beautiful, untouched land, where wildlife runs free. Numerous other ranches and stables dot Upcountry Maui and provide a range of horseback experiences and jaw-dropping scenery.

Some of the rides feature Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) guides to “talk story” about Maui’s history and myths. There are even a few excursions that offer stops for picnicking, BBQs, and swimming.

The Activity Center at the Royal Lahaina Resort on famed Maui’s Kaanapali Beach can direct you. Individual and small group rides can easily be arranged. Be sure to bring a pair of jeans and closed-toed shoes to wear when you get your giddyup on.

The Evolution of Hawaii


When the first Polynesians landed in Hawaii around 500 A.D., they found nearly 140 species of birds and only two mammals—the monk seal and hoary bat.  There were no amphibians, reptiles, bugs or mosquitoes.


Hawaii’s reefs are filled with colorful and unique species.

With the original settlers came the addition of pigs, dogs, horses, goats, and sheep.  Because of the isolation of the Islands and the natural lack of predators, much of the fauna adapted to their new environment and evolved into new species.  Today, nearly 90 percent of the animals in Hawaii exist only in the Islands and nowhere else on Earth.

In the Pacific, there are some 680 sea fish species that inhabit the Hawaiian waters. There are also about 450 types of reef fish in Hawaii, 27 percent of which are endemic.  Of course, there are also sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and many others that make up the oceanic community.fish

Hawaii diligently protects its eco-system and its indigenous animals through conservation efforts and visitor education programs.  The vibrant, unique animal community is a beauty to behold, which only adds to the allure of the Islands with its pristine beaches, lush landscapes, and clear waters.

Visitors can get up close to Hawaii’s sea life through snorkeling and scuba excursions, whale watching cruises or, on Maui, checking out the spectacular Maui Ocean Center. Eco-tours and miles of hiking trails will lead visitors to areas of jaw-dropping beauty and a fantastic array of colorful birds and plants. 

Explore the hidden treasures of the Islands arranged on Maui at the Royal Lahaina Resort Activity Center and on Hawaii’s Big Island at the Royal Kona Resort Activity Center.  Come and experience all of Hawaii . . . on land and in the ocean.

Surf’s Up on Maui

Ancient Polynesians brought surfing to Hawaii hundreds of years ago, yet, the sport is still one of the big draws to the Islands.  For beginner and pro surfers, alike, Maui is the place to be.

Surfer with Son on Board

Surfing has been called the “sport of kings,” since its beginnings in Polynesia only allowed royalty to ride the waves. Today, everyone can enjoy the action.

If you are new to surfing or want to learn while on Maui, lessons are readily available and typically run one to two hours.  Taught by experienced instructors, they will take beginners to some of the many gentle surf breaks off of Maui’s famous beaches, such as Kaanapali Beach that fronts the Royal Lahaina Resort.

There are also surfing schools in Lahaina Town and Kihei further south, where newbies can find the perfect, smaller waves for their first rides.  Once they get the hang of it, there are a variety of state beaches that offer ideal conditions for practice. 

Another option for the uninitiated is to try stand-up paddle boarding or windsurfing. Both can be challenging and a lot of fun.  Beginners are encouraged to take lessons, which can be arranged throughout Maui.

Maui surfing at Peahi, Jaws

Big wave surfing for top athletes center on east Maui venues, where jet-skis are often used to get out into the massive breakers.

If you are an advanced surfer or just want to watch the big boys and girls battle Nature, Honolua Bay and Hookipa Beach are where the highly experienced surfers do their thing.  In winter months, the areas near Paia on Maui’s east side are the home of big wave surfing, especially at Peahi, also known as “Jaws.” When the swells get huge, surfers are towed into massive waves by jet-skis.

For more information on all things to do on Maui, be sure to check out www.royallahaina.com and the resort’s Activities Center.