Your favorite Hawaii beaches

Your favorite Hawaii beaches

On Sunday, on our way to Kaena Point, we stopped at Makaha Beach (left) to kill some time.

I had forgotten how nearly perfect this place is.

The beach itself is a relieving exhale; it’s wide and usually uncrowded, with enough room for you to stretch out. Unlike popular beaches in town, you won’t likely be disturbed by beach-goers blathering on their cell phones or chain-smoking on the beach mat next to you.

And there’s surf. Not the occasional freak set of swells. We’re talking serious waves from north and south swells that can reach advisory levels in the winter that can generate dangerous shorebreak and strong rip currents.

It’s easily one of my favorite beaches in Hawaii.

I get asked that question all the time — people visiting the Islands always want to know where the best beaches are. Some want calm waters with living coral reefs perfect for snorkeling. Others want world-class surf breaks. Still others want beaches where all the hot chicks frequent.

I like beaches that offer options.

The beaches in Waikiki (right) has a plethora of things to do, from snorkeling to swimming to surfing. You can rent everything from stand-up paddleboards to inner tubes at concession stands along the beach. And if you want to lie back and watch the world pass by, you can do that, too.

And if you get bored with the beach, you can always ditch the towels and walk along Kalakaua Avenue for frozen yogurt, shave ice or a li hing margarita.

See? Options.

But I can appreciate a more secluded beach like Wailea Beach on Maui.

This crescent-shaped golden beach on the southern shores of Maui (left) was voted “America’s Best Beach” — and for good reason. It offers ideal swimming and snorkeling in its protected waters, with restrooms and equipment rentals nearby. Like other Neighbor Island beaches — Secret Beach on Kauai, Papohaku Beach on Molokai — Wailea isn’t very crowded, at least by Oahu standards. And sometimes I like going to the ocean to get away from the noise and commotion that is my life. Crowds aren’t what I’m looking for.

So I’m throwing it out there: what are your favorite Hawaii beaches and why?

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Cat Chat: Mavro’s summer menu

Cat Chat: Mavro’s summer menu

Change can be a good thing.

And that’s definitely the case at the award-winning restaurant Chef Mavro, which recently unveiled both a new chef de cuisine and a new summer menu.

Back in May, chef/owner George Mavrothalassitis (@chefmavro) hired Paul Feng — who has worked at Wolfgang Puck’s famed San Francisco restaurant Postrio and at the now-closed Tabla in New York City — as chef de cuisine. The two collaborated on a new summer menu with innovative dishes like a tako (octopus) ceviche with a tomato granite and a Keahole lobster a la Thai with coconut cream froth atop rice noodle cake.

I was salivating just reading the menu.

So we had to check it out for ourselves.

Chef Mavro graciously let us hang out in the kitchen before dinner last week to watch his staff prep this menu, about 80 percent of which uses locally grown ingredients. (Chef is big into the local farm-to-table movement.)

So here’s your sneak peek into the restaurant’s latest offerings and a chance to meet the new chef de cuisine. Sorry, there are no subtitles.

Outside Chef Mavro

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Around for more than a decade, Chef Mavro is consistently rated as one of the best Hawaii restaurants and holds the prestigious James Beard award.

The menu is offered in three courses ($75, $48 more with wine pairings), four courses ($85, $55 more with wine pairings), six courses ($128, $63 more with wine pairings), or the Grand Degustation, which is all of the dishes in tasting portions ($165, $85 more with wine pairings).

Chef Mavro, 1969 South King St. Phone: (808) 944-4714

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Dog owners FOUND!

Dog owners FOUND!

We got the call we were all hoping for — none more than Charlie, the Cavalier King Charles we picked up on Sunday wandering the streets of Portlock.

And, by the way, his name is Rascal.

Like we figured, the owners had no idea Rascal slipped out of their house for an unsupervised Sunday night stroll. Luckily, Rascal had only been out for a couple of hours — if that, according to the owners — before we found him.

And like many dog owners (including us), the owners didn’t know they had to register the microchip with the Hawaiian Humane Society. It’s something all of you with pets should do today.

Skin allergies are surprisingly common with dogs, and Cavalier King Charles are no exception. The owners have been trying to figure out what’s wrong with Rascal, and changing his diet was one of their many attempts. (If anyone has suggestions or tips I can pass along to the owner, post ‘em here.)

Pet ownership isn’t easy, especially if you’re trying to provide a safe, healthy and fun-filled life for your animals. And it’s particularly difficult when your pet is suffering from a disease, injury or condition like Rascal.

By this afternoon, he should be reunited with his family and sleeping in his comfortable bed. Thanks to everyone for your help in tracking down his owners — for the re-tweeting and Facebook posts — and sending your happy thoughts to Rascal. He’s going home!

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Lost dog: What I’ve learned

Lost dog: What I’ve learned

We went to check on the surf — and came back with a newfound appreciation for microchips and dog tags.

On Sunday Derek and I drove to Portlock to check out the surf in Maunalua Bay. As we were driving home, we saw a gaunt tan-and-white Cavalier King Charles wandering the streets in the neighborhood.

As we do whenever we see stray dogs, we pulled over and tried to keep the dog off the road and out of harm’s way.

Usually, strays will bolt; they’re almost impossible to grab. But the ones who are truly missing — most often slipped out an open gate — tend to be more reasonable.

This dog actually walked over to our car.

I grabbed a towel and wrapped the dog in my arms. Much of his fur had been scratched or chewed off, as he was suffering from a severe skin allergy. He was scared and hungry and sad. My heart ached.

But he had no dog tag, no collar, no identification. We weren’t sure what to do.

We walked around the neighborhood, stopping cars and knocking on doors to no avail. A very helpful resident who was out walking her dog actually rang doorbells, too. Nothing.

This was the first time we had picked up a stray that had absolutely no ID. Hoping the dog had a microchip — an insert the size of a grain of rice that contains a unique number for each animal — we took him to Animal CARE Foundation in Hawaii Kai. It’s a nonprofit organization that provides veterinary care and services to rescued animals.

Yes, there was a microchip. But this foundation and the Hawaiian Humane Society, which keeps a database of numbers, had no record of it. Meaning, neither had information on the dog nor its owner.

Already, there were two problems: the dog didn’t have a collar and ID tag, which could have included his name and contact information of the owners; and the owners didn’t register the microchip with the local humane society, which was something I didn’t know you had to do.

According to the Hawaiian Humane Society, owners have to update their contact information with their vets and the local humane society; it’s not automatic. And if you move with your pet to another state, you should register — for a small fee — with the national database for your brand of microchip. Otherwise, if you lose your pet, the microchip won’t help.

There was nothing the foundation could do except offer two weeks of vet care and boarding for $200; after that, it would cost $7 a day. (It’s a no-kill shelter — but it’s not “no-pay” shelter.) Luckily, a dog-loving friend of mine offered to care for the lost dog, who we named Charlie, while we searched for the owner.

I asked the vet to look the dog over first before we introduce him to a new home and a resident dog. I wanted to make sure Charlie didn’t have anything contagious or life-threatening.

She said the dog was healthy — though hungry and likely dehydrated — but suffered from a skin allergy that was likely tied to his diet. The skin on his underside was completely exposed — raw, flakey and inflamed. He looked miserable. But I give this dog credit: he was happy and sweet, one of the nicest dogs I’ve ever encountered.

I didn’t know this, either: dogs can suffer from allergies. In this case, Charlie was likely allergic to something in his food. Typically, the allergy is to gluten or wheat products. We read that changing the diet to a protein- or meat-based one would help immediately.

My friend bathed Charlie in baby shampoo and lathered his underside with aloe from her yard. When I went over to visit yesterday, he was happily curled up on a bed in a crate. He greeted me like an old friend, wagging his gnawed tail and letting me rub his head.

We put an ad on Craigslist and posted his information on social media sites. So far, we had one inquiry; we’ll find out today if we’ve located his owners. Hopefully, we can reunite Charlie with his family soon.

Honestly, I didn’t think I would have gotten so attached to a stray dog I had only just met. But Charlie is so sweet and accommodating, pleasant and calm. I hate to think of him alone, wandering the streets, hungry and scared. It breaks my heart. But thanks to him, I learned a lot about properly caring for my pooches and the importance of dog tags and microchips.

Sunny and Indy wouldn’t last a day on their own — and I don’t expect they’ll ever have to.

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Hiking, biking Kaena Point

Hiking, biking Kaena Point

I get out — but I don’t get out to the West Side of Oahu nearly enough.

So when some friends wanted to hike and bike around Kaena Point, the westernmost point on the island, I didn’t hesitate.

Kaena Point is nothing short of magical.

It’s one of the last intact dune ecosystems in the main Hawaiian Islands and home to a growing population of rare and endangered coastal plants and seabirds such as the Laysan albatross and wedge-tailed shearwaters. The Hawaiian green sea turtles and monk seals — both endangered — often rest along the shoreline here.

It’s also an area teeming with cultural sites and significance. Kaena Point was once known as leina a kauhane, the leaping place of souls, where the spirits of the recently dead could be reunited with their ancestors.

Because of its cultural and environmental importance, it has been designated as a natural area reserve (NAR). The Kaena Point Ecosystem Restoration Project was set up to protect, preserve and restore the native environment here, including installing a predator-proof fence, the first of its kind in Hawaii.

We spent a Sunday morning traversing this unique coastline. Here’s what our trek looked like:

On the road

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We grabbed our bikes, shoes, water bottles, Spam musubis and a bag of Skittles and drove the nearly 50 miles from our house to Kaena Point State Park.

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