#40trails No. 17: Mānoa Falls, O‘ahu

By February 18, 2016 #40trails


HIKE: Mānoa Falls, O‘ahu
WHEN: February 2016
LENGTH: 1.6 miles roundtrip
DIFFICULTY: Easy; great for novices, kids, families and leashed dogs
FEATURES: Well-worn trail, valley scenery, often wet and muddy, mosquitos (so use repellent), restrooms at the trailhead, fee parking, dog-friendly, small waterfall and swimming hole at the end, links to another trail. Be careful of landslides, falling rocks and ongoing pig control in the area on Wednesdays and Sundays.

I honestly can’t remember the first time I hiked to Mānoa Falls in the back of this lush valley. I know I was pretty young because the waterfall, in my memory, was huge.

And it’s really not. Mānoa Falls is only about 150 feet tall and not much more than a trickle every time I’ve seen it since. It’s really not that impressive.

But then again, that’s not the main draw of this hike.

The Mānoa Falls Trail is an easy, pleasant stroll though verdant Mānoa Valley.

The trailhead is located at the end of Mānoa Road, right at Paradise Park, a one-time exotic bird and plant attraction that closed in 1994. The parking lot is to the right. You park, walk into the Rainbow’s End Snack Shop — where, by the way, you can pick up whatever hiking essentials you’ve forgotten at home — and pay $5. Then you put the ticket on your dashboard and walk to the trailhead.

It costs $5 to park here.

It costs $5 to park here.

Inside the snack shop, where you can get everything from bug repellent to microspikes.

Inside the snack shop, where you can get everything from bug repellent to microspikes.

Follow the sign to the trailhead.

Follow the sign to the trailhead.

The start of the hike.

The start of the hike.

The walk to the trailhead might be the most dangerous part of the entire hike. You have to follow the narrow, winding road past the Lyon Arboretum to the start of the trail.

This is more of a walk than a hike, as the trail is well-worn and the incline very minimal. You’ll walk through Eucalyptus trees and a forest of bamboo, completely surrounded by trees and ferns. Despite the crowd — we probably encountered around 50 people by 9 a.m. — it seems quiet here.

As we started the hike, we noticed the trail is undergoing renovation, which calls for the installation of informational signs along the trail. The areas have been cleared and the structures for the signs are there, but they’re littered with stickers and vandalism. No idea when this project will be done, but it’s a great idea since this trail is one of the most popular on O‘ahu.

This hike is an easy walk through a lush rainforest.

This hike is an easy walk through a lush rainforest.

It's a nice escape from the bustle of Honolulu — and it's just minutes away.

It’s a nice escape from the bustle of Honolulu — and it’s just minutes away.

I love walking through bamboo, and this trail has a nice grove of them.

I love walking through bamboo, and this trail has a nice grove of them.

Right before you reach the waterfall, there’s a signed junction to the left in a grove of mountain apple trees. This leads to another trail, the 8-mile-long ʻAihualama Trail. The path here is rocky and narrow at first but opens up later and finishes with 360-degree views of Diamond Head, Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor and even Waiʻanae. This hike climbs to the top of Tantalus and is rarely crowded. If you’re up for the challenge, consider taking this route.

And if you’re not, you’re very, very close to the falls.

The start of the ‘Aihualama Trail.

The start of the ‘Aihualama Trail.

The end of the trail is here, at this waterfall. This is where most hikers stop.

The end of the trail is here, at this waterfall. This is where most hikers stop.

It takes about 20 minutes to get to the falls, which spills into a small swimming pool below. I was surprised to see people actually lounging in the small pool. First of all, a landslide in January 2002 closed access to the pool and waterfall. And second, it’s not especially inviting. It wasn’t like a difficult hike where you need to cool off. And the pool is small, very small, too small to share with 15 other people.

But I digress.

VERDICT: New to hiking? Then this is the trail for you. It’s easy and well-worn with hardly any incline, yet you’re surrounded by thick, lush greenery. While there’s no summit view like you’d get on a ridge hike, the entire walk is peaceful and gorgeous. But it’s a popular hike, so expect crowds, especially after 9 a.m. on weekends.

Follow my hiking adventures #40trails at Instagram (@catherinetoth), Twitter (@thedailydish) and Facebook (/thecatdish).

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When your dog is sick

By February 16, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish, The Dog Dish


I often wonder what my dogs would say if they could talk.

And usually, I’m glad they don’t. I don’t know if I could tolerate hearing Indy nag me all day for a rawhide treat or Sunny complaining about her dinner.

But there’s definitely one time when I wish they could talk: when they’re sick.

It’s so hard to try and figure out what’s wrong with our pets. We look for signs — she’s not eating, she’s lethargic, she’s panting more than usual, she’s vomiting — but we can’t often tell what’s the underlying cause. It would be so much easier if they could just tell us what’s ailing them.

I felt this way recently when Opae, our eight-year-old rat terrier mix, fell ill.

A few days ago, in the middle of the night, we heard that usual gag of vomiting. She spit up a bunch of grass she had eaten earlier, and I didn’t think much of it.

But later that morning, on our regular hike up to the Makapu‘u Lighthouse, she pooped globs of blood. In fact, blood continued to drip out of her anus. I freaked out, called the vet, and made my way down the trail and to the car.

Turns out, Opae had some kind of gastrointestinal infection that required a round of antibiotics and a bland diet. But when we got home, the diarrhea continued — only it was spontaneous. She couldn’t control it. She was embarrassed and in pain and we didn’t know what to do.

After two nights of this, we packed her up and went back to Feathers and Fur Animal Hospital in Kailua, which offers emergency care services. Opae hadn’t been eating, hadn’t been drinking water, hadn’t been sleeping. We were desperate.

There aren’t many situations that stress me out more than my dogs being sick or unhappy. I feel helpless and useless — and I hate watching them suffer.

This is how I felt all weekend. Let’s just say I ate a lot of chocolate and didn’t sleep much.

Our vet recommended Opae stay overnight to get a new round of antibiotics via an IV. She wanted to monitor her, make sure she was eating, drinking, pooping properly.

We didn’t pick up her until Monday afternoon, after more than 24 hours at the animal hospital. She was scared and miserable and ready to come home.

And we were ready to have her home.

Opae was discharged with two different kinds of oral antibiotics and packets of probiotic powder that we have to dust on her food. She can’t eat anything but bland food — like chicken and rice — and her physical activity is limited to just walking short distances.

As soon as she came home, she started acting normally — running up the stairs, wagging her tail, drinking water and begging for snacks. Our sweet little Opae was back — and it felt great.

Now I hope I can get some sleep finally.

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Learning wine from the master

By February 5, 2016 Food


I know hardly anything about wine.

Except that it’s alcoholic, it comes from grapes, and I like it.

Like most wine novices, I’m stuck in a single category of wine. Right now, it’s anything sparkly. And I can’t seem to get out of it.

So when I found out about a new series of wine classes offered by Hawai‘i’s master sommelier Chuck Furuya at Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar, I quickly signed up for the first class in early January.

Except by the time the class was announced — via the restaurant’s newsletter — it was already filled.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

Luckily for me — and, apparently dozens of others — Furuya opened two more classes in January to accommodate the growing wait list of interested wine-o-philes eager to learn from the master. (Furuya, who co-owns Vino, became only the tenth person in the U.S. to pass the rigorous Master Sommelier exam back in 1988. He created the wine pairings and wrote the wine introduction for the first Hawai‘i regional cuisine cookbook, “The New Cuisine of Hawai‘i.” He’s kind of a big deal.)

The class was entitled, “Wine 101,” a basic primer to wine. (The next class is aptly labeled, “Wine 201,” but it doesn’t mean it’s a progressive series. All of his classes are introductory.)

It was held in one of the upstairs room at Vino’s new location at the Waterfront Plaza, basically across the breezeway of its previous spot. The class is limited to 25 people, each getting to sample eight different wines equally no more than 12 ounces total. (“That responsible,” Furuya said.)

This class was all about chardonnay — yay! — and it started with Furuya explaining the world of wines. I had no idea there are about 10,000 grape varieties, of which less than 1,000 make suitable wine. And I didn’t realize that big-box retailers like Safeway and Costco only buy what sells, not concerned so much about quality or niche demand.

Furuya shared with us his values when it comes to wines: These are wines from families who run their own vineyards and who have invested in this product, he focuses on heirloom or heritage vines, and he likes to work with people who farm sustainability. He likes his wines to evoke a sense of place.

Of course, this all went over my head. I drink wine because it tastes good — and I don’t know much more beyond that.

But that’s what was so interesting about this class. You walk out knowing a little more than you did coming in.

Here’s how it worked: We sampled two wines, side by side. First, he asked us to smell the wine. Does it smell fruity? Does it smell like the ocean? Next, we sipped and identified the body of the wine, the weight of the wine in our mouths. “It’s like comparing skim to whole milk,” Furuya said. Then, we noted the acidity of the wine. This is what allows it to be paired with certain foods. And finally, we tasted it. Was it dry? Was it full-bodied? Was it sweet or salty?

We did this four times, noting the subtle differences between each glass of chardonnay. Some had a more mineral taste, an indicator of where these vines grow. Others were big and bold and showy.

I couldn’t believe how much I had learned in just an hour! I figured out that I liked lighter-bodied, medium-dry chardonnay. Who knew!


For anyone interested in signing up for Furuya’s wine classes, get on Vino’s email list at vinohawaii.com or call (808) 524-8466 for reservations. Cost is $25 per person (not including tax or gratuity) and tasting participants who dine at Vino right after the class get 25 percent off regular menu items.

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Learning from the ‘Wild’ Cheryl Strayed

By January 28, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish


There’s nothing I enjoy more than writing.

But a close second is learning how to write better — and by a well-respected, New York Times bestselling author. It’s a writer-nerd dream!

I was fortunate enough to make the cut to attend the 10th annual Hanalei Writers Retreat this past weekend on Kaua‘i, a two-day intensive writing workshop led by Cheryl Strayed, whose memoir, “Wild,” topped the New York Times Bestseller list, was named a Best Nonfiction Book of 2012 pick by The Boston Globe and Entertainment Weekly, made the Best Books of the Year list by NPR, and was turned into a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern.

It was my first time to this retreat — and, to be honest, any kind of retreat where all you do is write. I know it’s not for everyone, but to me, it was a dream.

The schedule was simple: Show up at 9 a.m. on Saturday with a laptop or notebook — or, in my case, both — and maybe some snacks and get ready to work.

First off, we got to stay here, right on Hanalei Bay. It was a good start!

First off, we got to stay here, right on Hanalei Bay. It was a good start!

Strayed is as talented a teacher as she is a writer.

Strayed is as talented a teacher as she is a writer.

Now, I was an English major and have spent a lot of time in writers’ groups and fiction workshops. And while I was already wowed by the star power of Strayed, she turned out to be a phenomenal teacher, too, very generous and compassionate and instructional. She discussed the mechanics of memoir writing, from where our stories come from to being fearless with the truth.

“You have to transcend the civil, the polite, and write who you really are,” Strayed says. “You want to aspire to credibility, not likeability.”

What a perfect place to sit and write.

What a perfect place to sit and write.

We spent hours talking, learning and, of course, writing. Some worked on their own memoirs, others crafted new material for the class based on writing prompts. While the scenery was a bit distracting, the place was perfect for this — tranquil, picturesque, soul-filling.

For many of us, including Strayed, writing can be incredibly therapeutic. There have been many times when I’ve turned to my journal or laptop to work out complicated issues. There’s something powerful about actually, physically writing something down — and seeing your words (and thoughts and feelings) on paper. It becomes suddenly and alarmingly real.

I love writing for all these reasons. But it can be a very solitary process. We tend to write alone, often in dimly lit rooms or corners of trendy coffee shops. We don’t talk to anyone, we turn off our cell phones, sometimes we even block such time-sucking sites as Facebook and Amazon.

So it’s nice to be around other hermit-like writers, to share and commiserate and cheer each other on. It was a relief to hear I wasn’t alone in my fear of writing something utterly and shamefully crappy. And I loved hear Strayed’s own stories of procrastination and self-deprication.

Oh, and we get to spend a weekend in Hanalei on Kaua‘i? Sign me up!

Hanalei Bay. Right?

Hanalei Bay. Right?

I came back from the retreat refreshed and recharged and eager to start writing. (Lucky for me I write for a living!) And I did come back with this new perspective: It doesn’t really matter how good or talented you are, if you love it, do it. That’s all that matters.

Thanks, Cheryl. 🙂

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A Day in the Life of a Magazine Writer

By January 20, 2016 #CatTravels, Musings, The Daily Dish


People often wonder what I do all day.

If you follow me on social media, it may look like all I do is eat, surf, hike with my dogs and bake butter mochi.

That’s partially true.

But since 1997 — and I’ve just realized this is actually a long time ago! — I’ve been working as a writer. My longest stint (10 years) has been with a daily newspaper, my shortest as a government public information officer (9 months). And for the past several years, I’ve been a freelance writer. Meaning, I write for a variety of outlets, from consumer magazines to travel guides to start-up websites. And meaning, I write all sorts of things, from long-form non-fiction to blurbs in brochures that hardly get noticed.

Last November, I was fortunate enough to get a full-time job doing exactly what I love. As food editor at HONOLULU Magazine, I write about new restaurants, prominent chefs, food trends and local agriculture. It’s really a dream job.

(Interestingly enough, I was talking to a friend about how lucky I feel to get paid to write all day, and she winced. “That sounds like my worst nightmare,” she said. To each her own, I guess!)

But sometimes — and this is when life gets really good — I get tossed a writing assignment that takes me away from the day-to-day. I mean, I love eating white truffle risotto like anyone else, but sometimes every food writer needs a break.

My editor wandered over to my cubicle and asked what I was doing on Saturday.

Usually, that’s never a comfortable question to answer. In other workplaces, I’ve desperately scrambled for excuses — Baby shower! Funeral! Unscheduled appendectomy! — to get out of working on the weekend.

But there was something about the way she had asked — aside from very nicely — that made me think this was different.

She wanted to know if I’d be willing and able to fly to the Big Island to tour the observatories atop Mauna Kea, the world’s largest mountain and the absolute best place on Earth to study the stars.

The Maunakea Observatories and the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center partnered to offer free monthly tours of the world-class telescopes atop this sacred mountain after protests erupted last year against the building of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT. (You’ve probably seen the hashtag.)

Called the Kamaʻāina Observatory Experience, this daylong experience allows residents to learn more about what’s going on up there, how science and culture can work hand-in-hand, and what kind of larger impact the research done at these observatories has on the world around us.

My inner geology geek squealed!

“Of course! No problem! I’m so there!”

And so the work begins.

I Googled the tour, which had already been promoted on several news outlets. I made contact with the public relations person in charge of organizing this field trip for me. And I booked my flight — arriving early enough to eat at Ken’s House of Pancakes and with enough time to make the flight home. (I’ve missed many flights in my years of traveling. Sometimes I’m at the airport, waiting, and I still manage to miss my flight. It’s a talent.)

Then it’s time to do research. You never want to walk into an interview — in this case, a daylong tour — without knowing what’s going on. What’s the point of going on this tour? What should I expect? What would readers want to know? These are the important questions I need to answer in my story.

We landed in Hilo at around 7:30 a.m., giving us an hour to eat breakfast before making the hourlong drive to the Maunakea Visitor Information Center at around 9,300 feet above sea level.

I looked over the waivers I had signed the night before. (You have to sign these liability forms at sea level, believe it or not. I found out why soon enough.) I’ll be honest, I just glanced at them. Reading them, though, was a bit eye-opening. I probably shouldn’t have had that glass of wine for dinner — or the eggs, bacon, hash browns, waffles and Diet Coke for breakfast that morning.

I was, however, prepared for the weather.

At the summit, which soars 14,000 feet above sea level, the temperature outside hovered around 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit — and that’s without the wind chill. Luckily for us, the winds were only blowing about 30 miles per hour. It has gotten as crazy as 150 mph, which is just insane.

Inside the telescopes, though, is a different matter. Since the instruments are exposed to the air when the observatories are open, the temperature inside has to be the same as it would be outside at night. So it’s close to freezing inside. Yes, freezing. Layering — and gloves and a beanie and a scarf — were imperative.

So after a very informational — and important — two hours of presentations and safety briefings at Hale Pōhaku, a collection of support facilities for the people who work at the telescopes, we headed to the cafeteria there for lunch.

Teriyaki beef was on the menu!

Teriyaki beef was on the menu!

As food editor, ahem, I felt compelled to, you know, sample the food. All the food. Today’s menu included beef teriyaki, chunks of seared ‘ahi, egg foo young, crinkle-cut fries, salad, rice and four flavors of ice cream.

And to be honest, the food was great. I could eat here every day.

Posted on a bulletin board in the kitchen was the menu for the rest of the month. Pork adobo, shrimp tempura, laulau, kalbi short ribs, fresh corned beef and cabbage, teri chicken, meat jun, TACOS. Sign me up!

After digesting another too-big meal — you want to keep oxygen in your head, not in your stomach — we rode up to the summit in two four-wheel-drive passenger vans. And as we progressed through the alpine region of Mauna Kea lined with māmane trees, we could start to feel the elevation change. I felt like passing out — though I did have a restless sleep earlier that night — and my husband was already feeling lightheaded, a typical symptom of altitude sickness.

I went over the list in my head. Headaches, fatigue, loss of appetite, nauseas, vomiting. So far, so good. Our guides told us that most of us would feel something, though only a few might actually get sick enough to need oxygen or be transported back to the visitor’s center.

Outside the observatories. It was about 45 degrees.

Outside the observatories. It was about 45 degrees.

Kumu hula and our cultural guide Micah Kamohoali‘i, taking a break in the control room at the Gemini Observatory.

Kumu hula and our cultural guide Micah Kamohoali‘i, taking a break in the control room in the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope.

In the break room in the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope. Eating chocolate made all of us feel better.

In the break room in the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope. Eating chocolate made all of us feel better.

When we stepped out of the vans, it was obvious my husband wasn’t feeling well. As soon as we get inside the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope, our guides checked our oxygen saturation levels. To put this into perspective, normal blood oxygen levels in humans should be at least 90 percent. If it’s below 90 percent, it’s considered low, resulting in hypoxemia. Below 80 percent, and it could compromise organ function.

My husband was at 69 percent.

He was quickly outfitted with an oxygen tank — as were a few others — and immediately felt better. Better enough to spend the next two hours at the summit, touring two telescopes and even asking semi-coherent questions. (But we did rethink our plans to hike to Everest Base Camp this year.)

Lightheadedness? I'll take it with this view!

Lightheadedness? I’ll take it with this view!

I felt a bit lightheaded and disoriented up there, too, I’m not going to lie. But as my first time to the summit, the strange feeling was well worth it. I learned so much about the science that goes on up here. I learned more about the cultural significance of the tallest peak in Oceania. And I learned that there’s no way I could ever get a job at a telescope and have to work at this elevation. Could you imagine my emails?

And that’s what this job is all about. It’s about learning and sharing, and that’s it.

Traveling? Well, that’s gravy.

Read my story on HONOLULU Magazine’s website here.

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