Category Archives: Pacific Islands

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Cruisin’ in the rain around Honolulu

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WHEN you are visiting Honolulu, Hawaii briefly and the skies welcome you with torrential rains, don’t despair. Rain is not a hindrance to enjoy a scenic albeit wet drive around the best parts of Honolulu and count on leaving the island with hundreds of photos captured during a rainy drive.

I was all set to shoot some aerials with my friend Doc Nathan who is also a pilot a few months back during a quick stopover from Denver.IMG_2529

The plane started to descent from 38,000 feet and weather was perfect good.  Alas, when we reached 8,000 feet I could not see a thing but dark clouds and fat raindrops started hitting the window panes. I learned a storm has just passed the island and visibility was impossible.

We didn’t have luck to fly the next day too  as it was still raining so we decided to make the most of it and have sneak peek of Honolulu, rain or not.

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Driving along Honolulu’s highways is a wonder by itself. The huge mountains shrouded by thick fluffy clouds in the early morning mist and the and scenic roads zigzagging around and through the mountains add a mystic feel to the adventure.

Rivulets of water streamed down from the mountaintops forming mini-waterfalls and adding to the beauty of it all.

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We drove through the Nuuanu Pali Drive while traveling up the Pali Hwy.toward the lookout—a very beautiful, 2-mile tropical rain forest drive through dense jungles it makes you feel like you’re in an enchanted forest.

Must-not-miss sites include the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout which looked unreal in the mist, located 1,186 feet up overlooking Oahu, and the scenic Makapu’u Lookout, Hanauma Bay, and the list is endless.  IMG_2847

All I had was a few hours’ quick drive through of the island. I haven’t scratched the surface and there is so much more to do and see around the islands that you won’t run out of things to do even if you stay there for good. Nature lovers, you have the best options of cruising around the island, hiking or walking, explore waterfalls, beaches and coastlines, see botanical gardens and more. The islands also house rich historical treasures and locations, and if you’re up for shopping and night life, you got it all.IMG_2875

Don’t be scared of rain. Next thing you know, you’ll be photographing the most spectacular landscapes that only Honolulu can offer. And oh, pack beachwear, flip-flops and sunscreen because you’re going to need it. Of course, it doesn’t rain  everyday.

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Destinations Pacific Islands Saipan Travel for everyone Water adventures

Rediscovering Saipan’s pocket beaches

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Jeffrey's Beach - Copy (2)SAIPAN—Go beyond the end of the paved roads in the island and discover pocket beaches that you didn’t think existed.

These ‘pocket’ beaches which are usually nestled between coves along the rocky shoreline are usually hidden from view by thick blankets of shrubs, and are not usually photographed by anyone else except for those who really take the time to explore them.

Most of Saipan’s pocket beaches require some hiking. Some are accessible but others are very challenging, with hard to find trails but that just adds to the thrill of the adventure. Once you get to the pocket beaches which are usually unpopulated, it will make you feel like you have stumbled upon your own little paradise, a beach you can call your own at least for the day.Ladder Beach - Copy (2)

The Old Man by the Sea is one of the most popular pocket beaches on Saipan, but a lot of people don’t even know where it is. The point where the trail starts is easy to miss, and you have to hike through the jungles to get there but the effort is worth it when you get there.

Head further and take another fork in the road before you reach the King Fisher Golf to get to Jeffrey’s Beach, another hidden gem that only very few knows about. On rainy days, access is almost impossible as the rough road becomes a river. Beyond the Kingfisher Golf Course is another pocket beach called Hidden Beach. Lately, the beach has lost its sense of being ‘hidden’ as tour operators have added it to their jungle tour itinerary and the beach is always teeming with tourists but thHidden Beach - Copy (2)e beach is breathtaking. It’s where Saipan’s blow hole is located, and the giant waves smashing against the huge rocks formations are a sight to see.

If you have the stamina to hike down to the Forbidden Island, the beach is one superb location for camping but getting there is not for the weak of heart. Go up north to the very end of Marpi and you discover Cow Town Beach, another pocket beach which may not be swimmer-friendly because of the strong currents but it’s a photographer’s dream.pocketbeach

Up south is the Ladder Beach. As the most accessible pocket beach, privacy does not come with the package but it is a popular venue for weddings and parties.

Saipan has more pocket beaches waiting to be discovered and rediscovered. These beaches are waiting for the daring who goes beyond the paved roads to find the treasures.

(Published at the Marianas Variety Guam May 24, 2015 edition)

Destinations History Pacific Islands Saipan Travel for everyone

Isely Field of War

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IMG_7754HIDDEN behind thick tangan-tangan jungles across from the Saipan airport tower are more remains of the World War 11 that a lot of people may not know about.

Driving around the area on Sunday morning with visiting friends from the mainland took us to the rusty Japanese tanker just beside the road where a marker was erected by the CNMI Historic Preservation Office telling the whole story about the place.

I’ve been to the tanker by the roadside before but didn’t know there was more beyond. The area was cleared free of thick shrubbery, baring the view for more World War 11 remnants.

We were at As Lito or Isely Field and around us were several structures, bunkers and tankers that haveIMG_7796 been preserved within a National Historic Landmark established on February 4, 1985.

We were trudging on grassy area that showcased the remains of a power station building, an oxygen generating building, Japanese headquarters building, hospital, repair shops, and a row of Japanese navy design air raid shelters. Some of the air raid shelters can be seen from the main road but a lot of them are hidden behind thick shrubbery. The air IMG_7740raid shelters are kept clean on the inside.

The marker on the roadside narrates that the construction of As Lito Airfield began in 1934 and As Lito was developed into the principal Japanese air base in the Marianas as the threat of war increased. As Lito was attacked by American aircraft of Task Force 58 on June 11 before the June 15 beach landings along the southwest coast of Saipan.

The interpretive sign which also provides translations in Chamorro, Carolinian and Japanese further tells that one of the objectives of the invasion was to capture As Lito and convert it to an American base that would put land-based bombers within reach of Saipan. IMG_7803 After the Battle of Saipan, As Lito became the home of Bomber Wing 73 and was renamed Isely in honor of an officer whose plane was shot down during one of the air raids. Aviation engineers and Naval Construction battalions moved four million cubic meters of earth to construct the runways at the Isely Field. The As Lito/ Isely Field was deactivated in 1940 aDSC_7831nd the construction of the Saipan International Airport began in October, 1973.

If not for the airport tower that is visible from where the remains are, it is easy to imagine how the place teemed with people and activities during the World War 11.

Try to find some time from your schedules and make a trip to the airport to explore one of the most vital parts of island’s history.

(First published at the Around the Islands page of Marianas Variety, May 8, 2015 issue)

Extreme adventures Pacific Islands Photos Rota Saipan Tinian Travel for everyone Water adventures

Where the waves splash higher

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IMG_0285(First published at the Marianas Variety)

THE coastal areas of Saipan, Tinian and Rota are blessed with a fair balance of pristine, white sandy stretch of beaches that anyone can picnic and swim around, as well as rugged, dangerous rocky cliffs that are perfect for taking photos of.

On Saipan, the coastal area on the western side with its clear blue waters and calm and gentle waves is perfect to lure locals from the comfort of their homes and tourists from all over the world to enjoy this paradise. The but the coastal areas at the eastern part tells a different, thrilling and dangerous story.

Try driving to the Banzai Cliff in Marpi and follow that little stretch of road to the left just before reaching the Korean monuments and you will be looking at an angle of Banzai Cliff not known to many, except for the fishermen and the adventurous. While majority of the visitors are happy to stand and marvel at the beautiful spread of blue ocean meeting the skies from the viewing deck, some people who prefer to go to the other side are watching the cliff from another perspective. They can see how dangerous the cliffs are and how high and furious the waves smash against the rocky cliffsides.a mainpix

Check out other beaches that display a spectacular show of spray of waves like Cow Town Beach in Marpi, Tank Beach and Marine Beach in Kagman, Hidden Beach and Old Man by the Sea in Talafofo, Forbidden Island. Naftan Bay, and others.

On Tinian, while locals and visitors can enjoy the lovely stretch of white sandy beaches at Tachogna, Long Beach, Taga Beach and others, the thrill of adventure awaits those who are willing to venture beyond the comforts of the more frequented areas and explore the Blow Hole, Chulu Beach or Star Sand Beach, and the coastal views along the cliffs heading to the Suicide Cliff.

On Rota, some of the beach fronts from Sinapalo heading to Songsong are ideal for picnics, but go beyond the paved roads and explore give in to the lure of adventure by driving to the Bird Sanctuary and to the As Matnos Cliff where one wrong step could make you history.IMG_0337

Again, you get the best of both worlds. If you just want to laze it out on a lounger or spread a mat on the sand, or are capturing photos and videos, you have the option of going safe and just sticking it out with the beaches within your reach.

If you go beyond your comfort zone, more adventures await. Be there to see and get wet in the shower as huge splashes of the waves rush in. Experience the adrenaline rush as you stand on tiptoe as near as you can at the edge of a dangerous cliff for that photo or video of a lifetime.

Where the waves splash higher, more thrill awaits you.

Food Pacific Islands Photos Restaurants Saipan street food Travel for everyone

Tastes of Saipan @ the street market

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ALL roads lead to the Fishing Base in Garapan on Thursday nights as the mouthwatering aroma of food and the lively music from the stage lure locals and tourists for the weekly street market.

Beginning around 5 p.m. the Street Market feast begins and the place is transformed into a destination where one can have the ‘taste of Saipan’ all in one place. The street market runs all the way till 9 p.m.

At the street market, rows of stalls owned by popular restaurants specializing in a variety of cuisines from Chamorro, Thai, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese and more offer very cheap food. Majority of the food stalls sell five choices for $5, a complete meal you usually can’t have for that amount on any given day.

Get your fill of grilled barbecue, fried fish, squid grilled as you watch and breathe in its irresistible aroma.

Here is where you can find the widest selection of local favorites, like desserts that are not usually found on any day at the stores. You can buy fresh fruits whole or sliced, drink coconut juice straight from the shell for a dollar, go for healthy pearl shakes and fruit juices, or munch on a stick of chicken or pork barbeque sold for a dollar.

Kids can enjoy ice cream cones or colored cotton candy.

At the other side of the food stalls, one can buy souvenir items, trinkets, dresses and shirts, paintings, handmade jewelry, local art products and other crafts.

At the center of the street market grounds are long tables and benchstreetmarketes where people can eat their food and watch the performers on the makeshift stage. The entertainment varies from live bands, musical numbers, stringed instruments, and cultural dancers. At special occasions, visiting performers from Korean, Japan, and other countries grace the stage to the delight of the audience.

The street market has become very popular especially with the tourists, and has become one of the must-not-miss events if they happen to be on island on a Thursday.

It is by far the best place to go to sample the island’s diversified cuisine very cheaply. A lot of local residents flock to the street market for dinner and even buy extra food so they won’t have to cook when they get home. The street market is a family-friendly event and alcohol consumption and smoking is prohibited within the street market premises.

As a special bonus, the street market area is one of the best spots to witness Saipan’s most spectacular sunsets.

(First published at the Marianas Variety Guam special Sunday edition for January 25, 2015 page 8 HERE)

air travel Destinations Pacific Islands Saipan

Saipan: Bird’s-eye view

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aerial tour(First published at the Marianas Variety Guam Sunday edition , Sept. 28, 2014)

SAIPAN has tour packages of all kinds for locals and visitors to get to know the island better. There are jungle tours on board four-wheel drive vehicles or ATVs, bike tours, historical tours, underwater tours—name it and one company or another offers it but one tour that is definitely a must-try is the aerial tour which is becoming one of the big attractions for tourists.

Not everyone gets a chance to go on an aerial tour. First, a lot of people are scared to fly in a small airplane, and second, it doesn’t come cheap but flying above the islands will change your perspective of the island.

For a regular aerial tour on board a three or four-seater Star Marianas Air, you usually take off from the Saipan International Airport and fly towards the eastern part of the island where you can capture the historical landmarks.

Tell your pilot to fly as low as he can so you can take in the breathtaking scenery of the Laolao Bay Golf & Resort’s landscape, the most photographed Bird Island, this time from the opposite side, the Grotto dive site, Banzai Cliff where the huge waves crashing on the rocks look just like small wavelets, past the Last Command Post, the lush jungles, the resorts and hotels along the coastal area, and the paved roads cutting through the coastal areas and around the jungles.

The plane has to flight higher up to over a thousand feet so you can see what the Suicide Cliff looks like from up there. If you have been to Suicide Cliff, you probably experienced how your stomach churns while standing on the cliff’s edge but when you look out from the plane’s window, the Suicide Cliff doesn’t look menacing at all, only breathtakingly beautiful.

A full aerial tour includes circling above Managaha Island and the pristine waters of the Saipan lagoon where you can see marine sports activities going on, historical wrecks like the remains of a sunken vessel, and the preposition ships which you can see from the Beach Road.

Only when you experience the bliss of an aerial tour will you understand why a lot of visitors described the Saipan lagoon as the ocean with ‘seven shades of blue.’

Flying back toward the airport will showcase the landmarks along Beach Road like the hotels and resorts all the way from the Hyatt Regency in Garapan to the Coral Ocean Point and Golf Course in Koblerville.

If you are scared to fly in a small plane, no one can blame you but as soon as you are airborne, you will forget being scared watching the beauty of the tropical paradise spread out below you. You will never look at the island the same way again.

Don’t forget your camera or you will miss a lot, and if you can fly from April to July in time for the blooming of the Flame Trees, you will get a bonus of seeing the island in flames.

Destinations Moorea & Tahiti My Videos Pacific Islands

Moorea & Tahiti

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Filmed on the islands of Moorea & Tahiti by Patrick Horton.

Special thanks to Tahiti Tourism, Air Tahiti Nui, Olivier Briac & The Tiki Village Theatre.

© Patrick Horton
http://www.hortonproductions.com/

Visit the magical island of Moorea, a few minutes from Tahiti by plane and about half an hour by high-speed catamaran. Moorea is dubbed as a magical island soaring out “of the ocean in an explosion of green velvet.”

 

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