The Road to Wellness

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Early morning, when the air is still cool, is an ideal time for a run between Kukui’ula and Spouting Horn. The road winds past the golf course. Surfers line up for the break at PK’s. For the most part, it’s a flat run, good for speed work. But the view invites a slower pace. You’ll find runners of both persuasions. Among them, you may encounter Tiffany, who infuses her massage services at Hi’ilani Spa + Fitness with the same grace and athleticism that informs her stride as a runner.

running down the path to wellness

Daily life on Kaua’i revolves around play, no matter how old you are. Hiking, surfing, trekking, swimming—they bring joy and balance. Growing up on Kaua’i, spending time in the mountains and ocean, Tiffany never decided to be an athlete. She just was one.

In the same way, massage was always a part of her life. “My Auntie used to massage us,” Tiffany remembers. It’s how she first encountered lomi lomi, the Hawaiian massage technique that grew out of traditional Polynesian healing practices. At Hi’ilani Spa, it’s her signature service. She offers two forms: traditional lomi lomi, characterized by long, flowing strokes; and lua lomi lomi. “It works a little bit deeper. It’s more of a warrior stance than a broad stroke,” Tiffany says, referencing how the lua style was associated with an ancient form of Hawaiian martial arts, intended to bring a warrior’s energies into balance. Equally relaxing for the recipient, both forms are intensely physical for the practitioner, involving breath work and elements of hula.

That connection to dance is evident when Tiffany bounds toward Spouting Horn Park. Her gait is rhythmic and efficient. This September, she’ll complete her 9th Kaua’i Half Marathon, which begins in Poipu and passes Kukui’ula on the last mile before the finish line.

“Being an athlete and a runner gives me a better understanding, especially when people are injured,” she says. “It makes it easier for me to help them because I’m so aware of the body.” Every massage session begins with a few questions: Do you have pain? How physically active are you? How is your body moving?

“Being active makes me a little more aware, and it also helps me know what I can do—and what I can’t do. Because everybody’s body is different.”

The tranquil, quiet atmosphere of the spa brings balance to Tiffany’s active lifestyle, something she cherishes. “Living in balance is important anywhere,” she says. “It’s just easier to find balance living on Kaua’i.”

Talk With Your Hands: The Shaka

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In Hawai‘i, the most popular nonverbal gesture is the “Shaka”, which involves making a fist, extending your thumb and pinky finger and waving your hand from side to side. Often identified with early surf culture, the shaka symbol’s popularity grew in the late 1960s and became as iconic to Hawai‘i as surfing in Waikiki, Duke Kahanamoku, and hula dancers in grass skirts. The shaka is sometimes referred to as a way to symbol to others to hang loose or relax.

However, the shaka symbol is much more meaningful than just a wave of hello and goodbye. The shaka is a symbol of the Aloha Spirit, which is known as the widespread friendly attitude of friendship, understanding, compassion and solidarity of Hawaiian people and Kama‘āina (locals). To show the shaka symbol to someone, you are expressing gratitude, saying thank you, or even saying “howzit” (hello).


The origin of the shaka is one that has long been debated. The most credible story is of a local Hawaiian hero named Hamana Kalili from La‘ie, Oahu, who lost three fingers on his right hand in a sugar mill accident at the old Kahuku Sugar Mill. After Kalili lost his fingers, he no longer could work in the sugar mill and became a security guard on the train that traveled between Sunset Beach and Kaaawa. One of Kalili’s jobs was to keep children from jumping on the train and riding from town to town. To get around Kalili, the children began signaling each other that the coast was clear, by waving their hands in the same two finger out gesture that Kalili would wave.

Kalili’s wave became well known through his community involvement for the Mormon Church in Lā‘ie. He was the “moi (king) of the festivities” at an annual hukilau, a large community event that involved the gathering of fish, a luau, and hula show. His signature shaka was photographed in all the historic photos of this grand event.

The term “shaka” however, was not coined until the 1960s, when local TV and movie host Lippy Espinda signed off at the end of a used car advertisement by flashing the hand gesture and said “shaka braddah.”

Since then, the shaka has since become a symbol of greeting, to show aloha, to say thank you, or to express that something is alright. It’s a reminder of the easygoing, relaxed lifestyle in Hawai‘i and the welcoming attitudes of the local people so don’t be afraid to throw a shaka or two while out in the community

Shave Ice: Hawaii’s Favorite Summer Treat

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The origin of shave ice dates back to 794 AD in Japan, during the Heian period. At that time, ice was taken from the mountains and stored in caves called Himuro, or ice room. The ice was shaved into a dessert called Kakigori. Only the royalty were able to enjoy Kakigori because ice was such a rare luxury. Modern Kakigori shave ice was invented in the 1800s in the port town of Yokohama, Japan, and by the early 1920s was a favorite indulgence available at many mom-and-pop type stores in Japan.

During the early 21st century, immigrants from all over the world flocked to Hawai‘i in hopes of finding better opportunities on the sugar and pineapple plantations. Hawai‘i became a melting pot of cultures and foods, with these cultures of people blending together to share the flavors of their distant homelands.  During these times, the delicious frozen treat was only sold on Sundays, the only day of the week immigrants had off.  Japanese laborers used their machetes to “shave” ice into fine flakes of ice and flavored with fresh sugar cane or fruit juices.  With the decline of Hawaiian sugar’s popularity, these immigrants moved off the plantations and opened their own family grocery stores. M. Matsumoto Grocery Store, Waiola Shave Ice and Shimazu Store on Oahu were pioneers in the shave ice business in Hawai‘i and have all served shave ice for over 60 years. These hole-in-the wall shops continue to serve their iconic shave ice today – Matsumoto’s sells over 1,000 shave ice a day!


The new generation of shave ice shops popping up all over Kaua‘i have taken shave ice to a new level, incorporating organic syrups and juices, fresh fruit toppings, sweetening the shave ice layer by layer, or adding mochi bits or azuki beans as a topping.  A few local favorites include Wailua Shave Ice, Uncle’s Shave Ice, The Fresh Shave, Tegue Tegue and Jojo’s.

Shave ice has grown in popularity and exists all over the world today. You’ll find Gola Gunda in Pakistan, Juski in India, Ice Kachang in Malasia & Singapore (served with red beans and other fruits), Raspa, Raspado, or Raspadillo in Mexico and Peru (Raspar means “to scrape” in Spanish) and of course the Snow Cone on the mainland.

Don’t let these names fool you, when you come to Kauai be sure to ask for only Shave Ice.


Kauai’s Best Up-and-Coming Food Trucks

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Food is a huge part of living on Kaua‘i. From kālua pulled pork to fresh ahi poke, every bite offers you a better understanding of what the island (and it’s people) are truly about. While there are a number of great stationary restaurants to try, why not spice up your day (or night!) at one of Kauai’s up-and-coming food trucks!

kauai food truck

While taco trucks and mobile shave ice aren’t necessarily new to the island, the food-truck scene has exploded over the past few years. These new menus know no bounds, offering things like deep fried macaroni and cheese, pork belly burgers and spicy ahi shrimp tempura wasabi mayo sushi rolls (now there’s a mouthful). The best part? These trucks are nearly all as sustainable as they are delicious. The ahi you just bit into? Caught this morning. The greens in your salad? Picked from a local, organic farm. The stakes have been officially raised.

So where are the best food trucks this side of “da ‘ainā” (the land)?

While the North Shore offers crowd favorites such as Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. (fresh juices, Hawaiian plate lunches) and The Green Pig (pulled pork sandwiches with deep fried macaroni and cheese stuffed on TOP) and the East Side plays host to Be Food Truck, Little Greek Town and Defries Lunch Wagon (to name a few) it seems the further south you go, the better it gets.

So let’s begin.


Yamato’s Ice Cream

A little dessert before dinner never hurt anyone. While Yamato’s offers dishes like sweet and sour spare ribs and savory chicken curry (yum!), they’re best known for their ice cream. You can find your normal selection of ice cream by the scoop (vanilla, cookies-n-cream, chocolate) and then they bring it to a whole new level. Presenting unique flavors like olive oil, toasted pine nut and wasabi-ginger! Excuse us while we grab a scoop.

Put It In A Pita

Why have regular kālua pork when you can have kālua pork in a pita!? Put It In A Pita has come together to create the perfect fusion of local Hawaiian food with a Mediterranean twist. Their menu ranges from traditional gyros (tzatziki sauce, beef and lamb and fresh lettuce / tomato / onion) and philly cheese steak pitas to sweet potato fries with a “special sauce.” Guests are told to look for the big blue food truck with the happy gecko!

Old Koloa Town / Poipu / Lawai:

Kauai Food Truck

This sunset colored truck offers the classic island flavor, with dishes like BBQ pork sandwiches, garlic chili pepper shrimp and Aloha burgers (pineapple, teriyaki and cheese). Perfect for visitors tuckered out after a long day at the beach looking for both affordable and quality food. 

Craving Thai

If you’ve had your fill of poke and plate lunches, Craving Thai is a great alternative just around the corner. The only Thai joint on the South Side, they offer traditional dishes such as pad Thai, yellow curry and spring rolls. Eat under their covered tables or take it to go!

Chalupa’s Mexican Food Truck

Family of indecisive eaters? Well luckily, directly next to Craving Thai is Chalupa’s! An authentic Mexican flavor, they offer an impressive range of plates, burritos, tacos and more. They even share tables, so kick back and relax and try something from one of each.

Yanagai Sushi Wagon

Deemed the “Dragon Wagon”, this cabin-shaped food truck is certainly on fire! The first of its kind to hit the island scene, Yanagai offers some of the best sushi on Kauai. Made with local, fresh ingredients, it is no wonder why they draw lines of both hungry visitors and locals. Whether you try The Dragon, Da Kill Crab or the Megaz roll you will not leave disappointed.

The Fresh Shave

Poipu’s newest organic shave ice truck! Just in time for summer, The Fresh Shave opened Friday, June 13th. They pride themselves on using all local, fresh and organic syrups (as opposed to corn syrup and artificial dyes). Customers can truly taste the difference! Some flavors include The Handlebar (pineapple and coconut), The Walrus (watermelon and basil) and The Dirt Squirrel (cold brew coffee + cream + sugar). We can’t wait to get our hands on one of these refreshing treats!

Eleele / Hanapepe:


These guys do it right. Food scientists of sorts, this pair of friendly chefs make sure their delectable dishes are cooked just right. Offering things like the 100% Awesome Bacon Burger, the PBAT (pork belly, pickled mustard seeds, applewood smoked mayo, arugula and tomato on a torta roll) and their famous Gooey Gourmet Grilled Cheeses (made with cheeses like aged cheddar and Gouda and stuffed with fillings of fig and basil or raspberry and rosemary). Is your mouth watering yet? You can find them at the Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor most days, and at Hanapepe’s Art Night every Friday.

The best part about these culinary cruisers? If you miss them in one place, they’ll pop up at another! Keep an eye out for food truck events and be sure to check out daily schedules on Facebook or Twitter. Now the hardest part is simply deciding where to eat. Bon appetit!