The Spirit of Aloha at Germaine’s Luau

Just recently, Rebecca and I had the pleasure of attending our first luau on the island of Oahu. Finding my knowledge of Hawaiian culture a bit lacking, I first read up a little on the history of these fascinating, food-centered events. It may be of interest to some to know that in ancient Hawaii, men and woman ate their meals completely apart. Furthermore, commoners and women of every social class were forbidden by the ancient Hawaiian religion to eat certain delicacies. When I first read this, I thought it made a whole lot of sense. The last time I had breakfast with Rebecca, she ate all of the blueberry waffles. I went to work that day with a cold hard-boiled egg and one of those crummy end-pieces of toast. If I had eaten first, or if she had been forbidden to eat such delicacies, I would have enjoyed a really tasty breakfast. I shared the idea with Rebecca just this morning, and for some reason I didn’t eat any breakfast, nor did I get any lunch.

Big John at Germaine’s Luau

Separate meals between the sexes continued all the way up until 1819, when King Kamehameha II finally abolished the practice by throwing a feast where both men and women could attend. The king’s symbolic act forever ended the religious food taboos on the islands and the Hawaiian luau was born. Had Rebecca been around back then, and the king had been forced to share waffles with her, it’s highly doubtful that he would have been in such a festive mood. For that reason alone, I hope the Hawaiian people are truly thankful that Rebecca did not come to share a meal with them until some 200 years after the food ban was lifted…. and also thankful they weren’t serving any blueberry waffles.

Rebecca is all smiles at Germaine’s!

Rebecca smiles for the camera, oblivious to the fact that if history had been any different, she could have easily destroyed the luau that so many have come to know and love!

Germaine’s Luau is located next to Barber’s Point lighthouse on the west side of Oahu.

Far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Waikiki, Germaine’s location is both beautiful and serene. Visitors to Germaine’s Luau can experience all the tradition of a luau and capture much of the essence of that old Hawaiian culture.

A fisherman casts his net near the beachfront property of Germaine’s Luau.


Germaine’s Luaua is a family run event.

To ensure that the family would be forever united and always remain Keiki o Ka ‘Aina (children of the land), an individual coconut tree was planted for each member of the Stephenson family throughout the property.

Rebecca stands in line to use the ladies room…. Joking! It’s just a hut that people probably don’t use the restroom in.

Many may not know my former title as “Outrigger King of the Pacific”. I try not to talk about it much because I don’t want all of that publicity and fanfare.

This kid had some real skills working the luau fire dance…. I taught him everything he knows.


A pretty hula dancer at Germaine’s Luau

Here is a helpful piece of information for all you ladies coming over from the mainland. A flower worn on the right side of your head means you’re available. A flower worn on your left side, or closest to your heart, means that you are spoken for.  When Rebecca heard about this she said that it was always nice to have options… joking!

The strength and beauty of Polynesian culture on full display at Germaine’s Luau.


Two strong men pull the roasted pig from the imu, or underground oven.

The word kālua, which literally means “to cook in an underground oven”, is used to describe the way in which the pig is prepared at luaus. The word Luau, in Hawaiian is actually the name of the taro leaf, which when steamed for a few hours, resembles cooked spinach. The traditional luau was eaten on a floor of mats woven together by the leaves of the hala tree.

Traditionally, a hardwood fire is built inside a pit large enough to contain the food being cooked. Large stones and vegetation are than used to cover the food. Stones are placed on top of the fire in the pit, taking around 2-3 hours to reach their maximum temperature. Special care is made in the selection of stones to ensure they contain very little moisture. It could become vey dangerous if stones exploded from the steam during the intense heating process.

Once the stones become extremely hot, they are spread out over the coals and the pit is lined with vegetation such as banana trees that have been pounded out to make them pliable. Sometimes these hot stones are also be placed inside the body cavity of the pig to ensure the meat is fully cooked. The end result will be some of the best pork you ever tasted! Don’t take my word for it though, you need to experience a luau for yourself.

Do you even lift, bruh?


A luau is more than just a feast, it is a culturally-themed party with magnificent pageantry. 


The food at Germaine’s is fantastic!

All though Germaine’s advertises themselves as being an all-you-can-eat buffet, I could only manage one really big plate of food. Of course I had a healthy portion of the kalua pork, then I tried a little poi, some Hawaiian sweet rolls, rice, Lomilomi salmon, Haupia (coconut pudding), island fish, fresh pineapple, teriyaki beef, pineapple slaw, green salad (I’m dieting), Hawaiian Pulehu chicken, potato-mac salad, chocolate cake… and beer.

Once the sky goes dark the show really begins to heat up!


The Tahitian and Samoan dancers really bring out that warrior spirit! 


From the allure of the hukilau hula to the thrill of the blazing fireknife dance, the entertainment of Germaine’s was something we will never forget!


The one thing I loved most about Germaine’s Luau was their abundance of “Aloha” spirit.  The Hawaiian word Aloha means many things to include love, affection, peace, compassion, and mercy. To participate in a luau, and share that experience with ohana (family), is what the word aloha is all about. Thank you for visiting Big John’s Adventures in Travel and please feel free to explore more of my site.

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John

Posted in Great Dining, North America and tagged , , by with 1 comment.

Deep Inside Waimea Valley and a Deadly Game of Checkers

Beads of sweat began streaming down my brow as I meticulously plotted my next action. If I moved diagonally to my right, I could capture my opponent’s stone and land in a spot not threatened by any of his forward-moving advances. I was running short on options at this point in the game, so this move just had to work. By making this play, I would brilliantly force him into a corner. From that point on, he would be playing purely from a defensive posture. I would have him tight against the ropes and victory, along with that sweet taste of freedom, would finally be in my grasp!

Big John keeps his poker face as he plays a very deadly game of checkers.

With a trembling hand, I gingerly lifted my white coral rock from the slab. I hesitated before moving, just long enough to steady myself and peer directly into his sinister eyes. I needed to witness the humiliation on his face as his lowliest captive beat him at his very own game. I wanted to observe his complete and utter shame as the village’s waterboy spanked him in front of every single member of the tribe. I would make him sorry…

sorry he ever took me prisoner; sorry he made me haul water down from Holikamoli mountain during the hottest part of each day; sorry he made me dance in that scratchy grass skirt and coconut bra every night, just to make the grandmothers laugh…

Oh yes, he would be sorry!

Back during my dancing days (I’m really not proud of this).

My opponent met my gaze and our eyes locked for what seemed an eternity. In a single strategical hop, I bounded over his small piece of black lava rock and then gleefully removed it from the board. What was that? Did I detect a bit of fear in those dark, mischievous eyes? Actually, I didn’t observe anything like that. Shifting rearward in his seat, the powerful man threw back his shoulders and broke out in a bellowing laugh. He then picked up one his pieces positioned just behind mine, curled his upper lip, and swiftly hopped over all of the chunks of white coral remaining on the board.

“Hey, you can’t move backwards!” I protested. “I never kinged you!”

“Can’t I?” he replied. “I didn’t need you to king me. I have been king of this village long before you ever arrived”.

As much as I hated to admit it, I really couldn’t argue with the man’s superb logic. King Millivinilli most certainly was the king of the village, which meant I was most certainly playing by the king’s rules.  The established terms of King Millivinilli’s game of checkers were very deadly, albeit rather simple ones. Unbeknownst to many, the people living in Waimea Valley have a long-standing tradition that goes back hundreds of years. Whenever one of their captives loses his usefulness, or entertainment value, he is forced to play the king in a high-stakes game of checkers. If the captive wins the game, then he also wins his freedom. If he loses the game… well, then that poor soul also loses his life.

So there I was, blind-folded, gagged and hog-tied to a pole like the main attraction at a Friday-night luau. With torches lit and drums-a-beating, the long procession of villagers began careening up the winding path towards the top of fiery Mount Chilichanga.  With each step carrying me ever closer to the volcano’s mouth, the heated air became more and more stifling. I could scarcely breath any longer. I felt myself drifting in and out of consciousness.  Was this really the end?

Will Big John face an agonizing death by being cast into the mouth of Mount Chilichanga? Will he fool the King and completely turn the tables around? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out more!

Having never really been a fan of human sacrifices, especially when they involve me plunging headlong into a lava pool, I had mere seconds to devise a plan of escape. As fate would have it, there was just one more trick concealed inside of my trusty little…

Okay… Okay, I am sorry but I’m going to have to stop this story right here. As some of you may already know, there aren’t really any active volcanos anywhere near Waimea Valley. Admittingly, I made that part of the story up, but the rest is pretty much factual. To be completely honest with you, Rebecca said she wasn’t going to let me post any of these pictures if she caught me so-called “bending the truth” anymore.

The truth is Rebecca doesn’t really even know the entire story. Honestly, she has no idea what even happened here.  As I was falling victim to the crime of the century, all she could worry about was if the foodtruck would still be selling kalua pork when we finished the hike. Yes, she did enter into Waimea Valley with me, and she did accompany me on most of the trail towards the falls; however, she missed a whole lot of very important events along the way.

Rebecca standing at the entrance of the Waimea Valley Visitor’s Center

As is evident from the picture above, Rebecca did enter into Waimea Valley with me. What that picture doesn’t show, nor is it revealed in any of the other pictures, was just how distracted Rebecca was during our entire hike towards the falls.

I captured this photo when I first stumbled into King Millivinilli’s village. Rebecca wasn’t with me at the time because, as expected with someone so great with child, she had to walk back to the visitor’s center to use the potty.

Rebecca still wasn’t anywhere nearby when King Millivinilli, along with fifty of his men, sprang from this hut and violently captured me at the tip of their spears.

As you can clearly see here, Rebecca was still nowhere in the vicinity when the king had me bound with ropes and dragged over those large boulders towards my bamboo prison.

Rebecca may have reached the village by the time this picture was taken. However, she was dealing with a melting ice cream sandwich so she definitely was oblivious to any of her surroundings.

This is just a picture of a hut where King Millivinilli’s men made all of their canoes. There was really nothing nefarious to see here, I think we can move on.

Aha! This is the hut where the king kept me captive. If the camera was of better quality and the picture wasn’t so dark, you would clearly see me tied to the center pole inside. The only thing you wouldn’t see in this picture is Rebecca, because once again, she just happened to be nowhere in sight!

A picture of Big John’s former prison (after making his escape).

It was near this reprehensible spot that I was first made to dance for the grandmothers (I guess Rebecca missed all of that too).

Look I can go on and on, displaying every single graphic and disturbing photo chronicling my time spent here in captivity. But for what purpose? I think by now, my readers can clearly see that something very ugly and very sinister went down here in the valley. As far as Rebecca is concerned, we will just leave her clinging to her false sense of security.

This was the very last picture I took as I fled from that ancient village. I am not ashamed to say it, that even after all this time, the place still gives me nightmares.  I finally located Rebecca just a few hundred feet up the trail. She had been chasing a rainbow and some Kamahameha butterflies.

After making my harrowing escape, (the details of which I may later disclose in the absence of any skeptics), the remainder of our trek to Waimea Falls was peaceful and uneventful.

Along the way we viewed alluring red flowers blooming amongst the ferns.

We gazed across a lively pond teeming with lilly pads.

We walked under the boughs of a great banyan tree and found some relief in the shade.

Along the way, we observed bunches of bananas ripening in a tree.

We saw palms that stood over the jungle like the necks of great dinosaurs.

Along the way we saw other great palms with branches that spread out like magnificent fans.

We even encountered a man who could skillfully fashion select pieces of God’s creation into beautiful leis.

Near the end of our trail, we encountered two women weaving some lovely baskets from the nearby reeds.


During our trek through Waimea Valley, we experienced so much more than most could ever imagine.  Since Rebecca would unequivocally deny much of the horrors the beseiged me here that day, I will leave you to remember the pictures we took of the more pleasant stuff along the way. However, should you feel daring enough to explore more of my mishaps and unmentionable escapades, please visit my site under the category: Tall Tales and Big Fish Stories.

Big John and Rebecca at Waimea Falls

Thank you for visiting Big John’s Adventures in Travel! I hope this post inspired you to pack those bags and set out on an adventure all of your own making.

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John

Posted in Adventurous Places, North America, Tall Tales and Big Fish Stories and tagged , , , , by with no comments yet.

Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay

There are many amazing things to be found on the island of Oahu. One activity definitely worth mentioning is snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. The name Hanauma is actually derived from two Hawaiian words, “hana” which means bay, and “uma” meaning curved. The curved bay is actually a natural pool that was formed inside of a volcanic crater many thousands of years ago. Hanauma Bay has long been considered one of Oahu’s most precious jewels in the Pacific.

For a real underwater adventure, go snorkeling in Hanauma Bay.

Historically speaking, Hanauma Bay was well known by the earliest islanders to be an excellent place to fish. Records show that during the 1800s, Hawaiian royalty would visit the bay to fish, relax, or simply go to be entertained. Today, Hanuma Bay is still a place to come and enjoy its cool blue waters. With all the fanfare about this place, Rebecca and I decided to grab our snorkel gear and explore both above and below the waves.

Another great thing about Hanauma Bay is it is an excellent place to see a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. The turtles are a huge part of Hawaiian mythology and culture. Unfortunately, when Rebecca and I visited the bay, we did not see any of those amazing creatures.

Red flags were flying to warn visitors of the bay’s dangerous rip currents and sudden drop offs. 

Although the waters can be dangerous at times, there is very little risk to those who stay within the boundaries and know how to swim. The park is also staffed with highly trained, professional lifeguards. I never worry about any of that stuff though. I wouldn’t dare enter the water without inflatable swimmies on my arms!


Haunama Bay is one of Oahu’s jewels of the Pacific!


You can easily see from this photo how Hanauma Bay got its name. 


Hanauma Bay is a perfect place to just kick back and watch the day float away!


Big Johns throws on some fins and goes for a swim.


The coral of Hanuma Bay is home to over 450 varieties of fish.


This is a Tang fish and it feeds on algae growing on the rocks and stones.



He’s wearing stripes so he must be a convict!


This is the princess fish. Although they can’t swim fast, they know how to shop and use credit cards.



I think this ugly sea creature must have scared all the fish away!



Is that Jaws in the left-hand corner?


I was lucky to have spotted this chunk of coral.


Although I failed to capture it, she was throwing me the shaka sign.



These surgeonfish can grow up to 22 inches long.


Just look at that adventurous, daring, and dashing man! I believe that must be Jacques Cousteau down there?


Hanauma Bay on the island of Oahu, Hawaii

As you may have guessed, we had an amazing time swimming with the fishies in beautiful Hanauma Bay. Thank you for visiting my post and feel free to explore more of Big John’s Adventures in Travel.

Mahalo and happy travels,

Big John

Posted in Adventurous Places, North America and tagged , , , by with no comments yet.
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