Monday, December 27, 2010

Weddings at the Volcano

Here is the pavilion at dusk ready for the bride and groom to arrive.  

Their ceremony began with the blowing of the pu, a giant triton shell.  They wanted rain, and there was rain.  They wanted thunder and lightning, and they were blessed with a clap of thunder during their nuptial kiss.  

The sacred heiau at the secluded beach had intrigued them, so near sunset the next day we had a photo shoot there.  There was a rainbow and glorious sunset.

Magic is something that is difficult to convey.  The magic of the island, of the setting, waits to be discovered.  During the day of the photo shoot, the couple talked about how much more exotic, romantic, and amazing the pavilion had been than they had expected.  They were so very happy, and ready for the magic to happen.  

In this emerald forest, on top of the volcano, the sense of the sacred is as present as the mist.  You feel kissed by the air, and blessed by an intangible presence.   

When we set up the blessing circle, it turned out to be an invitation to Lono to offer blessings.  He presented the drama desired.  The prayer is in the wish, readily granted where the gods have always walked amongst the people of Hawaii.  

We consider this place to be sacred, and to belong to no one.  Hawaii, the Big Island, has bridges in time and space that allow for the most scientific of minds to wander into dreamscapes.  It can be like crossing into your personal fairy tale.  I think that is what this couple discovered here in the emerald forest.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Rainforest at the Volcano - How is the air?

Here we are, on top of the volcano.  You get in your car and drive for a few minutes, and there is its gaping maw, a great plume of sulfur dioxide rising into the sky and floating off towards Kona or perhaps out to sea.  You might expect the air to be heavily laden with fumes, breathing to be difficult, and your stay at this amazing place to be short.

The reality we have experienced, having lived here now for about a year and a half of this eruption, is that on the vast majority of days, there is no odor from the volcano once you are as far away as the visitor's center in the park.  Our gate, as you see it on the left, is about three or four times farther from the eruption than the visitor center.  The park measures air quality, and it is measured all around the volcano continuously.  Here is a link to see those measurements:

Today as I write this, there are 0 emissions of sulfur dioxide evident here.  That is the way it is most days, and in fact the way it has been all year, in my memory.  The trade winds blow the fumes and plume away from here.  The air has the fragrance of whatever is in bloom.  Ginger in summer and early fall, orchids year round.  Datura as dusk arrives.  Certain orchids have such powerful perfumes that you can smell them from yards away.  Indoors, they perfume the house with their (usually) subtle tropical ambience.  It is not like designer scents that hover like a formidable cloud around a person, but scents like a smile that beckon you to come and begin a conversation.

One of the most delightful parts of living in these islands is the fragrance of the air.  Even here at the volcano, in our forest.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What is it about a rainforest wedding?

Yesterday we had a one night stay at the treehouse ~ newlyweds passing through volcano.  When the bride asked how we had happened to build the treehouse, I told her it was the companion to the wedding business.  She then told me how difficult their wedding planning had been, for their Kauai ceremony.

There is no reason a wedding in Hawaii should be difficult, or the process annoying.  The reason it becomes difficult is sometimes because of the island ways of doing things - slow.  Unresponsive.  And of course there are the details.  You can spend hours searching for something on the internet that someone on the island knows about already, but perhaps you don't have a contact on the island.  At Mahinui Na Lani, your experience will likely be smooth as a pina colada and pleasant as an afternoon on a beach hammock stretched between two palms.  In other words, we want your wedding to be a good time for you (and for us) from the moment you contact us until you drive away into the rest of your life.

Here's how we do that.  First, once you contact us, you will hear back from us right away.  Best ways to reach us are through our website, or by phone  510-965-7367.  We like email, and we text.  We try to keep communications as easy as possible.

We offer a simple wedding plan.  Call it our off the rack party.  It comes with the full service Hawaiian style ceremony in our private pavilion, set among the tree ferns and ohias on top of Kilauea Volcano.  The setting is serene and spiritual, a rainforest jungle with bird song and exotic flowers.  The wedding includes the ceremony, photographs, music, cake, leis, and a wedding toast.  If you would prefer a beach ceremony, we can arrange that as well.

Our treehouse was built as a honeymoon cottage, and our second tier pricing includes two nights there.  If you would like a small party with a few friends and family, we arrange catering at the pavilion.  For a sit down supper, we will help you arrange that at a local restaurant.  Special leis, custom flowers, live music, a custom cake can all be taken care of as a part of our wedding service.

We are conscientious about pricing.  If you give us a wish list and a budget, we will let you know right away if you are dreaming or if it can be done.  Chances are very good we will be able to get you what you are looking for within your budget.  If you would rather plan as you go, and add to the basic charges as need be, we can do that.

When you make your plans for a Big Island wedding, it helps to remember a few basic things.  You will be stopping in Hilo to get your marriage license.  If your flight gets in too late to do that, you may drive back down the mountain the next day, about 40 minutes, or choose to spend your first night on the island in Hilo.  If you are arriving in Kona, the drive to Hilo is two to two and a half hours.

Hawaiian prices can be higher than you may be used to because so much is shipped to this island from thousands of miles away.  When you are here, you will have the opportunity to experience local flavor in every sense of the word.  We are careful to use locally grown and produced products as much as possible.  You will experience this in any catering you order through us, and in all that we provide for you.

We'd love comments on the blog, and welcome questions.  We'd love to make your wedding day as special, as magical,  as you imagine it can be.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fantasy in the Forest

When you go searching for weddings in Hawaii online, what comes up first are the big commercial establishments.   Hotels and resorts with big budgets and lots of visitors get the front page.  This turns out to be a challenge for us with our private spot here next to the volcano.  How will people discover us?

We have considered ads in wedding magazines, and going to wedding fairs, but our sense of those sorts of spots is they are dedicated to big splashy weddings, and that is opposite what we are about.

A wedding here at our pavilion has several unique characteristics:

  •  it is truly private.  You look out, and see the rainforest.  No tourists will wander by, and if you are rich and famous, as long as you keep it a secret, so will we.
  •  we are cost conscious.  We think you don't need to spend as much on a wedding as you would buying a luxury car. 
  • when you buy a package here, it is not just a ceremony and a bottle of sparkling cider.  It is a full on Hawaiian style ceremony.
  •  if you choose to add a treehouse stay, we will transport you to the pavilion and back from the treehouse in our sexy land rover
  •  there is a spiritual and magical essence to this rainforest, and you will feel it immediately.  It is like stepping into a romantic poem or a fairy tale.  
  • should you want more than a basic package, that's easy.  we publish some ideas on our website, and are happy to work with you.  
  • we will help you keep your wedding stress free
To give you a sense of how we work, consider wedding flowers.  In a traditional wedding, there will be flowers everywhere.  The bride carries the bouquet, and everywhere you look, there is an abundance of flowers, cut and arranged in vases, perhaps tied to pillars and posts and trellises.  

At a pavilion wedding, there are flowers growing along the forest path.  There are orchids and other tropical epiphytes actually growing in the trees.  There are tree ferns and ginger all around the pavilion.  We place living orchids at the entrance as you walk up.  And there are leis for a lei exchange.  All this is at no additional cost beyond the basic price.  

Depending on how much tradition you may want, or simply on your personal desires, we offer wedding bouquets.  These will be fashioned from ferns, orchids, and perhaps gardenias or proteas.  You specify the colors and whether you prefer a tight traditional "ball" or a flowing drape of flowers, and the colors of the ribbons.  The cost?  Usually $50.  

In Hawaii, the head lei is often worn by the bride.  Here in the sacred forest of Pele, a head lei made from the buds of the forest trees is what is worn for ceremonies and occasions.  Or a head lei of white orchids or other flowers may be worn.  

Altar flowers may be desired.  Bouquets range in price from $20 to $75.  If you choose to have a celebration feast, flowers for each table are included in the package.  Those will be anthuriums.  If more elaborate flowers are desired, or something special, we'll figure it out.  

 Leis are a part of the Hawaiian wedding.  The leis are included in our basic package.  If you want something in particular rather than what we offer, we will have them waiting for you. 

One of the attractions of the Hawaiian islands is the sense that here, you lose your cares.  The stresses of every day life fall away.  Your wedding can be stress free as well, and we are dedicated to helping create an environment for your celebration that is a reflection of the love you share.  We can do that for a beach wedding too.  

So where do we show ourselves such that couples looking for this sort of romantic place for a ceremony can find us?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A different sort of Hawaiian Honeymoon

The treehouse was built with honeymoons in mind, as a part of our full wedding business.

We began with a section of rainforest with a lavatube bubble protruding from the very center.  Sturdy trees grew from the bubble, their roots naturally aerated by the configuration of lava beneath, with its tunnels and air currents.  Kilauea Volcano has created a vast underground network of tunnels where lava once flowed to the sea.  As the lava flows decreased in serial eruptions, the tubes were left behind.  A large one in the park, Thurston Lava Tube, is one you can walk through.

We brought in a treehouse designer and builder, Roderick Romero.  Roderick studied the features and called in an arborist to test the trees for strength, health, and hardness, and designed this small two story structure to fit the existing tree space.

Experienced treehouse builders came in and using garnier limbs, suspended the structure from the trees as they built it.

Building materials used are mostly recycled floor and siding from a church on Oahu that was demolished, and bamboo, an ultimately sustainable building material that regrows rapidly.  The only trees lost in the process were dead ones and a couple of straggly saplings.  We moved a few giant hapu'u ferns to more suitable locations.  The doors and clear windows are all recycled.  The stained glass windows were commissioned from a local artist, Seneca Lalonde.  Inside, the plates and cups are all made by either local artists or were part of our collection of hand made pottery from before we moved to Hawaii.

We were unable to locate a wooden soaking tub on the island.  Here, the traditional soaking tubs are built of stone or concrete, dug into the ground.  That was not to be a part of a treehouse, so we brought over a cedar hot tub from Alaska, and sunk it in the first deck.

The house has two rooms, a sitting/eating/food prep room with soft chairs, an ottoman, a built in window table looking out over the forest with stools, a flat screen for viewing movies, and a small food prep area with sink, stovetop, refrigerator, microwave, and cooking and eating utensils.  Outdoors there is a grill.
Upstairs through a trap door is the bedroom, with a queensize memory foam mattress & down comforter, a couple of nightstands with drawers for clothes and such, and a corner dedicated to clothing storage on hooks.  The shape of the room is irregular with multiple walls, and the clothes corner is an angle recessed next to the bed in such a way that the contents re mostly hidden from view.  The shape of the room is what the trees said.  Since it can get chilly at night here on the mountaintop, there is a Jotul propane heating stove inside that looks like a fireplace, as you can watch the flames.  But it's a lot easier to use - no wood to carry, and no smoke in the little house.

Bathroom facilities include a composting toilet and sink in their own little room behind bamboo glass doors, bought on resale and then finished to fit, and an outdoor shower surrounded by bamboo, on the same level as the bathroom and living area and hot tub.

Access to the treehouse is up a forest path, a series of lava boulders set into the side of the lava tube, and then a ladder constructed of heavy beams that were once part of a parking structure.  It is an entry that involves the use of hands, so when bringing things into the treehouse, backpacks are preferable.  We offer daypacks to our guests to use.

So here it is, a small haven in the trees up where the birds fly, to celebrate love & romance.  Just a few minutes away, Pele puts on her show at Halema'uma'u, the crater inside Kilauea Volcano, where in the dusk of the day, the glow of lava rising and falling in a vast pool becomes apparent in the darkening sky.

Fragrant cedar hot tub on treehouse lanai

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

10-10-10 A lucky day for a wedding

We got married in the rainforest of Hawaii.  We stood out on the lanai, surrounded by giant tree ferns and the gentle whisper of evening tropical misty rain.  It was as if we had been blessed directly.  It was unplanned,  and from idea to inception a matter of an afternoon.  

When we decided to change our lives, we wanted to do something that would bring happiness to other people.  The plan evolved to put up a pavilion in the rainforest for weddings and other celebrations.   As the pavilion plan took shape, the plan needed something more - a beautiful and private honeymoon spot. 

For the honeymoon cottage, a treehouse.  A fantasy suspended from the trees, complete with cedar hot tub.  

Our goal is to offer a runaway wedding spot, an elopement destination drenched in romance, intimate, enchanting, unforgettable.

It turns out to be easy to rent a treehouse.  Even disguised among condo vacation rentals, people do happily stumble upon it.  

As for the wedding business, this is another story.  Everyone knows about Las Vegas, and everyone knows about getting married in Hawaii.  There are thousands of websites, and hundreds of bridal sites, magazines, shows ---  but --- we are not all about the production wedding.  We are about the romance of the mountaintop, the volcano, the magic of it all.  

Now the magical date of 10-10-10 approaches.  We've set aside the 10th and 11th at the treehouse.  We're putting it out there - we are here, we are available, and we are far from expensive.  Hawaiian Airlines lowered their prices today, and round trip from the Bay Area is under $333 on selected dates that encompass 10-10-10.   We can do the ceremony on the beach, at a waterfall, or in our pavilion in a private rainforest.  

Our website is

Come take a look.  We'd love to have some celebrations.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twilight at the Pavilion

Twilight is a popular time at the pavilion for celebrations. Even though there is no sunset visible because we are hidden in the forest, the changing light from daylight to starlight evokes romance.

As darkness fills in the forest, the pavilion glows softly golden in the flickering candlelight, with a minimum of reflected light from the celebratory tiny lights wound with crystal beads along a roof beam.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Full Moon Over the Volcano

Full moon in June over the Volcano ay Kilauea, and early on in the evening the moonlight illuminated the plume at Halema'uma'u from the side. A few clouds lingered on the horizon, and as twilight grew into darkness, the stars began to emerge.

The full moon in the pictures looked like a single headlight beam. Looking toward the plume, the double illumination from the lava lake below and moon above made for some spectacular viewing. There were plenty of onlookers.

This view is a drive of six or seven minutes from our treehouse location, into the park and down to Jaggar Museum. On a full moon night, you don't need a flashlight to light the path.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kalapana talk story

A few days ago, lava spilling out of Pu'u O'o once again flowed over the roadway at Kalapana. A stream of visitors arrived via tour caddies and in their cars, many taking precious hours from their cruise stop-over hoping for a sight of glowing hot lava spilling on asphalt, overtaking the traces of human occupation. The visitor viewing platform was closed off, and as close as anyone was allowed was too far to even recognize the lava in view was still hotter than the inside of a pizza oven. So the crowds ebbed and flowed like disappointed waves on the shore. They had to be aboard their ship before nightfall or be left behind. Best lava viewing is in the darkness of dawn or dusk, when the lava glows orange red; the frantic fiery foaming bloodstream of the earth herself.

It is not such a romance for the people of Kalapana. Once not too long ago, Kalapana was a sweet village on a remote Puna shore. In 1990, the lava flowed inexorably over houses and streets, over Walter's Kalapana Store and Drive In, over the black sand beach. The slow moving pahoehoe lava would take days and weeks in its inexorable path to the sea. There are still houses in Kalapana that survived, resting in serene green foliage. There are new houses erected on the black lava. There is a new black sand beach, with a red cinder path crossing it down to the ocean. The beach and path are planted with coconut palms laying human claim again to the ocean front. The ocean laps in wild splendor at the black black sand, tossing up lava rocks rolled and swirled from the churning lava entering the ocean just down the coastline, there, where the plumes of steam rise like clouds off the ocean edge.

And now here comes the lava flow again, edging toward yet another house in Kalapana.

This lava tiki stands along the roadway guarding a house in Kalapana. Tikis and ti leaves are protection here on the Big Island. When you live with a jealous goddess you become respectful and find ways to show your respect. This imposing tiki is carved from lava. The watchful eyes are much more prominent than the devouring mouth, forever in a clench that is unlikely to yaw open and munch up the land over which it watches.

Aloha from the land of Pele, Ka wahine 'ai honua, the woman who devours the land.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alternative Wedding Venues

When we created Rainforest Weddings, our goal was to offer an alternative to the expense of a production wedding that is ultimately romantic and yet not costly nor stressful. Many couples who come to Hawaii to get married are looking for a beach wedding. We can do those too.

The Big Island has more miles of coastline than any of the other Hawaiian islands, and the beaches come in a fabulous array. This is a photo of a black sand beach on a blue sky day, and as you can see, there is no one around. The stack of rocks is part of a heiau wall. Hawaiians built heiaus for spiritual reasons, many as hula platforms, before western influences came into the islands. Today, hula halaus use this heiau from time to time, and much of the time, it sits in solitude overlooking the ocean. The way into this beach is a short rocky road, accessible by four wheel drive, or on foot.

South of here is the green sand beach. That beach is off the main road by about fifteen miles of paved road, then a couple of miles of dirt road. Some use four wheel drive, others walk. Once at the beach, there is a hike down that must be made on foot. It is a special place. If you choose it for a wedding, you will have many onlookers. A white dress might not make it down the footpath without some Hawaiian volcanic soil attaching itself along the way.

There are some white sand beaches accessible only by four wheel drive where if you should choose a weekday in the spring for your wedding, you just might have the place all to yourself.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Sacred Pu

The blowing of the sacred Pu or triton shell announces the start of a Hawaiian ceremony, such as a wedding, or seasonal celebration. The deep sound is reminiscent of a ship's horn, and can be heard throughout the forest, across land or water.

Some Hawaiian ceremonies use a conch shell rather than a triton, but it was the triton shell that was found in these waters, and used from ancient times forward.

Here the triton shell is being blown by Robert near the start of the path up to the rainforest wedding pavilion. The tone is clear and pure, and will definitely inform your being from the inside out that something special is going on. The lei po'o or head lei he is wearing is traditional, made from the native plants that grow in this forest.

The direction in which the shell is blown is meaningful, as is the number of times it is blown. Our celebrations are derived from Hawaiian culture and honor Hawaiian culture, and are adapted to western culture and custom.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Finding the Perfect Shirt for Kane Rainforest Celebration

Tommy Bahama has aloha shirts. Hilo Hattie has aloha shirts. Walmart and Long's Drugs have aloha shirts. Aloha Friday means aloha shirts, and that means the aloha shirt has a spot in a great many closets.

But what if you want to find something vintage, a shirt that recalls the days when you visited Hawai'i via steamship. If you want to stop in Honolulu, there is the venerable Bailey's, a shop you can spend the kind of time in you'd usually set aside for a bookstore with comfy sofas. But if you prefer to line up your wardrobe from the comfort of your computer seat, there is the Hana Shirt Company.

Their on-line selection of shirts is ultimately gratifying. You can be a facebook fan and be treated to tiki talk and the appreciation of their friends. You can browse their shirts endlessly, and will surely see classics that appeal.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Kitchen in a Treehouse??!!!

As we planned the treehouse, we knew there had to be a place to prepare food. As wonderful as it is to eat out, it can be equally delicious to relax in your own private little space, especially when that place is so different than anything you are accustomed to.

Since the space was so limited, we opted to scale everything down. The stove: a two burner propane cooktop. The sink: slightly larger than a wet bar. The refrigerator: for now, it is electric, but will likely be changed to propane as well since we are off grid. Being off grid is a constant challenge. The refrigerator is a major energy eater. We began with the pots on a shelf, but moved them to a tree branch pot hanger. The microwave was an afterthought, as the farmer's market here has vendors with wonderful pre-made meals.

We added the backsplash, using glass tiles, some of which are fused glass from an artist in Benicia California, where we once lived.

All the dishes and cups and glasses, the eating utensils, and the drinking water are all there under the counter top. The tray on top of the microwave holds coffee and tea, sugar, salt, honey and snacks. When it is finished, there will be a hanging tiered fruit and vegetable basket over on the right. Even the garbage and recycling fits below the counter.

If we were truly dedicated to living easily and frugally, we would give up the refrigerator altogether, and along with it, ice on demand. Instead, there would be a built-in food cooler, where air would circulate through from outside, and fruits, vegetable, eggs, cheese, and cultured milk products would stay edible for days at a time. For now, we are dedicated to the comfort of our guests, so the refrigerator stays. For now!

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Mango Tabletop at Treehouse

This week we put in a tabletop supported on a tree branch inside at the treehouse. Before, there was an outside table and chairs you could pull in if al fresco dining was not your thing. Since it does rain in the rainforest, even though the table is on the covered lanai, it can still feel a bit too close to nature out there of an evening.

The new tabletop seats two comfortably, and can double as a desk. It is conversation height, so you can stand if you'd rather not sit. We're pretty fond of the view - it's a true window table.

Monday, March 15, 2010

So How Does One Get Up Into the Treehouse?

In the dreaming-about-it phase of the treehouse, we had multiple ways up. There was especially a rope net ladder - very piratey. There was a fireman's pole; a big brass post for sliding down.

The reality became what you see on the right. The trees in the rainforest grow slowly. Unlike other parts of the island that are very warm, the temperature is cool here on top of the volcano. These trees are about 200 years old, but their girth is not sufficient to prop up a house in their upper branches. The treehouse gains almost twenty feet of loft from the bubble of lava in the lava tube over which it is built. The trees grow directly out of the bubble, and are the largest trees in the area. To get into the treehouse, you first ascend the lava tube.

Our rock designer Tony brought in massive chunks of lava rock that he moved by leverage. He studied the rise and absorbed the feeling of the structure. He said prayers to Akua and moved the stones into place.

Our builder wanted steep steps up to the first platform. He said that people entering the treehouse should know by the way up that they are entering a treehouse and not a ground house. So as you walk up, you must hold onto the railing. Even in the slippery wetness of the rain, there are good firm handholds, as you grip behind the bamboo posts. You are glad you are not trying to bring too much in with you.

Whether you are staying at the treehouse or elsewhere in the rainforest of Kilauea, consider bringing along a waterproof lightweight jacket, closed-toed shoes that easily slip on and off but fit your foot snugly, pants that roll up and stay up, sleeveless shirt and long sleeved tee shirt, and socks or indoor slippers. A hat with a brim. A microfiber jacket or vest or sweatshirt will be welcome. You will not need bug spray, and the hat and jacket take the place of the umbrella.

Rain in the rainforest: like snow to the Inuits is rain to the Hawaiians. We have lots of different types of rain. Here at 4000 feet, we frequently have pineapple rain. The tiniest misty droplets fall. You can barely feel it on your skin. You can be outside in it for several minutes and not get wet. It comes and goes so subtly you may not be sure you are in mist or in a cloud. Some call this area the cloud forest. When the raindrops are more formed, you may be tempted to treat it as if it is pineapple rain and linger outside, probably trying to get some outside work done. After awhile, you notice you are getting wet. You feel the rain in your face, and may be tempted to tip your head back with your mouth open and drink directly from the sky, but realize there is not all that much water coming down. The varying stages of rain continue, all the way to monsoon, where the sky opens and sheds water in such quantities that you are not sure you want to see what walking in that downpour would feel like. You will get drenched no matter what you are wearing, and the feeling may be like being under a waterfall. As you contemplate it, you wonder if you have ever seen such rain before, and if you ever will again. It is seldom, and it does happen, and you marvel.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

We Invite You to Celebrate Your Life Together

Maybe you have known each other since 7th grade, and it feels as if your destiny together was as certain as the four seasons. Or did you meet later in life, a happy surprise, a miracle even, the discovery of a life partner mid-way through it all.

However it was and whenever it was, chances are fate has intervened in a dozen different ways. You have weathered storms and even tsunamis, experienced ultimate joy, and held on to each other when the life boat felt fragile and the seas rough.

Is it time to set aside a few days, and celebrate being together? What might it be like to wake up in the rainforest, a chorus of birdsong welcoming the new day? You throw open the doors to the lanai, and outside there are flashes of red as the birds flirt in the treetops, at eye level, because you are in a treehouse in the rainforest.

Perhaps your day out will begin with a walk through an ancient forest, where trees have grown new roots from the branches down into the ground. A drive down to the black sand beach may bring you face to face with sea turtles. You are returning to the rainforest and a party in the pavilion for two, a celebration of what has made your lives meaningful in the years you have been together. Or perhaps you would like your children there, your best friends. Whether it is just the two of you, or up to 24 people, it can happen in the rainforest pavilion. The day may be blessed with rain, and you may be dancing and having a toast to all that has gone before, and all that is still ahead.

At the end of the festivities, step into our Land Rover and be transported back to the romance of the treehouse. If you have not already done so, you may want to look through the back pages here and see the pavilion and the treehouse. We invite you to an adventure in romance, and a celebration of being together in this life, in one of the most beautiful and serene places on earth. Aloha!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rainforest Wedding Attire

When you choose to get married in the rainforest, maybe the image that comes to mind is a frothy cinderella like gown with all that white contrasting with the deep green of the forest. The image is lovely, and there is nothing that says you can't do it.

If on the other hand you are not one for necessarily following all the rules, the forest suggests a playful palette of colors, particularly the colors of the forest birds. This ensemble by URU is one example of the way you can think about bending the traditions as to wedding attire.

Today, the sun is brilliant and the sky blue. Two days ago, it was raining. The pavilion shields you from the weather, but you are still out in the forest, sheltered, serene. Like life itself, the weather is unpredictable and even capricious.

Just some ideas for a rainforest wedding. Your tradition may say white, and tradition is one note in the symphony. It may be a note you must keep, or the lure of a less traditional look may be irresistible.

photo is from the URU clothing site:
great timeless designs that suit the rainforest

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lounging about in the Treehouse

Take a teeny tiny interior and add a ships ladder so you can walk indoors to the second level, and there will be much pondering as to how to set up a sitting area.

The glass door to the left goes to the outdoor shower. By the time we knew the builder/designer had the doorway in mind, it was too late to arrange a full walkway from the deck that stops at the hobbit door you see by the lamp across to the shower deck on the left. I had been visualizing a built in lounge taking up that full corner, a place where ten year olds could sleep or full grown adults could stretch out with their feet on a pair of those black ottoman squares you can see there between the red chairs.

A drive around the island to Kona netted us these versatile chairs at Costco. Living in a place such as this island in the middle of the ocean, you quickly learn that there are few sources for furniture. We have a couple of teak importers, an upscale place with truly lovely and somewhat pricey things, and less than a handful of other sources, one being Costco. These chairs were perfect. Leather does well in this climate, and stands up to heavy use. Red is fun, and brings the color of the lehua and anthurium flowers into the house. The little seats can be pushed together for snuggling. The ottoman can be a table or foot rest. Here, the chairs are oriented for watching movies on the small wall TV, looking out the french doors, and watching the fireplace. That fluffy patch of white is a sheepskin in front of the fire.

We are finding it cozy and sweet, especially when the rainforest is receiving its rain - sitting inside with some slack key music playing and the fire going, conversation, some hot cocoa.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Treehouse Eats

In contemplating how other people would use the treehouse, I imagined most guests would choose to eat out most meals, and perhaps have breakfast in. Now that a few people have stayed there, it turns out to be different than anticipated.

First, let me say that there are restaurants right in Volcano that do great dinners. And those who stay more than three nights are generally ranging all over at least the east side of the island. Nevertheless, eating in and up in the trees seems to be fairly frequent. Toward that end, here are some uses of local produce and more that work fine in the treehouse food prep area, which is quite petite.

The flowers on the right are nasturtiums. These are from the side of the road near the golf course in Volcano. They are quite edible, and add a tang like arugula to salads and sandwiches. I also use them to prepare potatoes in the skillet. And they are pretty on the plate, as a garnish. Skillet potatoes, made with all local ingredients, use local potatoes - red or purple or yellow or white, maui onions, shallots, mushrooms, nasturtiums, spinach, sliced yellow squash. The olive oil comes from far away. The salt is local. Potatoes are cooked first in the microwave, as if baked. Then chopped. Saute over medium heat with chopped everything else. This meal is done when the potatoes have golden crispiness to them, and everything else is unrecognizable. This is very tasty. If you like, you can add some of Farmer Market Ron's kalua pork for protein.

Small segue to the Farmer's Market - this happens every Sunday morning very early. Suggested buys: Lisa's Kau coffee, the vegetarian lasagne, local spinach and other greens, including gardener Grant's arugula and basil. Tangerines, papayas, mangoes, lilikoi, pineapple. Locally ranched grass fed beef. Fish if the fish guy is there - an iffy thing. Ron's Hawaiian foods are all scrumptious. His haupia in the tiny container is a perfect serving for one - and for a dollar, how can you go wrong? Sometimes there is lilikoi haupia, and that is amazing. The bread from the guys who make the breakfast sandwiches is the very best. The pastries ... mmmmm. The fresh fruit and vegetables here are pretty much as good as it gets, anywhere. They are so good you don't need fancy preparation - just saute or grill, or just slice and eat.

Soup: Here on the mountain, soup is a great thing to come home to. You can make it before, and get it out and warm it up when you come in. The vegetables from the Farmer's Market include delicious roots for a great soup base. The herb guy sells fresh bundles for a dollar. His parsley is like a bouquet. Saute diced parsley and mushrooms with maui onions and shallots for your base. Add water, and diced root veggies. When those are soft, add the greens. Salt and serve. For something more robust, add some barley. You may be able to find flat toasted barley in the health food store. Or your favorite beans. If you eat meat, chicken is a good addition. We have variations on the soup theme year round here. Very very good after a day at the volcano.

Fish: Local fish is extremely good. There is a store in Hilo that sells just fish - Suisun. If it is daunting to look at the scales, eyes and tail, try one of our markets: KTA in Hilo, or in Keau'u, Foodland. Ahi and tombo tuna are frequently found at great prices, and taste great sliced with shoyu, some sliced ginger, wasabi, mae ploy, and sambal oelek. No cooking needed - this local treat is called poke. It's the Hawaiian version of sashimi. You can find seaweed too that can be chopped and tossed with this. It's great served with sliced avocado and papaya, and a pile of rice. For fish you saute, nothing is better than opakapaka. This is a pink snapper, and as tasty and delectable as lobster. Other local fishes that are easily prepared in the little saute pan in the treehouse are ono and mahi mahi.

These suggestions are just for starts - the food on this island is delightfully delicious, without much seasoning at all. Your mouth will be happy. Coming up one of these days: island pastas! yummy yum yum.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Orchids in the Trees

One of my favorite things about living here in the rainforest is that orchids of various kinds grow right in the trees.

There are also ground orchids, growing in clusters, some with big showy spikes of flowers, that have a delicious scent.

These lovely flowers prefer a cool climate and just a little morning sun. They seem to like the rain. There are several plants in the trees, and they re-bloom beautifully.

Others that are glorious are miltoniopsis. Also fragrant, with many strands of flowers that fall in graceful arcs from the plants. They also rebloom, year after year, sometimes twice a year.

There are only a couple of orchids that are indigenous to this island, but many varieties are grown and developed here. Akatsuka Orchids in Volcano is a grower with such fame that tour buses actually make a stop going to or from Kilauea Volcano at their greenhouse showplace. They keep a basket of orchid flowers by the door with hairpins so you can pin them in your hair, or take home a few for your tiki drinks.

A plethora of orchids - does this phrase not have a lovely ring?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Dining al fresco at the Treehouse

One thing about a treehouse is the trees determine a lot about the shape and size of the space you have to work with. It is possible to bring this table and chairs inside, and also easy enough to sit on the red chairs inside to share a meal, perhaps while watching a lava film from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the small screen. The trees wouldn't let us put a dining room under the indoor roof. The trees know what the trees want.

But for a room with a view. there is not another like this lanai in the treetops, where you sit above the hapu'u ferns and watch the honeycreepers. Of an afternoon the weather is often mild enough to sit out in light weight clothes, your meal accompanied by birdsong. Even in the evening, with the stars all around and house lights shining like lanterns in the forest, a hoodie or sweater will keep you cozy in the tropical night.

There is a gas grill out there for preparing your meal. We like to use large kaffir lime leaves between the food and the grill. Whether you have some local fish or delicious vegetables from the organic farms nearby, the leaves impart their citrus oils to the food, help keep it moist as it grills, and add flavor and fragrance to such a degree that you may need no other seasoning, not even salt. Enjoy with a bottle of Volcano wine from the winery a couple miles the other side of the park gates, and you are enjoying the taste of Volcano as if this was your home.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Aloha Gate

The Aloha gate welcomes you to the pavilion in the rainforest. This is the driveway onto the grounds.

After you enter the gate, you pass beneath a canopy of graceful hapu'u ferns. Soaring over them is the forest of ohias. The sounds you hear are the birds.

Below the hapu'u are anthuriums and a carpet of moss. Orchids adorn the hapu'u, spilling their cascades of blooms and wafting fragrance along the pathway.

When the wedding celebration includes a treehouse stay, we transport the couple back and forth in our foresty Big Island Land Rover. There will be photographs.

This is the part of the rainforest where romance blooms. It is said that when Pele honors your choice of each other, the red and yellow lehua blossoms are forever united on a single tree, any tears will dissolve into laughter, and the Ha or breath between you will be forever sweet.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Outdoor Shower

Part of the fun of Hawaii is being able to shower out of doors. The shower at the treehouse is on the first level up, so you look down at the mid canopy and tops of the tree ferns while you shower.

The cable that you see in the photo on the left is part of the Garnier Limb structure that holds the house up in the trees.

This shower is comfortably big enough for two, and has a door back into the house so if there happened to be a drenching downpour of rain in addition to your shower water, you can quickly return to the comfort of dry. Usually storms with heavy downpours do not last so long that you would be forced to shower in one, although it might be worth trying just to feel the different temperatures and textures of the water hitting your skin at the same time.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Wedding Bed

This is the sweet little bedroom viewed from its lanai, through the french doors. On the rights, next to the wall, is the trap door. The trap door is about two feet by two feet, and goes under a very large support beam that effectively reduces that dimension somewhat. This matters when you want to bring anything bulky to the second level. Of course, having to heft anything bulky up into the treehouse to begin with can be daunting. And of course where it really mattered in terms of our honeymoon suite was the bed - how do you fit a queen sized bed through a hole like that?

During the building process, we anticipated hoisting the bed over the lanai, and left railing off the side for a long time to make that a bit easier. I'd go stand on the lanai and stare down at the trees, and wonder how the bed was ever going to make it into the bedroom.

One of our friends suggested an airbed, and we tried it for a bit. The airbed is easy to bring in and set up, but air naturally wants to find a way out. I have never met an airbed yet that kept its air. Being offgrid, the idea of having to keep the bed plugged in felt just plain wrong.

The kind of bed I really wanted up there was a memory foam kind, with a nice solid base. The memory foam folds and rolls so it readily brought through the trap door, but how to get a solid base in there? Would we build it in situ?

Looking at beds online, I found a modular bed. It came in segments that fit together, with a mattress cover zipped around the whole thing. Eureka! It for sure seemed worth ordering, as the memory foam would forgive whatever lacked in the modular system. Then from an entirely different source came the bedframe that doubled as a box spring that you assemble yourself.

And that is how we fit a queen sized bed with a nearly conventional underpinning through the trap door.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Honeymoon in a Treehouse

There is a romance to intimate spaces. Their very smallness brings people closer. When the small space is lifted into the trees, it becomes a human nest.

The treehouse is not the same as a ground house lifted as if by levitation into the trees, but a structure built into the trees themselves. Support elements called Garnier Limbs are bolts designed specifically to make the structure a part of the living trees themselves. The trees continue to grow around the bolts.

This treehouse is built over a lava tube, where centuries past, the liquid lava poured out of Kilauea Volcano, and bubbled up. Sometime during the cooling process, the bubble collapsed, and trees grew where their roots had aeration. Mosses and ferns cling to the sides, where water drips down from the misty rainforest atmosphere.

A cedar hot tub is seated on a platform settled on the lava tube, and rising into the first deck. This hot tub is perfect for two. In the day time, you are surrounded by birds. At night, the stars wink through the canopy not just overhead, but all around you, up high on the mountain.

This small space has a lot of built in romance, and even a hammock for two out the front, down below.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hula on the Big Island

April 4 - 10 2010 is the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo. The central event is the hula competition, taking place over Friday and Saturday nights.

This is a rare opportunity to watch performances by hula halaus from all over the United States. The kumus or hula teachers are each from a particular lineage, where they pass along the style and stories from their teachers, who learned it from theirs, and so on. A kumu can trace her or his history back for generations.

The halau is more than a dance studio. It is a repository of Hawaiian culture and practice, where the old Hawaiian culture is perpetuated and practiced through arts and crafts, language, story telling, and the dance that is hula.

There are two Hawaiian styles of hula: traditional kahik0 that includes chanting and drums, and 'auana, the more modern hula accompanied by song and slack key guitar and other instruments.

If you are thinking of planning a trip to the Big Island, and Hawaiian culture interests you, you may wish to include this festival in your itinerary, along with a stay in or near Hilo for the event.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What is different about an Eco-stay?

If the greenest thing about the hotel you choose is the little sign on the bed that suggests they can skip laundering your sheets and towels each night, chances are you have not experienced a truly green vacation stay.

Getting away from life as you know it can involve opportunities to experience regular day to day living in a whole different way, at the same time as you relax and renew your spirit.

At the treehouse in the rainforest, we have built your experience from the ground up, using green technology. You will be aware of the difference from the moment you repack your bags into backpacks to walk through the rainforest and up into the treehouse: roller bags are great for airports, but not so for the forest.

The ascent would require an elevator if this was a hotel, but you will climb up. It isn't particularly arduous, but if you do it several times a day while you are here, you might find yourself tightening your belt a notch or even two.

Water is not piped in or out - rather than a sewer system or a septic system that has destroyed a swimming pool sized section of the forest, there is a composting toilet and rainwater catchment.

The hot tub is heated by a chofu. Electricity is from a battery bank, solar panels, and a generator.

The treehouse itself is built using treehouse technology. State of the art garnier limbs support the structure within the trees. The building materials are recycled from a church that was torn down and are sustainably farmed bamboo.

If you are interested in booking a treehouse stay, contact us at

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Wedding Plus the Rest of your Dreams

A quick and easy wedding doesn't have to have all the romance of a dinner out of the frozen food case.

Your wedding doesn't have to cost more than the car you wish you had.

If you have ever thought about whether you could get away with an elopement wedding, this is what you can have at Rainforest Weddings. Romance, a triple digit price tag, privacy, photographs of yourselves in glorious natural settings, and a ceremony befitting a storybook couple. You will end up believing in happily ever after.

If you want some of your friends along, there is room in the pavilion for up to 24 people. If you'd prefer a simple intimate supper for two with a guitar player and candlelight, we will arrange it, with the cuisine of your choice.

We even have packages: two nights in the treehouse, transportation back and forth, two to three hours of photography in locations nearby, your ceremony complete with cake and wedding toast, and dinner for two at your choice of locations: the rainforest pavilion or Kilauea Lodge.

If you want something special, just ask. We are not about production weddings, and we are about romance and adventure, and offering you the opportunity to have a stress-free wedding in a location that is a natural sanctuary.

For more photographs, see our facebook pages and become a fan!

mahalo nui loa!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Through the Moongate

To reach the treehouse, walk through the moon gate

Follow the forest path to the ascent over the ancient lave flow, up the lava tube. Hold tight to the bamboo rails and climb to the first level.

The moongate is the answer to our vision of a portal to a magical place. The treehouse in Pele's forest is built in the trees growing out of a lavatube. It began as our fantasy, and then grew into the expression of the designer and architect, Roderick Romero.

Roderick incorporated the elements we brought over to the project - the stained glass windows, the carved doors. The builders adapted his design to fit the trees, and what was to have been two rooms connected by an outdoor stairway became two stories of the same structure with an interior ladder.

Bamboo entered the picture. We were excited to use a sustainable material, in addition to the recycled lumber that eventually became the floors and siding. Bamboo is time consuming to work with, due to its curvy irregularities.

Once the structure itself was in place, we took over the project and its thousand and one finish necessities. Although we are here in Hawaii, we are at significant elevation, in the forest, and it can be chilly. It was when we finally put in the heating stove that the little house in the trees really felt like a cozy sweet place.

E komo mai, we invite you through the portal of the moongate, into the treehouse, available for romance!

E Komo Mai

E Komo Mai
Aloha and welcome to Rainforest Weddings.

The photo above is of our pavilion in the rainforest near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The pavilion can be the location for your ceremony and celebration, if you keep it intimate.

We also offer a honeymoon cottage in the trees, a playhouse complete with cedar hot tub and memory foam bed, down a secret path in an old growth forest of ohia and giant hapu'u ferns.

You can choose to have a wedding, another sort of celebration, a celebration and a treehouse stay, or just a treehouse stay.

The pavilion holds up to 24 people for the celebration, and the treehouse sleeps two.

Our concept is simple: An ultra romantic place to get married and honeymoon, with adventure all around. The costs are simple too: $750 will cover the celebration, including orchids leis for the celebratory couple, the ceremony, blowing of the triton shell, music, photographs on a disc, cake and a wedding toast. $1000 covers two nights in the treehouse, transportation to and from the pavilion from the treehouse, and the celebration as described.

For those who want a catered supper, we will help you arrange that.

Extra flowers are available, but they are redundant, as orchids and other epiphytes grow in the trees around the pavilion. Special leis, including maile and head leis are available. Live music is available.

If you are interested, please contact us through this blog, or for more information, visit our facebook site: