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: