Travel Weekly's Hawaii E-Letter: March 3, 2003

CULINARY CONVERSATIONS, a program inviting foodies to get up-close-and-personal with America's best chefs, will start with renowned chef Mario Batali from March 21-24 at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows on the Big Island. Batali is well-known for hosting "Molto Mario" and "Mario Eats Italy" on the Food Network, and for his three Manhattan restaurants -- Babbo, Esca and Lupa -- and his three best-selling cookbooks. Weekend classes include a session in a luxurious private home overlooking the ocean, and a visit to a boutique lettuce farm, where guests will pick and prepare their own produce for lunch. Wine is included. Casually elegant parties allow students to enjoy what they've learned. Program fees include accommodations, and are limited to 10 participants. $3,500 per person, including 4 nights and all events. And it's commissionable. 1-800-367-2323;

THE FLUME, a new multi-million dollar water slalom ride, will debut in Hawaii at the 31st annual Hawaii State Farm Fair this summer. Similar to a log ride, the fast-moving roller coaster will splash through a series of water ponds amid wild twists and turns. In addition to rides and games, visitors can learn about Hawaii's agriculture through exhibits, demonstrations and samplings of island-grown produce. The fair is open to the public on three consecutive weekends: July 18-20; July 25-27; July 31-Aug. 3. Admission: $3 for adults, $1.50 for children 5-11. Children under 5 are free. 808-848-2074

PARKER RANCH on the Big Island has a new activity that allows visitors to explore areas of the 200,000-acre working ranch and learn about the ranch's history. Horseback rides are available three times daily at 8:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. (both for two hours), plus a sunset ride at 4 p.m. (for 1.5 hours). The cost is $79 per person. The minimum age is 7. 808-885-5006

SUNTRIPS will expand its northern California-Hawaii service between June and August from seven flights per week to 11. The schedule includes direct service from Oakland to Kona; more non-stop flights from Oakland to Oahu, Maui and Kauai; and new nonstop Sacramento to Maui service. Connecting flights are also available via SunTrips' interisland partner, Aloha Airlines. Weekly nonstop service from Oakland to Kauai runs from May 23 through Aug. 22. 800-786-8747;

• King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel will host a cultural program one Friday and Saturday per month, and when cruise ships are in the harbor. Through demonstrations, workshops, craft exhibits, music and hula, kupuna (revered elders) will share Hawaiian culture with visitors. The program differs each time. 808-329-2911;
• Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort is hosting Hawaiian entertainment from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily at the Moana Terrace Cafe and Bar. Highlights include Auntie Genoa Keawe and her traditional Hawaiian falsetto music on Thursdays, as well as Hawaiian slack key guitarists on Sundays. 808-922-6611

• Pleasant Holidays is offering a special rate through Sept. 3 on the Grand Wailea Resort & Spa on Maui (accommodations are terrace rooms, but at least you're at the hotel). Five-night, land-only holidays start at $963 per person, double occupancy. Don't treatments through the resort are commissionable, too. 800-448-3333;

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