Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thar' she blows! The Whale Center is a Maui Wowie

For visitors who have achieved the Maui Tourist Triathalon (Haleakala, Lahaina, Hana Highway), the North Kihei coastline will come as a happy surprise. 

Anchoring the shore is the (take a breath) Hawaiian Islands Humpack Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center. It's set up for families with kids, as well as for couples, and admission is free (donations are appreciated). 

The sanctuary was established to study and protect the huge migrating mammals who are just offshore Maui during the winter months. They have binoculars at the ready.

The center has been spruced up and refit this winter (opens again December 4). Its viewing decks are a breath of fresh air.

There are a number of intrepretive installations, of course, but the line between learning and having fun gets blurred into the experince. Right next-door is the little Kalepolepo Beach Park (from which the top photo was taken) with its recreated fish pond that makes for safe wading. Fish dart about at your ankles.

On  north side of the visitor center is the beginning of long Sugar Beach—a quiet spot with high scenic value and good swimming. And just two miles north of the whale center, on Ma'alaea Bay, is the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, a coastal stroll for birdwatchers where sea turtles sometimes nest.  

Maui Trailblazer has more details on this fabulous freebie. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks: The 20th Anniversary Edition of Kauai Trailblazer is here!

The NEW 2017, 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION of the Sprout's top-selling guide has been completely revised and updated. A favorite among locals and adventure travelers alike, Kauai Trailblazer is packed with new activities, dozens of fresh photos, and a special Trailblazer Kids chapter for families.
Trailblazer guides are popular among independent and active travelers and are known for their user-friendly format, readability, and sharp graphics. The authors have spent years exploring Kaua'i, and it shows. A Resource Links section gives visitor information and cultural contacts, recommended recreational outfitters, museums and attractions, Hawaiiana shops and hula shows, as well as a hand-picked list of restaurants and places to stay. Safety precautions and traveling tips are not to be overlooked, and a Best Of section lets you select among activities to suit your mood.

Feeling dreamy? Try Tunnels Beach for snorkleing and a knock-out view of Makena Ridge (a.k.a. Bali Hai of South Pacific fame).

Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," has trails fringed with red rock and cacti when you drop down, and trails though tropical jungle along its upper rim.

The Kalalau Trail on the north shore runs 11-miles along roadless cliffis above crashing seas. But you can get a good day hike in with a jaunt to the first beach and waterfall.

All of Kauai is a scenic drive, including a short trip inland to Waimea Falls, which was featured in the tv program Fantasy Island.

But the coolest thing about Kauai is the wealth of lesser-known beaches, like Anahola Beach Park. This northeastern coastline has a dozen beaches, many of which are reachable only by foot.

Interior trails skirt the shoulders of Mt. Waialeale (Why-ali-ali), the wettest spot on earth, receiving an average of 40-feet (that's feet) of rain per year. The Powerline Trail transects the island. The Kuilau Ridge Trail is only a few miles roundtrip.

In paper or ebook form, we've got it covered. Anxious to go? Want to find it in a hurry? Click here:  Kauai Trailblazer

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Aloha from the Big Island of Ama'reeka

We know that many of you in the Islands head to the Mainland for the holidays, and when you do, we've got you covered: Golden Gate Trailblazer is a guide to San Francisco and Marin County, and Alpine Sierra Trailblazer takes you down the east side of the Sierra on the way from Reno to Las Vegas. You don't have to get far from Highway 395 to see petroglyphs that will remind some of those found in Hawaii, particularly on the Big Island.

This figure will be familar to anyone who has visited the fields at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and South Kohala, but it was crafted just north of Bishop, California.

These densely packed rock etchings look more like those in Olowalu on Maui, but they were made south of Mammoth, California.

Trailblazer guides are for lovers of the great outdoors and those who appreciate the cultural treasures left by explorers who have gone before us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Take a vacation from your vacation at this Big Island National Historic Park

The Big Island—larger than the rest of Hawaii combined—can eat up days of exploration. But be sure to save a full day for Kealakekua Bay and Pu'uhonua o Honounou (poo-oo-ho-newa-o-ho-now-now). This National Historic Site was a 'place of refuge' in ancient Hawaii, where law violators and social miscreants could go to escape harsher punishment. When justice takes the form of a swift club to the brainpan, people run to break into jail, not out of it.  

The Hawaiian way of life is on display daily, with canoe building, thatching, net fishing, and other crafts demonstrated for visitors.

The small bay at the park attracts sea turtles. Snorkelers flock to "Two Step," one of the best places to see fish in Hawaii, which is just outside of the park's entrance.

Paths weave though 180 acres, under coco palms and past pools of tranquility.

Hale o Keawe, where the remains of 23 ali'i (chiefs) are interred, is one of the significant historic sites at Pu'uhonua o Honounou.  The park's Great Wall dates from the 1500s—10 feet high, 7 feet thick, and about 1,000 feet long. It was built to separate the royals who lived here from the people seeking refuge. One of Kamehameha's wives hid out for a while when she got on the wrong side of the big guy.

Fantastic as it is, the historic park is only one of several visit-worthy spots along the shores of Kealakekua Bay. Also on the hit parade: Captain Cook Monument (where he died and now a site for excellent snorkeling), Kealakekua Historic Park, Manini Beach Park, Ke'ei Village, Pu'uhonua Beach Park, Ki'ilae Village Coastal Trail, the Painted Church, and Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative (where you can cop a buzz from a free bottomless cup of Kona coffee to fuel the day).

All this may seem like too much, but it fits nicely into a day's outing. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the details.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Waipio: The Big Island's Valley of the Kings

The end of the road on the Big Island's lush northeast coast is the gateway to another world altogether. Towering cliffs border the valley on all sides, framing a wild beach. The Muliwai Trail zig zags up from the far end of the beach, beginning a 20-mile journey through roadless jungle—a trail similar to, but much less popular than, Kauai's Kalalau Trail. Kamehameha the Great spent his youth in Waipio, surfing and developing the skills that would make him king of all the islands.

The  road into Waipio is a for-real four-wheel drive route. Several van tours will take you down. But—hot tip— you can also walk down the 500 feet in about 20 minutes.

There is room to roam at the bottom. One of the best adventures is to head up the valley, where taro is grown today as it has been for centuries. The trail is a little tricky. You need to go up what appears to be a stream, but quickly turns into a dry, rutted road.

A number of people call Waipio home, all of whom ask visitors to "Respect the Land."

You get a good look at the valley from the Waipio Lookout.  Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the details.

Save money money buying multiple copies of Trailblazers: Buy 2 and save 20%; buy 3 and save 30%; buy 4 and save 40%. All with FREE shipping. Email and let us know which among the eight titles you would like.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hawaii's favorite fabulous freebies

To stay at one of Hawaii's destination resorts, you'll need to do serious damage to the titanium credit card—from five hundred to several thousand dollars per night. But to cruise by and check them out is free. The best resorts  have museum quality art, botanical gardens, and a mini-amusement park feel. 

The Asian-inspired architecture of Kauai's Grand Hyatt on Kauai's south shore has room to roam. The inside features a whimsical garden fringed by Stevenson's Library, a nightspot with sushi and spirits. An acres-large saltwater lagoon sits between the beach and pool with slides and chutes that is out of Disneyland. (Note: Using the pool is limited to guests.) Near the port in Lihue is the Kalapaki Bay Marriott, whose pool is ringed with hot tubs. Inside is the Princess, a koa canoe used by Prince Kuhio, fronted by a huge lagoon filled with prized koi. On the north shore of Kauai is the St. Regis Princeville, where a 30-foot-high wall of glass frames Hanalei Bay. Also a worthy stop on Kauai is the Courtyard by Marriott in Kapa'a, where orignal oil paintings by Herb Kane grace the walls. 

A walking path runs along the beach and several world-class resorts in Wailea are on Maui. Be sure to duck into the Grand Wailea (above). The grounds are sprawling and specatular.

The interior spaces of the Grand Wailea are fit for a queen's wedding. Statues by Botero rest among columns and ferns. A Kamehameha statue presides over a waterfall fountain off the portico.With art galleries including the works of Dale Chihuly, the esteemed collection of over 72 sculptures and murals was estimated at around $40 million when last appraised. Included in the extensive collection are 18 Fernand Leger bronze sculptures - the largest collection outside of France.

The Ritz Carlton on the north shore of Maui is dramataically set back from the ocean—out of respect for an ancient Hawaiian burial site.

A ferry ride from Maui to Lanai (great day trip) is the way to see two of Hawaii's best resorts. Above is the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. Software billionaire Larry Ellison bought the whole island from media tycoon Rupert Murdock in 2012.

A shuttle bus takes you inland to the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele (reopening soon), looking more like an colonial plantation manor than a Hawaiian resort. A manicured, 40-acre arboretum features a conservatory of orchids. Fanciful statues are sprinkled about.

In the heart of Kona on the Big Island, is the King Kamehameha Hotel (now a Marriott). Though not a splashy building, the interior features art that could be in the Bishop Museum—like this feather cape worn by the ali'i (royalty). You'll also find vintage trophy cases commemorating the heyday of sport fishing, when actors like Lee Marvin and Richard Boone would play hard and drink harder.

The South Kohala Coast of the Big Island (north of Kailua-Kona) has several of Hawaii's best destination resorts. The Mauna Kea is the oldest, the Mauna Loa has the best beaches and grounds, and the Hilton ... the Hilton is a mind-blowing good time for the whole family. A monorail and boat ferry skirt a waterway through swank shops and courtyards. A grand staircase with columns provides entry to a man-made lagoon.  Dolphins cavort to the commands of trainers. A fee is charged to park at the Hilton (although Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer notes free spots nearby).

Waikiki Beach, on Oahu of course, is one big, wild, weird resort strip. The soul of the place is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel—the Pink Lady—which still exudes the glory days of tourism it promoted when built in 1927.  Matson liners crossed the Pacific to bring visitors. The vintage vibe extends next-door to the Moana Surfrider Hotel, dating from 1901. A museum upstairs tells the story.

Trailblazer guides have all the details on all these resorts, plus many more worth visiting. You don't have to spend a pile to enjoy the luxury in Hawaii.

Save money money buying multiple copies of Trailblazer: Buy 2 and save 20%; buy 3 and save 30%; buy 4 and save 40%. All with FREE shipping. Email and let us know which among the eight titles you would like.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Kauai's Haena Beach: How sweeeeet it is!

The right moment at Haena Beach is one you will never forget. 

It's a couple miles from the end of the road on Kauai's north shore. This couple is sitting at 'Tunnels,' one of Hawaii's best snorkeling beaches, about a ten minute walk from the parking lot at the beach park itself. The saw-toothed ridge is called Makena, but it s known by many as  'Bali Hai,' a moniker bestowed by the movie, South Pacific.

When the conditions are good, parking right at Tunnels, or even at the beach park, can be hell on wheels—but Kauai Trailblazer has a couple parking spots that are car-free. These quiet entries are from Charo's Beach, around a sandy point from Tunnels. Charo's is a locals' beach that is unpopulated even on the busiest of days.

Wave play is fun when the conditions are right. Big-boy surfers head to Cannons, a surf spot next to Haena (which you can see in the top right of the top picture). 

One of the best beachcomber walks in the universe is from Haena, past Cannons, and on to Ke'e Beach, which is the darling at road's end near the Kalalau Trailhead. About halfway along the walk is the site of Taylor Camp, where hundreds of hippies homesteaded under a grove of leafy trees for years in the sixties (guests of the landowner, who was the brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor).

During the winter months, surf at Haena can be fantastically lethal. Lifeguards post signs along the beach, but you'd be surprised how many people get too close. Trailblazer guides are full of specific safety warnings for all the beaches and trails in the Aloha State. For independent and curious travelers, these books are essential gear.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Aloha begins at the tarmac with Hawaiian Airlines

As publishers of guidebooks, we have taken nearly 100 flights to and around the Islands, and all but 5 or 6 were as passengers of Hawaiian Airlines. We've learned to go with the Hawaii specialists. Their hospitality gets the vacation started once you fasten the seatbelt.  BTW: We have no deals or partnerships or any reason to tout this carrier.

Some  flights from major West Coast Airports fly direct to the outer islands, like Maui. But most flights go through Honolulu (Oahu) and you have to transfer across the airport to catch an inter island flight.

At the main terminal in Honolulu a free shuttle bus (the Wiki Wiki) makes the five-minute journey to the smaller terminal. Or, if you have time to spare, load the carryons and walk (your bags will be checked through to the outer island).

In the post war romantic period of the Islands, ocean liners brought most visitors. Hawaiian Air today is the closest you're going to get to vintage tourism.

More often than not, you will get a good eyeful of Waikiki coming into Oahu (from the south in this shot). Flights that approach from the north go over the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

A delayed flight on Hawaiian is very rare—they are the on-time industry leaders. And they will never fail to get you to your final destination, even if they have to break out small planes, like the one above that mainly services Lanai and Molokai. Most of their inter island flights are on full-sized jets, and the trans-Pacific planes are all jumbos.

To keep the aloha spirt alive once in Hawaii, check out the Trailblazer guides to all-things-outdoors, plus all the cultural sites and tourist attractions. The visitor safety sections in the Trailblazers are a good enough reason to bring one along—possibly a life saver.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hike the 'back door' into the dreamy Mauna Kea Resort

The Mauna Kea set the standard for beach resorts when it rose from the sands of pretty Kaunaoa Bay in 1960. Arnie and Jack teed off at the resort's world-class golf course. Today, the swimming and on-shore wave play is some of the best in Hawaii—but the bad news is that public parking is limited and the lot fills up just when you need it.

The 'back door' to Mauna Kea is via Hapuna State Beach, which is just down the coast on this northern end of the Big Island's South Kohala. Hapuna is very popular, but the lot does not fill up.

A recently hewn trail skirts a rugged coastal section for a mile-plus from Hapuna to Mauna Kea. It's a whale-watcher's special in the winter. Non-native vegetation was removed when the trail was built. After leaving Hapuna, the trail passes the green grounds of the Hapuna Prince Resort, and a nice little snorkeling cove complete with a concrete-stair entry.

The route takes you through the site of and the ancient village, Ouli Ahupua'a.

After passing a few new mega-homes, the trail reaches the nice public facilites at the beach. This is a sweet  experiece you will want to repeat. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details on how to find private, spectacular places.