Thursday, October 30, 2014

Maui Trailblazer 2015: Go here. Do this.

Baldwin Beach on the windward side—the cover shot for this 5th edition—is one place among many to to find your own aloha on Maui

"For hiking, snorkeling, surfing, biking locations, this is the guide to take along." - Outside

"In both layout design and content, the very model of what a user-friendly outdoor guide should be." --Midwest Book Review

"Many of Maui's attractions are easy to find. But other places are off the beaten track.I recommend a guidebook called Maui Trailblazer, which has detailed descriptions of trails and remote natural sites." --New York Times

Trailblazer divides Maui into 55 geographically related 'trailheads,' giving specific descriptions of all the hikes, beaches, attractions, town strolls, and cultural sites that are nearby. Included in the fun are the outer islands of Molokini, Molokai, and Lanai. Have your yellow marker handy and give Trailblazer the once-over before you leave. And then have it with you hone in while exploring Maui.

Maui Trailblazer 2015 is available on and or if you wish to buy a signed copy (20% discount, free shipping) write to

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kilauea lava flow advancing in Puna

A current map and recent photo.  Red Cross is on the scene.

From the USGS: "The flow advanced about 190 meters (210 yards) during the preceding 19.5 hours, traveling completely through the cemetery above Pāhoa. At the time of mapping, the flow was 715 meters (780 yards) directly upslope from Pāhoa Village Road. The flow was advancing downslope between two intersecting steepest-descent paths and was trending toward the southern one. The flow will likely return to the original steepest-descent path about 300 m (330 yd) upslope from Pāhoa Village Road, if it continues."

For the latest Civil Defense message, go to

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Danger awaits on the nicest of days in Hawaii

The truth is, someone dies every few weeks while having fun in Hawaii. The demons are not  powerful volcanoes, tsumanis, earthquakes, and hurricanes, but rather  'booby traps' that lie along the beaches and trails on perfectly nice days.  The good news: Almost all  recreational deaths in Hawaii can be avoided.  

Rule one is to stay on the trails. You can be walking along in lush greenery like this and step off the trail to take a picture, and ...

... get an airborne view like this as you freefall. Greenery disguises drop offs. The lush forest also can become a maze without exit. Forget about using GPIS to find routes. Stay on the trail and don't venture into the forests. Getting lost is fairly certain, and unseen earth cracks and lava tubes provide trap doors to deep dark places. (On the other hand, don't fret about poisonous insects or snakes since there are none in Hawaii.)

This scene hardly looks life threatening and this local surfer is reading the waves with experience. But rogue waves easily sweep people from rocks, so observe the wave action for many minutes  before venturing out. Don't walk out on wet rocks. On a given day, if normal surf is breaking near where you are standing, then a 'rogue' wave—one larger than the normal sets—will be in postition to take you out. Bigger surf also means stronger rip current. All that water pounding in has to go out someplace. In a small bay like this, don't swim out until you know where the rip current is. 

This spillway feels good on the feet on a day like this. During rains (and it can be raining in the mountains when it's dry nearer the coast) streams rise quickly to flash floods that take away hikers and even cars. Stay out of stream valleys during rains and head for high ground immediately if you hear what sounds like a jet engine coming down the gorge. Don't cross fast moving water; if you get caught on the wrong side, wait until the water lowers before crossing.

And, most of all, don't forget that the most popular way to die having fun in Hawaii is drowning, often from head and neck injuries caused by wave action or fatiguing in a rip current. Again, stay out of big waves and back from the shore. If you get caught in a rip current, don't swim against it. Rip currents are near-shore events that will release you behind the waves. Swim in a direction perpendicular to the force of the current. Avoid swimming at remote beaches, where no one will see you from shore. 

The Trailblazer guides for each of the islands list the specific dangers associated with particular hikes and beaches, and also have sections on recreational safety and hidden dangers. No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planning guide, has a chapter on how to play it safe on vacation. You don't have to wuss out and there's nothing to be afraid of. Adventure awaits. But many people do die in Hawaii on vacation and you don't want to be one of them.

One last tip: Retractable hiking poles fit easily into luggage and can be a lifesaver in Hawaii. Use them to probe greenery, for stability on stream crossings, for rock hopping on wild coastal routes, and, most importantly, to provide braking when coming down steep, narrow ridge trails that can be as slick as snot after rains.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Keeping it real at Ko Olina. Or not.

The Lanikuhonua Hawaiian Cultural Park is a serene little cove that for centuries was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty.  In 1939, Alice Kamokila Campbell (daughter of super-rich James Campbell), turned the beachside oasis on Oahu's West Side into a community-spirited park and organization.

From the beach, you can walk tidepools along the gardens and modest buildings that comprise the cultural park.

Just around this palmy point the mood shifts dramatically. High end resorts, including a new effort by Disney called the Aulanai, sit alongside four, perfectly symmetrical coves with sandy beaches that were blasted out of a barren limestone reef. Phony, for sure, but still a good place to get in the water. The Grand Ko Olina Resort hosts NFL players for the annual Pro Bowl. Check out Oahu Trailblazer, pages 198-200, for the best places to park, walk, and snorkel. Most visitors who aren't staying here don't know the place exists.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Make sure your Hawaiian 'honeymoon' is not a blind date: No Worries Hawaii

Even if you're not going to Hawaii to celebrate a wedding, a vacation is a lot like a honeymoon: It costs a chunk of change, takes a lot planning, and some tropical romance is expected.  You want to make sure that reality measures up to your expectations, and you don't wind up with a blind date gone astray. 

The type of vacation you can have in Hawaii varies wildly—from a Las Vegas-type soiree to a wildnerness backpack trip, with many options in between. What do you fantasize when you think of Hawaii? Whatever that is, No Worries Hawaii (a planning guide), will let you take those dreams and turn them into details

At the heart of No Worries Hawaii is a a simple-but-thorough self test. Some 36 aspects of Hawaii are listed, such as family beaches, nightlife, museums, hiking trails, snorkeling coves, tropical gardens, ancient sites, surfing spots—all of the things Hawaii has to offer. You go through the list, checking off what is important to you, what is sort of appealing, and leaving out what you don't really care about. Your answers are summarized, and the test reveals which island you are likely to like the most. For each category, all of the specific attractions are listed for each island, for reference when you actually visit.

Once your island is selected, No Worries Hawaii describes the options among places to stay (like mid-level resorts and condos, country cottages, luxury resorts, beach condos, etc.) and then presents hand-picked accommodations to choose from. The book is also packed with money saving tips, freebies, and how to plan your days so you don't get stuck in crowds. Ways to save on hotels, flights and rental cars are also included. Readers will also want to take a close look at the detailed tips for having a safe vacation in the water, along the shore, driving, and on hiking trails. Having fun can be dangerous, unless precautions are taken.

The authors have visited for several decades, in the course of writing and updating guidebooks for each of the islands. No Worries Hawaii is a must-have, both for first-time visitors unsure of where to go, and for returnees who want to try something different.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mauna Lani, The Big Island's Luxury Oasis

Visiting the Mauna Lani Resort in the South Kohala is one of Hawaii's major freebies. From the highway you look across a vast, sun-scorched slag heap of jagged lava: hardly a vision of paradise.  But drive in to find a mile-long seacoast with white-sand coves, a 30-acre history park, tranquil freshwater ponds, and a path that connects with the fabulous Fairmont Orchid Resort. The historic Queen's Pond, pictured above, is tucked away behind Beach Club Beach, and next to a series of larger ponds.

Waipuhi Iki Pond (above) is one of several at the backshore of the beaches, used in ancient times to raise mullet and other fish. A footbridge spans the water to a little-island hut that is one of the most serene places on earth. Near the footbridge is the small Eva Parker Woods Cottage Museum, where, when the moon is full, a free 'Talk Story,' performance is presented by Danny Kaniela Akaka, Jr. (son of Hawaii senator).  Song, dance, and Island-style story-telling blend into a memorable experience. Each show is a little different.

Along the coast are three or four safe and spectacular coves for swimming and snorkeling. Adventure hikers can continue north of the resorts to the Puako Petroglyph Park and the reefs in Paniau, or south along a golf course to 49 Black Sand Beach. Check it out in Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, pages 56 to 59.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Nature rules at Maui's Ironwoods Beach

In recent decades, contstruction cranes have outnumbered coco palms along Maui's Kapalua Coast (just north of Ka'anapali on the west side), but not at Ironwoods (Oneloa) Beach. A boardwalk-trail parallels the sand dunes at the backshore, running from Kapalua Resort on the south, passing the Hawea Point Shoreline Conservation Area, and connecting with the Dragon's Teeth seascape at the Ritz Carlton on the north end.

A near-constant shore break makes Ironwoods better for surfing than snorkeling. Beachcombers can enjoy the view of Molokai sitting nine miles away on the horizon. Maui Trailblazer (pages 68 to 74) has more details on places to call your own amid what can be a crowded coastline.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mauna Kea: A Short Walk to the Top of the World on the Big Island

trail to the summit of Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is 'only' 13,796, but from its base on the ocean floor, the big volcano meaures about 43,000 feet, easily the tallest mountain in the world. From the trailhead at the top, the summit can be achieved with a mere half-mile, round-trip walk, but this is a tough half-mile when you drive up from sea level. Altitude sickness is an issue, especially for those who don't spend an hour or so at the Onizuka Visitors Center about 8 miles down the mountain at 9,300 feet.

A shrine marks the top. Hawaiians called the summit, Ka Piko o Kaulan o Ka Aina (The Famous Summit of the Land) and also Wakea's Mountain, the mountain begat by god of all the heavens.  Just down from the summit are deposits of volcanic glass, similar to obsidian, which was gathered to make cutting tools and spear heads.

About a dozen deep-space telescope are built across the saddle from Mauna Kea. A demand for more observatories has created a conflict with preserving this ancient Hawaiian site. So far, the summit itself remains undeveloped.

A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, and sometimes required, for the stretch of road past the visitors center. Tour shuttle buses also bring visitors. It is an unforgettable journey. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details for planning a trip, on page 181.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wahine Wave Riders at Kauai's Kalihiwai Bay

Drive down from the bluffs on Kauai's north shore near Kilaeua and you will find a local-style beach park that is home to one of the best you-never-heard-of-it surfing venues in Hawaii. One break is on shore near the river mouth, mostly the playground for body boarders. The real action is at the mouth of the bay--a right break that sometimes curls around to a near head-on with the cliff face if surfers don't bail out it time. 

Local dudes like the great Titus Kinimaka have their own hang out zone at the beach (you want to make friends and get advice before venturing out there to ride). But Kalihiwai is favored by the wahines, and some of the best in the world, like Bethany Hamilton (not pictured) surf here frequently.
Bethany is known these days as the girl who lost her arm to a shark attack in 2003, a horrific event later portrayed in the movie, Soul Surfer. It is astounding how she can catch the combers with only one arm—she remains a top competitive surfer on the pro circuit.

From a guardrail on the way down to the beach park is a fabulous place to be a spectator, one of the best spots in Hawaii when conditions are right. There are two or three places to park on the shoulder before the guardrail begins. This picture is looking in at the bay, with the stream to the far right. The  surfing action, where the above shot was lensed, is down to the right. Make sure you get a good footing (dangerous drop off behind rail) and stay out of the path of cars traveling downhill.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Free-falling into adventure on Maui's Pipiwai Trail

Thrills and spills await on virtually every turn on the daylong driving adventure along the Hana Highway to the Pools of Oheo, which is the ocean section of Haleakala National Park. But that drive is only prelude to the Pipiwai Trail, a jaunt into the heart of darkness with two waterfalls that are among the most scenic in Hawaii. Get off the boardwalk only a few steps in the bamboo forest and you won't know which way is up.

Distances are about a half-mile farther, roundtrip, if you park at the visitors center. Total elevation gain is about 900 feet. Fit trekkers can do the hike in two to three hours.  So, to do this hike from Lahaina or Kihei, plan on a long day—one that packs in a week's worth of adventure.

Two sturdy bridges span stream gorges in between the two falls, this one the entranceway to a bamboo tunnel.

Falling 400 feet into a mossy amphitheater, Waimoku Falls is the headliner. But the Falls at Makahiku is a worthy destination, if you don't have time for the whole hike: The trail takes you a ledge at the top of the falls.  There's more detailed information in your Maui Trailblazer guide.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Going 'Downtown' with I'i Brown on the Big Island of Hawaii

Awaiting on the South Kohala Coast on the Big Island (which runs for miles north of Kona) are wild beaches with rough coral-and-lava sand (salt & pepper) and very clear waters, since there are no streams to murky things up.

Getting to these oases always involves walking across a hellish slag heap of lava, which is not bad if there's a trail—like the King's Trail that borders the coast—but impossible if there's not one.

South of the posh Mauna Lani Resort are the remains of the Francis I'i Brown retreat, which, believe it or not, was party central in the 1920s and the following decades, hosting the likes of Mae West, Babe Ruth, and a young Bob Hope at moonlit drinkathons. Brown, sort of the Great Gatsby of the Big Island, was the great gandson of the distinguished John Papa I'i, who was counsel to Hawaii's first three kings, Kamehameha the Great, followed by his two sons. Today, rusted barbed wire encloses the modest, forlorn buildings and grove of coco palms.

But the coast is wide open, with bays to the north and south and several spots to slip in and bob around in gin-clear water. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has directions to this getaway on pages 63 and 64.

If you're itching to go to Hawaii but can't make it this year take a Trailblazer Travel Book photo tour of all the islands here:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hanapepe: Kauai's Once-Wild, Now-Mild West

On Kauai's arid west shore, quiet Hanapepe town's history is defined by two violent events: In the early 1800s, Prince Humehume staged an unsuccessful revolt against the forces of Kamehameha the Great, and, nearly a century later, about 20 people died in a clash between police and workers over conditions in the sugarcane field. Hanapepe is still the Old West (Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolos, rule in nearby Waimea), but the town's beverage has shifted from whiskey to white wine, when visitors gather for Art Night every Friday. 

The Swinging Bridge spans the wide, red river, providing a cheap thrill for those wishing to explore the agricultural backroads. Poi dogs and wild chickens are on hand to say hello.

Many of Hanapepe's already weatherworn buildings were damaged by monster Hurricane Iniki in 1992, driving real estate prices down to the point where artists and crafstpeople could afford to move in.

In recent decades, gentrification has fought off dilapidation, resulting in a charming burg with a run of quirky shops, art galleries, craft studios, giftshops and restaurants. Historical markers are placed about, accenting a walking tour, but curious strollers will have to duck in here and there to really see everything.

To get the pulse of the place, visitors should stop in at the Storybook Theatre of Hawaii, where the Spark M. Matsunaga International Children's Garden for Peace in the back is a world unto itself.

The nonprofit Theatre is the creation of Mark Jeffers, whose public TV puppet-persona Russell da Rooster, both educates and amuses viewers throughout the state. In additions to shows on site, Jeffers conducts town walks by reservation.

At the far end of town, the 1911 bridge is the turnaround for a town loop that takes in the rural levee road and all of the shops along the main street.  Hanapepe is an intriguing place to visit, without being a tourist town, well worth an exploration for visitors headed toward Waimea Canyon. Kauai Trailblazer has more details on pages 136-139, and 209.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kaupo: Could this be Maui?

The south (Kaupo) coast of Maui is an alternate universe removed from the long run of resort strips on the entire west coast of the island. The arid slopes of Haleakala rise abruptly from a rugged coast that is totally undeveloped yet accessible. You won't find sand beaches, but Nu'u Bay serves up good snorkeling and petroglyphs that tell the story of inhabitants from centuries past.

The Kaupo Trail is the backdoor into the National Park, a ball-busting climb through pasturelands and native forests that finally reaches the vast red crater that is out of this world (not unlike its sister volcano to the south, Mauna Loa on the Big Island, where habitat studies today are preparing humans to go to Mars in the near future).

Huialoha Church sits on a cove facing a wild sea, one of the most serene and beautiful spots in Hawaii. Built in 1859, the church was hit by vandals in recent years, but dedicated locals have restored the interior, adding hardwood floors to this place of worship.

The center of this alternate universe is the Kaupo Store, open 24/7, except when it's not, a policy that dates from 1925. Grab an ice cream, bag of chips, or cold drink and watch the world not go by.

Only a few miles away is St. Joseph Church, erected in 1862, when there were enough people around to fill the place on Sundays. Maui Trailblazer has five trailhead sections devoted to this wild, off-beat coastline.  (Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details on how to visit Mauna Loa on the Big Island).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Announcing the newest edition of Kauai Trailblazer

Here it is, hot off the press, our spanking new edition ready for your upcoming trip to the Garden Isle:

This NEW 2015 SIXTH EDITION of our bestselling guide has been completely reivised and updated. It's packed with new activities, dozens of fresh photos, and a special Trailblazer Kids chapter for families headed to Hawaii's adventure island.

Trailblazer guides, in print for more than two decades, are popular among independent and active travelers. The books are known for their user-friendly format, readability, and sharp graphics.

You'll find all the mountain ridges, tropical gardens, beaches, coves and lagoons, jungles, rivers, historic landmarks and cultural sites, coral reefs, ancient ruins, and coastal bluffs-all the places to get wet, muddy, and have fun on Kaua'i. Less energetic visitors will appreciate the book's driving tours, which hit the headliners along with the island's out-of-the-way charms.

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.

122 hikes and strolls to mountain ridges, tropical gardens, beaches, jungles, coves, reefs, historic landmarks and ancient ruins, swamps, craters, forests, coastal bluffs and tide pools, towns, canyons, waterfalls and river valleys.

70 beaches, including 23 reachable only by trail.

44 snorkeling pools, both the island favorites and hidden coves.

66 mountain bike rides along forest, coastal, and countryside trails, as well as resort paths.

27 kayaking waters: 13 rivers and streams, 14 bays and lagoons.

38 surfing spots, including the best places to watch.

10 maps and 175 photographs including a four-page color insert.

Driving Tours, featuring heiaus, wildlife sanctuaries, cultural and historical sites, tourist attractions and natural wonders.

Resource Links to recreational outfitters, stables, golf courses, camping, transportation, accommodations, local-style eats and shops.

Appendices of Hawaiian words, place names, movie locations, hula performances, farmer's markets, weather, flora, history.

Here's a link to find it on Mahalo and happy trails!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Beyond stereotypical Hawaii: O'Keeffe and Ansel

Between 1939 and 1957 Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams made visits to the Hawaiian Islands. Adams was commissioned by the Department of the Interior for a commemorative publication for Bishop National Bank of Hawai'i (now First Hawaiian Bank) and Georgia was invited by Dole Pineapple to create illustrations for advertisements. Both were inspired to do more.

During her two month stay in Hawai'i, O'Keeffe traversed Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and The Big Island, visiting beaches, rainforests, and pineapple plantations, and painting the dramatic coastlines, volcanic terrain,  and exotic flora. She painted dramatic landscapes of coastlines and waterfalls; but most extensively the island flowers.

The photographs and paintings included in the "Hawaii Pictures" exhibition at O'Keeffe's Santa Fe Museum express the islands’ unique sense of place, at the same time they reveal the complex continuities with the whole of O’Keeffe and Adams’s respective oeuvres.

Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawai'i Pictures February 7 - September 17, 2014

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum 217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505) 946-1000