Saturday, April 14, 2018

Finding the lost beaches of north of Kona

Big Island Trailblazer adventure guide

The view flying into the Kona Airport is of a never-ending landscape of scorched black lava, often hazed by volcanic smog. It's not anyone's idea of paradise.  Post-apocalyptic is more like it.

Wrong. Look again: The South Kohala Coast, covering thirty miles north of Kailua-Kona, has many of the best swimming beaches in the Islands, most of them wild and some of them home to the best destination resorts in the world (spaced miles apart and with fabulous grounds to go with their beaches).  

Pictured above, Beach 69 (Waialea Beach) near sleepy Puako is one of the best, with waters for both snorkeling and surfing, and plenty of shade at the backshore. (No! Beach 69 refers to the number on the telephone pole that told you where to look in the old days before it was made a signed state beach.)

stand up paddle SUP

You can thank all that bleak lava for the clear waters in South Kohala. The fresh earth hasn't had time to erode into streams to muddy the waters. Instead of streams, brackish freshwater pools appear all along the shoreline. The lava reefs provide protection for paddle boarding at Kikaua Park (above) and numerous places in South Kohala.

beach babes Hawaii

After crossing rolling lava, the oasis of greenery along the coast is welcome.

Hapuna Beach Hawaii Trailblazer

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area (above) is the biggest on the Big Island. Located at the north end of South Kohala near the Mauna Lani Resort, this place is jumpin' on the weekends since it's the go-to getaway for refugees who drive over from the Hilo side. Picnic pavilions are perfect.

Hawaii Outside Beach

All beaches are public places in Hawaii, so there's no problem taking a dip at a resort—though using lounges, etc., is discouraged.

Some resort roads are open, just like beach parks. Others have an entrance station, where visitors are required to pick up a free public access permit. The catch is that parking is limited. The uncatch is that Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details on how to get permits and find alternate access even on busy days.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Why Waikiki? It's Wacky, Relaxing, Affordable.

Waikiki Hilton Hawaii Hotel

Ala Wai Canal on Oahu was dredged a hundred years ago, draining a swamp and setting the stage for the canyons of high-rise hotels, designer shops, and eateries that draws millions of sun-seekers yearly from the Mainland. It all seems so artificial, yet Waikiki is in its own way the Real Hawaii.

On the north end of the two-mile-long, world's-most-famous beach resort is the Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, set in the shadow of the Hilton Rainbow Towers. The the family of The Duke—an Olympic swimming champion and renowned surfer—owned 40 acres in the heart of Waikiki. 

Waikiki Beach  Oahu Trailblazer

WKK is jammed with people, for sure, but most visitors are on foot, rather than in cars, so you can always find a place to call your own. Saving money on a rental car is one way that makes Waikiki  less expensive than other Hawaiian destinations. Cheap hotel rooms are also available—but shop carefully to avoid a dive.

outrigger Oahu Waikiki

Diamond Head Crater is one of the world's most recognizable landmarks. Trolleys serve the area, from the beaches to the hugely entertaining Ala Wai Moana Shopping Center and downtown Honolulu (a fantastic walking city.)

sunbathing oahu

'Nuff said.

diamond head Oahu

The south end of the resort area is backed by the huge greenspace that is Kapiolani Park, given to the people by Hawaii's last monarch.

torch lighting Oahu Trailblazer

History and tradition run deep at Waikiki. Every evening at sunset, torches are lit to begin a free hula presentation.

Pink Lady Oahu

Though today hemmed in by the buzz of new development, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (a.k.a. The Pink Lady) still exudes the relaxing charm it offered when built in 1927 to welcome tourists on the Matson Line cruise ships.

Go ahead. Sit a spell.

The statue of Duke Kahanamoku is in the heart of things. You can see it along the Waikiki Historic Trail which weaves a tale of history through the glitz of modern times. 

Waikiki is a complex place. Make it simple by picking up a copy of Oahu Trailblazer before your visit.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Trailblazers are Hawaii's Trip Advisor

hawaiioutside tripadvisor hawaii adventuretravel

Keep it simple and do it right: Rather than sort through thousands of posts written by hundreds of people on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, pick up a Trailblazer guide. You will find the answers to all your questions.

captaincook kona bigisland

Trailblazers are called the "Swiss Army Knife" of travel guides, since they are organized, comprehensive, and easy to use. The activities on each island are organized geographically, meaning things that are close by each other on the island are also close by in the book. Trailblazers also include Best Of sections that list the top choices for activities, a Trailblazer Kids section for families, and tips for saving money and staying safe.

hawaii beaches

Trailblazers are for independent, active people. You can pick what looks good and find a place to call your own.

hawaii adventure hawaiian history

All the top tourist attractions are listed in Trailblazer guides, but the books are also known for cultural and historic sites, as well as nonprofit centers.

hawaii cliff jumper   bigisland  hawaiioutside . trailblazerhawaii

When traveling to Kauai, Oahu, Maui, or the Big Island, pick up a Trailblazer before you go. These books take the guess work out of traveling to Hawaii. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kauai's Sleeping Giant is no yawner

sleeping giant hike kauai

The signature landmark on Kauai's Coconut Coast (the east shore) is Nounou Mountain, known as the 'Sleeping Giant,' since its ridge looks like the face of a rather large warrior in repose. Hikers have a choice of three trailheads. All routes cover three-plus miles round-trip and climb just over 1,000 feet before converging below the giant's 'forehead.'

jungle hike kauai

Lower elevations of the trail penetrate a diverse forest reserve. Common along the trail is the pandanus tree, whose long pointed leaves were (are) used to make baskets, hats, and footwear. The exposed root spokes of the pandanus actually allow it to slowly move toward water sources. 

The east side trail affords sea views all the way, but also is exposed to the sun, which can be a bad thing.

Nounou is a stand-alone peak near the coast—larger peaks rise inland. From the summit are circular views.

One portion of the trail is steep, requiring use of all four limbs, though it is not dangerous for the careful hiker. What is dangerous is the walk out to the giant's chinny chin-chin (above), where one slip leads to a free fall. 

Nounou Mountain is a ridge cleaved by the Wailua River by far Hawaii's largest waterway. This agricultural heaven was chosen as the major settlement by Hawaii's first Ali'i (royalty). They built seven heiau's (temples) from the coast inland, extending to the base of Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth with about forty feet (yes, feet) or rain per year.

Kauai Trailblazer has the details on all three Sleeping Giant trailheads, as well as many other trails on the Coconut Coast. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Spend a glamorous day at the 'Hollywood of Hawaii'

chinaman's hat oahu trailblazer

Kualoa Regional Park on Oahu's windward coast is next-door to the darling of Hawaii attractions, the Polynesian Cultural Center, and for that reason gets overlooked by most tourists. But locals are hip to this place, and so are Hollywood directors, who have shot dozens of movies here.

The park's signature landmark is tiny Mokoli'i Island, which was known affectionately for a century as 'Chinaman's Hat,' since its profile is similar to the head gear worn by Chinese sugar cane workers who came to Oahu in the 1800s. This stretch of beach at the park is called Secret Island, a strip of sand backed by large Moli'i Fishpond, making it feel like an island. Snorkel tour companies bring people here, but it's an easy walk from the park's camping area.

oahu beach chinaman's hat

Mokoli'i  is just over a quarter-mile offshore, a destination for adventure snorkelers. Sea caves add interest to the shoreline and waters on the way are five- to ten-feet deep. A rugged trail climbs 200 feet to the top. (When the surf is up, currents make this a difficult swim.)

kualau mountains oahu hawaii

The ridge line just inshore, at Kualoa Ranch, has been the backdrop for may films, including 50 First Dates and Jurassic World.

horse rides oahu windward oahu hawaii

The ranch is private, but  they offer several ways to see the country. You can ride open-air vehicles, or go old school and travel horseback.

Oahu ranch Trailblazer guide

The cafe at the Kualoa Ranch is the best choice for lunch on this coastline, and the gift store will entice souvenir seekers. You are free to roam the immediate grounds to look for remnants of the historic sugar cane plantation. 

Another underrated attraction is just on the outskirts of the ranch: Tropical Farms.  Macadamia nut samples and free coffee are on hand, along with a remarkable selection of artwork and crafts. 

Oahu Trailblazer has more details on the discoveries to be found along this coast.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Maui News

The 2018 Edition of Maui Trailblazer is available now on (ISBN: 978-1976810145). 

New York Times: "Many of the attractions on Maui are easy to find. But for off the beaten path, I recommend a guidebook called Maui Trailblazer, which has detailed descriptions of trails and remote natural sites."

Maui Big Beach Makena guidebook

Hawaii Ocean Project: "For an 'adventure' guide, this is our favorite book. When we moved here to Maui it was the first (and only) book we purchased. Maui Trailblazer is easy to read and well organized. It gives clear directions for hiking, surfing, snorkeling, and road trips. It also includes day-trip guides for Molokai and Lanai." "Jerry and Janine Sprout have put together an amazing group of books forall types of people, no matter what you like to do. Trailblazers are set up differently than all of the other books on the market today, making them easy to use and fun to read."

Maui hike waterfall Trailblazer

Maui Hawaii Dream Vacations: "This guidebook has been around for quite a while now and has gained a strong credibility among Maui lovers. No fluff, just good relevant information. Maui Trailblazer is the outdoor adventurers' favorite. It also has some great suggestions to help you enjoy the island with kids."

Maui Weekly: "There are no guidebooks to the Hawaiian Islands that compare with the Trailblazer books. They embody the spirit of Aloha."

To order click here: Buy Maui Trailblazer

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Lahaina, Maui: The more things change, the more they stay the same

Lahaina Maui Hawaii harbor

In 1802, his immense eminence King Kamehameha the Great, fresh from battles that made him ruler of all the southern islands, made Lahaina his capital city and kicked back here for years while legions of craftsmen built 1,000 war canoes (the peleleu fleet) in preparation to conquer Kauai. (Disease and bad weather foiled two invasions, and a treaty was signed instead.)

These days, Kamehameha would not recognize the unrelenting assemblage of condos and resorts that line this coast at Ka'anapali and Kapalua. But he could still call Lahaina home, where the historical threads from the 1800s are alive and well. Lahaina Harbor (above) docks all manner of whale-watching and fishing boats, as well  the ferries to the islands of Lanai and Molokai.  A year after the great king's death in 1819, both missionaries and whalers arrived in Lahaina. Kamehameha II (Liholiho) joined forces with the missionaries to control the raucous whalers and establish order.

Pioneer Inn Lahaina

Built 120 years ago, the Pioneer Inn near the harbor has hosted guests ranging from Jack London to Jackie Kennedy.

Lahaina bike traffic

Front Street along the water is a stage set for eateries, bars, galleries, and tourist shops. It's busy all day and jumping at night.

Lahaina history Maui

Baldwin Home Museum was the residence of missionary Dwight D. Baldwin for 30 years, beginning in 1836. Hawaiian ali'i (royalty) and sea-weary mariners enjoyed the family's hospitality. 

Lahaina Chinese Joss House

Not far away on Front Street, the Wo Hing Museum dates from 1912, when it became a refuge for Maui's Chinese population.  In back is a rustic cookhouse, which is now a small theater that shows films of life in the Islands made by Thomas Edison around 1900.

Lahaina Maui courthouse

The old courthouse is now the Lahaina Heritage Museum, a one-stop shop that encapsulates the history with artifacts and displays. It's a trip unto itself.

Lahaina Square banyans

Banyan Tree Square in the heart of town hosts events for local artisans and is a gathering place for tired tourists. Its vast umbrella of limbs is an aviary for hundreds of song birds. The trees were planted in 1873 to celebrate Lahaina's 50th anniversary.

coco palm drive Lahaina school

Drive inland (and up) for a few miles and you'll reach the gardenlike grounds of Lahainaluna High School—the oldest high school in America, west of the Rockies. Views are superlative.

Lahaina first house museum

On school grounds is Hale Pai, where Hawaii's first newspaper was printed in the early 1830s.

Lahaina beach Maui

You are never far from the ocean in Lahaina. Pu'unoa (Baby) Beach on the north end of town is a locals' fave.

Lahaina Buddah Monastery

Looking onto the waters of Pu'unoa Beach is the 12-foot-tall Buddha statue at the Jodo Mission. It was erected in 1962, to commemorate a century of Japanese presence in Hawaii. Workers from Japan fueled the growing sugar cane industry.

There's plenty more to see in and around Lahaina Town. A new 2018 edition of Maui Trailblazer is your ticket to ride.