Friday, June 24, 2016

The "Hollywood" of Oahu is at dramatic Kualoa Regional Park

Kualoa Regional Park on the northern part of windward (eastern) Oahu: drab name, very cool place. The camping area of the park has an excellent swimming beach, including a short walk to the sands of Secret Island—which only seems like an island since its hemmed in by the bay on one side and big Moli'i Fishpond on the other.

You may recognize the jagged ridge that lords over the scene,  featured in TV commercials and programs (Five-O) and movies (Godzilla, 50 First Dates, Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young).

Calm waters attract outrigger canoeists. Just off the point is a small island (you can also swim to it) called Mokoli'i, but known as Chinaman's Hat (its profile looks like one of the straw hats worn by Chinese workers in the old days).

Kualoa Ranch, on the mountain side of the rural highway from the beach park, has several historical sites dating from the sugar cane heydays in the late 1800s.

Kualoa Ranch is private property, but visitors can arrange tours by jungle vehicle or horseback. The Ranch also has big gift store and cafeteria-style restaurant. The front deck is where to be to take it all in. One last thing: about two miles south of the beach park and ranch is Tropical Farms, an old-timey family operation that offers free coffee and mac nut samples, along with a wide selection of gifts and artwork. Oahu Trailblazer has details on many more places to check out on this underrated Hawaiian coastline.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Liquid pot of gold at the end of Maui's Hana Highway

The Hana Highway is an adventure unto itself. And then there's Hana Town to explore. And, farther down the road, are the Pools of Oheo in the coastal section of Haleakala National Park. With all that, it's no wonder many visitors run out of time and miss the treasure of the day trip: the hike to the Falls at Makahiku and Waimoku Falls (pictured above).

The trail begins right across the highway from the park entrance, and climbs to penetrate a dense bamboo forest.

Footbridges across turbulent waters make the hike possible and are one of its wonders.

But the big payoff is at the top at Waimoku Falls, a 400-foot-high white ribbon falling down the face of a green amphitheater. The hike is 4.25 miles round-trip, with 825 feet of elevation gain—not a killer. Along the way are the spectacular Falls at Makahiku. A short spur trail leads to a view from the top down the gorge (stay well back from drop offs). You can bag this baby with a hike of 1.25 miles round-trip with a gain of 300 feet.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on this hike, as well as many (many) other adventures along the Hana Highway. The book also has advice on how to manage your time and avoid the crowds at this popular attraction.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Waikiki: Wacky Wacky

Waikiki Beach is all about now, every day, 24/7. It's totally off the wall, literally in this photo of a boogie boarder joining his brothers and sisters to ride the shorebreak at The Wall, off Kapiolani Park.

Waikiki is also about then—since layers of history are evident amind the towering resorts and fashion shops. The Pink Lady, a.k.a the Royal Hawaiian, pretty much stood alone on the beach when built in 1927. Not far from the hotel is Kuhio Park, where a traditional hula performance wows visitors nightly at sunset.

Waikiki is also about always—magic hour at sunset transcends time.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Big Island's South Kohala: Oh Hell, no wait, it's Heaven!

From the window of a rental car doing sixty-five on Highway 19 north from Kona, South Kohala looks like hell for about thirty miles. Not to say 'bad,' quite scenic really, but it is the very essence of Dante's Inferno—square miles of black rolling hills and huge slag heaps of lava baking in the sun, an ocean of liquid rock come to rest after numerous eruptions from Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanos.

But paradise awaits. Along the coastline every few miles are oases, born where fresh water perks up cracks in the lava. Palm groves and beach flora shade coral-and-lava sand beaches, with clear water since streams have not time to cleave the (relatively) virgin landscape and bring erosion.

At the north end of South Kohala is the blockbuster Hapuna Beach State Park, a long stretch of sand with an usually gentle shore break. Refugees from chilly Waimea and rain-battered Hamakua in east Hawaii use this for a getaway. Picnic pavilions are ideally set on a gardenscaped hillside.

Anaeho'omalu Bay (just call it A-Bay) is near resorts. Sailboats, snorkel tours, and windsurfers join beachgoers. A nuanced coastal trail features the Hilton Resort on the north (the place is a freakin' Disneyland with dolphins) and a wild beach with petroglyph field to the south. The water pictured to the right (above) is one of many fishponds in South Kohala—the seafood stores for early Hawaiians.

Just north of Hapuna (there's a trail) is the beach at the venerable Mauna Kea Resort, a Laurance Rockefeller project from 1960.  The resort is gated, but a shoreline access lot is large. Sweet body surfing and decent snorkeling. Bring a book.

Until several years ago, Kua Bay, a few miles north of the Kona Airport, was a locals' special located down a rough and unsigned rocky dirt road—the site of the ancient village of Manini Owali. A few years ago, the state put in a smooth asphalt road, restrooms, and fresh signs, and Kua is now surf-and-sun city for local teens and families.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details for a dozen or more South Kohala beaches—resorts and wild. You'll also find the tricks on getting shoreline access passes at the resort gates on popular days. No problem. Petroglyphs, ancient sites, large portions of the old King's Trail, and fishponds are everywhere, telling of the Hawaiian civilization thriving here not that long ago.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Maui's Makena State Beach: A Big and Little deal

Makena State Park, south of Kihei-Wailea draws hoards of visitors, without ever managing to seem crowded. There's plenty of elbow room in the safe near-shore waters, if you don't mind being joined by schools of tropical fish and the occasional sea turtle.

The main beach at Makena is known as Big Beach, for obvious reasons. Several parking lots normally fill up, but there's always room for one more.

Pu'u Olai (above), a volcanic cone, anchors the north end of Big Beach. A short-but-rugged trail leads to the top, where you an circle around the cone and take in big coastal views. An unmarked, well-used trail at the base of the cone takes you to Little Beach (below). Nudists crowd this sandy cove, although nudity is unlawful on state beaches. They're packed in cheek to jowl, so to speak. Schools of dolphin frequently take in the scene from offshore.

Maui Trailblazer has tips on how best to enjoy Makena, as well as a number of other beaches south of the resort strip. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Free-wheelin' on Oahu's true-north shore.

Jutting to the west of Oahu's North Shore—home to all the famous surfing beaches—is the Mokuleia Coast, a ten-mile run of undeveloped beaches that faces north and is hemmed in by the Waianae Range. Since no resorts are nearby, most visitors bypass this place in favor of its better-known neighbor. But Mokuleia is worth a special trip. At the end of Farrington Highway is the beginning of a three-mile trail to Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, the northwest tip of Oahu. In the bygone sugarcane days, a narrow-gauge railroad (somehow) rounded this point, which today is home to Laysan albatross and other seabirds.

The Kealia Trail is the better of two routes into the Waianae Range from Mokuleia, neither of which require a hiking permit (unlike the trailhead on the Makaha side of the range). Lofty views are in the offing, as gliders from Dillingham Field often soar by at eye level. At the top, trekkers can check out the Pahole Natural Area Preserve. The top of the Waianaes are open forests.

Beachcombing, surfing, and kiteboarding attract locals to the Mokuleia Army Beach and Kealia Beach.

Makaleha Beach Park is also known as Lost Beach, since this is where some of TV series 'Lost' was filmed. The access is via an unmarked trail along a horse pasture. Oahu Trailblazer has more details on the many unheralded play areas of this coast.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Maui's second Hana Highway: Tootling the north coast

Almost all tourists join the conga line of rental cars on the southeast shore of Maui along the twisty Hana Highway. Far fewer challenge the wild north shore on Highway 30 through Kahakuloa Village and the cliffside swerves of the windward northeast coast. First tips: Try this trip in a clockwise direction, going north out of Lahaina, since most people go this way and you encounter fewer cars coming at you. Four-wheel drive is not necessary, but for a two-mile stretch into and out of the village, a car two-feet wide would be helpful.

After the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua, the scenery shifts from chocablock resorts to really rural. Among the first stops are the bays at the Honolua Marine Preserve, where a short walk through lush leafy trees leads to some of the island's best snorkeling (see above two pics).  From the bluff at Honolua Bay is a ringside seat for world-class waves that attract the island's best surfers.

For most of the way on the northwest shore, Highway 30 is a green breeze.

Kahakuloa Head, the "Tall Lord," bookends the village. Sights before the village include Nakahele Blowhole, Ohai Loop Trail, Eke Crater Trail, Bellstone Pools, and the Waikalai Plateau Trail. Maui Trailblazer has the details on where to stop, since a few of these spots are not on the tourist radar.

Francis Xavier Mission is beautfully set above the small town. On the the way into the village, the trailer that is Ululani's Shave Ice is a highlight. After climbing about of Kahakuloa, you pass the trail to the head, and then Kaukini Gallery. Farther down the coast is the unmarked trail to Makamakaole Falls and the well-known trail to Waihe'e Ridge, one of the better mountain hikes on Maui.

Hilton Big Summer Sale 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why Waikiki?

All the Hawaiian Islands have different personalities. Oahu itself differes hugely from the North Shore, to Windward, to metro Honolulu. And then there's notorious Waikiki Beach, viewed often as a sort of schlocky Vegas of the Pacific, but in many ways this tourist trap is the heart of the real Hawaii.  Start with the iconic view: Diamond Head is on display everywhere, a sight as recognizable as the Golden Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower and other world landmarks.

Waikiki is the best place in Hawaii if you want to just chill in the tropical sunshine and relax—and still be in the center of activity. Vacationing in Waikiki is an economy move as well, since you don't really need a rental car and a connecting flight to an outer island is not necessary. You can also score a deal on room prices (though you want to avoid landing at a dive).

On the north end of Waikiki, past the Ala Wai Harbor, is Ala Moana Park. Locals gather to frolic at this huge greenspace, with playfields, jogging paths, and a protected swimming area. And, oh yeah, just across the street is the Disneyesque Ala Moana Shopping Center. You can reach all this on foot or via a trolley that runs from Waikiki.

Yes, lounges bearing pale flesh is a common sight. But WKK is rich with history, since these former swamplands were home to Hawaiian ali'i (royalty). A heritage path with interpretive signs is right there. The Army Museum along the way is a memorable freebie.

Duke Kahanmoku Lagoon rests near the Hilton on the north end of the strip, where a fireworks show lights the sky after sunset has dimmed.

The Royal Hawaiin Hotel, a.k.a. the Pink Lady, still conjurs the image of the glory days of post-war, Matson cruise ship tourism—even though the hotel is now hemmed in by modern buildings.

Kissing cousin to the Pink Lady is the Moana Surfrider, the first hotel on Waikiki Beach, built in 1901.

No doubt kitschy trinkets are plentiful along the main drag of Kalakaua Boulevard. But most visitors will be surprised to see all the big names in designer fashion, along with fine art galleries walking along Luxury Row: Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Coach, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Tiffany, Tod’s and Yves Saint Laurent. 

With nearly a million people, Oahu can be intimidating. Pick up a copy of Oahu Trailblazer before your visit to make things easy. It has all the main attractions, as well as hidden sights, from Honolulu and Waikiki to the rural beaches of the North Shore.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fifty shades of blue and green: A Study of the Beaches of Hawaii

The colors of the sea, sky, and island swirl in a mix of blues and greens—and just when you've got it figured, along comes a cloud and the photo changes. And it's time to begin another long look. From Kikaua Point Park in South Kohala on the Big Island, Mauna Kea rises from the horizon like another island (which it once was).

Lanikai Beach on Oahu's Windward side is always cool and easy on the eyes. Although several islands are visible (and reachable via swim or kayak), the rise of land from this angle is Kaneohe Peninsula.

The welcome shade of green palm fronds accent the portrait at Kekaha Kai State Park, just north of Kona on the Big Island—a literal oasis of blue fenced in by vast fields of scorched black lava fields. 

The blue-green theme rules at Kauai's Pu'u Poa Beach at the St. Regis Resort in Princeville (below). But the backshore on the north shore here is the antithesis of scorched: Jagged green ridges of Hawaii's wettest mountains are a jungle of plant life. 

These guides continue the story.  Start your engines, start exploring with Trailblazers!