Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oahu: Walkin' on the Wild West Side

Not one in a thousand visitors to Hawaii sees its heart and soul—as well as some of the most dramatiac scenery and best beaches in the Islands. In fact, not many people on Oahu visit the West Side, along the Farrington Highway through Waianae and Makaha. The place is just too rough around the edges, the traditional home of the homeless, and most people are put off. But show a dime's worth of respect when you pass through and you will receive a dollar back in kindness. 

The highway ends at Yokohama Beach (above) where only dolphins can out-frolic the jitterbug body boarders.

Pokai Beach Park in Waianae has communtiy roots that go back centuries. On the water is the site of Kulioloa Heiau, where Hawaiian sailors would set forth on voyages to and from Tahiti in the third century, a one-way trip of 2,500 miles. Waianae is also the birthplace of the great, late slack key artist, Iz.

Ground zero for the wave-riding scene is Makaha Beach Park, a mile from Waianae.  Known worldwide as one of the best surfing beaches, Makaha isright up there with those of Oahu's North Shore.

Long before SUP became popular, it was an art at Makaha (and the North Shore), known then as "Beach Boy" surfing, since it was perfected by some of the dudes from Waikiki.

The sands of Makaha are all about the ohana—the extended family of the community—and daddy here is Richard 'Buffalo' Keaulana, a former crew member of the Hokulea sailing vessel and namesake for the most entertaining surfing event in Hawaii, Buffalo's Big Board Surfing Classic. Sons Rusty and Brian are top notch surfers, and Brian was a pioneer in using jet skis among lifeguards, as well as appearing in a number of Hollywood flicks.

The shore break at Makaha tosses body boarders skyward. A freak break often allows surfers to ride a backsplash away from the beach. The "Queen of Makaha" is the late Rell Sunn, a world-champ longboard surfer who set up programs for kids.

The coast north of Makaha (after 'homeless' encampments) becomes very scenic, with the Waianae Range meeting the ocean in steep heads. Many of the scenes for the movie Hawaii were filmed at Makua Beach.

Tide pools at Yokohama Beach provide safe dipping for the keikis (children). A trail leads from the end of the beach to the wildlife haven at Kaena Point. 

Oahu Trailblazer has many more details on what's availbable for those with a true sense of adventure on the West Side.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hana Highway: Where's the Beach?

After the hours-long thrill ride of the Hana Highway, tourists are ready to log a little beach time, only to discover the bay in Hana isn't really inviting to swimmers, especially when the pier is closed. To find places to get in the water is a challenge.  Only a few miles away on a side road is Koki Beach, a red-sand beauty that attracts surfers.

Closer to town is one of the more peculiar beaches in hawaii: Red Sand Beach (above and two pictures below). Reachable via a cliffside trail on Hana Ranch property, the beach is seldom crowded.

A shark's-tooth reef protect the gritty sand from oncoming surf, and provides a usually safe spot to get in the water.

Don't set your towel too close to the crumbly cliffs that hem the beach, since falling rocks are a hazard. Also be aware that some visitors bare their bods here, even though nudity is illegal on all Hawaiian beaches.

Koki Beach has its share of hazards.

The best spot for snorkeling and swimming is Hamoa Beach, a couple miles down the rural road from Koki. The biggest hazard here is parking, since the road is narrow and parking tickets are sometimes issued. This is the beach used by the guests of the swank, low-key Travaasa Maui Resort, in Hana. Guests take a shuttle bus. Maui Trailblazer has the details on all beaches around Hana, as well as trails not commonly visited by tourists.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

The irresistible lure of the Big Island's Blue Lagoon

Blue (Wainanali'i) Lagoon is a luminescent streak of palm-fringed turquoise that can be seen from a signed vista point on the highway north of Kona. Many captivated onlookers choose to walk there via a twisty dry trail through a Kiawe forest, but you can actually drive all the way to the ocean and walk up the beach.

Once there you can cross a shallow channel to what appears to be an island, but you can also walk around the smooth lava shore to reach the "island." The channel walk is tough on the tootsies, so bring a shoe you can get wet to take that route.

The water is actually milky and quite chilly in places, due to the intrusion of groundwater springs.

The stars of the show at Blue Lagoon are the green sea turtles. Encrusted with salt when sunbathing, the big reptiles turn a glowing amber in the water. They don't seem to mind fellow swimmers, but give them space on shore.

The coastal Kihilo-Huehue Trail—in addition to being shorter and easier to follow than the highway trail—is a bump-up in scenic value. Fresh ponds back a long, black sand beach, and a sweet, palmy cove offers another swimming opportunity. You'll also pass the enormous home of beauty-products king Paul Mitchell, which was shipped here in pieces from Indonesia. 

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more deets on Blue Lagoon, as well as many other winners along the South Kohala Coast.

Monday, September 5, 2016

5 reasons to make Kauai Trailblazer your wingman while on vacation

1. K/T's detailed pages and organization make it easy to find beautiful and serene places to call your own for a while. The rural eye-candy at Hanalei Organic Park, for instance, is a one-minute drive from the hubbub of a similar view at a paved turnout on the highway across from the Princeille Shopping Center.

2. You'll find all the better-known attractions, like Opaeka'a Falls and nearby Kamikola Village, which has been featured by Hollywood flicks.

3. You will find all true adventure-lands, like the trans-Kauai jungle trek on the Powerline Trail, that are not  packed with tourists, like other (fabulous) trails in Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Trail. All the choices are here.

4. Dying is not high on anyone's vacation to-do list, and yet someone does almost weekly somewhere in Hawaii while trying to have fun. Kauai Trailblazer is packed with safety tips—and not blanket statements about safety, but the specific hazards associated with the trail or beach you are visiting.  

5. K/T is full of places to go and things to do that give you luxury for free.  Airfare, rental car, and a nice place to call a temorary home are givens for a good vacation, but you don't have to blow a ton of extra bucks to get a peak experience from Hawaii.

Trailblazer guides for the Islands are essential gear for the curious and active traveler.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Maui's Hana Highway: Avoid the hassle, have the fun

The Hana Highway—with its umpteen one-lane bridges, countless curves, rain forests, and waterfalls—is a rite of passage for Maui visitors. In fact, if you begin the journey at prime time, say 10 in the morning, you are likely to be in a conga line of rental cars competing for parking spaces at turnouts. 

But if you start at an off time, and concentrate on the journey (rather than the destination of Hana and the Pools of Oheo that lie beyond in the lower section of Haleakala National Park) you can find a day's worth of adventure and solitude—including this jaunt to Wahinepe'e Falls (above) and Lupi Road (top photo).

Tangled in the jungle of the Ko'olau Forest Reserve are roads and infrastucture of the island's water-conveyance systems, some of which date from sugar cane days.

Public access is limited to some of the areas. Maui Trailblazer has the details on how to get permits, if needed, and specific directions to a dozen or more spots on the Hana Highway that most cars drive right on by.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Woof! Woof! Barking Sands Beach is one of Kauai's big dogs

Thousands of visitors rave about the Kalalau Trail on the Napali Coast, and about Waimea Canyon, 'The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.' And rightly so. But do yourself a favor and don't leave Kauai without making a trip to Barking Sands Beach at Polihale State Park. The surf can be treacherous, but at one spot, called Queens Pond (above), a protective near-shore reef provide a safe spot (normally) to get in the water—and also a sweet curling break favored by local surfers.

Huge dunes and a wide swath of sand runs for 20-plus miles around Mana Point all the way to Kekaha—but since 9/11 the government boys have much of it blocked off to beachcombers because of the Pacific Missile Range Facility that lies just inland. Still, you have several miles to pound sand. The intervening beach is called Barking Sands due to the 'woofing' sound the dunes make when built up sand slides.

The entrance to the state park is 3 miles in from the end of the highway is west Kauai. The road sometimes floods in the winter, causing a closure, and is almost always slow going with puddles, potholes, and ruts. From this sign at 'monkeypod junction,' Polihale State Park facilities are about 1.5 miles to the right and Queens Pond is .25-mile to the left.

Walking to the right at Polihale gets you to the base of 2,000-foot-high Polihale Ridge, one of a dozen ridges that radiate out from the rugged, roadless north shore of Kauai, beginning where the road ends at the Kalalau Trailhead and ending here. You can access the Polihale Ridge Trail from the road to Waimea Canyon. Misty winds rise up the face of the cliff, which in Hawaiian lore is the place where the spirits of the dead were said to head to the next world. Keen eyes will spot a mountain goat way up there, more often than not.

Several picnic pavilions provide shade, a scarce commodity on these wide-open sands.

Though this tent is set up for day use, a campgound on top of the dunes that runs for about a half-mile—the best beach camping in Hawaii if solitude is what you seek. Kauai Trailblazer has more details on Polihale State Park, and other wild places close by.

BTW: Using the Navy's arcane permit process, you can apply (and pay $25) for a guest card, though it is probably less of a hassle to visit Cuba. On the other hand, if you plan ahead a couple months and you can be one of the few to see all of Barking Sands, and also some Hawaii's best wildlife seascape. Local surfers are all over it. A background check is included in the application process. Call 808-335-7936 or click http://www.cnic.navy.mil/content/dam/cnic/cnrh/pdfs/PMRF/MWRGuestPass.pdf


Monday, August 15, 2016

Here's a tree-hugger's trail on Maui with a zillion birds and zero tourists

Maui has the fewest open trails among the Hawaiian Islands, so these hikes on the lower slopes of Haleakala are a find. You can choose several options in the Makawao Forest Reserve on the Kahakapao Loop trail, racking up about 6.5 miles and gaining around 500 feet in elevation.

The reserve is located not far down the mountain from the Maui Bird Conservation Cener, and the native-and-planted forests are full of our chirping, feathered friends. 

Much of the forest doesn't scream "Hawaii," but you will find lush exotics growing in the creases of the slopes.

Makawao Forest Reserve, along with Waihou Springs Forest Reserve, which is not far away, serve up generous portions of  commodities that can be lacking on more popular trails: peace and quiet and solitude.

Norfolk Pines were planted by crews of early European sailing vessels, since their straight trunks make for good masts and spars.

Map:   https://goo.gl/maps/wNPhnCLkTax

After a long rendevous with nature, head to the nearby town of Makawao (rhymes with "oh wow") for a cold beverage, grilled steak, or veggie wrap. The quaint town is well worth a walk-around. Maui's cowboy heritage will be evident among the shops. Maui Trailblazer has directions to all the trailheads as well as a walking tour of the town.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Big Island's Kohala: Kind of creepy land of comets and kings

Though Mo'okini Heiau (temple) on the north nub of the Big Island was designated in 1935 as the state's first national historic site, it now rests forlorn and isolated. Winds scour barren slopes and Maui looms across the often-choppy channel. 

The first stones were laid  in 500 AD, and construction was completed in about 1200 AD. Many forms of religious practices took place here, including human sacrifices. Mo'okini has been presided over continuously by generations of kahunas (priests), and the prohibition against visiting the site was lifted only a couple decades ago.

Heiaus appear these days as rock walls and platforms—the stuctures that once stood atop are now gone. Superstructures of poles fastened by twine and covered by thatched leaves were weather-tight, and thick matting made the floors comfortable.


A thousand years after the heiau was established—and a quarter-mile down the coast—is the site of perhaps the most significant event in Hawaiian history: the birth of King Kamehameha, the baby who would be king. Oral history tells of a celestial event that lit up the sky that autmun night, which scientists have since pegged as the passing of Haley's Comet in 1758. The baby king—the 'Lonely One'—was birthed here in secrecy to avoid assassination by rival royal families on the Hilo side of the island, who had different ideas about who should rule.

With several other developed national parks on the island,  Mo'okini Heiau and Kamehameha Birthplace are pretty much off the tourist radar. Only a weathered plaque marks the spot. The dirt tract that reaches the site can be approached from the north or south (Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has detailed directions). Being here evokes a sense of timelessness that is hard to describe.