Saturday, November 3, 2018

Oh no, Kauai's fabled Kalalau Trail is closed!! No problem, Brah.

Kalalau Trail

Roads and trails beyond Hanalei Bay on Kauai's north shore remain closed, after being hammered by a Biblical rainstorm this winter—50 freaking inches in 24 hours. That means a mega-popular attraction, the Kalalau Trail, (second only to Oahu's Diamond Head) along the island's Napali (The Cliffs) is off limits. 

On most vacations, having the most popular thing shut down would be a bummer. No way on Kauai, where many, many other trails are open that deliver plenty of scenic punch. One option is Kapa'a's Keahua Arborteum (above), the gateway to the Waialeale Blue Hole, the trans-Kauai Powerline Trail, and the Kuilau Ridge Trail.  

This neck of the woods, the east shore of the island, is called the Coconut Coast. Miles of beach walking beckon.

The 10-mile Kapa'a Coastal Bike Path is one of the best outdoor attractions in Hawaii. Walk it, or rent a bike.

On the south shore, are two National Tropical Botanical Gardens—Allerton and McBryde. You can choose a guided or self-guided tour. Or, take the new coastal trail just outside the garden gate.

The south coast also features the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, which skirts bluffs and beaches, and passes ancient sites. The route begins at the fabulous Grand Hyatt Kauai (above).

Lofted above the south coast is Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. You could easily spend a two-week visit just hiking this place. Several trails lead into, and along the rim of, this 10-mile long, red-walled deep gash. Other trails start above the canyon, including the awesome Kilohana Overlook Trail—which curls the top of Kalalau Valley, crosses the Alakai Swamp on a boardwalk, and ends at a platform with a view 4,000 feet down to Hanalei Bay.

Another half-dozen (insert superlative here) trails go out some of Napali Cliffs and end at 3,000-foot high overlooks. The Awa'awapuhi and Nualolo trails are fairly well known, but the others rarely see tourists. 

Oh wait. Let's not forget the miles of birdwatcher trails in the tropical forests of Koke'e State Park, in the same Waimea Canyon area.

All this may seem overwhelming. Kauai Trailblazer sorts it all out with great detail in an organized fashion.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The wild side of Oahu awaits beyond Waikiki

Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu are brimming with tourists, and for good reason: there's a lot worth doing. But few visitors realize that Oahu has a wealth of undeveloped, easy-access beaches—more than Maui and the Big Island, and right up there with Kauai.

Even the North Shore—the surfing capital of the universe—is rural and laid back on most days. At nearby beaches like Kaunala (above), you will find no tourists at all, except for  surfers from around the globe.

Haleiwa, the biggest town on the North Shore, is totally non-glitz, even though town's surfing beaches are on the pro circuit.  The river draws local canoe clubs. Plate lunches and shave ice on menu.

The Mokuleia Coast extends to the west of the North Shore, an eight-mile run of wild beaches and several hiking trails into the Waianae Range.

Windward Oahu, over the Ko'olau Range from Waikiki, is a magnet for wayward tourists and beach-loving locals, but long runs of sand always impart a faraway feel.

Kayakers embark on mini-adventures to several near-shore islands, some of which are close enough for snorkelers to reach.

Beaches north and south of Kailua (the heart of Windward Oahu) offer an opportunity to take a long beach hike—or not.

With two mountain ranges, Oahu has more official trailheads than any other island. Many trails start in suburban neighborhoods, and quickly take you into tropical forests. Other hikes begin in the countryside north of Kailua, and take you into the wilds.

Oahu Trailblazer has all the details on the wild side of the island, as well as the top tourist attractions of Waikiki and Honolulu.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Hawaii is trying to solve the 'problem' of too much success

Vacations aren't supposed to be stressful. But a trip to Hawaii can be just that, if you are in a traffic jam on Maui's Hana Highway, lost in space trying to find parking at Kauai's Kalalau Trail, or struggling to find access to a South Kohala beach on the Big Island (pictured above). 

Seeking to relieve these stress points—and many others throughout the Islands—the Hawaii Visitors Bureau is developing a DirectAloha app, which will give visitors live updates on locales clogged by "overtourism." 

Finding a peaceful, beautiful place to call your own is not a problem for readers of Trailblazer Travel Books. These books are full of tips and specific directions for independent and adventurous travelers. Trailblazers focus on outdoor activities and cultural sites, but they also include the luxurious side of Hawaii—like the resort strolls at Maui's Wailea coast (shown above).

When crowds make popular sites a hassle, look for an alternate spot nearby. Trailblazers are full of out-of-the-way options.

Timing is everything. Scaling Oahu's Diamond Head is a thrilling experience, if you know how to beat the crowds.

Many trails into Hawaii's Forest Reserves are not publicized or signed. 

Many visitors to Hawaii just want to find a spot on the sand, like Waikiki Beach, and stay put.  Fair enough. But other visitors want to explore the trails, beaches, and quirky-cool towns. With a Trailblazer in hand, you will exhaust yourself being at these places, rather than trying to find them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Do You Really Need a Guidebook to Visit Hawaii???

In the age of smart phones, are guidebooks necessary? For most visitors, the answer is "No." Most visitors are seeing Hawaii for the first time, staying for about a week, and mainly want to hit the highlights and log some serious beach time. Each island has its top attractions, which are easy to identify and find. And, since Yelp and TripAdvisor have been on the scene, books are of little help in finding good restaurants.

But ...

If you are adventurous and independent, and want to get off the tourist trail to find places to call your own, then, yes indeedy, you will want a guidebook.  In this case, Trailblazer Travel Books are essential gear. These comprehensive guides hit all the highlights (like Maui's Twin Falls, above), but also have details on the tons of stuff you would otherwise miss—like the half-dozen other falls that are nearby.

You can find the popular trails on your own. But if you'd like to avoid crowds, without sacrificing scenic values, then check out a Trailblazer. These books were written by people who spent decades exploring.

Trailblazers are also a free-ticket to explore the luxurious side of Hawaii without necessarily paying for it. Each island has destination resorts where you can take a walk on the un-wild side. These places, like Maui's Grand Wailea (above),  are beachside museums with gardens. Trailblazer gives specific driving and parking directions.

True adventure on Hawaii can be dangerous. Many people get off the plane and treat the Islands' wild places like a Disneyland, and are unaware of the the risks. The safety tips in Trailblazer guides are specific to each destination. The people pictured above, at Maui's Nakalele Blowhole, have not read Maui Trailblazer.

Take a vacation from your vacation and find a trail that few people know about.

True, most (but far from all) places in Hawaii are noted somewhere on the Internet. Instead of snatching these references (of varying reliability) from the Web, get all of them organized comprehensively in a Trailblazer book. Readers have called Trailblazers "the Swiss Army Knife" of guides.

Even where tourism reigns supreme, like Waikiki Beach, hidden gems await. A historical trail runs right through the middle of the place, if you know where to look for it.

Three top reasons people come to Hawaii: Beaches, beaches, beaches. Trailblazers cover every accessible inch of Hawaii's coastline. Find where the action is, or a peaceful place to enjoy paradise. Snorkeling and surfing and beach combing are all covered. The rules for ocean safety are made simple.

Trailblazers are an homage to Hawaiian cultural traditions—which are alive and well today. Visitors can explore museums, heiaus (temples), and ancient sites, and also connect with many dozens of nonprofit groups. Locals like Trailblazers for the respect the books show for the Islands.

Not everyone needs a book to visit Hawaii. But for those who want dig deeper, Trailblazers are a must. Considering how much a Hawaiian vacation costs (even for the budget conscious) the price of a guidebook is money well spent. Read a Trailblazer before you go and hit the trail running. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

How Five Million Years of Hawaiian History Took Place This Year

Five million years ago, Hawaii's northern-most island, Kauai, was located several hundred miles to the south, where the Big Island is located today. Five million years from now, the Big Island will take Kauai's place to the north, and a new island will be emerging from the sea in its former place.

That's because the Hawaiian Archipelago is always moving north as part of the earth's crust over a "Hot Spot" spewing lava from the core—like the shell of an egg rotation around its yolk. Lava from the Hot Spot emerges from the sea and piles up to 14,000 feet to form islands.

That Hot Spot showed renewed vigor this winter, as an eruption from Kilauea Volcano has sent rivers of lava over land to the sea.

Tropical wonderlands on the Puna (east) Coast, like the Waiopae Tide Pools pictured above, were wiped off the map.

Here's a photo of the Waiopae wipeout.  Acres of new land are added to the coastline.

Ahalanui Beach Park, which featured a huge seaside warm pool, is now gone.

Green Lake was Hawaii's largest freshwater source until a wave of lava came down the mountain and vaporized it in a matter of hours.

Meanwhile, on Kauai at the north end of the island chain, land is being subtracted rather than added. The relentless wave bashing at Queen's Bath is a reminder of the islands' fate. There are more than 100 smaller atolls north of Kauai that used to be towering islands.

Biblical rainfall teams with massive waves to erode the land. While the volcano was going off on the Big Island this winter, nearly 50 inches of rain bashed the north shore of Kauai during a 24-hour period. 

Trailblazer Travel Books–one for each island–are complete and detailed guides for exploring this fantastic world of fire and water.

Friday, August 10, 2018

On Maui, the Wild, Wild East is Where the Action is.

Practically all tourists stay on the west coast of Maui—either in the south at Kihei-Wailea or in the north at Lahaina-Ka'anapali. But locals looking for action head to the east side, the windward coast, where at Ho'okipa Beach the sport of windsurfing was born. Colorful sails are always flitting about on a near shore break.

A beachside bluff provides free box seats. Professional events are a spectacle.

Windsurfing is only one way to join in the fun.

Local kids flock to Lower Paia Beach Park, where surfing is the main draw. Unless you count people watching.  Paia is the arty-cool-hempy tourist town on Maui. 

Surfers rule at the south end of Ho'okah, er, Ho'okipa. A vista point turnout above the beach is a perfect place to see the scene. Whales cavort offshore during the winter months.

Kahana Beach Park is near the airport, but it is also one of Maui's scenic getaways. At one end of the long park, kite-boarders fly high; windsurfers dominate the other end. In between is a  tropical arboretum and gardenscape with picnic tables. Another option is a long beach walk away from Kahana  to find seclusion for a chill day at the beach.

The crown jewel among locals' looking for the good life is Baldwin Beach Park, a couple miles north of Paia. It's one of the best  parks in Hawaii to enjoy the end of the day. Surfers like the mellow onshore break. A walk to the end of the sand (or you can drive there) gets you to Baby Baldwin Beach— a curling reef forms a large protected pool for  low-key snorkeling and keiki dipping. 

Maui Trailblazer has more details on the windward coast, and everyplace else on the island.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Best Hike in the World? Take the Queen's path into Kauai's Alakai Swamp

The trail from the top of Waimea Canyon follows the rim of the Kalalau Valley, drops into a botanical wonderland (Alakai Swamp), and ends at a platform looking 4,000 feet down to Hanalei Bay. It's a mind-blower. The stats: Round-trip of 7.5 miles, with 1,000 feet of elevation.

The Pu'uokila Overlook is the end of the road and the start of the trail (called the Pihea Trail at this point). You get a big long look down to the Kalalau—reachable only via a hairy 12-mile trek that begins way around on the north shore of the island and follows the Napali Coast.

One section of the Pihea Trail is hands on. Hiking poles will help. You'll also want to bring outerwear for possible rain and cooler temps.

Once in the swamp a miracle happens, in the form of a boardwalk spanning miles through tropical gardens.

Staircases connect portions of the boardwalk.

The trail tops out and flattens for the last mile or so, through dwarf vegetation and frequent fog. Leaving the boardwalk here can be a fatal mistake. The swamp gets about 40 feet of rain per year. This section ends at the Kilohana Overlook, with the airborne view of the north shore. If the fog is in, be patient, since it often parts, revealing a heavenly look through clouds.

The trail into the swamp approximates the journey of self healing taken by Queen Emma and her retinue, after the death of her husband, King Kamehameha IV, and their young son Albert. Hula dancers performed ritual dances along the way out of respect for the life-giving plants. A yearly event at Koke'e Museum commemorates the queen.

Set in a large meadow in forestlands, Koke'e Museum is the place to start and end hikes around Waimea Canyon. It's one of the top museums in Hawaii.  To find all the other great hikes and beaches on the island, pick up a current copy of Kauai Trailblazer at the museum.