Sunday, October 23, 2016

Aloha begins at the tarmac with Hawaiian Airlines

As publishers of guidebooks, we have taken nearly 100 flights to and around the Islands, and all but 5 or 6 were as passengers of Hawaiian Airlines. We've learned to go with the Hawaii specialists. Their hospitality gets the vacation started once you fasten the seatbelt.  BTW: We have no deals or partnerships or any reason to tout this carrier.

Some  flights from major West Coast Airports fly direct to the outer islands, like Maui. But most flights go through Honolulu (Oahu) and you have to transfer across the airport to catch an inter island flight.

At the main terminal in Honolulu a free shuttle bus (the Wiki Wiki) makes the five-minute journey to the smaller terminal. Or, if you have time to spare, load the carryons and walk (your bags will be checked through to the outer island).

In the post war romantic period of the Islands, ocean liners brought most visitors. Hawaiian Air today is the closest you're going to get to vintage tourism.

More often than not, you will get a good eyeful of Waikiki coming into Oahu (from the south in this shot). Flights that approach from the north go over the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

A delayed flight on Hawaiian is very rare—they are the on-time industry leaders. And they will never fail to get you to your final destination, even if they have to break out small planes, like the one above that mainly services Lanai and Molokai. Most of their inter island flights are on full-sized jets, and the trans-Pacific planes are all jumbos.

To keep the aloha spirt alive once in Hawaii, check out the Trailblazer guides to all-things-outdoors, plus all the cultural sites and tourist attractions. The visitor safety sections in the Trailblazers are a good enough reason to bring one along—possibly a life saver.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hike the 'back door' into the dreamy Mauna Kea Resort

The Mauna Kea set the standard for beach resorts when it rose from the sands of pretty Kaunaoa Bay in 1960. Arnie and Jack teed off at the resort's world-class golf course. Today, the swimming and on-shore wave play is some of the best in Hawaii—but the bad news is that public parking is limited and the lot fills up just when you need it.

The 'back door' to Mauna Kea is via Hapuna State Beach, which is just down the coast on this northern end of the Big Island's South Kohala. Hapuna is very popular, but the lot does not fill up.

A recently hewn trail skirts a rugged coastal section for a mile-plus from Hapuna to Mauna Kea. It's a whale-watcher's special in the winter. Non-native vegetation was removed when the trail was built. After leaving Hapuna, the trail passes the green grounds of the Hapuna Prince Resort, and a nice little snorkeling cove complete with a concrete-stair entry.

The route takes you through the site of and the ancient village, Ouli Ahupua'a.

After passing a few new mega-homes, the trail reaches the nice public facilites at the beach. This is a sweet  experiece you will want to repeat. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details on how to find private, spectacular places.

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