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. Nudists crowd this sandy cove, although nudity is unlawful on state beaches. They're pack 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!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Free 'outdoor classes' in Hawaii

You can spend a pile in Hawaii hiring guides to take you places. Or, pick up a Trailblazer guide before your trip and check out all the outdoor tours you can do for free on your own time.

Having fun and getting fit is  as easy as one, two, three ... four!

1. HIKE: Choose from coastal beach walks and jungle treks—or do both at the same time on Kauai's Kalalau Trail.

2. BIKE: Take a leisurely bike path or go for the gusto into a tropical forest, like this one among many on the Big Island's Stainback Highway.  (Renting a bike is a cheap thrill.)

3. SNORKEL: Tour boats anchor in Maui's Coral Gardens, but you can flipper there on your own as long as the surf's not up.

4. SURF: We've got all the breaks for all levels including SUP. (And also all the best places to be a spectator.)

Trailblazer Travel Books are brimming with ideas, both outdoor sports and all the cultural attractions that complete a vacation in Hawaii. There's lots to do. Get a copy well in advance of your trip and then break out the yellow highlighter. The books are organized by geographical area (rather than by activity) so you won't have to do a lot of flipping through pages. Once in Hawaii you'll be ready to take the plunge.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Want beaches and reasonably priced resorts? Try Maui's Kihei

Decades ago, southwest Maui was dubbed the "Gold Coast" by real estate copywriters, as a string of condos and resorts sprung up along the shoreline. To be honest, it seemed sort of tacky. But now, as the construction cranes seemed to outnumber palm trees during the ensuing years in West Maui north of Lahaina, Kihei seems downright kitsch—and a great choice for families seeking fun in the sun and sand.

The town is full of no-nonsense eateries and beach after beach. On the south end of Kihei is Wailea, a swank resort strip with a miles-long path providing access to five excellent beaches.

But at the heart of the scene are Kihei's three sweet family beach parks: Kamaole I, II, and III. The three are connected by short paths and each has very good (and safe!) swimming.

Keawakapu Beach, a locals' fave, connects Kihei's beaches to those of Wailea. A jogging path strings together these pearls. Bargain hunters should check out North Kihei and Ma'alaea Harbor, which have their own beaches, and are close enough to all the others, as well as being located logistically to explore the rest of the island. Maui Trailblazer has way more details on planning a trip to Maui, and guiding you once you are there.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Traveling with kids in Hawaii is a natural

Trailblazer Travel Books—for all the islands—have special Trailblazer Kids sections, for activities, beaches, attractions, and trails. Most of the fun is free.

Lydgate Park, Kauai

Canoes Beach on Maui, (top pic) just north of Kihei's Kamaole Beach Parks, specializes in kid-sized surf waves. It's right next to Kalama Parks, often the site of weekend events. One of the best beaches in Hawaii for the young ones is Kauai's Lydgate Park. A huge man-made ocean swimming pool is the main attraction, but the park also has a large lawn with playsels and an enormous Play Bridge, a five-level, maze-like structure that can accommodate a bus load of scurrying kis.

Dolphins and children are natural best buds. Dolphin Quest, on the Big Island and Oahu, offers learning programs. But you can also get up close for free: On Oahu, visit the Kahala Mandarin Oriental; on the Big Island check out the huge ocean side pool at the Hilton Resort in South Kohala.

Of course, sand and gentle surf provide and undending source of amusement. Trailblazer books list all the beaches that are kid-safe. (Though a watchful eye is always necessary.)

There are no rules against learning while having fun. The tide pools at the beach park just outiside of Pu'u Hononua O Honaunau National Park south of Kona are a sure thing.

Aside from up-close looks at dophins, the Hilton Resort on the Big Island serves up a Disneyesque boatload of attractions. Boats voyage the resort's canal, and a monorail travels its extensive grounds.

Sea turtles sunbathe on all the islands, but on the Big Island the slow-moving reptiles are a commonplace sight.  In Hawaii, children are called "keikis" (kay-keys), the same name given to young banana shoots, which each year provide the food necessary to sustain life. Parents traveling with kids are always welcomed into the community.  Still not sure which island to visit? Consult your No Worries Hawaii ebook.