Sunday, May 21, 2017

How the history of Hawaii foretells the future of the Earth

There are eight main Hawaiian Islands, created by erupting lava in a universe of ocean, just as there are eight planets (sorry Pluto) adrift in space. Hawaii is easily the world's most isolated landmass, and the last to feel the footprints of humankind—by the Marquesans from Polynesia around 200 A.D.

The Marquesans were followed by the dominant Tahitians in 700 A.D. Using celestial navigation, these mariners sailed 2,500 miles across unchartered seas in outriggers, carrying livestock and 23 "canoe plants." The Tahitians made the 5,000-mile round-trip journey for five centuries, bringing with them more plants and animals and people. Then, around 1200 A.D., these return voyages stopped, and the for the next 500 years (count 'em) the Hawaiians were alone on their island planets in the middle of the Pacific—all 65-million square miles of it.

Kings Trail

Why did the migrations stop? Some say it's all about the ahupua'a (ah-hoo-poo-ah-ah). An ahupua'a is the section of land required for Hawaiian villages to exist—it is a stream valley with agricultural terraces that open to a beach and is fringed by mountains and forests. An ahupua'a has all the ingredients for life. Once all these prime villiages were established, newcomers were unlikely to be welcomed.

Petroglyphs on the Big Island

We will never know what would have happened to Hawaii had Captain James Cook and his crew not arrived in the late 1700s—the last place on earth to be 'discovered' by Western Civilization. In subsequent decades, the Hawaii population was decimated by diseases. In 1898, the U.S. unlawfully annexed the internationally recognized Hawaiian Nation.

But an alternate-universe history of Hawaii may not have been all that rosy. Upon Cook's arrival, the population of the islands was nearing a million, not that far below what it is today. Inter-island wars had persisted for a couple of centuries. Although the armies (men and women) of the ruling class, the Ali'i, were astounding physical specimens, early reports by Westerners tell of common people malnourished and living in fear of the kapu, a system that brought justice in the form of a swift club for minor rule violations. Kamehameha was on his way to conquering all the Islands (though Kauai has never been defeated in battle ), and perhaps he would have succeeded, bringing peace and homeostasis to the Hawaiian Nation, but no one knows for sure.

Fish Pond at Mauna Lani Resort

In Hawaii, Aloha means many things—but it also means one thing: people living and working in balance with nature to sustain life in perpetuity. The Hawaiian understanding of sealife, plantlife, and building habitable space out of the jungle is complex. It is based upon sustaining the ahupua'a, which in turn sustains the Islands. The ability to grow is limited, and the ability to consume is finite. Many centuries may pass before the earth reaches the state that Hawaii was in the late 1700s. But today's Earthlings would be smart to study the Hawaiian way of life—which was (is) extremely practical and organized, yet synced directly with art and religious beliefs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Living the good life that King Kamehameha could only dream about

On a Hawaiian vacation, adventure seekers can go wild and get muddy and wet and return home exhausted. Luxury seekers, on the other hand, can immerse themselves in opulence and bodily pleasures and come home on a cloud of relaxation. Kamehameha the Great, whose bronze likeness gazes upon the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui, had it good—but could not imagine the dream life available to all of us today.

Those willing to fork out the dough on a luxury destination resort will most likely want to stay put to enjoy the mesmerizing effect. Let's face it, getting out into the tourist buzz can disrupt inner quietude.

The grounds of destination resorts are islands unto themselves, like these resaurant cabanas at Kauai's Grand Hyatt Poipu.

Waterfalls and swimming lagoons are just a few flip-flop steps away, not miles down a jungle trail. 

Need a culture fix? The interiors of luxury resorts contain artworks and sculptures that are museum worthy.

No need to rush home for a shower to get ready for the evening. Dude, you're already there. 

First time visitors to Hawaii will likely want to get out and do some sightseeing and adventuring. And (hot tip) you can visit all of these luxury destination resorts without actually staying there. But, dropping your bags and just kicking it for a week or so will seem like a month or so on your body and mind. No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planning guide, has details on all of Hawaii's destination resorts and luxury resort strips. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Guess which Hawaiian island has the most trails:

With an urban corridor that is home to nearly a million people—more than double the rest of the Islands combined—you wouldn't think that Oahu has more trailheads than Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island. But it does. Two mountain ranges, the Ko'olau and the Waianae, run parallel north to south, with trailheads on both east and west slopes.

Many of the trails, a couple dozen, begin right above the neighborhoods of Honolulu. Families enjoy the views at Pu'u Ualaka'a State Lookout (above).

The Moleka is part of the network of Tantalus Trails, more than 20 miles of lush walking that branch off a 10-mile circle road just minutes from downtown Honolulu.

About half the trails in Hawaii are part of the State's Na Ala Hele ("trails for walking") system that was established in 1988.

It doesn't take long to experience the wilderness. The wildest part is navigating Oahu's byzantine suburban roads to the trailhead parking.

The Kalawahine Trail goes right up the gut at Tantalus, with many options for loops.

The miles-long paths at the Lyon Arboretum are a botanist's dream. Most visitors miss this beauty since it is next to the touristy Manoa Falls Trail.

Bring your for-real hiking gear to Oahu, since you can get 'out there' fast. Many of the trails are steep (bring hiking poles) and lead to razorback ridges. Always stay on the trail, since the jungle can swallow hikers in an easy gulp. Oahu Trailblazer has all of Oahu's hikes, for all levels of hiker.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

This Big Island Historic Park will mess with your sense of time

Start a morning by poking around the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park and before you know it the sun will be setting. And you will have an odd sense of having been transported in time. No kidding. The place is intriguing and mysterious. 

You can wander several miles of trails through the park's 1,200 acres just north of Kona, and encounter historic re-creations (like this lele, a platform on which sacrifices to the heavens were made), centuries-old petroglyphs, and an oasis next to prehistoric rock mounds whose origins puzzle archeologists.  

This canoe hale (hah-lay) is at the southern end of the park, next to Aiopio Fishtrap, a sandy beach with safe swimming for kids. The Kaloko Petroglyph Field is not far from the beach— its more recent (circa 1800) etchings depict rifles. A heiau (temple) ruin is next to the field.

Several fishponds provided a seafood bounty for Hawaiians. Rolling agricultural terraces were abundant with produce, though a stampede of lava from Hualalai volcano was devastating.  At the north end of  park is the massive Kaloko Pond, whose 20-foot-wide, hundreds-of-yards-long seawall is being restored. The pond was Kamehameha's masterwork, and amazed Western engineers who first saw it.

Gourds and necklaces are among common offerings these days.

Several good beaches make Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park a full-service vacation stop. Honokohau Beach is midway in the park, with good snorkeling. Aimakapa Pond, a 20-acre lake, is just inland from this beach, providing a home for migrating shorebirds, coots, and Hawaiian stilts.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details—there are three entrance points to the park, and other cool stuff is nearby.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Surfer Alert: Kauai has a North Shore, too!

The North Shore of Oahu has four world-surfing tour beaches, and is known as the best board-riding coast in the world. But go north from there to the north shore of Kauai, and you'll find the best breaks that nobody knows about. Drive to posh Princeville and, just before the St. Regis Resort, look down from the guardrail to see the uniform rollers coming into Hideaways and Pali Ke Kua. Both spots have viewpoints for spectators.

Stand-up padders (called beach boy surfers in Hawaii until recent years) like Pu'u Poa Beach at the resort. It's just around the river mouth from Hanalei Bay.

Black Pot Beach, right at Hanalei Pier, has one of the best beginner breaks in Hawaii. You can walk out the pier and watch boards whizzing by. In the middle of Hanalei Bay is Pine Trees, the home surf for pro Bruce Irons and his brother, the late Andy Irons, who was a world champion.

Farther off shore the Hanalei River mouth is Bowls, a fave among short-boarders and SUP'ers alike. When the epic winter swells arrive, two monster breaks appear even farther out: Queens and Kings. In 1992, legendary surfer Titus Kimimaka flew into Kauai, saw Kings going off, and hurried from the airport to Hanalei and became the first person to ride the 50-foot behemoth. Beyond Hanalei, at Haena Beach Park, is an off-shore reef break called Cannons (boom!).

Locals in the know head to Kalihiwai Bay, where a point break creates a wave machine. The trick is to bail out before the surf hits the cliff. A guardrail right above the bay is a great viewing spot. Tip: Get advice from the locals before going out, since they protect their surf turf.

Kauai Trailbazer has details on all the breaks on the island, as well as the best places to watch.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Road to Hana: Proof that life is a journey, not a destination

On a typical morning on Maui a commuter-style convoy of rental cars embarks on the serpentine Hana Highway, crossing dozens of one-lane bridges before reaching the quiet town and then pressing on to the Pools of Oheo at the lower part of Haleakala National Park. Then they turn around for the long drive back to Kihei and Lahaina. 

An alternative: Consider exploring the Hana Highway as a day unto itself, and leave the drive to Hana for a second day—and on that day continue around south Maui and make a circle instead of doing the return run. That way you can see places like the Keanae Arboretum (above) and the village of Keanae.

Most of the lush forest reserves along the Hana Highway go unseen by visitors.

Don't get suckered into stopping every time you see cars parked. Maui has a lot of monkey-see, monkey-do tourism. This tropical coastline is full of trails to call your own.

Before jumping in the car, take a look at Maui Trailblazer, which has dozens of places to see along the way that are not on the tourist radar. Indpendent, active travelers wishing to create their own adventures will find this guide to be essential.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Big Island's Pololu Valley is like Kauai's Kalalau only without the people

The green nub on the north end of the Big Island—Kohala— that points toward Maui is a million years older than the island's southern volcanic slopes, whose shores are being widened by fresh lava right now. That means Kohala has deep tropical valleys and ridges with waterfalls and no roads—like Kauai's Napali Coast.

The road ends a few miles past the quaintly weathered town of Hawi, and from there a wide, steep trail (400 feet down over .75-mile) drops to Pololu Valley. A rocky beach fronts a huge freshwater pond encased by lush grasslands.

For most visitors, Pololu is the destination. But a trail leads up the other side on a wild-and-wooly, 20 mile run to Waipo Valley, which is at road's end on the east side of Kohala. Hearty hikers can make the first two or three valleys, though slides and tree falls can make the route sketchy. You'll find old walls and other ruins. Unless Tarzan or a knowledgeable guide is along, you'll want to turn around at the third valley over, Hokonoiki. (Most trekkers approach this coast from the Waipio side, on the Muliwai Trail.)  Directions in your Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Start your Hawaiian vacation in Portland

Many independent-minded people head to indie bookstores to buy Trailblazers, the best-selling guides by an independent publisher. The result will be a vacation as unique as your fingerprints.

It's worth a trip to Portland just to spend hours roaming around Powell's. Inside is a city block of books—stairways and corridors leading to color-coded rooms of tall shelves—where all the top-line best-sellers are alongside new and used books that truly cannot be found elsewhere. Lost and confused? No problem. Powell's staff are knowledgeable and everywhere.

Trailblazer Travel Books have been in print for 25 years, with multiple new editions to keep the content fresh. Full of juicy details and orgainzed like a Swiss Army knife, these publications are just the ticket for people who think for themselves. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hawaii's surefire cure for the Blues

Winter gets old. Especially in April. But the good news is that right now is low season in the Islands. So anyone who is feeling deeply blue can book a cheap trip to take the deep blue cure. 

Though jumping off rocks is generally not a good idea, these bluffs at Kauai's Mahaulepu Beach are safe. The urge to leap is nearly magnetic. 

A mellower blue immersion is to be had at Oahu's dreamy Lanikai Beach on the Windward side. Check out the nearby tiny islands via kayak, or float around the near-shore.

King Kamehameha took a fancy to Hanauma Bay (several miles south of Waikiki on Oahu) and for years it was reserved for his retinue. These days, busloads of visitors head down the steep paved trail to explore the aquamarine waters. Full disclosure: The photo is what Hanauma looks like when it's closed, and at times the place is a zoo. 

Trailblazer guides have specific directions to many dozens of beaches with just the right shade of blue.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Rough it in luxury on the Big Island's South Kohala Coast

The post-apocalyptic view seaward from the highway north of Kona—square miles of jagged slag heaps of black lava broiling in the sun—gives no clue of the oases that lie in pockets along the coast. Lush greenry rims anchialine ponds, where brackish fresh water rises from a vast aquifer. 

Fabulous destination resorts, like the Four Seasons, Mauna Lani, and Mauna Kea, mix cultural history with gardenscapes. 

A canoe hale and sundial just south of the Four Seasons speak of the Hawaiian's seagoing heritage.

Coral sand beaches buffet near-shore lava reefs—a perfect combo for beachcombers who want to take a dip.

Sea turtles have this place dialed.

The understated Beach Tree Pool at the Four Season is a somnolent fusion of land, sea, and air.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the details on South Kohala—the hikes, snorkeling pools, and resort strolls,  plus parking and access tips.