Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hawaii: A big ahhhhhhh for life's owies.

A vacation in Hawaii—aside come being a kick-ass good time—can be a recovery of your senses, revealing a feeling of rejuvenation. 

Spas and hot tubs are part of any feel-good enterprise, and many hotels can set you up. Or, visit the ultimate in spa freebies on the Puna Coast on the Big Island (not far from Hilo) and you can spend the day at Ahalanui Warm Springs Park  luxuriating in warm water—one of many natural soaks on this island. If hot water is not handy, warm ocean water is. Try doing some floating in snorkeling pools.

Essential to self-improvement is intentional "doing nothing." A lounge chair in the shade with vast blueness to stare at and white-noise waves rolling in is sure to reset the mind—if you stick with it long enough.

Thus relaxed, it's time to focus on the complexities of the natural world. Beachcombing and shell collecting will fill that need. Decorative shells can be found at numerous beaches, including Charo's on the north shore of Kauai.

Since "we are what we eat," try binge-consuming fresh juice and fruits.

But don't forget to add some greens. Sunshine (farmers) markets are common in the islands. You'll find little stands in front of people's houses, neighborhood gatherings where you can stock up, and also island-wide events where you can  make a day of it—like the Maui Swap Meet, the Aloha Stadium Market and Chinatown on Oahu, and the Hilo Farmers Market.

Swimming is exercise that relaxes, sort of an active massage. Mix some water play into the daily regimen and feel your joints and muscles ease.  Swimming pools will do the trick, but immersion in warm Hawaiian saltwater is an upgrade for the senses.

It's not hard to find Edenlike places to hike in Hawaii. The Kalalau Trail (above) on Kauai is one of the most popular, but every island has numerous places to escape into greenery and get your heart pumping.

Trailblazer guides are brimming with places to hike and snorkel, as well as farmers markets, gardens, retreats, and quiet cultural sites. When you visit Hawaii for a week or two, you can take the experience home, not just as snapshots, but actually infused into your body.

available on,, Powell's Books

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hidden gems lie just beyond Maui's swank Wailea

The southwest ("Gold Coast") of Maui boasts upscale Wailea, home to a string of some of the world's finest destination resorts—but beyond that is a virtually resort-free coastline. Some of the beaches here are well-known, but to find most, you need to know where to look. Kanahena Cove (above) is accessed via an obscure shoreline access sign near the south end of Makena State Park.

Makena Landing (above) is accessed via a side road and offers excellent snorkeling, at Turtle Town.  This is also an excellent spot to voyage via kayak to the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve, much of which is not reachable by land.

Constructed of coral rocks, Keawalai Church has added charm to Makena since 1832.

Makena State Park's Big Beach, draws hundreds of visitors, but its large parking lots and long run of sand can handle it. Local activists saved this natural wonderland from development in the 1970s. Inland is a sublime view of green slopes Ulupalakua Ranch, which lies well below the summit of Haleakala.

A short, rugged trail on the north end of Big Beach gets you to Little Beach, where nudists pack the sand on beach towels—though nudity is illegal on all Hawaiian beaches. Curious pods of spinner dolphins take in the scene from just beyond the outer wave break.

Check out Maui Trailblazer for detailed descriptions to access these spots, and many more.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Whoa! You can still find a secluded paradise on the Big Island

Take the coastal highway about 20 miles south of Resortville in Kona, and you will find the fishing village of Miloli'i, and from there walk 20 minutes on a coastal trail to the wild, palmy cove that is Honomalino Beach. Yes, it does exist.

Full disclosure: You need to drop five miles down a winding road over an arid lava landscape to reach the village, which is not made up of little grass shacks, but rather homes that will seem rundown to the tourist eye, accented with the detritus of modern life. And these days, the Hawaiians are fishing in aluminum boats, not outrigger canoes. Still, Miloli'i is real to the bone.

The beating heart of village life is centered around Hauoli Kamanao, a petite church with big mana. Miloli'i hosted one of the last performances of singing legend Iz Kamakawio'ole. In 1962, another singing great, Elvis, shot scenes at the town's cove for his epic movie bomb Girls, Girls, Girls!

Travel tip: Miloli'i sees few tourists. When you see locals, you will find that a dime's worth of friendliness offered will get you a dollar's worth of kindness in return. 

Beginning at Miloli'i Beach Park by the basketball court, the trailhead to Honomalino Beach has signs meant to be off-putting tourists (see travel tip, above). The easy route penetrates a thicket of coastal flora and a few rock-wall ruins. Clear waters are fringed by coral and lava cobbles.

A grove of coco palms let's you know you have reached the beach.

Honomalino is a perfect crescent, its sand a mix of fine coral and lava. The shore drops to deep water, but swimming is normally safe. There's lots of wandering to do. Your beach mates are likely to be a pod of spinner dolphins that regularly cavorts in the near-shore waters.

More information in Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer:

Saturday, November 4, 2017

In Hawaii, You Gotta Have sole

If shoes tell a lot about a person, then people are harder to read in the Islands, where feet run free. Hawaiians are barefoot at  beach parks and in their homes, and footwear usually means a cheapo pair of flip flops.  Fashion note: "Locals' is the brand to buy, if you want to be in with the out crowd.

The universality of the Aloha spirit is due in large part to the shared freeing of the ten little piggies let loose in tropical waters and on sandy beaches. 

Called slippers (slippahs), your basic rubber model can be purchased for a few bucks. But for extended walking, you may want to invest in a higher-end model with arches, agressivetread, and a wider strap. Teva and Reef are among the brands to look for. These babies will get you around town or along a trail, and then can be strapped to the pack or carried when you hit the surfy sands. Tip: Avoid the strap-on sandals, since sand gets caught in the webbing and will quickly rub your feet raw.

Walking on the beach will the smooth the tootsies faster than a pedicure, and also is self-administered reflexology, imparting the well-being of a prolonged foot massage. Tip: If caught barefooting on scorching sands, dig down a few inches to where the sand is cool, and repeat the trick until you reach shade or water.

After a vacation your feet will transform from flesh pods normally encased  by socks  and leather, to the five-digit appendages that are siblings to your hands. The Trailblazer guides are full of coastal beach walks (wild and luxury) where you can free your sole.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Half the Hana Highway is the Whole Enchilada

Most mornings on Maui, a conga line of rental cars embark on the serpentine odyssey that is the Hana Highway—indeed, the road is a must-do. But if you take another day and do a slow shuffle on the first part of the highway, you will be rewarded. After only 2 miles on the Hana Highway is one of its major delights, the Twin Falls Botanical Preserve (above). Though this place can get crowded, few visitors find the half-dozen falls in this garden of delights.

A number of lesser-known roads lead into the lush forest reserves on this side of the island, where you will find the hand-hewn infrastructure built in the sugar cane heydays of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Hana Highway is known for its one-lane bridges, but some can actually accommodate two cars, like this one near the Waikamoi Ridge Nature Trail.

Near mile marker 17 is the Keanae Arboretum, an excellent family stroll that can be extended into a jungle trek.

The arboretum took root in 1971, and features tropical trees from around the globe like these rainbow eucalyptus.

At the end of the paved path is a display of Polynesian imports, including taro, papayas, bananas and ti.

A trip to the village of Keanae completes the day. This little church, named (get ready) Ihi'ihioiehovaona Kaua, dates from 1860. In the next village over, Wailua, are two other historic beauties—St. Gabriel's Church and St. Augustine Shrine. 

Maui Trailblazer has details on places you would probably miss on the way to Hana.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

No kidding, the Hamakua Coast is one of Hawaii's best-kept secrets

Devoid of hotels and much tourist stuff, the Hamakua Coast (northeast) of the Big Island is known to most visitors as a 40-mile drive on the way to Hilo and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But for independent adventure seekers, Hamakua is a destination not to be found elsewhere in Hawaii. One bankable asset to the coast are the local-style beach parks ('pakas'), like Kolekole (pictured above). All the parks are in set green pockets below the highway.

The main road, Highway 19, is scenic enough, but the real find are the side-trip segments of the Old Mamalahoa Highway. The jungle flaps at the windshield and the road is virtually empty.

Along the sections of the old highway are several botanical gardens, including one of the best in the state: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

The stream-side flora of Waikaumalo Beach Park is idyllic—time to space out for a while.

History is alive on the Hamakua Coast, which sports several intact sugar-shack villages. Laupahoehoe Beach Park, where a 1947 tidal wave wiped out a school, is a dramatic slap in the face. Today you can watch big surf do battle with lava stacks and imagine "the day the sea went beserk" some 70 years ago.

Tour buses hammer Akaka Falls State Park, just north of Hilo, but you are most likely to be among few visitors to behold Umauma Falls (above) farther north. 

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has the ins-and-outs for taking a day (or more) to discover Hamakua. The place is an island unto itself.  Get it on Amazon, give it a thumbs up review. Mahalo!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Is this Hawaii's sexiest beach?

Dreamy Lanikai Beach on Windward Oahu is pure eye candy, with cupcake islands just offshore its silky sands. Flowering shrubs line the paths from an uber-cool beach cottage community. Don't be surprised to see a professional fashion shoot going on. Commercial photographers love this place.

Add some real-life spice to the day by stroking a rental sea kayak to the seabird sanctuary islands of Mokolea and Moku Manu, or back off a little and go for Flat Island (not pictured), which is much closer—you can swim there with a mask and fins. 

Or not. 

Kailua Beach Park is a kissing cousin to Lanikai, via a short walk. The scene amps a bit here, with a huge lawn to host other fun-sun activities (like these kite-boarders prepping to take off).  There's plenty of shade and picnic tables along a wide greenspace. A cold brew, ice cream, and other gotta-haves aren't far away. 

Get driving directions in your Oahu Trailblazer. It's about an hour away from Waikiki.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Hawaii: A Complete Personal Makeover in Four Easy Steps

You can spend a pile in Hawaii hiring personal 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. Do this stuff and you will come home a different person. It's 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. Hikes range from family strolls to full-on treks, and include all the popular trails as well as places you will have virtually to yourself. All the Islands have excellent trails, including populated Oahu.

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.) Kauai and the Big Island are the choices for cyclists.

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. All the islands have excellent snorkeling, although Maui and the Big Island have more of the state's top spots.

4. SURF: Listed are all the breaks for all levels, including places to stand-up paddle (SUP). The best places to be a spectator are included. You will want to seek instruction (listed in Trailblazer guides) if learning to ride the waves. Kauai, Oahu, and Maui have good beaches for beginners.

Trailblazer Travel Books are brimming with ideas, both outdoor sports and all the cultural attractions. There's lots to do. Get a copy in advance of your trip and then break out the yellow highlighter.  Once in Hawaii you'll be ready to take the plunge.