Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The complete Hawaiian vacation makeover

Vacations can be like parties—lots of fun and abandonment that can take a toll on the body and require time to recover from. Then again, a vacation in Hawaii, though all about pleasure, can be a recovery of your senses, leaving you with 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 Puna coast on the Big Island (not far from Hilo) and you can spend the day at Ahalanui Warm Springs Park (a county freebie)  luxuriating in warm water. The Big Island has several natural hot springs.

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 amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, Powell's Books

Monday, July 18, 2016

I'll be watching you: Hawaii's lifeguards are among the world's best

The best way to have a safe day at the beach in Hawaii is to make sure you are under the watchful eye of one of these dudes, a Hawaiian lifeguard — trained to act swiftly to save lives. Every day, somewhere in the Islands, these guys (also called 'watermen' in Hawaii) risk their necks to save someone else's.

When conditions are adverse, lifeguards normally post signs up and down the beach. But don't count on it. Lack of signage doesn't mean the water is safe. The overriding beach safety rule is: When in doubt, don't go out.

Quads, surfboards, helicopters, and skidoos are all called into to play at a moment's notice.

Most beaches in Hawaii do not have lifeguard stations—but many do. Although lifeguards won't want to engage in long conversations with visitors, don't be afraid to ask them about conditions. That's what they are there for. 

Trailblazer guides for each island list beaches with lifeguards on duty. The books also have detailed safety sections that list possible hazards for each beach, as well as trails.

For some quick general guidelines go to www.hawaiibeachsafety.com

A woman from Germany is happy to hug her husband on land, after lifeguards plucked her off a channel in the reef at Anini Beach in Kauai. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Luxury for free in Hawaii

Hawaii's destination resorts are pricey, $500 a night and up, up, up. But to visit them is free. And many of the best resorts have museum-quality artwork, entertainment, exhibits, special events, botanitcal gardens, and poolside architecture that will curl your toes. The Grand Hyatt Kauai (above) features a man-made saltwater lagoon, set alongside a sprawling pool.

Using pools is of course limited to guests, but hotels commonly will offer paid day passes. On the other hand, all the beaches in Hawaii including those in front of resorts are open to the public.

The resort strip in Wailea features several high-end resorts, all linked by an oceanside path that extends several miles to the beach parks in adjacent Kihei.

The pool at the Grand Wailea seems to sprawl over acres and is bordered by lawn sculpture. 

Wailea has five public access parking lots. Same goes for the similar resort strip of Ka'anapali north of Lahaina on Maui, which also has a long walking path. The view at the St. Regis Princeville on the north shore of Kauai is mind boggling. South Kohala on the Big Island has quite a few fabulous resorts that have an entrance gate—Mauna Kea, Mauna Lani, Fairmont Orchid and the Four Seasons. The Hilton in South Kohala is like Disneyland. On busy days the entrance gate is a minor obstacle, if you know how to play it.

Buy them at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powell's
or directly from the publisher at trailblazertravelbooks.com 

Trailblazers have all the tips on visiting dozens of resorts in the Islands—all freebies.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sleeping Giant: A Kauai Classic

The supine profile of the Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) lords over the length of Kauai's Coconut Coast (the east shore). Seen here from a lagoon at Smith's Tropical Plantation, the Giant resembles an Easter Island statue—his big nose is in the middle, with chin to the right.

Three trailheads will get you to the top, all coverging near the summit. That's his chinny chin chin (above) to the left, a dangerous side trip to a spot that is just a step from a free fall. But the main trail is not hazardous, even though hands are necessary for one short stretch, where the hiker is pictured above.

The mountain is part of a ridge cleaved by the Wailua River (seen above meeting the sea), by far Hawaii's biggest. On the opposite side of the river rises Kalepa Ridge

The ocean-side trail climbs just over 1,000 feet (four miles, round-trip) giving up blue water views all the way.

From the Giant's nose (the top) is a 360-degree view, with Mount Waialeale inland and Kong (Anahola Mountains) to the east (pictured above).

The mountain-side trail is the shortest, and perhaps most-scenic route, if you appreciate  tropical flora. The beginning  traverses a grove of stately Norfolk Pines. This route is 3.25 miles round-trip, with a gain of some 775 feet. The third trailhead, on the west side, covers 5.5 miles round-trip with a gain of 925 feet—but the main reason to take this trail is to enjoy a bridge over Opakea'a Stream and the Vista Hale picnic pavilion, which is .75-mile from the trailhead.

Kauai Trailblazer has further details on these trailheads, as well as many others. Well-known trails, such as the Kalalau, attract hoards of visitors, leaving dozens of other great hikes relatively free of foot traffic.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The "Hollywood" of Oahu is at dramatic Kualoa Regional Park

Kualoa Regional Park on the northern part of windward (eastern) Oahu: drab name, very cool place. The camping area of the park has an excellent swimming beach, including a short walk to the sands of Secret Island—which only seems like an island since its hemmed in by the bay on one side and big Moli'i Fishpond on the other.

You may recognize the jagged ridge that lords over the scene,  featured in TV commercials and programs (Five-O) and movies (Godzilla, 50 First Dates, Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young).

Calm waters attract outrigger canoeists. Just off the point is a small island (you can also swim to it) called Mokoli'i, but known as Chinaman's Hat (its profile looks like one of the straw hats worn by Chinese workers in the old days).

Kualoa Ranch, on the mountain side of the rural highway from the beach park, has several historical sites dating from the sugar cane heydays in the late 1800s.

Kualoa Ranch is private property, but visitors can arrange tours by jungle vehicle or horseback. The Ranch also has big gift store and cafeteria-style restaurant. The front deck is where to be to take it all in. One last thing: about two miles south of the beach park and ranch is Tropical Farms, an old-timey family operation that offers free coffee and mac nut samples, along with a wide selection of gifts and artwork. Oahu Trailblazer has details on many more places to check out on this underrated Hawaiian coastline.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Liquid pot of gold at the end of Maui's Hana Highway

The Hana Highway is an adventure unto itself. And then there's Hana Town to explore. And, farther down the road, are the Pools of Oheo in the coastal section of Haleakala National Park. With all that, it's no wonder many visitors run out of time and miss the treasure of the day trip: the hike to the Falls at Makahiku and Waimoku Falls (pictured above).

The trail begins right across the highway from the park entrance, and climbs to penetrate a dense bamboo forest.

Footbridges across turbulent waters make the hike possible and are one of its wonders.

But the big payoff is at the top at Waimoku Falls, a 400-foot-high white ribbon falling down the face of a green amphitheater. The hike is 4.25 miles round-trip, with 825 feet of elevation gain—not a killer. Along the way are the spectacular Falls at Makahiku. A short spur trail leads to a view from the top down the gorge (stay well back from drop offs). You can bag this baby with a hike of 1.25 miles round-trip with a gain of 300 feet.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on this hike, as well as many (many) other adventures along the Hana Highway. The book also has advice on how to manage your time and avoid the crowds at this popular attraction.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Waikiki: Wacky Wacky

Waikiki Beach is all about now, every day, 24/7. It's totally off the wall, literally in this photo of a boogie boarder joining his brothers and sisters to ride the shorebreak at The Wall, off Kapiolani Park.

Waikiki is also about then—since layers of history are evident amind the towering resorts and fashion shops. The Pink Lady, a.k.a the Royal Hawaiian, pretty much stood alone on the beach when built in 1927. Not far from the hotel is Kuhio Park, where a traditional hula performance wows visitors nightly at sunset.

Waikiki is also about always—magic hour at sunset transcends time.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Big Island's South Kohala: Oh Hell, no wait, it's Heaven!

From the window of a rental car doing sixty-five on Highway 19 north from Kona, South Kohala looks like hell for about thirty miles. Not to say 'bad,' quite scenic really, but it is the very essence of Dante's Inferno—square miles of black rolling hills and huge slag heaps of lava baking in the sun, an ocean of liquid rock come to rest after numerous eruptions from Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanos.

But paradise awaits. Along the coastline every few miles are oases, born where fresh water perks up cracks in the lava. Palm groves and beach flora shade coral-and-lava sand beaches, with clear water since streams have not time to cleave the (relatively) virgin landscape and bring erosion.

At the north end of South Kohala is the blockbuster Hapuna Beach State Park, a long stretch of sand with an usually gentle shore break. Refugees from chilly Waimea and rain-battered Hamakua in east Hawaii use this for a getaway. Picnic pavilions are ideally set on a gardenscaped hillside.

Anaeho'omalu Bay (just call it A-Bay) is near resorts. Sailboats, snorkel tours, and windsurfers join beachgoers. A nuanced coastal trail features the Hilton Resort on the north (the place is a freakin' Disneyland with dolphins) and a wild beach with petroglyph field to the south. The water pictured to the right (above) is one of many fishponds in South Kohala—the seafood stores for early Hawaiians.

Just north of Hapuna (there's a trail) is the beach at the venerable Mauna Kea Resort, a Laurance Rockefeller project from 1960.  The resort is gated, but a shoreline access lot is large. Sweet body surfing and decent snorkeling. Bring a book.

Until several years ago, Kua Bay, a few miles north of the Kona Airport, was a locals' special located down a rough and unsigned rocky dirt road—the site of the ancient village of Manini Owali. A few years ago, the state put in a smooth asphalt road, restrooms, and fresh signs, and Kua is now surf-and-sun city for local teens and families.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details for a dozen or more South Kohala beaches—resorts and wild. You'll also find the tricks on getting shoreline access passes at the resort gates on popular days. No problem. Petroglyphs, ancient sites, large portions of the old King's Trail, and fishponds are everywhere, telling of the Hawaiian civilization thriving here not that long ago.

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 (below). Nudists crowd this sandy cove, although nudity is unlawful on state beaches. They're packed 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.