Monday, March 27, 2017

An Island Style vacation: Don't let Yelp bite you in the butt

Months of planning and thousands of dollars go into a Hawaiian vacation, so it's easy to understand that people want to 'see all the best stuff' and not miss out. Of course that means, in part,  going to Yelp and TripAdvisor, humma humma humma, to find out what the best stuff is. And then locating it and putting it on the day-to-day, hour-by-hour vacation schedule.

This strategy has several drawbacks. The main one is that visitors may well miss what has made people fall in love with the Islands, namely, living 'Island Style.' (See the bottom of this post for the best definition of 'Island Style.'

Part of an Island Style vacation is knowing when to depart from an itinerary and follow your instincts to something that looks cool.

You also want to go with the flow on a given day, let your mood dictate events, even though you may have had different plans. The weather in a given locale also should help decide the day's outing.

There's no rush. Hurrying to the next attraction often puts you in a crowd of people, who are doing the same thing. 

We all love our smartphones and the Internet. But remember that everyone is looking at them, so that what's 'best' may not turn out that way, mainly because too many people are there.  Each island has its 'tourist commute,' i.e., normal times during which hoards of people do the same things. Island Style means getting outside that pattern.

We (authors of the Trailblazer guides) have spent many years exploring just about every beach, trail, resort strip, and attraction on all the Islands. Sometimes we wonder if we know less than some dude who has been sitting at (for example) Pokai Beach Park on Oahu staring out to sea that whole time.

Trailblazer guides present many choices for active and independent travelers who want to find a place to call their own and let Hawaii work its magic.

What is Island Style?  Take a listen:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lahaina State of Mind

Maui's Lahaina has the perfect beaches, historical sites, and a fun run of shops and restaurants—adding up to one of Hawaii's best walk-around towns.  Baby Beach (above) has good snorkeling and plenty of room to drop a beach towel.

The harbor hosts pleasure yachts, fishing boats, and the ferry to the outer islands of Molokai and Lanai. Inland are the green chasms that give Maui its nickname of the Valley Isle.

The big banyan tree (to the left of the light beacon) hosts an art fair and a zillion birds that flit around in the shade of its canopy of branches.

Most of the buildings are reminders of Lahaina's racous whaling days in the late 1800s. Newly arrived missionaries teamed up with local ali'i (Hawaiian royalty) to building a stone prison (now a museum) that fostered law and order.

Lahaina delivers as a vactation party town, but you can always find a private moment by casting a gaze seaward toward Lanai. Maui Trailblazer has the details on the town's attractions, plus the beaches, hikes, and sights nearby.

Friday, March 17, 2017

This may be Kauai's top hike:

Kauai has many hikes that score a perfect 10—and you just can't get better than sublime. But the Awa'awapuhi Trail may get the top vote among many visitors. It's freaking breathtaking. 

Just the facts: The trailhead is at an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet at the upper rim of Waimea Canyon. Distance is 6.5 miles, round-trip, with an elevation loss of 1,700 feet, though ups-and-downs make the climbing closer to 2,000 feet. The first leg of the journey penetrates a bird-rich, dry forest wilderness called the Napali-Kona Forest Reserve. More tweeting is done here than in Silicone Valley.

The termius looks straight down 3,000 feet from a Napali ridge to a little valley that is part of Napali Coast State Park. Reachable only by sea, this zone was inhabited well into the 1900s by native people.

Careful hikers and goats can venture onto a viewing knob that heightens the experience (pun intended)—though drop-off hazards are present, and this side trip is not recommended for acrophobics. 

Prepare for a for-real day hike (rain gear, food). Hiking poles will help on steep, slippery sections. Hearty families can make it. Though on the tourist radar, Awa'awapuhi doesn't get hammered like Kauai's other top hikes.

For more details, and for  perfect-10 hikes you've never heard of, check out Kauai Trailblazer

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The real Hawaii? Look no further than Kauai's Anahola

Thanks to Prince Jonah Kuhio and the Land Act of 1895, Anahola was one of the first places where native Hawaiians could 'own' land (999-year leases) that had been taken away in the U.S. annexation. These days, visitors can instantly know what it's like to live "Island Syle."

Anahola Beach Park has good, reef-protected snorkeling, with the Anahola Mountains as a pleasing backdrop.

From the beach park, you can walk the surf line for a few miles along a strip of yellow sand all the way to Aliomanu Bay. A county campground and cottages lie along a backshore of ironwoods and coco palms. That pointed peak in the ridge is known as "Kong," after the mythical movie gorilla. Some scenes from the film were shot here.

Community events take place on selected weekends, but normally the place is ultra laid back.

Locally run Kumu Camp Retreat offers some of the best rustic lodging in Hawaii. Just offshore the camp is Pillars, where body boarders ride a foamy shorebreak near a decrepit pier.

The Anahola River splits the long bay in two. Slack waters provide a fresh water pool for toddlers and waders. The upriver kayak is a mellow adventure. This rural coast of Kauai has many nooks to be discovered by inquisitive tourists. Check it out in Kauai Trailblazer. (Note that discount prices are available on brand new books; see the PayPal link at the top right of this blog.)

Monday, March 6, 2017

"Tweeting" in Hawaii used to take many days

In ancient Hawaii (the first Polynesians arrived from Marquesa around 200 A.D.) the only way to send a message other than by speaking was to etch out a symbol in smooth lava rock. If it took that long to tweet, what would you say? 

These etchings, called petroglyphs, are found throughout the Islands, but they are most easily discovered on the younger Big Island, since erosion and greenery hasn't had as much time to cover them up. The Pu'u Loa field in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (above) contains some of the oldest drawings.

The best field on Maui is in Olowalu Cultural Preserve. This petroglyph depicts an ancient sailing vessel and a classic human form.

This 5-acre petroglyph field on the South Kohala coast of the Big Island lies unsigned and virtually unvisited, even though it is less than a mile from destination resorts.

The big news announced in this etching is the arrival of European style sail boats. Petroglyphs in Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park near Kona show a rifle, also breaking news in Hawaii in the early 1800s.

Not all rock etchings told the stories. This rectangle pattern of dots was made to play a form of checkers common throughout Hawaii.

The circles, with and without dots at the centers, announce child births. This were made in the Puako Petroglyh Field near the Fairmont Orchid in South Kohala. Though the meaning of many of the petroglyphs can be deciphered, some of the origins of some of drawings were a mystery, even to the second wave of Polynesian voyagers who arrived from Tahiti around 1000 AD.

Trailblazer guides show the way to dozens of petroglyph fields in the Islands, as well as heiaus (temples) and ancient paths that are remnats of the great Hawaiian Nation. Needless to say: Some ruins may look like rock piles, but they are sacred sites to be treated with the same respect you would a church.

Monday, February 27, 2017

How to get the 'wowie' out of a trip to Maui

Seeing sunrise on Haleakala has gotten so much buzz that visitors now need a permit to enter in the early morning hours. Forget that. It's cold up there, and driving up in the dark means you miss the scenery, and can't tell if the summit will be socked in with clouds. Try seeing the summit at sunset, and don't miss taking a walk down the Sliding Sands Trail (above) into the volcanic valley. Equally scenic, and visited by practically no one, is the Skyline Trail, which is just outside the national park boundary.

Three beach parks in Kihei—called Kamaole I, II, and III—are all you need for a family day in the fun in the sun, sand, and water. Kihei is less expensive than the resort strips of Wailea and Ka'anapali, featuring many mid-priced condos and resorts, as well as reasonable restaurants. A walking path skirts the beach parks (and other beaches) for miles.

Lahaina in West Maui was once the capital of the Hawaii under Kamehameha, and features many historical sites. It's a great walk-around beach town, with lots of action at night. To find a more quiet spot to call your own in Lahaina head to the north end of town to Baby Beach (above) where swimming is safe and the horizon views of Lanai are serene.

Iao State Park gets hammered with tourists, including tour buses. Most visitors take the short walk to see the Iao Needle (above) and call it good. But a hike just above the Needle is where locals head for an inspiring view of the Wall of Tears, a cliff often streaked with waterfalls. (The park was hit by severe storms this winter, and repairs may take awhile.)

Ho'okipa on the windward (east) coast is the windsurfing capital of the world, where tourists can pull off the highway for a ringside seat. But most people miss equally colorful Kanaha Beach Park, just down the road, which is a kite-boarding extravaganza—and also draws windsurfers. A beachcombers' path goes from Kanaha past the wild coastline of Spreckelsville, to Paia (near Ho'okipa). 

More than any other island, tourist tend to gather at certain spots on Maui. But there are many places to call your own if you are willing to seek them out, rather than rely on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Maui Trailblazer is packed with ideas for the independent and curious traveler. If you're considering visiting more than one island, consult the No Worries Hawaii book for guidance.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kauai's Mahaulepu: A dreamscape so close, yet so far away

Only a few miles separate Mahaulepu from the Grand Hyatt and the busy resort strip of Poipu Beach on Kauai's arid south shore. But those miles are on a hellishly potholed dirt road that dissuades many rental car drivers from making the trip. Hawaiian monk seals (above) avoid the traffic and arrive by sea to bag rays. (Federal law and good manners require giving Hawaii's only native mammals a wide berth.) 

Kawailoa Bay (above) marks the end of the road, at a beach with very good snorkeling.

A trail skirts the bluff away from Kawailoa Bay. You can also go the other way on the beach from Kawailoa around a sandy point (shown above) to Gillin's Beach, where a long strip of sand and a protective reef draw sunbatheres and swimmers.  (Actually, you can walk from the Grand Hyatt Poipu to Gillin's Beach on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.)

CMJ Stables, on the dirt road to Mahaulepu, offer a chance to visit the remote shores from high in the saddle. Ironwoods provide shade and shelter all around the area.

Local kids take the plunge from (sort of) low cliffs at the outer edges of Kawailoa Bay. As a rule, jumping from a cliff into the ocean is not recommended for visitors.

The coastal trail crosses open grasslands amid portrait-quality seascapes.

The trail ends with a steep downhill section that drops to Haula Beach, a deep scoop of sand that is often unsafe for swimming. A sketchy trail climbs through the Haupu Forest Reserve to the peak (above right) that affords a view of Kipu Kai Beach. Featured in the Descendants movie, this beach is on private property and only reachable by sea.

For driving and hiking directions, consult your Kauai Trailblazer guide. See the right column of this blog to order it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

You won't see this anywhere else in Hawaii: The Waiopae Tidepools

Yes, there are other saltwater pools in reefs with good snorkeling, but not this many spreading over so many acres on the Big Island's Puna (east) coast. The Waiopae Tidepools Marine Life Conservation District is its own place.

Smooth (pahoehoe) lava surrounds most of the pools, so you end up swimming and then walking over low lava sundecks. Coral heads grow farther out, but visibility is better closer to shore. Water depth is around four feet or shallower, depending on the tide. Swimming is normally safe, but watch out for big waves breaking over the outer reef. The tidepools are growing zones for all sorts of marine life.

Some parking is right on the rough shore, surrounded by beach homes, but the easier and more scenic choice is to park in a shaded neighborhood just beforehand and take a pretty access trail for a short distance. Either way, your three bucks will be well spent.

Travel Tip: Don't confuse these tide pools with the Kapoho Pools and 'Champagne Pool,' which are just up the road. 

The marine district swim is part of a full day of adventuring in Puna. The best hot lava hikes are down here—as is the most underrated drive in Hawaii: the Kehena-Pohoiki Scenic Coast. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has the details (there's a lot more to do).