Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lanikai: Hawaii's Sexiest Beach?

Dreamy Lanikai Beach on Windward Oahu is pure eye candy, with cupcake islands just offshore 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. 

(That's Rabbit Island, farther up the coast.)

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.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

You can watch pro surfing superstars for free in Hawaii

Professional surfers chase waves all around the planet, but few among them would dispute that the primo breaks are in Hawaii, more specifically, the North Shore of Oahu. Watching a competition—some of which are championship contests equivalent to the Super Bowl —is one of the great freebies in sports. And even when an event is not scheduled, provided the surf's up,' you can find a place on the sand to some of the best in the business. Here are some of the best seats for spectators on each island.


Back door and front doors opening at Pipe

Along a ten-mile stretch of the North Shore is the 'Mt. Rushmore' of the World Pro Surfing Tour: Sunset Beach, Pipeline (Ehukai Beach Park), Haleiwa, and Waimea Bay. Connecting the four, as well as two-dozen other named breaks, is rural Kamehameha Highway, paralleled most of the way by a bike path and country lane. Equally well-known among the big boy (and girl) surfers is Makaha Beach on the West Side.  Some tourists may be put off at first by the rough-edges of Waianae, but hang around Makaha, especially during February for the Buffalo Big Board Surfing Classic, you may be hooked. This is the home beach of Richard 'Buffalo' Kealuna, and his sons, Rusty and Brian, as well as the late Rell Sunn, the women's longboard legend.

Shore break at Waimea Bay


Bethany rocks Kalihiwai

Black Pot Beach Park in Hanalei is surf city—ranging from the big outer breaks like Kings and Queens to the nice learner's rollers under the Hanalei Pier. The pier is a good viewpoint, though when the surf is epic,locals flock to watch from the bluffs at the Princeville St. Regis Resort. Not far away is Kalihiwai Beach Park, a fave among local wahine wave riders; on the road down to the park is a small turnout that provides an up-close view. During the summer, the surf scene shifts to the south shore, where PK's, not far from Poipu Beach, is the best among many sought-after waves.


A beach level view of Jaws

No doubt, the big-daddy wave for spectators is Jaws, a massive wave, 30-to-60 feet high offshore a bluff known as Peahi on the windward coast. Jaws only goes off a few days a year, if that, and access can be problematic, via a dirt road or hike across roads through cane fields (Maui Trailblazer has the details).  You'll know when Jaws is pumping when the parking lot at Maliko Bay is full of trucks and jet ski trailers (the bay is several miles from Peahi, at mile marker 10). Though known more for windsurfing, Ho'okipa Beach Park just outside of Paia, delivers box seats for a colorful surf scene.  Perhaps the most consistent among the best on Maui, is Honolua Bay in West Maui, a few miles north of Kapalua. A dirt road leads to the point, which is a perfect grandstand. Surfers carry thier boards down a cliffside trail.



Though you will find many good surfing beaches on the Big Island, few, if any, are among the best in the state.  But Honoli'i Paka (pictured above), just north of Hilo, is a memorable scene that will inspire photographers—a path swerves down garden terraces to a beautiful, long break at a jungled river mouth. On the Kona side, head for Spinners in the heart of Kailua, which is known as the birthplace of boogie boarding. Enjoy a beverage while surfers flirt to make a head-on-collision with the breakwater

These listing are but a taste from the feast of great beaches to become a surf groupie in Hawaii—a worthy pursuit. Trailblazers are full of descriptions and details.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Hawaii: The ecstasy of da feet.

A week or three in Hawaii rejuvenites the body, mind, and soles of your feet. Indeed, the universality of the Aloha spirit is due in large part to the shared freeing of the ten little piggies in tropical waters and sand beaches. In the Islands, most everyone is barefooted or in flip-flops. No one wears shoes when entering a private home.

Called slippers (slippahs), the most chic among flip-flops are the Locals, your basic rubber model to be purchased for a couple bucks at Long's or ABC store. But for extended walking, you may want to invest in a higher-end model with arches, tread, 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, laces 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. They're available online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's Books and on the shelf at your local independent bookstore.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Why do few tourists go to the best beach parks in Hawaii for swimming?

Four beach parks are strung like pearls along the outer shores of Hilo Bay on the Big Island, each with clear water, abundant sea life, breakwaters that make for safe swimming, and exquistely landscaped parks and picnic tables along the backshore.  In the distance, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea rise toward heaven. Okay, so why are tourists absent for the most part?

Answer One: Because it's Hilo. Indeed, it rains like crazy here, so catching the right day to enjoy fun in the sun is not a gimme. Answer Two: Because it's Hilo. Most visitors stay in Kona or South Kohala, and when making a trip to the east side they are headed for Hilo Town, Puna, or Hawaii Volcanoes National Park—all worthy destinations that eat up days.

If you head this way on the Big Island, do yourself a favor and make space for a side trip. All the parks are within five miles from main highway junction in Hilo. First up is Onekahakaha Beach Park (first pic above), favored by families who love the picnic pavilions and huge man-made swimming oval. A mile down the road is Carlsmith Beach Park (second pic above). Stairs provide entry into another protected swimming area, a fave among sea turtles. This park comes with a bonus walk into lush pandanus groves at the Lokoaka Wildnerness Park. 

Not far from Carlsmith are two winners sitting side by side, Leleiwi Beach Park and Richardson's Ocean Park, connected by lagoons and gardens, pictured above. The BBQ's are smokin' on weekends at Leleiwa, while surfers flock to the outer break at Richardson's. Historic buildings add to the charm.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer (pages 152 to 156) has more details on this remarkable coastline, including swimming ponds, a hidden beach, and a totally wild park at the end of the road, just past Richardson's. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hawaii: Eat it green! Eat it raw!

Since 'you are what you eat,'  here's one thing you may not want to have in common with the fruits and veggies on your plate in Hawaii: A trans-Pacific airline flight. Most of the fresh foodstuffs in Hawaiian supermarkets travel 2,500 miles to get to the tables in the Islands.

Many restaurants, of course, feature locally grown produce, but you will be paying a premium for small portions. Instead, plan to pick up a low-cost cornucopia of tropical goodies at the beginning of your visit. In the offing are apple bananas, machette-whacked coconuts, papayas, mangos, avocados, a wide-range of citrus, leafy greens, flowers, and herbs—plus some exotics you've possibly never imagined, like soursop, star fruit, rambutan, and lilikoi. Enjoy these fresh foods, and you'll go home with Hawaii in your body as well as your memories. From the pages of Trailblazer Travel Books (one for each island) here are some directions to get down the garden path while on vacation.


Each day somewhere on the island, you'll find at least one of the pop-up outdoor stores called Sunshine Markets. Several take place on Saturdays. Be sure to show up on time—but no one gets in early—and bring your own bags and dollar bills. Wherever you are on Kauai, keep your eyes peeled for roadside stands, usually run on the 'honor system,' which offer whaver grows in someone's backyard. Many on these are located near Kilauea on the north shore, but some are above Kapa'a off Olohena Road, and outside of Lihue, in Kipu. Some vendors set up on the two-lane highways.


With a million people and several freeways, much of Oahu is not exactly rural. But fresh local produce is plentiful. The most fun place to shop is Chinatown in Honolulu, where, amid the tattered film-noir neighborhoods, are teeming indoor food-fests, like the Oahu Market and Mauna Kea Marketplace. Prepare for sensory overload. On the weekends head for the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet (although most of the 700-plus vendors sell gifts, not veggies) or the Kamehameha Swap Meet, where produce in primary. On sundays, head for the very scenic Windward Open Market, at He'eia State Park just north of Kailua.


Locals gather around at 7 a.m. for the opening of the Maui Swap Meet, set on the open expanses of Maui Community College in Kahului. You can pick up souvenirs and artwork to go along the bounty from gardens. Kumu Farms, one of the better in the islands, is open every day. It's located at located at the underrated family attraction of Maui Tropical Plantation, set on many acres at the foot of the West Maui Mountains. Another favorite is fruit stand at the trailhead for Twin Falls Botanical Preserve, at the beginning of the Hana Highway. Near Hana, take the short drive to Waianapanapa State Park, and you'll find several honor stands.


The Hilo Famers Market is the best in the Islands. It rocks on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but you'll find ample supplies every day. No trip to the Big Island is complete without a stroll of quaint Hilo Town, and getting there is much easier these days thanks to the new Saddle Road. You can also pick the garden stuffs, along with tacky-tack trinkets, at the Kona Farmers Market, right on the main street of Ali'i Drive. If staying in the resortville of South Kohala, check out the mom-and-pop market in Kawaihae, where folks bring fruits and veggies from the Hilo side—and also where you can get gourmet fresh fish and some huli huli chicken hot off the grill. On Saturdays, drive up to cowboy country for the Waimea Homestead Farmers Market and the Waimea Town Farmers Market; on Wednesdays, add meat and eggs to the shopping bags along with greens at the Pukalani Stables Market at Parker Ranch.


Hawaii is not lacking quality health food stores, where you can add to the fruit bowl and also fill in the menu with yogurt and a rainbow of organic foods. Most of these places are windows into the the eat-local scene in Hawaii.

On KAUAI on the north shore, step into Healthy Hut in Kilauea or  Harvest Market in Hanalei; on the eastside, try Hoku Hut and Papaya's, both in Kapa'a. On MAUI Mana Foods is the with-it epicenter of the arty-surf town of Paia. On the BIG ISLAND, Abundant Foods anchors the main drag of the old town on Kamehameha Avenue. On WAIKIKI, nachos would be consdired a health food, but you can  find organics at  Ruffles Natural Foods. On the NORTH SHORE of Oahu, Celestial Foods in Haleiwa is where to be.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hey Siri! What are best seven snorkeling spots in Hawaii?

Three of the best seven are on the BIG ISLAND of HAWAII (Two Step, Captain Cook Monument, and the Waiopae Tide Pools), two can be found on MAUI (Chang's Point and Molokini). One of the best is on KAUAI (Tunnels) and one is on OAHU (Makai Research Pier).

Wow Siri, that was fast! Thanks!
No problem. I used No Worries Hawaii.
Siri, what is No Worries Hawaii? ............Siri?!

I heard you the first time. It is a vacation planning guide for Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island.
In it you will also find the top twenty snorkeling spots, as well as other good ones for each island. 

I feel you want more. The book also includes best five and top-twenty  tropical ridge hikes, walk-around towns, museums, secluded beaches, ancient Hawaiian ruins, beachside bike paths, places to surf and watch surfers. Thirty six "best-of" lists overall. No Worries Hawaii includes a self-test to figure out how to put together a vacation style that works for you. Okay, time to get back to work.

Hey! I said time to get back to work!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Hey Siri. How do we find Aloha in Hawaii?

Hey there yourself. I suggest you read Trailblazer Travelbooks for Kauai, Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island.

Um, Siri, can you be more specific?
Sure. The books by Janine and Jerry Sprout are very specific and easy to read. You will find Aloha.

Okay, but what is Aloha?
Today, Aloha is said to mean 'hello,' 'good-bye,' and 'I love you.'  The word derives from ancient times when Hawaiians would touch foreheads, breath in on 'alo,' and exhale on 'ha,' exchanging air thus symbolizing the commonality of mankind ...

To some, Aloha is a state of mind.
What is it like, this state of mind?
That is not a question I can answer, so don't rub it in.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Kauai's Ke'e Beach: Inspiration Guaranteed

At the end of the highway on Kauai's north shore—and at the beginning of the notorious Kalalau Trail—sweet Ke'e Beach can get killed with kindess on prime-weather days. The main parking lot gets jammed, and so does the overflow lot that is a ten-minute walk from road's end. Don't despair. You have outs to find some private space, just like this dude (above and below) an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, whose breathing room is assured by federal law.

This is a telephoto of our little friend, the only mammal (unless you want to count a species of bat) to arrive in Hawaii without the aid of a ship or plane.

Ke'e is a reef-protected cove, with enough fish to please snorkelers. This shot is taken from an unsigned trail that skirts the cove to a point. In ancient times, Hawaiian girls would have to swim this opening, said to be the home of tiger sharks, as a last part of their initiation to become hula dancers. Don't worry about sharks, but avoid the opening, since it is a one-way riptide ticket to open waters.

The trail leaves the beach view and penetrates greenery. A navigation heiau (temple) was located here, but its ruins have been lost to plantlife and erosion.

Not so for one of this most sacred spots in Hawaii, the Kauluolaka Hula Heiau, which is a short hike on an overgrown trail to terraces about 100 feet above the sea. It is revered and meticulously maintained by current practitioners of the Hawaiian dance and chant. Treat it with the respect you would the inside of a church.

The 11-mile Kalalau Trail hugs the roadless Napali (The Cliffs) and ends at Kalalau Valley. Second only to Diamond Head State Park on Oahu in yearly visitors, the trail can be a three-ring circus. Get there early. Or, to get a view of Napali without tackling the trail, do what our monk seal did and go right down the sand at Ke'e. Big views open up after a hundred yards or so. Keep going and you'll be at the site of Taylorville, where, back in the Hippie Days, the brother of actress Elizabeth Taylor granted free access to flower kids who formed a little city that lasted long enough for babies to be born.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why not Waianapanapa State Park, Maui?

After navigating the numerous one-lane bridges and cliff-hugging turns of the Hana Highway and then the reaching open green slopes, many visitors are hell bent on continuing to Hana Town. But a better idea is to hang a left on a short detour to Waianapanapa (why-nawpa-nawpa) State Park—among the best in the state, all factors considered. A centerpiece of the park is Black Sand Beach, which has the best snorkeling in this part of Maui, in spite of a near-constant shore break. (If waves are more than a foot or two, use caution, since high wave action creates rip current.) 

The Waianapanapa Caves are reachable via a short loop trail. Mossy caverns create excellent fresh water swimming pools. In the spring, the hatching of tiny shrimp turn the waters red, which, according to legend, occurs to symbolize the blood lost by Princess Popoalaea when her husband (not a good candidate for Dr. Phil) did her in after she was discovered here with her lover. 

A trail—part of the ancient King's Trail—leads north from Black Sand Beach past the ruins of heiaus and an ancient burial site.

South of the park, the trail skirts Waianapanapa's rustic cabins (for rent) along lava stacks that do battle with waves. The route continues several miles to Hana, passing the Ohala Heiau along the way.

Final thoughts: 

1. The campground is among the best in Hawaii. 

2. On the road into the park, keep your eyes peeled for honor fruit stands, which alone are a reason to take the side-trip from Hana Highway.

More good stuff to do along the route in your Maui Trailblazer guidebook.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hear the sound of one hand clapping in Hawaii

Even among the devout, the thought of going to a church or temple while on vacation in Hawaii may seem like a downer. Think again. The Islands are dotted with spritually inspired,  knock-your-socks-off beautiful places that in a few minutes will impart a long-lasting emotional lift. Religions from all over the globe have put edifices here, both little and large, in locations to suit any movie director. And tucked away everywhere (as in everywhere) are the remains of centuries-old Hawaiian heiaus (temples), both grandiose and decrepit, that were dedicated to the various aspects of the Polynesian way of life.

The Trailblazer guides include directions to many dozens of spiritual spots on each island. No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planning guide, provides a priorized summary of the best churches, holy places, and heiaus—as well as best mountain trails, surfing and snorkeling beaches, swank resorts, shopping, walk-around cool towns, and adventure treks.

Here are a few places to get your Zen on:


The 88 Holy Places of Kobo Daishi (above), now part of the Lawai International Center near Kalaheo, are miniature stone houses set on a steep hillside. Brought from Japan and emplaced about a century ago, the Buddhist-inspried shrines were swallowed up by greenery until 'rediscovered' and refurbished by this nonprofit group about a decade ago. At the end of the road on the north tip of the island, the Kauluolaka Hula Temple is the ancient birthplace of hula in Hawaii. On an unmarked trail, the temple consists of grassy platforms below cliffs just above the crashing waves at the Napali Coast. Since the wildly popular Kalalau Trail and Ke'e Beach are nearby, most visitors miss this wonder. Anyone who has driven through Hanalei will likely remember the green-painted Waioli Hui'ia Church, where a gifted choir plays to a packed house on Sundays.

But on any day, don't miss walking across the vast lawn to the grounds of the Waioli Mission House (above), whose buildings date from 1841 and are set next to taro fields and a 3,000-foot-high jagged ridge known as the 'birthplace of rainbows.'  Yow.


Similar to the peaks of north Kauai, the razorback Ko'olau Range hangs above the Valley of the Temples on Windward Oahu.

The valley features ornate mausoleums of some of Oahu's well-to-do families, but the centerpiece is the Byodo-In Temple (above). A large koi pond reflects the image of the temple, which is a replica of the 900-year-old original in Kyoto, Japan. Pay your respects to an 18-foot-tall Buddha of the Western Paradise, enjoy a serene cup of tea, and gong a huge bronze bell to rid your mind of temptations (can't hurt to try).

Set off busy Nu'uano Avenue in Honolulu, the Royal Mausoleum (above) is an unexpected sanctuary. Most all the Hawaiian ali'i (kings) are buried here, at the only place in the Islands where the Hawaiian flag flies unaccompanied by the Stars and Stripes. A coral-block chapel with an all-koa-wood interior has been presided over by the same family since the early 1800s.

You'll need to pack a sense of adventure to find the Kaneaki Heiau (above), which is up Makaha Valley on the rough-hewn west side. This 13th century restored temple beside a stream is only a ten-minute walk, but it's located within a gated community and only open on certain days—Oahu Trailblazer has the deets on visiting.


On the delightfully forlorn south coast, not far from the one-horse town of Kaupo, sits the charming Huialoha Church (above). Drive or walk down .25-mile, to grassy flats fringed by cocopalms,  just above wild Haleki'i Bay. The Big Island looms across a channel. Vandals recently did damage to the church, which dates from 1859, but locals have formed a nonprofit group that has brought it back to life in stunning fashion. On the opposite side of Maui, just off the Hana Highway, is Kaulanapeuo Church. Poetically sited on a clearing in the jungle, the church's thick walls rise to a tall steeple that has stood since 1853. Miles north on the windward coast, and centuries older, is Kukuipuka Heiau, which radiates vistas in all directions. Restored in recent years, this modest enclosure is a short walk up a hill very near the Waihe'e Ridge Trail. (BTW: You could spend a whole vacation checking out the quaint churches on Maui.)


Location, location, location. The Wood Valley Temple (below) rests in the verdant Kau Forest Reserve near Pahala, about 40 miles south of the barren expanses of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Dali Lama has visited this tranquil retreat, and you can too.

Farther north in Kona on the steep slopes of Honaunau, the well known Painted Church (below) has big views of Kealakekua Bay. Father John Berchman Velge adorned the Catholic Church's wooden walls with tropical-themed Christian murals in 1898.

The several-acre garden grounds feature breadfruit, Norfolk pines and flowering shrubs. Near Kawaihae about 50 miles north of Kona, the immense Pu'ukohola Heiau (below) will impart a sense of the majesty of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Ironically, the best look at this National Historic Site is not from park service trails, but from across a little cove at nearby Kawaihae.

At the heiau's dedication ceremony in 1791, Kamehameha the Great's rival cousin, Keoua, and his retinue were killed in a scuffle. Whether Big K planned the attack, or it transpired from unforeseen events, is open to historical interprepation.