Friday, July 24, 2015

Maui's Hana: Where's the Beach??

After the thrills and spills amid a cavalcade of rental cars along Maui's notorious Hana Highway (waterfalls, one-lane bridges, tropical jungle) many visitors get to the actual town and experience a mild disappointment. The bay at Hana is not known for swimming, and that's about all you see of the coast. But wait ... there's more.

Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park has clear water and, when the shore break is low, excellent snorkeling. The pretty park is a couple of miles off the highway, just north of Hana.

Around the point from Hana Bay, via a short-but-sort-of-hairy hike, is the town's darling, Red Sand Beach. A jagged reef protects the swimming cove. Worth noting: One section of the trail is narrow along a ledge, some of the embankment at the beach is crumbly, and some sunbathers might go naked, even though nudity is not allowed on Hawaii beaches and the bodies on display are not all works of art.

Koki Beach Park is a surfer's beach, not far from Hana headed toward the Pools of Oheo. Rip currents here can be killers, literally, so stay out of the water when the surf's up. But palms and backshore flora make Koki one of the better stops on south Maui.

Just down the road from Koki is Hamoa Beach, the one use by the guests at the upscale Travaasa Hana (formerly Hotel Hana Maui), though the beach itself is public. All aspects considered, Hamoa stacks up well with other Maui beaches, and is the best choice for visitors needing a beach fix. Swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and chilling are among the popular activities.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on Hana beaches, as well as hikes, gardens, and fun stuff that is off the tourist trail.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Secret Beach: One of Kauai's hidden treasures

The northeast coast of Kauai—from Anahola to Princeville—has more than a dozen hike-to beaches, by far the best run of wild coast in Hawaii. One of the most scenic is Secret Beach near Kilauea, which isn't a big secret these days.  But it is comprised of three separate beaches about a mile long in total, so privacy is not a problem. At the far end of Secret Beach is the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, whose historic lighthouse marks the northern-most spot among the major Hawaiian Islands.

Local dudes and dudettes like the multi-tiered shorebreaks at Secret, perfect for jivving on a short board. But ask advice before venturing out, since near-shore rocks and rip currents make this a surfing beach beginners should avoid. While watching the waves, keep an eye out for spinner dolphins who frequent this bay, and for whales who frolick offshore during the winter.

One end of Secret Beach (to the left where the trail drops to the sand) has a reef with pools perfect for soaking—and also perfect for getting Maytaged by foaming surf. The waves here are normally a lethal hazard, so stay back and give it respect. 

Kauai Trailblazer has details on all the beaches for this coastline—which should be at the top of the list for independent travelers.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Maui's Skyline Trail: A well-kept secret at Haleakala National Park

About 1.5 million people visit Haleakala National Park each year, and almost all take in the view from 10,000-foot-high Red Hill Summit (often shrouded with lower-lying clouds). And maybe half the people at least take a gander at Sliding Sands Trail, which drops a few thousand feet into the 19-square-mile volcano's crater (technically an eroded valley) that is filled with cinder cones and geologic oddities. But practically no one (seriously) knows about the Skyline Trail, which drops down the west flank of the volcano, past many cinder cones, and (unlike other trails) has ocean views all the way.

For one, the Skyline Trail is in an adjacent state park, and not shown on the visitor's map. And secondly, the trailhead, though only a half-mile from the White Hill Visitors Center, passes the research facility of Science City (shown above), where 'No Tresspassing' signs confuse and ward off most visitors.

But the trailhead sign is just around the bend. The trails lead down to Poli Poli Springs State Park in the Kula Forest Reserve. You can also take a rural road that climbs (and climbs) to Poli Poli from the highway in Kula.

The first .5-mile of the trail is a paved road that used to be open to vehicles. Frequent rockfalls made this a risky propostition.  BTW: Bicycle riding down the Haleakala Highway is a popular tourist activity. But the real thrill is the Skyline Trail, free of cars with spectacular scenery.

Hikers will pass cinder cones (called pu'us) at the beginning of the trail. It's easy walking, a steep descent over red-and-blonde rubble that eventually merges with the forests and trail-network of the state park. Poli Poli State Park was hammered by fire, wind, and rainstorms in recent years, but it's open again. Restoration efforts have improved the roads.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on trails in Haleakala National Park and the Kula Forest Reserve. The new Maui Trailblazer E-book is now available on Amazon.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Kauai Trailblazer: Your personal tour guide

 Kauai Trailblazer gide

If you plan to get out and explore Kauai on vacation, pick up a copy and give it a good perusal before you leave home. The island's top attractions (like the Kalalau Trail, Waimea Canyon, and Poipu Beach) are easy to find—you really don't need a guidebook.

But to find the aloha of old Hawaii, you'll want some help. The authors have been exploring Kauai for over 20 years, and the fruit of their efforts is organized efficiently in their top-selling adventure guide. 

Here are a few examples of where you can find the aloha: Lawai Center (88 Holy Places of Kobo Daishi), Anaina Hou Community Park, Taro Patch, and the Hula Temple. Kauai is Hawaii's best island for wild, hike-to beaches, and KT has directions to all of them, as well as many off-beat trails. You'll also find all the  town strolls (like Hanapepe, Hanalei, Kapa'a, Koloa, and Lihue).

The Kalalau Valley, pictured above from the top of Waimea Canyon, sees scads of tourists. But there are dozens of other breathtaking ridge hikes in the area that you will have virtually to yourself. For independent and active visitors, Kauai Trailblazer is essential outdoor gear.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Akaka Falls: More than just another roadside attraction on the Big Island

For sure the half-mile loop hike at Akaka Falls State park is a tourist trot, complete with sightseeing buses and paid parking. But it's also one of the best waterfall-and-botanical hikes in Hawaii.

The park is a four-mile drive up from the quaint town of Honomu on the south end of the Hamakua Coast (the northeast quadrant of the island.) Besides Akaka's 440-foot freefall of whitewater, the hike also takes in Kahuna Falls, which spews from a side-canyon, and a profusion of tropical greenery alongside Kolekole Stream.

Stairways, bridges, and paved sections make for easy going. If you show up in the morning, say before 10, you'll have the place mostly to yourself.

Hamakua is the lush coast of the Big Island, with many streams and valleys, with jungly sections of the Old Mamalahoa Highway that offer opportunities for side trips—rugged coves, beach parks, and old sugar-shack towns. You can also take roads up the mountain (the 'lower' slopes of Mauna Kea) to vast forest reserves. This isn't the coast for a day at the beach—surfing, yes, but swimming, no) but Hamakua is dripping with eye candy.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has the details on Hamakua's hidden attractions, on pages 169 to 176.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Luxury sniking on Maui's Wailea Coast

'Sniking' is for adventure fiends who can't decide whether to spend the day hiking or snorkeling: You can do both at the same time! And you won't find a better spot to snike in style than Maui's Wailea coast, where a paved path meanders 2.5 miles past several high-end resorts  and a half-dozen sweet snorkeling beaches.

At the far (north) end of Wailea, the path (now the Eddie Pu Trail) continues past the little harbor at Kihei and through that town's trio of family beach parks—Kamaoles I, II & III. Kihei doesn't have the glam of Wailea, but's beaches are at least as good. 

A half-dozen Shoreline Public Access parking lots are squeezed in between the resorts (the Grand Wailea is top dog, but the Four Seasons patrons may argue that point). Ulua and Mokapu beaches are among the middle beaches. The easiest spot to park is on the south, at Polo Beach Park, which adjoins the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort. (Maui Trailblazer has details on where to park all along this coast.)

Gear for luxury sniking needn't be excessive. Flip flops are the shoe of choice, an alternative to barefooting the sand. A mask and snorkel are a must, and swim fins much preferred. The Wailea beaches are crescents separated by low-lying points, where most of the fishies hang out. And, a credit card is essential gear for adventuring inland for libation—one of the benefits for sniking on the unwild side of Maui.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Far Away on a 2-minute Photo Safari to Hawaii

This visual sampler is just an appetizer to the lifetime feast of aloha-style adventurtes that are presented  in the Trailblazer guides to the Islands. (Tip: view it full screen.)


To find an experience to call your own, buy one of our guides to the beaches, tropical forests, and cultural sites that make up Hawaii. Aloha awaits whenever you choose to come and find it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Oahu's famous Diamond Head has an unrecognizable face

With a rippling green ridge that emerges from the skyscraper profile of Waikiki, Diamond Head is one of the world's iconic visions. Though it indeed sparkles, it was calcyte crystals and not diamonds that caused Bristish sailors to misname it in the early 1800s. The Hawaiian name is Leahi, because its shape is similar to the fin of a yellowfin tuna.

When making the one-mile, 550-foot pilgrimage to its summit, you won't know where you are until reaching the top to gaze down upon the Honolulu beachfront. What appears as a lush peak from Waikiki turns out to be the uppermost portion of an oval-shaped crater that is tilted at an angle. The crater floor is 350-acres of dryland scrub and parking lot, part of Hawaii's most poplular state park.

The oddball summit trail,  remnants of a former military installation, is a series of switchbacks, stairways, tunnels, and even a squiggle through concrete pillbox. The quirkly route is matched by the assemblage of daily visitors, ranging from fully equipped trekkers to the ill-prepared foreign tourist in platform sandals. The going is slow on narrow sections.

Oahu Trailblazer has tips on the best time to see Diamond Head, as well as lesser known hikes in the Honolulu region (like the kick-ass climb to Koko Crater).

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Big Island National Historic Park that has it all---except lots of tourists

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park covers several miles of coast just north of Kona, but most visitors don't find it.  A huge lava flow around 1800 covered what were King Kamehameha's agricultural gardens, but what remains offers a full day of fun for today's adventure seekers: good snorkeling, private beaches, shoreline trails, surfing, petroglyph fields, and a huge re-constructed fish pond. You'll also find (if you know where to look) a freshwater Queen's Pond in the middle of the lava flow, which is surrounded by rock mounds that are a mystery to anthropologists.

The southern entrance to the national historic park is at Honokohau Harbor, where you can also watch   deep sea fishing boats come and go in search of marlins.

A heiau (temple) and safe swimming cove, Aiopio Fishtrap, is very near the southern entrance.

So is a canoe hale, constructed using traditional materials and methods. The petroglyph field (which contains a rare etching of a rifle) is not far down the coast. The mysterious mounds and Queen's Pond are off the trail, about 1.5 miles up the coast. At the northern entrance to the park (drive or walk there) is Kaloko Pond, with a newly built lava-rock wall 20 feet wide and 750 feet long. Restoration of the huge fish pond began in 2006. Surfers love the break at this northern entrance.

The Kaloko-Honokohau Historic Park visitors center is reachable from the highway, midway between the north and south entry points. Check it out to pick up information, but you won't want to access the park from here: trails go across sun-scorched lava to places more easily reached from the other entrances.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has detailed driving and hiking descriptions. Be Aware: The park contains burial mounds and cultural sites, so take care not to disturb anything.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Trailblazer Travel Books: Medicine for the body & soul

A literal lifetime's worth of adventure awaits at some of the world's most beautiful and interesting places. Trailblazer guides are for the active and independent traveler, full of descriptions and directions to  outdoor wonders, along with historic and cultural sites. Have fun, and be fit and free!

Our guides can be purchased on, Barnes and Noble or get an autographed copy at our website headquarters,

Monday, April 20, 2015

"Rainbow factory" on Kauai's north shore

Maybe a pot of gold is too much to expect, but a beachful of golden sand is a sure thing on Kauai's several-mile run of coast from Haena Beach Park and around Kepuhi  Point to Charo's Beach. During the winters, normally in the afternoons with a few clouds in the sky, seeing a rainbow is a near certainty.

High surf is also fairly common. Stay well back of these big boys—away from sloping wet sand. Always keep an eye on waves if you're walking anywhere near the foam line. 

Kiteboarders like the wind inside the reef at Charo's (named for the oddball TV star from the 70s who had a restaurant here, today the site of Hanalei Colony Resort).  Currents here are normally treacherous during the winter.

Rainbow hunters are often joined by sea shell seekers, who harvest tiny 'Ni'ihau' shells along the high-water line. There are many places to park along this stretch of coastline, which includes Tunnels, the popular snorkeling beach. Kauai Trailblazer has specific directions to several shoreline access spots where you won't find crowds.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dream Big: Virgin to Hawaii!

Starting in November, Virgin America will be flying to Oahu and Maui. They're taking reservations now.  The news may give Hawaiian Airlines some competition. We like Hawaiian for their on-time reliability and friendliness: Your vacation starts when you board the plane. 

Other airlines that get you there: Delta, United, Continental, China Airlines, All Nippon Airway, American Airlines,  Allegiant Air, Air Pacific, Air New Zealand, Air Canada, and our least favorite, Alaska. Most airlines fly into Honolulu (Oahu), where you then take a connector flight to a neighbor island. Finding a direct flight to your island will save a few hours vacation time. If you're shopping for flights, does a good job comparing airlines and prices.

A few vintage shots for how it used to be.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Maui's Hosmer Grove: A retreat from Haleakala

Near the entrance to Haleakala National Park, Hosmer Grove is skipped by most visitors who are intent on getting to the 10,000-foot-high summit of the park. But when fog and rain hammer the higher elevations, the forest retreat is a perfect fall-back option. The little campground and trailhead parking is a half-mile off the main road.

A nature loop (less than a mile), sguiggles through a forest of cedar, pine, spruce, and leafy trees planted by forester Ralph Hosmer a century ago. Native trees and shrubs dominate the second half of the loop, where you are most likely to see our feathered friends.

The big score for birdwatchers is the i'wii—easy to spot among all the green. Near Hosmer is one of the park's best-kept secrets, the Supply Trail, a 500-foot climb over 2.5 miles that reaches the well-known Haleamu'u Trail. Haleakala's low-lying native plants are on display. Hosmer is also the trailhead for the Waikomo Ridge Trail, but you need to arrange a visit with the Nature Conservancy to see this spot (check at park headquarters near the entrance). 

Driving directions in Maui Trailblazer.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Connecting hot lava to natural hot springs: The Big Island's sublime drive in Puna

For more than a dozen miles, the Kehena-Pohoiki Scenic Drive in Puna (the far southeast of the Big Island) penetrates an astounding coastal gardenscape. And unlike other coastal cruises in Hawaii, this one doesn't twist in and out of valleys, since the island hasn't had time to erode and form streams. The country lane besides sea-washed bluffs is is a tree tunnel of breadfruit, palms, pandanus and many others right out the the tropical tree-finding manual. 

At one end is Kalapana Bay, where vistiors can venture into lava wastelands to view red-hot flows from the island's current eruption. Not far from Kalapana is 19-Mile Beach (guess where it is), a black sand beauty that requires a scamper down a steep trail. (That shorebreak pictured above can be dangerous; use caution.)

The scenic drive transitions to a huge ironwood grove that marks rustic Mackenzie State Park, and then Isaac Hale (ha-lay) Beach Park, home to surfers and a nice little hot pool. Ahalanui Warm Pond Park, one of the best freebies in Hawaii, is a couple miles after that.  And then, a few miles later where jagged fields of lava make up the shoreline, is the oasis that is the Kaphoho Bay Seapool, where tepid, crystal clear waters are a fountain of youth.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more information on these and numerous other cool places in remote Puna.

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