Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Do You Really Need a Guidebook to Visit Hawaii???

In the age of smart phones, are guidebooks necessary? For most visitors, the answer is "No." Most visitors are seeing Hawaii for the first time, staying for about a week, and mainly want to hit the highlights and log some serious beach time. Each island has its top attractions, which are easy to identify and find. And, since Yelp and TripAdvisor have been on the scene, books are of little help in finding good restaurants.

But ...

If you are adventurous and independent, and want to get off the tourist trail to find places to call your own, then, yes indeedy, you will want a guidebook.  In this case, Trailblazer Travel Books are essential gear. These comprehensive guides hit all the highlights (like Maui's Twin Falls, above), but also have details on the tons of stuff you would otherwise miss—like the half-dozen other falls that are nearby.

You can find the popular trails on your own. But if you'd like to avoid crowds, without sacrificing scenic values, then check out a Trailblazer. These books were written by people who spent decades exploring.

Trailblazers are also a free-ticket to explore the luxurious side of Hawaii without necessarily paying for it. Each island has destination resorts where you can take a walk on the un-wild side. These places, like Maui's Grand Wailea (above),  are beachside museums with gardens. Trailblazer gives specific driving and parking directions.

True adventure on Hawaii can be dangerous. Many people get off the plane and treat the Islands' wild places like a Disneyland, and are unaware of the the risks. The safety tips in Trailblazer guides are specific to each destination. The people pictured above, at Maui's Nakalele Blowhole, have not read Maui Trailblazer.

Take a vacation from your vacation and find a trail that few people know about.

True, most (but far from all) places in Hawaii are noted somewhere on the Internet. Instead of snatching these references (of varying reliability) from the Web, get all of them organized comprehensively in a Trailblazer book. Readers have called Trailblazers "the Swiss Army Knife" of guides.

Even where tourism reigns supreme, like Waikiki Beach, hidden gems await. A historical trail runs right through the middle of the place, if you know where to look for it.

Three top reasons people come to Hawaii: Beaches, beaches, beaches. Trailblazers cover every accessible inch of Hawaii's coastline. Find where the action is, or a peaceful place to enjoy paradise. Snorkeling and surfing and beach combing are all covered. The rules for ocean safety are made simple.

Trailblazers are an homage to Hawaiian cultural traditions—which are alive and well today. Visitors can explore museums, heiaus (temples), and ancient sites, and also connect with many dozens of nonprofit groups. Locals like Trailblazers for the respect the books show for the Islands.

Not everyone needs a book to visit Hawaii. But for those who want dig deeper, Trailblazers are a must. Considering how much a Hawaiian vacation costs (even for the budget conscious) the price of a guidebook is money well spent. Read a Trailblazer before you go and hit the trail running. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

How Five Million Years of Hawaiian History Took Place This Year

Five million years ago, Hawaii's northern-most island, Kauai, was located several hundred miles to the south, where the Big Island is located today. Five million years from now, the Big Island will take Kauai's place to the north, and a new island will be emerging from the sea in its former place.

That's because the Hawaiian Archipelago is always moving north as part of the earth's crust over a "Hot Spot" spewing lava from the core—like the shell of an egg rotation around its yolk. Lava from the Hot Spot emerges from the sea and piles up to 14,000 feet to form islands.

That Hot Spot showed renewed vigor this winter, as an eruption from Kilauea Volcano has sent rivers of lava over land to the sea.

Tropical wonderlands on the Puna (east) Coast, like the Waiopae Tide Pools pictured above, were wiped off the map.

Here's a photo of the Waiopae wipeout.  Acres of new land are added to the coastline.

Ahalanui Beach Park, which featured a huge seaside warm pool, is now gone.

Green Lake was Hawaii's largest freshwater source until a wave of lava came down the mountain and vaporized it in a matter of hours.

Meanwhile, on Kauai at the north end of the island chain, land is being subtracted rather than added. The relentless wave bashing at Queen's Bath is a reminder of the islands' fate. There are more than 100 smaller atolls north of Kauai that used to be towering islands.

Biblical rainfall teams with massive waves to erode the land. While the volcano was going off on the Big Island this winter, nearly 50 inches of rain bashed the north shore of Kauai during a 24-hour period. 

Trailblazer Travel Books–one for each island–are complete and detailed guides for exploring this fantastic world of fire and water.

Friday, August 10, 2018

On Maui, the Wild, Wild East is Where the Action is.

Practically all tourists stay on the west coast of Maui—either in the south at Kihei-Wailea or in the north at Lahaina-Ka'anapali. But locals looking for action head to the east side, the windward coast, where at Ho'okipa Beach the sport of windsurfing was born. Colorful sails are always flitting about on a near shore break.

A beachside bluff provides free box seats. Professional events are a spectacle.

Windsurfing is only one way to join in the fun.

Local kids flock to Lower Paia Beach Park, where surfing is the main draw. Unless you count people watching.  Paia is the arty-cool-hempy tourist town on Maui. 

Surfers rule at the south end of Ho'okah, er, Ho'okipa. A vista point turnout above the beach is a perfect place to see the scene. Whales cavort offshore during the winter months.

Kahana Beach Park is near the airport, but it is also one of Maui's scenic getaways. At one end of the long park, kite-boarders fly high; windsurfers dominate the other end. In between is a  tropical arboretum and gardenscape with picnic tables. Another option is a long beach walk away from Kahana  to find seclusion for a chill day at the beach.

The crown jewel among locals' looking for the good life is Baldwin Beach Park, a couple miles north of Paia. It's one of the best  parks in Hawaii to enjoy the end of the day. Surfers like the mellow onshore break. A walk to the end of the sand (or you can drive there) gets you to Baby Baldwin Beach— a curling reef forms a large protected pool for  low-key snorkeling and keiki dipping. 

Maui Trailblazer has more details on the windward coast, and everyplace else on the island.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Best Hike in the World? Take the Queen's path into Kauai's Alakai Swamp

The trail from the top of Waimea Canyon follows the rim of the Kalalau Valley, drops into a botanical wonderland (Alakai Swamp), and ends at a platform looking 4,000 feet down to Hanalei Bay. It's a mind-blower. The stats: Round-trip of 7.5 miles, with 1,000 feet of elevation.

The Pu'uokila Overlook is the end of the road and the start of the trail (called the Pihea Trail at this point). You get a big long look down to the Kalalau—reachable only via a hairy 12-mile trek that begins way around on the north shore of the island and follows the Napali Coast.

One section of the Pihea Trail is hands on. Hiking poles will help. You'll also want to bring outerwear for possible rain and cooler temps.

Once in the swamp a miracle happens, in the form of a boardwalk spanning miles through tropical gardens.

Staircases connect portions of the boardwalk.

The trail tops out and flattens for the last mile or so, through dwarf vegetation and frequent fog. Leaving the boardwalk here can be a fatal mistake. The swamp gets about 40 feet of rain per year. This section ends at the Kilohana Overlook, with the airborne view of the north shore. If the fog is in, be patient, since it often parts, revealing a heavenly look through clouds.

The trail into the swamp approximates the journey of self healing taken by Queen Emma and her retinue, after the death of her husband, King Kamehameha IV, and their young son Albert. Hula dancers performed ritual dances along the way out of respect for the life-giving plants. A yearly event at Koke'e Museum commemorates the queen.

Set in a large meadow in forestlands, Koke'e Museum is the place to start and end hikes around Waimea Canyon. It's one of the top museums in Hawaii.  To find all the other great hikes and beaches on the island, pick up a current copy of Kauai Trailblazer at the museum.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wot?! Glitzy Oahu is home to a wealth of wild beaches

With nearly a million residents—more than double the other Hawaiian islands combined—Oahu is known for the high-rise resorts and kitschy/designer shops of Waikiki Beach and Honolulu. But—surprise!—this island also has the most miles of undeveloped coastline with accessible beaches.

Even Oahu's  fabled North Shore, with its world renowned surfing beaches, is a long run of sand with practically no resorts and a rural backshore. Protruding to the west of this coast the Mokuliea, a ten-mile stretch of open beaches with the Waianae Mountains as a backdrop. This coast served as a set for the TV program Lost, much of it at sleepy Makaleha Beach Park.

Windward Oahu, known for the sexy beach parks of Kailua, also has its hideaways. South of Kailua is Waimanalo—a huge recreation area and beach park. At the southern tip of the windward coast are several enticing beaches, including the eye candy that is Makapu'u Beach Park (above).

Most visitors venture north of Kailua to see the Polynesian Cultural Center, the most popular tourist attraction in the state. This northeast coast also features numerous quiet parks. Three with plenty of room to roam are Kualoa Regional Park, Ahupua'a O Kahana State Park, and Malaekahana State Recreation Area. Small islands off this coast are bird sanctuaries, a couple close enough to snorkel to.


Oahu's West Side—the towns of Waianae and Makaha—may be a little rough around the edges for many tourists. But true adventure seekers will be rewarded. Just north of Makaha (the famous surfing beach) is Makua Beach, where the movie Hawaii was filmed. And beyond Makua are the wide-open sands of Yokohama Beach and the trailhead for the 3-mile hike to Kaena Point State Park, a nature preserve.

Oahu Trailblazer has details needed to find the dozens  of beaches and natural areas that await at the fringes of the the island's glitz and glam. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Ba-Boom: Maui's Big Volcano is Still Active

Maui volcano Haleakala

Haleakala (House of the Sun) hasn't passed gas since 1790, but volcanologists consider it "active," meaning a new eruption would not be a shocker. For now the crater (technically it's an eroded valley) at the summit is part of a national park open to hikers. The mini-crater shown above, called a pu'u (poo-ew), is one of many in the interior.

Maui volcano hiking

The Sliding Sands Trail is the main route down. The options are enticing, but remember, you'll have to hump it back out and the lack of oxygen at 10,000 feet makes that difficult.

Haleakala sunset view Maui

Clouds come and go. If you get socked in, wait awhile and you might get lucky.

summit view Haleakala Maui Trailblazer

The views seaward from the summit are astounding. On some days, Haleakala pokes well above a marine layer of clouds.

Haleakala summit Maui

Red Hill Summit is the tippy top. Seeing the sunrise from the visitors center has become so popular that reservations are now required. Don't fret: Sunset is just as good, maybe better, since you don't need to drive up in the dark into uncertain weather and freeze your nose off. 

Haleakala Highway Maui Trailblazer

For years, the downhill ride from the summit was a  tourist excursion. Nowadays, the tours begin well down from the top. Don't fret II: If you want a unique experience, rent a mountain bike and take the Skyline Trail down from the top to Polipoli State Park. The dirt road down is free of vehicles. Maui Trailblazer has the details on this little know route, as well as other tips on how to enjoy a visit to Haleakala National Park.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Big Island's Mauna Loa: A Mellow Drive up the Most Massive Mountain in the World.

Mauna Loa volcano

Measured from its base below the ocean's surface, Mauna Loa is well over 40,000 feet high, making it easily the world's second tallest (Mauna Kea, not far away is 400 feet taller). But this shield volcano (made from lava roiling up from the earth's core, bursting from the ocean surface, and making a big pile) is by far the planet's most massive, with 100 times the volume of Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Rainier.

The current Kilauea Caldera eruptions are taking place well down the southeastern flank of Mauna Loa.

The drive to the Mauna Loa trailhead near the top climbs 4,500 feet over about 18 miles. When the road was paved a few years back, workers left the first quarter mile unpaved, presumably to deter curious tourists.

The road provides smooth passage through a sea of lava from several eruptions that took place the late 1800s and in 1935. The volcano is very much considered 'active.'

lava volcano hawaii

To avoid altitude sickness, and for kicks, you should stop for maybe an hour on the way up and take a stroll. Pick a spot with pahoehoe (pah-hoy-hoy) lava, which lays out like brownie batter, rather that the sharp slag heaps of a'a (ah-ah) lava. 

Add water and sunshine and life begins anew.

Views get big as you climb: To the north are Mauna Kea, Hualalai Volcano and Maui's Haleakala.

The Mauna Loa Observatory is at road's end, where weather stations manned by scientists from around the world conduct experiments and collect data. This is where the depletion of the ozone layer and carbon dioxide buildups have been recorded for decades. The folks don't mind if you walk up there, but don't be a pest since it is not a tourist attraction. Once-weekly tours are available, however.

With boardwalks connecting metal building and trailers, and weird installations scattered about, the observatory is the 'poor cousin' to the cityscape of gleaming celestial observatories across the saddle on Mauna Kea. Far fewer (practically zilch) visitors see Mauna Loa.

A 12-mile round-trip hike with 2,000-plus feet of gain sounds more doable than it is. Lack of oxygen is pronounced, and you can freeze and fry on the same day. Since Mauna Loa is so round, you don't see the summit as you climb. You can also approach from the south side of the peak—at the Mauna Loa Lookout—but this is not advisable these days with Kilauea blowing its cork.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details of exploring the volcanic highlands.