Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mauna Kea: A Short Walk to the Top of the World on the Big Island

trail to the summit of Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is 'only' 13,796, but from its base on the ocean floor, the big volcano meaures about 43,000 feet, easily the tallest mountain in the world. From the trailhead at the top, the summit can be achieved with a mere half-mile, round-trip walk, but this is a tough half-mile when you drive up from sea level. Altitude sickness is an issue, especially for those who don't spend an hour or so at the Onizuka Visitors Center about 8 miles down the mountain at 9,300 feet.

A shrine marks the top. Hawaiians called the summit, Ka Piko o Kaulan o Ka Aina (The Famous Summit of the Land) and also Wakea's Mountain, the mountain begat by god of all the heavens.  Just down from the summit are deposits of volcanic glass, similar to obsidian, which was gathered to make cutting tools and spear heads.

About a dozen deep-space telescope are built across the saddle from Mauna Kea. A demand for more observatories has created a conflict with preserving this ancient Hawaiian site. So far, the summit itself remains undeveloped.

A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, and sometimes required, for the stretch of road past the visitors center. Tour shuttle buses also bring visitors. It is an unforgettable journey. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details for planning a trip, on page 181.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wahine Wave Riders at Kauai's Kalihiwai Bay

Drive down from the bluffs on Kauai's north shore near Kilaeua and you will find a local-style beach park that is home to one of the best you-never-heard-of-it surfing venues in Hawaii. One break is on shore near the river mouth, mostly the playground for body boarders. The real action is at the mouth of the bay--a right break that sometimes curls around to a near head-on with the cliff face if surfers don't bail out it time. 

Local dudes like the great Titus Kinimaka have their own hang out zone at the beach (you want to make friends and get advice before venturing out there to ride). But Kalihiwai is favored by the wahines, and some of the best in the world, like Bethany Hamilton (not pictured) surf here frequently.
Bethany is known these days as the girl who lost her arm to a shark attack in 2003, a horrific event later portrayed in the movie, Soul Surfer. It is astounding how she can catch the combers with only one arm—she remains a top competitive surfer on the pro circuit.

From a guardrail on the way down to the beach park is a fabulous place to be a spectator, one of the best spots in Hawaii when conditions are right. There are two or three places to park on the shoulder before the guardrail begins. This picture is looking in at the bay, with the stream to the far right. The  surfing action, where the above shot was lensed, is down to the right. Make sure you get a good footing (dangerous drop off behind rail) and stay out of the path of cars traveling downhill.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Free-falling into adventure on Maui's Pipiwai Trail

Thrills and spills await on virtually every turn on the daylong driving adventure along the Hana Highway to the Pools of Oheo, which is the ocean section of Haleakala National Park. But that drive is only prelude to the Pipiwai Trail, a jaunt into the heart of darkness with two waterfalls that are among the most scenic in Hawaii. Get off the boardwalk only a few steps in the bamboo forest and you won't know which way is up.

Distances are about a half-mile farther, roundtrip, if you park at the visitors center. Total elevation gain is about 900 feet. Fit trekkers can do the hike in two to three hours.  So, to do this hike from Lahaina or Kihei, plan on a long day—one that packs in a week's worth of adventure.

Two sturdy bridges span stream gorges in between the two falls, this one the entranceway to a bamboo tunnel.

Falling 400 feet into a mossy amphitheater, Waimoku Falls is the headliner. But the Falls at Makahiku is a worthy destination, if you don't have time for the whole hike: The trail takes you a ledge at the top of the falls.  There's more detailed information in your Maui Trailblazer guide.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Going 'Downtown' with I'i Brown on the Big Island of Hawaii

Awaiting on the South Kohala Coast on the Big Island (which runs for miles north of Kona) are wild beaches with rough coral-and-lava sand (salt & pepper) and very clear waters, since there are no streams to murky things up.

Getting to these oases always involves walking across a hellish slag heap of lava, which is not bad if there's a trail—like the King's Trail that borders the coast—but impossible if there's not one.

South of the posh Mauna Lani Resort are the remains of the Francis I'i Brown retreat, which, believe it or not, was party central in the 1920s and the following decades, hosting the likes of Mae West, Babe Ruth, and a young Bob Hope at moonlit drinkathons. Brown, sort of the Great Gatsby of the Big Island, was the great gandson of the distinguished John Papa I'i, who was counsel to Hawaii's first three kings, Kamehameha the Great, followed by his two sons. Today, rusted barbed wire encloses the modest, forlorn buildings and grove of coco palms.

But the coast is wide open, with bays to the north and south and several spots to slip in and bob around in gin-clear water. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has directions to this getaway on pages 63 and 64.

If you're itching to go to Hawaii but can't make it this year take a Trailblazer Travel Book photo tour of all the islands here:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hanapepe: Kauai's Once-Wild, Now-Mild West

On Kauai's arid west shore, quiet Hanapepe town's history is defined by two violent events: In the early 1800s, Prince Humehume staged an unsuccessful revolt against the forces of Kamehameha the Great, and, nearly a century later, about 20 people died in a clash between police and workers over conditions in the sugarcane field. Hanapepe is still the Old West (Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolos, rule in nearby Waimea), but the town's beverage has shifted from whiskey to white wine, when visitors gather for Art Night every Friday. 

The Swinging Bridge spans the wide, red river, providing a cheap thrill for those wishing to explore the agricultural backroads. Poi dogs and wild chickens are on hand to say hello.

Many of Hanapepe's already weatherworn buildings were damaged by monster Hurricane Iniki in 1992, driving real estate prices down to the point where artists and crafstpeople could afford to move in.

In recent decades, gentrification has fought off dilapidation, resulting in a charming burg with a run of quirky shops, art galleries, craft studios, giftshops and restaurants. Historical markers are placed about, accenting a walking tour, but curious strollers will have to duck in here and there to really see everything.

To get the pulse of the place, visitors should stop in at the Storybook Theatre of Hawaii, where the Spark M. Matsunaga International Children's Garden for Peace in the back is a world unto itself.

The nonprofit Theatre is the creation of Mark Jeffers, whose public TV puppet-persona Russell da Rooster, both educates and amuses viewers throughout the state. In additions to shows on site, Jeffers conducts town walks by reservation.

At the far end of town, the 1911 bridge is the turnaround for a town loop that takes in the rural levee road and all of the shops along the main street.  Hanapepe is an intriguing place to visit, without being a tourist town, well worth an exploration for visitors headed toward Waimea Canyon. Kauai Trailblazer has more details on pages 136-139, and 209.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kaupo: Could this be Maui?

The south (Kaupo) coast of Maui is an alternate universe removed from the long run of resort strips on the entire west coast of the island. The arid slopes of Haleakala rise abruptly from a rugged coast that is totally undeveloped yet accessible. You won't find sand beaches, but Nu'u Bay serves up good snorkeling and petroglyphs that tell the story of inhabitants from centuries past.

The Kaupo Trail is the backdoor into the National Park, a ball-busting climb through pasturelands and native forests that finally reaches the vast red crater that is out of this world (not unlike its sister volcano to the south, Mauna Loa on the Big Island, where habitat studies today are preparing humans to go to Mars in the near future).

Huialoha Church sits on a cove facing a wild sea, one of the most serene and beautiful spots in Hawaii. Built in 1859, the church was hit by vandals in recent years, but dedicated locals have restored the interior, adding hardwood floors to this place of worship.

The center of this alternate universe is the Kaupo Store, open 24/7, except when it's not, a policy that dates from 1925. Grab an ice cream, bag of chips, or cold drink and watch the world not go by.

Only a few miles away is St. Joseph Church, erected in 1862, when there were enough people around to fill the place on Sundays. Maui Trailblazer has five trailhead sections devoted to this wild, off-beat coastline.  (Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details on how to visit Mauna Loa on the Big Island).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Announcing the newest edition of Kauai Trailblazer

Here it is, hot off the press, our spanking new edition ready for your upcoming trip to the Garden Isle:

This NEW 2015 SIXTH EDITION of our bestselling guide has been completely reivised and updated. It's packed with new activities, dozens of fresh photos, and a special Trailblazer Kids chapter for families headed to Hawaii's adventure island.

Trailblazer guides, in print for more than two decades, are popular among independent and active travelers. The books are known for their user-friendly format, readability, and sharp graphics.

You'll find all the mountain ridges, tropical gardens, beaches, coves and lagoons, jungles, rivers, historic landmarks and cultural sites, coral reefs, ancient ruins, and coastal bluffs-all the places to get wet, muddy, and have fun on Kaua'i. Less energetic visitors will appreciate the book's driving tours, which hit the headliners along with the island's out-of-the-way charms.

The authors have spent years exploring Kaua'i, and it shows. A Resource Links section gives visitor information and cultural contacts, recommended recreational outfitters, museums and attractions, Hawaiiana shops and hula shows, as well as a hand-picked list of restaurants and places to stay. Safety precautions and traveling tips are not to be overlooked, and a Best Of section lets you select among activities to suit your mood.

122 hikes and strolls to mountain ridges, tropical gardens, beaches, jungles, coves, reefs, historic landmarks and ancient ruins, swamps, craters, forests, coastal bluffs and tide pools, towns, canyons, waterfalls and river valleys.

70 beaches, including 23 reachable only by trail.

44 snorkeling pools, both the island favorites and hidden coves.

66 mountain bike rides along forest, coastal, and countryside trails, as well as resort paths.

27 kayaking waters: 13 rivers and streams, 14 bays and lagoons.

38 surfing spots, including the best places to watch.

10 maps and 175 photographs including a four-page color insert.

Driving Tours, featuring heiaus, wildlife sanctuaries, cultural and historical sites, tourist attractions and natural wonders.

Resource Links to recreational outfitters, stables, golf courses, camping, transportation, accommodations, local-style eats and shops.

Appendices of Hawaiian words, place names, movie locations, hula performances, farmer's markets, weather, flora, history.

Here's a link to find it on Mahalo and happy trails!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Beyond stereotypical Hawaii: O'Keeffe and Ansel

Between 1939 and 1957 Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams made visits to the Hawaiian Islands. Adams was commissioned by the Department of the Interior for a commemorative publication for Bishop National Bank of Hawai'i (now First Hawaiian Bank) and Georgia was invited by Dole Pineapple to create illustrations for advertisements. Both were inspired to do more.

During her two month stay in Hawai'i, O'Keeffe traversed Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and The Big Island, visiting beaches, rainforests, and pineapple plantations, and painting the dramatic coastlines, volcanic terrain,  and exotic flora. She painted dramatic landscapes of coastlines and waterfalls; but most extensively the island flowers.

The photographs and paintings included in the "Hawaii Pictures" exhibition at O'Keeffe's Santa Fe Museum express the islands’ unique sense of place, at the same time they reveal the complex continuities with the whole of O’Keeffe and Adams’s respective oeuvres.

Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawai'i Pictures February 7 - September 17, 2014

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum 217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505) 946-1000

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hot-footing Hawaii: Lava hikes on the Big Island

New land is being created every second at Hawaii Volcanos National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii and—let's hear it for the Park Service—visitors are allowed to explore at will. The lava pictured above is the good kind, called pahoehoe (pa-hoy-hoy), which rolls and tufts like brownie batter. When fresh, the surface has an oily sheen. To actually see flowing lava these days, you need to leave the park and head to the Puna Coast, about an hour east of Hilo. 

Although prepared hikers will have no problem, there are hazards: heat exhaustion, getting lost, falling with landslides near the coast, getting caught in a blast caused by buried vegetation, and, of course, getting burned by the actual molten rock. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer describes the best hikes in and out of the park, as well how to prepare for a safe trek.

One of the most popular hikes is the Kilauea Iki Crater, which a smaller 'bay' of lava, off of the park's main Kilauea Caldera. You drop down through a bird-filled, tree-fern-and-ohia tree forest, cross the still-fuming field of lava, and then climb up through the lush forest to complete a loop hike. The trailhead is across the road from the most-popular stroll, through the massive Thurston Lava Tube.

BTW: The bad kind of lava is called a'a (ah-ha). Instead of rolled batter, this lava hardens in jagged piles that are virtually unwalkable. South Kohala, which is home to the Big Island's best destination resorts, is in a sea of this stuff. The King's Trail penetrates large sections of this no-man's land, an ancient route that is marked in places with flat rocks embeded in the slag heap.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Maui's Windward Beaches: Where the Locals go

Maui has more safe swimming beaches than any other Hawaiian island, and most of them are on the leeward (west) coast, a run of sand most of the way from the Gold Coast (Kihei-Wailua) in the south to Lahaina-Ka'anapali in the north. And all along this coast are condos, cars, and resorts.

To check out the more-serene locals' scene, cross the island to the windward coast. Kanaha Beach Park (above) is laid back, in spite of its proximity to the airport in Kahului. You can take a short stroll to privacy in Spreckelsville, or hang around the beach park to watch some of the world's best kite-boarders and windsurfers.

Just up the road toward Paia is one of the best locals' haunts in the Islands: Baldwin Beach Park. Families and local boys have been chillin' and surfing here since Baldwins beginnings in the late 1800s as a spot for sugar cane workers to relax. The place embodies Hawaiian style living, especially in the late afternoons and early evenings. A few hundred yards down the sand from the beach park is Baby Baldwin Beach, a protected swimming oval with safe swimming even on days when the surf's up (you can also drive to Baby Baldwin).

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Getting High on 'Mount Olympus' Oahu

As is the the case for many hikes into Oahu's razorback Ko'olau Mountains, the trailhead begins at the end of neighborhood streets only a few miles from Waikiki—in this case at the Wa'ahila Ridge Recreation Area. Suburbia becomes wildlands after only a few steps. After a few thousand steps (three-plus miles and 1,900 feet in elevation) you achieve the narrow crest of the range, with a straight-down look at the Windward Coast.

The Mount Olympus trail rends skyward in ramps and benches, narrowing to two feet in some places, where snarls of greenery disguise vertical dropoffs. But it is not as dangerous as other trails on Oahu. Take care with foot placement and bring along a hiking pole, and you'll be fine. Several view knobs on the way up are worthy destinations for shorter hikes, and families can take an even shorter stroll in the recreation area, through ironwood trees and Norfolk pines to picnic tables with views of Honolulu.

Oahu Trailblazer has more details for this trek, as well as others that are a short drive from the high rise beach resorts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Oahu's Makapu'u Beach is sooooo un-Waikiki

Just one look from Makapu'u Point up the Windward Coast and you will realize that an exotic Oahu awaits beyond the tiki torches of Wailkiki. The point (which has a great whale-watching trail) is at the south tip of the island, the beginning of a long string of sandy beaches with mountainous backdrops that extend all the way to the North Shore.

Makapu'u Beach Park is bodysurf-and-boogie-board  central, home to the first-ever surfing championships held on Oahu in the 1950s. The breaks are called Middles, Baby Makapu'u, and Generals, the last of which was named by legendary bodysurfer Bobo Tabayoyon after the two subsurface coral heads. The beach park gets high marks among spectators who can view from an onshore rock formation in the center of the beach.

Drive there with directions in your Oahu Trailblazer.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hawaii Big Island's sans-sand beaches

You won't have to worry about windblown sand getting into sandwiches and evertthing else on the on the Kona (west side) beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii. At Ho'okena Beach Park (pictured below) and many other locales, only smooth sheets of pahoehoe (pa-hoy-hoy) lava grace the shoreline.  You'll have to wait an eon or two for wave action to grind coral chunks and lava rocks into grit.

You also won't find streams on the Kona side, since erosion has not taken place and the fresh water percolates through the lava land mass and finds the ocean via underground channels or alkaline ponds near shore. All this means these shorelines have some of the clearest seawater in the world. Just north of Ho'okena is Two Step, a world-class snorkeling venue where swimmers spread towels out on an acre or two of flat lava and then enter a crystal clear embayment using natural steps cut into the rock.

A complete directory of all the beaches on the Big Island can be found in  Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

La Perouse Bay: Get out-there on Maui

A few years ago, visitors would swarm over jagged piles of lava in the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve Area south of Wailea on Maui in order to get to a little snorkeling cove called the Aquarium: A prime example monkey-see, monkey-do tourism. Concerned over the ecological impacts, state officials have closed this area to give it a rest. Not to worry: There is still good snorkeling at "Dumps" and Ahihi Cove, which are in the reserve.

Visitors don't have to go far to get beyond the crowds, which gather a couple miles south of Makena State Park (Big Beach) on Maui's southwest coast. The bumpy road ends at La Perouse Bay, named for a French explorer whose ship passed this "dismal coast" in 1786. A sandy trail passes Beau Chien (Pretty Dog) Beach (above) and then joins the Kings Trail that keeps going .... and going. First built in the 1500s, and then fortified in the 1800s, this wide, rock inlaid route penetrates a wasteland of lava heaps. You'll find two little beaches off the trail along the way—Oasis and Kanaio beaches. Old village sites mark the beginning of the trail. You can keep on trekin' for 10 miles (though the route becomes rougher and overgrown in spots) to Manawanui, the next vehicular access on the south coast.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on page 29, and page 164 to 172.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tips for Hiking Kauai's Kalalau Trail

The end of the road on Kauai's north shore is the beginning of Napali (The Cliffs), which can only be accessed on land via the Kalalau Trail—an 11-mile squiggley scramble that ends in the Kalalau Valley. On a busy day, nearly 500 souls set foot on the Kalalau, quite a circus, and second only in popularity to the Diamond Head Crater trail on Oahu.

Make sure to pick a dry day, since rain makes this route the bad kind of adventure. It's also a good idea to show up early, if you want a nature trip rather than a social scene. Stuff your daypack with plenty of food and water. Wear sturdy shoes, and plan on getting them wet and muddy. A hiking pole will be a godsend.

Hanakapiai Beach is two miles in, though this is a rocky, dangerous swimming beach, and requires a stream crossing to reach. Ribbony Hanakapiai Falls is another two miles inland from the beach (so, 8 miles round-trip from the trailhead) and requires several more stream crossings. The fall's hike will feel like 12 miles, so be ready. BTW: Sure, many adventure hikers can pound 22 miles in a day, but don't even think about dayhiking to Kalalau Valley.

You can achieve a great view of the Napali Coast my walking in about a half mile on the trail. The easiest way to see the coast is to walk about a hundred yards to the right at Ke'e Beach, which is also at the end of the road.  Only a few, if that, visitors among the daily 500 people take one of the best hikes here, which is to follow a coastal trail around the point and then up to the ancient hula temple, the birthplace of the tradition in Hawaii. Another nearby attraction that is a totally five stars is Limahuli Garden (less than a mile before the end of the road). This place is Eden on earth. Complete directions for all these hikes are in the Kauai Trailblazer guidebook.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Safe Hiking Hawaii with Kids

Kids are well-suited to staying safe in most circumstances on trails in Kauai, as this young boy demonstrates with the time-tested butt-slide on the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. Closer to the ground, children are less likely to do damage with a face plant than their taller parents.

And some dangers are obvious, like drop-offs at cliffs with railings, like this one at the Awa'awapuhi Trail also on Kauai.

But other hazards are not so obvious, so parents should be aware of situations leading to accidents, which sadly are fatal all-too-often somewhere in the islands.

1. Stay on the trail. Mountain and jungle trails are usually bordered by tufts of greenery that look like solid ground, but are actually disguising thin air that will lead in a free fall. On flat ground, it's very easy to get lost when wandering from a trail.

2.  Stay back from the surf line at the beach and on coastal trails. Being swept from the land is very possible. Don't venture along wet rocks or reef at the shoreline, and stay back from the foam line at the beach. Of course, these hazzards pretty much go away when surf in down. Always keep and eye on the waves; you can usually flee if you see one coming.

3. Don't swim in fresh pools beneath a waterfall, where rocks fall with the water.  Watch for stream contamination signs.

4. No running on mountain trails. Trails are rooty and uneven, and often slick after rains. Kids might take a good bump, or, worse, fall from the trail.

5. Most parents know this one: Keep the children within sight, and within hearing distance.

The Trailblazer guides for each of the Hawaiian Islands have special sections for families. Includes are hikes, safe beaches and kid friendly attractions and restaurants.''