Friday, July 31, 2009

Makawao (rhymes with 'wow')

The Makawao Forest Reserve is well down the slopes of Haleakala on the windward coast, but still high enough above the coast (a couple thousand feet) to offer a cool, seven-mile hike on a seldom used trail through a variety of native and planted trees. Tourists rarely find this walk: The main trail, the Kapahakapao Loop Trail, is part of the state's hiking system, but is not shown on most maps.

After communing with the plant world (and birds!), head down the road a few miles to Makawao, Maui's dark-horse contender for best walk-around town. Love-the-earth locals and low-key Hollywood types mingle at galleries, eateries, boutiques, and upscale gift stores. The place has a rustic Old West look that reflects its paniolo (cowboy) culture. Catch the local rode, shop at Aloha Cowboy (Willie Nelson does), and then grab a steak at Makawao Steakhouse. See page 153 of Maui Trailblazer.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

S.U.P. Maui

Stands for Stand Up Paddle (aka Beach Boy) surfing, an emerging popular sport with a Hawaiian heritage. Recently introduced to the surfing world again by pro Laird Hamilton, more and more watersport enthusiasts are getting hooked. Check out Giada De Laurentis's first attempt.

Storms are brewing, however, as territorial "prone" surfers compete for wave space. All the sub-groups of surfing can annoy each other whether its shortboarders, longboarders, body boarders, kayakers, kite surfers or windsurfers. Now that SUP is catching on in a big way, riders will have to develop a boundary code to fend off stink eye and bring peace to the lineup. For a roster of Maui's best surfing beaches, check out the No Worries Hawaii guide.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

From Pools of Oheo to Pipiwai Trail: two fab falls in the jungle

After the long drive of the Hana Highway to the Pools of Oheo (part of the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park) many visitors turn the car around and miss what may be Hawaii's best waterfall hike.

Just across the highway from the popular pools is the Pipiwai Trail, which climbs about 800 feet over 2.25-miles before coming to a halt at Waimoku Falls—cascading 400 feet in the center of a green amphitheater. Along the way you pass by the top of the Falls at Makahiku (a 200-foot white ribbon), cross two footbridges over a bedrock stream gorge, and travel much of the distance on a boardwalk through a bamboo forest. It's easy to spout superlatives about hiking in Hawaii, but this one you gotta do.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Three Kamaoles

Let's face it, Kihei on Maui's southern "Gold Coast" isn't going to win any design-planning awards, since it consists of a several-miles-long run of prosaic shopping, mid-level condos and resorts, and eateris that range up from McDonalds. Not a scintillating first impression for the Hawaii newcomer.

But wait a darned minute. This coast does have three of Hawaii's best family swimming and snorkeling beaches—the Kamaole Beach Parks, which locals call Kam I, Kam II, and Kam III. The south end of these parks (walking distance on a coastal trail) leads to the posh half-dozen beaches of ritzy Wailea. Going north you walk to cute Charley Young Beach park and then to the open fields of Kalama Park, scene of many weekend whoop-de-do, including the knock-out Pacific Whale Foundation Day. So, Kihei becomes a pretty good base camp for economy Maui goers who want to log beach time before heading out to sight-see. It's a lot easier to get into and out of than the crammed resort areas to the north of Lahaina, Ka'anapali, and Kapalua.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kahului Harbor

Kahului Harbor—on the eastern (windward) side of the isthmus that separates West Maui from the Haleakala (the south)—is for sure the business end of vacationland, where you'll find the Costco, dockyards for freight ships and ocean liners, and the variety of warehouses and modest neighborhoods that are home to 'real' people. But that doesn't mean tourists need to take a pass.

On Saturdays, check our the Maui Swap Meet for acres of tourist trinkets, artwork, booths of fresh flowers, and tons of island fruit and veggies. Then bop over to the harbor to see if local canoe clubs are racing or if rideable waves are breaking at several popular spots along the breakwater.

For something new, try the Queen Ka'ahumanu Shopping Center, which has enough design (atrium, statuary, sail-like roof) to make it a fun place to hang out or have lunch and see where locals gather on weekends. For something old, take a short drive to the Haleki'i-Pihana Heiaus State Monument, a vast structure spread out over 10 acres on the high ground.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Road to Hana

Hundreds of turns and more than 50 one-lane bridges keep drivers alert on the Hana Highway, a narrow blacktop a that hugs the cliffs and valleys of a rain forest on the southeast coast of Maui. Each vintage bridge has a name, such as, "open laughter," "heavenly mist," "land of deep love," and "lightening flash." Along the way, waterfalls are strung like confetti, trails lead into bamboo and tangles of greenery, and waves do battle with sculpted lava formations.

All this is romantic stuff, but tourists also need to heed more pragmatic concerns to keep the day rolling smoothly: Make sure to pull over to let commuting locals who need get someplace, follow the rules at the one-way bridges, and make sure you're off the roadway before stopping the car. You might also want to start early (say oh-dawn-thirty) or late to avoid the conga line of rental cars that tends to clog the pavement beginning mid-mornings. Going later is also an options, but that also means you will be driving into the homeward-bound visitors. If you have the time on Maui, break the Hana Highway up into two or three day trips, since there's really too much see in one day. See Maui Trailblazer, pages 111 to 141 to get a detailed picture of what's in store.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wings over Maui

Who would guess that if you jet out the 'back way' when renting a car at the Maui airport that run right into the kiteboarding capitol of the free world, Kanaha Beach Park. Being close to the airport is usually not a big selling point for beaches, but Kanaha is a real find for several reasons. Windsurfers also hang at the opposite end of the two-mile beach (just south of Kahalui), making this beach park a double-feature for visitors wanting to watch the colorful show.

Kanaha also has an appealing backshore with huge shade trees and an expansive lawn pocketed with picnic tables. With a short walk away from the action you reach private coves perfect for a day at the beach with excellent swimming and fair snorkeling. The view is across the big bay to the West Maui Mountains. (You can actually walk a few miles to Paia on coastal trails.) A little-visited bird-watching preserve with several ponds is across the sleepy road from the park. See page 98 of Maui Trailblazer.

Kiteboarding has become the next big thing for adventure sports nuts. They use toe clips on the board and a harness that is attached from the rider's waist to the kite—which is calculated to have enough lift to swing over waves, but not enough to pull the rider into the wild blue yonder. Taking off from the beach is tricky.

Monday, July 6, 2009

More than Two at Twin Falls

More than a half-dozen sweet waterfalls with swim pools can be sampled on a 2.5-mile (round-trip) hike at Twin Falls Botanical Preserve—located just as the Hana Highway starts its 35-mile coastal roller coaster. Given the right conditions—sun and mellow-flowing water, these rank up there with any of Maui's more publicized freshwater soaks, and among the best in Hawaii. Several have rope swings and places to jump from on the ferny bedrock caverns that encase the pools. One of the pools draws most of the daredevil leapers, but it truly is hard to decide a spot to take a swim; they're that good.

A tree-shaded pathway leaves from the Twin Falls Fruit Stand (many people come here just for the organic goodies) alongside the stream, meandering through the flora of a number of small farms So you also get a botanical garden for the price of admission, which is free, but you really should use the can inside the gate to give these people a few bucks. From the top of the falls, adventure hikers can get into the botanical thicket of the Ko'olau Forest Reserve.

Don't try to do this place as part of a Hana Highway day trip, but rather as a trip that might also take in Paia, Jaws, and Baldwin Beach Park. Many visitors here miss a few of the falls, and also spend frustrating moments wandering around, since the trails are not well marked. This probably saves the place from overuse—though it does see plenty of visitors. See page 119 of Maui Trailblazer.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mysterious Graffiti

The graffiti artists who etched these images in rock are unknown to both current anthropologists and to the earliest Polynesians who began arriving in earnest on Maui about 1,500 years ago. Petroglyphs, a way of recording events by prehistorical people who could not download images from a cell phone, are fairly rare on Maui, since vegetation and erosion has obscured most of them.

These drawings are at the base of Kilea cinder cone near Olowalu in West Maui, at a well-known site. Sea shell fossils indicate that the top to the cinder cone, which is a couple miles inland and a few hundred feet in elevation, was once at sea level, back when we had bigger polar ice caps. See page 58 of Maui Trailblazer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lahaina Maui: Snorkeling Baby Beach

Maui has many safe beaches to go fish viewing, but one of the best choices is Pu'unoa (Baby) Beach on the north side of Lahaina. Clusters of coral are near shore and well inside a protective reef. Lanai island a few miles across a channel give you something to stare at and think about nothing. Moms &  Kids tend to hang at the south end of the half-mile strip of sand that is backed by beach cottages. Easier parking is at the north end, toward Mala Pier, where you get to walk by the 30-foot-high bronze Buddha at the Jodo Mission on a short walk to the beach. (The West Maui Mountains are a fitting backdrop to the statue.)