Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poking around Pokai

Around eight hundred years ago, Pokai Beach Park in Waianae on Oahu's West Side was the happening place in Hawaii. If it hadn't been, Hawaii may not have happened at all. Pokai, the park's namesake, was the top navigator among the first wave of Tahitians who migrated in open canoes across 2,500 open miles of ocean to come upon the shores of their mythical homeland, Hawaii. Back then, Hawaii had none of the tropical fruits we now associate with the Islands——none of the "canoe plants" that the Tahitians brought with them. With the wisdom and strength of Pokai and his counterparts, the Polynesian vessels were able to complete the back-and-forth voyages that sustained what became the Hawaiian nation.

Few tourists see this park today, in spite of its charms: a breakwater that protects a large swimming beach, a nice curve of sand and palms, scenic mountains rising inland, and a grassy point that is the site of an ancient temple (Kuilioloa Heiau). Rough Waianae is too singed around the edges for most visitors, who turn their rental cars around and head back to Waikiki. But if you brace yourself for some true grit, Waianae may become one of your favorite spots, where a dime's worth of respect for the locals will get you a buck's worth in return. Old Hawaii rules the communities on the West Side. (See Oahu Trailblazer pages 191-213.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Out-There Aloha

Huialoha Church on the south coast of Maui is not exactly a secret—it was featured on TV's Amazing Race, although only a couple of teams actually found it—but it will impart a faraway sense of aloha, set on a low bluff and rugged bay across frothy waters from the Big island. In ancient times, the south coast would change hands in battles between the warring islands, since this shore is the beachhead for sea wars.

Today only a few spear fishermen and breached Monk Seals take the beach. The beautifully set church draws locals, and has been hit by vandals in recent years, which has caused a chain to sometimes block the quarter-mile entry road. A couple miles away is a Maui institution, the Kaupo Store, open 24/7, except when it's not, a policy that has stood for 30 years. Sit a spell with a beer or ice cream on the weatherworn porch and watch the world go by. Check out Maui Trailblazer for more details.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Road to Hana: Maui's wild ride

Getting there is more than half the fun if you are headed to Hana. In fact, spend the day getting there and not arriving and you will see some of Hawaii's best tropical rain forests and natural area preserves. Then spend another day actually getting to Hana and beyond (to the Pools of Oheo, the lower part of Haleakala National Park).

The Hana Highway has more than 50 one-lane bridges and dozens of roadside waterfalls and streams as it curves endlessly through mind boggling greenery on a rugged coast. Twin Falls, Waikomo Nature Trail, Keanae Arboretum, and Waianapanapa State Park are some of the better known stopping spots. But some of the best adventures are scarcely publicized roads into the forest reserves, each marked by subtle brown-and-yellow signs of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Access is questionable to some of these spots, in some places restricted to hunters, but few if any of the gates are posted no trespassing and all lead into public lands (leased in some cases by water companies). See Maui Trailblazer, pages 119 to 130 for details.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sizzling lava

Big Island visitors: be sure to put Volcanoes National Park on your itinerary.

"Activity Summary for past 24 hours: Kilauea continued to erupt from two vents-one in Halema`uma`u and the other on the east rift zone. Sulfur dioxide emission rates from these two vents remain elevated. At the summit, spattering and short spatter-fed lava flows were visible from an opening at the bottom of a deep pit inset within the floor of Halema`uma`u Crater, resulting in glow above the vent overnight. On the east rift zone, lava erupting from that vent continued to flow through tubes to the coast where it entered the ocean just west of Kalapana."

The day before you leave go to these sites for the most recent update:

You'll find driving and hiking directions to all the viewing sites in your Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer.

To view an awesome video of the deepest erupting undersea volcano yet discovered (near Samoa) go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. University of Hawaii geochemist Ken Rubin believes this active Boninite eruption provides a unique opportunity to study magma formation at volcanoes and how the Earth recycles material where one tectonic plate is subducted under another – a long-term goal of many Earth scientists.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Red Lava, Black Sand

The ocean's ultra-Maytag effect churns away at fresh lava, which turns a glistening black when it cools, into sand particles in a matter of years on the Puna coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Pictured here is Kehena Black Sand Beach, a.k.a. 19-Mile Beach since it resides at that mile marker on the highway. A short, hands-on trail leads down from guardrail parking, made more of a scramble one day in 1955 when volcano goddess Pele sneezed and the earth fell five feet in a jiffy flat at the shoreline—you can see the demarkation clearly where a stairway was severed.

BTW: People like no go naked here, even though nudity is not allowed on any Hawaiian beaches, which are all public places.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Island Fever Ferry to Lanai

If you are on Maui long enough to get island fever (or just feel like taking a vacation within a vacation), hop on the Lanai Expeditions Ferry in Lahaina or Ma'alea and take the hour-long ride across the channel to Lanai. The cruise also doubles as a whale-watching adventure in the winter and spring, with sunrise and sunset thrown in as a bonus.

Once the private pineapple patch for magnate Sanford Dole, Lanai is now a sleepy getaway featuring two luxury hotels, snorkeling, mountain biking, and golfing. A shuttle bus (about 10 bucks) runs between the Four Seasons Manele Bay (where you can snorkel with dolphins at Hulopoe Bay), to the quaint (yes, quaint) town square with offbeat shops and restaurants in Lanai City, and winds up further up the hill at the Lodge at Koele, an unlikey Tudor manor with ocean view, arboretum and horseback riding.

You can also rent a Jeep to tour the far-flung beaches (Shipwreck, Polihua) and red-dirt geology (Garden of the Gods), but this will double your expenses and first-time visitors will have plenty to do using the shuttle busses. You'll feel like you've been gone for a week. The Lanai Ferry is you best bang for the buck when looking for a paid adventure when visiting Maui.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Slopes of Kalopa

The cabins and camping at Kalopa Native Forest State Park are your best bet for rustic lodging on the Big Island–and arguably the best in Hawaii—especially if you don't mind chilling out at 2,000 feet. The well-kept grounds and clean cabins, on the northern end of the Hamakua (east) Coast are a reasonable base camp to visit Waipio Valley, Hilo, and even a day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

But Kalopa is also a worthy destination itself, whether you're up for a picnic and wander-in-wonder around the manicured grounds and Polynesian arboretum trails, or would rather strap on the dayhikers and head out for miles-long jaunts into a trail system through the 500-plus acres of forest reserve that rises toward Manua Kea (another 11,000 feet higher). Non-native giant trees blend with natives, perfect habitat for a host of native birds (like 'io, the Hawaiian Hawk, and aku'u, a heron), as well as a few shrieking exotics pheasants and cardinals. Check out page 174 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Spooky Iki Crater

Steam escapes through lava tabletops on the trail across Iki Crater, an appendage to the larger Kilauea Crater in the center of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Though Iki blew its cork fairly recently, in 1959, an eruption here is far less likely than at its cousin crater, Halemaumau Crater a few miles away in Kilauea, which is the home to volcano goddess Pele. Halemaumau started spewing a voluminous column of volcanic gas in 2009 in a burst that blew the tourist overlook to smithereens, thankfully when no one was present.

The Iki Trail is across from the Thurston Lava Tube, a tourist trot on the lush green north side of the caldera. The loop hike of 4 miles drops about 400 feet from the bird-rich, tree-fern-and-ohia forest before crossing the lava basin.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can only be Waikiki

Hawaii has thousands of versions of paradise, secret spots to call your own and live the tropical dream. But only one location creates instant recognition, like the Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, or Space Needle: This shot can only be one place on earth, smack dab in the middle of the Pacific, and it's Diamond Head from Waikiki Beach. Many visitors will poo-poo Waikiki as being too touristy, and they have a point. On the other hand, you can never truly know Hawaii without spending some time here, standing on your own bare feet and taking in this iconic view.

Although the area is largely a post-WWII tourist invention (a swamp was drained and a canal dug to form the beach) it does have it historical roots, both for the ancient Polynesians and as the homesites for Hawaii's last King, David Kalakaua, and its first Congressional representative, Prince Jonah Kuhio.

But even taken for what it is, a kind of Vegas minus the slots, plus the ocean, Waikiki delivers. It is like what you would expect it to be, only more. It is Hawaii, the calabash of Islanders, military, and post-sugar immigrants mixing with planeloads of sun-scorched visitors having a good time amid high rises and hula skirts. From here, from this cliche' personified, then you can branch out to different parts of Honolulu and Oahu that you have know idea existed.

Start with a the short drive and weird hike to Diamond Head itself, to the rim of this dormant crater via a series of tunnels, steps, and ladders. Then take off to try some of the many trails and beaches that rim the island. See Oahu Trailblazer, both for the touristy stuff (you gotta see the Polynesian Cultural Center and the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor) as well as the adventurous backroads.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

‘Long’ Shot Wins The Eddie

Big-wave surfer Greg Long got the best of 40-foot waves and champion surfers Kelly Slater, Sunny Garcia, and Bruce Irons, to win the prestigious Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Akiau contest held yesterday at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. Long had also won the big-wave contest at Maverick’s in Northern California the last time it was held in 2007, making him the unprecedented reigning champ for both events.

Long collected $55,000 for braving the monster waves (no tow-surfing is allowed at The Eddie,) while Slater collected $10,000 for finishing second, Garcia got $5,000 for third, and Kauai’s Bruce Irons netted $3,000 in beer money for fourth-place.  There were 24 entrants, and anyone who has seen the size of these waves knows all of these guys are winners, and among the best athletes in the world.

Some 25,000 spirited fans, the largest-ever for the event crammed the Kamehameha Highway and the bay’s beach to hoot and holler under sunny skies and favorable wind conditions. Thousands more listened on the website, which offered a clear picture, replays, interviews and solid play-by-play from former world champion Martin Potter and top Hawaiian surfer Fred Pattachia.

For a good part of the day, it appeared that Slater, the nine-time world tour champion, had won this event. It would have been his second Aikau victory and the latest mind-blowing feat by the surfer universally recognized as the best in the world. But Long stole it with a fabulous second heat, and that's the beauty of the Aikau format: Eight one-hour heats, allowing each of the 24 entrants to surf twice, with no one eliminated.

Yesterday marked only the eighth time in 25 years the Aikau contest was held (since the right-sized waves need to form). Slater, who has an unprecedented nine world titles, won the Aikau event in 2002. Bruce Irons was the defending champion after winning in 2004. Sunny Garcia, is a former world champion. Many of the competitors are now on jets heading to Maverick’s, to face the storm surf that is mounting.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Eddie Contest Update

Thousands flocking to North Shore Oahu to witness today's events that begin at 7:30 a.m.

Go to  for swell updates and live webcast. Surf 30-40 feet 6-8 times overhead. Expected to build as high as 50 feet throughout the day. Wow!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The EDDIE looks to be ON at Waimea

Monster waves are slated to arrive this week on the North Shore of Oahu for the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational (The Eddie) competition . The 2009/10 Quiksilver event will be marking its 25th anniversary. Invitees include the Irons brothers, Keaulana brothers, Jamie O'Brien, Jamie Sterling, Peter Mel, Reef McIntosh, Kelly Slater and Makuakai Rothman.

A few reports ramping up the excitement:

"SUNDAY: Large NW groundswell is easing, strongest in the morning hours. Expect solid 18-20' surf for good breaks with select outer reefs producing larger sets around 25-30'+ on the face. *Lots of water moving around with very heavy/dangerous surf across the North Shore. Expert surfers should exercise extreme caution."

"A HUGE HURRICANE level storm(60+ kts+45' seas) spawns near dateline 1200 to the NW on Saturday Dec 5 and stays intense through Sunday as it tracks east. This is going to be the BIG ONE (havent seen such potential in near 10 years)... almost double the  Warning criteria of 25' faces(so potentially 30-50'); Hawaii surfers like George Downing who make the call for The Eddie will likely call it 20-30' on some top sets at Waimea. Some of its fetch is less that 400 miles out. This one is Eddie Aikau 'size'. Now the limiting factor for a 'GO' is no longer winds assoc with another front but rather sheer size. The claim is: this will be some of the biggest surf in years (even some over 30' sets are possible) and has the most potential ....for Monday, tuesday or Wednesday...esp since the last Eddie Aikau (2004, Bruce Irons)."

"The National Weather Service in Honolulu advised the Department of Emergency Management that extremely hazardous high surf could pose a threat to Oahu’s north and west facing shores beginning early Saturday and continuing through next week Wednesday.  North Shore Surf heights could build from 20 to 30-feet peaking at more than 40 to 45-feet by Monday. West facing shores will experience slightly lesser heights but the surf may still be capable of causing damage and injury."

"Additionally, a 2 ½ foot high tide early Saturday morning could combine to increase the coastal flooding potential, cause damage to homes located on or near affected beaches, create road closures and other problems and hazards."

The event is named for Eddie Aiku who drowned when paddling some 19 miles to Lanai for help during a rescue attempt. He was a crew member on the maiden voyage of the Hokulea, a replica of ancient Polynesian sailing vessels that became disabled in heavy seas. "Eddie Would Go" has become the slogan among surfers worldwide, in honor of the courageous waterman (lifeguard).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Humpback in trouble

The Maui News is reporting a juvenile humpback whale in trouble off the West Maui coast. Officials from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Marine Sanctuary (offices pictured) are assessing its injuries from being entangled in hundreds of feet of heavy rope. The whale has moved into rough water in the channel between Maui and Molokai and will be further monitored today.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Falls that Fell

The hike to Kapioloa Falls along the Kohala Ditch Trail on the north tip of the Big Island crumbled into the valley after the big earthquake of 2006. Hikers made the short trek after gaining permission to enter private property of the Surety Kohala Corporation, or by taking a trip with Hawaii Forest & Trail, the island's premier adventure outfitter. With quakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis in the mix, you literally cannot  count on the ground you stand on to be there next year on the Big Island.