Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crawling Kauai's Nualolo Ridge

Most people think exploring Kauai's roadless Napali (The Cliffs) coast means driving to the end of the road on the north shore and embarking on the 11-mile odyssey that is the Kalalau Valley Trail.

Not so. Some of the best hikes begin on the other side of the island, off the road that climbs alongside Waimea Canyon to Koke'e State Park.

From this mountainside direction, the cliffs radiate out in ridges, like spokes of a wheel, separated by valleys about 2,000 feet deep. All are reachable via 4WD roads/trails. One of the best, the Nualolo Cliff Trail, begins very near the state park visitors center, a 7.5-mile roundtrip trek through native subtropical birdlands that drops about 1,500 feet along the way---and reaches a red-cinder lookout that will curl your toes (though it's not inherently dangerous).

A connector trail links the Nualolo to its sister ridge, the Awa'awapuhi Trail, also spectac. (Ask locally before making this loop, since the connector trail sometimes gets thrashed by heavy rains.) See pages 163 and 168 in Kauai Trailblazer.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Kauai bound? The guidebook to take along....

order it on or

This NEW 2010 FOURTH EDITION of the Sprout's top-selling guide is packed with new and updated activities, dozens of fresh photos, a 4-page color insert, and a special Trailblazer Kids section for families headed to Hawaii's "adventure island." Popular among independent and active travelers, Trailblazer guides 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.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas from Maui's Hidden Red Sand Beach

Take the green serpentine road to Hana and park just past the community center (Maui Trailblazer has the details.) A short trail hugs an eroded hillside among ironwood trees to a narrow section, where you can drop like Santa from up on the house top to the hidden cove that is Red Sand Beach. Cinder from a volcanic cone adds the color. A ragged inshore reef provides a calm area for swimmers, though wave action can be a factor in the winter.

A few precautions: During heavy rains, the trail is best avoided, especially the one narrow section. Also, be prepared to see a nude sunbather or two at this beach, even though nudity is prohibited on all Hawaiian beaches.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Finding the sun at Waikiki

To say Waikiki is touristy is an understatement. The whole eight or ten square blocks of high rises between Ala Wai Canal and Waikiki Beach was fabricated for tourists, largely after World War II. But the famous destination is not phony, but rather one big pineapple slice of real Hawaii, heavy on the sunshine and poofed with aloha.

And you can do it on the relative cheap. Airline fares to Oahu don't include the interisland flight (duh) and you don't need a rental car. Discerning visitors can find bargain priced rooms. There's great walking, not only around WKK, but also to adjacent Kapiolani Park (in the shadow of Diamond Head) and to Ala Moana Beach Park. A short bus ride gets you to historic Honolulu, with its museums and Chinatown. Shuttle busses also can deliver you to Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Or not. On a quick getaway, the smart thing to do may be to just stake out some sand and soak in the Waikiki vibe.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Up the Lazy River to Kauai's Secret Falls

The wide-mouthed Wailua River was chosen as the homeland for the first Polynesian voyagers nearly two thousand years ago, who settled its fertile banks, fished for both fresh and ocean-going fish, and built a series of seven heiaus (temples) that extended from the shore to the base of Mount Waialeale, "the Birthplace of All Waters."

Kayakers head up the placid (unless it has stormed) waters and local canoe clubs practice here before pointing their vessels toward the waves. The Wailua is home to Fern Grotto, part of a state park that is a destination for Smith's river boats that take tourists on a fun cruise to a cavern to hear a version of the Hawaiian Wedding Song. Kayakers can visit the grotto by taking a left fork of the river, a journey of about two miles.

Paddlers who take the right fork will pass Kamokila Village (where some of the movie Outbreak was filmed) and come to where the river reaches rocky shallows. From there a well-used trail leads for about a mile to tall Uluwehi (Secret) Falls. Chilly waters beckon swimmers. Tour companies bring their charges here, but the place still delivers the thrill. See page 98 of Kauai Trailblazer.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Poipu Beach, Kauai: Here Comes the Sun

Even when rain pelts the Garden Isle, the sun normally pokes through on the arid south coast. Two miles of shore are pocketed with sandy coves and backed by high-end condos (Suite Paradise is the place to book) and luxury resorts like the Sheraton and Grand Hyatt. Magic hour is at sunset where surfers take in the last rays, serenaded (in this shot) by the aloha music of the luau at the Sheraton, which is right at the beach.

The hills of Poipu have more cacti than palms, but if you find yourself on Kauai seeking sun, check it out. Several coastal paths, both along the resorts and a wild coast, offer an opportunity to get some exercise with a view. Kauai Trailblazer has the descriptions, beginning on page 110.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hawaii Five-O Special Fare: $333 RT

Hawaiian Airlines is offering a special deal in honor of CBS's reboot of the islands' legendary tv series. For a limited time fares from the continental U.S. or Honolulu are just $333 roundtrip. Details on the HA website.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sizzling Sands of Oahu's "Eternity" Beach

This small patch of sand notched into the lava reef of Oahu's east shore near Halona Blowhole is where Burt Lancaster rolled in the shore foam with Deborah Kerr in the 1953 movie, From Here to Eternity. The adaptation of the James Jones novel snagged 13 Oscar nominations and walked away with eight winners, including best actress, Donna Reed, and best supporting actor, Frank Sinatra. The couple's torrid roll in wet sand took only a few seconds but has lived on in perpetuity.

The beach is right below a scenic turnout that is a whale watching post. Adding to the show is the blowhole, where pressurized wave water bursts like a geyser. Anyone wishing to duplicate the movie's romantic scene is going to have a big audience. See page 92 of Oahu Trailblazer for more details on this coastline.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Big Island's White Road to a Cliffhanger

White Road is a rural cul-de-sac just outside of Waimea in the high cowboy country on the Big Island of Kauai. You'd never guess guess that the trail, a 1.5-mile meander along an irrigation ditch in the tropical Kohala Forest Reserve, reaches a 2,000-foot precipice at the edge of Waipio Valley, directly across from Alakai Falls. After rains, a half-dozen or more other white ribbons carve the steep green walls of the valley.

From the precipice, hikers can continue up the valley along the edge (acrophobics beware) to the head and the Bamboo Altar—an opening in a thick grove that looks down the 6-mile gorge to the beach. The White Road Trailhead—one of the best in Hawaii—was closed in recent years because a landowner at the beginning of the trail (in Hawaiian Homelands) barred access to the first few hundred feet of his lease, to the forest reserve boundary. The controversy apparently has been resolved and hikers once again are enjoying this awesome walk. See page 34 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Waimea Bay: the waiting begins

The opening ceremony of the 26th Quicksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau took place yesterday at Oahu's Waimea Bay. The offical window for the one day contest is from December 1 through February 28, 2011. Waves must exceed 20 feet and the award goes to the surfer who makes the most critical drop and rides it out during the event.

The invitee list includes some of Hawaii's most dynamic big wave surfers: Clyde Aikau, Kala Alexander, Kohl Christensen, Shane Dorian, Keone Downing, Sunny Garcia, Mark Healey, Michael Ho, Bruce Irons, Noah Johnson, Rusty Keaulana, Brock Little, Reef McIntosh,Garrett McNamara, Jamie O'Brien, Makuakai Rothman, Jamie Sterling and
Dave Wassell.

Go to for updates.  Check out the Oahu Trailblazer for all other North Shore activities.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do you love me Pipeline Surfergirl?

The Banzai Pipeline (Pipeline, or just plain Pipe) is a long barrel breaking on a shallow near-shore reef at Ehukai Beach Park on the North Shore of Oahu. An inspiration for Surfer-Joe songs and movies of the 1960s, the picture-perfect curl is on the circuit among the big-boy breaks of the world professional surfing tours.

In 2006, the wahines arrived, holding the first ever professional event on the women's tour at Pipeline—and they've been rolling with the wave ever since. Pipe breaks both left and right (the back door) and produces those triumphant moments when surfers, hidden in the barrel for a moment, spit out in the spray and slice toward shore. Or not. The curl routinely claims even the best and is a notorious board-breaker. The Pipeline Women's Pro 2013 is hitting again now through March 22. The event will feature an Open division, as well as a Bodyboard, Longboard, Junior Pro Women and Men categories. Some surfers will be competing in all divisions and the best athlete wins the gold ring. Defending champion Bianca Valiente will try to reconquer the title. For all the action on North Shore Oahu, consult your Oahu Trailblazer guidebook.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oahu's Ko Olina: Unreal

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Don't come looking for Old Hawaii at the Ko Olina resort development on Oahu's west shore, about a 40 minute drive from Waikiki. Give the credit to bulldozers and explosives rather than nature for carving our four picture-perfect lagoons rimmed by sandy beaches, gardens, and a walking path at what was once a largely and industrial wasteland just north of Pearl Harbor. Still, Ko Olina fills the bill for families looking for guaranteed sunshine and safe swimming in a relaxing surround. The NFL players stay here during the Pro Bowl.

Ko Olina has several hotels and "beach clubs" along the 2-mile shoreline. A slow economy put the brakes on two larger destination resorts, one by Disney that features a host of man-made lagoonlike swimming pools serviced by Mickey and the gang and scheduled to open in mid-2011, and another (The Grand Ko Olina Resort) by local developer Steve Case that has been scaled back from an original plan that called for a huge aquarium and artificial reef. A gated entrance controls the crowds, but each of the four lagoons has public beach access.

On the north end on Ko Olina is a natural cove, Lanikuhonua Hawaiian Cultural Park, where community groups and private parties gather, dating from 1939 when it was purchased by Alice Kamokila Campbell, the daughter of uber-rich James Campbell. Before then the cove was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lying Around Oahu's Lyon

Manoa Valley, home to Lyon Arboretum, is a short hop from the hubbub of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki, but it is eons away in terms of state of mind. The university-run botanical garden offers 200 acres of both manicured and wild greenery, with benches to contemplate the wonder of it all and a network of trails to get purposefully lost.

The patio behind the gift shop and visitors center is at a perfect elevation above the floor of the valley—high enough so that the gardens slope downward in the foreground, while the jagged green ridge of the Ko'olau Range rises in the distance. Plantings date from 1918 and some big-boy trees shade a host of flowering trees and shrubs, including plants with leaves the size of surfboards. Lyon's entrance is very near the trailhead for Manoa Falls, a popular tourist trot, and also by the Treehouse Restaurant, a place to bag lunch afterwards. Oahu Trailblazer has deets beginning on page 78.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kindle + Trailblazer Hawaii

Did you know you can follow the Trailblazer Hawaii team on your Kindle? Here's your link for Hawaii Vacation Blog.

We thank Digger from Minneapolis for his five star review:


"I write blog reviews for The Kindle Blog Report.

The people who write this blog live in Hawaii, so they know what they're talking about. I heartily recommend this blog for anyone who intends to travel to the various islands of Hawaii, or who merely wants to read and wish they were there."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kauai's Grand Canyon of the Pacific

About 10 miles long and almost 4,000 feet deep, Waimea Canyon can stand alongside those geologic sites in the American Southwest as a scenic wonder. A rugged hunter's trail follows the river from sea level into the gorge—not an advisable route when tropical rains fall in the interior and send a churning deluge through the canyon. It's easier to reach the bottom via the Kukui Trail, which is off the road that climbs along the rim of the canyon, a trek of about five miles round-trip that drops more than 2,000 feet.

This shot is from farther up the canyon on the Black Pipe Trail, part of a network of trails near Koke'e State Park. The trail connects with the Canyon Trail and crosses midway along the courseway of Waipo'o Falls. This place is a hiker's paradise. See Kauai Trailblazer pages 151-171 for canyon trails, as well as the many trails that radiate seaward along the Napali (The Cliffs) coast and into the Alakai Swamp.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Big Island of Hawaii's Steam Heat

Even on a sunny day the Steaming Bluffs at the Kilauea Caldera add a wispy special effect to the fern forest at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Add a little overcast or moonlight to the day and would-be thriller directors can shoot a movie on the cheap.

A trail hugs the rim of the crater and reaches the Jaggar Museum, about a half-mile distant. From the museum is a point-blank view of the towering plume of noxious gas that has been billowing since 2008 at from Halemaumau Crater, a smaller caldera within Kilauea.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Leap of Faith at Black Rock, Maui

Keka'a Point, or Black Rock, is where spirits of the dead were said to launch themselves in ancient times to join their Polynesian ancestors in the other world. Today, jumpers are just aiming for the water, just offshore the Sheraton Resort along the posh resort path of Ka'anapali on the north leeward coast of Maui.

The swimming is safe along the volcanic formation that forms the north end of the long sandy beach. Several lower leaping spots give newcomers options, without having to go to the top. Dubbed "Dig Me" Beach in the 1970s, Ka'anapali is still a spot where tourists can strut their stuff. Complete directions in your Maui Trailblazer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Kalalau Trail is Open, Man

After an eight-week closure the DLNR has announced that reservations are now being taken for hiking and camping activities at the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park and Kalalau hiking trail. The recent project included rockfall mitigation at Ho'ole'a Falls and sea cave areas at Kalalau Beach and removal of illegal campsites.

The rugged trail, which hugs the roadless Na Pali coast on the north side of Kauai, is one of Hawaii's most popular. Bring an equipped daypack and sturdy shoes. A hiking pole will make you the envy of fellow hikers. directions for this trail and others in the vicinity can be found in the Kauai Trailblazer guidebook. Don't attempt this hike during heavy rains.

Camping is only allowed for 5 nights at Hanakoa and Kalalau and reservations may be made online.  Visitors are advised to reserve far in advance since this trail is one of the most popular wilderness camping areas in the world.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hanalei mourns Andy Iron's passing

Trailblazer Travel Books extends its deepest condolences to Andy's family and friends.

The 32-year-old legendary surfer died Tuesday morning in Dallas en route to Kauai from Puerto Rico.  No official cause of death has yet been determined.  The competitive surfing community has been stunned by the loss of this three-time ASP world champion.  For more details go to Kauai's newspaper, The Garden Island or check out the special tribute video on SurferToday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Surf's Up Kauai

Strong rip currents and high surf expected on Kauai remaining in effect until Thursday. Surf along the north and west facing shores is expected to be 25 to 35 feet.

Check out these links for up-to-the-minute conditions.  Obey safety precautions on all beaches and only swim where a lifeguard indicates it is safe:  Poipu, Salt Pond, Lydgate and Kekaha should be smart choices at this time.

Weather forcast

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oahu's fun-filled adventure guide

Read it before you go and feel like a local once you get there.  Oahu Trailblazer circles the entire island and takes you to places most tourists never see.  Spot on directions, all the hiking trails and beaches listed by area with maps how to get there, best places to snorkel, kayak and surf.

A vacation timesaver, a way to maximize every precious moment on beautiful Oahu.  Loaded with practical advice by authors who are Hawaii adventure travel specialists.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kauai's Limahuli Garden is Peace on Earth

On sunny days, things can get hectic on Kauai's north shore at the end of the road, which is both the beginning of the fabled Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast, and the site of Ke'e Beach, a snorkeler's delight. For guaranteed quiet and beauty that shouts to the heavens, pull in about .25-mile before road's end at Limahuli Garden, one of the country's five National Tropical Botanical Gardens (three of which are on Kauai).

Paths wander from the Edenlike terraces of the lower gardens to upper view knolls just below the serrated ridge of Makana—called "Bali Hai" in the movie South Pacific. Both native Hawaiian plants and those brought by the voyaging Polynesians thrive here. Large mango, autograph, and other broadleaf trees shade the upper garden. A stream rushes from the valley's higher reaches. The nominal admission charge to the nonprofit garden includes a booklet that is one of the best plant books available. Page 31 of Kauai Trailblazer has more details.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Bridges of Oahu's Moanaluna Valley

If you need proof the jungle wins in the end, take a walk across the seven stone bridges that were once part of the entranceway to a grand estate that is being swallowed up by the incessant greenery. The lush grounds at the foot of the Ko'olau Range on the west side of Oahu in 1884 were willed to Samuel Damon by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop (Kamehameha's granddaughter), as a "thank you" for Damon's longtime work for the the Bishop family. Damon's children built an estate in the valley, but all that's left (except the picturesque bridges) are the chimney and other ruins of a smaller home.

The Hawaiians, of course, lived in the Moanaluna Valley, as evidenced by konane board (like checkers) carved into a rock and other remains. Petroglyphs—rock drawings—in the valley predate even the Hawaiians and are a mystery to anthropologists.

The H-3 Freeway was planned for this area, but locals were successful in getting it rerouted. The easy, stroll begins at a neighborhood park that is not far from Moanaluna Gardens. See Page 67 of Oahu Trailblazer.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tourists don't Wreck at the Big Island's Lighthouse Beach

It's just as well that visiting surfers don't know about the rolling right-break into the cove at Lighthouse Beach, near Hawi on the Big Island of Hawaii: Submerged rocks lie in a few inconvenient places along the white water, making for unhealthy surfing.

Local guys walk or drive down through pastoral slopes and ironwood groves through former cane fields. The Kauhola Point Lighthouse is the rocky northern nub of the island, a lush remnant of the Kohala volcano, about a million years older than volcanically active parts in the south, which date from yesterday. Waves break off the point into tiny Keawaeli Bay, a destination for a relaxing getaway hike. See Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer page 37.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pokai Beach Park, Oahu

Waianae on Oahu's West Side is a long way from Waikiki, literally and metaphorically, and not many tourists take the time to drive through, much less explore. But this coast is one of the most beautiful in Hawaii, and though it is a little rough around the edges, if you show a little respect for the people and hang around for a while, the place will find your heart.

A good place to start Pokai Beach Park, in the center of the coast. A long crescent of sand, protected by a breakwater, extends from Army Beach to the park, from where a short trail leads to the terraced greenery that is the Kuilioloa Heiau (temple). From here, around 200 AD, one of the early Tahitian navigators named Pokai, set off on several round-trip voyages back to the South Pacific in open canoes, fetching the agricultural plants and livestock that were needed to establish life on the new Hawaiian homeland. The 5,000-mile excursions continue for several centuries and then ceased—leaving the Hawaiians in isolation for several more centuries until they were happened upon by Western sailing vessels.

Waianae was home to legendary slack-key singer Israel Kamakiwiwo'ole (better known as Iz)who attended the local high school. Iz died several years ago. A memorial bust can be found near the community center at 85-670 Farrington Highway. There's much more to see on the West Side. Check out pages 200-213 in Oahu Trailblazer.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Foodies on vacation: Hawaii Farmers Markets schedule

For a complete listing of markets on every island go to Hawaii Farmers Market Directory. Artisian goat cheese, local papayas, gargantuan heads of lettuce, exotic flowers, star fruit, avocados, taro, fresh coconut juice, kale, raw honey, foot long beans, eggplant, onions, grapefruit, oranges, apple bananas. . . cheap, freshly picked. Get there on time as the best vendors have been i.d.ed by resident shoppers (you'll see the lines) and inventory sells out fast. You'll be supporting ag sustainability, meeting the locals and discovering miracle cure-alls like noni juice. To your health!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Molokai's Father Damien

The Kalaupapa Peninsula juts out from the north coast of Molokai, where in the 1800s Father Damien de Veuster founded a colony for islanders afflicted with leprosy.

The colony, now a National Historic Park, is reachable via a switchbacking trail (closed due to heavy rains in April, open late October 2010) that drops 1,600 feet. Molokai Stables and Damien Tours take visitors to the site.

On the other end of the island (the southeastern coast) are St. Joseph's Church, built by Damien in 1876, and, a little farther along the lazy highway, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Church, his first effort dating from 1874.

Visitors to Maui can ferry to Molokai from Lahaina. See pages 188 to 198 of Maui Trailblazer for the details of a day trip.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kona's Kekaha Kai: Hellish Road to Heaven

The South Kohala coast on the Big Island of Hawaii is a scorched slag heap of sharp lava, the last place you'd think to wander looking for luxury. But fasten the seat belt on the rental car and inch along the 1.5-mile rutted road (its condition varies) and you will be rewarded with three beaches worthy of world-class destination resorts—Kekaha Kai State Park.

The first beach, Kekaha Kai, is a beach park with picnic facilities, right at the parking lot. Mahaiula Bay (pictured) requires a walk of less than a half-mile, to a classic sand crescent rimmed by palms and other beach trees. The third beach, Makalawena, is a round-trip walk of about two miles across a sun-baked rocky path, but the walk doesn't prevent it from being the most popular. Makalawena's charms include a little oasis pond, decent surfing, and a long run of sand backed by dunes. There's also a nice keiki pool—a protected swimming area inside the reef that is great for kids.

For more details, see page 72 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Oahu's PCC: Not a Beat Down

In spite of being the top-grossing (by far) among all private attractions in Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center on Windward Oahu is a long way from being a tourist trap. Tickets are pricey, but worth it. On the many-acre grounds you'll find the real-deal in Polynesian dance, artwork, crafts, and music, from the cultures of Oceania.

The place is operated with the help of BYU students, who beam with Aloha. Don't think learning center (though it is), but imagine more a three-ring circus set in a beautiful tropical garden with waterfalls and a lagoon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Iao Valley perch

You don't have to walk far in Iao Valley State Park—1.5 miles round-trip, with 250 feet of elevation—to get to one of the most stunning views in the Hawaiian Islands. The route leaves from the touristy lookout of the Iao Needle and quickly attains a narrow ridge top that drops away to deep stream valleys on two sides (to the waterfall-laced, Wall of Tears on one side and the Kapilau Ridge on the other).

Iao Valley is where Kamehameha the Great in 1790 used newly acquired cannons and brute force to drive Maui defenders into retreat. The stream, Kepaniwai, means "damming of the waters," and the blood from fallen waters was said to have turned the waters red. Some of the Maui men escaped via a treacherous cross-island route to Olowalu Valley.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ho'okipa, Maui: Windsurfing Capitol of the World

With multiple breaks off Spartan Reef and near-constant Trade Winds, Ho'okipa Beach Park has been home to the best windsurfers on the planet Earth ever since the sport when airborne in the 1980s. Championship competitions are held here (the grassy bluffs at the park's north end are a perfect grandstand) and much of the equipment, including Simmer sails, are designed in nearby Paia.

Paia reinvented itself in the the early 80s, when the studly new wave sport married the fetching waves of Ho'okipa. The fading Old West wood-frame plantation cottages and sugar shacks got a new coat of paint, as the sandy-footed set created a demand for a host of low-key tourist shops—boutiques, hemp-reggae wear, surfer-Joe outfitters, espresso Internet cafes, galleries, and seafood grills. The with-it epicenter for Paia is Mana Foods, where tribe members of organic enclaves and the dressed-down gentry seek whole-grain goodies and stimulated conversation. Maui Trailblazer has details on page 106.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Getting Swallowed by the Land

At popular Mainland parks, hikers are advised to stay on trails to avoid destroying a fragile ecosystem. In Hawaii, the tables are turned and the smart money is on the flora to take its toll on hikers foolhardy enough to venture off trails. Dense snarls of greenery make it impossible to find your way back to a trails after straying only a short distance. Throw in a little rain or fog and you can become rapidly, hopelessly lost. Forget about GPS. Steep topography won't let you find a route, even if the direction is clear. To complete the horror show, add the hidden promise of earth cracks and lava tubes that will mail you to nowheresville.

Here are a few tips to stay safe.

1. Stay on the trail. People have been walking these islands for centuries and if there isn't already a trail, forget about getting there. If you lose the trail, or it becomes difficult to follow, backtrack immediately.

2. On ridge and mountain trails, don't step to the side even to take a picture unless you are careful. The margins of a trail are often just ferns and grasses that disguise a free-fall.

3. Many less popular trails are unsigned. As you proceed, look back occasionally to memorize your return route. Use sticks or rocks as marker arrows (and scatter the markers upon your return).

4. Note your departure time for a hike, and make sure to begin your return when you have used up less than half the remaining daylight. Bring a flashlight.

5. When hiking in groups, stay together.

6. Always bring an equipped pack, with food, water, and extra clothing.

7. Don't let the kids stray.

8. Read No Worries Hawaii for independent traveler itinerary ideas and advice.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Slip Sliding away on Maui's Haleakala

With a trailhead at 10,000 feet, hikers may feel gleefully airborne when descending on the Sliding Sands Trail into the vast eroded valley pocked with volcanic cones on Haleakala volcano. A network of colorful paths interconnect several rustic cabins and geologic wonders, like "the bottomless pit." Many hikes wind up with double-digit round-trip miles and nearly a half-mile in elevation loss. The Halemau'u Trail begins at a slightly lower elevation on the other side of the valley, but also makes a big drop.

A word of advice: On the way down remember that you have to come back out. High altitude and temps that can range from scorching to freezing in one afternoon can make the chore more difficult. You can get well into Haleakala on a shorter day hike without turning it into an ordeal. Check with rangers about renting a cabin and staying overnight on the longer hikes; if you haven't planned ahead, you may get lucky and nab a cancelation. Maui Trailblazer, pages 156 to 160, details a number of hikes in Haleakala National Park.