Saturday, January 30, 2010

Secret Love

Couples seeking romance on Valentine's Day—or any day—can seek a rendezvous at Kauai's Secret (Kauapea) Beach on the northeast shore. Though not the secret it once was, you do still have to find your way to this unsigned beauty, reachable via dirt road and trail down through a pandanus grove.

The long beach is divided into three sections separated by lava reefs; surfer's put on a show mainly at the second and third beaches, and from all you can see the Kilauea Lighthouse on the bluff, which is part of a national wildlife refuge.

Kauai is definitely the choice for trails to wild beaches. A dozen or so ring the island, but most of them on the windward coast from Princeville south to Anahola. Wildlife will enhance a wild time: whales, monk seals, spinner doplphins, and seabirds, including the Laysan albatross (gooney birds).

To cap off the day, head a few miles north to the fabulous Princeville St. Regis Hotel where you can pull a cork at sunset on their sky high cocktail deck and take in the glamorous view of Hanalei Bay. See the new Kauai Trailblazer for the deets.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hawaii Superferry to the rescue

The mothballed Hawaii Superferry is being put to work shuttling troops, aid workers, trucks and supplies for Haiti relief work. The 866 passenger ship cruises at twice the speed of the Army ships and with built-in luxuries such as flat-screen tv's, comfortable airline seats, civilian crew and high tech galley, none of the soldiers are complaining. A second Superferry, out of service in Honolulu, is also on the way.

After years of controversy about the ferries in the Islands, this mission of aloha is one that unites all Hawaiians. The ships were out of service due to lack of economic viability—and that resulted from poor choices for consumers and conflict over adverse environmental impacts from the over-sized vessels. (A few years ago on Kauai, a makeshift flotilla of kayaks, fishing boats, and outriggers blockaded Nawiliwili Harbor.) Most Hawaiians are happy to see the big boats sail off into the sunset, especially since they are embarking on a much-needed mission of mercy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More than two at Twin Falls

The Twin Falls Botanical Preserve (right at mile marker 2 on Maui's Hana Highway) is where two streams with classic waterfalls, swimming pools set in caverns, and very long names join together and tumble over more waterfalls into pools—all of this lined by both manicured and wild tropical flora. Hemp kids run a sweet organic fruit stand at the trailhead. The preserve is private, with small leased farms that abut forest reserves and the whole deal is a good example of how a private landowner with vision can create great space. It's free, but why not make a donation (as prompted by a box at the trailhead) and say thanks to these people?

Don't try to make Twin Falls a first stop as part of Hana Highway day, but rather branch out from exploring around Paia. Bring your suit and camera. At the tallest, upper falls, daredevil school kids and game visitors leap from on the the rock ledges. It's easy to miss some of the falls, since the main pathway misses a couple and other pools are upstream of a confluence. Take a look at Maui Trailblazer, page 119.

Taken as a whole, and considering access and crowd issues at other pools on Maui, and other islands, Twin Falls is the leading contender for Best Freshwater Swimming in Hawaii.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Maui's warm welcome for families

The Kamaole Beach Parks on Maui's "Gold Coast" (there are three of them, side by side) may be Hawaii's best to take the kids, while away the days, and do some safe swimming and snorkeling. The backshore, which is the town of Kihei, may be not be the most glamorous, a boulevard strewn with mid-level resorts and condos, franchise and local-style eateries, and pedestrian shopping centers, but it fills the bill for a no-nonsense, reasonably priced family vacation.

Just south (adjacent and connected by a beach walkway) are the high-end resort beaches of Wailea, and offshore are views of other islands, Lanai and Kahoolawe (although pictured here is West Maui, which appears as another island from Kihei). Throw in day trips of Haleakala National Park and the Hana Highway, and maybe a snorkeling safari to Molokini island three-miles offshore, and you've got yourself a sweet little family vacation. Sun is pretty much guaranteed.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hawaii's sugar shacks: Eye candy

Now that sugar mills have shut down in Hawaii (only one is still working, on Maui), it may be only a matter of time until the jungle and termites swallow up the plantation workers' houses—sugar shacks. For now, you can still visit the quiet communities of tin-roofed, single walled cottages that are often accented by colorful gardens, sea-flotsam yard art, and a sleeping poi dog.

On Kauai, Waimea on the west side has some weatherworn beauties, plus a spreading resort that has some spruced-up versions at Waimea Plantation Cottages. The Hamakua Coast (northeast) of the Big Island has three or four little intact plantation towns, perched on high ocean farmlands, but still well below the much higher ridges of Mauna Kea. And you'd never guess after roaming the metro sprawl on Honolulu that sugar shack towns are alive and well on the north shore at Kahuku and the Molokueia Coast. Oddly enough, the Old Hawaii cottages are hardest to find on condo-laden Maui, in spite of it's healthy cane fields.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Oahu driving factoids

from the Oahu Trailblazer guidebook....."Old timers will say 'Ewa' to mean 'West' and 'Diamond Head' for 'East,'regardless of whether you happen to be east or west of these places. On all the islands, left and right are avoided in directions. People instead say 'mauka,' meaning turn inland or toward the mountains; and 'makai' to turn toward the coast. Nowadays, McDonalds' is used frequently, as in, "take Vineyard Avenue to the McDonalds, turn right, go two McDonalds, and make a left." If all the McDonalds on Oahu were on the coast (thankfully they are not) you could grab a Big Mac every two miles.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Zip 'N' Dip Princeville

To be honest, some of the guided "adventures" in Hawaii aren't worth the money, especially on Kauai where there are plenty of wildlands and beaches for the independent traveler to explore for free—by foot and flipper, by paddle and pedal. One notable exception is Princeville Ranch Adventures, set on 2,500-acres of green upslopes on the north shore. The Carswell family, stewards of this natural treasure for many generations, gives visitors a chance to zip across valleys harnessed (safely) to a cable and then take a dip in private stream pools set below a waterfall. The $145 tour includes a delicious picnic lunch and the moderate hike between the 9 ziplines is just over one mile. You can also see the place by horseback. The ranch hires guides who know what they're talking about and will give even repeat visitors new insight. For details or reservations, check out their website and for additional hiking trail ideas on the north shore consult the new Kauai Trailblazer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beautfiul Kauai, 2010

The completely revised and updated fourth edition of Kauai Trailblazer is now available from Amazon, B&, and Its 260 pages contain a number of new hikes and adventures, plus more than 200 photographs—including a four-page color insert. Get this book and give a good look before you jump on the jet to Kauai, and use it as your detailed, day-to-day fun finder once you get to the island.

Kauai Trailblazer has become "the bible" for independent adventure seekers. It is a complete guidebook (with restaurants, lodgings, advice, attractions, etc.), but the heart of the book is its emphasis on cultural and outdoor attractions. KT is detailed without being long-winded, beautiful without being splashy, and full of aloha without sounding like a sales pitch. You can take a vacation a year for the next decade and not reach the end of the ride this book offers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wild Blue Yonder, Maui

Head to Kanaha Beach Park on Maui's windward coast to see some of the world's best adrenaline-juice junkies go kiteboarding, zipping airborne on a sail with a surfboard clipped to their feet. The trick for the boarders (among many tricks, including having the cohones to do it) is to have the right amount of sail for their body weight so that they can swing above big waves in a pendulum motion, and not go lifting off into the Pacific skies. These guys and wahines come from around the world.

Windsurfers also like Kanaha, as much almost as they do the glamor-puss spot for this sport, Hookipa, which is a few miles down the coast. You won't believe how close it is to the airport, though it's not on main roads. See Maui Trailblazer for more.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Napali: The Cliffs

The aptly named north-northwest Napali Coast of Kauai is a 25-mille stretch of roadless shore where big seas do battle with a series of 2,500-foot-high cliffs separated by valleys. The notorious trail to the biggest of these valleys, the Kalalau (pictured) is an arduous 11-mile trek that begins where the road ends on the north side of the island.

But for the best views and a number of lesser-know trails that descend from above the precipices you need to head to the west side of the island and make the drive up to Waimea Canyon. Above the canyon are great views into the Kalalau from overlooks you can drive to. Or, select from a half-dozen or more trails—typically requiring 10-plus miles round-trip hiking with about 2,000 feet of down-and-back-up elevation. One of the best is the Nualolo Cliff Trail (pictured), which ends at a red-dirt escarpment that will curl your toes. For complete directions for all the hikes in the Waimea Canyon check out the spanking new Kauai Trailblazer for 2010.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Paradise on Sale

If you are on the West Coast now, only a moment's impulsive behavior and a few hundred bucks separates you from the golden beaches of Hawaii. You can leave Portland's overcast skies on a roundtrip direct to Maui for $281. That may be the cheapest but other western airports (and also Vegas) also have sugarcane-sweet deals.

Hawaiian Airlines is the leader in the lowdown, trying to spark interest in the face of a declining tourist economy in the Islands. Check out their website and get on board. Bring the family.  Not sure of which island to pick? Consult your No Worries Hawaii guide for the best advice and itinerary ideas.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Shave Ice: It's no snow cone.

Shave (not "shaved") ice eats more like soft ice cream than the crunchy snow cone from the Mainland. But essentially, yes, it is nothing but frozen water in a paper cone—before you choose your syrupy, colorful toping. Hmm? Shall you have Strawberry, Pineapple, Lemon, Coconut, Banana, Vanilla, Root Beer, Grape, Lime, Lilikoi (Passion fruit), Orange, Honeydew, Melon, Mango, Raspberry, Watermelon, Bubblegum, Cotton Candy, Pinacolada, Banana Cream, Lihing Mui, Lychee, Cherry, Green Apple, Guava, Tangerine, Green tea, Fruit Punch, Melona, Peach, Creamsicle, Strawberry Cream, Coconut Cream, Mizore, or some combination thereof? Add azuki beans or vanilla ice cream at the bottom? Spash of condensed milk? Whatever, order something and start shoveling with the plastic spoon and let the Aloha happen, brah.

You'll find shave ice counters throughout Hawaiian beach towns. Lines form in Haleiwa on Oahu's North Shore outside Matsumoto's, but the treats at Aoki's and H. Miura's nearby are just as good. Real shave ice freaks head to Kauai and jam into Jojo's in Waimea. Then again, it's hard to beat the Mauna Kea Icecap from the Kealia Ranch Store south of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pineapple Princess, Maui still loves you

Maui Land & Pineapple Co. has been way more about real estate than fruit for many years now, but that changed yesterday in a small move that is big in the hearts of locals.

About 65 workers arrived at dawn for the first day of work at a new though much smaller pineapple company that will allow fresh pineapple farming and packing to continue on Maui. They picked 41 tons of the juicy "Maui Golds" in about five hours. The new operation, Haliimaile Pineapple Co. began on 1,000 acres of leased land with some equipment purchased from Maui Land & Pineapple Co.

All workers were former employees of Maui Pineapple, which shut down last week after 97 years in operation. The company laid off about 285 employees and transferred 130 to partner companies.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting high on Maui

The Sliding Sands trail into Haleakala Crater (technically a valley eroded in the big volcano) lures hikers. It's striking, with miles of trail amid smaller cinder cones. But watch out not to get your eyes too far ahead of your body, since walking back out at 10,000 feet can be more than you bargained for.