Monday, August 30, 2010

Keanae, Maui: Worthy Destination on the Hana Highway

In geologic terms Keanae Peninsula came to be recently, when a massive eruption blew out the side of Haleakala Volcano and a zillion tons of lava flowed down and fanned out from the east shore of Maui. But it was long enough so that bananas, palms, and lush greenery now carpet the site of a sleepy village. Don't make the mistake of buzzing by on the way to Hana--or make this place a destination for the day.

River pools (included the one pictured, that on this day was muddied by rain runoff) provide good swimming, and the Keanae Arboretum is one of Maui's best family nature walks. The town, a collection of farm houses and a mom-and-pop lunch stand, is centered around a field and the little church with the big name, ihi'ihioiehovaona, which was built in 1860. Wave watchers can see lava stacks do battle with windward surf. See Maui Trailblazer, pages 124 to 127 for more stuff.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cruising the Big Island's Hamakua Coast

The northeast quadrant of the Big Island (north of Hilo, south of Waipio Valley) is as lush as any coastline in Hawaii. You can drive some 40 miles, hitting well-known attractions like Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens, Akaka Falls State Park, and Laupahoehoe Beach Park—site of the killer tsunami of 1946.

The cool tip for this drive is to take several segments of the Old Mamalahoa Highway, which have been bypassed by the newer two-lane blacktop. The old road penetrates lush tunnels of greenery, goes through historic sugar cane settlements, and then rejoins the highway. Leave your snorkeling gear in the car, since you won't find beaches, but adventure seekers can find several surfer coves.

If you want to spend the day and really get out there (or up there) take one of a few roads that climb several thousand feet to one of Hamakua's forest reserves that lie along the lower slopes of Mauna Kea. For details, see Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, pages 169 to 175.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SFO to Oahu Cheap is advertising this year's lowest price for an Oahu three day vacation: $299. It's valid September 4-27, including weekends. Includes a flight from San Francisco and a 3 night stay at the Castle Ocean Resort Hotel (not on the beach). Maui trips are just $50 more, however, car rental would be an add-on. Call: 800-742-9244.

Honolulu International Airport transportation tips:

Shuttle, 808-275-6633. One way $30/RT $58. Special rates for large families and groups.

Royal Hawaiian Taxi, 808-223-1733. Runs 24/7. Fares for one to four passengers, $30.

No need to rent a car on such a shortie. There's plenty to do in Waikiki/Honolulu area. Consult your Oahu Trailblazer guidebook for nearby walks, hikes, best beaches and shopping.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going to Maui?: go with the Trailblazers

An all-in-one guide for families and outdoor adventurers alike, Trailblazer covers all of Maui as well as Molokai and Lanai—the famous places and the hidden attractions. Clear directions and descriptions lead to:

137 hikes and strolls: tropical rain forests and remote valleys, coastal bluffs and lava tubes, Haleakala crater and the Hana Highway, cascading waterfalls, sapphire pools, beaches, ridgetops, towns, whale watching perches, historic sites, and archeological ruins.

44 snorkeling beaches and reefs, including hike-to coves and the secret places that the tour boats go.

16 spots to kayak or canoe the coast.

38 beaches for surfers, including board, body and boogie, plus the windsurfing and kite-boarding hot spots.

Day excursions to the outer islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Molokini

Maui Trailblazer includes:

10 maps and more than 200 photographs

9 driving tours, with directions to natural wonders and cultural sites.

A Resource Links section with handpicked accommodations, restaurants for all budgets, web links, recreational outfitters, transportation, and visitor information.

A new 4-page spread of color photos

A Best Of section lets you pick the right activity for the right day.

Appendices include free hula shows, luaus, farmer’s markets, what to pack, climate, history, and fauna

Available on,, REI,, independent bookstores, or buy directly from us at  Aloha!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hee Haw! Hike or Bike to Kauai's Donkey Beach

Not long ago, Donkey Beach on Kauai’s Coconut Coast was a surfers’ hangout and sometimes nudie beach reachable via a coastal pineapple road or an unmarked path down through the cane fields. Though still a quiet place to spend the day, the beach is now on the tourist map right off the new (2009) Kealia Coastal Bike Path, a paved route with several arty bridges that hugs the coast for several miles from Kapa’a Town, and only a mile or so from Kealia Beach. A signed trailhead with fancy paved parking lot makes Donkey a short trot (less than a mile round-trip) for hikers.

The waters are normally too rough for swimming, but surfers take on a choppy inshore break, as well as a right-slide off the bay’s south point. An unpaved trail continues to little-seen House Beach and then for several miles to Anahola. Be Aware: All Hawaiian beaches are public spots, so keep your pants on.

Complete walking and driving directions in the Kauai Trailblazer guide.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shave Ice in Paradise: Haleiwa

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 topping. 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? Splash of condensed milk? Whatever, order something and start shoveling with the plastic spoon and let the Aloha happen, brah.
Lines form in Haleiwa on Oahu's North Shore outside Matsumoto's, but the treats at Aoki's nearby are just as good.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two Hike-to Beaches on the Big Island

Hang a left at the sandy Anaeho'omalu Beach Park in South Kohala and after fifteen minutes of walking you'll hit the white strip of sand at Kapalaoa Beach. Excellent snorkeling awaits, and a stroll of the rugged backshore will reveal heiau ruins and petroglyphs. (If you walk right from the beach park for fifteen minutes, the contrast could not be greater: the luxury resorts at Waikoloa and the Hilton, plus scads of beachfront villas.) Check out Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, beginning on page 59.

At the end of the road at the north end of the island (Kohala) is the Pololu Valley Lookout. From there a steep but short trail leads to a remote beach (pictured) with stream valley. Adventure hikers can continue from there on and up-and-down trail to several other roadless valleys. See page 35 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

View Larger Map

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Iki not Icky on the Big Island

It's a shame to visit the Big Island and not take the Iki Crater Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a four-mile loop that drops 400 feet into a side crater of Kilauea Volcano. You start out in the lush ohia-and-tree-fern forest on the south rim of the crater and then make your way across broken tabletops of pahoehoe (smooth) lava that seep steam. The crater is active though it has not blown its cork since 1959.

The trail climbs again into the rain forest and joins the Crater Rim Trail on an undulating journey with a variety of songbirds providing the soundtrack. Iki Crater is among the best of many excellent hikes in this section of the Big Island. For a complete rundown, see pages 125-133 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hawaiian Nene: This Goose not Cooked

Endangered and protected, the Hawaiian Nene is the state bird and the rarest species of goose in the world—not the main dish at a feast as it was in the old days. Thanks to protected status, the big bird has made a comeback in recent decades.

Best places to see the nene: On Maui, keep an eye peeled while drive up to the summit of Haleakala National park, and also when hiking to the Koloa Cabin within the crater. On the Big Island of Hawaii, the nene thrives on the arid slopes of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, off Hilina Pali Road (where you are advised to drive slowly). The best place on Kauai is Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, where the geese flutter in late afternoons amongst a host of other Hawaiian critters that inhabit the air and the seas just off the point that holds the historic lighthouse.