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.