Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Big Island's Kihilo Black Sand Beach & Blue Lagoon

As is often the case on the Big Island of Hawaii, paradise awaits down a sun-scorched rocky road that is hard to find. In this case, paradise is

Wainanali'i (Blue) Lagoon, in the middle of the South Kohala Coast, a hangout for sea turtles. The lagoon was built as a fishpond in 1810 at the behest of King Kamehameha the Great, although lava flows and wave action have done some damage over the years.

Enticed by the view of a turquoise streak from a highway scenic viewpoint, many visitors embark on a dry, wandering trail that drops through a kiawe forest. A better option is to drive down on a state park road that is about .25 mile from the viewpoint. The distance to Blue Lagoon is similar, but the trail is along the coast, easier to follow, and has no drop in elevation.

Kihilo Black Sand Beach, along the Huehue Trail, has excellent snorkeling--better than the lagoon itself, which tends to be milky because of silt, and suprisingly cold, due to fresh water intrusion below its surface.

You'll see a couple mega-mansions along the way, including the hardwood beauty imported from Indonesia by cosmetics tycoon Paul Mitchell. More modest cottages (and some in artful ruin) line a sweet cove just before Blue Lagoon.

Turtles haul out along a lava-banked shoreline, turning crusty white in the sun. Their shells sparkle amber when they ease back into the aquamarine. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One-horse open surf board: Christmas in Hawaii

Time to put Frosty the Snowman in a Mai Tai and make sand angels? Hawaii awaits, and airlines are offering super cheap deals. Contact to order Trailblazer adventure guides at discount prices (for two or more books).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fire, Earth, Water: New Real Estate on the Big Island

Since the Pu'u O'o began spewing melted rock more than two decades ago from the east rift of the Kilauea Volcano, hundreds of new acres of land have been formed at the edge of the Pacific. It's still too early to buy timeshares. But thousands of visitors each week make the drive down from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see the towering plume of noxious gas that forms when the molten lava meets seawater.

Visitors can also come out at night to see the flowing red rivers of rock. Viewing sites vary with the whims of the lava. On several occasions, some of this new land is highly speculative, including a recent event when some 40 acres of lava bluff cracked off and fell into the ocean.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has the details and contact information.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Anahola Aloha

Anyone looking for an old-timey, little-grass-shack getaway to Hawaii need look no further than Anahola on Kauai's east shore. Leave the strappy sandals at home. Bring the cross-trainers for some excellent coasta hiking, swim fins for above-average snorkeling, and surfboard to try several good near-shore breaks. And throw in the mountain bike to connect with red-dirt trails that continue miles to Kapa'a.

While your at it, scrounge up a kayak and head up jungled Anahola stream. But save some time to kick back in palm-frond shade and gaze at the Anahola Mountains that surround the three-mile bay.

Also bring some respect for the Hawaiian culture, as Anahola is one of the first communities to be designated as Hawaiian Homelands, thanks to Johah Kuhio, Hawaii's first congressional representatives. For more on this superlative spot—and a number of wild beaches that are nearby—check out Kauai Trailblazer, pages 64 to 71.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Livin' Da Life in Hawaii

You can get a good workout and manage to be a hedonist at the same time by taking one of the many glitzy resort walks in Hawaii. Pictured here is the Wailea Resorts walk, a paved path along the breakers which connects to three beach parks on Maui's sunny coast. On the north of Maui, Ka'anapali offers a similar chance to hike along resort pools and very good snorkeling beaches.

Poipu Beach is the place to combine fine dining with a coast walk on Kauai. On the Big Island, the Mauna Lani-Fairmont Orchid wild coast combines gardenscapes, lagoons, and snorkeling pools. Same goes for the coast at the Hilton, not far away in South Kohala.

Directions for all the walks are in the Trailblazer Travel Book guides for Hawaii.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Trailblazer Cyber Monday Deal

We offer a 40% discount on the purchase of six or more books, with free shipping (to a single address only). Think about gifts, employee perks, a set for the family, or bundle-buying with friends. 

Groups can buy the books at this price and then re-sale to members as part of a fundraiser. For a book costing $16.95, you pay $10.17, with no tax and no shipping. To order, send us a request via email, to

Friday, November 25, 2011

Airborne on Kauai's Nualolo Trail

You'll need a hang glider to continue from the terminus of the the Nualolo Trail, at the Lolo Vista Point, a barren cinder nub lofted about 2,000 feet above Kauai's precipitous northwest coast. The trek is about 8 miles, round trip, with a 1,600 drop on the way out. Sure-footed hikers can make a car-shuttle hike out of it by taking a hairy connector trail that reaches the Awa'awapuhi lookout (pictured in the distance in the bottom photo). After heavy rains, erosion can make the connector trail an experience best left to goats.

The Nualolo Trail is one of ten trails and hunters' roads that radiate out from the road at the edge of Waimea Canyon to Koke'e State Park. All end at oh-wow vistas and all involve 8- to 10-mile treks with a drop approaching 2,000 feet on the way out.

To the right of the highway on the way up, is the road's main attraction: red-walled Waimea Canyon, a.k.a. the Grand Canyon on the Pacific. Several trails lead into the canyon, or into the birdland forests along its rim. But wait, there's more: The canyon road ends past Koke'e at stunning overlooks of the Kalalau Valley, with view trails along its upper rim and into the fabulous Alakai Swamp. You want tropical trekking? Head to Kauai (and take a look at pages 151 to 171 of Kauai Trailblazer).

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Green World of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island centers around the Kilauea Caldera, a barren crust of lava that is currently (from its Halemaumau Crater) spewing metric tons of noxious gasses into the atmosphere. The vast moonscape of the park on the island's east side is connected to, but a world away, from its newest section: 116,000 acres of tropical forest that will bring out your inner Tarzan.

In 2003, HVNP doubled in size when a portion of the former Kahuku Ranch was added. The easiest access to the lush forest is a long way from the main park entrance. The best way to get there is off Lorenzo Road, near the turnoff to South Point, about 50 miles away (see Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, page 117). Park official guess that plans to develop and publicize this area of the park will be completed in 2016. But it's open for adventurers right now.

Friday, November 18, 2011

From the Big Apple to the Big Pineapple

New Yorkers: start making Hawaii vacation plans for June. Hawaiian Airlines is touching down in your city. A 294-seat Airbus A330-20 will make the ten hour flight. Check out the discounted fare promotion....$212 one way....a steal!

This fare gets you to Oahu and Waikiki Beach, pictured here. From this airborne view, you can see that Diamond Head, the iconic dormant volcano that lords over the resort strip, is indeed a crater and not just the jagged ridge that can be seen from the beach.

To get to the other islands—Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii—you'll need to make a connection in Honolulu. In order to figure out which island is best for you, and everything else needed to plan a Hawaiian vacation, take a look at No Worries Hawaii, a planning guide for all the islands. If possible, give yourself at least two weeks in Hawaii, the minimum time needed to let aloha work its magic on a New York state of mind.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Seating with a View: Dining alfresco in Hawaii

All the islands have first-class restaurants, many with celebrity chefs reinventing pan Pacific cuisine. But if you want to save a boatload of money and eat at a restaurant with unmatched views and atmosphere, not to mention unlimited seating, then make like a Hawaiian and head for the beach.

For the menu selections, head for a Hawaiian plate lunch restaurant— L&L is a popular chain, but every town will have its locally owned offerings. For well under ten bucks, you'll get a meat or seafood selection, with a starchy side dish of rice or Hawaiian potato-mac salad. The leaning is teriyaki, but plate lunches reflect Hawaii's "calabash" of cultures. The first Hawaiian settlers brought food and cooking techniques with them from Polynesia, while Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Portuguese immigrants have since each contributed their own culinary sensibilities.

Another option is a supermarket, like Foodland or Big Save, where bargain-priced sushi selections are prepared fresh and ready to go.

Then get to the beach before the sun goes down. Kihei on Maui has a number of plate lunch places with the three Kamaole Beach Parks nearby. On Kauai, head for Hanalei Bay after picking up dinner in town a few blocks away. Hilo on the Big Island has excellent take-out options and a huge beachfront park on Hilo Bay. On Oahu, the offerings are numerous near Waikiki Beach—but why huddle at a table when you can head for Kuhio Beach Park and dine in the sea breeze with the nightly free hula show as entertainment?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Find Your Dream: No Worries Hawaii now an eBook

Trailblazer Travel Books announces that their No Worries Hawaii guidebook is now available on Amazon's Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook. Have it with you wherever you go and happy vacation planning.

This planning guide is full of freebies and tips for all the islands, including all the nuts-and-bolts needed to plan a vacation that lives up to expectations. At the heart of No Worries Hawaii is a self-test that allows would-be-visitors to hone in on which island to visit, where to stay, and to choose from the best activities and attractions. Each person will have a different take on what constitutes a "dream" vacation: No Worries Hawaii has put it all together.

A large section of the book offers 36 different categories of Hawaiian activities (e.g., beginner snorkeling beaches, museums, tropical hikes, botanical gardens, places to watch surfers, wild beaches). The top 20 places for each category are grouped by island—and boldfaced entries note Hawaii's top five in each category.

As the title suggests, the end result is a worry-free vacation—with time spent having fun and not trying to find it. A Wikiwiki phonebook appendix lists the best accommodations, tours, campsites, attractions, with contact information. No Worries Hawaii has been out in paper for several editions. The authors have spent decades in Hawaii, and also have written a detailed travel guide for each of the islands, which go hand in hand with the planning guide.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lawn Surfing at Kauai's Hanalei

Well, not exactly. These boards of all sizes are only taking a break on the green stuff before finding a new owner and heading onto the wet blue stuff, only a few blocks away at Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Hawaii.

The surfboard swap meet happens on the occasional Saturday, at the Hanalei School Shopping Center in the middle of town. Some boards are new, handmade by locals, but most are used, whose owners are looking to trade up, or just find a new ride. Prices are right.

Hanalei has one of the best beginner surfing breaks in Hawaii, at Black Pot Beach, which is home to the photogenic Hanalei Pier. Farther out, the bay also has the big-boy break called Queens (and others), offshore the Hanalei River. In the middle of the bay is the rough-and-tumble, many-tiered shore break at Pinetrees—home surf spot to former world pro champ, the late Andy Irons, and his brother, Bruce, who continues a tradition of excellence. Many of the surfers at the board swap will know the Irons brothers—Andy's death in 2010 hit the Kauai surfing family hard.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Waves Are Thugs

The couple in this seemingly carefree photo shoot were actually ready to spring into action, knowing that waves are like thugs: never turn your back on them at the shoreline. Or at least keep a wary eye seaward.

Each year many Hawaiian vacations end when someone gets whacked by a wave. The good news: nothing to worry about, as long as you play by the rules:

1. On high-surf days particularly, don't walk along the foam line or "wet reach" of any incoming set. Sloping sand increases the hazard. In this zone, you are in the reach of a rogue wave, a common larger wave among the others.

2. Watch them. If you react before the wave breaks, you can commonly out run it.

3. On reefs, stay well back of any rocks that are wet. Stay back of cliffs and ledges.

4. Along shore walks, observe the surf from a safer distance for many minutes to determine the conditions.

5. If you get swept away by a wave, don't try to fight your way back to shore---unless you are within immediate grasp. The currents will release you offshore, and Hawaiian Watermen (lifeguards) are among the best in the world. Try to stay calm. Helicopters and jet skis are on the way.

Takeaway: No problem if you give it respect.

For more "staying safe" tips on your Hawaiian vacation, read the No Worries Hawaii guidebook.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lovely Lanikai, Oahu's Glamour Beach

Waikiki may get most of the pub, but locals know Lanikai Beach on Windward Oahu is the place to see and be seen. Swimsuit models regularly grace the powder white sand for magazine shoots, though Lanikai's allure is there with no people present. Aquamarine waters give way to dreamy offshore landscapes: the Kaneohe Peninsula, the tiny seabird islands of Mokolea and Moku Manu, and the near-shore Flat Island.

Kayakers head to the islands, though Kaneohe is an off-limits Marine Corps Base. The snorkeling is very good close in along the length of Lanikai, and kite-borders and windsurfers get pushed around by reliable wind. Lanikai is backed by a grid of modest (but pricey) beach cottages, but there's plenty of public access. Beach combers can walk for miles, first reaching adjacent Kailua Beach Park, with its acres of treed parklands, and then continuing along little-visited Kalama Beach, which stretches toward the military base.

Some very good hiking is also close by. See Oahu Trailblazer, beginning on page 109 for more to do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pele's Hot Pool on Big Island's Puna Coast

Thanks to a 1960 eruption by the volcano goddess Pele, which altered underground springs, visitors can take a warm dip at Ahalanui County Park on the remote Puna Coast east of Hilo. Until then the pool had been cool.

The free park is just one of the discoveries on Hawaii's most underrated coast, which also includes the Kehena-Pohoiki Scenic Drive. A sun deck surround's Ahalanui's seaside pool, and coco palms shade grassy picnics areas. Check out page 160 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailbazer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Hawaiian Nation Lives at Honolulu's Iolani Palace

In 1892, Hawaii was recognized throughout the world as a sovereign nation and the Iolani Palace was its White House. Artfully decorated from the monarch's world travels, the palace was also state-of-the-art construction, boasting electricity and telephones before its Washington D.C. counterpart.

In 1891, King David Kalakaua died, and the country was ruled by his sister, Queen Liliuokalani. In 1893, American businessmen, who for generations since the Kamehameha monarchies had become intertwined in agricultural businesses and politics, made a power grab and seized the throne. When loyalists to the Queen protested, Lilioukalani was imprisoned in a bedroom of the palace. Then-U.S. President Grover Cleveland demanded that the monarchy be restored, but when he left office in 1898, new President McKinley annexed Hawaii to the United States.

The issue remains an active. President Clinton formally apologized to Hawaii in 1993. For the Kingdom of Hawaii, Iolani Palace represents both great joy and great sadness—and today the tenor there is a bittersweet realm in between. Tours are offered daily, and the grounds are not to be missed as part of a Honolulu walking tour (see Oahu Trailblazer, pages 31-39). On Fridays at noon, the Royal Hawaiian Band, which dates from 1850, treats visitors to a free concert at the Coronation Pavilion.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maui's Olowalu is Still a Safe Haven

View Olowalu, Maui in a larger map

In 1790, a defeated band of Maui warriors escaped slaughter at the hands of Kamehameha's invading forces by scrambling out of Iao Valley and taking a treacherous trail across the island to Olowalu Valley. Today, the trail is mostly overgrown, presenting a danger to hikers who take it.

Olowalu is now an escape for road-weary tourists who pull off the highway north of McGregor Point on the way to Lahaina. Inland are the Olowalu Petroglyphs (rock carvings) and the sketchy remains of the trail. And seaward is the tranquil Olowalu Landing (pictured), a charming oasis that was the site of one of Maui's earliest sugar mills, established in 1864. Remnants are scattered about a small tropical arboretum. The earthen wharf at the landing creates coves for snorkeling and kayaking. The wharf is an excellent viewing spot, not only of the valley looming inland, but also of whales and sea turtles who cruise by fairly close to shore.

See Maui Trailblazer, beginning on page 58, for the deets on Olowalu.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hiking Maui's Haleakala National Park: World Class

Directions to this trail on Maui can be found in your Maui Trailblazer guidebook.  Start reading it on your Kindle in under a minute.

Haleakala National Park stretches from the south coast near Hana (at the Pools of Oheo) to the 10,000-foot Red Hill Summit of the still-active volcano—nearly 100 miles of trails. If you can only do one—which would be a shame—try the Sliding Sands Trail, which drops from the visitors center near the summit ato connect with a spider web of trails in the vast red-hued crater. (Okay, Haleakala's central depression is not technically a crater, but an eroded valley that is dotted with old cinder cones, or pu'us, as they are called in Hawaii.)

When heading down the Sliding Sands Trail, bear in mind that you will have to hike back. It's easy to be lured farther to overlooks and cinder cones, and then be left with a long trek back up, made more difficult by the elevation. Also be sure to bring plenty of water, emergency food, and clothing that will protect against extreme cold and heat, which may occur on the same day. And don't forget to make sure the camera is charged and the chip is empty, since photographers will get a happy trigger finger.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Aloha on SALE: Trailblazer Travel Books

Buy two or more Trailblazers and save big bucks.

Send an email to, stating your name, shipping address, and the books you would like. We'll reply with an invoice, which you pay through PayPal or check. We try to respond quickly, always within 24 hours, and we turn around our shipping just as fast.

Buy 1 book: free shipping
2-3 books, (any kind): 20% off, free shipping
4-6 books, (any kind): 30% off, free shipping
7+ books, (any kind): 40% off, free shipping

No Worries Hawaii $18.95
Kauai Trailblazer $16.95
Maui Trailblazer $16.95
Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer $16.95
Oahu Trailblazer $16.95
Alpine SierraTrailblazer $18.95
Golden Gate Trailblazer $17.95

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hawaii Beach Etiquette

Yes, for the most part, the beach in Hawaii is a place to run free and let your freak flag fly. But bear in mind, some rules do apply when traipsing along the sand:

1. The flip flops (called 'slippers' in Hawaii) that accumulate near beach entrances are not free. They belong to people. You may, however, select from among the single slippers that are commonly washed up at the shoreline—and good luck trying to find a pair.

2. Turtles have the right of way, in the water and on the sand. Don't touch. You'll find the big reptiles on all the islands, but they are commonplace on the Big Island of Hawaii.

3. If you see a large-bellied creature on the sand—and it is not sunburned—stay back at least fifty feet. Hawaiian Monk Seals, the only mammals besides an obscure species of bat to occur naturally in Hawaii, like to sun themselves on the sand. Kauai is the island that hosts the most seals, both at wild beaches and those with lots of people. Conservation groups put a rope barrier around the animals when a report is made, but at remote beaches this is not the case.

If you are interested in wildlife (not the kind that thrives on Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki) see No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planning guide that lists beaches and trails that are best for spotting creatures in the sea, on land, and in the air.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oahu's Haleiwa: Surfing Capitol of the Universe

Four of the world's top pro surfing venues are strung along a few miles of the rural Kamehameha Highway of Oahu's North Shore: Haleiwa Ali'i, Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Sunset Beach. When the sandy-footed set is looking for a break from the beach, they head to Haleiwa.

Don't expect the glitz and glam of Waikiki (or even Lahaina). Haleiwa began in 1832 as a missionary settlement, and, even though escapees from Honolulu have sought weekend refuge here for more than a century, the place has retained its country vibe. An assemblage of wood-frame businesses are spread along a couple miles of beach-front parks. Most of the action is at the North Shore Marketplace, where you'll find the Patagonia store, that surfing great Rell Sunn helped set up in 1994. Coffee shops, galleries, and eateries draw well-heeled locals from the hills.

Shave ice sellers at Matsumoto's and H. Miuras enjoy long lines of customers. To get surfing lessons (Haleiwa has one of Hawaii's best breaks at Puaena) and gear, check of rustic Surf-N-Sea, next to the town's signature bridge. People watching, beachcombing, and canoeing are popular pursuits for visitor's not ready to ride the waves.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Maui Trailblazer "E"

Maui Trailblazer has joined the new e-book generation.  Print format, on your Kindle, Nook or e-reader device, it's a force to be discovered and enjoyed if you're planning a sun, sand and surf adventure to the famous as well as hidden attractions on Maui.

A guide for families and outdoor adventurers alike, Maui Trailblazer 2011 covers all of the island, and includes day trips to the neighboring islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Molokini.
Clear directions and concise descriptions lead to all of Maui's well-known attractions, as well as to hidden discoveries that Trailblazer readers have come to expect.

137 different hikes and strolls to tropical rain forests and remote valleys, coastal bluffs and lava caves, Haleakala crater and the Hana Highway, cascading waterfalls, beaches, ridgetops, towns, whale-watching perches, historic sites, and archeological ruins.

Among the 44 snorkeling spots are hike-to coves and the secret places that tour boats go.

Kayakers can pick from about 20 put-ins.

Surfers can select from 38 beaches and decide whether to boogie, board, or body surf. Onlookers will find the best places to watch the surfers, windsurfers and kite-boarders ride the big ones.

The text is complimented by 10 maps and 240 photographs. Driving tours-nine of them-take readers to all the attractions, natural wonders, and historic sites.

A Resource Links section provides numbers for free visitor information and recreational outfitters, as well as hand-picked accommodations and local restaurants to suit every budget and taste bud.

A Best Of section lets you pick the right activity to suit your mood and the day. Appendices include free hula shows, farmer's markets, what to pack, climate, history, fauna, and a Hawaiian glossary.

This new and completely revised third edition for 2011 includes a Trailblazer Kids section for adventuring families.

Buy from here and here for instant download and a fun packed vacation.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kauai's North Shore

Kauai's north shore is where the 1950s classic "South Pacific" was filmed, and its yellow-sand beaches and aquamarine waters have been luring tourists ever since. In the summer, calm waters are filled with snorkelers, while winter months bring waves to some of Hawaii's most underrated surfing beaches.

Bottom left of upper photo is the Wahina River, which drains the valley where the last of Hawaii's ancient people, the Menehune where counted in a 20th-century census. From there, the highway twists through a tropical arboretum, passing Lumahai Beach (of South Pacific fame), and reaching Haena State Park—site of beach-side camping and near Tunnels snorkeling beach. The Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast starts a couple miles past Haena, where the highway ends.

Helicoptering over Kauai will give you the best perspective of the island's dramatic beauty. Blue Hawaiian helicopters is a good choice. When it's time to test the trails, the Kauai Trailblazer should be in your daypack.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ho Hum, Another Day at Duke's Lagoon

Many visitors who seek quietude at Waikiki Beach walk toward Diamond Head and Kapiolani Park. No complaints there. But try going the other direction, toward Ala Wai Harbor. After dodging the flesh on beach towels in front of the resorts, you will come to the end of the sand—just beyond the Rainbow Tower of the beautiful Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort—and then the very swimmable Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon.

The large saltwater oval offers the best swimming on this end of Waikiki. It's named for Olympic swim champion and all-time surfing great, Duke Kahanamoku, whose family once owned the property on which the Hilton Village now stands. On the side of the hotel opposite the lagoon, you will also find a sweet shaded park that is named for the Duke. The feats of the Duke are legendary and he was on a first-name basis with every celebrity who visited Waikiki for decades. He once paddled his great hardwood longboard, called Papa Nui, to greet epic surf that was thundering offshore. The guy had to do it. Onlookers with binoculars watched as Duke faced the killer waves—until he saw the greatest wave of all and rode it for a mile or more, right onto the sands ow Waikiki Beach.

To find other walks around Waikiki and Honolulu - all the glitz plus the cultural sites, get a copy of the Oahu Trailblazer guidebook that has maps and more photos.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Camping on Lanai: A Side Trip From Maui

The best things in life are indeed free—or cost a big pile of money. No better example is camping on the island of Lanai, where the beach-front lawn of Hulopoe Beach Park is a short walk from the uber-luxury grounds of the Four Seasons Manele Bay Resort. Lanai is a short ferry ride (about ten miles) from either Lahaina or Ma'alaea on Maui. The beach park, featuring some of the best coastal camping in Hawaii, is about a quarter-mile walk from the ferry landing.

For a small fee, all visitors can use the hotel shuttle buses to visit the Manele Bay Resort, and also to hitch a ride eight miles inland to the pineapple town of Lanai City and the island's second luxury resort, the Four Season's Lodge at Koele. This beauty sits like an colonial plantation amid the historic Lanai Ranch and a 40-acre tropical arboretum.

Campers can snorkel with a dolphin pod that hangs out at Hulopoe Bay, or take a short coastal trail to Shark Cove and Sweetheart Rock, site of a Hawaiian village that dates for 900 AD (although all that remains of the settlement are the tales). Mountain Bikers can take a pedal on the Munro Trail, or Lanai's quiet backroads. You won't find traffic. Check out Maui Trailblazer, beginning on page 181, to plan a worthwhile adventure to tag on to a visit to Maui.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hanging with the I'iwi at Maui's Hosmer Grove

On this day, cold rain and clouds buffeted the 10,000-foot summit of the Haleakala National Park, but it only drizzled down lower in Hosmer Grove—home to the darlings of the forest, the I'iwi. The hook-nosed flit-abouts, also known as the Scarlet Hawaiian Honeycreeper, live on all the Islands (except Lanai, where pineapple ruled), and are healthy in number (more than a quarter-million), but other species of this hummingbird family are endangered.

Ranger John Hosmer planted the grove a century ago, and its nature walk is on the A-list for birders, especially since the Waikomo Ridge Trail and Supply Trail are nearby, offering more birdlands of native and exotic forest. For other trails in the area (you have plenty of choices) see Maui Trailblazer pages 153 to 160.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Maui's Iao Valley State Park

Iao (rhymes with meow) Valley State Park gets hammered with tour buses and can be a turnoff to those seeking a jungle adventure. To enjoy the place, you need to cobble together a series of attractions, beginning outside the park--which is only two miles from Maui's county seat in Wailuku.

Maui Trailblazer has the details, beginning on page 91. The heftiest hike in the area is Kapilau Ridge (up to 5 miles round-trip, with 2,100 feet of elevation), which passes the Wailuku Cross on the way up a skinny ridge with sea views. Just before the park is a sure-thing for families: Kepaniwai Heritage Park. The county park has an arboretum of banyans, palms, and mangos that shade recreations of buildings from the cultures that formed Hawaii's sugar cane culture. Next door to this park is the privately run Hawaii Nature Center, with a gift shop, kid's museum, and nature walks (around $30) that visit the stream where the bloody battle of the Iao Valley took place in 1790. Finally, also outside the park is the Tropical Gardens of Maui, whose lush acres also span the stream. Garden admission is priced right, about five bucks.

Iao Valley State Park has several short hikes, including botanical gardens, streamside trails, and the steps that rise to a kiosk to view the park's namesake, a 2,250-foot green spire known as the Iao Needle. Most visitors stop here, not realizing you can step over a railing to a trail that leads up past the Needle to a narrow ridge that is one of Maui's (and Hawaii's) most scenic spots. Reaching this spectacular spot requires only a modest investment of energy: 1.5 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 250 feet. The trail continues beyond the vista, following the route the fleeing warriors took in 1790 to escape to Olowalu Valley on the other side of the island. But this trail is badly overgrown and not recommended, even if Kamehameha himself is chasing you with a club.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

John Cruz brings Aloha to Japan

Hawaii's superstar soloist, John Cruz, has scheduled a series of concerts in Japan starting on Friday, September 2 in Yokohama at Thumbs Up. Catch the tour venue on his website. He'll be wrapping it up with a sunset performance at the Greenroom Camp Festival in Minamiboso on September 10, an eco-conscious event to promote saving Japan's beaches and protecting the environment.

A songwriter and actor, Cruz is best known for his 1996 soulful hit "Island Style" which has become an anthem of Aloha throughout the islands and the world. In 2005, John added the Grammy Award to his list of honors. His original song "Jo Bo's Night" was featured on the compilation CD Slack Key Guitar Volume 2, which won the first Grammy ever awarded for Hawaiian music.

The Oahu born singer has not forgotten his roots and is well known as a pro bono headliner at benefit concerts for numerous nonprofit groups. His first gig upon returning to the islands will be at the Kauai Lifeguard Association FIrst Wave Celebration on October 9, a fundraiser to buy jet skis and ATVs for local lifeguards who perform their rescues in some of the roughest waters in Hawaii.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Island's Keauhou: For Those in the Know

Keahou (KAY-a-ho) Bay is carved into the south end of the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, for sure a place to see on a visit, and right up there as a place to stay—one of the sleeper destination resorts in Hawaii.

The bay is rich with history, as the birthplace of King Kamehameha III and also near where the final battle among Hawaiian warriors took place (at the Kuamo'o Battlefield), which ended the kapu system of punishments and sent Hawaii on the road to being a world-recognized sovereign nation.

The bay has good snorkeling, and is also a departure point for tours that go around the point to the coral reefs at the Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay—one of the best dive spots in the Islands.

Locals flock to Keauhou for canoeing and volleyball, and coastal paths invite hikers who want to watch wave action. Perched at one mouth of the bay is the Sheraton Keauhou Resort. Though not opulent by Hawaiian standards (which are Disneyesque) the resort has an awesome view deck over the Pacific, and has an out-of-the-way ambiance that is getting harder to find in Hawaii. You'll want to check this place out, if thinking about a high-end resort for your Big Island getaway.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Contest: Where in Hawaii are these waterfalls?

Name these waterfalls and win a free Trailblazer Travel Book of your choice. A winner will be awarded, even if we don't come up with someone who knows all five.

Hints: Three are on Kauai, one on Maui, and two are on the Big Island. One was closed due to an earthquake about five years ago. On falls was featured as the opening shot of a long-running weekly TV program. One falls is on private property, accessible with a hiking adventure company. And one falls is pictured here from a helicopter.

Hint: All are in the Trailblazer guides. Go ahead and take a stab at it. Grading is on a curve. Email us with your answers at