Sunday, February 27, 2011

Whoa! Wahine's Wild Ride at Waimea Rodeo

Hawaiian cowboys were roping doggies before their counterparts in the American West, although "rodeo" is not the first word that comes to mind when people think of the Islands. But it will be for visitors to yesterday's Waimea Town Celebration, where the cowboy competition is a major draw.

The show stopper was the rescue event, where a mounted rider circles a barrel to pick up a buddy and giddyup for home. In this case the crowd gasped as the diminutive cowgirl was snatched by her uncle and swept wide of the wrong end of the horse. She was able to hang on to the finish line with the horse at a full gallop and the crowd hooting and applauding. Some of the best riders in the U.S. participate in the events, though it is mainly a reason for the town to get together and share a heritage of cowboy aloha in the far, far west.

The celebration, an annual event, also includes live music in a pavilion at the old sugar mill, surrounded by crafts, gift, and food booths. At the visitors center across the street, Hawaiians displayed cultural traditions, such as lei making, poi pounding, and Niihau necklaces which are thought by many to be the finest examples of shell artistry in the world. BTW: Although Parker Ranch (the nation's largest privately owned cattle operation) is in Waimea on the Big Island, this Waimea is on Kaua'i, site of British Captain James Cook's first landfall in Hawaii in the late 18C.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cruising Kauai's Kalalau Trail

The first two miles of the Kalalau Trail—an 11-mile cliffhanger on the roadless Napali Coast to Kalalau Valley—is now built for speed, thanks to a million-plus-dollar grant (and lots of elbow grease) that widened the trail and added water bars and log steps. A popular day hike to boulder-strewn Hanakapiai Beach is a four-mile roundtrip hike through a garden of tropical plants with vistas of the coast along the way. The trail suffers from over-popularity at times, but it is popular for good reason.

Though the Kalalau Trail is improved, hikers still have a panoply of choices to suffer death or serious injury on this trail. To come back in one piece: stay back from trail edges to avoid drop-offs, don't swim at the beach, and avoid the stream during rainy conditions (flash floods), and keep the kids in tow. And, yeah, don't take a header or a butt plant on rocks. A hiking pole helps. Having said all that, average hikers will have no problems.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oahu's Sizzling Sandy Beach

High schoolers take a break from studying the 3 R's and head to Sandy Beach to soak up the 4 S's: Surf, sun, skin, and sand. On the southeast coast of the island, this run of open sand is a short hop from both metro Honolulu and the Windward side. Car stereos along a long parking lot play counterpoint to a tier of shorebreaks that are good for bodyboards and shortboards. When competitions are held, the scene really amps up.

Close to Sandy Beach, is Koko Crater, a volcanic cone that hold a botanical garden in the acres of it's interior. Though not an action scene for teens, birds go wild among an orchard of plumeria trees, gardens of exotic and native palms, and numerous varieties of cacti that seemingly were invented by Disney cartoonists. Admission to the garden is free. Pages 90 to 93 of Oahu Trailblazer has more details, plus other stuff on this coast, like snorkeling tide pools.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Camping in Hawaii

Camping in Hawaii, with a few exceptions, is not exactly a wilderness experience, especially if you fantasize a pseudo-little grass shack on the beach. But it's definitely the choice for those on a budget—even though airline fees for checked bags (tents) have altered the math a bit.

Beach campgrounds are mostly run by the county (each island is its own county) and are usually closed for a day a week (varying, depending on the park) for maintenance and to keep everybody moving. Bringing a larger, walk-in dome tent has advantages, lending a degree of privacy, a larger place to put your stuff and change, etc., and a nice dry pocket in case of rain or strong wind.

On Kauai, Anini Beach is a good bet for visitors. On Maui, Waianapanapa State Park near Hana is sweet, but isolated from the best beaches on the west and south coasts. Oahu's Malaekahana State Recreation Area on the north Windward coast has room to roam. On the Big Island, little known Kapa'a Beach Park in Kohala has some choice spots.

Mountain camping will a more private experience but (you guessed it), you will be in cooler temps and a long way from the beach. The Big Island's Kalopa State Park is a find, on the north end of the Hamakua Coast.

Each Trailblazer guide has a rundown on campgrounds—as well as rustic accommodations and cabins, which are a good alternative for budget travelers. A summary is also included in
No Worries Hawaii, an all-island planning guide.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Waterfalls at Big Island's Waipio Valley

A for-real four-wheel drive road snakes down to Waipio Valley where the highway ends at an overlook on the northeast coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. But you can two-foot it down there in about 20 minutes. On the way you cross the stream near the top of Kaluahine Falls. By walking to the right at Wapio's beach, you can reach the bottom of the cascade, but don't get too close, since boulders and debris can really ruin this view from below.

Hikers can also head into Waipio Valley to see taro fields, lagoons formed by slack waters of the stream, and other falls that lace the sheer green walls. Waipio is enriched with history as well as scenic beauty. King Kamehameha I was born in this region, and used to surf here as a boy.

Complete directions to the beach can be found in the Hawaii The Big Island Trailblazer guidebook.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Blue Hawaiian Yonder

Though not exactly cheap, a helicopter ride in Hawaii may be the best buy among the many ways to spend your money on guided tours and attractions. Whether getting the lay of the land upon arrival or gaining a spectacular perspective on where you've been when your vacation is over, you will get a memorable experience.

All islands have a number of helicopter companies, but only Blue Hawaiian covers all of the islands. They've somehow managed to expand their business during the economic downturn of the last two years, when other companies have gone out of business. Their Eco Star choppers are quiet and comfortable, their pilots are experienced and amiable, and their safety record is impeccable. All that adds up to good word-of-mouth and repeat customers.

These pics are of Kauai, where the tour takes in the inaccessible green chasms of the Napali Coast, as well as Mount Waialeale, the "wall of tears", "Jurassic Falls" and the interior of the Garden Island. The dramatic ride as well as the pilot's narration are recorded and available as a DVD for purchase so you can relive your experience with family and friends. Of course, they don't mind if you shoot your own pictures. Tip: Wear black or dark colors to limit windshield reflection.

On the Big Island, several tours are offered, though the most popular hovers over the active Volcano at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. On Maui, you have an option to visit nearby Molokai, with its 4,000-foot-high sea cliffs.

Oahu is Blue Hawaiian's newest adventure. On all the islands, you are guaranteed the rare experience of getting a thrill and being totally relaxed at the same time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Big Island's South Point: Dat's It

South Point on the Big Island of Hawaii is the tip of the 1,600-mile long Hawaiian Archipelago (including the 300 miles of the principal island chain), the last bit of land for thousands of miles until islands specks appear in the South Pacific. Canoe ladders hang on the cliff near the point to take advantage of good fishing, but beware the Halaea Current, named for a chief whose canoe was swept south over the horizon and never seen again.

The slope is gradual at the actual south point, as Mauna Loa's south rift zone submerges and continues another 20,000 feet under water to the base of the earth's most-massive mountain. In perhaps another 10,000 years South Point will no longer be the most southerly land in Hawaii. The geophysical conditions at South Point creates a near-constant breeze, which has generated electricity there for more than two decades.

About 20 miles to the southeast another volcano, Loihi, is building as fresh lava roils into the cold ocean. At present, Loihi is about 15,000 feet tall and needs another 3,000 feet of eruption to see daylight.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Zzzzziping at Kauai's Princeville Ranch

No doubt Tarzan would prefer zipline cables over his usual hanging vines to take a ride down the green gorges and ridges of the 2,500-acre Princeville Ranch on the north shore of Kauai. He would go a whole lot faster and be snugged in safe, that's for sure.

Upbeat and athletic guides give everyone an intro and fit you into double-clipped harnesses. They start you out on a baby ride to get the hang of it. You then take seven more-thrillinng rides, interconnected by short walks and footbridges, ramping up (literally) to the final King Kong—whose name speaks for itself. By then everyone will be ready to jump into the blue and watch the scenery whizz by. The lines do make a "zipping" noise, kind of a long hum, which adds to a soundtrack of yeehaws! and birdsong. Some seasoned zippers let it all hang out, like trapeze artists in a freefall, flying backwards with one hand securely on the harness rope.

Call or email Princeville Ranch Adventures. Ziplines are just one of their many adventure tours. The company is run by the Carswells, whose family have operated the ranch and riding stables for many generations.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hawaiian Chicks Rule

The habitat of some Laysan Albatrosses these days is the golf courses on the north shore of Kauai--and on the wild tiny islands farther north(about 130 of them) that comprise the 1,600-mile Hawaiian Archipelago. Moms birth chicks yearly, or every other year, though sometimes gay females pair up, as has been observed on Oahu. They are joined on golf courses by the Nene, the Hawaiian goose that is the endangered state bird. Nene have made a strong comeback in recent years.

Laysan albatrosses live about 50 years, with wingspans more than 4 feet and standing nealy 2 feet tall. Awkward flight take-offs, waddling, and a bobbing, shuck-and-jive mating dance have earned them the nickname "gooney birds." Fledglings leave mommy after 3 years, but don't mate until 7 or 8 years. After this four-year search, they mate for life, just like the actors in romantic comedies.