Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quick Climb to Maui's Waihe'e Ridge

A few miles north of Kahalui on Maui's windward coast lies Waihe'e Ridge, a five-mile round-trip hop up 1,500 feet. The view hike ends enticingly short of the interior peaks of Pu'u Kukui and Mount Lanilili—too bad—but give it high marks for a half-day trek. The walk can be combined with a stroll to scenic Kikuipuka, a fabulous, if tiny, restored heiau (temple) that is near the trailhead. Or, for a full-on adventure, do the ridge and then drop down and hike up the Waihe'e Valley on better-known Swinging Bridges trail along a stream to a waterfall. A private concession charges a modest fee for the valley hike.

See Maui Trailblazer pages 85-90 for the details on these hikes and others on this un-touristy section of the island.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mauna Kea: take it to the top

What can you say about the top of the world? Scientists and spiritualists can join hands on the sacred summit. The hike is a short one but be prepared, oxygen here is 40 percent less than sea level. Those driving to the top of Mauna Kea should stop at the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy (the visitors center) which sits just below 9,300 ft. and acclimatize.

The road continues from the center climbing more than 4,000 feet over 8 miles to the summit trail and observatories. More details about the Mauna Ice Age Natural Reserve and trail to Lake Waiau are in the Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The NEW 2012 Kauai Trailblazer

Now available on, the fifth edition of Kauai Trailblazer: where to hike, snorkel, bike, paddle, surf has something new, a cover in blazing color. The predominent image of the mysterious Kalalau Valley beckons adventure travelers to come hiking or enjoy the view from the ridge.

This top-selling guide is packed with updated activities, dozens of fresh photos, and a special Trailblazer Kids chapter for families headed to Hawaii's adventure island.

What's inside:

119 hikes and strolls to mountain ridges, tropical gardens, beaches, jungles, coves, reefs, historic landmarks and ancient ruins, swamps, craters, forests, coastal bluffs and tide pools, towns, canyons, waterfalls and river valleys.

68 beaches, including 22 reachable only by trail.

42 snorkeling pools, both the island favorites and hidden coves.

61 mountain bike rides along forest, coastal, and countryside trails.

27 kayaking waters: 13 rivers and streams, 14 bays and lagoons.

36 surfing spots, including the best places to watch.

10 maps and 175 photographs including a new four-page color insert.

Driving Tours, featuring heiaus, wildlife sanctuaries, cultural and historical sites,tourist attractions and natural wonders.

Resource Links to recreational outfitters, stables, golf courses, camping, transportation, accommodations, local-style eats and shops.

Appendices of Hawaiian words, place names, movie locations, hula performances, farmer's markets, weather, flora, history.

Signed copies can be purchased by e-mail at

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kailua-Kona: Don't Forget the Beach

Kailua, the heart of the Kona Coast on the east side of the Big Island of Hawaii has a lot going on. A museum and church date from the first missionary settlements in Hawaii in the 1820s. The venerable King Kamehameha Hotel honors the nation's first king, at a spot where a heiau (temple) marks the site where the Great One chose to spend the last ten years of his life.

Kona has alleyways of tourist shops, some bars that rocked in the glory days of deep sea fishing, and a dock that hauls boatloads of visitors on sunset cocktail cruises. Okay, fine. But don't overlook the "beach," which is a huge pool of protected clear water that runs along the breakwater that protects Kona's main drag, Ali'i Drive. A wooden rack of cubbyholes is nearby to store towels and flip flops. Steps lead to sandy entries on either end of the breakwater, so you just glide on in for snorkeling and swimming. Then get out, dry off, and take your pick from many places to enjoy a beverage and Hawaiian grinds. That's aloha style, brah.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kauai's River of the Kings

The ancient Polynesian royalty (the ali'i) first settled the wide Wailua River on the east shore of Kauai, building seven temples (heiaus) from the shore and along the river's banks to its origins at Mount Waialeale—the "birthplace of all waters." Gardens along the fertile valley were the most abundant in Hawaii.

Today, the wide river mouth is an ideal training ground for the island's numerous outrigger canoe clubs. Paddlers venture from the bay-like waters into the surf of Wailua Bay. The Wailua River is also Hawaii's most-popular kayaking spot. Individuals and tour groups stroke about a mile upstream, taking the north fork past Kamokila, a re-created Hawaiian village where the movie "Outbreak" was filmed. The water journey peters out at shallow rapids, where a trail leads about a mile to Uluwehi (Secret) Falls.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tiny Manini Beach Park a Treasure at Big Island's Kealakekua Bay

You want to get back to your little grass shack in Kealakekua? Then seek out small Manini Beach Park, which gets lost in the shuffle among all the better-known attractions on the bay where Captain Cook made landfall in 1779. Cook was thought to be the coming of the god Lono—a misunderstanding that one month later turned into a dispute that left Cook dead.

Though Manini has little sand (like the rest of Kealakekua), the snorkeling can be excellent when the water is calm. A sandy channel through a lava reef provides entry. When the surf is up, a left break off the point is one of the better rides on the Big Island. Palm trees and picnic tables set up a stunning view of the cliffs above Kealakeua. See pages 96 to 100 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer for more on this park, and the rest of the bay.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

See Napali Coast by Sea

Napali (The Cliffs) meet the ocean along a 30-plus-mile roadless section of the northwest coast of Kauai. For many, visiting this wilderness is via a rugged, 11-mile trail that reaches the Kalalau Valley, which is about midway along the run of cliffs and stream valleys. The Kalalau Trail is at least a two-day trek that involves planning and permits.

But most people visit Napali from the sea, as did the Hawaiians in the old days when populated villages thrived in just about every crease on the coast. The Hawaiians used outrigger canoes. Today's adventurers jump on a charter boat in Port Allen on the West Side of the island. Vessels vary from open Zodiac rubber boats to steel-hulled inboards, but most people ride on big diesel assisted sailboats. Among the most popular companies in Port Allen are Captain Andy's and Holoholo Charters.

Tips: Prepare for sea sickness, especially in the winter. Over-the-counter pills will work for many, but if you are prone to this ailment, ask your doctor for "the patch," which is applied behind your ear hours before departure. Some ships include a trip to the island of Ni'ihau with a tour of the Napali Coast. Seeing "the Forbidden Island" is a thrill (only native Hawaiians can set foot there) but this option makes for a long day. Consider just doing the Napali. Some tours offer swimming and snorkeling: You'll want to ask beforehand.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tips for being High on Haleakala

Haleakala National Park on Maui rises 10,000 feet from the Pacific to a place that seems more suited to the desert Southwest than Hawaii. The technically still-active volcano receives millions of visitors each year. Here's a few tips:

1. Perhaps motivated by the name—Haleakala translates to "House of the Sun"—many stalwarts get up at the crack of early to drive to the pavilion at the summit to view sunrise. Fine. But consider seeing the sunset instead. For sunrise, you will not be able to see if the mountain is clear, since you leave in the dark. And it will be very cold.

2. No matter when you visit, bring the outerwear, since cool and even freezing conditions are common throughout the year.

3. When venturing down the popular Sliding Sands Trail into the crater (which technically is an eroded valley with volcanic cones inside), make sure to gauge your distance. It's easy to get enticed by the beauty and get sucked down too far. Coming back up can be tiring, especially at this altitude.

4. Carry food and water.

5. Consider taking the Skyline Trail, which is not shown on the national park maps, since it is part of the state park system. The trail is on the mountain's west slope and has ocean views, unlike trails in the crater. (See page 160 of Maui Trailblazer.)

6. Biking down Haleakala seems like a good idea, and several tour companies offer the ride. Be sure to ask if your tour begins near the top, and not halfway down. Also be aware that rain, wind, and cold (plus traffic) can make this more of an ordeal than a thrill.

7. Head to the top first, and visit the other trails and viewpoints on the way down. The turnouts and exits will be on your right coming down, and you won't have to cross traffic.

The Maui Trailblazer guidebook is a good way to get an overview of all the hikes in the immediate area.