Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kauai's Big Oscar Night

Kauai is ready to celebrate a George Clooney win for his performance in Descendants. All the scene locales for the movie are portrayed in Kauai Trailblazer, a book that goes back 13 generations of printings and with a fifth-edition 2012 edition now available. With strong competition, the Descendants is no sure thing, but win or lose, when the spotlights are turned off the Islands will still glow in warm tropical sunshine (although today Kauai happens to be under a floodwatch).

Some of the Descendants was also shot on Oahu and the Big Island—and those locales are also shown in Trailblazer guides (though you can find Waikiki without assistance). Director Alexander Payne and his team made a movie that stayed tight on its characters, but they also revealed the heart of the islands, with the help of a soundtrack of slack-key music and background scenery that threatened to steal the show.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Adventure Snike to Oahu's Mokoli'i Island

The best snikes in Hawaii (snorkeling to an island and then taking a hike on it) are on Oahu's Windward shore. They are also the only such swim-to hikes in Hawaii, but no matter. These babies are something to write home about for adventure sports nuts. Moloki'i—formerly called the un-PC Chinaman's Hat—is a key feature in a huge regional park in the middle of the east shore. A similar swim-and-hike opportunity is a few miles farther north, at an even-larger recreation area. For a tamer event, try Flat Island, off Kailua Beach Park, several miles south of Moloki'i. Kayaks are in the mix in Kailua.

The water is not deep, but high surf can bring current and marginal or dangerous conditions. A life vest or flotation device won't hurt. Decent swimmers will have no problems—when conditions are safe. For more details, check out Oahu Trailblazer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hiking the Green Heart of Kauai

Midway between the lush north shore and the sunny south, Kauai's east side (the Coconut Coast of Kapa'a) doesn't see a crush of tourists. But hikers know better. Head inland a few miles to the Keahua Arboretum and you will find several hikes that are among the best in Hawaii.

One beauty is the half-day scamper up Kuilau Ridge, a perfect outing for a quick picnic and for families (less than five miles round-trip, with about 400 feet of elevation). A picnic pavilion with views of the lush valleys (ultra lush) is worthy of a rest, but make sure to continue past there, as the trail snakes along a narrow ridge through a garden.

The Keahua Arboretum lies in the shadow Mount Waialeale, the rainiest spot on earth with more than 40 feet annually. Several longer hikes are available, including the 13-mile trans-island trek on the Powerline Trail, which has a connecting trailhead at Princeville. You can also hike to very near the Blue Hole of Waialeale, a large pool that lies at the foot of the mountain's rippling green face. Check out Kauai Trailblazer, page 84, for tips on visiting this area.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bonus Hike to Maui's Honolua Marine Preserve

Snorkelers headed to the Honolua Marine Conservation District for some excellent fish viewing also get a short (quarter-mile) tropical hike as part of the adventure. A stream crossing midway on this walk through banyans and dripping vines can be a problem during rainy conditions—but then you wouldn't want to snorkel on these days anyway.

Honolua Bay sits besides Mokuleia Bay on Maui's north shore, part of a marine preserve that leaves the developed resort coast far away without having to drive far. You can check out the snorkeling conditions from Lipoa Point, which is just past the bays, and also one of the best spots in Hawaii to view surfers when the conditions are right. From this vantage point, you can see if stream water intrusion as clouded the waters of the bay. If it's sunny and clear, Honolua gets a big thumb's up for snorkeling, although don't expect to find much of a beach on a rocky shoreline. See Maui Trailblazer pages 72-74.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hawaii Beach Hiking: Best of Both Worlds

Can't decide whether to take a tropical walk or spend the day watching the waves roll in? No problem. Do both, Brah! Some of the best walking in the Islands is along where the surf meets the land: sand beaches, tide pools, and ocean bluffs teem with nature, no to mention water sports that make for entertaining viewing. The trail is easy to find. Just face the water, and, unless your name is Jesus, go either left or right. But what's simple can turn difficult in a splash.

1. Stay well back of the surf line. Rogue waves take lives frequently in Hawaii. Keep your eye on the surf and stay above sloping, wet sand.

2. Since the entire shoreline of Hawaii is public land, a trail will always be along the shore, if at all possible. In remote areas, when rocks are encountered, look for sand patches left by the feet of people (often net fishermen) who have gone before you. They will lead the way.

3. On reefs, if wave action is present, stay back from wet areas. Waves snatch people from reefs more often than sandy beaches.

4. If you encounter cliffs or bluffs, look for a trail. If there isn't one, then the walk is probably not possible or hazardous. Remember: It's much harder to come back down a steep surface than it is to go up. And, cliffs in Hawaii are notoriously unstable.

5. At Waikiki, or other crowded beaches, be careful not to step on anyone. Chances are, they are covered in lotion and you will go down.

6. Barefoot is the preferred mode of travel. Watch out for Teva-like sandals that strap to your feet. Wet sand will chew feet to hamburger.

7. Carry flip flops for rough areas. If you find yourself shoeless in scorching sands, dig down just a few inches where the sand will be much cooler. You can then proceed some more steps without frying the feet.

All the Trailblazer guides list virtually all possible coastal walks, from beachcombing wild places to people-watching on paved resort strolls. You can review and purchasethe them at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Big Island's Lapakahi: Same as it Ever Was

Hawaii is dotted with many archeological sites reflecting the traditions of the seagoing Polynesians that date back 2,000 years or more. Get beyond the tiki torches and umbrella swizzle sticks of resort areas and you can enter this lost world. This is especially true on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is 5-million years younger that other parts of the island chain and flora hasn't had a chance to cover the sites up.

One of the first areas to be preserved, about 50 years ago, was Lapakahi State Historical Park. The villlage quietly receives the surf on the west coast of Kohala as it has for some 800 years. Kohala is the green nub on the north of the Big Island, with Maui rising across the channel. Pathways wander through the central village site and the surrounding 300 acres that were once agricultural terraces. The onset of cattle ranching in the 1800s (Parker Ranch, the nation's largest, is up the slopes of the mountains) disrupted water supplies and sent marauding cows through these lands, spelling doom for the village. The lava stone platforms and wall that remain today were once the foundations of hau-branch structures, woven together and supporting roofs of thatched ki leaves and with floors made cushy with mats. See page 41 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer. (BTW: the birthplace of The Great One, King Kamehameha is not far away on this coast.)