Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Top of the World: Mauna Kea

While visiting the Big Island, you might want to take a break from sun and surf to climb the tallest mountain on earth: Mauna Kea rises "only" 13,796 feet from sea level, but if measured from its base on the ocean floor the dormant volcano is well over 40,000 feet. Unlike Everest, which requires a major expedition, the Famous Summit of All the Land (as the Hawaiians called it) can be achieved with a round-trip hike of a half-mile. Bring warm clothing, it's very cold up top.

Still, some planning is required. Passenger cars can drive to the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy, which sits at 9,000 feet, but a four-wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended (sometimes required) for the last 8 miles to the trailhead. A number of tour companies take vans to visit the dozen or so astronomy observatories at the top—but if selecting this option, make sure your company offers the peak hike. If driving up, you should stop at the Onizuka visitors center for about an hour to adjust elevation and drink fluids to avoid altitude sickness--headaches and dizziness that can occur after climbing so high over a short period of time. (The symptoms are alleviated by descending to lower elevations.)

See Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, beginning page 180, for more tips and details for taking this spectacular mini-adventure.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Maui's Makawao (rhymes with wow!) Forest Reserve

Cowboys, pine trees, and cool temps: not the first things that come to mind when you think of Hawaii. But Makawao, lying on the pastoral lower slopes of Haleakala on Maui's windward coast, has a strong Western heritage and thriving rodeos. And the Makawao Forest Reserve, little farther up from the quaint town, delivers a network of trails through a bird-filled groves of many species of broadleaf trees, as well as tree ferns and Norfolk Pines (okay, which technically are not conifers). But you can find cypress groves as well as some for-real pine trees.

Another huge expanse for hikers is not far away, higher still on Olinda Road, the Waihou Springs Forest Reserve. You will find very few tourists, or anyone else for that matter, at these two excellent choices for exercise hikes and bird watching. Check out page 153 of Maui Trailblazer.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Drive-through coconut stands on Kauai

The east side of Kauai isn't called the Coconut Coast for nothing. The term does have its historical roots: the coco palm was one of the 23 plants the Polynesian voyagers took with them in the "canoe garden," when they faced 2,500 miles of open water to sail here from Tahiti. The ali'i (royalty) planted groves on this coast, many of which remain from the last days of the monarchy.

But fresh coconuts are all about today in Kapa'a, as well as other towns and rural areas in east and north Kauai. For a couple bucks, a machette-wielding gardener will whack the top of the coconut so you can drink the water with a straw. The water is highly nutritious, even used for IV's when medics ran out of plasma in the South Pacific during WWII. The meat of the coconut is soft like a melon at this point, and can be eaten with a spoon.

The brown-nut coconut needs to dry for awhile before getting its nutty texture. Those are available at stands too. These babies are hard to crack. Needless to say this island staple is only one of many, many fruits and veggies available at roadside fruit stands. If you want to eat local, Hawaii is the place to be.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Maui Trailblazer: Hot off the Press

A new fourth edition of Maui Trailblazer is ready to be taken to the Islands for hiking, surfing, strolling, snorkeling, and driving around. Vacation planning information and lots of Maui factoids are also inside the covers, along with a special Trailblazer Kids section and loads of safety tips.

Aloha and have a great time on Maui! has it available but it's hard to navigate directly to the title page because it's a brand new guide. Click here to get to the order page fast.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

John Cruz on Big Island Saturday; then on tour with Jack Johnson!

If you are lucky enough to be on the Big Island this Saturday (March 10) head north to the tiny town of Kapa'au and look for the crowds around the statue of King Kamehameha. John will be performing (free!) at the Taste of Kalo Festival, Kamehameha Park. Kalo is the Hawaiian word for taro, and this culturally and culinarily significant plant has center stage for the day.

Big Island community groups have gotten together to celebrate and educate people about the importance of growing kalo organically and sustainably. Growers will be on hand to teach natural farming methods. The festival also offers local foods like laulau and chili rice, arts and crafts and plenty of music. Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi will stop by. Cyril Pahinui takes the stage about 1pm, followed by John's dad Ernie Cruz Sr at 2pm. John performs at 2:30, until closing an hour or so later. Please donate!

Look for John Cruz out on the road around Hawaii in April. He'll be supporting Jack Johnson, along with Paula Fuga. The three will play venues on Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai, in celebration of the release of Jack's latest album "Jack Johnson and Friends - Best of Kokua Festival," due out April 17th." It's a 13-track compilation of live performances from various Kokua Festivals over the years, including 2 tracks with John. Proceeds from the concerts and the album benefit the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, which supports environmental education and consciousness in schools and communities around the world. Get tickets while you can. These shows will sell out fast. Details at jackjohnsonmusic.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hapuna Beach State Park: Divine

If Hapuna Beach didn't already exist, God would have to create it. The Big Island, though larger than the other Hawaiian islands put together, has the least amount of sandy shoreline, since it is far younger than the other islands. Hapuna's half-mile-plus wide crescent of sand brings locals and tourists alike, driving up from south Kona and from the Hamakua Coast on the east side of the island. From a huge parking lot, garden paths wander down a hillside dotted with shaded picnic pavilions.

Surfers love the many-tiered shore break, and a shallow entry is great for wave-play—although bigger surf sometimes creates hazardous conditions. Beach combers can go nuts. One 2.75-mile round-trip walk goes past the Hapuna Prince Resort, along a coastal trail, and drops down to the lovely beach at the Mauna Kea. Going the other way at Hapuna, walkers can reach Waialea Beach, aka Beach 69 (no! it's nicknamed for the number on a nearby telephone pole back in the days before the state put in rest rooms and a parking lot).

Snorkeling is good-to-excellent at Beach 69. Fish seekers can also take a dip at Hapuna Stairs Beach, a tiny nook in the shoreline that is just off the trail as it leaves Hapuna on the way to Mauna Kea.

Hapuna Beach State Park is the clear choice on the Big Island for families who want to load up the cooler and haul out the sand toys for a day at the beach. Bring sun protection, since this can be a scorcher, unless you retreat to the picnic pavilions for a break. Value added: Rustic A-frame cabins are available for rent by campers—you need bedding. Though a bit funky, the cabins are ideally situated on the island and have restrooms and a large cooking pavilion on the grounds. You'll find driving directions and more photos in your Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer guide.