Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Maui Beachfinder

Maui has some of the most scenic and snorkel-friendly beaches in Hawaii.  After the long plane ride, check into your room and head for the beach.  The Maui Trailblazer guide lists and rates them all.

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. 

The text is complimented by 10 maps and 240 photographs, including a four-page color insert.
Nine driving tours 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 fourth edition for 2012 includes a Trailblazer Kids section for adventuring families.  Available at, barnes and noble, and

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hawaii: Getting Soaked

Forget the Eskimos and their dozen names for kinds of snow. The seaborne island nation of Hawaii has more than 150 names for rain. These people lived for nearly 20 centuries isolated by a 2,500-mile wide moat of saltwater called the Pacific Ocean. Rain meant life.

Fortunately, Hawaii's volcanic peaks attract plenty of moisture--up to forty feet of rain yearly at Kauai's Mount Waialeale, the rainiest place on the planet. Straying from the boardwalk through the Alakai Swamp (pictured), which is next to Waialeale, is a risky, often fatal proposition. Even Kauai's most experienced outdoorsmen know better than to be caught in a swamp rainstorm, usually accompanied by dense fog.

But most of the 149 other kinds of rain are not nearly as foreboding. Walking in a tropical garden in the rain is one of the best experiences to be had. Bring a waterproof shell and get into it. Here are a few of the rains you may encounter:
ua lanipili: downpour lasting several days
ua awa: cold bitter rain
he ua lanipali: heavy shower pakapaka: large, spattering drops
awa awa: fine rain that's cold
koiawe: light, moving shower
hookili: fine gentle rain, a form much loved
noe kolo: small, fine mountain rain that mixes with the thicker rain of the forests

You'll find directions to the Alakai Swamp trail in the Kauai Trailblazer guidebook.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Hula High in Hawaii

Hula is not all about bobble-heads and swizzle sticks. To Hawaiians, the dances that tell stories with chants have been the way to memorialize and perpetuate a way of life for centuries. Here, at the edge of the Big Island's Halemaumau Crater, a halau (group) led by Kumu (leader) Emery Aceret, pays tribute to the volcano goddess Pele. (This area has since been blow to bits by an eruption, in the middle of Kilauea Caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.) An ancient hula platform near the park's visitors center remains intact and is an excellent spot to see the authentic Hawaiian dance (pictured). So is the Merrie Monarch Festival, held yearly down the volcano in Hilo on the Big Island. (This year's festival just concluded; if you want tickets for next year, get them soon, for real.)

The Merrie Monarch is named for David Kalakaua, Hawaii's last king who did much in the mid-1800s to renew the ancient cultural arts in the Islands, after they had been driven underground for generations during the missionary period. For another not-to-miss chance to see a mesmerizing performance in a stunning natural setting, check out the Queen Emma Polynesian Festival, held on Kauai in October. The event takes place in the meadow at Koke'e State Park, near Waimea Canyon. Many dances and chants tell of historical events, but more are about the Hawaiians' intimate relationship with nature in its myriad forms. Teaching is still done the old way: the keikis (children) learn from older girls, and there is no such thing as a retirement age.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pololu Valley: A Big Island Family Adventure

At the end of the road on the northwest tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, the Pololu Valley Lookout lures visitors into a stunning seascape. A steep road (more of a wide rocky trail) leads down about 400 feet over .75-mile to a rugged beach with a stream: Enough of a hike to make for a family adventure, without being overly strenuous or hazardous.

From the beach, big boys and girls can strap on hiking boots and continue on a trail along this roadless coast. The first few miles of the trail are strenuous and at times washed out by slides. After that, the route—which continues to Waipo Valley—becomes truly wild-and-wooly, and not recommended for visitors (unless fully equipped and experienced). See Hawaii Trailblazer, beginning on page 35.

For more hikes onto private lands in this area, contact Hawaii Forest & Trail (800-464-8505), a premier hiking company with experienced guides.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Maui's Honolua: World Class Wave Machine

The offshore right-break into Honolua Bay on west Maui is one of Hawaii's best surf venues: good sized wedges and curls break consistently, occasionally reaching double-figures in height. Surfers must carry boards down a goat trail and enter at a rocky shoreline. Spectators have it made. You can drive to the point for a grandstand view,or better yet, walk down a short distance on a steep trail to a cluster of rocks that hang right above the action. Photographers need to check this one out.

Take a break from the surfers to walk a short distance to Lipoa Point, with its weird rock formations and tide pools that work for snorkeling—when surf is low. Most tourists come to this undeveloped coast (a few miles north of Kapalua) to dip fins and a mask into the Honolua Marine Preserve. Colorful schools flit along long ridges of coral. Avoid Honolua after and during rains, when stream runoff muddies the waters. See Maui Trailblazer page 72 for more.