Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Maui's Road to Hana: The Journey is a Destination

Hana is a sleepy hamlet at the end of a long and winding road (to paraphrase George Harrison, who had a getaway pad halfway along). The highway's dozens of narrow bridges and cliff-hanging skinny roads are a right-of-passage for Maui visitors, most of whom do a daylong round trip.

But repeat visitors learn that several days of exploring are to be had at lesser-known waysides in this rainforest wonderland. Some spots are well-marked, often by a convergence of hastily parked rental cars. Other trails, some of the best, take a keen eye to spot. A few of the roads into the jungly state-owned lands require a permit from the East Maui Irrigation District, which controls agricultural water flows. It can seem a bit complicated to newcomers. Maui Trailblazer has a detailed description of the Hana Highway from beginning to end. The takeaway: use one day to explore the road, and a second day to see Hana and the Pools of Oheo (the lower section of Haleakala National Park). And keep your eyes peeled.

BTW: Pull over at turnouts to let the local people pass.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Island Hopping Hawaii's Restaurants: A sampling to try

They're popular and we like them too. Special occasions only as most are pricey (but worth it).

Naupaka Terrace 92-1001 Olani Street Kapolei, HI 96707

Pagoda Floating Restaurant 1525 Rycroft St. Honolulu, HI 96814

Mama's Fish House 799 Poho Place Paia, HI 96779

Sushi Sasabune Hawaii 1417 S. King St. Honolulu, HI 96814

Merriman's - Poipu 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Street Koloa, HI 96756

Hukilau Lanai 520 Aleka Loop Kapaa, HI 96746

Lahaina Grill 127 Lahainaluna Rd. Lahaina, HI 96761

Blue Dragon Restaurant 61-3616 Kawaihae Road Kamuela, HI 96743

Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant 19-3948 Old Volcano Rd. Volcano, HI 96785

Kamuela Provision Co. 69-425 Waikoloa Beach Dr. Waikoloa, HI 96738

Monkeypod Kitchen 10 Wailea Gateway Place, Unit B-201 Kihei, HI 96753

Lanai City Grille 828 Lanai Ave. Lanai City, HI 96763

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hawaii's Biggest Wave: JAWS

Hard to get to, tempermental, dangerous to ride, rumored to reach heights of 120 feet on the face of the wave and move as fast as 30 mph, that's Maui's Jaws (Pe'ahi). You'll know Jaws is going off when you see cars parked on the highway that parallels the site. It's a long walk and driving to the viewing area is prohibited. The day we shot this we hiked through old pineapple fields to reach a high cliff precipice with limited space. To watch the heroic death-defying big wave riders and their tow-in partners was the thrill of a lifetime.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Waikiki: Every Enchanted Evening

An eight-block grid of highrise hotels packed between the Pacific and the Ala Wai Canal, Waikiki Beach is indeed a ticky-tack post-war contrivance to bring tourists by the boatload (now plane load). But it is also real Hawaii, real to the bone.

The action centers around Prince Kuhio Park, in the center of a two-mile beach between Diamond Head volcano and the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. A free Hawaiian dance performance is held nightly (as pictured). Prince Jonah Kuhio, who became Hawaii's congressional representative, turned his former homesite into a park. Before Kuhio, this high-ground in former swamplands was the home of Hawaiian Royalty, as attested to by the Wizard Stones, four huge boulders representing the mana (spiritual power) of four Tahitian ali'i (kings) who first sailed here circ 1350. Not far away is Kahi Halia Aloha (Place of Loving Rembrance) a burial mound for the remains of ancient Hawaiians that were uncovered during the construction of Waikiki.

At Kuhio Park was also the home beach for Duke Kahanamoku, surfing legend and Olympic swimming champion whose family owned the land where the Hilton resort now stands, not far north on Waikiki. The main drag, Kalakaua Avenue, hums at night with designer fashion shops, trinket stores, and fine dining, all lit by tiki-torch streelights. A few blocks away, Kuhio Avenue rocks out—and gets kind of seedy at night. The tourist scene is overwhelming, but the observant tourist will find roots of Hawaiian history at the core of Waikiki. (See Oahu Traiblazer pages 42-53 to take a walk that includes the glitz and culture.)

Here are some hotels that we recommend:

First Class:


Reasonable and well located:


Friday, July 13, 2012

Haleakala's Growing Pains

Faced with nearly a million visitors each year, national park officials are exploring ways to ensure that Haleakala—House of the Sun—retains its down-home style. A plan to scale back commercial tours offered in the Haleakala National Park. According to the Maui News, park officials are seeking public input through Aug. 31 on the plan, which would affect road-based vehicle tours, guided hiking and astronomy, horseback and bicycle tours in the park. Haleakala was the fourth most-visited attraction in Hawaii last year with 956,989 visitors. Park officials say the changes are needed to alleviate negative impacts that commercial activities are having on Haleakala's natural and cultural resources, and to restore a "sense of place."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hawaii Guidebooks: go with the BEST

Pack along the paperback or download the ebook on your Amazon.com Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook or IPad. It will open all the doors for things to do on Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii. Adventure ho! If you want to buy them discounted and autographed go to the publisher's site at Trailblazer Travel Books.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Kauai's Lydgate Park: Numbah One.

There are many dozens of great beach parks in Hawaii, and many more dozens of beaches that families will call their favorite. But if for some bizarre reason, only one park could be picked, Lydgate Park on Kauai's east shore (the coconut coast) would be at or near the top.

Start with historical fact: The first of the ancient Polynesian mariners, some two thousand years ago, sailed up the Hawaiian chain and chose to call this spot home, where the verdant Wailua River meets a long sandy beach. Cultural sites here are one of the attractions at Lydgate.

The main draw though is the large man-made swimming oval that is always safe for swimming and big enough for snorkeling, as a few fish get tossed by waves over the protective barrier. (After severe rainstorms, the swimming pool may become full of river-borne driftwood, the only exception to the safe-swimming rule.)

Facilities and showers are up to snuff, and a large lawn across the huge parking lot sports Kamalani Playground, where kids can take a break from sun and surf. A three-story play bridge, whose chutes and ladders can absorb an entire kindergarten class, is about a half-mile away, near Lydgates campground.

Beachcombers can walk about two miles along the strip of yellow sand to Kauai Beach, and kayaking families can try the placid waters of Wailua River (or take a ride on a paddle boat at Smiths Tropical Gardens to Fern Grotto).

Lydgate is set well off the highway near Kapa'a, and enjoys plenty of sunshine without being arid, like the south coast. A downside is that popularity means lots of people show up, but there is plenty of space and parking is not an issue. The scene is always family friendly, for locals and Mainlanders alike. Complete directions to the park and surrounding activities can be found in the Kauai Trailblazer guide.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Decisions, decisions: Beach Hiking Hawaii

To take a hike or spend the day at the beach? Just one of the many tough choices facing the adventurous visitor. The answer: Do both, brah! Whether you want to people watch along a resort path or trek for miles along one of Hawaii's wild stretches of coast, plenty of walking space is available. As long as you know where the ocean is, getting lost is out of the question. But there are still several ways to screw up, so keep a few tips in mind:

1. Always watch the surf and, except on the calmest of days, stay well back from the sloping wet sands of retreating waves. Fatalities occur often enough when rogue waves snatch walkers from the shore.
2. When walking low bluffs and reefs between beaches, don't tred on wet rocks, where waves are likely to break (see above). Every so often, a larger wave will break--unless the sea is basically flat.
3. Avoid strap-on type sandals. Wet sand gets under the straps and causes abrasions, which take forever to heal in Hawaii.
4. When walking rocky areas between wild beaches, look for sand on rocks along the shore. The sand marks the trail, having fallen from the feet of local fishermen who know where to go. Rocks are normally black, smooth lava bolders, so sand traces stand out.
5. Though going barefoot is the choice for beach hiking, carry a pair of flip flops with you.
6. If caught on a wide expanse of scorching sand barefooted, there's no need to run for your life to find shade. Scoop away the top six inches and you will find cool sand underneath. Let your feet cool, and repeat as necessary.
7. When beach hiking in the scorching sun, take a break in pockets of shade as you find them. You can last a lot longer in the sun if you take a few minutes to let the flesh cool down.
8. "Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink"...make sure you bring some with you.

All Trailblazer guides list beach hikes along with the jungle and mountain trails. NO WORRIES HAWAII (a vacation planning guide) lists the best beach hikes for each island, including resort walks, bluffs and tide pools, and long stretchs of open sand. State of Mind Beach (picutured) is between Baldwin Beach Parks and Lower Paia Beach on the windward coast of Maui.