Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poipu is Kauai's Sunny South

Cacti aren't usually among the images on postcards of Hawaii. But you will see plenty of those desert plants, as well as other dry-loving flora along the miles-long sand-and-sun coast that is centered around the resorts of Poipu Beach. (Moir Gardens, nestled into the Kiahuna Plantation Resort, is one of the world's top cactus gardens.) The interior mountains of Kauai get nearly 40 feet of rain per year. The sunny south coast gets around 10 inches. The west side of this coast features two of the world's five National Tropical Botanical Gardens (Allerton and McBride), as well as some of the island's best snorkeling at Prince Kuhio Beach Park.

Poipu Beach is a run of low-slung condos and resorts, with the Sheraton at one end and the fabulous Grand Hyatt at the other. Poipu's yellow-sand beaches have year-around swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. Shipwreck Beach (pictured) in front of the Hyatt, also has great surfing, and is the starting point for a several-mile coastal hike on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. Whale-watching, bird viewing, and ancient sites keep hikers' eyes full. You can also drive a (very) bumpy road from the Hyatt to Mahaulepu. Monk seals, Hawaii's endangered mammals, are known to share the sand with tourists. From road's end, a trail continues along the tawny bluffs to rugged Haula Beach (also pictured). Kauai Trailblazer covers the sunny south coast in detail from pages 115 to 126.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mahaiula Bay

The South Kohala coast on the Big Island of Hawaii is a scorched slag heap of sharp lava, the last place you'd think to wander looking for luxury. But fasten the seat belt on the rental car and inch along the 1.5-mile rutted road (its condition varies) and you will be rewarded with three beaches worthy of world-class destination resorts—Kekaha Kai State Park.

The first beach, Kekaha Kai, is a beach park with picnic facilities, right at the parking lot. Mahaiula Bay (pictured) requires a walk of less than a half-mile, to a classic sand crescent rimmed by palms and other beach trees. The third beach, Makalawena, is a round-trip walk of about two miles across a sun-baked rocky path, but the walk doesn't prevent it from being the most popular. Makalawena's charms include a little oasis pond, decent surfing, and a long run of sand backed by dunes. There's also a nice keiki pool—a protected swimming area inside the reef that is great for kids.

For more details, see page 72 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

History at your feet: Petroglyphs on Hawaii's Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii has thousands of acres of smooth (pahoehoe, "pa-hoi-hoi") lava, where rock etchings tell the history and happenings from about 2,000 years ago up to the late 19th century. This field, the Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs, is well-marked, off Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At times (as pictured) volcanic activity makes driving park roads difficult.

Some half-dozen sites on the island are signed and protected. Adventure seekers can find twice that many petroglyph fields, mostly on the Kona (west) side of the island. Just look for the pahoehoe lava, as opposed to the jagged slag-heaps (called a'a, "ah-ah"), the second form the molten earth takes when it reaches the surface. The carvings tell of births, deaths, and significant happenings, such as the most recent drawings that depict Western sailing ships and rifles. All the recognized sites are noted in Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer. If you find a site that is "off the map," be sure to take care not to step on or disturb the etchings.

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