Friday, August 30, 2013

Your Life: Don't Leave Hawaii Without It

Volcanoes, tsumanis, earthquakes, hurricanes: You want big time violent nature, come to Hawaii. Yet these destructive events are rare, and even more rarely do they take lives. Oddly enough, when someone dies on vacation in Hawaii —usually several accidental fatalities occur per month—it happens on beautiful days when people are out having fun. So, that's the good news: there's  nothing to worry about if you excercise good judgment and recognize common risks.

In no particular order, here are a few rules to live by that are peculiar to a place like Hawaii:

1. DON'T DROWN WHILE SWIMMING. The culprit here is rip current, which is caused by incoming wave water escaping through channels back out to sea and taking people with it. The higher the waves, the stronger the rip current. Some beaches are more dangerous than others, but all beaches can be dangerous on a given day. Rip current is visible from shore. The mantra is "when in doubt, stay out." Swimming at beaches with lifeguards also helps.

2. DON'T DROWN WHILE WALKING THE SHORE OR BEACH. Rogue waves and storm sets snatch people from bluffs and sloping sands. Stay back from big surf, wet sand and reef, and always keep an eye on the surf.

3. DON'T FALL FROM A CLIFF. Hawaiian ridges are often razor thin and near vertical. Rain creates slick surfaces. Try using a retractable hiking pole on mountainous climbs, and stay back from the margins of a trail, where tufts of greenery disguises drop-offs. Never try to climb, since the soils and rocks are unstable.

4. DON'T STRAY FROM THE TRAIL. Normally, this common rule is to protect nature from people, but in Hawaii the tables are turned. If you are going cross country or fighting your way through flora, turn back and go to a known point on a trail. If there's a safe way to get someplace, there will be a trail. The land swallows hikers up.

5. DON'T HAVE A CAR ACCIDENT.  Drivers should do their sightseeing while parked, and parked safely off the roadway. Many roads are narrow and curvy, with beautiful scenery and filled with other drivers who are gawking and stopping in the middle of the road.

6. DON'T GET SWEPT AWAY IN A STREAM. Tropical rains and steep ridges mean streams rise quickly and with force. Cars get swept away on spillways. Hikers get swept away on stream crossings.  Rain can occur inland, when it is sunny at coastal stream valleys. Always wait out a high rushing stream, even when inconvenient. It will subside. And when walking along streams, be aware of having to seek high ground.

Trailblazer guides for Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii have practical advice and safety tips for all forms of adventure, and also have specific precautions for a particular beach or trail. Odds overwhelmingly say that you will not be harmed in Hawaii, beyond a sunburn or hangover. Still, better safe than ...

Monday, August 26, 2013

Oahu's Olomana Trail: Hang on Tight

At four-plus miles round-trip with 1,600 feet of elevation, Olomana Ridge is not a killer. But to scale the three razorback humps on this stand-alone ridge is a definite thriller. This is the view from atop the first peak.

The going is plain vanilla uphill mud stomping until reaching the approach to the first peak, when hands are required.  Well-worn footholds and a tested safety rope make going up this initial hands-on section easier than it looks—though backing down is tricky. The second peak is doable for daredevils, but the third peak is downright dangerous, even for climbers with technical skills: some rocks and  footholds are unstable and dangerous.

When the day is done, head for nearby Kailua Beach Park on Oahu's Windward Coast to come down from the adventure. Oahu Trailblazer has details on pages 112-114.  The trailhead is on private property at the Luana Hills Country Club, but hikers are allowed to walk in.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Maui's Hana Highway: Why not Wainapanapa?

Traveler's on Maui's winding-and-waterfall-filled Hana Highway should slow down 2 miles outside of the little town and hang a left to Wainapanapa State Park. Its black sand beach is the best snorkeling and swimming place on the coast--unless the waves are cranking. From the beach, a coastal trail penetrates pandanus forest to the Kaupukalua Burial grounds, and other ancient sites.

The state park also offers a handful of rustic cabins, set in a tropical grove right on the coast. A trail leads from here to Hana, passing the Ohala Heiau on a several-mile adventure.

Visitors can also chill on a shorter trail to the Waianapanapa Caves, where freshwater pools await beneath mossy cliffs. Legend maintains these romantic caves were the meeting place for a princess and here lover, which was going along just fine until here husband put a brutal end to the tryst. In the spring, the waters turn red with the memory of her blood—or from tiny shrimp hatching, take your pick. Maui Trailblazer has more details on the state park, as well as other getaways on this popular coast.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Waikiki's 'Pink Lady' aging gracefully

With years to go until she hits the century mark (in 2027), the  Royal Hawaiian Hotel is still the blushing beauty at the center of  Waikiki.  Also known as the Pink Palace, the resort is next door to the older Moana Hotel, the first on the beach in 1901. The hotels were the glamorous getaways during the golden years of Matson's luxury passenger-ship voyages.

The Pink Lady is now boxed in by parking garages, high-rises, and designer shopping. But its courtyard remains a quiet respite.

And the hotel's interior spaces offer islands of calm away amid bustling Waikiki.

With all its charm, you'd think Hollywood would have shot the dickens out of the interior spaces and grounds of the Royal Hawaiian, but only five films can list the Pink Lady in its credits since 1931. "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" was in pinnacle in 1961, though many would argue that "Goin' Coconuts" topped it in 1978.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Setting up a "dream date" with Hawaii

Everybody has a different fantasy of the ideal Hawaiian vacation. One person's good time is another persons boooooooring. Some people know exactly what they want, while others want to be surprised. That's why NO WORRIES HAWAII, a vacation planning guide for all the Islands, has a simple yet ingeneous self-test that makes sure you pick the right island, stay where you will be happiest, and find the stuff that pleases.

The self-test divides the attractions up into 36 categories: beaches, snorkeling, hiking, viewing wildlife, experiencing nightlife, museums, golf, family picnics—and a lot more. For each category, readers are asked whether they "gotta have it" on their vacation, or whether "it would be nice," or they really don't care. The answers are keyed to several hundred of Hawaii's specific locations, which in turn tell the reader which island is best. NO WORRIES HAWAII also has money-saving tips on booking a vacation, as well a ways to save on expenses in Hawaii without skimping on good times. Safety tips and visiting strategies are also included.

NO WORRIES HAWAII works for first time visitors who are a bit overwhelmed by decisions, and also for returnees who know what they like, but want to do something different.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hawaii Big Island: Creation in Real Time

It's not hard to figure out where the fresh lava has closed the road in Kalapana. White arrows lead over the smooth ('pahoehoe') sections of oily-black crust. But the going gets tricky when looking for where the red-hot lava is surfacing on any given day. Many people bring flashlights and head out at night in search of the glowing rivers of lava.

Several hundred homes have been torched and buried since the Pu'u O'o flows began more than two decades ago, but lady luck smiles on some buildings, leaving them marooned in a sea of black rock.

A few miles from the current hot spot is Kalapana Bay, which was filled with lava, but is now showing new growth. Some palms were planted by locals, speeding up the natural process, but Mother Nature is also doing the job on her own, as ohia trees and ferns are sprouting toward the sun. New land and life is appearing at ocean's edge.

Wave action is pulverizing lava, mixing it with coral and gradually mixing with new organic materials to make soil. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details on where to go to see today's Eden--as well as safety tips and advice.