Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Hawaiian homage to Lou Reed: Take a walk on the wild(life) side

Sit a spell anywhere along the coast of a Hawaiian island and you're sure to see nature's creatures: seabirds, shorebirds, turtles, dophins, whales, and many species of fish and coral. But to add some juicy facts to natural observation, curious visitors can head to any number of attractions that (as they say) make learning fun.

Here, listed geographcially from north to south in the Islands, are four of the best:

1. KILAUEA POINT NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Kauai. On the north shore of the northernmost island  is a stubby pennisula that is home to a who's-who of marine life—land, sea, and air. Very dramatic setting, free binoculars for the long views, and admission is a few bucks. The historic Kilauea Lighthouse, a classic white cylincer, adds romance to the place. On the same day you may see whales, spinner dophin, monk seals, Hawaiian nene (state bird), laysan albatross, and a variety of soaring shorebirds.

2.  WAIKIKI AQUARIUM, Oahu. Not splashy (pun intended) in its presentation, but this University of Hawaii-run attraction has a beautiful setting—right below Diamond Head, opposite huge Kapiolani Park, and beside coral  reefs just a short walk from Waikiki. There's more going on than meets the eye, both in the aquariums themselves and the special programs offered to visitors. Mid-range admission.

3. HUMPBACK WHALE NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY, Maui. This place just keeps getting better. The best time to visit, of course, is during winter migrations. It's on the underrated North Kihei Coast, next to a beach park that features an ancient fishpond re-creation and a mile from a birder's walk along a boardwalk. Admission is free.

4. HAWAII WILDLIFE CENTER, Big Island. This center welcomes visitors, though it is not a tourist attraction, but rather the only hospital in the Pacific Ocean that treats injured birds—shore, sea, and woodland. Funded through private donations and volunteer help, HWC opened just this year. An interpretive area for visitors is outside the attractive building. And the setting is green Kohala on the northern nub of the Big Island. If visiting the center, also check out 'Iole Foundation, a mile away, with its historic  buildings and 2,400 acres of gardenscaped flora.

Trailblazer guides (Maui, Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island, No Worries Hawaii) have details on these places, as well as others that present the cutural and natural heritage of Hawaii.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Aloha State of Mind: Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii, USA, Planet Earth

There are palm trees and beaches at many places on the globe, but only one place to find Aloha, and that's right smack in the middle of the Pacific on the world's most remote outpost of Hawaii. Pictured here are the slack waters of the Hanalei River, just inshore of Black Pot Beach on Hanalei Bay. Head here in the late afternoon and stay for sunset. The Hanalei Pier protrudes several hundred feet, the perfect spot to watch surfers whiz by or see outrigger canoes heading into the bay. Black Pot is one of the places where Aloha defines itself—a state of being, a state of mind, where all seems right with the world and you would not want to be anyplace else.

Hanalei Bay, a two-mile crescent, is perfect for beachcombing or jogging. Classic jagged green ridges frame the scene. The town, with low-key surf shops and restaurants,  is a few lazy blocks away.

Check out Hawaii's best trail guides and discover the Aloha on MauiKauaiOahu, and the Big Island. If you want them categorized and are still trying to decide which island to visit, buy a copy of the No Worries Hawaii guidebook.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Snorkeling in Hawaii: Spend less, still get the best.

You don't need to rent equipment or spend on a special tour to see some of the best reef life in Hawaii. Much of the colorful coral is accessible from shore, including the majority of locales that are also reached via boats with paying customers. Hundreds of coastal reefs and beaches offer decent to excellent fish bowls—provided, of course, that the ocean cooperates with low surf. Exceptions: Molokini Island off Maui and Lehua offshore Kauai are two memorable tourist snorkeling experiences. And, scuba diving companies take people to numerous spots that are too far offshore. Trailblazer guides have dozens of snorkeling beaches on all the islands for the adventure traveler; safety tips are included in the text, as are spots fequented by tour companies.

If you don't pay to snorkel, then you are going to need fins, mask and a snorkel. If you don't already own a set, then for sure wait until getting to the islands until finding one. It makes little sense to rent equipment, since it's cheaper to buy if you are here for a week. All sorts of cheaper-than-renting equipment is available at ABC Stores, Whalers', Long's Drugs, and Wal Mart—places you will probably frequent to stock up anyway, and then won't have to worry about returning stuff when leaving. You can spend around $25 to $30 and be good to go.

Also, many vacation rentals—from individual condos to big resorts—have gear on-site for free. Ask them before signing on the dotted line. Check out Hawaii's best places to snorkel on Maui, Kauai, Oahu, and the Big Island. If you want them categorized and are still trying to decide which island to visit, buy a copy of the No Worries Hawaii guidebook.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer for 2014: The ring finger says it all

This dancer stands on the Pele hula platform at the edge of Kilauea Caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. An erupting crater is in view, over the heads of the people who have gathered for the performance. Like her sisters in her halau (group), she has woven a bracelet from native leaves and made a dress from coloful fabric. The dance and chant are ready to unfold, telling the a tale of Hawaiian lore. For now the intricate and precise moves of the halau are still and at the ready, waiting, coiled in the delicate touch of her ring finger at the base of her thumb.

The third edtion of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer is availabe now on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. As the subtitle notes, it is full of outings on this massive island, taking readers to all the famous attractions, and also to hidden ancient sites and places far off the tourist radar. For adventurers, Trailblazer is a match made in heaven.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oahu's Windward Coast: Laid Back at Lanikai

If toasting flesh is on your mind, head for Lanikai Beach on Oahu's windward coast. Adjacent to Kailua Beach Park, this tony beach enclave attracts beachgoers with its powdery sands and dreamy aquamarine water. Near-shore snorkelings is superb. Don't be surprised to see pro photographers shooting models along the shore.

Adding to the glamor of Lanikai are seabird islands, including these two, Moku Nui (left) and Moku Iki. Not pictured offshore the beach park is Flat Island, a destination for kayakers and adventure snorkelers. Directions to the best accesses are in the new Oahu Trailblazer guidebook, available on Amazon.