Friday, January 31, 2014

Shipwrecked, in a good way, on Kauai

If you get to choose a spot to be marooned, try Shipwreck Beach in front of the Grand Hyatt Kauai. You can take sustenece at one of Hawaii's premier destination resorts, a low-slung Asian-inspired masterpiece with a huge man-made saltwater lagoon, wide staircases leading to a sprawling pool with chutes and falls.

When it's time to rough it, try the surfing beach, which is indeed treacherous for ships, although the last abandoned hull of 1970 was swept away by Hurricane Iniki in the early 1990s. You can access it at the Hyatt or via the sweet beach park right next to it. When desperation sets in, and you need to escape, head south on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. It climbs tawny Makawehi Bluff (pictured) and continues for several miles, passing the ruins of Ho'ouluia Heiau before descending to Gillan's Beach. Keep an eye out for whales and shorebirds, since this trail is primo for both. Complete directions are in your Kauai Trailblazer guidebook.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hidden charms of Whacky Whacky Waikiki

The shortest distance between two points—in this case the high rises of Kalakua Boulevard in the center of Waikiki Beach and the Pacific Ocean—is a straight line. A sea of flesh is the norm along the shore of Prince Kuhio Beach Park.

But, hang a left along the surf on a short barefooted stroll and relative solitude is to be found at Sans Souci (Without Care) Beach, which borders the huge greenspace of Kapiolani Park. And, for those willing to don flip-flops and and walk another 10 minutes toward Diamond Head, a truly out-of-the way jewel awaits. There is no parking at the little Makalei Beach Park, fequented by locals only in a ritzy enclave. It's small beach (Kaluahole) is a freaking dream, and you can also walk a seawall path in the backyards of the zillion-dollar homes to little Leahi Park. Oahu Trailblazer has more details on page 53.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Where the action is: Hawaii Big Island Hotspots

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park delivers the goods: towering flumes of gases erupting from the gut of the earth, glowing red rivers flowing like taffy, and the enormous bomblast where heat meets cold at the ocean in a conflict that is old as time itself. Pu'u (cone) O'o (pictured above), is part of the major Kilauea Volcano's east rift zone. It blew its cork most recently in 1983 and has been gurgling lava ever since, including 40-plus fiery fountainheads and one major explosion in 1997 that collapsed the height of the cone hundreds of feet within 24 hours. The lava rivers change direction.These days you can see the fresh stuff not in the park, but down the coast from Hilo in Kalapana. For a dramatic aerial view, hop aboard one of the Blue Hawaiian helicopters that leave from two locations on the island.

Halemaumau Crater, the home of Volcano Goddess Pele, is within the larger Kilauea Caldera, the centerpiece of the national park. In the middle of the night (fortunately) in March of 2008, Pele threw a major hissy fit, blowing away what had been the viewing platform at the lip of the crater. The road around the park has been closed ever since, but you can get a good look from the Jaggar Musuem, which is a few miles from the entrance station. 

Numerous hikes and drives give you perspective on these outbursts; Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer (new edtion 2013) has more details.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Waimea Bay: Surfin' U.S.A.

The shorebreak at Waimea Bay on Oahu's North Shore is killer. Surfers put on their big boy board shorts to ride waves memorialzied by that happy-go-lucky Beach Boys song. Specators lounge of the wide rim of sand at the shore, cooling off in the freshwater pool formed where Waimea Stream meets a sand bar.

But the real action at Waimea is the Quiksilver In Memory Aikau Big Wave Invitational, held each year—but only when wave faces are 20 feet or larger. Godzilla waves of 50-plus feet have challenged, but not defeated, the pros, who come from around the world at the drop of the hat when surf's up. The  parking lot get crammed for the Eddie. The best parking tip: drive around the bay to the top and park at the blocky St .Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Then walk a path down along the guardrail and take a seat on the embankment to watch the spectacle.

Eddie Aikau is on the short list of all time Hawaiian surfing legends. In 1978, at age 32, he was a crew member on the Hokulea (replica of ancient hawiian sailing canoe) that was swamped in heavy seas on its maiden voyage. Eddie paddled off into the darkness on his surfboard to try to seek help on the island of Lanai, and was never seen again.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Honolua Bay: Maui's world-class wave machine

Snorkelers flock to Honolua Bay, but surfers say the real action is at the bay's north tip where a sweet right-break seemingly never ends. Although not on the big-boy pro circuit, some of Hawaii's best surfers regularly show up here. It's that good, and even better for spectators. To get a ringside seat, drive around the bay and turn off to the left when you reach the top of the road. You can see well from the parking lot, but check out the eagle's nest view that is a short distance down the point on a rugged trail. 

Looking inland toward the Honolua Marine Conservation District. Tip: The better lookout is on the other side of the bay, just past Mokuleia Bay when coming north from Kapalua. From there you can scope snorkeling conditions--specifically whether stream runoff has muddied the waters.

Find full directions to this spot in your Maui Trailblazer guidebook.