Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tips for Hiking Kauai's Kalalau Trail

The end of the road on Kauai's north shore is the beginning of Napali (The Cliffs), which can only be accessed on land via the Kalalau Trail—an 11-mile squiggley scramble that ends in the Kalalau Valley. Don't even think about trying to dayhike the 22-mile roundtrip, since rough conditions make it seem more like 40 miles. On a busy day, nearly 500 souls set foot on the Kalalau, quite a circus, and second only in popularity to the Diamond Head Crater trail on Oahu. (A permit is required to walk beyond the first two miles of the trail.)

Make sure to pick a dry day, since rain makes this route the bad kind of adventure. It's also a good idea to show up early, if you want a nature trip rather than a social scene. Stuff your daypack with plenty of food and water. Wear sturdy shoes, and plan on getting them wet and muddy. A hiking pole will be a godsend.

Hanakapiai Beach is two miles in, though this is a rocky, dangerous swimming beach, and requires a stream crossing to reach. Flash floods can make for a lethal crossing, so much so that a million-dollar footbridge is being planned. Ribbony Hanakapiai Falls (above) is another two miles inland from the beach (so, 8 miles round-trip from the trailhead; no permit needed) and requires several more stream crossings. The hike to the falls will feel like 12 miles, so be ready.

You can achieve a great view of the Napali Coast by walking in about a half mile on the trail. The easiest way to see the coast is to walk about a hundred yards to the right at Ke'e Beach, which is also at the end of the road.  Only a few, if that, visitors among the daily 500 people take one of the best hikes here, which is to follow a coastal trail around the point and then up to the ancient hula temple, the birthplace of the tradition in Hawaii. The hula temple is sacred ground in Hawaii, so treat it like a church. Another nearby attraction that is a totally five stars is Limahuli Garden (less than a mile before the end of the road). This place is Eden on earth. Complete directions for all these hikes are in the Kauai Trailblazer guidebook, now in its 20th year of publication.

For more remarkable long-distance hiking trails in the United States click here:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Safe Hiking Hawaii with Kids

Kids are well-suited to staying safe in most circumstances on trails in Kauai, as this young boy demonstrates with the time-tested butt-slide on the Kalalau Trail in Kauai. Closer to the ground, children are less likely to do damage with a face plant than their taller parents.

And some dangers are obvious, like drop-offs at cliffs with railings, like this one at the Awa'awapuhi Trail also on Kauai.

But other hazards are not so obvious, so parents should be aware of situations leading to accidents, which sadly are fatal all-too-often somewhere in the islands.

1. Stay on the trail. Mountain and jungle trails are usually bordered by tufts of greenery that look like solid ground, but are actually disguising thin air that will lead in a free fall. On flat ground, it's very easy to get lost when wandering from a trail.

2.  Stay back from the surf line at the beach and on coastal trails. Being swept from the land is very possible. Don't venture along wet rocks or reef at the shoreline, and stay back from the foam line at the beach. Of course, these hazzards pretty much go away when surf in down. Always keep and eye on the waves; you can usually flee if you see one coming.

3. Don't swim in fresh pools beneath a waterfall, where rocks fall with the water.  Watch for stream contamination signs.

4. No running on mountain trails. Trails are rooty and uneven, and often slick after rains. Kids might take a good bump, or, worse, fall from the trail.

5. Most parents know this one: Keep the children within sight, and within hearing distance.

The Trailblazer guides for each of the Hawaiian Islands have special sections for families. Includes are hikes, safe beaches and kid friendly attractions and restaurants.''

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wild beaching it in Hawaii

La creme de la creme courtesy of your No Worries Hawaii guidebook authors.

Spend the day lolling, dipping, reading, splashing.

Larsens Beach A short hike down from pasturelands leads to more than a mile of wild beach. Monk seals and shorebirds like the rough lava-and-coral reef, and backshore flora.
Waiakalua Beach A hike-to-only special near Kilauea. The first beach is easy, and several other secluded beaches are reachable by rock-hopping the shore.
Moloa‘a Bay A few private homes, yes, but this lush stream valley and bay has a half-mile of curving sand and coral tidepools right for a swim.
Mahaulepu A few miles of bumpy road from the Grand Hyatt in Poipu leads to this beach. Great swimming. A coastal trail toward Hoary Head Ridge provides a getaway from this getaway.
Kepuhi Beach You can always find quietude, even when the crowds are pounding Tunnels and Ke‘e beaches, which are just down the road.
Waikoko Beach The north end of Hanalei Bay has some lonesome sand and great mountain views—especially if you take the surfer’s trail and not the roadside turnout.

Kawela Beach Until the nearby Turtle Bay Resort achieves its grandiose expansion plans, this North Shore cove remains a sublime spot for a beach day.
Ka‘alawai Beach Finding and parking near this beach near the Shangri La mansion at Black Point (below Diamond Head) isn’t that easy. That’s why it remains such a find.
Malaekahana State Recreation Area A huge, forest peninsula, rimmed by a sandy beach, points at Goat Island—which beckons adventure snorkelers.
Makaleha Beach Say hi to horses on a short walk though pastures to this beach that is one of the settings for Lost, the television program. Not far from Haleiwa on the Mokuleia Coast. Worth a Look: Eternity Beach (Halona Blow Hole), Laumilo access-Waimanalo Beach (Windward), Makalei Beach Park (near Kapiolani Park)

Po‘olenalena Beach New, big homes have risen in the backshore, but two little beaches near Wailea remain relatively serene—due to many other choices in the vicinity.
Spreckelsville Beach-Sugar Cove True, this run of fine sand is under the flight pattern for the airport. But that doesn’t really spoil getaway. Beach walks also in the offing.
Worth a Look: Maluaka Beach (Makena), Montana Beach (Paia), Oneloa Beach and Windmill Beach (Kapalua)

BIG ISLAND Makalawena Beach A horrendous road and a hot, 45-minute hike thin the visitors to this beautiful run of dunes and trees. One of several Kekaha Kai State Park beaches.
Honomalino Beach Take a 20-minute walk from the village of Miloli‘i, south of Kona, and you reach a crescent beach with palms.
Beach 69 (Waialea Bay) The word is out on this once secret beach next to Hapuna—the state has added a real parking lot, a few tables, and restrooms. But you can still find a private spot.
Kapalaoa Beach Head south on the sand from the popular beach park at Anaeho‘omalu Bay (near the Hilton) to find sand suitable for snorkelers, turtles, and the occasional kite-boarder.
Worth a Look: Kehena Black Sand (19-Mile) Beach (Puna), Alula Beach (Honokohau)

For even more categorized beaches consult your No Worries Hawaii guidebook a companion book to Diamond Valley Company’s Trailblazer Travel Books. These books include more than 1,000 recreational activities and attractions, with 36 maps, and some 900 photographs—much more than could be put into this planning guide. Each island guide gives directions, descriptions, and historical backgrounds for all the activities referenced in No Worries Hawaii—plus many more that didn’t make the cut.

You'll find complete driving directions to all of the above in your Trailblazer Travel Books: Maui Trailblazer, Kauai Trailblazer, Oahu Trailblazer, Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Iao Valley is the beating heart of Maui

Iao (rhymes with "meow") Valley is on the tour bus circuit and most visitors do a quick  trip up a long flight of stairs to blast a few selfies with the famed Iao Needle and then haul ass. But there's lots of stuff around the needle at this state park in the center of Maui—where in 1790 Kamehmeha's forces attacked, killing so many of the local  warriors that the fallen bodies were said to have dammed the Kepaniwai Stream and turned its waters red.

On site is a botanical garden loop trail along the banks of the stream. But the real deal for adventure hikers is to hop the rail at the Iao Needle viewpoint (leaving the park and entering a forest reserve) and taking a well-used, unsigned trail to a ridge just above the needle that has spectacular views of the mountains that frame the park, including the 3,000-foot-tall Wall of Tears. A half-dozen waterfalls adorn the cliff face after rains. The trail continues into the Iao Tablelands—the route taken by the few Maui warriors who survived Kamehameha's onslaught—but it gets tangled in the jungle. Don't plan on making it across the island to Olowalu, like those guys who were running for their lives.

In the valley about a mile before the state park is sweet Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens, a county park that is the best garden picnic place on Maui. A Hawaiian village re-creation, Japanes garden, and Chinese pagoda are surrounded by a variety of palms, banyans, and other towering trees. Other buildings create the styles of Portugal, the Philippines, and New England missionaries, all meant as a tribute to the calabash of cultures that have called Hawaii home.

Nextdoor to the park is the Hawaii Nature Center (museum, guided walks), and nearby is Tropical Gardens of Maui, an underrated botanical garden with a cheap admission. Maui Trailblazer has more details on page 94. (Almost forgot: Kapilau Ridge, a little known hike into the West Maui Mountains, is also very close.)

Hilton Hawaii Deals - Rates starting at just $169 per night

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Kauai's Powerline Trail: Take A Walk on the Wild Side

Some 'adventure hikes' in Hawaii are tourist trots, with hundreds of visitors lined up to check off the experience. Not so the Powerline Trail, which cuts through the middle of the island from above Kapa'a to Princeville on the north shore. Only a zillion plants and a hundred thousand birds are there to share the trail.

The PT begins at the Kehaua Arboretum, about 10 miles inland on the Coconut (east) Coast. Even here, other trails (Blue Hole, Kuilau Ridge) are more popular. Perhaps the drab name, dissuades hikers, even through the power lines are rarely seen in the riot of jungle greenery.

The first short leg of the trail is an uninviting uphill scar of a road. But this ramp quickly ends and then  swerves and undulates through a wild botantical garden. Openings in the canopy reveal panoramas of jagged ridges. You need to stop and look down here and there to comprehend the detail in the micro world. Kauai Trailblazer has the details (on page 84) for the Powerline Trail, as well as other routes that are off the beaten track.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hawaii's Keiki (Kids') Beaches are, yes indeed, Fun for the Whole Family

Any beach in Hawaii can be perfectly safe and fun one day, and then due to various weather conditions, morph into being not so safe, or even lethally dangerous, the next.  Keiki (baby) beaches, as they are known locally, are an exception. These are where on most any day the kids can wade about at the shore or swim with parent's in nice calm coves. 

Some keiki (KAY-key) beaches are naturally occuring pools, protected by a near-shore reef or rock formation, while others are man-made, or man-enchanced at least, where boulders have been placed to protect the shore.  Here are a only few beach swims where waves and current are not an issue:

On KAUAI,  Lydgate Park (pictured) is a crowd-pleaser with a shallow lagoon, beach and multi-tiered wooden playground on site. In nearby Kapa'a, Fuji Beach, is more of a local's scene. A long, narrow pool with sandy bottom is right beside palm trees in a sleepy neighborhood. On the west side, sunny Salt Pond Beach Park, will keep you coming back. Palms, lawns, big crescent beach, with little pools to each side,

On OAHU, Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park is the mother of all baby beaches. Its big oval pool abuts many acres of tree shaded picnic tables and lawns, where locals hang out on weekends, rather than nearby Waikiki. For a more mellow scene, go just around Diamond Head from Waikiki to Mothers' Beach in ritzy Kahala. On the north shore, take a ten-minute walk up the sand from Turtle Bay Resort to the tiny jewel of the Kaihalulu Keiki Pool.

MAUI has one of the best: Baby Baldwin Beach near Paia. A natural swimming beach is backed by a bleacher of shaded sand, with views of the West Maui Mountains. Nearby, is Spreckelsville Keiki Beach, known more to locals. You can expect privacy on week days. Across the island in Lahaina, you'll find sweet Baby Beach, with killer views of Molokai and Lanai.

Near Kona on the BIG ISLAND is Airport Baby Beach, a big sandy opening in a reef of smooth lava. Just north, Kekaha Kai State Park has a fantasy-island natural baby beach, but it takes a bumpy drive and mile-plus walk to reach. The most underrated kids' beaches in Hawaii are on the outer rim of the big bay from Hilo. Check out Onekahakaha, Carlsmith, and Richardson beach parks.

Trailblazer guides for each island have details on each these safe-swimming spots, as well as about ten times more. Hawaii has many nooks and crannies.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

From Champs Élysées to Waikiki: The Aloha Shirt is Back!

Not many people look to the streets of  Paris to find out what to wear in Hawaii. Yet, now that Yves St. Laurent has come out with a flashy red shirt that screams Hawaii, you can bet a resurrgence of the Aloha shirt is officially ON. So, if you visit the islands, consider picking up a wardrobe for your next trip to Paris. Shopping is a pleasant passtime in Hawaii, especially on rainy days. With thrift shops aplenty, finding the perfect vintage souvenir is a worthy quest.  Oui, oui. Helluva lot cheaper than France where the shirt sells for $750.

You also can buy authentic fabric at stores such as Kapaia Stitchery in Kauai, Kmart's sewing department, Hawaii Fabric Mart in Maui, Discount Fabric Warehouse in Kona. You'll get plenty of inspiration to make your own keepsake by window shopping the Islands' beach towns or discovering hidden lagoons on of your Trailblazing expeditions.