Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mauna Kea: A Short Walk to the Top of the World on the Big Island

Mauna Kea is 'only' 13,796, but from its base on the ocean floor, the big volcano meaures about 43,000 feet, easily the tallest mountain in the world. From the trailhead at the top, the summit can be achieved with a mere half-mile, round-trip walk, but this is a tough half-mile when you drive up from sea level. Altitude sickness is an issue, especially for those who don't spend an hour or so at the Onizuka Visitors Center about 8 miles down the mountain at 9,300 feet.

A shrine marks the top. Hawaiians called the summit, Ka Piko o Kaulan o Ka Aina (The Famous Summit of the Land) and also Wakea's Mountain, the mountain begat by god of all the heavens.  Just down from the summit are deposits of volcanic glass, similar to obsidian, which was gathered to make cutting tools and spear heads.

About a dozen deep-space telescope are built across the saddle from Mauna Kea. A demand for more observatories has created a conflict with preserving this ancient Hawaiian site. So far, the summit itself remains undeveloped.

A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, and sometimes required, for the stretch of road past the visitors center. Tour shuttle buses also bring visitors. It is an unforgettable journey. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details for planning a trip, on page 181.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wahine Wave Riders at Kauai's Kalihiwai Bay

Drive down from the bluffs on Kauai's north shore near Kilaeua and you will find a local-style beach park that is home to one of the best you-never-heard-of-it surfing venues in Hawaii. One break is on shore near the river mouth, mostly the playground for body boarders. The real action is at the mouth of the bay--a right break that sometimes curls around to a near head-on with the cliff face if surfers don't bail out it time. 

Local dudes like the great Titus Kinimaka have their own hang out zone at the beach (you want to make friends and get advice before venturing out there to ride). But Kalihiwai is favored by the wahines, and some of the best in the world, like Bethany Hamilton (not pictured) surf here frequently.
Bethany is known these days as the girl who lost her arm to a shark attack in 2003, a horrific event later portrayed in the movie, Soul Surfer. It is astounding how she can catch the combers with only one arm—she remains a top competitive surfer on the pro circuit.

From a guardrail on the way down to the beach park is a fabulous place to be a spectator, one of the best spots in Hawaii when conditions are right. There are two or three places to park on the shoulder before the guardrail begins. This picture is looking in at the bay, with the stream to the far right. The  surfing action, where the above shot was lensed, is down to the right. Make sure you get a good footing (dangerous drop off behind rail) and stay out of the path of cars traveling downhill.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Free-falling into adventure on Maui's Pipiwai Trail

Thrills and spills await on virtually every turn on the daylong driving adventure along the Hana Highway to the Pools of Oheo, which is the ocean section of Haleakala National Park. But that drive is only prelude to the Pipiwai Trail, a jaunt into the heart of darkness with two waterfalls that are among the most scenic in Hawaii. Get off the boardwalk only a few steps in the bamboo forest and you won't know which way is up.

Distances are about a half-mile farther, roundtrip, if you park at the visitors center. Total elevation gain is about 900 feet. Fit trekkers can do the hike in two to three hours.  So, to do this hike from Lahaina or Kihei, plan on a long day—one that packs in a week's worth of adventure.

Two sturdy bridges span stream gorges in between the two falls, this one the entranceway to a bamboo tunnel.

Falling 400 feet into a mossy amphitheater, Waimoku Falls is the headliner. But the Falls at Makahiku is a worthy destination, if you don't have time for the whole hike: The trail takes you a ledge at the top of the falls.  There's more detailed information in your Maui Trailblazer guide.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Going 'Downtown' with I'i Brown on the Big Island of Hawaii

Awaiting on the South Kohala Coast on the Big Island (which runs for miles north of Kona) are wild beaches with rough coral-and-lava sand (salt & pepper) and very clear waters, since there are no streams to murky things up.

Getting to these oases always involves walking across a hellish slag heap of lava, which is not bad if there's a trail—like the King's Trail that borders the coast—but impossible if there's not one.

South of the posh Mauna Lani Resort are the remains of the Francis I'i Brown retreat, which, believe it or not, was party central in the 1920s and the following decades, hosting the likes of Mae West, Babe Ruth, and a young Bob Hope at moonlit drinkathons. Brown, sort of the Great Gatsby of the Big Island, was the great gandson of the distinguished John Papa I'i, who was counsel to Hawaii's first three kings, Kamehameha the Great, followed by his two sons. Today, rusted barbed wire encloses the modest, forlorn buildings and grove of coco palms.

But the coast is wide open, with bays to the north and south and several spots to slip in and bob around in gin-clear water. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has directions to this getaway on pages 63 and 64.

If you're itching to go to Hawaii but can't make it this year take a Trailblazer Travel Book photo tour of all the islands here:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hanapepe: Kauai's Once-Wild, Now-Mild West

On Kauai's arid west shore, quiet Hanapepe town's history is defined by two violent events: In the early 1800s, Prince Humehume staged an unsuccessful revolt against the forces of Kamehameha the Great, and, nearly a century later, about 20 people died in a clash between police and workers over conditions in the sugarcane field. Hanapepe is still the Old West (Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolos, rule in nearby Waimea), but the town's beverage has shifted from whiskey to white wine, when visitors gather for Art Night every Friday. 

The Swinging Bridge spans the wide, red river, providing a cheap thrill for those wishing to explore the agricultural backroads. Poi dogs and wild chickens are on hand to say hello.

Many of Hanapepe's already weatherworn buildings were damaged by monster Hurricane Iniki in 1992, driving real estate prices down to the point where artists and crafstpeople could afford to move in.

In recent decades, gentrification has fought off dilapidation, resulting in a charming burg with a run of quirky shops, art galleries, craft studios, giftshops and restaurants. Historical markers are placed about, accenting a walking tour, but curious strollers will have to duck in here and there to really see everything.

To get the pulse of the place, visitors should stop in at the Storybook Theatre of Hawaii, where the Spark M. Matsunaga International Children's Garden for Peace in the back is a world unto itself.

The nonprofit Theatre is the creation of Mark Jeffers, whose public TV puppet-persona Russell da Rooster, both educates and amuses viewers throughout the state. In additions to shows on site, Jeffers conducts town walks by reservation.

At the far end of town, the 1911 bridge is the turnaround for a town loop that takes in the rural levee road and all of the shops along the main street.  Hanapepe is an intriguing place to visit, without being a tourist town, well worth an exploration for visitors headed toward Waimea Canyon. Kauai Trailblazer has more details on pages 136-139, and 209.