Saturday, February 28, 2015

Oahu's Manoa Falls: Touristy, for sure, but it delivers the scenic goods

Lots of people make the 1.5-mile round-trip hike to Manoa Falls, a classic tropical white ribbon falling down a 200-foot cliff. As the sign indicates, don't dawdle under the water. Local tour companies charge unsuspecting tourists to get here, even though the trail is public, easy to find, and just a few minutes up Manoa Valley from Waikiki.

Footbridges and staircases (elevation gain is 800 feet) penetrate a fairyland of tropical greenery along the way, making getting there at least half the fun. Hot tip: While you're here, don't forget to visit Lyon Arboretum, which is right next to the trailhead. Most people miss this place. You can wander century-old, well-kempt gardens or take a wilder path up to Aihualama Falls, and have the place to yourself. The Ko'olau Range rises above, framing the Manoa Valley.

Oahu Trailblazer has more details on these and other nearby hikes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Miloli'i: A Big Island fantasy for free

Honomalino Beach, a 20-minute walk from the Kona Coast village of Miloli'i, is the sort of place people dream about when thinking of Hawaii. Spinner dolphins frolick offshore of a black-sand beach. Snorkeling is good and the currents are generally safe—although a drop-off at the shoreline may come as a surprise.

A grove of cocopalms provides plenty of shade and ambiance at the backshore. The village is five miles down a winding road, about 32 miles south of Kailua-Kona. Miloli'i is an authentic fishing village—definitely not a tourist town. Some visitors may be put off by the haggard look of the place, a blessing really, since it is seldom crowded.

The easy-to-follow trail pentrates a thicket and passes an ancient fishing shrine and cemetery on the way to the beach.

The little church of Hauoli Kamanao is the beating heart of the community, where you may see an event on weekends. Slack key great Iz performed one of his last concerts in Miloli'i, and (as if you need to know) some scenes from the forgettable Elvis movie Girls, Girls, Girls! were shot here in 1962. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Haleiwa: Oahu's Surfing Capital of the Universe

Every island has a north shore, but there is only one North Shore, where the best surfers in the world come to ride dozens of classic breaks. Among the famous waves are four that are on the pro sufing world tour: Sunset, Pipeline, Waimea, and Haleiwa. The unassuming Haleiwa (holly-ee-vah) Town is the center of it all.

Haleiwa  Beach Park is on the opposite end of town from the pro surfing beach. This beach is perfect for beginning surfers, beach potatoes, and for strollers who want to hike around a palmy point to hidden Police Beach.

The little bridge in the center of town is postcard material—but also the gateway to the bay and ocean for outrigger canoes. Clubs and races are part of the town's fabric. These are the home waters for some of Hawaii's best women paddlers, including Haleiwa Jane Duncan.

The town itself is strung along a mile or two, weather-worn frame buildings. Grand plans to develop the North Shore have been defeated by locals, and Haleiwa retains a low-key rural vibe of benign neglect. The place began as a missionary settlement in 1832 (one of Hawaii's earliest) and in the late 1800s became a weekend getaway for the well-heeled from Honolulu, who rode a railway that was built to haul sugar cane. For sugar these days, try one of Haleiwa's shave ice joints.

Located at the North Shore Marketplace, Patagonia may be best known for top quality mountain gear and clothing but this place is one of the best surf shops anywhere. Inside you'll see photos and memorabilia of women's longboard surfing legend, the late Rell Sunn who helped set up the shop in 1994. For a tour of all the surfing beaches on this coast, consult your Oahu Trailblazer adventure guidebook.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hawaii beach parks that have it all: Kalihiwai, Kauai

In terms of wild-and-scenic tropical beaches, Kauai's north shore is tops among the islands—and second place is distant. With all there is to do on Kauai, most visitors miss this little sandy bay with a wide stream and good surfing, which is fine by the locals who call Kalihiwai home.

Ask surfers from all around the Islands, and they'll tell you the point break at Kalihiwai (kah-lee-hee-why) is a world-class wave machine, even if the wave sometimes curls around and does a head-on with the cliff.  Visiting surfers might want to friendly up with the locals before heading out.

The long curve of sand is good for family wave play. The backshore is an ironwood grove with palms, so shade is not a problem. Kalihiwai Stream enters the bay opposite from the point break, but this zone is well known to boogie boarders for several tiers of shore break. During periods with no rain, the stream is blocked by a sand dam at the beach, creating a lagoon swimming pond, with green, clear water. Kayaking upstream is a trip to Southeast Asia, albeit a quick one.  

You can watch these guys (including Titus Kinimaka and his hui) and wahines (Bethany Hamilton is sometimes around) from a turnout at the guardrail right above the beach.  There's not much room on the shoulder—watch out for both the drop-off and passing cars. 

Kauai Trailblazer has more details on Kalihiwai, and all the other pieces to this coastal puzzle.