Friday, July 24, 2015

Maui's Hana: Where's the Beach??

After the thrills and spills amid a cavalcade of rental cars along Maui's notorious Hana Highway (waterfalls, one-lane bridges, tropical jungle) many visitors get to the actual town and experience a mild disappointment. The bay at Hana is not known for swimming, and that's about all you see of the coast. But wait ... there's more.

Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park has clear water and, when the shore break is low, excellent snorkeling. The pretty park is a couple of miles off the highway, just north of Hana.

Around the point from Hana Bay, via a short-but-sort-of-hairy hike, is the town's darling, Red Sand Beach. A jagged reef protects the swimming cove. Worth noting: One section of the trail is narrow along a ledge, some of the embankment at the beach is crumbly, and some sunbathers might go naked, even though nudity is not allowed on Hawaii beaches and the bodies on display are not all works of art.

Koki Beach Park is a surfer's beach, not far from Hana headed toward the Pools of Oheo. Rip currents here can be killers, literally, so stay out of the water when the surf's up. But palms and backshore flora make Koki one of the better stops on south Maui.

Just down the road from Koki is Hamoa Beach, the one use by the guests at the upscale Travaasa Hana (formerly Hotel Hana Maui), though the beach itself is public. All aspects considered, Hamoa stacks up well with other Maui beaches, and is the best choice for visitors needing a beach fix. Swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and chilling are among the popular activities.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on Hana beaches, as well as hikes, gardens, and fun stuff that is off the tourist trail.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Secret Beach: One of Kauai's hidden treasures

The northeast coast of Kauai—from Anahola to Princeville—has more than a dozen hike-to beaches, by far the best run of wild coast in Hawaii. One of the most scenic is Secret Beach near Kilauea, which isn't a big secret these days.  But it is comprised of three separate beaches about a mile long in total, so privacy is not a problem. At the far end of Secret Beach is the Kilauea National Wildlife Refuge, whose historic lighthouse marks the northern-most spot among the major Hawaiian Islands.

Local dudes and dudettes like the multi-tiered shorebreaks at Secret, perfect for jivving on a short board. But ask advice before venturing out, since near-shore rocks and rip currents make this a surfing beach beginners should avoid. While watching the waves, keep an eye out for spinner dolphins who frequent this bay, and for whales who frolick offshore during the winter.

One end of Secret Beach (to the left where the trail drops to the sand) has a reef with pools perfect for soaking—and also perfect for getting Maytaged by foaming surf. The waves here are normally a lethal hazard, so stay back and give it respect. 

Kauai Trailblazer has details on all the beaches for this coastline—which should be at the top of the list for independent travelers.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Maui's Skyline Trail: A well-kept secret at Haleakala National Park

About 1.5 million people visit Haleakala National Park each year, and almost all take in the view from 10,000-foot-high Red Hill Summit (often shrouded with lower-lying clouds). And maybe half the people at least take a gander at Sliding Sands Trail, which drops a few thousand feet into the 19-square-mile volcano's crater (technically an eroded valley) that is filled with cinder cones and geologic oddities. But practically no one (seriously) knows about the Skyline Trail, which drops down the west flank of the volcano, past many cinder cones, and (unlike other trails) has ocean views all the way.

For one, the Skyline Trail is in an adjacent state park, and not shown on the visitor's map. And secondly, the trailhead, though only a half-mile from the White Hill Visitors Center, passes the research facility of Science City (shown above), where 'No Tresspassing' signs confuse and ward off most visitors.

But the trailhead sign is just around the bend. The trails lead down to Poli Poli Springs State Park in the Kula Forest Reserve. You can also take a rural road that climbs (and climbs) to Poli Poli from the highway in Kula.

The first .5-mile of the trail is a paved road that used to be open to vehicles. Frequent rockfalls made this a risky propostition.  BTW: Bicycle riding down the Haleakala Highway is a popular tourist activity. But the real thrill is the Skyline Trail, free of cars with spectacular scenery.

Hikers will pass cinder cones (called pu'us) at the beginning of the trail. It's easy walking, a steep descent over red-and-blonde rubble that eventually merges with the forests and trail-network of the state park. Poli Poli State Park was hammered by fire, wind, and rainstorms in recent years, but it's open again. Restoration efforts have improved the roads.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on trails in Haleakala National Park and the Kula Forest Reserve. The new Maui Trailblazer E-book is now available on Amazon.

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