Saturday, August 29, 2015

Magic hour in Hawaii: Priceless (doesn't cost one thin dime)

Movie directors (not a rare sight to see a crew filming in Hawaii) call it 'magic hour,' the time right around sunset when the light is right to lend a dreamy unreality to a scene. For visitors in the know, magic hour is the time to be kicking back with pupus or a plate dinner and a beverage—and ease on into the evening.

Late in the afternoons, say 3:30 to 5, parking spaces start to open up at the beach, as the sun-scorched set starts to think about getting a shower and heading out to dinner. Even those who delay the ritual to hang in there for sunset, take off when it's over, only to wind up waiting for a table somewhere else.

For an evening to remember—and one that meets the budget—try bringing  your dinner to the beach in the late afternoon, watch as people scurry off, and then mellow out as the day becomes sunset, and wait for the stars to appear. You may get in the habit of it. 

Treat yourself with a $50 daily credit and get more of what you love when you book a stay with Hilton Hotels and Resorts

Friday, August 21, 2015

Big Island: History in plain view

Being the youngest island—about 5 million years the junior of Kauai—the cultural traditions of the Big Island have been less obscured by tangles of greenery and the erosive forces of Mother Nature. Several National Historic Monuments, state parks, and numerous unmarked archeological sites await the curious visitor. 

One of the best is Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site, which is on the north end of the South Kohala coast. The huge temple (pictured) is where King Kamehameha had his cousin killed (long story) to become the ruler of the Big Island. The best view is from nearby Kawaihae Bay, and not the park itself.

Just up the coast from the heiau is Lapakahi State Historical Park, the first so-designated in Hawaii. The village ruins date from the 1400s, or earlier. Drought and roaming cattle from the Parker Ranch doomed the place in the late 1800s. The site is a must-see.

Then, just north of the state park, is the  Kamehemeha Birthplace and the Mo'okini Heiau, where human sacrifices took place. Don't worry, the kapu (taboo) on visiting the temple was lifted decades back. Kamehameha's birth took place on this isolated coast (on the night of a Haley's Comet sighting) to avoid having the baby captured and slain by other royals on the Hilo side of the island (part of the long story referenced above).

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details on these sites, as well as way more places to see elsewhere—including numerous petroglyph fields. Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Big Island's Fantastic "Destructive Waters"

Through the middle of Hilo Town runs the Wailuku River—'Destructive Waters' in Hawaiian—which carries the runoff from the saddle of the world's two tallest mountains Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea (when measured from the sea floor, these peaks are 40,000-plus feet). When tropical rain thunder down, no river is more aptly named, since Wailuku carries the force of a tsunami.

Wailuku River State Park consists of two separate parks, covering about 40 acres a few miles above Hilo. The upper portion is Boiling Pots (Pe'epe'e Falls) a run of rapids and swirling pools. People have died here, and most often, Boiling Pots are dangerous. But when water is low, the pots are primo swimming holes.

Rainbow Falls is the lower section of the state park—morning is the best time to catch the spectrum of color in the waters' mist. A trail sguiggles to the top of the falls, where swimming pools await. Though a hazard during high water, these pools are usually safer for swimmers than those at Boiling Pots. Both falls are on the tour-bus circuit, but adventure travelers can find room to roam.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details on the park, as well as lots of other out-of-the-way treasures in Hilo and the Hamakua Coast.  It's available on Amazon and

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Oahu's Olomana Ridge is for sure-footed thrill seekers only

Olomana—a triple-peaked, stand-alone ridge on Oahu's Windward coast—is a real-deal adventure hike. The stats aren't intimidating: 4.25 miles round-trip with about 1,600 feet of elevation. But trekkers who do all three peaks will feel like they've been to hell (or heaven) and back.

The first peak is rope-aided (always test before trusting), and gives you a view of the other two peaks.  Most hikers can do this one. The second peak is a scamper across a razorback saddle that only those with little fear of heights will want to try. The third peak is downright dangerous, to be attempted only by mountain goats with a screw loose in the old brainpan (that's a slight exaggeration, but death or injury are true possiblilities).

The bulk of the hike and climb is just your typical steep, rooty, muddy ascent. A hiking pole helps and you might want to wear dark shorts, since a butt-plant is likely along the way. Although Olomana is a well-known trail (featured even in the New York Times), the directiions and parking are quirky. Oahu Trailblazer has all the specifics on the hike, as well as several other ridge and jungle hikes in the vicinity that aren't quite as hair-raising.