Saturday, October 24, 2015

King's Trail is a walk on Maui's wild side

Not far from where the road ends beyond ritzy Wailea, the rugged King's Trail begins its 12-mile run along the island's arid and out-there south coast. The trail dates from King Pi'ilani in the 1500s, though it was reconstucted by Governor Hoapili in the early 1800s—and more recently by park officials. The "King's Trail" is sort of a generic term for trails that encircle all the Islands, known for going straight as a string, rather than following contours.

The trailhead is near the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Preserve, and at the site of  Keoneoio Village, a 65-acre historic district. Numerous lava-rock shelters, walls, and foundations remain.

Stickery kiawe trees and wisps of sand soften the hundreds of acres of a'a lava flows (the kind piled up like broken shards, through which a tank could not pass).

Kanaio Beach is two-plus miles along the path. A little rocky and hard to get to, yes, but the swimming is very good with clear waters.

After several miles, the King's Trail gets rougher, so bring heavy boots and prepare for a wilderness experience. Hardcore hikers can do a car-shuttle hike to Manawainui Gulch, reachable via a long drive up to and around the backside of Haleakala. 

Maui Trailblazer has details on these wild lands of Maui, on pages 29-31, and 164-173. The south coast of Maui won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it offers solitude and exploration virtually free of tourists and the scenery is spectacular, with Haleakala rising from sea level to 10,000 feet.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Maui's Bellstone Pools and Nakalele Blowhole: Only beauties when they are sleeping

Nothing quite spoils a family vacation like having a wave sweep someone away and into the depths of the deep blue sea. So, first rule when visiting the very cool Nakalele Blowhole and Bellstone Pools is to stay well back from the reef edges and watch wave action for at least 15 minutes. High surf can be present during calm days. If the reef around the pools is wet, take that as a clue that sporadic surf is jumping the reef and stay out.

On calm days the pools (known as 'Olivine Pools' to some), are a world-class freebie. This photo shows one of a half-dozen soaking tubs, spread out over a couple of reefy acres. Colorful fishies and sea flora lie beneath clear water.

It's a tough, steep hike down to the pool (the price of admission) from an obscure turnout on Maui's north shore, near the ancient Bellstone—a hog-sized rock than has rested here for centuries. When struck at the right place with the correct object, the rock emanates a hollow, metallic sound.

Several miles up scenic Highway 30, the Nakalele Blowhole is a well-known roadside attraction, and rental car clusters normally mark each of the two trailheads. The rough trail down drops about 200 feet over .75-mile. Most people stand farther back than these visitors, but they thankfully have the sense not to have the ocean at their backs—the double whammy.

Again, these folks weren't in any real danger, but you can see how someone who stood closer yet could be knocked down and then floated back into the blowhole—gulp—which is an opening in the ceiling of an underwater cave in the reef. Multi-colored, weirdly formed rocks surround the margins of the reef, nice perches to sit and catch a little spray on hot days.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on these places (pages 74-79), and others on this rural coastline. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oahu's Waikiki is not (just) a tourist trap

While you will not find a little grass shack, a stroll along 2-mile long Waikiki Beach is a trip through Hawaiian history. To be clear, WKK is sort of Las Vegas minus the gambling, plus the ocean, with some 10 square blocks packed with high-rises, bars, restaurants, fashion shopping, and ticky tack stores that cater to sun scorched tourists just off the jet from Omaha, LA, or Tokyo. But this same ground not long ago (and for centuries before that) was home to the Ali'i (Hawaiian royalty), as evidenced by huge Kapiolani Park next to Waikiki, which was bequeathed to the people by King Kalakaua in honor of his wife. Real Hawaiians flock to the beaches daily, to frolic in the warm water under the watchful brow of Diamond Head.

Surfing is a tradition dating back hundreds of years, yes, even before the Beach Boys. The entire historic stroll along the beach is accented with historical plaques and statues, including these surfers with a monk seal, and also one of Duke Kahanamoku, surfing legend and Olympic champion swimmer.  Not far from the hubbub is the Waikiki Aquarium, operated by the University of Hawaii, where you can get some serious eye-contact with the monk seals (an endangered species, and Hawaii's only native mammals).

This guy may look like an accountant, but his family dates way back in Hawaiian history, and the conch shell that sounds at a nightly beachside ceremony is a call to his ancestors to further the Polynesian cultural traditions.

Theres' nothing like the beach at sunset to cap the day. Although Oahu has its urban corridor, finding aloha is not hard. First-timers on a budget might consider this island, since cheap rooms can be found, and you don't really need the added expense of a rental car or flight to an outer island.

Oahu Trailblazer has details on Waikiki, Honolulu, and the rural reaches of Oahu. If trying to decide which island is best for you, get ahold of No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planner with a self-test that makes sure you make the right choices.