Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Why not Waianapanapa State Park, Maui?

After navigating the numerous one-lane bridges and cliff-hugging turns of the Hana Highway and then the reaching open green slopes, many visitors are hell bent on continuing to Hana Town. But a better idea is to hang a left on a short detour to Waianapanapa (why-nawpa-nawpa) State Park—among the best in the state, all factors considered. A centerpiece of the park is Black Sand Beach, which has the best snorkeling in this part of Maui, in spite of a near-constant shore break. (If waves are more than a foot or two, use caution, since high wave action creates rip current.) 

The Waianapanapa Caves are reachable via a short loop trail. Mossy caverns create excellent fresh water swimming pools. In the spring, the hatching of tiny shrimp turn the waters red, which, according to legend, occurs to symbolize the blood lost by Princess Popoalaea when her husband (not a good candidate for Dr. Phil) did her in after she was discovered here with her lover. 

A trail—part of the ancient King's Trail—leads north from Black Sand Beach past the ruins of heiaus and an ancient burial site.

South of the park, the trail skirts Waianapanapa's rustic cabins (for rent) along lava stacks that do battle with waves. The route continues several miles to Hana, passing the Ohala Heiau along the way.

Final thoughts: 

1. The campground is among the best in Hawaii. 

2. On the road into the park, keep your eyes peeled for honor fruit stands, which alone are a reason to take the side-trip from Hana Highway.

More good stuff to do along the route in your Maui Trailblazer guidebook.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Hear the sound of one hand clapping in Hawaii

Even among the devout, the thought of going to a church or temple while on vacation in Hawaii may seem like a downer. Think again. The Islands are dotted with spritually inspired,  knock-your-socks-off beautiful places that in a few minutes will impart a long-lasting emotional lift. Religions from all over the globe have put edifices here, both little and large, in locations to suit any movie director. And tucked away everywhere (as in everywhere) are the remains of centuries-old Hawaiian heiaus (temples), both grandiose and decrepit, that were dedicated to the various aspects of the Polynesian way of life.

The Trailblazer guides include directions to many dozens of spiritual spots on each island. No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planning guide, provides a priorized summary of the best churches, holy places, and heiaus—as well as best mountain trails, surfing and snorkeling beaches, swank resorts, shopping, walk-around cool towns, and adventure treks.

Here are a few places to get your Zen on:


The 88 Holy Places of Kobo Daishi (above), now part of the Lawai International Center near Kalaheo, are miniature stone houses set on a steep hillside. Brought from Japan and emplaced about a century ago, the Buddhist-inspried shrines were swallowed up by greenery until 'rediscovered' and refurbished by this nonprofit group about a decade ago. At the end of the road on the north tip of the island, the Kauluolaka Hula Temple is the ancient birthplace of hula in Hawaii. On an unmarked trail, the temple consists of grassy platforms below cliffs just above the crashing waves at the Napali Coast. Since the wildly popular Kalalau Trail and Ke'e Beach are nearby, most visitors miss this wonder. Anyone who has driven through Hanalei will likely remember the green-painted Waioli Hui'ia Church, where a gifted choir plays to a packed house on Sundays.

But on any day, don't miss walking across the vast lawn to the grounds of the Waioli Mission House (above), whose buildings date from 1841 and are set next to taro fields and a 3,000-foot-high jagged ridge known as the 'birthplace of rainbows.'  Yow.


Similar to the peaks of north Kauai, the razorback Ko'olau Range hangs above the Valley of the Temples on Windward Oahu.

The valley features ornate mausoleums of some of Oahu's well-to-do families, but the centerpiece is the Byodo-In Temple (above). A large koi pond reflects the image of the temple, which is a replica of the 900-year-old original in Kyoto, Japan. Pay your respects to an 18-foot-tall Buddha of the Western Paradise, enjoy a serene cup of tea, and gong a huge bronze bell to rid your mind of temptations (can't hurt to try).

Set off busy Nu'uano Avenue in Honolulu, the Royal Mausoleum (above) is an unexpected sanctuary. Most all the Hawaiian ali'i (kings) are buried here, at the only place in the Islands where the Hawaiian flag flies unaccompanied by the Stars and Stripes. A coral-block chapel with an all-koa-wood interior has been presided over by the same family since the early 1800s.

You'll need to pack a sense of adventure to find the Kaneaki Heiau (above), which is up Makaha Valley on the rough-hewn west side. This 13th century restored temple beside a stream is only a ten-minute walk, but it's located within a gated community and only open on certain days—Oahu Trailblazer has the deets on visiting.


On the delightfully forlorn south coast, not far from the one-horse town of Kaupo, sits the charming Huialoha Church (above). Drive or walk down .25-mile, to grassy flats fringed by cocopalms,  just above wild Haleki'i Bay. The Big Island looms across a channel. Vandals recently did damage to the church, which dates from 1859, but locals have formed a nonprofit group that has brought it back to life in stunning fashion. On the opposite side of Maui, just off the Hana Highway, is Kaulanapeuo Church. Poetically sited on a clearing in the jungle, the church's thick walls rise to a tall steeple that has stood since 1853. Miles north on the windward coast, and centuries older, is Kukuipuka Heiau, which radiates vistas in all directions. Restored in recent years, this modest enclosure is a short walk up a hill very near the Waihe'e Ridge Trail. (BTW: You could spend a whole vacation checking out the quaint churches on Maui.)


Location, location, location. The Wood Valley Temple (below) rests in the verdant Kau Forest Reserve near Pahala, about 40 miles south of the barren expanses of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Dali Lama has visited this tranquil retreat, and you can too.

Farther north in Kona on the steep slopes of Honaunau, the well known Painted Church (below) has big views of Kealakekua Bay. Father John Berchman Velge adorned the Catholic Church's wooden walls with tropical-themed Christian murals in 1898.

The several-acre garden grounds feature breadfruit, Norfolk pines and flowering shrubs. Near Kawaihae about 50 miles north of Kona, the immense Pu'ukohola Heiau (below) will impart a sense of the majesty of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Ironically, the best look at this National Historic Site is not from park service trails, but from across a little cove at nearby Kawaihae.

At the heiau's dedication ceremony in 1791, Kamehameha the Great's rival cousin, Keoua, and his retinue were killed in a scuffle. Whether Big K planned the attack, or it transpired from unforeseen events, is open to historical interprepation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Maui's (sort-of) hidden (extremely) beautiful Po'olenalena

The southwest coast of Maui, called the Gold Coast in the old days, truly is a treasure trove of safe-and-scenic beaches. In the north end are the darling triplets of family beach parks, Kamaoles I, II, and III. These beaches connect via a shoreline trail that continues to the glamorous array of beaches along the Wailea Resorts, five or six sandy nooks with good snorkeling and backed by swanky resorts. A paved path connects them all, with a half-dozen or so public parking lots along the way.

On the south end of Wailea, the path ends at Polo Beach and the Fairmont Kea Lani. From there, most visitors go south on the main road, making a beeline for Makena State Beach, better known as Big Beach.  Don't do that. Stay on the coastal road and make your way to Po'olenalena (poo-ooh-leena-leena). New, modern beach homes have detracted from the country vibe, and even a sign has been erected. But still, this sweet beach sizzles with a local scene. If you walk to the right at the beach via a trail, you'll find Little Po'oleena Beach (pictured above), just over a low lava reef and not visible from the larger beach.

Po'olenalena has room to roam and shade along the backshore courtesy of stickery kiawe trees. You can beachcomb south and pick up routes that go all the way to Pu'u Olai which are the cinder cones at the north end of Makena. Maui Trailblazer has more details on how to find a spot to call your own on south Maui, even on busy weekends.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Big Island's Place of Refuge: Escaping into Prison

South of Kailua-Kona, and at the southern end of Kealakekua Bay is is a mouthful of syllables known as Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Park, a.k.a., Place of Refuge. Though this is the most spectacular, similar places can be found throughout the Islands, where miscreants, vanquished combatants, and anyone else on the bad side of the the Ali'i (royals) could flee to avoid punsihment. When you're on an island and justice is a swift club, people hustle to get into prison.

The national park has many remnants from ancient times including the Great Wall from the 1500s, which is 1,000 feet long, 10-feet high and seven-feet thick. These days, especially on weekends, you'll find Hawaiians practicing traditional arts, like canoe making and weaving.

Also on site is Hale O Keawe, where the bones of some two-dozen Ali'i were interred. Adjacent to the park on the south is an ancient village site and a trail that goes for miles, some of it part of a huge cobblestone ramp, part of an old road. On the north side of the park is Two-Step, which offers some of the best snorkeling in the Hawaii, if you don't mind crowds on idyllic weekends.

You can spend a couple days exploring all the cool stuff at Kealakekua. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has the deets, pages 96 to 104.