Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Kaupo coast has the rarest of commodities on Maui: Solitude

The south coast of Maui doesn't seem like Maui at all: For about 25 miles, Highway 31 rolls and twists through an arid seascape, punctuated by bouldered beaches, a sea arch, side canyons filled with birdsong, ancient ruins. Very few people and no buildings at all. Don't come looking for brunch. Though the above photo shows a pockmarked section near Huankini Bay, much of the road is smoothly paved and the new concrete bridges are state-of-the-art.

In Manawainui Gulch are centuries-old fishing heaius (temples). From here, a rugged section of the ancient King's Trail hugs the coast for 8 miles, heading toward La Perouse Bay. Just before reaching the gulch is the holy grail for adventure seekers: a scramble through catci and brush to the mysterious Menehune Footprints, where small bare soles are imprinted in smooth lava. This site is called "New Tahiti," since its hills were guiding landmarks for the first Polynesian argonauts.

That the south coast was once heavily peopled is evidenced by the petroglyphs at Nu'u Bay.

Some of the walls in the area are ancient, while others date from more recent (but still old) ranching history. When the ocean conditions are tame, the Nu'u  Landing, a rough ramp into an inlet from a lava point, serves up some of the best snorkeling on Maui. 

St. Joseph Church has stood since 1862—with Haleakala (hidden by clouds in this pic) rising to 10,000 feet a few miles inland. Much of the south coast was included in an expansion of Haleakala National Park. Just down the road is the quirky Kaupo Store, which is open 24/7, except when it's not, a policy that dates from 1925. Near the store is the Kaupo Trail: climb 5,500 feet over 14 miles into Haleakala crater.

Most people see the Kaupo coast (if at all) as the homeward leg of a clockwise journey from the Hana Highway—though a few miles of this connection are iffy at times due to narrow sections and rockslides. For adventure seekers who want to spend the day here, Maui Trailblazer devotes five chapters.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Oahu's Ho'omaluhia: From the gates of Hell to the Garden of Eden

Running down the middle of Oahu is the Ko'olau Range, a razorback ridge (really, it's only a foot wide at places) with steep green cliffs, nearly 3,000 feet high, that are choked with greenery. That's what happens in a few million years after an enormous volcano stops spurting and the wind and erosion go to work on its crater.

On the eastern (Windward) side of the Ko'olau is Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden, which is really a half-dozen different gardens spread over 400 acres. Jog, stroll, hike, or find someplace to sit and take it all in.

Intreptive signs give thumnails on the geological goings on. Lore says Pele, the volcano goddess, started on the northernmost island of Kauai and headed south looking for a new home, skipping to Oahu, then Maui, and then to the Big Island, where she's going off today. 

Another explanation is that the earth's crust is rotating over a "Hot Spot" that is spewing lava into the sea from its molten core. Once the lava breaks the surface, it piles up 10,000 feet or more above sea level. As crust continues to rotate north, it leaves the Hot Spot behind, and the piles of lava—the islands— erode and eventually sink below the surface again. North of Kauai, the Hawaiian Archipelago, is comprised of 100 sea-washed atolls. 

Olomana is a stand-alone ridge just east of the Ko'olaus, a freak remnant of the volcano. Its three peaks are reachable by trail: The first peak is thrilling, the second a white-knuckle risk, and the third is for mountain goats only. On the mountains of Oahu, thick greenery disguises steep drop-offs, and what looks like solid dirt can crumble beneath your feet.

Oahu Trailblazer has the deets on the trails of the Ko'olau Range. Though by far the most populated island, Oahu has the greatest number of tropical ridge hikes.

Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden
45-680 Luluku Road, Kāne'ohe, Oahu, Hawaii.
Open daily, without charge, except for Christmas Day and New Year's Day

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Big Island's Hamakua Coast is sooooooo underrated

Not many people realize that the Old Mamalahoa Highwy along the northeast coast of the Big Island snakes through the tropical jungle, across green gorges and by waterfalls—the kind of oh-wow driving you expect on Maui and Kauai—only without a conga line of rental cars. 

Umauma Falls (above) could be the covergirl for the state waterfall calendar. It runs through a private garden not too far north of Hilo.

Dodging in and out of the high-speed, two lane highway going north from Hilo are miles-long detours and side-trips on the Old Mamalahoa Highway.  It's a tunnel of vines, leaves and trees, connecting some of the old sugar towns that still portray Hamakua's history.  

Other roads climb 2,000 feet into forest reserves of huge leafy trees—but you'd have to climb another 9,000 feet or so to run out of climbing, at the summit of Mauna Kea.

While the lava fields on the Kona side have no streams, Hamakua is sluiced by many.

Halakalau Paka (park) has been exquisitly restored by locals. They'll love to talk story, if you show an interest.

Kolekole Beach Park picnic area and campground are set alongside a swift stream. A cascade almost crashes into the oncoming surf. The highway trestle is skycraper-high above the scene.

And we haven't even mentioned: Akaka Falls, Hawaii Tropical Botonical Garden, Lahahoehoe (lapa-hoy-hoy) Beach Park, where a killer tsunami struck, and Kalopa State Park—a hiker's dream with rustic cabins and tent camping. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Kauai's Hanalei no ka oi (is the best)

One look at Hanalei from above (in this case, from hidden Hanalei Organic Park in Princeville on the north shore) and you will be hot to get down there and look around. Taro fields flank the Hanalei River—part of a National Wildlife Refuge—an opportunity for a long, mellow kayak adventure. Several companies offer rentals. A mountain hike (the Moonshine Trail) is a pleasing and exciting alternative to the Kalalau Trail, the popular excursion just down the highway.

Black Pot Beach, at the far end of Hanalei Bay, presents some of the best beginner surfing in Hawaii. Lessons are available, right there. Beyond the shore are some big-boy waves, at Bowls and Queens. Farther out is Kings, which only breaks when waves are epic. Local legend Titus Kinimaka first rode that monster in the 1990s. 

In the middle of the bay is Pinetrees, home beach for pro surfer Bruce Irons and his late brother Andy, who was a world champ. The takeaway: Hanalei is Surf City on Kauai, and one of the top venues in the state. 

Hanalei Pier has been the darling of many movies. Most recently, George Clooney walked by in the Descendants. The boathouse on the end of the pier is a box seat to watch the near-shore surfers, and to admire the jagged rim of towering mountains that frame the scene.

The two-mile sandy shore of Hanalei Bay is just a few blocks from the quirky shops of Hanalei Town—maybe the best walk-around beach town in Hawaii, with galleries, bars, restaurants, and giftshops. On the green fringes of town is the Waioli Mission House (below), built by the Wilcox family in 1841. Hanalei is not flashy, but normally millionaires and a few Hollywood types will be shuffling around in flip flops among other sand-footed and sunburned tourists. This place can get you hooked on Hawaii for good.

More details on Hanalei, and other stuff nearby, are in the 20th anniversary edition of Kauai Trailblazer, released last month.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thar' she blows! The Whale Center is a Maui Wowie

For visitors who have achieved the Maui Tourist Triathalon (Haleakala, Lahaina, Hana Highway), the North Kihei coastline will come as a happy surprise. 

Anchoring the shore is the (take a breath) Hawaiian Islands Humpack Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center. It's set up for families with kids, as well as for couples, and admission is free (donations are appreciated). 

The sanctuary was established to study and protect the huge migrating mammals who are just offshore Maui during the winter months. They have binoculars at the ready.

The center has been spruced up and refit this winter (opens again December 4). Its viewing decks are a breath of fresh air.

There are a number of intrepretive installations, of course, but the line between learning and having fun gets blurred into the experince. Right next-door is the little Kalepolepo Beach Park (from which the top photo was taken) with its recreated fish pond that makes for safe wading. Fish dart about at your ankles.

On  north side of the visitor center is the beginning of long Sugar Beach—a quiet spot with high scenic value and good swimming. And just two miles north of the whale center, on Ma'alaea Bay, is the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, a coastal stroll for birdwatchers where sea turtles sometimes nest.  

Maui Trailblazer has more details on this fabulous freebie. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks: The 20th Anniversary Edition of Kauai Trailblazer is here!

The NEW 2017, 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION of the Sprout's top-selling guide has been completely revised and updated. A favorite among locals and adventure travelers alike, Kauai Trailblazer is packed with new activities, dozens of fresh photos, and a special Trailblazer Kids chapter for families.
Trailblazer guides are popular among independent and active travelers and are known for their user-friendly format, readability, and sharp graphics. The authors have spent years exploring Kaua'i, and it shows. A Resource Links section gives visitor information and cultural contacts, recommended recreational outfitters, museums and attractions, Hawaiiana shops and hula shows, as well as a hand-picked list of restaurants and places to stay. Safety precautions and traveling tips are not to be overlooked, and a Best Of section lets you select among activities to suit your mood.

Feeling dreamy? Try Tunnels Beach for snorkleing and a knock-out view of Makena Ridge (a.k.a. Bali Hai of South Pacific fame).

Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," has trails fringed with red rock and cacti when you drop down, and trails though tropical jungle along its upper rim.

The Kalalau Trail on the north shore runs 11-miles along roadless cliffis above crashing seas. But you can get a good day hike in with a jaunt to the first beach and waterfall.

All of Kauai is a scenic drive, including a short trip inland to Waimea Falls, which was featured in the tv program Fantasy Island.

But the coolest thing about Kauai is the wealth of lesser-known beaches, like Anahola Beach Park. This northeastern coastline has a dozen beaches, many of which are reachable only by foot.

Interior trails skirt the shoulders of Mt. Waialeale (Why-ali-ali), the wettest spot on earth, receiving an average of 40-feet (that's feet) of rain per year. The Powerline Trail transects the island. The Kuilau Ridge Trail is only a few miles roundtrip.

In paper or ebook form, we've got it covered. Anxious to go? Want to find it in a hurry? Click here:  Kauai Trailblazer

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Aloha from the Big Island of Ama'reeka

We know that many of you in the Islands head to the Mainland for the holidays, and when you do, we've got you covered: Golden Gate Trailblazer is a guide to San Francisco and Marin County, and Alpine Sierra Trailblazer takes you down the east side of the Sierra on the way from Reno to Las Vegas. You don't have to get far from Highway 395 to see petroglyphs that will remind some of those found in Hawaii, particularly on the Big Island.

This figure will be familar to anyone who has visited the fields at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and South Kohala, but it was crafted just north of Bishop, California.

These densely packed rock etchings look more like those in Olowalu on Maui, but they were made south of Mammoth, California.

Trailblazer guides are for lovers of the great outdoors and those who appreciate the cultural treasures left by explorers who have gone before us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Take a vacation from your vacation at this Big Island National Historic Park

The Big Island—larger than the rest of Hawaii combined—can eat up days of exploration. But be sure to save a full day for Kealakekua Bay and Pu'uhonua o Honounou (poo-oo-ho-newa-o-ho-now-now). This National Historic Site was a 'place of refuge' in ancient Hawaii, where law violators and social miscreants could go to escape harsher punishment. When justice takes the form of a swift club to the brainpan, people run to break into jail, not out of it.  

The Hawaiian way of life is on display daily, with canoe building, thatching, net fishing, and other crafts demonstrated for visitors.

The small bay at the park attracts sea turtles. Snorkelers flock to "Two Step," one of the best places to see fish in Hawaii, which is just outside of the park's entrance.

Paths weave though 180 acres, under coco palms and past pools of tranquility.

Hale o Keawe, where the remains of 23 ali'i (chiefs) are interred, is one of the significant historic sites at Pu'uhonua o Honounou.  The park's Great Wall dates from the 1500s—10 feet high, 7 feet thick, and about 1,000 feet long. It was built to separate the royals who lived here from the people seeking refuge. One of Kamehameha's wives hid out for a while when she got on the wrong side of the big guy.

Fantastic as it is, the historic park is only one of several visit-worthy spots along the shores of Kealakekua Bay. Also on the hit parade: Captain Cook Monument (where he died and now a site for excellent snorkeling), Kealakekua Historic Park, Manini Beach Park, Ke'ei Village, Pu'uhonua Beach Park, Ki'ilae Village Coastal Trail, the Painted Church, and Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative (where you can cop a buzz from a free bottomless cup of Kona coffee to fuel the day).

All this may seem like too much, but it fits nicely into a day's outing. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the details.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Waipio: The Big Island's Valley of the Kings

The end of the road on the Big Island's lush northeast coast is the gateway to another world altogether. Towering cliffs border the valley on all sides, framing a wild beach. The Muliwai Trail zig zags up from the far end of the beach, beginning a 20-mile journey through roadless jungle—a trail similar to, but much less popular than, Kauai's Kalalau Trail. Kamehameha the Great spent his youth in Waipio, surfing and developing the skills that would make him king of all the islands.

The  road into Waipio is a for-real four-wheel drive route. Several van tours will take you down. But—hot tip— you can also walk down the 500 feet in about 20 minutes.

There is room to roam at the bottom. One of the best adventures is to head up the valley, where taro is grown today as it has been for centuries. The trail is a little tricky. You need to go up what appears to be a stream, but quickly turns into a dry, rutted road.

A number of people call Waipio home, all of whom ask visitors to "Respect the Land."

You get a good look at the valley from the Waipio Lookout.  Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the details.

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