Saturday, May 28, 2016

Maui's Makena State Beach: A Big and Little deal

Makena State Park, south of Kihei-Wailea draws hoards of visitors, without ever managing to seem crowded. There's plenty of elbow room in the safe near-shore waters, if you don't mind being joined by schools of tropical fish and the occasional sea turtle.

The main beach at Makena is known as Big Beach, for obvious reasons. Several parking lots normally fill up, but there's always room for one more.

Pu'u Olai (above), a volcanic cone, anchors the north end of Big Beach. A short-but-rugged trail leads to the top, where you an circle around the cone and take in big coastal views. An unmarked, well-used trail at the base of the cone takes you to Little Beach (below). Nudists crowd this sandy cove, although nudity is unlawful on state beaches. They're packed in cheek to jowl, so to speak. Schools of dolphin frequently take in the scene from offshore.

Maui Trailblazer has tips on how best to enjoy Makena, as well as a number of other beaches south of the resort strip. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Free-wheelin' on Oahu's true-north shore.

Jutting to the west of Oahu's North Shore—home to all the famous surfing beaches—is the Mokuleia Coast, a ten-mile run of undeveloped beaches that faces north and is hemmed in by the Waianae Range. Since no resorts are nearby, most visitors bypass this place in favor of its better-known neighbor. But Mokuleia is worth a special trip. At the end of Farrington Highway is the beginning of a three-mile trail to Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve, the northwest tip of Oahu. In the bygone sugarcane days, a narrow-gauge railroad (somehow) rounded this point, which today is home to Laysan albatross and other seabirds.

The Kealia Trail is the better of two routes into the Waianae Range from Mokuleia, neither of which require a hiking permit (unlike the trailhead on the Makaha side of the range). Lofty views are in the offing, as gliders from Dillingham Field often soar by at eye level. At the top, trekkers can check out the Pahole Natural Area Preserve. The top of the Waianaes are open forests.

Beachcombing, surfing, and kiteboarding attract locals to the Mokuleia Army Beach and Kealia Beach.

Makaleha Beach Park is also known as Lost Beach, since this is where some of TV series 'Lost' was filmed. The access is via an unmarked trail along a horse pasture. Oahu Trailblazer has more details on the many unheralded play areas of this coast.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Maui's second Hana Highway: Tootling the north coast

Almost all tourists join the conga line of rental cars on the southeast shore of Maui along the twisty Hana Highway. Far fewer challenge the wild north shore on Highway 30 through Kahakuloa Village and the cliffside swerves of the windward northeast coast. First tips: Try this trip in a clockwise direction, going north out of Lahaina, since most people go this way and you encounter fewer cars coming at you. Four-wheel drive is not necessary, but for a two-mile stretch into and out of the village, a car two-feet wide would be helpful.

After the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua, the scenery shifts from chocablock resorts to really rural. Among the first stops are the bays at the Honolua Marine Preserve, where a short walk through lush leafy trees leads to some of the island's best snorkeling (see above two pics).  From the bluff at Honolua Bay is a ringside seat for world-class waves that attract the island's best surfers.

For most of the way on the northwest shore, Highway 30 is a green breeze.

Kahakuloa Head, the "Tall Lord," bookends the village. Sights before the village include Nakahele Blowhole, Ohai Loop Trail, Eke Crater Trail, Bellstone Pools, and the Waikalai Plateau Trail. Maui Trailblazer has the details on where to stop, since a few of these spots are not on the tourist radar.

Francis Xavier Mission is beautfully set above the small town. On the the way into the village, the trailer that is Ululani's Shave Ice is a highlight. After climbing about of Kahakuloa, you pass the trail to the head, and then Kaukini Gallery. Farther down the coast is the unmarked trail to Makamakaole Falls and the well-known trail to Waihe'e Ridge, one of the better mountain hikes on Maui.

Hilton Big Summer Sale 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Why Waikiki?

All the Hawaiian Islands have different personalities. Oahu itself differes hugely from the North Shore, to Windward, to metro Honolulu. And then there's notorious Waikiki Beach, viewed often as a sort of schlocky Vegas of the Pacific, but in many ways this tourist trap is the heart of the real Hawaii.  Start with the iconic view: Diamond Head is on display everywhere, a sight as recognizable as the Golden Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower and other world landmarks.

Waikiki is the best place in Hawaii if you want to just chill in the tropical sunshine and relax—and still be in the center of activity. Vacationing in Waikiki is an economy move as well, since you don't really need a rental car and a connecting flight to an outer island is not necessary. You can also score a deal on room prices (though you want to avoid landing at a dive).

On the north end of Waikiki, past the Ala Wai Harbor, is Ala Moana Park. Locals gather to frolic at this huge greenspace, with playfields, jogging paths, and a protected swimming area. And, oh yeah, just across the street is the Disneyesque Ala Moana Shopping Center. You can reach all this on foot or via a trolley that runs from Waikiki.

Yes, lounges bearing pale flesh is a common sight. But WKK is rich with history, since these former swamplands were home to Hawaiian ali'i (royalty). A heritage path with interpretive signs is right there. The Army Museum along the way is a memorable freebie.

Duke Kahanmoku Lagoon rests near the Hilton on the north end of the strip, where a fireworks show lights the sky after sunset has dimmed.

The Royal Hawaiin Hotel, a.k.a. the Pink Lady, still conjurs the image of the glory days of post-war, Matson cruise ship tourism—even though the hotel is now hemmed in by modern buildings.

Kissing cousin to the Pink Lady is the Moana Surfrider, the first hotel on Waikiki Beach, built in 1901.

No doubt kitschy trinkets are plentiful along the main drag of Kalakaua Boulevard. But most visitors will be surprised to see all the big names in designer fashion, along with fine art galleries walking along Luxury Row: Bottega Veneta, Chanel, Coach, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Tiffany, Tod’s and Yves Saint Laurent. 

With nearly a million people, Oahu can be intimidating. Pick up a copy of Oahu Trailblazer before your visit to make things easy. It has all the main attractions, as well as hidden sights, from Honolulu and Waikiki to the rural beaches of the North Shore.