Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sleeping Giant: A Kauai Classic

The supine profile of the Sleeping Giant (Nounou Mountain) lords over the length of Kauai's Coconut Coast (the east shore). Seen here from a lagoon at Smith's Tropical Plantation, the Giant resembles an Easter Island statue—his big nose is in the middle, with chin to the right.

Three trailheads will get you to the top, all coverging near the summit. That's his chinny chin chin (above) to the left, a dangerous side trip to a spot that is just a step from a free fall. But the main trail is not hazardous, even though hands are necessary for one short stretch, where the hiker is pictured above.

The mountain is part of a ridge cleaved by the Wailua River (seen above meeting the sea), by far Hawaii's biggest. On the opposite side of the river rises Kalepa Ridge

The ocean-side trail climbs just over 1,000 feet (four miles, round-trip) giving up blue water views all the way.

From the Giant's nose (the top) is a 360-degree view, with Mount Waialeale inland and Kong (Anahola Mountains) to the east (pictured above).

The mountain-side trail is the shortest, and perhaps most-scenic route, if you appreciate  tropical flora. The beginning  traverses a grove of stately Norfolk Pines. This route is 3.25 miles round-trip, with a gain of some 775 feet. The third trailhead, on the west side, covers 5.5 miles round-trip with a gain of 925 feet—but the main reason to take this trail is to enjoy a bridge over Opakea'a Stream and the Vista Hale picnic pavilion, which is .75-mile from the trailhead.

Kauai Trailblazer has further details on these trailheads, as well as many others. Well-known trails, such as the Kalalau, attract hoards of visitors, leaving dozens of other great hikes relatively free of foot traffic.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The "Hollywood" of Oahu is at dramatic Kualoa Regional Park

Kualoa Regional Park on the northern part of windward (eastern) Oahu: drab name, very cool place. The camping area of the park has an excellent swimming beach, including a short walk to the sands of Secret Island—which only seems like an island since its hemmed in by the bay on one side and big Moli'i Fishpond on the other.

You may recognize the jagged ridge that lords over the scene,  featured in TV commercials and programs (Five-O) and movies (Godzilla, 50 First Dates, Jurassic Park, Mighty Joe Young).

Calm waters attract outrigger canoeists. Just off the point is a small island (you can also swim to it) called Mokoli'i, but known as Chinaman's Hat (its profile looks like one of the straw hats worn by Chinese workers in the old days).

Kualoa Ranch, on the mountain side of the rural highway from the beach park, has several historical sites dating from the sugar cane heydays in the late 1800s.

Kualoa Ranch is private property, but visitors can arrange tours by jungle vehicle or horseback. The Ranch also has big gift store and cafeteria-style restaurant. The front deck is where to be to take it all in. One last thing: about two miles south of the beach park and ranch is Tropical Farms, an old-timey family operation that offers free coffee and mac nut samples, along with a wide selection of gifts and artwork. Oahu Trailblazer has details on many more places to check out on this underrated Hawaiian coastline.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Liquid pot of gold at the end of Maui's Hana Highway

The Hana Highway is an adventure unto itself. And then there's Hana Town to explore. And, farther down the road, are the Pools of Oheo in the coastal section of Haleakala National Park. With all that, it's no wonder many visitors run out of time and miss the treasure of the day trip: the hike to the Falls at Makahiku and Waimoku Falls (pictured above).

The trail begins right across the highway from the park entrance, and climbs to penetrate a dense bamboo forest.

Footbridges across turbulent waters make the hike possible and are one of its wonders.

But the big payoff is at the top at Waimoku Falls, a 400-foot-high white ribbon falling down the face of a green amphitheater. The hike is 4.25 miles round-trip, with 825 feet of elevation gain—not a killer. Along the way are the spectacular Falls at Makahiku. A short spur trail leads to a view from the top down the gorge (stay well back from drop offs). You can bag this baby with a hike of 1.25 miles round-trip with a gain of 300 feet.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on this hike, as well as many (many) other adventures along the Hana Highway. The book also has advice on how to manage your time and avoid the crowds at this popular attraction.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Waikiki: Wacky Wacky

Waikiki Beach is all about now, every day, 24/7. It's totally off the wall, literally in this photo of a boogie boarder joining his brothers and sisters to ride the shorebreak at The Wall, off Kapiolani Park.

Waikiki is also about then—since layers of history are evident amind the towering resorts and fashion shops. The Pink Lady, a.k.a the Royal Hawaiian, pretty much stood alone on the beach when built in 1927. Not far from the hotel is Kuhio Park, where a traditional hula performance wows visitors nightly at sunset.

Waikiki is also about always—magic hour at sunset transcends time.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Big Island's South Kohala: Oh Hell, no wait, it's Heaven!

From the window of a rental car doing sixty-five on Highway 19 north from Kona, South Kohala looks like hell for about thirty miles. Not to say 'bad,' quite scenic really, but it is the very essence of Dante's Inferno—square miles of black rolling hills and huge slag heaps of lava baking in the sun, an ocean of liquid rock come to rest after numerous eruptions from Mauna Loa and Hualalai volcanos.

But paradise awaits. Along the coastline every few miles are oases, born where fresh water perks up cracks in the lava. Palm groves and beach flora shade coral-and-lava sand beaches, with clear water since streams have not time to cleave the (relatively) virgin landscape and bring erosion.

At the north end of South Kohala is the blockbuster Hapuna Beach State Park, a long stretch of sand with an usually gentle shore break. Refugees from chilly Waimea and rain-battered Hamakua in east Hawaii use this for a getaway. Picnic pavilions are ideally set on a gardenscaped hillside.

Anaeho'omalu Bay (just call it A-Bay) is near resorts. Sailboats, snorkel tours, and windsurfers join beachgoers. A nuanced coastal trail features the Hilton Resort on the north (the place is a freakin' Disneyland with dolphins) and a wild beach with petroglyph field to the south. The water pictured to the right (above) is one of many fishponds in South Kohala—the seafood stores for early Hawaiians.

Just north of Hapuna (there's a trail) is the beach at the venerable Mauna Kea Resort, a Laurance Rockefeller project from 1960.  The resort is gated, but a shoreline access lot is large. Sweet body surfing and decent snorkeling. Bring a book.

Until several years ago, Kua Bay, a few miles north of the Kona Airport, was a locals' special located down a rough and unsigned rocky dirt road—the site of the ancient village of Manini Owali. A few years ago, the state put in a smooth asphalt road, restrooms, and fresh signs, and Kua is now surf-and-sun city for local teens and families.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details for a dozen or more South Kohala beaches—resorts and wild. You'll also find the tricks on getting shoreline access passes at the resort gates on popular days. No problem. Petroglyphs, ancient sites, large portions of the old King's Trail, and fishponds are everywhere, telling of the Hawaiian civilization thriving here not that long ago.