Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Oahu: Walkin' on the Wild West Side

Not one in a thousand visitors to Hawaii sees its heart and soul—as well as some of the most dramatiac scenery and best beaches in the Islands. In fact, not many people on Oahu visit the West Side, along the Farrington Highway through Waianae and Makaha. The place is just too rough around the edges, the traditional home of the homeless, and most people are put off. But show a dime's worth of respect when you pass through and you will receive a dollar back in kindness. 

The highway ends at Yokohama Beach (above) where only dolphins can out-frolic the jitterbug body boarders.

Pokai Beach Park in Waianae has communtiy roots that go back centuries. On the water is the site of Kulioloa Heiau, where Hawaiian sailors would set forth on voyages to and from Tahiti in the third century, a one-way trip of 2,500 miles. Waianae is also the birthplace of the great, late slack key artist, Iz.

Ground zero for the wave-riding scene is Makaha Beach Park, a mile from Waianae.  Known worldwide as one of the best surfing beaches, Makaha isright up there with those of Oahu's North Shore.

Long before SUP became popular, it was an art at Makaha (and the North Shore), known then as "Beach Boy" surfing, since it was perfected by some of the dudes from Waikiki.

The sands of Makaha are all about the ohana—the extended family of the community—and daddy here is Richard 'Buffalo' Keaulana, a former crew member of the Hokulea sailing vessel and namesake for the most entertaining surfing event in Hawaii, Buffalo's Big Board Surfing Classic. Sons Rusty and Brian are top notch surfers, and Brian was a pioneer in using jet skis among lifeguards, as well as appearing in a number of Hollywood flicks.

The shore break at Makaha tosses body boarders skyward. A freak break often allows surfers to ride a backsplash away from the beach. The "Queen of Makaha" is the late Rell Sunn, a world-champ longboard surfer who set up programs for kids.

The coast north of Makaha (after 'homeless' encampments) becomes very scenic, with the Waianae Range meeting the ocean in steep heads. Many of the scenes for the movie Hawaii were filmed at Makua Beach.

Tide pools at Yokohama Beach provide safe dipping for the keikis (children). A trail leads from the end of the beach to the wildlife haven at Kaena Point. 

Oahu Trailblazer has many more details on what's availbable for those with a true sense of adventure on the West Side.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hana Highway: Where's the Beach?

After the hours-long thrill ride of the Hana Highway, tourists are ready to log a little beach time, only to discover the bay in Hana isn't really inviting to swimmers, especially when the pier is closed. To find places to get in the water is a challenge.  Only a few miles away on a side road is Koki Beach, a red-sand beauty that attracts surfers.

Closer to town is one of the more peculiar beaches in hawaii: Red Sand Beach (above and two pictures below). Reachable via a cliffside trail on Hana Ranch property, the beach is seldom crowded.

A shark's-tooth reef protect the gritty sand from oncoming surf, and provides a usually safe spot to get in the water.

Don't set your towel too close to the crumbly cliffs that hem the beach, since falling rocks are a hazard. Also be aware that some visitors bare their bods here, even though nudity is illegal on all Hawaiian beaches.

Koki Beach has its share of hazards.

The best spot for snorkeling and swimming is Hamoa Beach, a couple miles down the rural road from Koki. The biggest hazard here is parking, since the road is narrow and parking tickets are sometimes issued. This is the beach used by the guests of the swank, low-key Travaasa Maui Resort, in Hana. Guests take a shuttle bus. Maui Trailblazer has the details on all beaches around Hana, as well as trails not commonly visited by tourists.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

The irresistible lure of the Big Island's Blue Lagoon

Blue (Wainanali'i) Lagoon is a luminescent streak of palm-fringed turquoise that can be seen from a signed vista point on the highway north of Kona. Many captivated onlookers choose to walk there via a twisty dry trail through a Kiawe forest, but you can actually drive all the way to the ocean and walk up the beach.

Once there you can cross a shallow channel to what appears to be an island, but you can also walk around the smooth lava shore to reach the "island." The channel walk is tough on the tootsies, so bring a shoe you can get wet to take that route.

The water is actually milky and quite chilly in places, due to the intrusion of groundwater springs.

The stars of the show at Blue Lagoon are the green sea turtles. Encrusted with salt when sunbathing, the big reptiles turn a glowing amber in the water. They don't seem to mind fellow swimmers, but give them space on shore.

The coastal Kihilo-Huehue Trail—in addition to being shorter and easier to follow than the highway trail—is a bump-up in scenic value. Fresh ponds back a long, black sand beach, and a sweet, palmy cove offers another swimming opportunity. You'll also pass the enormous home of beauty-products king Paul Mitchell, which was shipped here in pieces from Indonesia. 

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more deets on Blue Lagoon, as well as many other winners along the South Kohala Coast.

Monday, September 5, 2016

5 reasons to make Kauai Trailblazer your wingman while on vacation

1. K/T's detailed pages and organization make it easy to find beautiful and serene places to call your own for a while. The rural eye-candy at Hanalei Organic Park, for instance, is a one-minute drive from the hubbub of a similar view at a paved turnout on the highway across from the Princeille Shopping Center.

2. You'll find all the better-known attractions, like Opaeka'a Falls and nearby Kamikola Village, which has been featured by Hollywood flicks.

3. You will find all true adventure-lands, like the trans-Kauai jungle trek on the Powerline Trail, that are not  packed with tourists, like other (fabulous) trails in Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Trail. All the choices are here.

4. Dying is not high on anyone's vacation to-do list, and yet someone does almost weekly somewhere in Hawaii while trying to have fun. Kauai Trailblazer is packed with safety tips—and not blanket statements about safety, but the specific hazards associated with the trail or beach you are visiting.  

5. K/T is full of places to go and things to do that give you luxury for free.  Airfare, rental car, and a nice place to call a temorary home are givens for a good vacation, but you don't have to blow a ton of extra bucks to get a peak experience from Hawaii.

Trailblazer guides for the Islands are essential gear for the curious and active traveler.