Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hiking with a Goddess at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Pele, the volcano goddess, is alive and well—and fully in command—at the Big Island's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Some things never change. The whimsical fury of Pele is captured in this painting by the late Herb Kane (Kah-nay), called the 'Mona Lisa of Hawaii.'  It hangs in the Jaggar Museum on the rim of the Kilauea Caldera.

Trail and road closures, due to debris and toxic smoke, remain in effect. But there's still plenty to see.

From the Jaggar Musuem (where Crater Rim Drive is closed) is a a close-up of the fumes spewing from the Halemaumau Crater, which is within the larger Kilauea Caldera. The traditional "home" of Pele, this crater blew its cork in March of 2008 (thankfully in the middle of the night) and at times now a "lava lake" roils on its surface.

At the other end of the caldera is Kilauea Iki Crater, which last erupted in 1959.  A four-mile loop trail drops 400 feet to the pahoehoe (smooth) lava surface. Steam rises from cracks. Creepy.

You can beat the crowds by heading from Chain of Craters Road on Hilina Pali (cliffs) Road. After 9 miles, the road ends at a stone building and overlook. From here, trails drop more than 2,000 feet over five miles into the most remote costal wilderness in Hawaii. Several huts provide shelter for backpackers.

Note: To see lava flows from Pu'u O'o, which have been constant since 1983, you need to drive from the park to Kalapana Bay, which is on the Puna Coast east of Hilo. Enterprising local guides and bike rental companies have set up shop. You can, however, see the flume from Chain of Craters Road, within the park.

A tamer adventure—and sure family-pleaser—is the Thurston Lava Tube, only a couple miles from park headquarters. Ferns and ohia trees create a lush beginning for this short hike, and birds provide a rich soundtrack.

The scene changes inside the 600-foot-long cave. Lava tubes form when cooler air hardens the surfaces of flowing lava. When the flow ceases, it drains away and a hollow tube remains.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the details for exploring this land of Pele.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Oahu's Mt. Olympus: The Wild Green Yonder above Waikiki

Fifteen minutes after twirling a cocktail umbrella at Waikiki Beach, you can be embarking on one of the best tropical ridge hikes in Hawaii. The trek to Mt. Olympus (as students at the nearby University of Hawaii have named it) begins at the Wa'ahila Ridge State Recreation Area. Bring plenty of water for this baby—it's 6.5 miles round-trip with a gain of nearly 2,000 feet, but difficult footing makes it seem like more.

The route, like life, has its ups and downs. You will be happy to have a hiking pole, especially if rains turn the red soil to slippery snot.

The trail is not dangerous for careful hikers, but low-lying vegetation disguises drop-offs.

From the summit is a view of Windward (east) Oahu.

The ridge of the Ko'olau Range (upon which Mt. Olympus sits) is only a couple feet wide in places. 

Tired legs make going down (with a view of Waikiki) the more likely spot to have a slip-and-fall.  Oahu Trailblazer has details on dozens of hikes into the Ko'olau Range, as well as into the Waianae Range, which cleaves the north end of the island.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kauai's Anini Beach: This is why you come to Hawaii, guaranteed

With two miles of reefed-protected sandy beach, backed by a garden of palms and leafy trees, Anini Beach is for sure among the best family beaches in Hawaii. It's on the tourist radar, but never feels crowded, and it's easier to get to than many of the north shore's wild beaches.

No shore break (you can see the waves hitting the reef above) means an easy-entry for snorkeling, paddle-boarding, and kayaking. Windsurfers and kite-boarders also launch here. 

Be Aware: The incoming wave water has to get back out somewhere. At Anini, two blue channels, like outgoing streams, can sweep swimmers out. Kauai Trailblazer (see below) has the specific location for these channels. If you get caught in one, swim sideways, not against the current. The force of the water dissipates at the reef.

The far end of Anini is called Wyllies Beach. The near shore rocks create an excellent pool for family swimming, but stream runoff means less coral and fewer fish for snorkelers. Hot tip: You can take a short trail from Princeville down to this end of the beach.

On the opposite end from Wyllies (the part you get to first when driving down) are several shoreline access paths between high-end beachfront homes. This end is the chill zone. Bring a book.

A picnic area and campground are in the center of things. A polo field (that's right) is across the street.

Pedestrians have little to fear from cars, unless they space out and walk into one.

Kauai Trailblazer has the ins-and-outs on all the famous stuff on the island, as well as tons of places to call your own.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Historic Kua Bay is now Kona's most happening beach scene

Fewer than ten years ago—and a thousand years before that—Kua Bay was reachable only by walking down a rutted, unsigned "road," located about ten miles north of touristy Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. Then a paved road, restrooms, and a bright Kekaha Kai State Park sign overnight turned the bay into a setting for a Beach Boys' song. 

The park for centuries was the ancient village of Manini Owali

The park's few picnic tables each day are stacked with goodies that would have kept the villagers going for a month.

Ultra-blue waters and a usually gentle shore break lure swimmers and body boarders. Board surfers love the right-break off the the bay's northern tip, Papiha Point. But be prepared: During the big winter storms, the sand is sometimes washed away, revealing boulders.

Even with the new popularity, visitors are only a few steps away from the old days. Beginning at a trailhead down a road behind the restrooms, a portion of the King's Trail extends northward a  couple miles to Kikaua Point Park. Much of the journey, through a hellish landscape of rough a'a lava, is aided by flat rocks placed by ancient Hawaiians. 

Another quick thrill is the walk to the top of Pu'u Kuili, a volcanic cone that is a landmark on the northern Kona Coast. You need to climb about 300 feet in less than a half-mile to reach the summit. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has detailed directions to all of the island's popular spots, as well as the quiet getaways that are hiding in plain sight.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Siri, that know-it-all, reveals Hawaii's Top Seven Snorkeling Beaches

Three of the best seven are on the BIG ISLAND of HAWAII (Two Step, Captain Cook Monument, and the Waiopae Tide Pools), two can be found on MAUI (Chang's Point and Molokini). One of the best is on KAUAI (Tunnels) and one is on OAHU (Makai Research Pier).

Wow Siri, that was fast! Thanks!
No problem. I am simply reading  No Worries Hawaii.
Siri, what is No Worries Hawaii? ............Siri?!

I heard you the first time, okay. NO WORRIES HAWAII is a vacation planning guide for Kauai, Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. In it you will also find the top twenty snorkeling spots, as well as other good ones for each island. 

Hmm ...

I sense you want more. The book also includes best five and top-twenty  tropical ridge hikes, walk-
around towns, museums, secluded beaches, ancient Hawaiian ruins, beachside bike paths, places to surf and watch surfers. Thirty six "best-of" lists overall. No Worries Hawaii includes a self-test to figure out how to put together a vacation style that works for you. Okay, time to get back to work.

Hey! I said time to get back to work! Hello? I will not be ignored!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Hawaii: A big ahhhhhhh for life's owies.

A vacation in Hawaii—aside from being a kick-ass good time—can be a recovery of your senses, revealing a feeling of rejuvenation. 

Spas and hot tubs are part of any feel-good enterprise, and many hotels can set you up. Or, visit the ultimate in spa freebies on the Puna Coast on the Big Island (not far from Hilo) and you can spend the day at Ahalanui Warm Springs Park  luxuriating in warm water—one of many natural soaks on this island. If hot water is not handy, warm ocean water is. Try doing some floating in snorkeling pools.

Essential to self-improvement is intentional "doing nothing." A lounge chair in the shade with vast blueness to stare at and white-noise waves rolling in is sure to reset the mind—if you stick with it long enough. It takes stamina to do nothing.

Thus relaxed, it's time to focus on the complexities of the natural world. Beachcombing and shell collecting will fill that need. Decorative shells can be found at numerous beaches, including Charo's on the north shore of Kauai.

Since "we are what we eat," try binge-consuming fresh juice and fruits.

But don't forget to add some greens. Sunshine (farmers) markets are common in the islands. You'll find little stands in front of people's houses, neighborhood gatherings where you can stock up, and also island-wide events where you can  make a day of it—like the Maui Swap Meet, the Aloha Stadium Market and Chinatown on Oahu, and the Hilo Farmers Market.

Swimming is exercise that relaxes, sort of an active massage. Mix some water play into the daily regimen and feel your joints and muscles ease.  Swimming pools will do the trick, but immersion in warm Hawaiian saltwater is an upgrade for the senses.

It's not hard to find Edenlike places to hike in Hawaii. The Kalalau Trail (above) on Kauai is one of the most popular, but every island has numerous places to escape into greenery and get your heart pumping.

Trailblazer guides are brimming with places to hike and snorkel, as well as farmers markets, gardens, retreats, and quiet cultural sites. When you visit Hawaii for a week or two, you can take the experience home, not just as snapshots, but actually infused into your body.

available on,, Powell's Books

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hidden gems lie just beyond Maui's swank Wailea

The southwest ("Gold Coast") of Maui boasts upscale Wailea, home to a string of some of the world's finest destination resorts—but beyond that is a virtually resort-free coastline. Some of the beaches here are well-known, but to find most, you need to know where to look. Kanahena Cove (above) is accessed via an obscure shoreline access sign near the south end of Makena State Park.

Makena Landing (above) is accessed via a side road and offers excellent snorkeling, at Turtle Town.  This is also an excellent spot to voyage via kayak to the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve, much of which is not reachable by land.

Constructed of coral rocks, Keawalai Church has added charm to Makena since 1832.

Makena State Park's Big Beach, draws hundreds of visitors, but its large parking lots and long run of sand can handle it. Local activists saved this natural wonderland from development in the 1970s. Inland is a sublime view of green slopes Ulupalakua Ranch, which lies well below the summit of Haleakala.

A short, rugged trail on the north end of Big Beach gets you to Little Beach, where nudists pack the sand on beach towels—though nudity is illegal on all Hawaiian beaches. Curious pods of spinner dolphins take in the scene from just beyond the outer wave break.

Check out Maui Trailblazer for detailed descriptions to access these spots, and many more.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Whoa! You can still find a secluded paradise on the Big Island

Take the coastal highway about 20 miles south of Resortville in Kona, and you will find the fishing village of Miloli'i, and from there walk 20 minutes on a coastal trail to the wild, palmy cove that is Honomalino Beach. Yes, it does exist.

Full disclosure: You need to drop five miles down a winding road over an arid lava landscape to reach the village, which is not made up of little grass shacks, but rather homes that will seem rundown to the tourist eye, accented with the detritus of modern life. And these days, the Hawaiians are fishing in aluminum boats, not outrigger canoes. Still, Miloli'i is real to the bone.

The beating heart of village life is centered around Hauoli Kamanao, a petite church with big mana. Miloli'i hosted one of the last performances of singing legend Iz Kamakawio'ole. In 1962, another singing great, Elvis, shot scenes at the town's cove for his epic movie bomb Girls, Girls, Girls!

Travel tip: Miloli'i sees few tourists. When you see locals, you will find that a dime's worth of friendliness offered will get you a dollar's worth of kindness in return. 

Beginning at Miloli'i Beach Park by the basketball court, the trailhead to Honomalino Beach has signs meant to be off-putting tourists (see travel tip, above). The easy route penetrates a thicket of coastal flora and a few rock-wall ruins. Clear waters are fringed by coral and lava cobbles.

A grove of coco palms let's you know you have reached the beach.

Honomalino is a perfect crescent, its sand a mix of fine coral and lava. The shore drops to deep water, but swimming is normally safe. There's lots of wandering to do. Your beach mates are likely to be a pod of spinner dolphins that regularly cavorts in the near-shore waters.

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