Friday, June 23, 2017

Everybody's gone surfin' at Waimea Bay

The North Shore of Oahu boasts the Mt. Rushmore of pro-surfing venues—Pipeline, Haleiwa, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay—where real-life beach boys and girls ride unreal waves. The shore also has a few dozen other named surfing breaks. The place is Surf City, Planet Earth.

When epic surf rolls in, 25-feet and up (way up) you won't see anything like Waimea Bay. Breaking surf closes out the mouth of the bay, the kind of waves that make beachcombers tremble—and make the best surfers of the world paddle out to meet the challenge.

On normal days, Waimea has a big swath of sand, nice park amenities, and a wide stream that  creates a pool at the shore. The Waimea Valley Arboretum and Botanical Garden lies just inland. 

The shorebreak can be huge, the main event on some days. But the real surfing action is at the bay's mouth. You can park at the church (pictured above) and take a ringside seat on the bluff.

Yearly—but only if surf is 30 feet or so—Quiksilver surf company hosts a big-wave surfing event in the name of the great Eddie Aikau. Surfers fly in from around the world at the spur of the moment. Aikau was a North Shore legend waterman (lifeguard) and surfer, who heroically gave his life in an attempt to save the life of crew mates on the maiden voyage of the Hokulea (authentic Hawaiian sailing outrigger) when the craft was disabled in a storm. Aikau was lost at sea, as he left the boat on a surfboard to get help. The crew survived.

Throughout the Islands you'll see "Eddie Would Go" bumper stickers.

The scene changes on the north end of the North Shore. Snorkeling is excellent at several wild beaches.

Anchoring this part of the North Shore is the Turtle Bay Resort, with condos, a golf course, trails, and lots of open spaces.

Oahu Trailblazer has all the deets on the notorious North Shore, a place that is really down to earth.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A short trip to the Top of the World

Mauna Kea on the Big Island is easily the highest mountain in the world—about 43,000 feet when measured from its base that lies about 5 miles below sea level. The next tallest is MK's kissing cousin, Mauna Loa, which lies not far across a volcanic saddle.  A shrine marks the the space in between the peaks.

At 9,000 feet in elevation is the Onizuka Center for Astronomy, where telescopes are set up outside for looky-loos. It takes a four-wheel drive vehicle to travel the remaining 8 miles to the summit. To avoid altitude sickness, you should always stop at the center for an hour or so, rather than driving directly up.

If you go up on a guided tour, make sure they give you the half-hour it takes to make the half-mile round-trip to the top of the red mountain. To Hawaiians, who trekked up from sea level, Mauna Kea was the sacred portal to the heavens. 

The celestial observatories, thankfully, are atop a sub-peak next to Mauna Kea. 

About a dozen observatories, staffed by international scientists, take peeks from the peak. Most are not open to the public, but the University of Hawaii's, as well as the Keck, will let you in for a view. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has the details on visiting this mind-blowing place on earth. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hardly anyone goes to one of the Big Island's best snorkeling spots

Abundant marine life, scenic backshore, clear water, easy entry*, shower, and great parking: why do so few people snorkel at  Mahukona Landing on the Kohala coast? Probably because the Big Island is big, and people don't stay long enough to get beyond the over-Yelped other snorkeling venues. And deep waters may be a little spooky for beginners.

Manta rays (harmless) and octopi join the usual suspects of reef life. Fish love the encrusted propeller and boilers that remain from a 1913 shipwreck.

Decrepit remains the the sugar-cane heydays skirt the backshore of the concrete landing, which dates from 1930. Mahukona Beach Park is steps away, and tiny Kapa'a Beach Park is just a mile or two up the coast, both spots with some of the best coastal camping in Hawaii. Headed south from Mahukona is a mile-long trail to Lapakahi State Historical Park (pictured below), site of a thriving village in the 1400s.

*Mahukona Landing can be hairy in high swells. Water breaking onto the concrete is a sign of an unsafe day. A ladder makes it easy to get in and out. If you find yourself in high swell, watch the surf and time your exit between swells. 

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has specific directions to popular as well as lesser-known snorkeling beaches. Specific safety precautions are noted.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Foodie Alert: Bring Kauai home from your vacation

Selfies and snapshots make for good memories, but for a more internal impact, try eating island-grown goodness during your visit—your body will be beaming with Hawaii for days. There are outdoor markets daily on Kauai, offering exotic fruits and veggies, as well as flowers.

Bring your own shopping bags and dollar bills, and show up at the appointed time, since some of the stuff goes fast. Usually, vendors don't dicker on price.

The effect is immediate if you drink the fruit on the spot. Have you  tried a soursop mint!

Many of the vendors have large gardens with quite a variety, but at some stands are just the offerings from a backyard tree.

Okay, not all the treats are organic. But you might find that apple bananas (above, right) are just as tasty as a chocolate.

Since most of the sugar cane fields are defunct in Hawaii, pineapples are now a principal export fruit.

Trailblazer guides list all the outdoor markets for all the islands, as well as the best neighorhoods to cruise for street stands. Stock up during the first day or two of your vacation and you're set.

Need help locating these markets? Here's a link:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

How the history of Hawaii foretells the future of the Earth

There are eight main Hawaiian Islands, created by erupting lava in a universe of ocean, just as there are eight planets (sorry Pluto) adrift in space. Hawaii is easily the world's most isolated landmass, and the last to feel the footprints of humankind—by the Marquesans from Polynesia around 200 A.D.

The Marquesans were followed by the dominant Tahitians in 700 A.D. Using celestial navigation, these mariners sailed 2,500 miles across unchartered seas in outriggers, carrying livestock and 23 "canoe plants." The Tahitians made the 5,000-mile round-trip journey for five centuries, bringing with them more plants and animals and people. Then, around 1200 A.D., these return voyages stopped, and the for the next 500 years (count 'em) the Hawaiians were alone on their island planets in the middle of the Pacific—all 65-million square miles of it.

Kings Trail

Why did the migrations stop? Some say it's all about the ahupua'a (ah-hoo-poo-ah-ah). An ahupua'a is the section of land required for Hawaiian villages to exist—it is a stream valley with agricultural terraces that open to a beach and is fringed by mountains and forests. An ahupua'a has all the ingredients for life. Once all these prime villiages were established, newcomers were unlikely to be welcomed.

Petroglyphs on the Big Island

We will never know what would have happened to Hawaii had Captain James Cook and his crew not arrived in the late 1700s—the last place on earth to be 'discovered' by Western Civilization. In subsequent decades, the Hawaii population was decimated by diseases. In 1898, the U.S. unlawfully annexed the internationally recognized Hawaiian Nation.

But an alternate-universe history of Hawaii may not have been all that rosy. Upon Cook's arrival, the population of the islands was nearing a million, not that far below what it is today. Inter-island wars had persisted for a couple of centuries. Although the armies (men and women) of the ruling class, the Ali'i, were astounding physical specimens, early reports by Westerners tell of common people malnourished and living in fear of the kapu, a system that brought justice in the form of a swift club for minor rule violations. Kamehameha was on his way to conquering all the Islands (though Kauai has never been defeated in battle ), and perhaps he would have succeeded, bringing peace and homeostasis to the Hawaiian Nation, but no one knows for sure.

Fish Pond at Mauna Lani Resort

In Hawaii, Aloha means many things—but it also means one thing: people living and working in balance with nature to sustain life in perpetuity. The Hawaiian understanding of sealife, plantlife, and building habitable space out of the jungle is complex. It is based upon sustaining the ahupua'a, which in turn sustains the Islands. The ability to grow is limited, and the ability to consume is finite. Many centuries may pass before the earth reaches the state that Hawaii was in the late 1700s. But today's Earthlings would be smart to study the Hawaiian way of life—which was (is) extremely practical and organized, yet synced directly with art and religious beliefs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Living the good life that King Kamehameha could only dream about

On a Hawaiian vacation, adventure seekers can go wild and get muddy and wet and return home exhausted. Luxury seekers, on the other hand, can immerse themselves in opulence and bodily pleasures and come home on a cloud of relaxation. Kamehameha the Great, whose bronze likeness gazes upon the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui, had it good—but could not imagine the dream life available to all of us today.

Those willing to fork out the dough on a luxury destination resort will most likely want to stay put to enjoy the mesmerizing effect. Let's face it, getting out into the tourist buzz can disrupt inner quietude.

The grounds of destination resorts are islands unto themselves, like these resaurant cabanas at Kauai's Grand Hyatt Poipu.

Waterfalls and swimming lagoons are just a few flip-flop steps away, not miles down a jungle trail. 

Need a culture fix? The interiors of luxury resorts contain artworks and sculptures that are museum worthy.

No need to rush home for a shower to get ready for the evening. Dude, you're already there. 

First time visitors to Hawaii will likely want to get out and do some sightseeing and adventuring. And (hot tip) you can visit all of these luxury destination resorts without actually staying there. But, dropping your bags and just kicking it for a week or so will seem like a month or so on your body and mind. No Worries Hawaii, a vacation planning guide, has details on all of Hawaii's destination resorts and luxury resort strips. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Guess which Hawaiian island has the most trails:

With an urban corridor that is home to nearly a million people—more than double the rest of the Islands combined—you wouldn't think that Oahu has more trailheads than Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island. But it does. Two mountain ranges, the Ko'olau and the Waianae, run parallel north to south, with trailheads on both east and west slopes.

Many of the trails, a couple dozen, begin right above the neighborhoods of Honolulu. Families enjoy the views at Pu'u Ualaka'a State Lookout (above).

The Moleka is part of the network of Tantalus Trails, more than 20 miles of lush walking that branch off a 10-mile circle road just minutes from downtown Honolulu.

About half the trails in Hawaii are part of the State's Na Ala Hele ("trails for walking") system that was established in 1988.

It doesn't take long to experience the wilderness. The wildest part is navigating Oahu's byzantine suburban roads to the trailhead parking.

The Kalawahine Trail goes right up the gut at Tantalus, with many options for loops.

The miles-long paths at the Lyon Arboretum are a botanist's dream. Most visitors miss this beauty since it is next to the touristy Manoa Falls Trail.

Bring your for-real hiking gear to Oahu, since you can get 'out there' fast. Many of the trails are steep (bring hiking poles) and lead to razorback ridges. Always stay on the trail, since the jungle can swallow hikers in an easy gulp. Oahu Trailblazer has all of Oahu's hikes, for all levels of hiker.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

This Big Island Historic Park will mess with your sense of time

Start a morning by poking around the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park and before you know it the sun will be setting. And you will have an odd sense of having been transported in time. No kidding. The place is intriguing and mysterious. 

You can wander several miles of trails through the park's 1,200 acres just north of Kona, and encounter historic re-creations (like this lele, a platform on which sacrifices to the heavens were made), centuries-old petroglyphs, and an oasis next to prehistoric rock mounds whose origins puzzle archeologists.  

This canoe hale (hah-lay) is at the southern end of the park, next to Aiopio Fishtrap, a sandy beach with safe swimming for kids. The Kaloko Petroglyph Field is not far from the beach— its more recent (circa 1800) etchings depict rifles. A heiau (temple) ruin is next to the field.

Several fishponds provided a seafood bounty for Hawaiians. Rolling agricultural terraces were abundant with produce, though a stampede of lava from Hualalai volcano was devastating.  At the north end of  park is the massive Kaloko Pond, whose 20-foot-wide, hundreds-of-yards-long seawall is being restored. The pond was Kamehameha's masterwork, and amazed Western engineers who first saw it.

Gourds and necklaces are among common offerings these days.

Several good beaches make Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park a full-service vacation stop. Honokohau Beach is midway in the park, with good snorkeling. Aimakapa Pond, a 20-acre lake, is just inland from this beach, providing a home for migrating shorebirds, coots, and Hawaiian stilts.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has more details—there are three entrance points to the park, and other cool stuff is nearby.