Saturday, January 28, 2017

Eating the sunshine in Kauai

When you visit Kauai, give your body a treat and put some of the island in your mouth. Every day, somewhere on the Garden Island, you will find at least one "Sunshine Market," where growers present tropical fruits, veggies, and herbs from small gardens and backyard trees.  

Bring your own bags and some dollar bills—and show up for the opening bell.

Flowers are also on hand to brighten the day.

Sure, you can grab a soursop or mango and eat it on the spot. Or you can select something prepared. 

A few locals offer craft works, as well as music to complete the shopping experience. Kauai Trailblazer has the times and locales for all the outdoor markets, as well as places to find roadside fruit stands. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Best Places to Camp on the Beach in Hawaii

You need a permit to camp on the beach, or anywhere else in Hawaii, and many of the sites will be more of a communal experience than a communion with Ma Nature. 

Generally speaking, to find a more remote camping experience, you'll need to head to higher elevations or strap on a backpack and trek into the hinterlands. But there are exceptions. Here are the best places to pitch a tent at the beach in relative solitude, and still be near your car:

OAHU: With a million-plus people, you wouldn't think that Oahu has more wild beaches and accessible, undeveloped beaches than any other island except Kauai. On the north side of the windward coast is Kualoa Regional Park (above), which has a large open campground facing Mokoli'i Island (Chinaman's Hat), and a second campground in the trees near a beach called Secret Island. The jagged ridge inland is Kualoa Ranch, an exotic locale for tourist tours, TV and movie productions. North of this park—and just north of the Polynesian Cultural Center—is huge (nearly 40,000 acres) Malaekahana State Recreation Area, a tract of forest with a sandy beachfront that features tiny Goat Island just offshore.

MAUI: Not much beach camping on Maui, but the two spots you can choose from are among the best in the state. Few among the thousands of tourists who make the daily pilgrimage to Hana and the Pools of Oheo section of Haleakala National Park realize a sweet campground (above) lies near the visitors center. A grassy bluff rims little Kukui Bay, next to a heiau (temple) at Puhilele Point. A second very scenic campground is a few miles before you reach Hana, at Waianapanapa State Park. A black sand beach has very good snorkeling, and a long coastal trail passes the rockwork of several cultural sites. You'll have company during the day, during the Hana vacation commute, but solitude awaits when the sun goes down.

BIG ISLAND: County beach parks and mountain campsites are numberous on the Big Island. but none offer the natural elbow room you will find at Whittington Beach Park (above). Its decrepit pier tells of the park's history as a rugged port during the sugar producing era. Whittington is just north of South Point, in the surprisingly lush Wood Valley region, about 35 miles south of the headquarters of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Other camping choices await on the green Hamakua Coast, going north from Hilo. Two are county beach parks in dramatic settings that are prime choices on weekdays: Kolekole and Lapahoehoe. On the other side of the Big Island—north of the resorts at South Kohala—is obscure Kapa'a Beach Park, hidden away at a whale-watcher's cove a mile north of the more popular Mahukona Beach Park. The pier at Mahukona has some of the best snorkeling on the island, and that's saying something.

KAUAI: The miles-long beach at Polihale State Park (below) is the most out-there coastal camping in the state. The Napali Coast, the roadless quadrant of cliffs and valleys that features the Kalalau Trail, comes to an abrubt end at Polihale Ridge, where in ancient times the spirits of the departed left this world for the next. The catch: A remote location—at the end of the road beyond Waimea Town—and a three-mile potholed entrance road that sometimes floods in the winter. For tamer, if cozier, camping, Kauai's countybeach parks are numerous. Among the best (scenic, swimming, nice beach) are Salt Pond, Lydgate, and Anini.

Trailblazer guides have more details on these places, plus all of the campgrounds and rustic lodging listings in Hawaii.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

One step beyond: Bliss awaits at the Ke'ei Seapool

Ke'ei Village on Kealakekua Bay is off the tourist radar, and the Ke'ei Seapool is a step or two beyond that—for many, an immersion into private bliss. The village is a mile down a bumpy road between two popular attractions: Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park and Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park.

Ke'ei is one of a handful of remaining authentic villages in Hawaii, though you will not find the "little grass shack" that is depicted in the well-known song about Kealakekua. Blue tarps cover modest possessions, cottages are weatherworn, and, on weekdays at least, only a groggy dog or winsome cat are about. On weekends, locals enjoy a surfing scene at the beach with salt-and-pepper sand and clear waters. Mark Twain made it here in the 1800s, and his descriptions of the board riders whizzing along on foamy waves are among the first writings about surfing.

The seapool is almost a mile from the village, around the smooth lava of Palemano Point, which forms the south mouth of the bay. The partially man-made enclosure was built by members of a school camp,  just inland in a palm grove. In 1782, the thorny backshore of this coast is where Kamehameha the Great, under the tutelage of his mentor Kekuhaupio, defeated an army from the Hilo side and etched his first victory on the way to becoming a legend. Kekuhaupio was born in Ke'ei  Village.

Check out Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer for more details on exploring this region.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The four-mile hike to Hanakapiai Falls on the Kalalau Trail is a ball-buster

Only Diamond Head above Waikiki Beach sees more visitors than the Kalalau Trail, which begins at road's end on Kauai's north shore. Most touristy hikes are a cake walk, but not this one.

The first two miles of the Kalalau have been rebuilt in the last few years, though footing is still tricky in many places. Views of the famed Napali ('The Cliffs') open up after just a half-mile, revealing the rest of the 11-mile route to the Kalalau Valley. Permits are required to continue beyond the first two miles at Hanakapia Beach, but you can head upstream from the beach for another two miles to the Hanakapiai Falls—making for and eight-mile round-trip adventure hike.  Fit hikers may think they can bang it out in a few hours, but think again, because this thing hikes like 12 miles—a reality you can see etched on the faces of the mud-splattered returnees at the trailhead.

Falling, getting lost, and drowning at Hanakapia Beach are among the most popular ways to die on the Kalalau Trail. But the most lethal opportunity is getting swept away while crossing Hanakapiai Stream. The state has plans to alleviate this hazard by installing an 80-foot-long footbridge in the next year or two, eliminating not only deaths but also numerous helicopter rescues of hikers who get caught on the wrong side of a flash flood and have the good sense to wait it out.

The trail upstream is rugged in many places, crossing the stream several times. Plan on wearing shoes you can get wet and muddy.

You could make a lot of money renting hiking poles at the trailhead. Retractable hiking poles are a godsend on many hiking trails, particularly on the Kalalau.

The falls deliver the scenic goods with a 200-foot white ribbon splashing into a pool encased by a green amphitheater.

The water is chilly and rarely hit by direct sunlight, but taking a dip can be the cherry on top for this adventure. BTW: Another hazard to avoid is getting below the falling water, which often enough will contain rocks and debris.

Fit families and adventure hikers can make this hike without incident and will love it. But be prepared, with food, water, and outerwear—and stay back from the margins of the trail, avoid a fast running stream, and don't go near the water at the beach.  Consult your trusty Kauai Trailblazer guide for more info:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hot-foot it with Pele at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

With all the possible ways for tourists to become injured or worse, you have to applaud rangers at the Big Island's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for keeping the gates open. So far so good: Only a few deaths have been recorded since Pu'u O'o (on the east rift) blew her cork in 1983, followed by a big eruption in Halemaumau Crater in 2008.  The Halemaumau blast—from a crater within the larger Kilauea Crater—obliterated a visitor overlook and Crater Rim Drive around the park has been closed ever since.

Besides hot lava (which melts rocks), toxic fumes, crumbling cliffs, earth cracks, and heat exhaustion are all dangers to avoid.

This is the lady behind all the fuming, Pele, the volcano goddess who has worked her way down the Island chain from Kauai, leaving lava lakes in her wake. Kauai is now green and Eden-like, eroding into the sea. On the Big Island, hundreds of acres of new land has been created, and new growth  of ohia trees and ferns are coming up through cracks in the black lava right now.

HVNP has by far the most wilderness to be found in Hawaii. You need to prepard to venture into areas like the Kau Desert south of Kilauea Volcano.

Pele, and other Hawaiin deities, are honored at a centuries-old hula platform right on the rim of the Kilauea Crater. Check the schedule and go if at all possible. This isn't a tourist show, but Hawaiian culture in real time.

Though its last eruption was in 1959, Kilauea Iki Crater still leaks steam from broken tabletops of smooth lava. The 4-mile loop trial, which drops 400 feet, is one of the more memorable hikes in Hawaii.

Right across the road from Kilauea Iki is the Thurston Lava tube, a family tourist trot not to be missed. Stairs and a railed path drop into a tree-fern and ohia tree forest that is a bird-watcher's delight. The path continues through the dark tube—with a diameter of 12 to 15 feet, and 200 yards long. Lava tubes happen when a crust forms over the top of a stream of lava, while the flow continues underneath—the flow eventually stops and drains the tube.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has details on all of the above, plus much more in and around the park.

Friday, January 6, 2017

High as a kite at Maui's Kanaha Beach Park

Just 5 minutes out from a side road from the airport in Kahalui gets you to a happening beach that's pracitically unknown to tourists. But some of the world's best kite-boarders are all over it, and they provide a colorful spectacle.  Strapped to a surfboard and harnessed to a kite (that has enough lift to get them airborne without going bye-bye) these guys and girls frolick and fly over breaking waves, with the West Maui Mountains in the background looking like another island.

Big Kanaha Beach Park has and arboretum of huge beach trees and picnic pavilions that draw locals and families. Windsurfers also love Kanaha, also the real action for that sport is just up the coast at Hookah, er, Hookipa Beach Park.

This is windward (east) Maui, so whitecaps are common, but big waves are held in check by long Spartan Reef, which is well off-shore.

Head to the right (as you face the water) and you will find some of the best little sandy nooks to spend a quiet day at the beach—not easy to find on Maui.  You can walk around a palmy point, passing beach homes just inland, and reach the long stretch of open beach at Spreckelsville. A near shore small reef creates a sweet keiki (kids') beach.

Maui Trailblazer has more details on this non-touristy run of coast from Paia to Kahalui. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Maybe it's good that Joe Hollywood closed the road to Kauai's pretty Papa'a Bay

A public uprising ignited when a once-sort-of-famous Hollywood director bought the land and gated access to Papa'a (pah-pa-ah) Bay on the northeast shore about 15 years ago. People were arrested at a march-in. Alas, the road is still closed, but, since beach access is a civil right in Hawaii, a new trail was created, beginning from near the parking lot at Aliomanu Bay.

You catch a dreamy first glimpse of the aquamarine cove from the steep trail in an ironwood forest. The red-dirt route drops to the mouth of the bay, where a shoreline boulder-hop of 80 yards begins. Big rocks catch surf spray at times. Then the going is easy when you reach the  sand. The rock hop adds a minor obstacle that is Papa'a Bay's saving grace.

At the far end of the beach is a small stream with a powder sand shore. A near-shore small reef provides a snorkler's pool. Swimming is good in the center of the bay. No beach is always safe, but this one usually is, even in winter.

Local dudes love the point break on the south, right where the trail first reaches sea level. Papa'a Bay is one of about two dozen  hike-to, off-the-tourist-radar beaches on this coastline—from Kealia Beach all the way north to Princeville. Kauai Trailblazer has details on all of them.