Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Surfer Alert: Kauai has a North Shore, too!

The North Shore of Oahu has four world-surfing tour beaches, and is known as the best board-riding coast in the world. But go north from there to the north shore of Kauai, and you'll find the best breaks that nobody knows about. Drive to posh Princeville and, just before the St. Regis Resort, look down from the guardrail to see the uniform rollers coming into Hideaways and Pali Ke Kua. Both spots have viewpoints for spectators.

Stand-up padders (called beach boy surfers in Hawaii until recent years) like Pu'u Poa Beach at the resort. It's just around the river mouth from Hanalei Bay.

Black Pot Beach, right at Hanalei Pier, has one of the best beginner breaks in Hawaii. You can walk out the pier and watch boards whizzing by. In the middle of Hanalei Bay is Pine Trees, the home surf for pro Bruce Irons and his brother, the late Andy Irons, who was a world champion.

Farther off shore the Hanalei River mouth is Bowls, a fave among short-boarders and SUP'ers alike. When the epic winter swells arrive, two monster breaks appear even farther out: Queens and Kings. In 1992, legendary surfer Titus Kimimaka flew into Kauai, saw Kings going off, and hurried from the airport to Hanalei and became the first person to ride the 50-foot behemoth. Beyond Hanalei, at Haena Beach Park, is an off-shore reef break called Cannons (boom!).

Locals in the know head to Kalihiwai Bay, where a point break creates a wave machine. The trick is to bail out before the surf hits the cliff. A guardrail right above the bay is a great viewing spot. Tip: Get advice from the locals before going out, since they protect their surf turf.

Kauai Trailbazer has details on all the breaks on the island, as well as the best places to watch.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Road to Hana: Proof that life is a journey, not a destination

On a typical morning on Maui a commuter-style convoy of rental cars embarks on the serpentine Hana Highway, crossing dozens of one-lane bridges before reaching the quiet town and then pressing on to the Pools of Oheo at the lower part of Haleakala National Park. Then they turn around for the long drive back to Kihei and Lahaina. 

An alternative: Consider exploring the Hana Highway as a day unto itself, and leave the drive to Hana for a second day—and on that day continue around south Maui and make a circle instead of doing the return run. That way you can see places like the Keanae Arboretum (above) and the village of Keanae.

Most of the lush forest reserves along the Hana Highway go unseen by visitors.

Don't get suckered into stopping every time you see cars parked. Maui has a lot of monkey-see, monkey-do tourism. This tropical coastline is full of trails to call your own.

Before jumping in the car, take a look at Maui Trailblazer, which has dozens of places to see along the way that are not on the tourist radar. Indpendent, active travelers wishing to create their own adventures will find this guide to be essential.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Big Island's Pololu Valley is like Kauai's Kalalau only without the people

The green nub on the north end of the Big Island—Kohala— that points toward Maui is a million years older than the island's southern volcanic slopes, whose shores are being widened by fresh lava right now. That means Kohala has deep tropical valleys and ridges with waterfalls and no roads—like Kauai's Napali Coast.

The road ends a few miles past the quaintly weathered town of Hawi, and from there a wide, steep trail (400 feet down over .75-mile) drops to Pololu Valley. A rocky beach fronts a huge freshwater pond encased by lush grasslands.

For most visitors, Pololu is the destination. But a trail leads up the other side on a wild-and-wooly, 20 mile run to Waipo Valley, which is at road's end on the east side of Kohala. Hearty hikers can make the first two or three valleys, though slides and tree falls can make the route sketchy. You'll find old walls and other ruins. Unless Tarzan or a knowledgeable guide is along, you'll want to turn around at the third valley over, Hokonoiki. (Most trekkers approach this coast from the Waipio side, on the Muliwai Trail.)  Directions in your Hawaii Big Island Trailblazer.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Start your Hawaiian vacation in Portland

Many independent-minded people head to indie bookstores to buy Trailblazers, the best-selling guides by an independent publisher. The result will be a vacation as unique as your fingerprints.

It's worth a trip to Portland just to spend hours roaming around Powell's. Inside is a city block of books—stairways and corridors leading to color-coded rooms of tall shelves—where all the top-line best-sellers are alongside new and used books that truly cannot be found elsewhere. Lost and confused? No problem. Powell's staff are knowledgeable and everywhere.

Trailblazer Travel Books have been in print for 25 years, with multiple new editions to keep the content fresh. Full of juicy details and orgainzed like a Swiss Army knife, these publications are just the ticket for people who think for themselves. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Hawaii's surefire cure for the Blues

Winter gets old. Especially in April. But the good news is that right now is low season in the Islands. So anyone who is feeling deeply blue can book a cheap trip to take the deep blue cure. 

Though jumping off rocks is generally not a good idea, these bluffs at Kauai's Mahaulepu Beach are safe. The urge to leap is nearly magnetic. 

A mellower blue immersion is to be had at Oahu's dreamy Lanikai Beach on the Windward side. Check out the nearby tiny islands via kayak, or float around the near-shore.

King Kamehameha took a fancy to Hanauma Bay (several miles south of Waikiki on Oahu) and for years it was reserved for his retinue. These days, busloads of visitors head down the steep paved trail to explore the aquamarine waters. Full disclosure: The photo is what Hanauma looks like when it's closed, and at times the place is a zoo. 

Trailblazer guides have specific directions to many dozens of beaches with just the right shade of blue.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Rough it in luxury on the Big Island's South Kohala Coast

The post-apocalyptic view seaward from the highway north of Kona—square miles of jagged slag heaps of black lava broiling in the sun—gives no clue of the oases that lie in pockets along the coast. Lush greenry rims anchialine ponds, where brackish fresh water rises from a vast aquifer. 

Fabulous destination resorts, like the Four Seasons, Mauna Lani, and Mauna Kea, mix cultural history with gardenscapes. 

A canoe hale and sundial just south of the Four Seasons speak of the Hawaiian's seagoing heritage.

Coral sand beaches buffet near-shore lava reefs—a perfect combo for beachcombers who want to take a dip.

Sea turtles have this place dialed.

The understated Beach Tree Pool at the Four Season is a somnolent fusion of land, sea, and air.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the details on South Kohala—the hikes, snorkeling pools, and resort strolls,  plus parking and access tips.