Monday, July 31, 2017

"What are we going to do in Hawaii, Mommy?"

No need to Yelp-out and plan an itinerary for each day on a Hawaiian vacation, since there's a simple way to keep the whole family happy: Make like a local and head for the beach. Below are prime beach parks where you can grab the chairs, towels, boogie boards, coolers, and the rest of the stuff and stay put until the sun goes down.  

On Oahu, look no further than Waikiki Beach—which is actually made up of a half-dozen or so different beaches spread out over a couple miles. At the south end of the beach is Kapiolani Park (above). A huge, shaded green space lies at the foot of Diamond Head and opens to safe swimming waters. Surfers put on a show.

At the north end of Waikiki is its best-kept secret. In the shadow of the Hilton Resort towers are the lovely gardens of Duke Kahanamoku Beach Park, named for the surfing great and Olympic champion swimmer. Duke's statue in the heart of the hubbub invites visitors to stake a spot in the sand and chill.

On Windward (east) Oahu lies Kailua Beach Park, which also has many acres of rolling greenery and very good snorkeling and swimming. It's right next to dreamy Lanikai Beach.

Several near-shore, tiny islands at Kailua offer visitors an opportunity to rent a kayak for a mini-adventure. Flat Island is close enough for snorkelers to make the voyage with flippers and a mask.

The gold standard among family beach parks are the three on Maui in Kihei: Kamaole I, II, and III. You can walk a path among them—and also keep going south to the resort beaches in Wailea. The low-key commerce of Kihei is across the street, so snacks and beverages are an easy get. Snorkeling is excellent and safe on most days. Picnic tables are scattered about a treed backshore.

On the Big Island, locals flock from afar to big Hapuna State Beach. A walkway swerves down past numerous picnic pavilions. Wave play and surfing are the big draw at Hapuna, but Beach 69 nearby has good safe swimming. (No! It's named for the telephone pole that marked the obscure parking, before it became a state beach). A coastal trail leads from Hapuna to the beach at the Mauna Kea Resort.

Many visitors miss the ideal delights at Kauai's Salt Pond Beach Park. Be sure to check it out when heading back from Waimea Canyon. It's just off the road in Hanapepe. Two keiki (kid) ponds anchor either end of a perfect crescent beach with coco palms dotting the fringes of the sand.

Best for last: The ultimate family pleaser is Kauai's Lydgate Park, on the Coconut Coast near Kapa'a. A large, man-made swimming oval is a sure thing for safe swimming, even when the surf is up. Huge Kamalani Park, with lots of play sets,  borders the other side of the parking lot, and a short walk takes you to ancient sites. A ways down the beach (walk or drive) is a five-story Play Bridge—a maze of ramps, ropes, and stairs—that can accommodate a crowd of scurrying little ones. For bigger kids, miles of open sand beckon for a hike past the Wailua Golf Course to wild Kauai Beach.

Trailblazer guides—one for each island—have special Trailblazer Kids sections for families. Included are outings, beaches, attractions, restaurants and mellow adventures. Most of the suggestions are freebies.

Friday, July 21, 2017

This is why Kauai is called the Garden Island

All the Islands have lush pockets, but Kauai—the farthest north and by far the oldest—is entirely a green landscape, with jungled ridges cleaved by streams that open to verdant fields.  This vista of Hanalei Valley is from quiet Hanalei Organic Park in Princeville (not the overlook that gets jammed with visitors).

Hanalei Valley, much of it part of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge, is the largest taro field in Hawaii. Taro was one of the 23 plants brought from Polynesia in ancient times and its roots are used to make a mush called poi. Most tourists wrinkle their noses at poi. Try taro chips.

Taro leaf stems are also steamed and eaten as a side dish.

The Hanalei River opens to sprawling lagoons where it reaches the ocean at Black Pot Beach on Hanalei Bay. You can't get closer to heaven in this life.

Kauai Trailblazer has directions to the serene spots on the north shore that are not on the tourist radar.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Kauai's Coconut Coast is where Hawaii's first Royalty chose to live.

The Coconut Coast of Kauai, its east shore, is cleaved by the Wailua River, by far the largest in the state, and it was chosen above all other locales in the Islands to be home of the Ali'i (ruling class) for many centuries. Beaches are not spectacular, but many are just right for swimming families. This reef-protected pool is just north of the river mouth.

In ancient times, seven heiaus (temples) were built, beginning at the coast and extending inland toward Mount Waialeale, the rainiest spot on earth (around 40 feet per year).

Heads up! A falling coconut is no joke. 

The coconut was one of the 23 'canoe plants' that voyaging Polynesians brought with them to start life in their new world. The white meat is delish, of course, but coconut water is refreshing and nourishing—during WWII, coconut water was used for transfusions on wounded soldiers when plasma supplies ran low.

Wild Donkey Beach is one of several hike-to spots on the coast.  It's bordered by the Kapa'a Coastal Bike Path, a paved route that runs for many miles, through the town and along a wild coast. You won't find a bike path like this anywhere else.

Going north from Kapa'a begins a run of a dozen or more wild beaches, most unsigned and reachable only by foot—like this little oasis near Anahola.  Inland from Kapa'a are several great mountain trails, including the Sleeping Giant and Waialeale Blue Hole. You'll also find quite a few mid-range resorts on the Coconut Coast.

Aside from being a cool place unto itself, the Coconut Coast is convenient to visit Kaua's other hot spots, like the Napali Coast on the north coast, and the Koke'e Museum above Waimea Canyon on the south coast. Kaua'i Trailblazer has tons of details for independent travelers.