Monday, December 31, 2018

Kauai Triple Play, Every Day: Snorkel, Hike, Culture

Filling out a daily schedule is not a tough task on Kauai (or any of the Islands): Find a beach to snorkel and hang out, find a trail into a tropical forest, and seek to soak in some Hawaiian culture. Hideaways Beach (above) in Princeville is a good place to punch the snorkel ticket.

The Powerline Trail (above) that extends from above Kapa'a to the North Shore is a spectacular hike that sees little use, given other trails in the vicinity. Hiking the whole trans-island route is a challenge, since it is overgrown in the middle. A better choice is to do an out-and-back from either of the trailheads.

You really can't set foot anywhere in Hawaii without being immersed in cultural traditions. A family favorite is the Smith's paddleboat tour up the Wailua River to Fern Grotto. The Smith family has operated the boats—as well as a tropical garden and luau—for more than 60 years. Kayaking is also a popular way to see the wide Wailua.

Trailblazer Travel Books provide an inexhaustible menu of triple-play-day options for all the Islands.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Trailblazer's Hawaii Guides: Adventure in your Pocket. Memories in the Bank.

Hawaii means different things for different people, offering a mind-boggling array of choices. With Trailblazer guides, no matter where you are, you can answer the question, "I wonder what's down that road?" Some activities require planning and reservations, but the best of times are often had by turning the steering wheel on a whim.

Indiana Jones-style adventures into the tropical forests are not always easy to find. Trailblazers do the leg work for you, and will lead you to places not crammed with tourists.

The best trails aren't always the most popular. Sure, the main attractions are popular for good reason. But the out-of-the way routes will often linger in your mind as a place to call your own.

Beaches beaches beaches and more beaches.  Few visitors actually surf in Hawaii, but Trailblazers will take you to the best and safest places to learn—and also the best spots to plant yourself in the sand and watch the show. The world's top surfers are riding waves every day the waves are breaking.

Sometimes adventure means kicking back with your fellow mammals—like this Hawaiian Monk seal. 

Sometimes adventure means luxuriating at a swank hotel. You don't need to be a guest to enjoy the grounds and beaches. Trailblazers have the details on all the top destination resorts.

Many—perhaps most—beaches in Hawaii aren't signed, and require a short hike to get to. Trailblazers have detailed driving and parking directions to find these places. You want to spend your time having fun, not looking for it.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Have your Hawaiian vacation planned by experts for $22.95

Since the average couple will spend a few grand on a vacation to Hawaii, it makes sense for them to spend an extra twenty bucks to be sure they will have a good time. No Worries Hawaii—a vacation planning guide decades in the making—makes it happen.

The guide is for first-timers AND for repeat visitors who find themselves going to the same place and doing the same stuff and want to branch out. The heart of No Worries Hawaii is a simple but ingenious self-test that really (really) directs you the the activities and places that get you pumped, and helps you avoid those you are not interested in. The result is a vacation that's a custom fit, and not off the rack.

Hawaiian activities—36 in all, including hiking, snorkeling, shopping, kick-back beaches, rainforests, surfing, museums and cultural sites, luxury resorts—are arranged in a list. You choose what you "gotta have," "would be nice," or don't care about. The test summarizes your results  and directs you to the island is the best fit. 

For each activity, the guide lists the Top 5 in the state, the Top 20, and then all the others that are worth a look. 

No Worries Hawaii also offers money-saving tips and lists the fabulous freebies. The guide steers you toward the type of accommodation you desire (mid-range condo, rustic, beach cottages, resorts strips, etc.) and gives hand-picked recommendations.  Tips on booking flights and rental cars, and how to avoid hassles are also included. 

A centerpiece of the book is its safety section, which offers specific advice on beach and trail hazards. All types of tour activities are also rated—is it worth the money? how to save money?

This  book is not full of platitudes and generalizations. It has well-organized, specific advice from authors who have spent decades in the Islands, and have published outdoor-cultural guides for each island that have been in print and updated for 20 years.

Aloha and Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Yay! Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer turns 20

Independent and adventurous travelers can now celebrate the publication of the 20th anniversary edition of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer (ISBN: 978-198039129690), which is good to go on Amazon. Volcano goddess Pele has commemorated the event by turning off her fiery eruptions (after three decades of blowing gas), clearing the skies and re-opening parks.  

Several coastal snorkel spots in Puna (east coast) have been wiped off the map due to the 2018 Kilauea eruptions, and roads may remain modified by lava flows. The good news is lava flows have made the Big Island bigger, adding more the 600 acres of land on the coast. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park re-opened in September after a months-long closure. This new guide has all the updates. Almost all the island, including Blue Lagoon in South Kohala (above), was not effected by the the eruptions.

Among the top hikes for adventure seekers are those on the north tip of the island: Waipio Valley (above) and Pololu Valley. Volcanic action here took place a million years ago.

For a mellower scene, you'll want to beach-hop the South Kohala Coast, which is north of Kona. Some of the beaches border world-class resorts, while others are as out-there as you can get in Hawaii. This new guide has specific directions and tips for visiting all of them.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has all the well-known attractions, as well as many cool nooks that are beyond the Yelp-o-sphere.  In addition to beaches and trails, Trailblazer guides are known for  ancient sites, museums, cultural attractions, and nonprofit groups that welcome tourists.
Handpicked resorts and restaurants are also listed.

Almost forgot: Trailblazer guides are full of safety tips, not just the blanket cautions, but also the hazards associated with specific places.

To order click here: Amazon

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The worst way to screw up on your Hawaiian vacation.

For sure, lost luggage and sunburn can be a bummer, but we can all agree that the best (worst) way to ruin a vacation is dying. Sadly, about one person a month is lost to a fatal accident in Hawaii while recreating. Happily, virtually all of these deaths can be avoided.

Though visitors die on the land and in the air on Hawaii, the ocean is the biggest threat to life. First thing to remember is to stay well back from breaking waves. The Islands are surrounded by 2,500 miles of open water, and each coastline is nuanced. Drop-offs at the shore are common, so stepping a few feet away from dry sand means you will be in deep water and threatened by the next big one. Stay back from the break while walking the shoreline and never turn your back on waves.

This bluff at Shipwreck Beach on Kauai invites leapers. Jumping from a high place into the ocean is a bad idea, unless the waters below have been tested thoroughly for submerged rocks. Be safe and don't jump from bluffs.

Lifeguards will post hazard signs, but most beaches don't have lifeguards. High surf is the number-one tip-off to hazardous conditions.

Even a lower surf levels will create rip current: All the water coming in as waves goes out again in the form of rip currents. You can see rip currents from the shore in the form of blue channels, like little streams going out, or as breaks in the line of breaking waves where outgoing water disrupts the surf pattern. Alway study the water before going in. Throw in a stick to see what happens to it. When in the water, float face down to see if you are moving.

Hawaiian lifeguards (watermen) are among the best, if not the best, in the world. These men and women are heroes every day. A beach with a lifeguard station is one way to increase water safety.

Head and neck injuries from bodysurfing and wave play are easy to come by. Make sure waves are breaking gently, rather than curling down in one big thump. Watch out if you see sand rising up as a wave curls to upward,  as this is a sign of a shallow break.

Even when the shore is mellow, having a buddy on the land to keep an eye on the swimmer is a good idea. People get into trouble in calm conditions (cramp, jellyfish sting, heart condition). 

Trailblazer guides for the Hawaiian Islands have extensive sections on beach and trail safety (and also lots of practical tips). In addition to the blanket rules, specific cautions are given for each snorkeling spot and hiking destination.

No reason to fear having fun in Hawaii, but don't treat the place like a Disneyland ride and run headlong into danger. 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Oh no, Kauai's fabled Kalalau Trail is closed!! No problem, Brah.

Kalalau Trail

Roads and trails beyond Hanalei Bay on Kauai's north shore remain closed, after being hammered by a Biblical rainstorm this winter—50 freaking inches in 24 hours. That means a mega-popular attraction, the Kalalau Trail, (second only to Oahu's Diamond Head) along the island's Napali (The Cliffs) is off limits. 

On most vacations, having the most popular thing shut down would be a bummer. No way on Kauai, where many, many other trails are open that deliver plenty of scenic punch. One option is Kapa'a's Keahua Arborteum (above), the gateway to the Waialeale Blue Hole, the trans-Kauai Powerline Trail, and the Kuilau Ridge Trail.  

This neck of the woods, the east shore of the island, is called the Coconut Coast. Miles of beach walking beckon.

The 10-mile Kapa'a Coastal Bike Path is one of the best outdoor attractions in Hawaii. Walk it, or rent a bike.

On the south shore, are two National Tropical Botanical Gardens—Allerton and McBryde. You can choose a guided or self-guided tour. Or, take the new coastal trail just outside the garden gate.

The south coast also features the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, which skirts bluffs and beaches, and passes ancient sites. The route begins at the fabulous Grand Hyatt Kauai (above).

Lofted above the south coast is Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. You could easily spend a two-week visit just hiking this place. Several trails lead into, and along the rim of, this 10-mile long, red-walled deep gash. Other trails start above the canyon, including the awesome Kilohana Overlook Trail—which curls the top of Kalalau Valley, crosses the Alakai Swamp on a boardwalk, and ends at a platform with a view 4,000 feet down to Hanalei Bay.

Another half-dozen (insert superlative here) trails go out some of Napali Cliffs and end at 3,000-foot high overlooks. The Awa'awapuhi and Nualolo trails are fairly well known, but the others rarely see tourists. 

Oh wait. Let's not forget the miles of birdwatcher trails in the tropical forests of Koke'e State Park, in the same Waimea Canyon area.

All this may seem overwhelming. Kauai Trailblazer sorts it all out with great detail in an organized fashion.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The wild side of Oahu awaits beyond Waikiki

Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu are brimming with tourists, and for good reason: there's a lot worth doing. But few visitors realize that Oahu has a wealth of undeveloped, easy-access beaches—more than Maui and the Big Island, and right up there with Kauai.

Even the North Shore—the surfing capital of the universe—is rural and laid back on most days. At nearby beaches like Kaunala (above), you will find no tourists at all, except for  surfers from around the globe.

Haleiwa, the biggest town on the North Shore, is totally non-glitz, even though town's surfing beaches are on the pro circuit.  The river draws local canoe clubs. Plate lunches and shave ice on menu.

The Mokuleia Coast extends to the west of the North Shore, an eight-mile run of wild beaches and several hiking trails into the Waianae Range.

Windward Oahu, over the Ko'olau Range from Waikiki, is a magnet for wayward tourists and beach-loving locals, but long runs of sand always impart a faraway feel.

Kayakers embark on mini-adventures to several near-shore islands, some of which are close enough for snorkelers to reach.

Beaches north and south of Kailua (the heart of Windward Oahu) offer an opportunity to take a long beach hike—or not.

With two mountain ranges, Oahu has more official trailheads than any other island. Many trails start in suburban neighborhoods, and quickly take you into tropical forests. Other hikes begin in the countryside north of Kailua, and take you into the wilds.

Oahu Trailblazer has all the details on the wild side of the island, as well as the top tourist attractions of Waikiki and Honolulu.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Hawaii is trying to solve the 'problem' of too much success

Vacations aren't supposed to be stressful. But a trip to Hawaii can be just that, if you are in a traffic jam on Maui's Hana Highway, lost in space trying to find parking at Kauai's Kalalau Trail, or struggling to find access to a South Kohala beach on the Big Island (pictured above). 

Seeking to relieve these stress points—and many others throughout the Islands—the Hawaii Visitors Bureau is developing a DirectAloha app, which will give visitors live updates on locales clogged by "overtourism." 

Finding a peaceful, beautiful place to call your own is not a problem for readers of Trailblazer Travel Books. These books are full of tips and specific directions for independent and adventurous travelers. Trailblazers focus on outdoor activities and cultural sites, but they also include the luxurious side of Hawaii—like the resort strolls at Maui's Wailea coast (shown above).

When crowds make popular sites a hassle, look for an alternate spot nearby. Trailblazers are full of out-of-the-way options.

Timing is everything. Scaling Oahu's Diamond Head is a thrilling experience, if you know how to beat the crowds.

Many trails into Hawaii's Forest Reserves are not publicized or signed. 

Many visitors to Hawaii just want to find a spot on the sand, like Waikiki Beach, and stay put.  Fair enough. But other visitors want to explore the trails, beaches, and quirky-cool towns. With a Trailblazer in hand, you will exhaust yourself being at these places, rather than trying to find them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Do You Really Need a Guidebook to Visit Hawaii???

In the age of smart phones, are guidebooks necessary? For most visitors, the answer is "No." Most visitors are seeing Hawaii for the first time, staying for about a week, and mainly want to hit the highlights and log some serious beach time. Each island has its top attractions, which are easy to identify and find. And, since Yelp and TripAdvisor have been on the scene, books are of little help in finding good restaurants.

But ...

If you are adventurous and independent, and want to get off the tourist trail to find places to call your own, then, yes indeedy, you will want a guidebook.  In this case, Trailblazer Travel Books are essential gear. These comprehensive guides hit all the highlights (like Maui's Twin Falls, above), but also have details on the tons of stuff you would otherwise miss—like the half-dozen other falls that are nearby.

You can find the popular trails on your own. But if you'd like to avoid crowds, without sacrificing scenic values, then check out a Trailblazer. These books were written by people who spent decades exploring.

Trailblazers are also a free-ticket to explore the luxurious side of Hawaii without necessarily paying for it. Each island has destination resorts where you can take a walk on the un-wild side. These places, like Maui's Grand Wailea (above),  are beachside museums with gardens. Trailblazer gives specific driving and parking directions.

True adventure on Hawaii can be dangerous. Many people get off the plane and treat the Islands' wild places like a Disneyland, and are unaware of the the risks. The safety tips in Trailblazer guides are specific to each destination. The people pictured above, at Maui's Nakalele Blowhole, have not read Maui Trailblazer.

Take a vacation from your vacation and find a trail that few people know about.

True, most (but far from all) places in Hawaii are noted somewhere on the Internet. Instead of snatching these references (of varying reliability) from the Web, get all of them organized comprehensively in a Trailblazer book. Readers have called Trailblazers "the Swiss Army Knife" of guides.

Even where tourism reigns supreme, like Waikiki Beach, hidden gems await. A historical trail runs right through the middle of the place, if you know where to look for it.

Three top reasons people come to Hawaii: Beaches, beaches, beaches. Trailblazers cover every accessible inch of Hawaii's coastline. Find where the action is, or a peaceful place to enjoy paradise. Snorkeling and surfing and beach combing are all covered. The rules for ocean safety are made simple.

Trailblazers are an homage to Hawaiian cultural traditions—which are alive and well today. Visitors can explore museums, heiaus (temples), and ancient sites, and also connect with many dozens of nonprofit groups. Locals like Trailblazers for the respect the books show for the Islands.

Not everyone needs a book to visit Hawaii. But for those who want dig deeper, Trailblazers are a must. Considering how much a Hawaiian vacation costs (even for the budget conscious) the price of a guidebook is money well spent. Read a Trailblazer before you go and hit the trail running.