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.