Thursday, January 31, 2019

Kauai's Silver Falls Ranch is Horsey Heaven

Although the first rodeo champs in the America were Hawaiians, horseback riding is not among the postcard images normally associated with the Islands. But it should be. If you like riding horses, or have thought about giving it a try, head for the magnificent Silver Falls Ranch on the North Shore.

Who's happier here, the horses or the horse people? Karly and tawny Ohia (above) would call it a tie.

The ranch and adjoining property are several hundred acres—which border the 15,000 acres of the Halele'a Forest Reserve. About 80 acres are a manicured botanical garden. Framing the scene are the fluted slopes of Mount Namahana and its adjoining jagged green ridges. It's surreal.

The cascade that is Silver Falls serves up a prime swimming hole. Riders are served lunch here.

Silver Falls Ranch is organized, clean, and neat as a pin.  

Manager Donna Hunt keeps the place humming. The ranch accommodates riders of all sizes (unlike some other stables) and experience levels. Rides are up to a half-day in length. Most trips skirt the Makaleha Caldera, the volcanic origin of Kauai—though you'd never guess it by looking today at the lush wetlands.

Big Blue, by all appearances, loves his job.

The ranch can also set up private outings. Donna says hiking may also be offered in the future, but for now the only way to see the place is from the saddle. 

Often enough, throughout the history of Hawaii, people with a ton of money buy up land and gate it off from the public. Silver Falls Ranch is a shining exception, owned by people with a vision to make Kauai a better place for everyone.


808-828-6718 (7:30 am to 5:30 pm HST)

Office hours:
7:30 am to 5:00 pm HST
2888 Kamookoa Rd, Kilauea, HI 9675

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The 'back door' to Oahu's hidden North Shore

Most people who venture out of Waikiki to see the fabled North Shore of Oahu want to see the Mt. Rushmore of pro-surfing beaches: Haleiwa, Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Sunset Beach—and then drive back. They miss out on the wild, scenic stuff that ironically is in proximity to Turtle Bay Resort, the only resort community on the rural North Shore.

Just beyond Sunset is Velzyland (above), where a renowned surfing wave on a dreamy beach has special appeal for surfers from around the globe. Larger-than-life surfboard shaper Dave Velzy was at the center of the sport's rise during the Beach Boy days of the 1960s. The myth lives on here.

A system of trails and a snorkeling beach is about a mile south of the resort, at Kawela Bay

Spend the day in the surf and sun.  Repeat as necessary.

Kawela's trails meander beside huge banyans and other behemoths.

Kulima Cove is a sweet scoop of sand with decent-to-good snorkeling. Miles of open beach await in the reverse direction of this picture. A little keiki (kids) cove is less than a half-mile down from Turtle Bay Resort (whose architects may have been inspired by shoe boxes).

These fellows, as one might expect, inhabit the waters off the resort's seaside walkways, sharing the scene with surfers. Oahu Trailblazer has more details on finding nooks of the North Shore.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Maui has a North Shore too

Once you pass the Ritz Carlton in north Kapalua, the road becomes instantly rural. One of the first stops is the Honolua Bay Marine Preserve. Tour boats take paying customers here, but you can snorkel for free. 

A short trail enters a jungle gardenscape. You should know: The beach is rocky, and a stream will muddy the waters after it rains. Roadside parking fills up early. 

The point on Honolua's north tip is one of the better—maybe the best—surfing wave on Maui. Forsure, it's one of the better places to watch surfers in Hawaii.  A dirt road reaches the point and a short walk takes you to a ringside seat on a cliff.

The Nakalele Blowhole is a popular roadside attraction—or rather, a short hike from the road. There are two trails. The stupid thing to do here is get close to the opening or stand with your back to the surf. People have died here. Same goes for the Bellstone (Olivine) Pools, which are just down the road. Any day when surf breaches the reef is a dangerous day. Watch for 15 minutes before determining safety. No kidding.

Few visitors visit the two trails that lead into the mountains—the best-kept secret on this coast.  The Ohai Loop Trail, along the ocean bluffs, is on the tourist radar—though seldom crowded.

Kahakuloa Head ("tall lord") lords over the small village of the same name. The road down is a narrow, white-knuckler. You'll want to avoid the school bus coming up. In town are a couple quaint churches and tasty banana bread stand. Driving up from Kahakuloa Village (more narrow road) gets you to a trail leading to a whale watching nook below the head—in its saddle with the little pu'u (volcanic cone). Turn-out parking is unsigned.

Due to the number of tourists on the road, you will want to go with the flow, i.e, drive in the clockwise direction, north from Lahaina. The narrow, cliffside highway continues to Kahalui. Avoid the north shore during rains.

Maui Trailblazer has the details on the best way to visit the rugged north coast.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Big Island: C'mon over, the Air is Fine!

For the first time in more than 30 years, Kilauea Volcano is not spewing vog—volcanic smog—and the air is pure and clean everywhere. The nastiness of vog has not been widely publicized, even though the air quality has been worse at times, in places,  than L.A. in the early 1960s. People were not only gasping in Kona, but also on Maui and Oahu, and even as far as the north shore of Kauai. 

Now Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in Kona is feelin' the blues again.

People 30 years old and younger on the Big Island had lived their lives seeing precious little haze-free sky—depending on the wind conditions. Today, these kids at Onekahakaha Beach Park in Hilo can sniff the clean stuff along with sea turtles.

Improved air quality is a silver lining to the destruction that lava flows in 2018 brought to the Puna (east) Coast, where many miles of shoreline we buried in molten lava and hundreds of people were displaced and homes destroyed.

The most lethal force currently on the loose on-island is Hilo's Wailuku ('destructive waters')  River, which comes down the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.

It's time to kick back and enjoy untainted paradise on the Big Island. Until the volcano blows a cork again, which could be five minutes from now or years into the future.

Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer is your ticket to explore the island's wild blue yonder.