Hiking in Hawaii

 

While there are many spectacular destinations to hike around the globe, the Hawaii islands offer its visitors a plethora of excellent hiking trails. There are nine island masses that make up Hawaii: Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. Each island has its own unique geography and history. Whether you are interested in a physically strenuous, but very fulfilling hike, or if you enjoy a less challenging scenic hike, the Hawaii Islands are the place to go.

Hiking Na Pali Coast in Kauai

If you are seasoned hiker, or even a beginner, there are numerous trails in Kauai to satisfy all your hiking needs. Much of Kauai is inaccessible by road, making it the perfect hiking destination. The Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast is 11 miles long. While this trail is considered challenging, don’t let that stop you from exploring its beauty for at least 2 miles to see Hanakapi’ai Beach. The view of Kauai’s North Shore is breathtaking – with the lush green mountain terrain on one side and the steep cliff drop towards the powerful ocean below, the Kalalau trail is not one to miss.

There are also many famous hiking trails on the Big Island. King’s Trail, also known as Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, is located on the Kona Coast. It is a 175-mile long trail that travels through numerous ancient Hawaiian settlements.  You will come across temples, petroglyphs, and even fishing shrines! In addition to the cultural and historical richness of the trail, the natural resources will be surrounding you in abundance. Look for the native sea turtle habitats – when the water is calm you may see turtles in small coves along the shore.

Pipiwai Trail waterfalls, Maui, Hawaii

The Pipiwai Trail in Haleakala National Park in Maui offers its visitors a glimpse of the island’s beautifully diverse scenery. Don’t forget to pick up some bamboo hiking poles at the trailhead. The hike has some steep slopes in the first half mile that can be difficult to maneuver, especially in the rainy season from November through March. Highlights on the trail include sights such as a majestic banyan tree, a bamboo forest, and cascading waterfalls. Waimoku Falls, located at the end of the trail, drops 400 feet off a sheer cliff of black lava rock.

View from Diamond Head

Have you even wanted to hike up a volcano? If you are planning a visit to Waikiki, the Diamond Head summit trail, or Le’ahi in Hawaiian, is not to be missed. Diamond Head received its name by British sailors in the 19th century who thought they saw diamonds on the volcano slopes. Although there were no diamonds to be found, the name stuck. This 560 foot climb can be done in about an hour and any able-bodied person can enjoy its spectacular 360° views. From Waikiki, to the Pacific Ocean, to Ko’olau Mountains, the views are absolutely stunning. Bring water and sunscreen with you on the hike to the Diamond Head crater, as it can get hot on the trail and a nice breeze and shade are sometimes hard to come by.

Always take precautions while hiking. Be sure to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and/or muddy. It is also important to always bring water and food, as the hiking can work up an appetite. Even if you are a seasoned hiker, it is best to hike with a partner. Not only will you be able to share the sights with someone, but it’s always nice to have a helping hand on those steeper slopes. Hawaii is gorgeous with its pristine natural beauty and its magnificently breathtaking views. There are many well-tread trails that wind around the islands of Hawaii, don’t miss your opportunity to explore as many of them as you can. For information on Hawaii vacations, check out California Tours Hawaii Packages and book your flight and hotel today!

For more trail information check out the following links:
Kauai: http://www.hawaii-guide.com/kauai/hiking_trails
Hawaii: http://www.gohawaii.com/
Maui: http://www.gohawaii.com/maui/guidebook/topics/hiking-on-maui
Oahu: http://www.gohawaii.com/oahu

Kauai — A True Outdoor Paradise

Kauai – A True Outdoor Paradise

Kauai — A True Outdoor Paradise

The remarkable, opening scene of verdant mountains and undulating valleys from the legendary flick, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” was captured in none other than lush Kauai. And it’s no secret that the velvety greens and sapphire blues of the landscape and ocean have enticed producers worldwide to select Kauai as the backdrop for nearly one hundred films. Elvis Presley’s famous “Blue Hawaii” was shot on location. And Jurassic Park, King Kong, and even the iconic TV show Gilligan’s Island locked in celluloid dreamscapes on this island gem.

At its very heart, Kauai remains true to its nickname, the Garden Isle. Unlike bustling Oahu, and larger-than-life Hawaii Island, small Kauai takes life easy in the slow lane.  As the fourth largest island in Hawaii, with only 552 square miles, the island is segmented into five main districts: Lihue (in the south east), East Side, North Shore, South shore and West Side.

Outdoor lovers will revel in its unparalleled and haunting beauty, and it is no wonder that visitors return year after year. When you go, be sure to spend time in these five beloved locales:

1. Waimea Canyon – Plan on spending an entire day here in what is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Bring a picnic lunch and explore this breathtaking canyon  measured at one mile wide, ten miles in length and over 3,500-feet in depth. Popular are helicopter flights that take tourists above and into the canyon itself. The Kalalau Lookout, in particular, yields unspoiled views of the valley, descending 4,000 feet to the ocean.

2. Na Pali Coast – This pristine 17-mile of coastline on the North Shore is world-renowned. Be sure to jump on a chartered boat excursion to see the variety of caves, jagged mountains and cliffs which are nothing less than jaw-dropping.  It can only be accessed via sea tour, air, or foot.

3. Poipu Beach Park – On the South Shore, this lovely stretch of beach was once named American’s best beach. Why? It is ringed with palm trees, soft white sand, and provides great opportunities for snorkeling to see tropical fish up close.  The park offers restrooms, showers, picnic tables and lifeguards to keep everyone safe.  From December to May, you can see humpback whales in their glory.

4. Wailua, Hanalei, and Huleia rivers – Rent a kayak and paddle on these navigable rivers for majestic scenery you have only seen in the  movies. Sacred waterfalls, unfathomable mountains – it’s the stuff dreams are made of.  The river waters are relatively calm, and you can also take a guided tour intended for all skill levels. Also available are zipline safaris for access into private ranches and rare waterfalls near the Huleia River.  The Wailua River, however, remains one of the most popular.

5. Fern Grotto – Take a Wailua river boat ride and get an eyeful of this natural amphitheater that is so spectacular it plays hosts to weddings throughout the year. Opulent ferns create a canopy on lava rock, and a typical cruise up the river to the grotto takes about 40 minutes. A short paved walk extends from the dock to the famous grotto while Hawaiian musicians serenade in the background.

This list is a sampling of the dynamic outdoor diversions of Kauai. Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time on the Garden Isle, the charms of Kauai never grow old. For travel info, visit www.kauaidiscovery.com or call the Kauai Visitors Bureau at +1 (800) 262-1400. Check out California Tours’ Hawaii Packages and book your flight and hotel today! Aloha!

 

Kathy Chin Leong must get her Hawaii fix every two years or she will definitely suffer withdrawal symptoms. This author has written about Hawaii for Sunset Magazine, Coastal Living Magazine, Islands Magazine, TravelAge West, and www.BayAreaFamilyTravel.com

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Big Island Action Great for Big, Big Fun

Big Island, now referred to as Hawaii Island, stands proudly as the largest one in the chain of its tropical sisters. It’s 4,028 square miles, just a few miles shy of  infamous Los Angeles county. And while the Southern California region is home to 9.8 million Angelenos, Hawaii Island caters to less than 200,000 residents.

For visitors or malihini, that means there’s plenty of elbow room and leg room to explore around this vast landscape. There are a myriad of eco-climates here: tropical to arid and everything in between. In fact, those who want to trek to Mauna Kea peak should put on their Arctic parka. When you venture to the highest point in all the state, you will probably find snow at 13,800 feet above sea level.

Hence, when planning a trip, Big Island is sure to appease every type of adventurer, from hard core athletes to exotic foodies looking for that next level up in unique gastronomic finds.

The first thing you’ll notice when you drive from the Kona International Airport are vast slabs of black volcanic rock that seem to appear everywhere. Instead of dirt, cooled lava rock is the stuff that houses and commercial properties are built upon.

And there’s another noticeable difference. Since I live near San Francisco, the urban landscape is rife with spray painted graffiti on the building walls and freeway ramps.  On Hawaii Island, people are insistent on placing their names and various greetings on the volcanic landscape by lining up white coral rocks to say, “Aloha,” or “Keep it sacred.”   Some folks try their artistic flair by creating smiley faces or other drawings.

If you are staying for a week, you have to experience at least five of these landmark activities so you can be the life of the party when you return home to your friends and family.

1. Hike a volcano at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. With more than 150 miles of trails, you will be entranced by the epic smoking crater, dense vegetation, and a blacker than black, walk-in lava tube. Start at the visitors’ center that is well staffed with knowledgeable rangers and volunteers to get your bearings.  The park offers a vast array of programs, so if you don’t feel like hiking, you can enjoy cultural music, storytelling, and easy strolls around the park. See www.nps.gov/havo for details.

2. Sail at sea to spot your own dolphin or whale. A plethora of fishing companies and charter boat tours will offer a close up look at the humpbacks and dolphins on the Pacific waters.  And, if you can muster up the courage, opt to go snorkeling for sea turtles, exotic fishes, and more. Experienced outfitters such as Hawaii Ocean Sports will take you on a romantic champagne sunset sail or any number of water activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling or whale watching. It’s newest offering is the Dolphin Crystal Cove Snorkel Adventure that features a snorkel excursion aboard a luxury catamaran complete with a marine naturalist as well as that all important, delicious breakfast buffet.

3. Hit the town of Hilo, for a close up look at a quintessential small Hawaiian town. Sure it has its share of tourist shops, but this town boasts a down home farmer’s market on Sundays where you can taste an array of homemade Hawaiian bakery treats as well as purchase a tropical floral arrangement for $5 to enjoy during your stay.

4. Ride on horseback at Parker Ranch. This historical cattle ranch is the home of the Hawaiian cowboy or the ka’ aina o ka paniolo. And if you are so inclined, you can also call to reserve your space for big game hunting. You can hunt for pig, goats, boar, cattle, and wild birds, depending on the season.

5. Indulge in Hawaiian specialty fare.  Be it at a food festival, a farm, or local restaurant your taste buds must dive in because food is the crowning diamond of Hawaiian culture. Don’t go home without trying kona coffee, saimen, spam sushi, grass fed beef and more. Events such as the Taste of the Hawaiian Range, Kona Coffee Cultural Festival,  Kona Chocolate Festival, Big Island Festival are but a few of the most intriguing public parties you’ll ever experience. Bring back treats such as chocolate covered shortbread cookies from Big Island Candies or organic coffee from Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation.

Need more info? See www.gohawaii.com/big-island to get a sense of what is happening when, plus where to shop, stay, and play. Check out California Tours’ Hawaii Packages and book your flight and hotel today! Aloha!

Kathy Chin Leong is an award-winning travel journalist who has trekked the world. As founder of www.bayareafamilytravel.com, she is passionate about helping people step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves to try new things and visit new places. Her work can be found in National Geographic Books, Sunset Magazine, and many others. 

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A Hawaiian Getaway – Free and Nearly Free Activities in Oahu and Maui

Are you looking for sun and fun adventure during the winter season? Load up on family fun without unloading your wallet! First time visitors to Hawaii and their families will want to keep this travel list handy for free and nearly free things to see and do on the islands of Maui and Oahu, Hawaii.

Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority – Tor Johnson

Free and Nearly Free Activities in Maui

 

1.   Tide pooling – A wonderful early evening activity – don’t forget to bring your camera, as the spectacular sunsets are free, as well!  There are several protected tide pool areas around the island of Maui, including the Wailea area near Ulua Beach.  Take a flashlight and water shoes and prepare to find anemone, brittle stars, crabs, eels, sea cucumbers, shrimp and maybe even a baby octopus!

2.   Hiking – Maui is blessed with many hiking trails that run the gamut from highly advanced to easy, family-friendly strolls.  A favorite hike through Ko’olau Forest Reserve starts in a bamboo forest and over the course of a few miles, you’ll find yourself crawling over rocks, crossing streams and swinging from vines.

Hawaii Sunset3.   Take in a sunset – Sunset viewing is a time of gathering with family (ohana) and friends (hoaloha) to toast the close of a day. Maui’s colorful sunsets are best viewed from the south side of the island, including parks such as Kamaole III.  Residents and visitors gather on the grassy knoll and watch for the infamous green flash!

4.   First Friday – As part of the revitalization of Wailuku Town, First Friday, held the first Friday of each month, is a street festival with live music, a beer garden, local crafts and food. The banana lumpia is not to be missed!

5.   Eco-adventures – Voluntourism, as it’s been coined, offers not only free fun for the family but a sense of fulfillment and a greater understanding of the island.  Visitors may work as a farm hand on an organic farm in Kula, collect invasive species at the top of a volcano, or assist in reconstructing an ancient fishpond. You won’t get paid for your work, but the memories are priceless. For more information, check out gohawaii.com.

Hawaii Snorkeling6.   Snorkeling and scuba diving activities right off Maui’s shores – this counts as FREE only if you happen to have the equipment. However, I think it’s good to note that you don’t have to pay a lot of money for a boat dive when shore dives are easily accessible.

7.   Whale watching during the season (December- March) – the Maalaea area is best for viewing whales. They have pullouts for whale watching along Honoapiilani Road.

8.   Hookipa Lookout – It’s free to watch top windsurfers, surfers, and kiteboarders take on strong winds/waves.  (Near Mama’s Fish House)

9.   The Boo Boo Zoo – or East Maui Animal Refuge – you have to call in advance and they ask for donations but it’s free. The Boo Boo Zoo is a sanctuary for injured and orphaned animals.

10.   Some resorts offer Outrigger Canoe paddling – such as Fairmont Kea Lani and Four Seasons Maui –  free for guests. Makena Beach Resort charges $30 for 1 hour excursions.

 

Free and Nearly Free Activities in Oahu

 

Oahu is an affordable, family-friendly tropical destination with hundreds of exciting things to do, see and experience for FREE or for less than $10 per person. Visit Oahu and discover the energizing sights, sounds, art, culture, history, nature, and adventure of the island.

Photo by Polynesian Cultural Center

 

1.   Visit the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa on any Friday to experience its weekly Aloha Friday” Polynesian show featuring Tahitian drummers, hula dancers, lei making, and music.

2.   Stop in at the lei stands that line Maunakea Street in Honolulu’s Chinatown and see firsthand how these intricate lei are created.

3.   On the first Friday of every month, art galleries in downtown Honolulu open their doors from 5-9 p.m. at no charge. This event is popular with art enthusiasts of all ages.

4.   Walk the booths at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet for affordable made-in-Hawai‘i souvenirs on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 6 a.m.-3 p.m.

5.   Enjoy locally-grown produce and meats, fragrant flowers and tasty treats at the Kapiolani Community College Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.

6.   Watch the fireworks explode on Friday evenings in remembrance and celebration of King Kalakaua’s Jubilee at Hilton Hawaiian Village.

Photo by Oahu Visitors Bureau

7.   Drive to the North Shore for Matsumoto’s famous shave ice, a Kua Aina hamburger and garlic shrimp from a roadside shrimp truck.

8.   View the work of local artisans at the Art on the Zoo Fence along the fence of the Honolulu Zoo.

9.   Visit Ward Warehouse for free hula lessons on Thursdays, country line dance classes on Tuesdays and live Hawaiian music every first Sunday of the month. While there, check out Ward Centers’ locally-owned boutiques for affordable Hawaii souvenirs.

10.   Meet Hawaii’s local fishermen at the early morning Honolulu Fish Auction at Pier 38, where the fresh catch is displayed and auctioned off to island chefs and merchants daily at 5 a.m.

Hawaii Sunset

For more information:

Maui Visitors Bureau – Information on sights, activities, events, accommodations and more.
Oahu Visitors Bureau – Information on how to plan your trip to Honolulu and the island of Oahu.
California Tours Hawaii Vacation Packages – California Tours can arrange flights and hotel accommodations in Honolulu and Maui, as well as the Big Island!

About the Author:

Nancy Brown is a lover of all things travel-related.  She has combined her passion for travel with her professional writing career. Aside from writing for California Tours, Nancy has her own travel blog, www.Nancydbrown.com and writes the “What a Trip” newspaper column for the Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun, a publication of Media News Group.  She is the Lodging Editor for Uptake.com and the on-line Travel Editor for Diablo magazine.  Horse lovers will find her on the Writing Horseback blog.