A Sportif Guide to Hawaii
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Winter Travel Guide 1996
A Sportif Guide to Hawaii
The fish are jumpin’ and the waves are high-how to play like a kamaaina
Here’s the secret: The North Shore is usually far less hairy than its ominous press clippings. Waimea Bay’s 30-foot monsters and the Banzai Pipeline’s 20-foot killer tubes are actually quite rare. Even in the dead of winter, waves in the three- to five-foot range are most common, and the six- to eight-footers arrive on the average of once a week for one to three days. Load up
Just don’t get cocky. Waimea Bay doesn’t even begin to break until it hits 20 feet, and Pipeline’s lyrical curl is produced by such a shallow reef there’s always a decent chance of getting body-slammed. And always call 808-596-SURF before you get in the water to make sure the big stuff isn’t just over the horizon. When it is, the local guys with the eku (sun-bleached) hair leap
For surfboard rentals, lessons, and surf updates, contact Surf-N-Sea in Haleiwa (637-9887). Boards rent for $18 per day, $70 per week; longboards for $30 daily, $100 weekly; car rack, $4 per day. Used surfboards sell for about $100. Lessons are $65 for two hours, including equipment and transportation.
Pakala Point, on the west coast of Kauai, is ideal for surfers who like variety that’s relatively tame. One side of the point is protected and gets three- to five-foot breaks that are good for goofy fun rides; the other side gets not-so-tame northwesterly swells up to eight feet. Purely a surfers’ spot, with few sunbathers and swimmers, Pakala is secluded down an unmarked path
You can windsurf Hookipa, of course, if you have the hankering and enough board time behind you–even this patch of untamed water off Maui’s North Shore, near the cosmic haole town of Paia, has its slow times. Just don’t count on it, not from October to May. If the howling is unabated, there’s no dishonor in cranking it back a little down the coast a few miles at Kanaha Beach
If it’s windrunning and not wave-bumping you crave, drive to North Kihei on the other side of the island, where the trades funneling through Maui’s saddle and shallow depth create ideal conditions for both heroic speed and severe coral burn.
Sailboards Maui in Kahului (871-7954) has some 125 rental rigs, all with two sails and car rack (sailboards, $49 daily, $275 weekly; lessons, $59 for one to two hours, $162 for three days, $25 additional for advanced lessons; equipment free for beginners, half-price for intermediate and advanced).
Keep the speed but hold the 911 calls to a minimum at Oahu’s Kailua Bay, where the famously steady sideshore and onshore tradewinds, a fringing reef, and deeper water mean pedal-to-the-metal slalom runs without the worry of getting blown to Bali or peeled like a banana. Kailua has no annoying half-mile limit, so you can buzz as close to the five-mile-long, powder-white beach as
In addition to their abundance of fish, these fishing waters are known as the calmest in the state. Captain Peter Hoogs of the Pamela (half-day share, $109; full-day charter, $560; 329-3600) has landed thousand-pound Pacific blue and black marlins; demand that he do the same for you. For perspective, see Hoogs’s 1,143-pound Pacific blue mounted on the wall of the Kona Charter
On Kauai, winter swells allow for fishing the teeming waters off Niihau on an overnight charter. Fishing for Fun ($1,500 for four people; 822-3899) leaves from Nawiliwili Harbor, trolls around Niihau, and stops in gentle water overnight before heading back via the Barking Sands area. They don’t get as many blue marlin as they do in Kona, but they pull in striped marlin and
But the experience is sublime. Much of the hike is above tree line, and crosses lava fields before winding up at a summit crater eerily similar to those on the moon. Contact ace guide and outfitter Rob Pacheco (Hawaii Forest & Trail in Kona, 800-464-1993); he’ll take one to four hikers for $775, which includes most gear. Hikers should bring long underwear and a rain
On Molokai you can crank it down a couple of notches with a day hike in the Kamakou Preserve, one of the most pristine stands of old-growth tropical forest and untouched upcountry swamp left in Hawaii. It’s a birder’s paradise of honeycreepers and other now-rare native birds, and a storehouse of 219 plants found only in Hawaii. Ohelo, violets, and stunted red-blossomed ohia
This 2,774-acre preserve is under the stewardship of the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii.
Don’t expect a tough hike, but with a mile along slippery boards suspended just above the muck, the footing can be tricky. The hard part is getting there. The eight-mile dirt entry road is unmarked, sometimes impassable, and requires four-wheel-drive transportation. The Nature Conservancy (553-5236) conducts a guided hike each month (members, $15 donation; non-members, $25);
Well-known and well-worn though they may be, Kauai’s wonderful trails invite repeat visits. The spectacular 11-mile Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali coast is a bit hairy in winter, but the wind-sculpted cliffs and dramatic gorges you’ll traverse are worth the effort. (For a day-use or overnight camping permit, call the Division of State Parks, 274-3444.) It’s a strenuous two- or
Kokee State Park’s many remarkable 4,000-foot-high loops include Awaawapuhi, a 6.5-mile (round-trip) up-and-down trail through cloud-draped ohia and koa forests, cliffs, and valleys that culminates in a dizzying ocean-view lookout. Also in Kokee is the four-mile round-trip Canyon Trail leading to Waipoo Falls overlooking Waimea Canyon. For trail information and maps, check with
Diving and Snorkeling
Want to see a Spanish Dancer nudibranch, the tiny mollusk with bright red and black stripes? Sea turtles glaring at you from shelves, eels gaping from under rocks, and hundreds of indigenous fish? Take the 80-foot Kona Aggressor II (seven-day charter, $1,695 per person; $1,795 in 1997; call Live/Dive Pacific, 800-344-5662), a luxurious live-aboard dive boat; stops all the way
At night, Kona Coast Divers (329-8802) in Kona will put you in 30 feet of water at Manta Ray Village for an unforgettable hour (one-tank dive, $55).
The best day trip is on Kauai, where Bubbles Below (all-day, three-tank dive, $235; 822-3483) runs small groups of experienced divers to untouched Lehua Island, just off Niihau. You’ll see everything from schools of graytip reef sharks to clouds of butterflyfish, all feeding off the rich current.
For beginners, George and Jeannette Thompson of Ocean Quest Watersports on Kauai offer an introductory dive package (two-tank dive, $120; 822-3589) from Koloa Landing and Tunnel Beach, where you’ll see everything from flounders to turtles.
Snorkelers should head to tiny Ahihi Bay on Maui, about three miles past the Maui Prince Hotel in Makena on the gravel road, where big parrotfish and triggerfish swim in a bed of lava. Kealakekua Bay, 12 miles south of Kona on the Big Island, is a marine sanctuary with shore access at Napoopoo Beach Park. From there it’s a one-mile swim to a reef on the north side of the bay,
Since Kauai’s Na Pali coast and Molokai’s north shore are socked in with large, dangerous waves all winter, look to the calmer, leeward coasts for paddling, and do it in the morning before the winds start up. Kayak Kauai Outfitters (800-437-3507) leads an all-day excursion ($105 per person) to Kipu Kai, an isolated beach on the south shore accessible only by sea. You’ll paddle
On Molokai, Fun Hogs Hawaii, at the Kaluakoi Resort & Golf Club, offers guided two-hour paddles along the barrier reef fringing the south shore ($40 per person; call 552-2242). The five-mile paddle passes ancient Hawaiian fishponds and religious sites before landing in the Kawela area. They’ll also take you kayak-surfing on gentle breakers, the ultimate pissoir (French for
On Maui, South Pacific Kayaks and Outfitters in Kihei goes from La Perouse Bay around the desolate southern point to lava-formed coves that are backdropped by mighty Haleakala. The six-hour trip stops for lunch at an ancient, abandoned village ($85 per person; 875-4848). Dolphins and humpbacks are frequently sighted.
During low tide in Oahu, don’t miss the party scene at the sandbar in Kaneohe Bay on the windward side, a half-hour paddle from the Heeia Kea boat harbor. The pristine spit of white sand has as its backdrop the wind-battered Koolau Mountains. Rent kayaks from Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks (half-day rentals, $22-$29; 262-2555), across from Kailua Beach Park.
Lanai’s Hulopoe Beach is a sandy crescent a third of a mile long with perfect sand, ideal water, and few people. Facing directly south, it is thus protected from the northeast tradewinds and the barreling swells. A beer-commercial beach come to life, it even has its own resident pod of spinner dolphins. You could snag one of the hard-to-get camping permits for Hulopoe ($5 per
On Maui, good choices are Polo and Oneloa (familiarly called Big Beach), a few miles apart at Wailea and Makena, respectively. Although they’re in a west-facing part of the island, only the most persistent northwesterly swells can squeeze past sheltering Molokai and Lanai. The skimboarder’s paradise of Big Beach has thick kiawe groves that shield it from the road, and not a
Even a northeast-facing beach can sometimes show some sympathy for the winter tourist. Oahu has few top choices for sandy bliss in winter (unless you don’t mind Waikiki, of course), but the mild-mannered Sherwood Forest section of miles-long Waimanalo Beach is the exception. It has a generous beach, a gently sloping sandy bottom, and waves tamed by offshore reefs. It also faces
Sometimes you can find one of the rare sheltered cove beaches along an otherwise exposed stretch of coastline. Little Makaiwa Bay on the Big Island is such a beach, a sandy, northwest-facing comma crouching behind lava rock on the often winter-wave-wracked Kohala Coast. All Hawaiian beaches are public, but this one, at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, is a little tricky.
It’s even possible to buck the odds and nail a north-facing beach on one of its quieter days, as long as it’s similar to Kee on Kauai. Kee isn’t hard to find–truck through Hanalei on the North Shore, head west along the jungly coast on the only road, and park where the pavement runs out at the Kalalau trailhead. That’s Kee, a little beauty barricaded behind a broad-shouldered