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Guidebook Review – Kauai Trailblazer

Have you ever read a guidebook that made you want to hop on a plane and get there already? That’s the way I felt after browsing Kauai Trailblazer, by Jerry & Janine Sprout, a writer and graphic designer who have lived and vacationed on Kauai for more than a decade. They clearly know the island inside and out, love exploring it on foot and by flipper, and want to share their intimate knowledge of Kauai’s adventurous side with other intrepid travelers.

Kauai Trailblazer is not your typical “where to stay, where to eat, what to do” travel guidebook. Instead it spells out in great detail “where to hike, snorkel, bike, paddle and surf” on this Hawaiian island known as the “Garden Isle” because of its lush vegetation. Sandy beaches, mountain trails, winding rivers and coral reefs also add to this island's allure for visitors who want to spend more time exploring hidden Hawaii than lying poolside.

The book divides the island into regions—Napali, Kong, Wailu, Poipu and Waimea. In each region, the authors list trailheads that might lead to a snorkeling beach or a waterfall hike, a mountain-bike path or a put-in for kayak river journey. Each trail is incredibly detailed; it's clear the authors have hoofed the paths personally.

Driving and parking directions are specific, and they give important insiders’ information, i.e. “Beyond the Hyatt, the road is unpaved and seriously potholed. The bumpy drive dissuades some tourists.” Maps clearly mark highways, main roads and trailheads, and driving tours lead visitors by car to lesser-known parts of the island.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the “Free advice and opinion” section filled with sports safety tips. Some advice is a bit irreverent (“People have been walking here for centuries: If there is no trail already, you can’t get there” and “Give right-of-way to a 400-pound pig”) but also important, especially for visitors (“If you get swept out [in the ocean current], go with it and then swim parallel to shore once the current has taken you out and released you”).

The book also lists the dozens of Kauai locations where Hollywood has filmed major motion pictures; each is labeled by trailhead. A glossary of Hawaiian words and phrases will help you fit in with the locals. And a Kauai packing checklist will remind you of what gear to bring along.

The authors recommend a number of their favorite local restaurants, list the times and places of the island’s free hula shows, and detail nature walks, beach picnics and mellow snorkeling spots that are ideal for kids.

Kauai Trailblazer is just one in a series of books by the Sprouts. They’ve also collaborated on Trailblazer books on Maui, Oahu, The Big Island, the San Francisco area and the Alpine Sierra.


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