World’s most eco-friendly beaches to visit now

If your idea of heaven isn’t a beach packed with crisping bodies, balls of crude, or the lingering whiff of raw sewage, don’t worry. CNN has provided a list sandy idylls that retain their purity, even though a few, like Oahu’s Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, are major tourist attractions, or located in tourism hotspots. Not surprisingly, most of these places are located on preserves or otherwise protected land, or are so isolated, they’re spared the excesses of humanity.

Other top picks include Whitehaven Beach in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands, Koh Libong in Trang Province, Thailand, and Oregon’s Oswald West State Park, as well as locations in South and Central America, and Europe. Best of all, there’s something for almost everyone on this list, as accomodations range from off-site luxury, to nearby camping and mid-range beach bungalows and guest houses (due to remote location, prices are somewhat jacked up). Small price to pay for a slice of paradise.

[Via Mother Nature Network]

Beach-bound? Head to these best beaches on the west coast

Hanging 10 in Hawaii? Settling along the California coast? If the West is your destination this summer, don’t miss a day at one of these fabulous west coast beaches. Not only are they free, they offer plenty to do if a day in the sand gets dull (although, we can’t imagine it would)!

Kaanapali Beach – Maui – West Maui’s Ka’anapali Beach is undoubtedly is easily accessible by a concrete path. Here you’ll find Black Rock, along with some of the best snorkeling on the island. Entering right from the wide stretch of golden sand, you will be transported into an underwater world teeming with tropical fishes, a turtle or two, and if you are lucky you’ll spot a few eagle rays. At sunset, you are treated to a free torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony right off Black Rock.

Makena Beach (Big Beach) – Maui – South Maui‘s Makena Beach is a State Park, meaning there is no man-made development. Visitors concentrate on body surfing, snorkeling, or enjoying a picnic with the views of islet, Molokini, in the distance. There are no resorts nearby so there is often ample parking.

Poipu Beach – Kauai – Unlike most beaches in Maui which can get quite rough for timid swimmers, Poipu Beach’s protected area is a great option for beginner swimmers and snorkelers. With lifeguards on duty everyday and a relatively calm environment, it is considered one of the safest beaches in Hawaii.

Lanikai Beach – Oahu – Bypass the more famous Waikiki Beach for the more secluded and postcard-perfect Lanikai Beach. Divers and snorkelers alike will find delight in the reefs. As the sun sets, you could almost swear that Don Ho is strumming his ukulele in the distance. Carmel Beach – Monterey Coast, California – Anyone who has ever been to quaint Carmel-By-The–Sea along the Monterey Coast would have experienced firsthand the beauty of Carmel Beach. The best part? This beach is perfectly pet friendly! Owners and their canine companions can frolic freely on the white sandy beach, play in the water, or throw around a Frisbee.

Huntington Beach, California – Located in sunny Southern California, Huntington Beach has some of the best and most consistent surf in the U.S., making it the ideal site of the annual world surfing championships. Those hesitant to try the surfs firsthand can channel their Karch Kiraly and practice their beach volleyball skills at one of the famous stops on the renowned AVP Beach Volleyball tour.

Coronado Beach, California – Fronting the famed Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Beach has something for everyone. With the widest stretch of sand in San Diego County, it offers plenty of space to fly a kite, fish, or explore the tide pools. It is an excellent location to swim or body board or bike along the path south of Hotel Coronado.

Pismo Beach, California – Located in California’s Central Coast, visitors can walk down the 1,200-foot Pismo Pier to try their hand at catching their dinner or just catch a beautiful sunset. Beach wheelchairs from Wheel Fun Rentals are even available free of charge to visitors.

Half Moon Bay, California – Northern California’s Half Moon Bay offers dozens of beaches along the Pacific Ocean. With its spectacular sea cliffs and beautiful shoreline, Half Moon Bay has some of the best vista points for spotting the annual gray whale migration and elephant seals, and its sandy shores are perfect for horseback riding right on the beach.

Joyce Zee is a Seed.com writer.

Five of Hawaii’s hidden gems

While millions of visitors flock to Hawaii’s fabled golden shores, there are a number of sights around the state that are well-off the typical tourist map – and well worth a visit when in town.

Papohaku Beach, Moloka’i
Stoically occupying the west end of the island of Moloka’i, Papohaku Beach is one of the largest white sand beaches in the state of Hawaii, minus all of the crowds. Nearly three miles long and 100 yards wide, a day with more than 6 people is a crowded day at Papohaku. Visitors can gaze across the Kaiwi channel towards neighboring Oahu, its one million residents and crowded beaches merely an afterthought in this isolated corner of paradise. While campers must obtain a state permit for the campground, casual visits to this expanse of sand are free of charge.

Mo’okini Heiau, birthplace of King Kamehameha, Hawai’i
The first person to unite the Hawaiian Islands under a single system of rule, the journey of the revered King Kamehameha the Great began on this windswept pastureland out on Upolu Point. Set just outside of the sprawling Mo’okini heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple erected in 480 A.D. to Ku., the Hawaiian God of War, a small sign marks where Kamehameha was born in 1858. The sight is reachable via the Upolu airport road, though the final two miles to the heiau are on an uneven dirt road, and four-wheel drive is highly recommended if the road is wet or muddy. Hiking is a good backup option. Free admission.

The “Blue Room”, Kaua’i
Tucked away in the verdant jungles of northern Kaua’i, the “Blue Room” is a fresh-water pool that perfectly catches the sunlight, illuminating an exquisite shade of blue to the cold waters within. Located a short walk up a narrow, muddy trail, the combination of the lush green rainforest, vibrantly colored tropical flowers, and ice-blue water inside of the cave create a hidden treasure on Kaua’i that is literally minutes off of the normally beaten path. Free Admission.

Paliku Cabin, Maui
While thousands of visitors annually make the pre-dawn pilgrimage to witness the sunrise from the summit of Maui’s Haleakala Volcano, few venture down into the intricate network of hiking trails that line the crater floor of Haleakala National Park. Aside from the alien landscape and multi-hued cinder cones exploding from the nearby trails, there are three well maintained cabins inside of the crater that are available for public use, the most stunning of which is Paliku. This quaint cabin at 6,300 ft features an exquisitely lush landscape, and wild nene geese patrol the mist-shrouded hillside. Cabins in the park can be reserved at https://fhnp.org/wcr for a fee of $75/night.

Kaunolu Fishing VIllage, Lana’i
Little more than a rocky outcropping at the base of towering sea cliffs, this National Historic Landmark was once the site of a thriving village that was the recreation center of royalty. A favorite fishing spot of Kamehameha, Kaunolu also features “Kahekili’s Leap”, a spot from which warriors would throw themselves off of a 60 ft. cliff into the bay below to prove their valor. Exceptionally remote, Trilogy Excursions offers snorkeling trips to Kaunolu and the southwestern coastline of Lana’i. ($150/day)

Hawaii’s very own “Stairway to Heaven,” the Ha’iku Stairs

Daredevils the world over have found numerous ways to conquer their fear of heights. There’s Sydney’s Harbor Bridge or the terrifying El Caminito del Rey in Spain. But for sheer vertical height or astounding views, there may be no more perilous set of steps than the Ha’iku Stairs on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu.

Currently off-limits to the public, the Ha’iku Stairs is a series of nearly 4,000 steps rising 2,800 feet to a peak in the Ha’iku Valley. Originally constructed in 1943 to help the Navy install and maintain a series of radio antennae, the climb has long been an underground hiker favorite for its ridiculous heights and amazing views. Take a look at these photos and you’ll understand why the stairs were nicknamed the “Stairway to Heaven.”

Don’t dust off your climbing shoes just yet. The area has been closed to visitors since 1987 and trespassers risk serious injury or death on the poorly maintained trail. Thankfully, groups like the Friends of Ha’iku Stairs have been lobbying for the site’s eventual reopening. You can sign a petition on the site to help voice your support and help renew public access to this unique place. Let’s hope this one-of-a-kind attraction will once again see the light of day.

Best of Honolulu: eat that poke, people!

Honolulu Magazine: Best of Honolulu 2010Honolulu Magazine has a long tradition of nailing food trends on Oahu, the most populous Hawaiian island and home to the wonderful hive horde of Waikiki. For their part, foodies love Honolulu due to its wildly cosmopolitan flavors and “East meets anything goes” savoir faire.

The annual “Best Of” issue from the magazine just hit the racks and it’s a must-read for intinerant noshers. One key highlight is, naturally enough for Hawaii, the fish. Ahi in particular is the strong suite for Hawaii.

The “Best Poke” prize goes to Alicia’s Market, a joint that sells 200 pounds a day of raw ahi and tako (that’s octopus) Hawaiian-style ceviche flavored with soy sauce, oyster sauce, inamona (candlenut powder), jalapenos and everything else. Missing out on poke in Hawaii is like skipping the poisson cru in Tahiti. The stuff is so onolicious that have one bite and you’re hooked for life. Alicia’s offers particularly fresh and flavorful poke (although the freshly mixed stuff at the Fort Ruger Market is perhaps still the best classic poke in Honolulu).

Alicia’s Market
267 Mokauea St., Honolulu, HI
808-841-1921

Alex Salkever is the founder of Hawaiirama, a travel blog focused on Hawaii. He takes you on his own poke odyssey here in an extensive five-part tasting spree.