Kauai, Hawaii, USA 2015/2016
Touchdown at the Lihue airport (Kauai's main hub) you instantly feel the hot blast of humid air as the flight attendants open the main doors. This is a common feeling when landing in any tropical zone. It has become one of my favourite feelings. The flight was easy. 6 hours from Seattle airport over the ocean the whole time. Most of the airport is open without windows and the luggage corral is in a large fenced in room, with a high beamed ceiling. There are only two carrasols for the whole airport. Our luggage arrives in a surprisingly quick manner.
My first impression of Kauai is the vivid green tropics. The trees and flora are so beauiful and different here. The first plant I recognize is a lush red Hibiscus bush. The island is covered in stereotypical Hawaiian flowers. I love it!
Our condo is only 10 minutes from the airport to the east along the ocean. We are staying in Kaha Lani resort, rented through Kauai Vacation Rentals . We have landed earlier than planned and arrive at our place before check in time. The maintainence lady putting the finishing touches on our place allowed us in early. This is heaven sent for a weary traveler. Nobody wants to go sit somewhere, while having to wait for their room. Being allowed in early is always well appreciated after a long day of traveling. The condo is clean, beautiful and spacious. Perfect for our group of seven on this trip. There are large panoramic windows overlooking the communal pool, that is halfway between the beach and our place. Being on the east side of the island, we get to wake up to a beautiful sunrise (don't think I ever actually got up that early. Some crazy people did.) morning are spent sitting on our porch drinking coffee (Locally small batch roasted I may add, so good).
The second day was Christmas Eve, and we ventured to Kalipaki in Lihue. It is the beach right infront of the Kauai Marriott with calm little kiddie waves on the left, and larger surfing waves on the right. It is in a protected harbour that serves as the port for yachts and cruise ships. This spot seems to be popular with both locals and tourists. There are lots of great food places and shops on the waterfront at Kalipaki beach. While at this beach we have spotted a sea turtle and a little manta ray! To find the best parking for the beach you go down the drive way for the Marriot, past the main entry to the hotel (you will know it when you see it) and a bit further down on your right there will be a sign saying "Kalipaki beach access". Follow the road down to beside the hotel and this is the best place to park. It is steps away from the beach and even in busy season, we always find a place to park. It is a small blessing knowing where this parking lot is. Trying to park in the public lot for the beach is insane. Plus it is shaded by the hotel. No hot cars! Greg tried Stand Up Paddle Surfing with boards rented from Boss Frogs in Kapaa on the right side of the beach. While I just hung out and frolicked in shallow calmer waters of the left side, determined not to get my hair wet. After a while we walked along the path between the beach and the hotel that leads to a small shopping area. Here we found an ABC store . These store have anything you can want. They are similar to a small corner store with lots of souvenir items as well. Everything was a good buy here! I bought strings of pearls for my jewelry making, some souvenirs for friends and my new favourite snack, Maui Onion and Gralic roasted Macadamia nuts! Dinner was purchased from the Costco in Lihue, and was comprised of surf'n'turf steak and jumbo prawns.
Christmas Day! We opened presents this morning and made a lovely breakfast in our condo. A five minute walk down to the left of our condo is a public beach and park called Lidgate . There is a large wooden play structure that will keep and kid (and some kids at heart like me) busy for hours. There is also a sectioned off part of the beach here with barriers built up in a U shape going out into the ocean to create a calm pool. This has been a great little place for snorkelling. It is great for begginers and little children because there are no large crashing waves, shallow waters and you are pretty much garunteed to see some beautiful fish. We always see some Rainbow Wrasses, Female Angelfish, Bluefin Jacks, Flounders, Butterfly Fish, and Yellow Tangs. Our rarer finds in this pool have been a female and male porcupine fish, a pair of barracudas, and a little octopus that only let us see it for a second before hiding in the rocks and refusing to come out. There are many more fish in this pool that I was not able to identify.
On the 26th, we went on our daily snorkel at Lidgate park in the morning. Then we headed to the north shore of the island to go to Honalei Bay. Honalei is a small town on the north shore of the island. It is beautiful and picturesque, filled with tons of cute shops and food places. The bay is great for surfing and boogie boarding. Many companies have surfing lessons running off the beach, or you can rent a board and just mess around. Make sure you know the common courtesy when surfing so you don't anger anyone. Basically, don't run over anyone or cut them off and always hang onto your board. The waves will yank and throw it all over the place if you aren't holding onto it, and that could seriously hurt someone (that's why you always wear your ankle strap). I am always wary to try new things due to a fear of getting injured. So I tried surfing for the first time and on my first run, I wiped out. I got discouraged and let someone else have the board. So I swam around and boogie boarded a bit more. But I told myself to suck it up and just do it so I took a second go at surfing. I was on a mediocre sized board for my first couple goes, it was okay but still a bit small for someone of my size and only being a begginer, I could only get onto my knees. Then I tried going a a bit larger board, about the same size as a small SUP board and stood up my first run! I had a few more good runs and let someone else try. Surfing is definitely something everyone needs to try. We went back to Honalei again a second time and I had a go at surfing again! Too much fun.
Next after Honalei bay we stopped at the Queens Bath in Princeville on our way home. It was supposed to be an easy 5 minute walk, but it turned into a 20 minute adventure due to the recent rainfall. The path had turned into a mud slip and slide. The walk was an easy descent down the side of the coast. It was possible to keep your feet relatively clean, but it took a lot of extra work. Most of us decided shoes weren't helping and went barefoot! It was worth the muddy hike when we came to the shore line. There is a small waterfall that feeds into a sinkhole surrounded by igneous basaltic rock (lava). Waves from the ocean also crash into the sinkhole. This causes a deadly situation for people who brave trying to swim in the pool. The death count was at 29 when we went there. Nobody tried to go into the water. But we cleaned off the mud on out feet and legs in the stream just before it went over the edge into the queens bath. The rocks were interesting to climb over. There is a large cliff with overlooking the baths you can walk around on. This place is definitely a must see on the island.
For dinner, we went to Chicken in a Barrel in Kapaa. It is a barbecue place with the most amazing food (it got 4.5 stars on Yelp and Tripadvisor). It looks like it is a shack on the side of the road with picknick tables. The food is cooked in steel barrel barbecues right in front of your eyes. I ordered the sample plate with pulled pork, ribs, grilled chicken, chilli and rice. The food was so delicious and the barbecue sauce was the perfect combination of smokey, spicy and sweet! The food is very well priced and I highly suggest it. There are Chicken in a Barrels all over the island you can check out! It's worth the visit!
My favourite food on the planet is Italian. So for dinner another night we went and found the best Italian on the island. I love good pasta and pizza and eat it on the regualar (maybe I need to cut back a bit). If you need a good sit down dinner place in Kapaa, I suggest Bobby V's . It is a smaller local Italian restaurant right on the highway. The staff and food are so wonderful here, and they have indoor and outdoor seating. We ordered the big shared bowl of spaghetti and a large Jakes pizza. The Big Spaghetti Bowl supposedly feeds 6 people, but between 7 of us having multiple servings we were only able to eat three quarters. The Big Spaghetti Bowl cost $29.99, but there is a Small Spaghetti Bowl option for $16.99 that feeds 4 people. I feel we could have gotten away with that. The rest had to be packaged up and taken home. The Jakes pizza should be called Joeys pizza and been featured on the TV show Friends. It was beautiful Italian thin crust with homemade sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, bacon and we added mushrooms to give it a healthier appeal. Mouthwatering delicious.
Wialua river is the largest river on the island. It is slow and wanders down a canyon that heads into the mountains in the centre of the island. It is popular to rent kayaks and paddle up the river to Secret Falls. Bring good walking shoes you don't mind getting muddy and wet! We rented some kayaks from Kamokila Hawaiian Village and took our stand up paddle boards for the short trip up the river to where the path to secret falls starts. Most people paddle from the mouth of the river all the way up to the falls, but we opted for the shorted trip, starting at the Hawaiian village. Once you reach the start of the path, you pull your kayak or SUP onto the shore and follow the path! You need to cross a river once but from there on the hike is quite easy. The only thing that makes it more difficult is the mud. This is why you need to bring good shoes. We reached Secret Falls and it was beautiful. The waterfall is 120 feet high and end in a pool that you can swim in. Be careful if you try and stand under the waterfall, it is very powerful! The water is a bit chilly, but it is nice after the hike. When you come back to your kayaks on the river their are a couple more places you can go see. We did not have time to check them out but I heard they are very beautiful. There is Fern Grotto, a outcropping that goes over the river where lots of lush ferns grow and the King and Queens bath. The Baths are shallow swimming pools. The kayak and hike were tons of fun! I love seeing waterfalls, but I wish I had brought better shoes. Learn from my mistakes!
If you want to go somewhere that you will really remember check out Makauwahi Cave Reserve and Tortise Farm in Poipu. There is a large sinkhole and cave systems out can go in and see with a lot of cool geoglogical and anthropological history. If that doesn't ring your bell, then go see the tortises on the farm just on the other side of the parking lot. The farm is small scale and works to repopulate Kauai with its indigenous species of plants. They try to take kids out on field trips through schools to replant around the island. Kauai has been overrun by many invasive species, and this is where the tortises come into play. The tortises roam around the farm and eat the invasive grasses and weeds that choke out the native plants. There are 16 adult tortises and recently due to El Niño they have had a bunch of babies! The small little guys range from the size of a matchbox car to a large orange. The tortises are a really smart way to control the invasive plants. They need little care, live long and do not do harm to the environment. The road to get in is very tough, I would not brave it when it was muddy, but lucky for us when we went it was dry. We just had to take it slow. The best way to get in, if you do not want to attack the bumpy road is to drive to the CMJ Horse Stables and walk 200 meters to the parking lot of the reserve. From there you just hop a fence into the farm! (Don't worry that is how you are supposed to get in, look for the signs). Also, if you want to have a nice picnic if you turn left instead of right on the path to the caves you will come to a beautiful beach! Public is welcome on this private property, just be kind and take everything (trash) you bring with you.
I love snorkelling, even though I have a small fear of open water and bigger fish. Lydgate park was good for getting warmed up to snorkelling but Poipu Beach on the west side of the island was amazing. We had tried to go to Poipu a couple of times and the first time the waves were way to crazy for us to swim in and the second time there was no parking! The third time we found a spot and had a nice day relaxing on the beach. Poipu is a public beach comprised mostly of tourists. You didn't see many locals around. But for the amount of people that were there, I was shocked at how great the snorkelling was. To get out to the snorkelling it is best to find the strip of sand that runs out to the reef. Otherwise you will be walking on rocks and coral, and that isn't very good. I suggest some flippers for snorkelling here. The waves aren't crazy but you do get pulled around a bit. And there is quite a large area to cover when snorkelling here. I love tropical fish (only to look at) and there was such a great variety at Poipu. I was taking underwater photos using my Lifeproof Nuud case on my iPhone and I got some amazingly clear shots.
A great surf beach in Poipu is called Shipwreck beach. We went there to go surfing that day, but the waves were so crazy even some of the locals weren't going. and the really experienced surfers were struggling. So we just hung out on the beach and went up to the look out. Head down to the south end of the beach and you will see the trail head in the trees.Its is a small 5 minute hike up a sketchy path but its worth the view. I could see whales from up there!
My expirience of Kauai on this trip has made it a place I want to go back to in the future. I loved the culture and nature on the island. The majority of people I talked to while on this trip said that Kauai is their favourite island (out of the Hawaiian islands). My favourite things here were snorkelling, food and Honalei bay. On my next trip I hope to find more snorkelling spots and see the Napali coast. We just didn't have much time to fit everything in on this trip. But that is okay! It is an excuse to come back!