Archive for December, 2017


*** Check out the first post of our trip to Kauai and read them in order! ***

We began Saturday with a quick breakfast at the condo and left at 8:40am to head north around the east side of the island. Our ultimate destination was the Kilauea Point Refuge, but we decided to stop first at Opaeka Falls since it was more or less on the route.

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Opaeka Falls as seen from the viewing area.

We parked at the small parking area and then walked the short distance to a viewing area atop a bridge spanning the Wailua River. On the right side of the bridge, we could see the Opaeka Falls off in the distance. After crossing the road to the other side of the bridge and another small viewing area, we had an amazing view of the wide Wailua River making its way to the ocean. As we watched, a group of standup paddleboarders disappeared from view around a bend downstream.

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The serene Waimea River meandering down to the ocean..if you look close, you can see some stand-up paddleboarders down stream.

After a few minutes, we returned to the car and got back on the road heading around the island. In the small hamlet of Kilauea, we stopped at a coffee shop and loaded up on coffee and delicious pastries (lemon bar, cinnamon roll, rum ball). A mile or so further and we arrived at the upper parking lot for the Kilauea Point Refuge.

General driver incompetence led to a minor traffic jam at the entrance to the small parking lot but Philip craftily weaved his way around and found a place to park. We walked over to the railing at the edge of the cliff and were met with an outstanding view of a steep canyon descending to the beautiful water below.

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Two happy travelers enjoying our trip to Kauai.

Technically, we were not even inside the refuge yet but Betsy could have spent all day standing at this one spot watching the different types of birds. The most prominent by far were the red-footed boobies and the great frigate birds. The latter were easy to distinguish because they are quite large and boast a prominent forked tail. Rose and Robin took a quick walk down the road toward the true refuge entrance but returned soon after since it was clear that driving was the best method for getting down there.

As Rose returned, she asked Philip from a distance what he was looking at through the binoculars. He had almost shouted back, “I’m looking at boobies!” before thinking better of it. After a while at the top, we finally decided to go down into the actual refuge and returned to the car to do just that.

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Two Ne Ne’s (Hawaiian geese) at the Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge.

When we got to the lower parking lot, one of the first things we noticed were the Ne Ne birds (essentially rare Hawaiian geese) walking nearby. As geese go, these ones are fairly beautiful and have an interesting vertical stripe pattern on their necks. We also saw the burrows of young wedge-tailed shearwaters in the brush next to the lot and could see the adorable fluffball-like inhabitants nestled inside.

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A young wedge-tailed shearwater in its burrow.

At the ranger’s station, we elected to buy the $20 annual National Parks pass for Betsy. It would have cost us the same price total for the four of us to enter the refuge just today anyway and the pass allows her to bring at least three guests with her for no cost.

The refuge actually has seemingly little land area and consists mainly of a narrow peninsula of land with a lighthouse at the edge. However, the peninsula has sheer cliffs down to the water on all three sides and these make a perfect nesting place for all kinds of seabirds. A small island just off the end of the peninsula also serves as a safe haven for the birds.

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The Kilauea Point light house at the edge of the peninsula.

We walked out to the end of the peninsula and spent another 30 minutes or so checking out the different birds. Beyond what we mentioned already, we were also able to see both white-tailed and red-tailed tropicbirds riding the thermals along the cliffs. We kept an eye out for whales in the water below but it was the wrong season for them so we did not expect much.

By 11:30, it was time to head back around the island for our afternoon boating activity. Phil drove while everyone else ate their packed lunches and took Dramamine to prevent (hopefully) any motion sickness issues in the hours to come. We made fantastic time and got to the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor about 30 minutes earlier than we had expected.

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Even the parking areas on Kauai are beautiful. This is the Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor where we would depart for our catamaran tour.

 

To kill the time, we found a small patch of beach and Philip finally got a chance to eat his lunch. Robin sunned on a small section of beach there while Rose and Betsy…er…shaded. It wasn’t the finest beach we’ve seen on Kauai (super silty due to very fine sand) but certainly adequate for what we needed.

At the appropriate time, we moved over to the pavilion near the boat docks where people were gathering. While we waited for two stragglers, the captain gave us a safety briefing and a somewhat confusing monologue about our plans for the trip. We had booked a catamaran ride around the Na Pali coast with a stop along the way to snorkel. As the captain talked, he essentially said that we might stop to snorkel, we might not; we might go all the way up the coast, we might not. He would feel out the “mood of the boat” and decide at the right time.

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Robin enjoying our catamaran cruise around the Na Pali coast.

Hoping that snorkeling would actually be part of our trip, we boarded the boat (minus the two people who never made it) and settled into the front bench seat for the ride out. During the journey, we talked at various times with both of the deckhands. Adam, the younger of the two, is actually from Fort Collins, Colorado (only an hour away from us), but has lived on Kauai for several years now. The other deck hand (unfortunately don’t remember his name) is a native of the island and has spent most of his life on a boat in the waters around Kauai.

It was cool to talk to them and we learned many interesting details about the scenery around us. One item of note is the island of Nihau, which sits off the west side of Kauai and is also known as the Forbidden Island. We had heard some of the details about why Nihau is generally off limits to most tourists but it was neat to hear the more personal stories from our deck hands. The older deck hand has many friends on Nihau and he was able to explain a lot about Hawaiian customs in general and the specifics of life on the Forbidden Island.

He also told us about another interesting Hawaiian custom as we passed by some white cliffs. When a king died, a single soldier had the task to scale down the cliff face and choose a spot in which to place the royal bones. This act complete, the soldier would leap to his death so that nobody living would know which bones were from the former king and thus nobody could steal them and perhaps cause harm to the king’s spirit.

This cliff is located at the westernmost point of Kauai because the Hawaiians believed that spirits travel to the west when a person dies. In fact, Hawaiians would never have an east-facing door in their home for fear of accidentally trapping a spirit inside.

Just before reaching those white cliffs on the western edge of Kauai, we passed by the Pacific Missile Firing Range, the premier Navy installation for missile and interceptor testing. Interestingly, the Navy purchased this large swath of land (a dozen or so miles of beach) for very little money because the king thought he was outsmarting the Navy. He assumed that the Navy would come for a while and then, when they left, all of the spirits would leave with them. The problem, though, is that the Navy has never left the island and they just got a great deal on some oceanfront property.

The missile range is also home to a very unique section of beach known as Barking Sands. In addition to being a refuge for seabirds, Barking Sands is also known for the auditory experience it provides. The sand granules on this particular beach are shaped as tiny, hollow spheres and when they rub together from the wind or from footsteps, they make a noise that sounds roughly like the muffled bark of a dog. We didn’t visit the beach itself on this trip (takes some planning since you need to gain access to the missile range) but we certainly will attempt it next time we are on Kauai.

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The view from our catamaran as we cruised up the Na Pali coast.

After passing the missile range, we rounded a point on the island and got our first view of the famous Na Pali Coast. This is Kauai at its most magnificent with beautiful cliffs and tree-covered canyons rising dramatically from the ocean. Before long, the captain stopped the boat at the base of one of the cliffs and announced that we would indeed be snorkeling here today! Since the two of us had brought our own snorkeling gear, we grabbed some fins and were among the first in the water.

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Snorkeling at the Na Pali coast.

As might be expected, the water here was much deeper than our previous beach snorkeling. We saw a lot of fish, but they weren’t as plentiful as we had hoped. After about 30 minutes, most people had made it back to the boat. Philip was about to do the same when he saw an enormous sea turtle directly below him and so he instead followed it around for a few minutes. It’s hard to explain exactly why but sea turtles are fascinating creatures to observe in the wild. We noticed the same thing when we snorkeled in Belize. Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of their ridiculous looking bodies with the incredible ease of how they move through the water that makes them so interesting.

Eventually, the turtle swam away and Philip climbed out of the water to find that lunch had been served (pre-made sandwiches and chips) and that Rose was not feeling well. It turns out that riding at the bow of the boat for the bouncy outbound journey may not have been the best decision after all. Thus, the two of us spent the remainder of the trip at the very back of the boat where the ride is the smoothest. Rose also did not talk much for the next few hours for fear of more than words coming out of her mouth if she opened it.

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The Na Pali coast with rugged mountains and numerous waterfalls. You can see two in this picture (one on either side of the center ridge).

For everyone but Rose, the remainder of the journey was magnificent. We continued around the Na Pali Coast until we could see Ke’e Beach at the eastern end. The afternoon sun did not disappoint as it bathed the steep, rugged cliffs in light and we consequently took way too many pictures. We also saw a few waterfalls, including another one that was featured in Jurassic Park.

As we passed Kalalau Canyon (same canyon we had seen from above yesterday at the end of Waimea Canyon), we saw the stunning Kalalau Beach at the base. The captain explained that the only way to access the beach legally is by hiking 11 miles from Ke’e Beach down the Kalalau Trail. He also indicated that there are people on Kauai who will drop you off by boat but this is against the law. We got glimpses of the trail at various points and we have added hiking its full length to our travel bucket list.

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Kalalau Beach in front of the “Cathedral” on the Na Pali Coast. The only legal way to get to this beach is to hike 11 miles, which we will certainly be doing the next time we come to Kauai!

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The “Cathedral” cliffs on the Na Pali coast with the beach at the base. Kalalau Canyon is just to the left.

At the turnaround point, the captain took the boat closer into the cliffs and we stopped several times on the return journey to check out some caves. In the summer months, the water around Na Pali is much calmer and boats can actually go into the caves but that was not an option for us on this trip.

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A waterfall emptying into the ocean in front of a small cave.

We did get very close to the cave openings at times and the captain even pulled the boat right next to a waterfall. As he maneuvered to exit, he slid the rear of the boat directly under the path of the waterfall…the rear of the boat where Rose was sitting. In less than a second, she was wetter than if she had fallen in the ocean. Thankfully, she was an amazing sport about it and dried off in the warm wind before too long.

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One of the many caves along the base of the Na Pali coast. This one has a small waterfall cascading down in front of it, a waterfall in which Rose took an impromptu shower.

The two other highlights of the return journey were a pod of five or so dolphins that played alongside the boat for a few minutes and the delicious brownies for dessert! When we finally made it back to the dock, Rose spent a few minutes happily reacquainting herself with firm ground and then we hopped in the car to head back to the condo. We did make a quick stop at a grocery store for some more supplies and were pleasantly surprised that the prices were not as egregious as we had been warned.

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The Na Pali coast bathed in evening light.

Once home, we showered and fairly quickly headed for bed. It was a very big day but we got to see virtually the entire island. Tomorrow is looking to be another big day as we are planning on a long hike to the base of a waterfall and need to get up early. Kauai has not disappointed thus far and we hope it continues to deliver for the rest of our trip!

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Our path for the day. A->B (white): Driving to Opaeka Falls. B->C (white): Driving to Kilauea Point Refuge. C->C (green): Exploring the refuge. C->D (red): Driving to Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor. D->D (yellow): Riding a catamaran up and down the Na Pali coast. D->A (purple): Driving back to the condo after a long day.

Summary:

  • A quick stop at Opaeka Falls
  • Bird watching at the Kilauea Point Refuge
  • A long drive around the island
  • Cruising around the Na Pali Coast on a catamaran
  • Snorkeling with a sea turtle
  • Rose and choppy seas are not friends

Stats:

  • Distance on Foot: 5.93 miles| 10,119 steps
  • Distance Swimming: 0.9 miles
  • Distance in Car: 112.8 miles
  • Distance in Boat: 58.3 miles

*** Check out the first post of our trip to Kauai and read them in order! ***

The two of us woke up very early on Friday morning and decided to go for a walk to see sunrise over the ocean. Fortunately, there was a nice path to get us most of the way to Shipwreck Beach because it was very, very dark as we walked. We may have seen a jogger go by wearing a Bolder Boulder t-shirt, but we can’t be sure.

Just before reaching the beach, we came by the Grand Hyatt hotel, which has possibly the coolest swimming pool we have ever seen. It is amorphous in shape and with lots of little coves and inlets, and has a large section of sandy beach rather than concrete stairs. We sat on a bench swing outside the Hyatt for a few minutes, but then decided to head across the beach to a bluff on the other side.

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The sweet swimming pool at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Walking across Shipwreck was challenging due to the deep sand. This had been on our list of beaches to checkout for snorkeling, but the lack of a wave break seems to make it undesirable for that purpose. We climbed the small bluff with ease (yay sea level!), despite Philip wearing flip-flops. There were a handful of other people at the top, but we were able to find a section to ourselves to watch the sun come up over the ocean.

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Looking back at Shipwreck Beach from atop the bluff.

With the day now officially started, we headed back to the condo and, for the first time, noticed that there are chickens EVERYWHERE! They roam wildly all over the island and are just a quirky aspect of life on Kauai. Apparently, the wildness of the chickens is an artifact of a typhoon in the early 90’s, which essentially scattered the domestic chickens to the winds and they have thrived on their own ever since. They don’t seem to be a nuisance, other than the ridiculous amount of rooster crowing that goes on throughout the day.

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Chickens everywhere!!! This rooster was right outside our condo and would even wander up onto the patio at times.

During the walk back, we also pulled out Rose’s cell phone and checked Zillow to see the going rate for a small beach house. To our dismay, a small condo is somewhere in the 600k range and the houses are a million dollars or more so we won’t be buying a vacation property on Kauai anytime soon.

We got back to the condo at 7am and found Robin and Betsy awake and reading on the patio…with a few chickens walking around nearby, of course. We made some eggs and ham for breakfast and rolled out at 7:45 to explore the west side of Kauai and the geological feature known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

Driving northwest was a very interesting experience. As we progressed, the scenery transitioned from the lush jungle one might expect in Hawaii to dry grasslands that felt eerily like the Colorado prairie. We even saw some prickly pear cactus! Once we turned northeast along the canyon, however, the tropical feel returned and we wound our way along the western rim. We stopped several times at different spots along the road and even spotted a two-tiered waterfall across the canyon that we are pretty sure was featured in the original Jurassic Park movie.

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A two-tiered waterfall on the other side of Waimea Canyon. We believe this is one of a few waterfalls featured in the Jurassic Park movie.

At a Y in the road, we took the right fork and soon arrived at a parking lot at the base of a lookout point. The views from the top were beautiful, though we didn’t stay very long because the wind was howling and we had not anticipated (or dressed for) how cold it would be with the wind chill. Back at the parking lot, we bought some cut pineapple from a vendor who was cordial enough but whose speech had enough swear words to make a sailor blush.

We returned to the Y and turned up the left fork. We passed a small museum and general store along the way but continued past it to the Pu’u O Kila Lookout at the end of the road. It is only a short hike to the lookout point and the views are absolutely stunning. Pu’u O Kila is dead center in Kalalau Canyon and the landscape drops dramatically from the lookout point and sweeps down to the ocean far below. While were there, a cloud rolled in from behind us and it was cool to watch it crest the ridge and then sink rapidly down into the canyon.

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Looking down Kalalau Canyon from the Pu’u O Kila Lookout.

The two of us ventured on foot a few hundred yards down a muddy trail just to see what was there, but then quickly returned back to Robin and Betsy at the lookout. When we got back to the parking lot, we spent a few minutes talking to two hikers who had pulled in beside us. They were gathering their gear for an overnight trip into the heart of Kauai on the Swamp Trail. Next time we come to Kauai, we will definitely be doing some more hiking into the interior of the island.

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Kalalau Canyon with the clouds descending from the ridge behind us.

We drove a few miles back to the Kalalau Lookout, though only stayed for a few minutes since it essentially just gave us a worse angle of the same Kalalau Canyon we had just enjoyed. On the way back down, we stopped at the museum and general store with the intent of finding a local birding book for Betsy (which we did).

The highlight of the stop, though, were the two hunting dogs hanging around outside of the general store. They both had radio tracking collars, but the owner was nowhere in sight and the general store staff was keeping a hand on the dogs to prevent them from massacring a flock of chickens in front of a bunch of children. Philip did his part to help by hanging onto one of the dogs for a few minutes while the staff searched for some leashes or rope to tie them up. Like the chickens, wild boars are rampant on the island. Unlike the chickens, though, the boars are destructive and it is always open season for hunting them.

Eventually, we got back in the car and continued back southwest towards the highway. We made a quick stop again at the first lookout point where we had purchased pineapple and found it to be much more crowded than before. We then returned to sea level via a slightly different route and before long were in the small town of Waimea with the intent of finding some lunch.

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Waimea Canyon: the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Our first stop was at “Da No Booze Market”, which had at one point been a liquor store called the “Da Booze Market” but the owners found Jesus and decided that they could do better selling food rather than alcohol so they changed their mission and name. However, the plate lunch they were offering wasn’t quite what we were looking for so we decided to try our luck elsewhere.

Just down the street was a Jo Jo’s shaved ice, which we had been told was a must visit when on Kauai. We later learned that there are multiple places with the same or similar names so it is not clear if this was actually the must visit establishment. Regardless, we went inside, ordered our shaved ice, and settled in for what would be our first real experience with the pace of island service.

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Robin’s shave ice from Jo Jo’s. Hidden down in the cup is a scoop of vanilla ice cream as well.

Eventually, the worker brought us our shaved ice and it was delicious. The two of us shared a concoction with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the bottom topped with shaved ice in coconut, pineapple, and mango flavors. As we ate, Philip noticed a sign indicating that Jo Jo’s would actually be closing for good in the next few weeks. This perhaps explains why there was a random guy in the kitchen area taking various measurements. On the plus side, Robin was able to get the down low from him on where to get good food all over the island!

After finishing our shaved ice, we went down a few blocks to a food truck called Porky’s for lunch. They had a large tent setup nearby with picnic tables so we ordered our food and then sat under the tent to eat. It was quite windy at this point and our napkins kept blowing away but it was worth it for the delicious food. Philip had the pineapple sausage topped with pulled Kalua pork while Rose went for the grilled cheese with Kalua pork mixed in. We would highly recommend Porky’s to anyone who likes BBQ; we were not disappointed!

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One of our lunches from Porky’s food truck. This is a pineapple sausage with a pile of Kalua pulled pork on top. Absolutely delicious!

Our tummies full and happy, we drove back to the condo and spent some time relaxing and digesting. We also took the opportunity to book an inner tube adventure for Monday that our pilot had mentioned on the flight in.

The two of us and Robin then headed back out to do some more snorkeling and explore new beaches. As an added bonus, Philip found his missing driver’s license and credit card stuck in the crack next to the driver’s seat…he couldn’t figure out how to get them out but at least we knew where they were.

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Rocking our snorkels and rash guards at Salt Pond Beach.

We went first to Salt Pond Beach, which is west of Poipu by about 20 minutes. Salt Pond is a gorgeous crescent shaped beach with a wave break at either end.

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Salt Pond Beach is a gorgeous place…though that can be said of pretty much all of Kauai!

We started our snorkeling behind the right wave break, but didn’t see very many fish. However, one of the few fish we did see was really, really cool. It was a bottom dweller with its eyes on the top of its extremely flat body. When it settles into the sand and stops moving, the fish is nearly impossible to see.

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A sea cucumber clinging to some coral. We saw a lot of them and they were in all different sizes.

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Some of the beautiful fish we encountered snorkeling…we had only seen these in aquariums before this trip. If you look close at the bottom of the picture, you can see some sea urchins in the crevices of the coral.

The left wave break had far more fish and we spent a while snorkeling in that area. It is easy to miss them because they are tucked into holes and crevices in the coral, but we began to notice small sea urchins everywhere. We also saw a plethora of sea cucumbers in varying sizes clinging to the coral. Other than having to fight against some strong currents at times, it was a very enjoyable snorkeling experience, though still not as nice as our much closer Poipu Beach.

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A school of fish circling Rose as we snorkeled at Salt Pond Beach.

After an hour of snorkeling, we went back to our towels to dry off and warm up in the sun. During that time, we met a nice older couple from Seattle who visited Hawaii frequently and talked with them to get their recommendations for what to do while on Kauai.

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The Hanapepe Hanging Bridge crossing a canal.

Our next stop was just a few miles away in the small town of Hanapepe, which boasts an interesting wooden swinging bridge across a large canal. We were the only ones there at the time and we walked across it and back before heading back to the car.

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Hanapepe Hanging Bridge from the other side. It’s a little bouncy as you cross and super narrow but we had it all to ourselves.

We had intended to stop at Lawai beach on the way back to the condo to do more snorkeling, but we were all tired at this point. Instead, we just drove by to get a look at it with the intent of coming back another day to actually snorkel. We did venture a mile or two past the beach to the end of the road to see the feature called Spouting Horn. This is a spot where waves come into a cave in the sea cliff and the water funnels up through a blowhole on the top and shoots into the sky. We also noticed that this area seems to have some of the nicest houses on the island with properties going for 3-5 million dollars according to Zillow.

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Water erupting from Spouting Horn…it is hard to get a good picture that shows just how high the water can shoot.

Our explorations for the day finished, we returned to the condo to hang out and figure out the schedule for tomorrow. After our large lunch, dinner was a snacking affair and the evening entertainment was watching Jurassic Park on Amazon Prime. It took 20 minutes and three different web browsers to find a configuration that would reliably work but Microsoft Edge finally came through for us. Robin didn’t quite make it to the end of the movie and the rest of us headed to bed not too long after.

It was a great first full day on Kauai and we look forward to exploring other parts of the island tomorrow!

Summary:

  • A morning walk to see the sunrise
  • The dry prairies of Colorado…er…Kauai
  • Exploring the Grand Canyon of the Pacific
  • Every day is better when you meet some new puppies!
  • A most delicious lunch at Porky’s
  • Snorkeling at Salt Pond Beach
  • A quick stop at Spouting Horn
  • Jurassic Park before bed…a recipe for nightmares

Stats:

  • Distance on Foot: 8.3 miles | 14, 586 steps
  • Distance Swimming: 2.33 miles
  • Distance in Car: 115.79 miles
Day2_Path

Our path for the day. A->A (red): Morning walk to Shipwreck beach and back. A->B (white): Driving to first lookout point in Waimea Canyon. B->C (white): Driving rest of way to Pu’u O Kila Lookout. C->C (green): short walk down the muddy trail at Pu’u O Kila. C->D (red): Driving to Kalalau Lookout and then to museum and general store. D->E (red): Driving to Waimea via different route. E: Stop for shave ice and lunch. E->A (red): Returning to condo. A->F (pink): Driving to Salt Pond Beach. F: Snorkeling at Salt Pond Beach. F->G (yellow): Driving to Hanapepe and exploring the Hanging Bridge. G->H (yellow): Driving to Spouting Horn via Lawai Beach. H->A (yellow): Returning to condo.

For a variety of reasons, this trip to Hawaii came about at the last minute. One month after first even thinking about going to Hawaii, the day to leave is finally here! Rose’s mom, Betsy, arrived from Iowa last night and the three of us headed to the airport at a painful 4am. The flight to LA was uneventful, though we arrived early and were stuck on the tarmac for 20 minutes waiting for a gate to open up. Our layover was short, so we grabbed some breakfast food and took it onto the plane with us.

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On our way to LA and eventually Kauai! This was taken not long after leaving Denver as we crossed the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

The flight from LA to Kauai took about 6 hours, which we filled mostly by watching movies. Every hour or so, the pilot would come on to the loudspeaker to present us with trivia and history about the Hawaiian Islands. This was all fine (though Rose would have preferred her movie not keep being interrupted) but the pilot also made a few offhand comments at times that could have been unsettling to anyone nervous about flying. He joked a few times about not being sure if we were going the right way and hoping that we would see the islands out ahead of us. He also made sure to emphasize that we had embarked on one of the longest commercial overwater flight segments without landing options and informed us when we reached the point of no return where it was closer to keep flying to Hawaii rather than turn back to California.

Eventually, we started to see the islands rising above the water and the pilot served also as tour guide explaining each of the islands as they came into view. The approach into Lihue, Kauai, felt super shallow above the water and our pilot managed a decent landing despite a strong crosswind.

Grateful to be off the long flight, we made our way to baggage claim, which is actually in a covered outdoor area of the airport (not something we had ever seen before in our travels). We picked up our bags and waited a few minutes for Rose’s sister, Robin, to pull up in the rental car and pick us up. She had flown in from San Diego about an hour earlier. After playing some advanced Tetris with the luggage, we all piled into the now very full car and were on our way.

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Coming in for a landing at Lihue Airport. The approach angle was so low it felt like we were about to scrape the tops of the waves.

We made a quick stop at the rental car agency to get Philip added as a driver and then swung by Costco to stock up on supplies for our stay. Hawaii is known for expensive prices on most commodity items since they have to be shipped so far, but Costco prices are actually quite similar to those on the mainland. We elected to have a quick lunch at Costco and then moved on to Safeway for a few more items.

The drive from Lihue to Poipu gave us our first real look at the beauty that is Kauai. Tall trees line both sides of the road leading from the main highway down to Poipu at the southern tip of the island, forming a cool green tunnel through which we drove. In general, Kauai is overwhelmingly green (appropriate since it boasts the rainiest place on earth) and is a nice change from the dry and brown Colorado fall.

We found our condo without too much trouble and Philip made many trips unloading the car (now packed even fuller with all the groceries). The condo is a lovely 2 bedroom, 2 bath ground floor residence and is less than a 5 minute walk from the beach. It also contains about 15 different ceiling or free-standing fans and we would soon put them all to use combatting the humidity.

With things mostly unpacked, we set off on a walk down to our nearest beach (Brennecke’s Beach) just to see what could be seen. The left side of the beach is quite rocky and we spent a few minutes walking around on the rocks looking in the tide pools. Philip spotted some jet black crabs scurrying away and was amazed at how well they blended in…so well in fact that nobody else saw them or believed they existed at first!. While on the rocks, we looked to the right and saw a few sea turtles surfing the waves just a dozen feet away. The sea turtles are fascinating to watch because they seem so lazy in their swimming and yet it is incredibly effective. They also manage to survive in the heavy surf just feet from hard rocks without getting bashed to pieces.

After a few minutes, Betsy decided to head back to the condo and Philip and Robin went for the first swim of our vacation. In the rough surf, a few minutes of swimming is about all we could handle. The three of us then proceeded to walk down the beach towards Poipu Beach proper. On the far side of the beach, there is a small island about 50 feet out (probably not actually an island at low tide) and there, basking in the sun, were an enormous sea turtle and an equivalently massive Hawaiian monk seal. It would have been cool to go out to the island to see them closer, but we decided to fight the temptation given that both of these animals are protected and we strive to be responsible travelers.

We also noticed lots of people snorkeling behind the wave breaks at Poipu beach so we hurried back to the condo to grab our snorkeling gear (best $25 we spent on Amazon in a long time). 15 minutes later, we were back at Poipu Beach and swimming through the lukewarm water.

For our first snorkeling experience on Kauai, it went pretty well. We saw some huge schools of fish swimming around, including some super narrow ones that stay just below the surface and are easy to overlook. It took a couple of tries to get the snorkels and masks adjusted correctly such that they would keep water out without being so tight as to put a large dent between our eyes. We also learned to be very careful about where we put our feet as the seafloor near the beach alternates between sand and sharp coral…Philip learned the lesson the best with a nice little slice on one of his toes.

After some time snorkeling, we set off back to the condo to shower and relax for the night. Our internal clocks were so messed up at this point that our evening consisted of a few minutes going over plans for the next few days and most of us in bed by 7pm! Philip stayed up a whole extra hour to go through some work emails before he succumbed as well to exhaustion.

Tomorrow, we start our true exploration of this awesome place and we can’t wait to see what it has to offer!

Day1_Path

Our path for the day. After landing at Lihue Airport (A), we stopped for supplies at Costco and Safeway (B) and then drove to our condo in Poipu (C). The day ended with a walk to the beahc and some snorkeling (D).

Summary:

  • Flying over so much ocean!
  • Stocking up on supplies
  • Sea turtles and a monk seal
  • Snorkeling in paradise

Stats:

  • Distance on Foot: 8.38 miles | 13,538 steps
  • Distance Swimming: unknown
  • Distance in Car: 16.9 miles