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!

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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