Category: Kauai – Fall 2017

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

Wanting to make the most of our last day on Kauai, the three of us (Rose, Robin, and Philip) woke up at 5:30am so we could hike to the bottom of Wailua Falls. We were on the road by 6:15 and were the only ones in the parking lot when we arrived at the top of the falls 30 minutes later.


We were shocked by the increase in water coming over Wailua Falls compared to yesterday. The center section was completely dry just 20 hours earlier but it rained a lot since then.

Philip did a lot of research last night to figure out the legality of hiking to the bottom. There are some signs in certain places discouraging people from scampering down the steep hillside to the bottom. After looking into it, we determined that this is actually a fairly common activity, it isn’t explicitly forbidden, and the danger was quite minimal.

We chose to start our hike at the far end of the viewing area where a low cement wall meets a chain link fence. After climbing over the 3 foot wall, we walked a few dozen feet and saw a narrow trail disappearing down the hill side. As expected, this is a very steep hike. It is more like bouldering than actually hiking but there are lots of tree branches and roots to use as handholds. Fortunately, the numerous trees also make the exposure risk very low. Even if someone was to fall, they are not going to tumble all the way down the hill but would really only slide a few dozen feet in the mud.


Hiking down to the base of Wailua Falls. You can see how steep the trail is, though at least there is a lot of stuff to use as handholds.

Note: Everything we say here only applies to the trail we used. During our research we learned that two girls did fall to their deaths at Wailua Falls a few years ago, though it seems like they were far closer to the actual waterfall itself where the cliff is shear, slippery, and very exposed. By taking it slowly, there was no point at which we felt unsafe climbing down the trail we chose.

The bottom section of the trail has a few ropes tied to trees to serve as handholds, which we gladly used. Even moving very cautiously, we reached the bottom in less than 20 minutes and stepped out into the clearing around the waterfall and its pool.

Our first impression was amazement as we looked up at the waterfall. What had been a relatively calm water feature yesterday morning had become a raging torrent after all of the rain. The two separate falls we saw yesterday had since merged into one massive flow of muddy water cascading down into the pool. The exit point of the pool where water continued its journey downstream was right next to us and was moving terrifyingly fast. We quickly determined that swimming would not be a wise decision this morning due to the current so we elected instead to walk around the rocks on our side of the pool towards the waterfall.


Wailua Falls is far more impressive when seen from the bottom. Note Phil in the bottom corner (with his phenomenal farmer’s tan) celebrating our successful descent.

We only spent a few minutes exploring the base of the falls before returning back to the trail. With all the water coming over the falls, we were absolutely drenched by the mist. In general, this was okay, though Robin had her phone with her to take pictures and it got wet also…too wet it turns out because a few minutes later it turned itself off and continued to be problematic for the rest of the day.

Refreshed, we quickly hiked back up to the parking area, which was a much easier task than descending and only took about 10 minutes. As we climbed back over the wall, we saw a street vendor setting up his easel (he was a painter) as well as a van of Asian tourists pulling up. All in all, our hike to the waterfall only took 45 minutes and was definitely worth getting up early to experience it.

On the way back to the condo, we made a quick stop at Wal-Mart to pick up some macadamia nuts as gifts since we figured this would be one item that is actually cheaper to purchase in Hawaii. Once home, we quickly changed into swimsuits and the three of us walked down to Poipu Beach for one more chance at snorkeling.

While Robin took some pictures and laid in the sun for a bit, we dove into the water with our snorkels and weren’t disappointed. We saw a ton of fish, including some really beautiful rainbow-colored ones. Eventually, Robin joined us and we made our way across the channel to the other side of Poipu Beach. At one point, two ladies pointed out to Philip something that looked like a leaf stuck in the coral. It was actually a leaf scorpion fish and they are supposedly very rare!

Other than some goggle fogging issues, the snorkeling was awesome and a great way to cap off our trip. We hung out for a few minutes on the beach to dry off and give Phil a chance to finally build a sand castle (more like a ruined Mayan pyramid since Phil is not particularly skilled at sand castle construction). We then made our way back to the condo to shower and for everyone but Robin to pack our bags.


The beautiful view right outside our condo. Poipu is a great place to stay when visiting Kauai.

As we were packing, we got a notification that our flight back to LA was delayed by two hours. Unsure what to do with this awkward extension to our trip, we hung around the condo for a little bit while Philip sorted through his work emails and Robin attempted to triage her now spastic phone. The phone issue was of particular concern since Robin would be on her own on Kauai for an extra day and the lack of mobile communication or navigation ability was quite undesirable.

Just before noon, we loaded up the car and Robin drove us to the Pona Fish Market for our final plate lunch of the trip (making mental notes of landmarks along the way so she could get back to the condo without GPS). To our surprise, the fish market was located next door to the frustratingly slow shave ice business we found after our long hike.

We got our food and drove a mile along the coast to a park with some picnic benches in the shade and views of the ocean. It was a delightful experience eating the delicious food with a light breeze blowing through the trees and the sound of the ocean just feet away. Well, most of the food was delicious anyway. Philip tried “poi” as one of his side dishes, which is a purple paste made from baked and fermented taro root and has an odd texture and absolutely no flavor. We will pass on that one next time!

At about 1:30, Robin drove us the few miles to the airport in Lihue and we bid her farewell. Security was a breeze and we made our way to one end of the terminal to an almost empty gate. Just as we were wondering where everyone else was, we began to hear announcements that the gate for our flight had changed so we walked all the way to the other end of the terminal and found our fellow passengers.


Our path for the day. A->B (white): Drive to Wailua Falls. B->B (green): Hike to base of falls and back. B->A (red…mostly hidden by white): Drive back to condo with stop at Wal-Mart. A->A: Snorkeling one final time at Poipu Beach. A->C (pink): Drive to Pona Fish Market for lunch and eat food at picnic bench by ocean. C->D (yellow): Drive to airport.

The flight to LA was pleasantly uneventful, though the delay in departure time pushed our arrival time back 2 hours to 1:30am. We had booked rooms at a nearby hotel since we had an 11 hour layover. This layover was now only a 9 hour layover but we were still grateful for the chance to get some sleep in a real bed. After a few hours of rest and a continental breakfast, we returned to the airport via the hotel shuttle bus and caught our flight back to Denver.

Our trip to Kauai was, in a word, AMAZING! It is one of the most beautiful places in all the world and we really loved that it felt relatively un-touristy. We can’t wait to come back and do a lot more hiking all over the island. We also really want to experience the north side and the Na Pali coast earlier in the year when the waters are calmer. Add in the inner tube ride that didn’t work out and all of the amazing food we didn’t get to try and we already have the makings of our next vacation to Kauai!


Our total path for the trip. It’s challenging to highlight what paths apply to which days because there is so much overlap of us driving around on the main highway. The key takeaway is that we saw a lot of Kauai on this short visit. Next time, we hope to do more hiking along the Na Pali coast at the north end of the island and to explore some of the swampy interior.


  • A rewarding hike to the base of Wailua Falls
  • Snorkeling at Poipu Beach one last time
  • Robin’s very wet cell phone
  • Two extra hours on Kauai
  • Plate lunches are delicious…poi is not


  • Distance on Foot: 4.93 miles | 7,509 steps
  • Distance Hiking: 0.57 miles
  • Distance Swimming: 2.3 miles
  • Distance in Car: 67.5 miles

Grand Total Stats:

  • Distance on Foot: 43.97 miles | 79,717 steps
  • Distance Swimming: 5.93 miles
  • Distance in Car/Van: 502.89 miles
  • Distance in Boat: 58.3 miles
  • Grand Total Distance: 611.09 miles

We had to put at least one graph in for our trip! This shows how far we traveled each day and by what mode of locomotion.

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

Philip woke earlier than expected and was raring to go, so he took a walk down to Brennecke’s Beach while everyone else got going. When he got back, Robin and Rose had just left on their own adventure to Shipwreck Beach since Robin had not yet been there. When they returned, we finished getting ready for the day and set off at 8:30am back towards Lihue.


Sunrise on Kauai as seen from the rocks between Poipu Beach and Brennecke’s Beach.


Walking past the Grand Hyatt on the way to Shipwreck Beach.

Our destination this time was a busy warehouse building just off the highway where we could check in for our upcoming inner tubing tour. The goal was to ride inner tubes down some canals, traversing through 5 tunnels along the way. We arrived at 9am, a half hour early for our tour, and went inside to get helmets, sign waivers, and other fun things. At 9:30, we hopped into one of two large vans (along with 25 other people) and began the trek uphill to our tubing launch point.

It was raining intermittently as we rode with our guide, Abraham (Abe), and our driver, Thomas. Abe was a bit awkward, but in a fun way, and spent most of the ride telling us about the Kauai plantations and sneaking in jokes and humorous commentary. He was actually pretty funny but the three girls sitting in the first row of the van did not seem amused. Abe also had us all go around and introduce ourselves.

We stopped at an overlook of the mountains and hopped out to take some pictures. In the distance across the valley, we could see the hills rising up towards Kauai’s highest summit, which is the caldera of the volcano that formed the island a long time ago. There is a swamp near the summit as well and this is the rainiest place on Earth (not the wettest place on Earth as Philip accidentally said once…that would actually be the ocean!).


The view towards the “rainiest place on Earth”, the ancient caldera of the volcano that formed Kauai.

After some photos, we hopped back in the vans and drove a short distance further to the launch point. Unfortunately, it was here that we learned that one of the tunnels had suffered a partial collapse that morning and our tour was cancelled! Earlier groups had made it as far as that tunnel but had been unable to get through the debris. Based on the surprised expressions of our guides, this is not a common occurrence and we heard a lot of radio chatter on the way back down as employees tried to figure out what to do.

On the way back down to the warehouse, Thomas shared a lot of his life story with us, and many of his opinions and views on life and Kauai. When we returned to the warehouse, Robin went to the desk and within a few seconds had secured a full refund for our adventure. Seriously, it is a testament to the company that they made it so easy. We will definitely try tubing again the next time we are in Kauai and would recommend this company to others because of it.

It was now 10:45am and we had essentially done nothing but ride around in a car and van all day. With the rain still coming and going, we decided to stop briefly at the nearby Wailua Falls since it was so close. The parking lot area was a crowded disaster but we found a tight spot. The overlook of the falls is right along the side of the road and we could see a large pool at the base about 80 feet below us. The falls itself was split into two sections around a large rock at the top, though was not as impressive as the Hanakapi’ai Falls we saw yesterday on our hike. When we looked closer, we saw 2 people swimming in the pool at the bottom. We instantly made plans to try and come back tomorrow morning to hike down to the base and perhaps go for a swim ourselves.


Wailua Falls as seen from above. Though not as tall as yesterday’s Hanakapi’ai Falls, Wailua Falls was split into two sections giving it a different feel.

From Wailua Falls, we headed back home, stopping a mile or two short of Poipu in the tiny town of Koloa to get lunch at the Koloa Fish Market. The tiny little shop was just what we were looking for for an authentic Hawaiian plate lunch. We shouted our orders across the counter to the workers in the back and in just a few minutes had some enormous to-go containers of food in our hands.

At this point, the intermittent rain turned into full downpour and we scampered back to the car as quickly as we could. Much wetter than desired, we took our lunch back to the condo and dug into the delicious food. Our meals consisted of kalua pulled pork, pork lau lau (pork wrapped in taro leaves), rice noodles, rice, a pile of diced tomatoes (yuck), and a cup of delicious ahi poke. The pork, in particular, was absolutely phenomenal and we all ate more than we should have.


Driving through the green tunnel on the way from the highway to Poipu.

After lunch, we hung out at the condo trying to decide what to do next as it rained on and off. Finally, we decided that we would try going to the botanical gardens just a few miles away so we piled back in the car and set off. Of course, the rain picked up again as we drove, this time accompanied by heavy winds. Stupidly, we stopped briefly at Spouting Horn (the blowhole in rock where water shoots up) to show it to Betsy. Robin, being the smart one, stayed in the car while the rest of us power walked out to the viewing area. In less than 60 seconds, we were heading back to the car cold, wet, and quite certain that we would not be going to the botanical gardens after all because being outside frankly sucked.

We returned to the condo frustrated by the weather but at least confident in our course of action. Rose spent some time trying to check us in for our flight the next day, but kept getting an error message when picking seats. Intending to try again a bit later, we settled in to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark since its opening “Peruvian jungle” scenes were actually filmed on Kauai. Ironically, the entire rest of the movie is set in the desert sands of Egypt (about as different a climate as possible compared to Kauai) but it was still enjoyable to watch while the rain pounded away outside.

By the time the movie ended, the rain had stopped! Before we headed out to the beach, Philip called the airline to figure out the seat issues and chose the “receive a callback” option rather than waiting on hold. The three of us sans Betsy then went for a windy walk towards Poipu Beach to explore.


Once the rain stopped, it was another beautiful day on Kauai, although a bit windy.

Naturally, as soon as we were a few minutes away from the condo, Philip received his callback from the airline and crouched down behind a palm tree to block the wind. He was soon placed on hold again so we continued our walk. The surf was quite intense from the wind and lots of people were out playing in it at Poipu Beach. When we got closer the water’s edge, we also saw a massive sea turtle laying on the beach just a few feet away and spent some time taking pictures and admiring such a cool creature.


We will probably never get sick of seeing these awesome sea turtles up close…they are really cool creatures!

About that time, the airline finally took Philip off hold and he was able to get the seating arrangements worked out (despite the relative unhelpfulness of the employee on the phone). With that taken care of, we came to the realization that we would much rather be playing in the water rather than walking on the beach, so we powerwalked back to the condo to throw on our swimsuits. In less than 15 minutes, we were back at Poipu Beach and, to our dismay, the waters seemed calmer and most of the boogie boarders had left! Fortunately, we found them nearby at Brennecke’s Beach and hopped in the water to join them.

Based on the advice of a lady on the beach, Robin borrowed Phil’s rash guard to help keep her bikini top in place in the rough water and we spent 15 minutes or so body surfing the waves. The unpredictable waves were a lot of fun to jump over, dive under, or ride in towards shore. It was exhausting, though, and we eventually had our fill of salt water in every orifice and stumbled back to shore. Happy to have finally done something active for the day, we returned back to the condo to shower and figure out our final evening on Kauai.


We’ve been working out a bit since we got to Kauai!

After some debate, we settled on a light dinner out at the nearby Brennecke’s Beach Broiler restaurant. We drove over and soon learned that it would only be a 15 minute wait for a table, which sounded great to us. While we waited, we looked around the restaurant at all of the t-shirts, pennants, and hats lining nearly every inch of vertical wall space in the restaurant. Most pro and college sports teams were represented in the collection and it was fun trying to find the articles representing the teams we care about (Go CU Buffaloes!). There were also large maps in a corner where patrons could stick pins to mark where they came from and we added a pin to Ames, Iowa (Denver and San Diego already had too many pins and one more wouldn’t have been helpful).

Dinner wasn’t as fancy as last night’s but was still delicious. Betsy had grilled shrimp, Rose had coconut shrimp, Robin had clam linguine, and Philip went for his first ever pupu platter. We had heard of the pupu platter before but never knew what it actually was. It turns out that a pupu platter is essentially the most awesome appetizer sampler ever with a seafood theme; it was great! We also had some fruity drinks and even Philip got in the action with a virgin drink of his own.


Rose’s fruity drink (complete with requisite umbrella) at Brennecke’s Beach Broiler.

Our hunger satiated, we returned to the condo and bed followed soon after. Overall, it was a relaxing day, though not because we intentionally made it so. Nevertheless, Kauai is an amazing place and we were still able to enjoy its beauty even in the rain. Tomorrow, everyone but Robin heads back home (she gets an extra day) and we are definitely sad that the trip is almost over. That said, it is hard to be too sad after such an amazing trip!


Our path for the day. A->B (white): Driving to the warehouse for inner tubing. B->C (red): Van ride to the top with a stop at an overlook. C->B (pink): A dejected van ride back to the warehouse once we learned the tubing was cancelled due to a tunnel collapse. C->D (yellow): Driving to Wailua Falls. D->E (yellow): Driving to Koloa Fish Market to get plate lunch. E->A (yellow): Driving back to condo. A->F->A (red): Our ill-fated drive in monsoon conditions to Spouting Horn and back to the condo. A->G->A (green): Walking to Poipu Beach and body surfing at Brennecke’s Beach. A->G->A (pink): Short drive for dinner and back.


  • Morning walks to the beaches
  • We’re going tubing…just kidding
  • A quick stop at Wailua Falls
  • An authentic and delicious Hawaiian plate lunch
  • Rain, rain go away
  • Body surfing at Brennecke’s Beach
  • A tasty dinner for our final night


  • Distance on Foot: 5.41 miles | 10,825 steps
  • Distance Swimming: 0.4 miles
  • Distance in Van: 14 miles
  • Distance in Car: 46.9 miles

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

Sunday started off a bit painful as we woke up well before the sun at 5:15am. In less than an hour, we ate breakfast, made lunch, and the three of us (Robin, Rose, and Philip) were on our way northeast to Ke’e Beach. An hour and a half later, we pulled into the last open spot in the parking lot and got ready for our hike.


We stopped along the road a few times on the way to Ke’e Beach because the views were absolutely stunning!

The first leg of the hike was along the first two miles of the same Kalalau trail we had seen yesterday from the catamaran. It began with a steep ascent, but we had far more oxygen to breathe than we are used to when hiking 14ers in Colorado so we felt good. Rose grabbed a bamboo hiking stick from a pile by the entrance sign for the trail, which was a wise idea because the trail quickly turned to slippery mud the further along we went. Considering that the weather had been relatively dry lately, the amount of mud was ridiculous. The trail is probably not even hikeable immediately after a rainstorm.


This is the mud we hiked through for at least one third of our 8 mile trip.

As we walked, we chatted with a family from Denver who were cruising along impressively with their two young kids in tow. The views of the Na Pali coast were magnificent as we summited the hill and started our switchback descent down to Hanakapi’ai Beach. Frankly, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful place than this and we stopped frequently for Robin to snap some photos.


The coastline along the Kalalau Trail has to be among the most beautiful on earth!

Just before reaching the beach, we saw a group of people taking off their shoes in preparation for crossing a small stream. We opted to just walk across the rocks with our shoes on and easily stayed dry (not sure why everyone felt the need to remove shoes).


Our first view of Hanakapi’ai Beach as we started our descent towards it on the Kalalau Trail.

There were a dozen or so people already hanging out at the beach when we got there. We walked around the sand for a few minutes taking in the beauty, but did not get in the beautiful water due to the numerous warnings we had read about the dangerous currents. There were a few people in the shallows, but none ventured too far out. We also saw a cave at the base of the cliff across the beach but decided not to explore further since it looked like we could see the entire depth of it already.


Hanakapi’ai Beach is a worthwhile reward after two miles of hiking.

For many of these people, this beach was the final destination. Others would be continuing further along the Kalalau Trail all the way to Kalalau Beach 9 miles further. We hope to do that hike someday but it requires a hard-to-get permit and realistically is a 2-day round trip with a night spent on the beach. The rest of us would be heading 2 more miles upriver to find the Hanakapi’ai Falls.

We set off up the trail next to the stream, passing a small bathroom facility on the way and a helicopter landing area. Within a few minutes, we were grateful that we brought bug spray with us and took a moment to douse ourselves before continuing. Throughout our hike, the trail transitioned between varying states of dry earth and extreme mud, but we managed to avoid any major slipping incidents.

About a mile in, we came to an area known as the bamboo forest with huge stands of bamboo right along the trail. Sadly, many of the stalks of bamboo had initials and other graffiti carved into them from years of hikers. We also crossed the stream several times as we hiked. Most of the crossings were easy and we stayed dry but one of them proved too difficult and we just trudged right through the water with our shoes on. It was during one of these last stream crossings that we got our first view of Hanakapi’ai Falls plummeting from the cliffs above.


A small section of the bamboo forest along the trail to the waterfall…sadly, there is a lot of graffiti carved into the stalks of bamboo.

For the last stretch of the hike, we chatted with three girls who live on Kauai, though they left us in their dust before too long. When we broke clear of the trees a few minutes later, we found ourselves at the rock-strewn edge of a small pool with the beautiful falls cascading down in front of us.


Our first view of Hanakapi’ai Falls as we hiked up the stream.

This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. It felt even more special because there is no easy way to get there. Only if you are willing to hike through 4 miles of muddy trail do you get to experience the beauty and there is something really cool about having to earn the reward.


The view of Hanakapi’ai Falls as we entered the clearing around its pool.

We made our way around to the left side of the pool and sat on some rocks just out of spray distance to eat our PB&J lunch. While we ate, we saw two of the three girls from earlier hop in the pool and go for a quick swim, though they didn’t last too long because the water was apparently really cold. Even the guy from Colorado was only in for a minute or two before he had enough. Needless to say, we were a bit nervous when we finished our lunch and decided to try it out for ourselves.

Rose elected for the dryer option of just dipping her toes in the water, while Philip and Robin went for it. Navigating the slippery rocks just beneath the surface was challenging (and led to a bruised shin for Philip), but we soon made it out towards the center of the pool. Yes, the water was cold. But in just a few minutes, our bodies acclimated and it actually became quite refreshing (those other people are wimps!).


Phil and Robin braving the cold water to swim in the pool in front of Hanakapi’ai Falls…it really wasn’t that cold after a few minutes of acclimation.

We swam across the pool and around the left side of the waterfall to get behind it. Heeding the advice someone had given us, we avoided swimming directly beneath the falls because you never know when a rock or a tree branch or a wild pig is going to come tumbling over the edge. Our idyllic vacation plans do not include a pig-induced concussion from 100 feet up!


Phil and Robin sitting on rocks behind Hanakapi’ai Falls.

Rose attempted to get some pictures of us swimming but the mist coming off the falling water made that challenging. Eventually, we made our way back across the pool and climbed out. While we were drying off, two other guys got in the water and swam over to the waterfall as well so at least we weren’t the only brave ones there that day.

The hike back to the beach was enjoyable and made more so because we realized that many of the trees lining our path contained guava fruit. It was actually sickening at some points due to the smell of all the rotting guava on the ground. However, we now had a quest to obtain some fresh guava from a tree that we could eat…a quest that was far harder than we imagined given the fact that these fruits seemed to drop frequently all on their own and often shatter upon impact.

Our walk back down the stream was a bit slow, primarily because Robin kept stopping to shake trees that looked like promising candidates for dropping some fruit for us. This was harder than we imagined to both shake a tree and also correctly guess where the fruit would fall so Philip or Rose could catch it. At one point, Robin had walked off the path a few feet to shake another tree before she shrieked and came scurrying back, surprised by both a large spider and an enormous frog.


Guavas in various stages of rotting littering the ground along the trail to the waterfall.

Finally, after much trying, we managed to obtain a few guavas and snacked on those as we continued our hike. We also spotted what appeared to be a lime tree, though it was unyielding of any fruit no matter how hard Robin shook the trunk. On a less joyful note, while hiking back with our wet shoes, Robin came to the realization that she was down to nine toenails, which given the fact that she has all the normal digits on her feet is one less toenail than desired.

We only stopped at Hanakapi’ai Beach for a moment to take in the view before continuing back along the Kalalau Trail towards the car. The sun was high in the sky and beat down hard on some portions of the trail, drying out the mud in places. However, the heat was intense and Rose reached her limit as we trudged up the scorching switchbacks, though she persevered. She also stepped in the slightly wrong place while we were taking a break during the final stretch of the hike and slipped in the mud (though impressively only got her hands and legs dirty). Despite Robin’s frequent stops to take pictures, we made it back to the parking lot and celebrated our accomplishment.


We can’t wait to come back to Kauai and hike the rest of this trail someday all the way to Kalalau Beach!

We were all incredibly muddy from the knee down so we used the shower spigots at the parking lot to wash off. This was a very inefficient process and thus it took 15 minutes or so to get through the line and get clean. Phil’s shoes and Robin’s socks began an early retirement in the garbage can since they were just too dirty to be worth saving.


Our hike to Hanakapi’ai Falls. A->B: Hike from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach along the Kalalau Trail. B->C: Hike along the stream to Hanakapi’ai Falls. Return journey goes in reverse.

Once back in the car, we set off back around the island in search of some snorkeling. We first tried Ha’ena Beach but only stayed for a moment since the water was obviously way too rough to be snorkeled. We also may have scraped the bottom of the car a bit getting out of the parking lot but didn’t leave any pieces behind.


Ha’ena Beach is beautiful but did not seem promising for snorkeling so we quickly moved along.

Tunnels Beach was our next stop and was one of the places that was highly recommended for snorkeling…though apparently only in the summer as we would soon learn. After struggling to find parking, we quickly realized that the surf here was just as rough as everywhere else on this side of the island. We will have to come back in a different season next time and experience the north side of the Kauai in its optimum time.

We drove a bit further along and reached the famed Hanalei Bay (presumably of Puff the Magic Dragon fame). Hanalei Bay has a gorgeous curving beach with wide swaths of sand and large waves rolling in. Unlike many other spots around Kauai, the bottom here seems quite sandy and we saw a lot of boogie boarders and surfers playing in the water.

By this point, we were realizing that snorkeling probably wasn’t going to happen (and frankly we were tired from our morning excursion anyway) so Robin and Rose laid out their towels to soak in some sun and Philip went for a walk along the beach. On his way back, he met a sopping wet golden retriever who was having the time of its life…with few exceptions, a wet dog is a happy dog! As he drew closer to the girls, rain droplets began to fall and we quickly gathered our things and scampered back to the car.

The rain was short lived and we were soon driving in sunny weather again. A stop for gas failed miserably due to the ridiculously tiny parking lot and bad drivers so we gave up and continued further. We found another gas station with a better layout and successfully filled up the car. Interestingly, the car was designed to have no gas cap, which is something we have never seen before.

At this point, we all began to crave a treat so we backtracked a short ways to an ice cream shop but learned that they did not have shave ice. Yelp informed us of a different spot a bit further back and we soon rolled up to an outdoor shave ice shop with a lot of people standing around outside (good sign, right?)


The three of us raring to go before we started our long hike…we were far more tired and muddy by the time we got our shave ice in the afternoon.

Thus began one of the more frustrating food experiences of our lives. The girl behind the counter taking orders was very nice…and utterly incompetent at her job. We placed our orders with much difficulty and then found out from her that the credit card machine was down. We only had enough cash on hand for one dessert so Robin cancelled hers and we paid for the other one. The other worker in the shop was the one actually making the shave ice, but this painfully slow process became even more aggravating because she kept stopping her work to help the girl at the counter. While we waited nearly 20 minutes for our shave ice, another customer came and ordered and the credit card machine magically worked…though we were too frustrated by this point to want to place another order and wait even longer.

Finally, our treat was ready and we shared the pineapple and coconut shave ice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a coconut milk drizzle. Unlike the shave ice from Friday, this one had the ice cream sandwiched in the middle rather than at the bottom. It was tasty but not really worth the wait.

At 4:45, we made it back to the condo after our long day. After some showers to remove the remainder of the mud from our bodies, we decided that it would be a good night for a nice dinner out on the town. We drove to Lihue with the intention of visiting a restaurant called the Barefoot Bar. The parking situation was very confusing but after turning around three times we finally located the alley that took us to the free valet area.

When we got to the restaurant, we learned that there was a wait of 45 minutes for a table, which was more than we had anticipated. Above the Barefoot Bar is a restaurant called Duke’s, which is a nicer dining establishment (and pricier) and it only had a 30 minute wait. We decided to go with that option and hung out outside the restaurant on a grass area near the beach where we could watch some beach volleyball players.


The sunset view of Kalapaki Beach outside of Duke’s restaurant.

Dinner was fantastic and well worth the wait and price. Duke’s is known for its Mai Tai’s and everyone but Philip ordered one. They also have a salad bar that is a trivial extra cost when you order an entrée so we all partook of that as well, along with an appetizer of calamari. The entrees did not disappoint either (7 spice ahi tuna with fruity mustard sauce and black rice for Philip, Mahi Mahi with lemon basil ginger sauce and basmati rice for Rose, fish and shrimp pesto pasta for Robin, and teriyaki chicken and sirloin for Betsy).

Overall, it was a lovely evening and we returned to the condo stuffed and exhausted. Bed followed soon after for all of us. Tomorrow is our last full day on Kauai before we have to return to the mainland and leave this island paradise.


Our path for the day. A->B (white): Drive from condo to Ke’e Beach. B->C->D->C->B (blue): Hike to/from Hanakapi’ai Falls via Hanakapi’ai Beach. B->E (red): Drive to Hanalei Bay. E->E (green): Walk along beach at Hanalei Bay. E->F (red): Drive to gas station and shave ice. F->A (purple): Drive back to condo. A->G->A (yellow): Go to dinner and return back to condo.


  • An early morning drive to Ke’e Beach
  • Hiking through mud to a waterfall in paradise
  • The treasure hunt for guava fruit
  • Searching for snorkeling in north east Kauai
  • Shave ice fail
  • A delicious dinner at Duke’s


  • Distance on Foot: 11.02 miles | 23,140 steps
  • Distance Hiking through Mud: 8.34 miles
  • Distance in Car: 129 miles

*** 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


  • 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


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


  • 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


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

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.


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.


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!


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).


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


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