What a gift I received in April. My friends Rosanne and Ted have a condo in Lihue, Kauai, and invited me to come. I had received this invitation before, but had never followed through. This was the year. This was the moment. I decided to quit letting life interfere and just go. I booked my flight.
The two weeks before I left were insanely busy, so I was excited to get on that plane. There were a lot of choices from Vancouver, so I bit the bullet and booked a 6 a.m. flight that had me arriving in Kauai mid afternoon. That would be easier for my friends who are not late night people and I would have time to unwind. Unfortunately when I arose at 3 a.m. to get ready to leave, I found out it was cancelled and I had been rebooked on a later flight. Not a great start to my holiday, but that was life. Amazing experiences awaited.
|Doing my new pose - the ROSANNE - at Anini Beach|
Kauai is called the Garden Island. Why? 97% of its land is composed of undeveloped mountain ranges and rainforests. It also has 43 miles of beaches, the most per coastal mile of any of the island chain. WOW! While I didn't know that ahead of time, I did see the poster in the airport on arrival that said 90% of the island was not accessible by car - no roads. This first trip was to be with my friend and let her show me her favourite places, so I didn't hike inside to explore the wilds. I'm honesty a great walke, but not hill climber, so that was for the best. But I have several friends who have kayaked, hiked and even camped on the beach there and they said the back areas off the beaten path are truly beautiful.
Some of the wonderful adventures happened because I was with someone who lived there. There was a wonderful tea the first day where I met several of Rosanne's friends, relaxed in the most charming, relaxing backyard sanctuary, enjoyed great food and conversation, and saw the amazing mural she had painted on the garage for the host. Ted paused the car along the way so I could see the Tree Tunnel - a beautiful canopy of Eucalyptus trees lining Maliuhi Road. The original 500 trees were planted in 1911 as a gift to the community from Pineapple Baron Walter McBryde.
There are a couple things you will need in preparation. The first is lots of sunscreen, especially if you come from the Pacific Northwest like I do.
|Along the beach keep your eyes out for surfer shacks.- south end of Lydgate Beach|
They are created from driftwood. Surfers stay in them overnight so they can catch the first waves.
The second is to be aware this is called the Garden Island for a reason. I have never really had much of a problem with airborne pollen until I arrived in Kauai. The first day and a half I thought I put my sunscreen too close to my eyes. They were constantly running. Finally Rosanne convinced me to get some allergy nose spray she used. I added some allergy eye drops suggested by the pharmacist, and bingo. I was fine the rest of my visit. Unfortunately it seemed to start something as I am struggling a bit back at home now too.
|One of the mid height houses in the north where it floods.|
Homes were raised on stilts anywhere from a few feet u, to one that look 14 feet.
Keep your clothes simple, but have layers. The temperature didn't vary much while I was there. There was always a breeze and the clouds came and went all day. BUT the wind can die and then the heat climbs. And if the rain rolls through it gets cooler. If you're going hiking, you'll be under a canopy instead of direct sun, so having layers you can add and remove is best. And don't forget a hat and sunglasses!
The climate - While random showers happen in all parts of the island, the western section is dryer and more dessert like. The northern section is wetter and also more subject to flooding. Many of the houses were raised anywhere from a few feet up to a whopping 14 feet off the ground. Lihue where I was, was situated right in the middle, so the perfect balance between the other two. I found this fab chart. What is most important to notice is the increase in rain as you go up. If you're hiking into the higher elevations, it could get really wet.
Wild Chickens - They are everywhere and have become a tourist attraction. They are bold, even wandering in front of cars, so be careful when driving.
Beaches, a Cave and a River -
If you're going to Kauai, pay close attention. There are several beaches that are great to go walking and exploring on, but dangerous to swim in because of strong undertows. Always read any posted signs BEFORE you go into the water. Never let being on holiday undermine your common sense. Especially if you've been enjoying a few cocktails. And bring a chair, water, a great book, a snack. Find a small tree and relax under it as you listen to the roar of the waves. It is almost like meditation. Here are a few I visited.
Lydgate Beach - It is really, really long. We visited the north section first. It was magical and my hands down favourite of all the beaches I saw, as well as my favourite section of this beach. I dream of it. My final day we walked the southern section where we even saw an exploded WWII bomb rusting away in a cove. Then we relaxed on the middle section. All along it the waves came in layered patterns rather than one set at a time.
Kaui Shores Resort/ Lava Lava - I cannot find a name for this beach. It is simply referred to as the resort's beach. It is long, there is a steep incline on the beach and the waves crash constantly in layers. Several low key resorts are along here - more townhouse looking. The beaches have people, but lots of open space.
Glass Beach - A hidden treasure that has unfortunately became known through internet exposure. It used to be only known to locals. The beach is not easy to find, tucked in at the end of a short commercial street and down a rutted red dirt road. You need to slow down and look closely when on the beach as when you zoom in you'll notice the beach is not sand, but wave worn tiny pieces of glass. They used to be bigger and more vibrant, but people have stripped it. I have my pic from today, plus one I found from years ago to show the difference. Not really a swimming beach as lots of lava rock.
|Left - Glass beach today.........Right - Glass beach years ago|
Salt Pond Beach - This beach is located in the dryer hotter part of Kauai. The reason it is called Salt Pond is there an actual salt pond right next to it. It's an open field of red dirt that is filled with salt water, then left to evaporate until just the crystals are left. The salt is then harvested off the top. The pink color of this salt comes from the minerals in the dirt.
Kalipaki Beach at Nawiliwili Harbor - My friend was taking me to this beach as an example of another local one, but as we walked from the car the skies opened and the rain began. So I only saw it from a distance.
Po’ipu Beach - This beach represents what we often imagine Hawaii to be like from what we see in movies and travel articles. It's a long beautiful beach, fairly steep, with the regular, single waves that would be easier to surf. It has a long sidewalk along it, as well as numerous restaurants and resorts. The beaches are filled with bathers, swimmers, recliners, umbrellas and more. There is a protective reef that snorkelers swim behind so avoid the wave action. You can walk out to it.
Anini Beach - This northern beach is the in wetter, more tropical part of the island. It is long and one of the really flat beaches. The tide comes way in and goes way out, so a cool area for kids. Cottage style vacation rentals are dotted here and there right across the street. And small park along part of it allows tent camping by permit, but it doesn't look very appealing to me honestly.
Hanalei Beach - This is another beach I didn't get a chance to visit, but have a beautiful picture from a lookout across the valley to the town and beach in the distance. We stopped in this quaint town for a mid-morning coffee and to check out a few shops.
Haena and Maniniholo Dry Cave -We ended our days outing at this beautiful beach and crazy big cave. The cave is on one side of the road. It is enormous. I am a bit claustrophobic, but managed to breath deep and walk 3/4 of the way in to take a few pictures. The picturesque beach on the other side of the road was wonderful. It even had a small natural pond in the sand for young kids to safely enjoy. It was a great place to relax and have a picnic while enjoying the sound of the waves.
Wainiha Beach - There was no sign with the name on this beach - only one that said no swimming and no tourists. Yeah it actually said no tourists! You have to know where it is which fortunately my hosts did. It took a big of digging though, to find the name once I was back home. It had some unique sand formations, but what was really special was the moss green river that ran through it to meet the ocean at an outcropping where the waves broke. Warning - swimming is never recommended here because of the dangerous undertows year round.
Wailua River - There is a boat tour to the Fern Grotto that runs on this river as well as rentals for kayakers and stand-up paddle boards. Of the two, there are definitely more kayakers. They also have some kayak tours available. A favourite is one where you kayak to a trail where you park and then continue on foot to the hidden Uluwehi Waterfall.
I viewed two falls from a distance. Wailua Falls which is famous as the one from the opening of the old TV show Fantasy Island, and Opaeka’a Falls which was a fraction of its normal size. Kauai has been experiencing and drought, and this was the most disturbing sign. You used to be able to hike right up to them both, but erosion made the area too unstable. Some tourists ignore the signs. Not smart. There were other small falls you could see from a distance when driving north to the tropical area. I don't know if they all have names. As mentioned above, you can join a kayak tour to a trail that you hike to the hidden Uluwehi Waterfall. Maybe I will do this my next trip. Time to hit the gym to increase my upper body strength.
One of the true blessings in visiting Kauai is the number of restaurants and bars that have local musicians performing. Best of all it starts early, sometimes as early as 4 p.m, And it is usually finished by 9 p.m. The music is never too loud. You can enjoy listening and still talk with your table mates. Wish we had that available where I live.
Troy's - This bar is local and my evening there was wonderful. It features both music and karaoke. The tables are banquet style so you can sit with your friends. Rosanne and Ted took me on a Tuesday night to hear one of their fav groups (unfortunately minus their lead singer). The bar lets you bring in your own food (from home or from the restaurant next door) and share potluck style with your table mates. You order your drinks there of course. We had seven at our table and shared a literal feast of dishes, all while listening to fabulous music. The band even had a friend who joined them to perform 2 hulas and sang a couple numbers as well. It was here I first learned locals ordered bottles of beer with glasses of ice to pour them into. Why? This pic is early, before our table - and the food - was all there.
Lava Lava - Ioved this restaurant for family in particular. It is on the beach side of the beautiful Waikoloa Beach Resort. There is inside seating, but most take tables outside to enjoy the sun and beach views. They seemed to have a rotating group of musical performers starting around 4 p.m. Along one side is a big lawn filled with all kinds of activities for kids and families - ping pong, a giant foam four square, bean bag tosses, a football, a frisbee and more. The kids aren't tied to the table. They can burn off energy while the adults are enjoying relaxing with food, drinks and music.
Paco’s Tacos Cantina Poipu at the Kiahuna Golf Course - One of the people I met at Troy's on Tuesday night was singing at this restaurant my last night in Kauai, so of course we had to go. Most Paco's Tacos feel more like a fast food place, but this one was gorgeous. It was large and beautiful, with open sides. The breeze blew through gently and our view was of lush golf fairways. They had a high stage for him, so easy to see. Best of all, the prices weren't high. They were the same as at all locations. The set was from 4-7, so we came early for a good seat near the front and enjoyed an early meal as well.
|Left - Unka Rod Performing - Right beer on ice!|
Kauai Beach Resort - The beauty of visiting friends is that they know about local opportunities. This resort is host to E Kanakapila Kakou which features local talent. Rosanne and Ted's favourite local band, O'iwi - a trio of singer/musicians including John Mahi, Bronson Aiwohi and DJ Yaristist. Each is in artist in their own right, one an award winning song writer. Together they are wonderful. No egos here. Each had time they took front and centre to sing, and they were generous in praising each other. The connection they had was visible and their voice blended beautifully when doing harmony in particular. There were so many highlights, from the songs, to the hula dancers that would step up from the audience to perform, to the beautiful way they closed the show. As they sang their final number, we all stood and held hands. I was incredibly moved. I put my camera down this evening and just experienced the music and dance and so glad I did.
Other Highlights -
Acai Bowl (pronounced Asahi here) - I am sure they are available many places on the island, but I am madly in love with the one they offer at the Sunrise Coffee Truck. I even bought their t-shirt in support, my only souvenir outside the lei I received on arrival.
Aloha Images Gallery in Kapa'a - If you love art, then this amazing gallery is a must see. The only thing you have to know is that is by appointment only. The owner loves sharing and prefers to see customers one-on-one so he can give them his full attention.
Nawiliwili Lighthouse - there are a couple of lighthouses on Kauai. Probably the most well known is the one at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. This is the tourist stop and you need reservations. I was lucky to have a local take me to Nawiliwili Lighthouse. It is almost impossible to find. You drive through a golf course and then at the right moment turn left onto a rutted road. It's located at the end of the Lihue Airport runway. No you can't go inside, but it was really cool to visit and the view of the beaches on both sides were stunning. And you don't have a crowd.
Smith's Fern Grotto Tour. This is a relaxing two mile river boat ride up the Wailua River to Fern Grotto. On the way there the captain shared about his ancestor who founded this business and designed both the barge and the unique separate motor that pushed or pulled it along. Then there was a walk through tropical rainforest up to the Fern Grotto - a stunning enormous alcove draped with Ferns. Pics don't do it justice. You used to be taken into the Grotto, but erosion made that unsafe. While there, they shared more with us, then a trio sang several songs while a hula dancer performed. On the way back, we were entertained with songs and hula, and even had a chance to try dancing ourselves. A relaxing, and enjoyable morning where I also learned some interesting history.
Flowers, Foliage and Trees - Kauai is called the garden island. Here is just a small selection of what the beauty I saw all around me.