Kauai Guest Review
The following isn’t your usual travel guide of what to see and do on Kauai’. It’s a collection of our thoughts while spending three weeks on “The Garden Isle” and a letter to you about some of the things we saw and did.
The Ultimate Kauai’. Not only the best guide book for Kauai’, the best guide book we’ve ever read.
Kauai's North Shore Beaches - an excellent web site with details on the beaches on Kauai's north shore.
Kayak Tours and Rentals
Wailua Kayak Adventures – ran by top notch people, excellent guides and fair prices.
Letter from Kauai’
Surf breaking on the reef and birds cooing stir my senses awake. What a great way to start the morning. Pat is already up and soaking in the sunrise that is creeping up from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. God is blessing the Garden Isle of Kauai’.
As I write this letter to you, I’m sitting in a comfortable chair looking out the window. There’s a fan palm in front of me, palm trees to the left and right, flowering plants and trees here and there. Our meditation suite at the Mahina Kai sits part way up a hill allowing me to look down on this scene.
The swimming pool, which more closely resembles a pool you’d find at the bottom of a waterfall. The border of the pool is bounded by rocks of various sizes. On one side is lush tropical vegetation. A small stream cascades into the pool. The bottom is painted so as to give the allusion that you’re floating over a natural bottom of various depths. At the end of the free form pool sits the spa in a pagoda like structure, open on three sides, with a blue tile roof. Palm trees and flowering shrubs dot the grounds. 100 yards from the pool is the Pacific Ocean.
We arrived on Kauai’ yesterday to begin a three week retreat from telemarketing calls and the routine nuisances of everyday life. Right now, Pat is going through all the brochures on what to see and do on Kauai’. This is so very cool because as she reads off the dozens of sites and activities she says, “Done that. Done that.” This is our third trip to Kauai. The last time we were here, five years ago, we stayed for four weeks and had all of our kids with us. We saw and did almost everything. We put 4000 miles on our rental car and the main road on the island is only about 60 miles long!
This time we’re just going to be cool and let the energy, the spirituality of this island sink into us. We haven’t rented a car. We’re going to see if we can get by on the Kauai’ Bus. The local bus, which locals tell us no one rides, and by walking and biking. When we got off the plane yesterday our plan was to walk to the nearest bus stop, about a mile away, and take it to Anahola, which is where we’re staying.
You’re probably wondering why the local bus doesn’t come to the airport. Well it became obvious to us, as we researched transportation options for this trip, that the local government, who runs the bus service, doesn’t want tourists taking the bus. The government, and I assume car rental and taxi companies, wants us, and you, to use privately operated transportation services. So, no local bus at the airport. We plan to walk the mile and a half into Lihue to catch the Kauai’ Bus.
We always travel light with little luggage and this is particularly true for this trip. What you can carry on the bus is very restrictive. You're allowed one bag and it can not be bigger than these dimensions: 9”x14”x22”. Obviously these dimensions are smaller than most travel luggage but not all. You can’t bring surfboards, boogie boards or skateboards on the bus either. But no matter, because we’ve managed to keep our luggage to the size allowed on the bus.
I had the bus schedule with me but what I had failed to do was print out the weekend schedule and this is a Saturday. I call the bus company and find that the last bus for the day has already left. So now we’re going to have to take a taxi. No big deal. I use the taxi phone at the airport to call for a taxi and one is here within minutes.
It costs us $31.00 to get to Mahina Kai and I tip the driver another $4.00.
Rob, one of the owners, meets us at the entry and gives us a rundown of how things run at the B&B. He shows us to our suite, which has our name on the door panel. Nice touch. Makes us feel very welcome. Joe, the other owner joins us here to welcome us as well. One of the things we put away as we unpack is daily time. All we need do is make sure that we know when it’s time to check out to go to the next place we’ll stay at during our three weeks here. We’ll be at the Mahina Kai for a week. Then it’s off to Princeville, above Hanalei, where we have a condo reserved for the remainder of the three weeks.
It’s dinner time. We’ll walk the mile back to the main highway to the Whaler’s General Store and the little hamburger stand we saw there. About a ½ mile from the Mahina Kai the road is shaded with large trees whose branches stretch over the road from both sides. I wouldn’t call it a jungle but the vegetation is green and lush. The branches have a beautiful symmetry. The ocean has been just off to our left during our walk but up to this point the shoreline has been pretty rocky. Now there’s more beach and we walk through the trees to the beach. This must be a good surf fishing spot because we see a half dozen surf fishing poles stuck in the sand. I ask one fisherman what he catches here.
“Everything from little ones to big ones,” he gestures with his hands.
Back on the road we come to the main highway and walk about a hundred yards to the hamburger stand. They have a lot of sandwiches on the menu. We opt for the “Old Fashioned Ono Burger.” It has cheddar cheese, a big slice of Maui Sweet Onion, tomato, sprouts and is served on a large Kaiser roll. I season mine with some special seasoned sea salt that they have on the counter. The burger looks great. It’s cut in half and is just pretty to look at showing off yellow, white, green, red and brown. Pat declares it one of the three best hamburgers she’s ever had. I agree. Others must think so too. While we eat our hamburgers there’s a constant line of people coming up to order.
The Whaler’s General Store is next door. We pick up some small groceries for snacks at the B&B and head back to the Mahina Kai. It’s 84 degrees. Not hot but humid, humid in a very pleasant sexy tropical way.
It’s only 7 PM but it’s hard to keep our eyes open. We only got about 5 hours sleep last night and our bodies think it’s 10 PM not 7 PM. But we’ve got to get into the time zone here. So, we sit on our porch overlooking the garden, the pool and the ocean and we let the magic of Kauai’ and the Mahina Kai sink into us. Finally, at 9 PM we go to bed. Lights out. Listen: sounds of surf, leaves shuffling in the breeze and the occasional chirp of a gecko.
Well, it’s back to the wake up that I began this letter with. Coffee is ready at 6 AM. I pour a cup and join Pat on the porch to watch the first light of the sun begin to add colors to the sky, the ocean and Kauai’. We figure we’ll have breakfast when it’s ready at 7 AM but it’s 7:45 AM before we know it. We’ve just been messermized by the sunrise.
The main feature of breakfast is a tray with papayas cut in half and then each filled with strawberries and pineapple. Under glass are very sweet smelling cinnamon muffins. But we can’t have any because we have resolved on this trip to not eat sweets and these things sure look and smell sweet. There are hard boiled eggs and several choices of cereal. During breakfast we are joined by several other guests of the Mahina Kai. Over coffee, we linger for awhile to get to know our neighbors, Julie and Jennifer.
It’s 10 AM when we are ready to walk out to see what meets us for the day. On the way out the door, Henry, Rob’s son, asks us what we’re doing for the day. My answer is that we don’t know. We’re just going to start walking down the road, remember we don’t have a car, and see where we end up.
The beach is where we end up. Just a half mile from the Mahina Kai, we jump from the road to the beach and begin walking on a long crescent of sand that extends about a mile up the coast. Within about 200 yards we find a perfect setup. There’s a big shrub like tree where we can be protected from the sun and still run down to play in the water.
And that’s it for most of the day. We do walk a bit further up the beach to a lagoon protected from the surf. The water is like bath water. Pat gets on my back and I carry her piggy back swishing through the water. To the west of the lagoon is a tall rocky mountain, maybe 2000 feet high, its green outline silhouetted against the blue sky. To the east is a 25 foot opening in the beach where the water from the lagoon flows into the ocean. Around the sides of the lagoon is a variety of trees and shrubs partly concealing houses. We can count maybe 25 people within our eyesight.
Back at the Mahina Kai we shower, swim for a bit in the pool, and then get ready to walk back to the highway where we plan to eat at a restaurant that’s across the street from Ono Burger. Just before we walk out the door a torrential rain starts coming down. There’s one umbrella by the door. We take it and head out. Several hundred yards down the road it's clear that the umbrella only keeps half of us dry. Pat, in particular, is soaked on her back. We try thumbing a ride but people going by in cars just wave at us. No big deal. It’s warm rain. Nor does the rain distract us from discovering even more intricacies in the foliage and houses along the road. You don’t get to know an area by driving through it. You have to walk it, or, at least ride a bike. We’ve probably spotted a dozen wild chickens on our walk and lots of smashed and dried up frogs. There are so many frogs that we name this the “Walk of the Dead Frogs.” They must come out at night and then get run over by cars. It’s around 4 PM. About to the highway Pat asks if I’m sure the restaurant is open.
“Of course it’s open. I checked the sign yesterday and it says it’s open 7 days a week from 10 to 6.”
Approaching the restaurant we first see the big closed sign and then the small print on the sign, which I couldn’t read yesterday from across the road. The sign says – Sunday and Monday – 10 to 4. It’s Monday and it’s 5 PM. So, we go to Ono Burger for our second dinner. Last night we had gotten up to the order window just before two van loads of people showed up. Tonight, two van loads are ahead of us. I hate lines. We go into the Whaler’s General Store to see if we can find anything there to eat but there’s nothing we want. We go back to Ono. Tonight we order fish sandwiches. And just like the hamburgers from the night before, the fish sandwiches are awesome.
Tonight our entertainment is Scrabble. There’s no TV here at the Mahina Kai. Pat is the champion Scrabble player. The only time I’ve ever beaten her is when we were in Costa Rica. The heat and humidity there must have hindered her ability to think of great words with which to destroy me. Tonight is humid but not hot. Pat beats me in the first game by 85 points. In the second game I employ a different strategy. That’s to make moves not designed to get me points but to make it difficult for her to make high scores. It works. She’s frustrated, complains about bad letters. I win. We quit and go to bed listening to the geckos chirp and the breaking waves.
We’ve been told that the bus system here isn’t very good. We find quite to the contrary. Out on the highway the Kauai’ Bus is there right on time. It gets us to Lihue just as fast as a private car. There’s only one main road on the island. Most of the time the road is just two lanes, sometimes there’s three lanes. Between Kapa’a and Lihue the traffic moves at a snail’s pace. So, why not take the bus? Leave the driving to the excellent, friendly and helpful drivers of the Kauai’ Bus.
Getting off at the Big Save in Lihue, we walk over to the county offices and purchase bus passes for the month. They’re just $15 apiece. What a savings. A bus ride is $1.50 whether you ride the bus for a block or 40 miles. During the course of our day in Lihue we’re on and off the bus 6 times. That would have cost us $9.00 apiece if we didn’t have the pass and we still have 17 days to go on the island.
On the bus heading back to the Mahina Kai, we’re not looking forward to the walk back from the highway. We’ve been grocery shopping and our bags now way about 20 pounds apiece. The driver let’s us off the bus. I try several ways of carrying my bag and finally settle on putting it on my head. The walk isn’t so much fun now and we try to hitch a ride with every car that passes. They’re all tourists. I tell Pat that only a local will pick us up and, sure enough, a local who lives along the road stops and has us hop on the back of the tailgate on his pickup. Too bad, though, he can only take us about half way to our destination. It’s still another ¾ mile to walk. More cars pass us. Then two of the people staying at the Mahina Kai, Julie and Jennifer, driving a little jeep like vehicle, pull over for us. There’s no room in the jeep for us but we can put our bags in the back. Then Pat and I each get on the running boards and hang on tightly for the ride back.
Julie says to us, “Jennifer said aren’t those the people staying at the Mahina Kai.? I said, No. That looks like some surfer guy carrying a boogie board on his head. As we passed you, I saw that it was you.”
I’m a biker. I ride mountain bikes and road bikes. When we get back from Kauai’ I’ll be riding on a 100 mile road ride in the High Sierra with my youngest daughter, her husband and the husband of my oldest daughter. So, while we’re here, I need to keep riding to stay in shape. I ruled out bringing over one of my bikes because of the cost, United wanted $85 each way, and there was the risk of having it damaged during shipment. My thinking is to see if I can either rent a bike here for three weeks, or, if I can’t cut a good deal with a rental, consider buying a cheap bike at Wal-Mart or K-Mart and just leave it here when we go home.
This morning we took the Kauai’ Bus to Hanalei. I checked with two bike rental companies but couldn’t find any deal to my liking. Yesterday I’d checked out buying a bike in Lihue and that looks like the deal for me. Pat stays in Hanalei and I hop the bus back to Lihue. It’s a hour and 15 minute ride back.
I already know what Wal-Mart and K-Mart have to offer in the way of bikes. I think Wal-Mart has the best deal but I’m going to check out K-Mart one last time. The bus drops me off at Kukui Grove shopping Center, which is right next to K-Mart.
In K-Mart, I find a bike which hadn’t been out yesterday. The price is $75. Keep in mind that my bikes are $1500 to $2000 bikes. The K-Mart bike can’t be compared to my Razorback, full suspension, mountain bike but at $75 it’s a great deal.
I round up the stuff I need to go with the bike - helmet, pump, patch kit, pay for it and I’m out the door. I’ve brought my riding jersey with me. I put it on. Stuff everything into the pockets on the back and I’m off to Anahola.
I avoid the traffic that goes through Lihue by cutting down by Nawiliwili Harbor, onto the 51, out past the airport and then cut back into the 56. The time is 2 PM. I’m ahead of the rush hour traffic which gets really bad between here and Kapa’a around 3 PM. There’s a wide shoulder to ride on. Riding creates a breeze that keeps me cool. Now I’m seeing Kauai’ in a different light. I’ve driven this road many times on past trips to Kauai’ but now my bike gives me the freedom to see sights I haven’t seen before. I’m going fast enough to make real progress yet slow enough to let my eyes really see the ocean, the breaking surf, the sand the palms. The traffic to my left doesn’t distract me from the sights to my right.
Traffic really backs up at the signals going through Kapa’a. I’m able to race past all of the cars that are going stop and go. I’m five minutes past Kapa’a before any cars that I’ve passed entering the Kapa’a traffic dead zone catch up with me.
Now, the road is closer to the beach and the ride is even nicer. The hills between Kapa’a and Anahola are minor and I climb them easily on my new 21 speed mountain bike. I arrive at the Anahola General Store and Ona Burger at 3:30 PM. Pat will be here at 4 PM on the bus from Hanalei. I’ll grab some onion rings and a fruit drink here and wait for Pat.
Dinner tonight is canned ham and string beans heated up in the microwave. Pat then gets her revenge on me in a Scrabble game where she beats me 317 to 215. By 9 PM we can’t keep our eyes open any longer and we go to bed.
To our amazement, we sleep in until 8 AM. While Pat has breakfast, I take off for a bike ride. The guide book, Ultimate Kauai’, says there is a cane road that I can ride from Anahola to Kealia Beach. I find not one but several red dirt roads down by the ocean just north of Anahola. I have a great sense of direction and place. I quickly find the right road and begin dirt riding on a bluff just above the ocean. The foliage is so thick that I can only see the ocean every once in awhile but I know I’m heading in the right direction.
After, maybe a ½ mile I spot a single track going off to the left while the dirt road angles off to the right away from the ocean. The single track appears to be going in the direction I want to go which is along the ocean bluff. What the heck, I take it. The track is narrow, just wide enough for a bike or motorcycle. The track dips, twists, climbs through the dense undergrowth. I’m sure glad there aren’t any poisonous snakes or spiders in Hawaii’. Occassionally, I have to make a choice where the track appears to split. Only once do I make the wrong choice. That track led me right to the edge of the bluff. I backtrack a couple of hundred feet to get back on the single track that I want.
It’s probably less than a mile when I approach a clearing and the track is blocked by a bunch of boulders that have obviously been piled there to keep people from progressing further. I carry my bike over the rocks and begin riding again. I go across a narrow piece of flat land and then ride up a small hill. From the top of the hill I look down onto another green piece of relatively flat land and across it the dirt access road to Donkey Beach. However, to get to the road, I either have to cross a deep ditch, or, ride to my right back to the highway, south several hundred yards and then back onto the dirt road, which I assume would take me to Kealia Beach. I know from Ultimate Kauai’ that a private landowner is blocking access to Donkey Beach from the highway. This is a good place to go over to the highway, 56, and ride back to Anahola and the Mahina Kai.
Later I find that I could have ridden on the highway a couple hundred yards to an access trail that the landowner has created to allow access to the beach and the cane road that goes on to Anahola.
Today is Wednesday and that means the roving fresh produce marketplace will be in Kapa’a today. But that’s not until 3 PM. We have time to check out a section of beach that we haven’t been on. From the Mahina Kai, it appears that access is blocked to the beach by private property. To us it looks that the only way to legally get to the beach is to walk to the end of the road, about 100 yards, go through some rushes, climb down into a stream and walk the stream out to the beach, less than 50 yards.
We put on our reef walkers for this little expedition. These are rubber booties that allow you to walk on rocks without cutting up your feet. We don’t know what the bottom of the stream is like, so the booties are a precaution. I lower myself into the stream and find that right at the entry point the water is over my head. I swim out into the stream, which is maybe 25 feet across, and find that it quickly becomes only waist deep. I scout downstream for a ways and then go back to help Pat in and to get our beach bag. Wow, this is like an adventure. Even though there are houses around the stream, the foliage gives the short walk a real jungle feel. Walking towards the mouth of the stream, the ocean is framed with palm trees to the left and right and the mouth of the stream is blocked by a sand dune. We wade out of the stream and onto the sand and walk down the beach maybe 50 yards to a good entry point into the ocean to try snorkeling.
There are big houses all along the beach behind the palm trees. However, in Hawaii, the beach is always public even though people regularly block access to the beach with private land. It’s perfectly legal for us, then, to be using the beach in front of these homes.
I try snorkeling but there’s not much here in the way of interesting fish. The bottom is too sandy, not enough rocks for fish and the surf, though broken by a reef, still keeps the water choppy.
Back on the sand, we’ve got some time to just hang out before we need to head into Kapa’a. Whispy horsetail stratus clouds drift across the sky from east to west. One cloud catches my attention. About 10% of the right hand side has a reddish color. Slowly the red begins to engulf the cloud. With the red almost halfway across the cloud, yellow appears where I first saw the red. The yellow advances and it is followed by green. And now, the right hand edge of the cloud is blue. The whole cloud is now colored going from red on the left to yellow to green to blue. The colors are not pale, they are iridescent. Pat sees all of this, too. Maybe 15 minutes pass before the colors fade and the cloud returns to the same color as the rest of the clouds in the bright blue sky. During this whole atmospheric episode not another cloud in the sky has any color other than white and gray.
Leaving the beach, Pat and I begin our walk out to the main highway to allow us time to catch the bus into Kapa’a, visit the shops and catch the opening of the produce market at 3 PM. We’ve been told that the vendors begin arriving early in the afternoon but the public can’t purchase produce until 3 PM. However, the public is allowed to inspect the produce and determine which vendor they want to be in front of when the whistle blows at 3 PM.
Today we decide to hitchhike in earnest because it’s very hot and there’s no breeze. Within a few hundred yards a pickup stops for us. We’re only hoping to be taken to the bus stop in Anahola but he’s going all the way to Kapa’a and cheerfully offers to take us all the way. Of course we accept.
Now we’re in town much earlier than we had planned. This turns out to not work in our best interest. With so much time we walk further than we had planned, maybe a mile. It’s hot. It’s humid. Pat’s face is red and she and I are sweating profusely. Rather than walk back, we wait for the bus to take us back to where we think the produce market is. But it turns out this isn’t where the market is located. A woman tells us it’s about a mile away back behind the town. She sees that we are whipped and offers to drive us there. We accept.
What a hoot is the produce market. There must be 50 vendors here. People are milling around the stalls waiting until the 3 PM starting time. We begin inspecting and find an amazing array of common and exotic fruit and vegetables. There’s even an aid wagon stationed here. I ask one of the medic personnel if it gets pretty rough when the bell rings.
“Sometimes,” he says.
Now my anticipation level is really up. Looking back for Pat, I find that she has found a vendor with lettuce and tomatoes that interest her. Others also apparently like this vendor because there must be 20 people hovering around the stall. The bell rings and people begin shoving money at the vendor and grabbing bags of produce. The smart people have the exact amount so they don’t have to wait for the vendor to make change. For the most part, this vendor is just standing there and collecting money.
The next vendor for us is one who makes plumeria lei’s and sells them for $5 each. Pat has already asked this woman to stash a lei for her. All we need do is hand over the money and get the lei. From here we go to collect our large and fresh avocado for $1 that we had asked the vendor to hold for us. Now we split up to explore on our own.
I’m looking for something to drink. There’s a lady selling ice cold coconuts complete with straws. I hand over $2 to her and suck the coconut dry within a few minutes. A few vendors down from her I spot the guy who owns the bicycle shop in Kapa’a. He’s left the shop to sell, among other things, rambutans. I’ve never seen this fruit before and he tells me how to eat it. I buy 4 for $1 and quickly become an expert on this fruit.
It’s like a lychee, only better. The ripe ones are roundish and red with thick strands, like hair, protruding out from the shell. The strands look like they might be prickly but they’re not. To peel the fruit, jab your fingernail into the skin. Don’t be gentle about it like I was on my first try. Jab your fingernail in there. You’ll pierce the outer skin, peel that off. You’ll see a white inner sheath covering the fruit. This has to come off as well. It may have come off when you peeled away the outer skin. Now you have a light green fruit about the size of the first index of your thumb. Pop it in your mouth. There’s a big seed there. Chew the tasty fruit from the seed and spit out the seed. I bought 8 more and now wish I’d bought the whole box, they were so good and juicy on this hot day.
Heading back to the Mahina Kai, I now have lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, pineapple and apple-bananas. Oh, I forgot to mention those little apple-bananas. They’re about half the size of mainland bananas you get in the market but they have 3x the flavor. As we’re leaving the produce area, I spot a vendor selling Hawaiian Lau Lau. That’s meat wrapped in taro leaves, then ti leaves then cooked in the ground. I purchase ½ pound for $3.
Dinner tonight is a colorful salad of organic greens ringed with tomatoes and covered with avocado. Added to this is the pork lau lau mixed with some rice left over from another meal.
We’ve been a little too busy here at Mahina Kai. Today we hang around the pool for most of the morning. In the afternoon, we make a trip into Kapa’a to visit the craft fair. Mostly locals are there selling handmade crafts. A photographer is displaying his work. One photo catches my eye. Though it’s a sunset scene, the colors in the cloud are just like the colors I saw yesterday. I tell him what I saw and he tells me that he has seen the same phenomenon while flying but it isn’t often seen from the ground. The cloud, he says, was fracturing the colors in the sunlight into the basic colors in a rainbow.
Finally, we are just hanging at the Mahina Kai. Not that we haven’t enjoyed our forays into Kapa’a but we need a day when we do nothing. My bike ride this morning is a loop ride up into the up country from the Kuhio Highway. Almost all of the traffic on the island is along this main road that connects the towns. Go off the road towards the mountains and you have the island to yourself. That’s my ride this morning. I climb up onto the plateau. Cattle graze on ranch lands to my right and left. Looking back, the Pacific Ocean shimmers in the early morning light. Big fluffy clouds are drifting in over my head and going towards mountain spire called Waialeale
Our afternoon is spent on the beach a few hundred yards from the Mahina Kai. Crabs ranging in size from ½ inch to 3 inches scurry around the beach. When we first plop down on the sand the crabs are no where to be seen. But as we lie still for about 5 minutes, the crabs, one by one begin coming out of their holes in the sand. When one of us makes a sudden movement, the crabs disappear quickly back into their holes.
8th day This could have been a difficult day for us because we moved to Princeville, about 14 miles further down the road. My original plan was to ride my bike to the new condo and to carry a pack full of our stuff. Then I would walk the ¾ mile out to the bus stop and catch the bus to Anahola, where I would walk the mile to the Mahina Kai. With Pat and the rest of our belongings, we would walk back out to the road, catch the bus to Princeville and then walk the ¾ mile to our condo.
Kathy and Suzanne saved us from all of that. They drove us in their Sebring convertible to our condo in Princeville. Then we went with them to Hanalei for breakfast and to take in the farmer’s market.
Our condo turned out to be a bedroom with a microwave. This wasn’t what we expected and sent an e-mail to that effect to the condo owners, who live in Nebraska. To our surprise, within a few hours the property manager showed up with keys to a beautiful 1 bedroom condo with a loft. This was more like it. We now had a big lanai with a view of the mountains, a kitchen, bedroom and a spacious living room. The condo is in the Sandpiper Village complex which has a large swimming pool, Jacuzzi and barbecues. We highly recommend dealing with the people who rented us their condo. They are honorable and have a large unit with several configurations ranging from the simple bedroom we first hand to a spacious condo with two lanai’s, full kitchen, two bedrooms and a loft. The prices are very reasonable.
To celebrate our arrival into a beautiful unit with views of the pool and the mountains of Hanalei, I rode my bike over to the Foodland market and bought food for a preparation of a feast. Over candlelight we had BBQ Hule Hule chicken, chips and dip, salad and sushi. All of this was topped off with great MaiTai’s that I made with Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Cocktail and a dash of Trader Vic’s dark rum. Wow. Last night we were dining with microwaved food in a bedroom and tonight we have the world.
We took the bus today to the Waimea River where we planned to rent a kayak to paddle up the Waimea. To our dismay, we learned that the government now only allows a specific number of kayaks per day on the river and the kayak rental limit had been reached. This policy jumped the kayak rental prices from $35 a day for a double kayak to $70. We had no choice but to catch a bus back to Princeville. Pat went to the Princeville hotel and I went to our condo. For both of us it turned out to be a good day to just hang loose. In the evening we put together our plan for what we would do with the days we had left on Kauai’ The condo has an excellent library of books on Kauai’ and Tahiti. I became really engrossed in a book about the voyages of Captain Cook to Tahiti and Hawaii.
I’ve been off my bike for a few days so I took a 90 minute ride out the Powerline Trail. This trail runs from near Princeville to a road that winds down to Wailua. I only went a few miles out on the trail but still had spectacular views. Later we went down to Sea Lodge Beach, which is about 1/2 mile from the condo. As soon as we dropped our towels on the beach, we went into the water with our fins and masks. Snorkeling was perfect. You should keep this point in mind about snorkeling on Kauai’, what may be great snorkeling one day can be lousy the next. In the afternoon we kicked back in our condo. Pat and I played Scrabble. We were near the end of the letters and we were separated by just a few points. Then I came up with QUICK on a triple word score and laid down 73 points.
We took the bus into Lihue. Pat picked up her pendant and we had 5 hours to kill before we picked up a rental car. We took the bus to Anchor Cove. It’s right on the bay and I watched the surfers while Pat browsed the shops. Then we walked over to the Marriott and found it to be an awesome hotel. The building, though an ugly pink, is decorated beautifully and the grounds are magnificent. The hotel looks out onto the bay. It’s a classic Hawaiian scene. After touring the grounds we went back to the Anchor Cove where we had dinner at JJ’s Broiler. The MaiTai’s were excellent. I had two, Pat one, and both of us had a good buzz. We split Seafood Chowder and Pork Lau Lau with cabbage. The dining area is open and our table gave us a full view of the beach and the ocean. A very cool place to eat. The food was top notch.
Then we went back to the Marriott to see if we could get a ride on their airport shuttle out to the airport where we had to pick up our rental car. There was no problem doing this. We just got on the shuttle. No one asked if we were staying there.
Wow! Real freedom. We’ve done nicely without a car but it’s nice to have the freedom a car gives you. The last Kauai’ Bus runs at 6 PM. Tonight, with a car, we stayed out till 10 PM. One of the things we’ve missed on the trip so far was Hawaiian music. So, tonight we got a Hawaiian music CD to listen to while driving around. What a difference this made to our Kauai’ experience.
Back in Princeville at our condo, I made some more Mai Tai’s and a toasted cheese sandwich with Maui Onions. Yum
Today was a beach day. With a car we could check out some beaches that were too far to walk from a bus stop. Waiakalua was an awesome beach. The trail down is very steep and would be difficult if the trail were muddy. But it was dry today. We had the beach to ourselves for several hours before another family showed up. As we were getting our towels spread out beneath a shade bush, Pat spotted a Monk seal swimming along the shoreline just two feet from where the ocean ebbed onto the sand. We followed him down the beach for a hundred yards and then returned to our shady spot. The water was too rough and the current too strong for good snorkeling but we did see different coral. Our next stop was Secret Beach, which, as you might guess, is no secret. This is a very popular beach. The walk is along a gently sloping trail that goes through a tropical forest before opening out onto the beach. The waves were big here. The beach is wider than most beaches on the north shore and at the far end to the east the beach was backed up by cliffs. We thought the waves were too big and rough for us to go in swimming but we did see several guys who were awesome their on boogie boards.
Today we went back to kayak on the Wailua River. We chose Wailua Kayak Adventures because of the recommendation from the Ultimate Kauai. We’ve kayaked the Wailua before but today would give us a chance to see the river through the eyes of an experienced guide who promised to show us something very unique.
Our group paddled up the river about a mile and then took the north fork of the Wailua. In about ½ mile, the river narrowed to a channel about 30 feet wide. Dense green foliage covered the sides of the stream and tropical trees reached there branches out over our heads. Within a few hundred yards, we beached our kayaks and waded across the waist deep stream where we climbed a slippery bank. Now we’re on a trail that follows an ancient aqueduct built by the Hawaiians to bring water to their taro fields. After maybe 30 minutes of walking we came to an 80 foot waterfall. They call this Hidden Falls. We are arriving late in the afternoon. There are about 50 people in and around the pool at the bottom of the falls. Eden, our guide, tells us that it was not unusual to find a hundred or more people here if you came around mid-day. But I have to tell you that these falls were so beautiful and the pool so perfect for swimming that no number of people could diminish the attractiveness of this place. Of course, it would be nice to have it to yourself. The only way to do this would be to have your own kayak and start your trip from the mouth of the Wailua at sunup or in the evening. Pat was the first one in the water from our group. I followed after taking some pictures of her frolicking in the tropical pool. The water’s cold but not too cold. It’s best to wear reef walkers as you enter the pool because of the rocks. A few feet from the edge I began swimming to where the falls entered the pool. Wind coming up the valley shifted the fall of the water coming down from the mountain stream 80 feet above us. But when you get positioned under the falls you get a wonderful massage.
We've all had a swim now and we're heading back to our kayaks. Pat and I are continuing to take pictures when our guide tells us to be sure and save enough film to take pictures of what he's going to show us.
I'm guessing that we're within a 1/2 mile of the kayaks when Eden leads us off the trail and deeper into the jungle. Shortly, the vague path we're walking on appears to end abruptly at a tall thick living green wall. The wall is made up of big vines that have attached themselves to the surrounding trees from trunk to top. You can barely make out that there are trees inside the vine wall.
Eden, has led us to a small opening that we have to get on our hands and knees to crawl through. We are all wondering what he has in store for us. Emerging from the small tunnel, our breath is taken away. We are in the midst of a green cathedral with no roof. The trees here, for whatever reason, have formed a large circle around this area. I'm guessing that the circle we are in is about 100 yards across, maybe a little less. The trees are close to 100 feet high. They are almost totally hidden by the vines with big green leaves that link the trees together. The foliage is so thick that we can't see beyond the perimeter. The ground in the clearing is covered with plants about knee high and so thick and dense that you can lie on them and your body won't touch the ground. Off from the center of the clearing is on lone tree. It's dead and hollow. This is a mystical place.
We wish we could stay longer here but we need to get back to the kayaks. The paddle home will be a little more difficult because we'll be paddling into the wind.
Today we moved to another condo in the Princeville area. It's at the Hale Moi and, though smaller than the condo at the Sandpiper, has a great view of the mountains and a greater feeling of seclusion. The book Ultimate Kauai' gives the Hale Moi a low rating but we found it quite nice and the price very reasonable. If a studio that sleeps four and has a lanai and great view would suit you, I'd recommend you contact the lady that rented us this unit.
After settling in, we head off to the Hanalei Art Festival. Oh, it's nice to half a car so we can go when and where we please without considering how we're getting back. The art festival was okay. Nothing to rave about it but we enjoyed ourselves.
Back at the Hale Moi we got on our beach gear and walked down towards the Princeville Hotel, about 1/2 mile and then took the trail down to Hideaways Beach. We spent the afternoon on this beautiful beach which has lots of shade to protect you from getting too much sun.
It's about an hour before sunset. We're waiting for the Bali Hai restaurant in the Hanalei Bay Resort to open for dinner. If you want a ringside seat on the balcony for watching the sunset behind Hanalei Bay and the pinnacle they call Bali Hai, you need to be here with reservations and before they open. Tonight we'll celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. They're getting ready to open and we get up to the entrance so that we're second in line. The lady who seats people tells us that she doesn't show a reservation for us. Well we had made one. We ask for the manager, explain that we made reservations and that this is a special occasion. He personally takes us to a great table.
Everything that the Ultimate Kauai' says about this restaurant is true. The view is incredible, the food just okay, and the service poor. But we'd go back in a heartbeat because watching the sunset from there is awesome.
With a car now we can get out to Ke'e Beach. This is at the end of the road where the Na Pali Trail begins. The parking lot is full but we know from past trips here that we can park about 1/2 mile back down the road and walk through the jungle to the beach. The beach you come out onto has very few people. In fact to show this, I took a picture towards the main beach and 100 yards away you see bodies jammed onto the sand. I turn the other direction and in the picture you see a deserted beach. Yet, you can get into the water here or walk the short distance to the lagoon that attracts all of the people.
I'm out snorkeling. Pat's back on the beach. All of a sudden I see a turtle swimming from the lagoon out over the reef, where the water is only a few feet deep, towards deep water. I follow him as he makes his way out to sea. He goes right by people standing in the water who don't know a turtle is passing by. I go back and tell Pat that I bet we'll find lots of turtles is we go past the reef into the deeper water. We make our way out over the rocks in knee deep water and then ease into the deep water. I'd found a perfect spot where could easily exit from the rocks into the ocean without getting banged up by waves breaking on the rocks.
Here the ocean must be 25 feet deep compared to the maybe 10 feet in the lagoon. It's only a few minutes before we spot three turtles drifting lazily in the ebb an flow of the ocean as it approaches the reef. Pat and I get within two feet of them but don't touch them for fear that we'll disturb them. We allow ourselves to drift side by side with them going with the movement of the ocean. One breaks off and dives for deeper water. I follow him for aways but don't want to dive deeper. I have no idea how long we stayed out here with the turtles. Time stopped for us. The crowd back on the beach hadn't a clue that there were maybe a half dozen people out beyond the lagoon swimming and drifting with turtles.
I do want to caution you that you wouldn't want to do this during the winter months when the waves are much bigger on the north shore of Kauai'. Also, this is the beach where the girl was attacked by a shark while she was surfing. She was quite a bit further out than the place where we were swimming.
A performance that we enjoyed the last time we were here was the traditional hula show done at the Princeville Hotel overlooking Hanalei Bay. I checked with the hotel and found that they were doing the show tonight.
The Princeville Hotel raises mixed emotions with me. I find it a rather garish mole stuck on the side of cliff overlooking Hanalei Bay. I don't find anything Hawaiian about it. But it is a nice place to hang out at because of the views of the bay and the traditional hula show that is done here once or twice a week.
The show is free and is done in the large lounge area adjacent to the check in desk. We found ourselves a comfortable couch to sit on, ordered a Mai Tai and sat back and enjoyed the show.Maybe I shouldn't call it a show because it's nothing like the flashy lu'aus. It's a lady with a drummer who tells us about the hula performed by the ancient Hawaiians, not the later day Harry Owens type. She explains a dance to us. Then the slow resonating drum beat begins as she chats and begins the dance. Don't miss it.
Oh, time has really slowed down for us now. With a car we no longer have to think about schedule. First thing in the morning is a bike ride out the Powerline Trail. Next is breakfast and then to the beach. That's it for the day.
This evening we're at the Radisson on the East Shore. I can't imagine why anyone would stay at this hotel. The beach is almost unswimmable, certainly not fun swimming, and the place is ugly. For some reason it's packed. Maybe they have cheap rates for groups because most of the people we see here look like they're part of a group. We're here for the torchlighting ceremony, not the beach or the facility.
The torchlighting ceremony is free and must last for 30 minutes or more. It's Tahitian, not Hawaiian but the people performing are very good. I recommend this. You don't even get hustled to by a drink.
One last beach day. Yesterday we shipped the bicycle back to California via UPS. We're back at Ke'e and this is where we'll be all day. Swim with the turtles and soak up the sun. Tonight we fly home. The thing we always say about Hawaii is that it takes awhile to slip into the mood and let all of the mainland become a distant past. It's a shame that so many people only come here for a week. We've been here almost three weeks and could easily see ourselves here another three.