I’m back. We got in last night. I had meant to try to post some more while I was in Hawaii, but honestly, who wants to sit around writing on a computer when there are mountains to climb and reefs to explore and drinks to drink. Not I.
Kauai is the San Francisco of the Hawaiian islands. The place is full of hikers and backpackers and divers and surfers. We had a good time. The first day we drove around the eastern and northern sides of the island, from the Lihu’e Airport to Ha’ena, stopping along the way to check out the beaches. At one point we decided to randomly pull off the road and see where we would end up. We ended up in Anahola. Anahola is designated as Hawaiian Homelands, “meaning it is available to persons of Hawaiian descent,” according to the blue book. The place looked pleasant, and we saw our first chickens. We stopped at the beach. There were some locals hanging out in the parking lot in their trucks. I had been warned repeatedly that locals sometimes don’t take kindly to tourists, so I left my camera in the car and Heidi and I walked on the beach for a little while. I was probably being paranoid, I doubt they cared at all that we were there. The beach was nice enough, although there was quite a bit of trash strewn about. There was some sort of shrine set up under some trees near the parking lot, but I didn’t see anything that indicated who or what was being honored.
We continued up and stopped at the Kilauea Lighthouse. The area around the lighthouse is beautiful, with cliffs going down to the sea. There are lots of birds on the cliffs, and near the lighthouse we saw some Nenes. It is worth seeing, but the lighthouse parking lot is small, and there’s a guard at the upper parking lot who controls who goes in, so you may have to wait for a while to get in. Oh, and it’s “too steep” to walk down to the lighthouse from the other parking lot, according to the guard, so don’t even try. Whatever. I’m sure it’s a liability issue for them to have people walking in the road where other people might be distracted by the beauty around them.
After that we stopped at a few more beaches and had lunch at The Polynesian Cafe (“Gourmet food – paper plates”) in Hanalei Bay. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most places in Kauai had a fairly large number of vegetarian options on the menu. I ended up getting tofu in a sweet sauce. Shanghai tofu, maybe? We walked over to the beach, which took a little while because there are long blocks of houses separating the beach from the road, so you have to know where to go to find one of the roads that cuts through. The walk is nice, though, because you have beautiful green mountains on one side of you and the promise of beach on the other.
We continued on to Ha’ena Beach Park. The beach wasn’t all that great. There’s a cave across the street that you can walk around it. It’s kind of neat because the opening is surprisingly wide, but there’s not much to do but walk it, say, “Wow, it sure is dark in here,” and walk out. Didn’t Sartre mention the desire to fill holes?
We finally drove to the end of the road and got to Ke’e Beach and the beginning of the Na Pali Coast. The road quite literally ends there. From that point on, the only way to continue around the island on land is by foot. Twelve miles of roadless coast. We sat on the beach and relaxed for a while, watching the people and the chickens.
After that we headed back to around the island and went to our bed and breakfast. At this point, let me give a shout out to Ruth and Sandy at the Hale Lani Bed and Breakfast. Our room was very pleasant and clean, the food was tasty, and each room gets its own hot tub on the side of the house. Oh, and they have snorkels and flippes and boogie boards that you can borrow. And the rates are very low. What’s not to love? I can’t imagine staying in a better place for less.
We headed back to Ke’e and hiked the first few miles of the Na Pali Coast trail. We hiked for about two miles to a little beach and a stream. The beach is isolated and beautiful, but also deadly. The trail leading up to it has several signs warning you to not go into the water, including one that has a running tally of the number of people who have died on the beach. The waves are were very frequent and broke quite close to the beach. As far as I’m concerned, the signs were not exaggerating. There were two feral cats waiting for us on the beach. We were trying to figure out what they ate, but it soon became obvious that the hikers along the way were more than happy to share lunch with them. I did my best bird call and got the attention of the younger cat, but the older one completely ignored me. I pointed this out to Heidi. “Lunch wears hiking boots,” she said. Brilliant. Coming back on the trail we ran into groups in various states of preparedness. An older couple had muddy shoes, and the wife asked us if it was worth going on. We told her yes, but mostly because they were only about 15 minutes from the beach, and it would have taken them at least 45 minutes to walk back. She looked miserable, and I’m sure her husband was getting an earful. We were patting ourselves on the back for wearing boots when two girls came the other way completely barefoot and tramping along like they were walking on the smoothest carpet. I would recommend the hiking boots. Also, make sure you have water, and bring rain gear even if it looks sunny, because you can get dumped on by a sudden shower and the breeze is a little chilly. The hike isn’t too strenuous, but it takes some work.
After the hike we ate lunch on the beach and then spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between snorkeling and sunbathing. The snorkeling is great there because there is a coral reef off the beach that creates a nice protected area that is fairly large. There weren’t a whole lot of fish, but there were enough to keep us entertained. And because the water is so calm, it is also very clear, so you can see the fish even if they aren’t close. When you are on the beach, your entertainment options are limited to watching tourists and watching the chickens who parade about.
That night we ate dinner at the Blossoming Lotus, a vegan restaurant in Ka’apa. The food was excellent. The restaurant was a little more upscale than we had expected, but not in a bad way. You can wear shorts and flipflops, but leave the dirty hiking boots at home.
On Wednesday we went out to see the Weimea Canyon. They call it the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. That may be a bit of a stretch, but there are some beautiful views, and as one of our guidebooks pointed out, it is rather surprising to see such a big canyon in such a small island. There are lookout points all over the place, so you can get some pretty pictures. Keep an eye out for the waterfalls.
We got to the end of the road at the Kalalua Lookout and then hiked to the Pu’u o Kila Lookout. Great views, although the “hike” was actually just a walk on a road that was closed for repair. After some lunch, we decided to test our luck with the Awa’awapuhi Trail. I say “test our luck” because it was already 2:00 PM and the hike takes you three miles out and 1200 feet down. We weren’t sure how rough the trail would be, but we knew that there was a slight chance that we could be out past sunset if we took too long looking at the view. We end up making good time, getting to the end of the trail in about a hour and getting back in just under two hours. The trail is long and not particularly scenic, but we did get to see wild goats and wild boars. Those, combined with the chickens who were waiting for us and the end of the trail, prompted Heidi to call it our barnyard hike. The views at the end were great. You look down into a little valley that leads off to the ocean, and you’re surrounded by mountains. While we were there we saw a few helicopters flying around, but I think we enjoyed the view more having earned it. The hike back up was challenging. We’re both in reasonably good shape, and by the end of it we were dragging our feet. Don’t even think about trying it without lots of water. I went through a liter bottle, plus some water out of the Camelback that Heidi was wearing. There are mile-markers every quarter mile along the trail. I think that helped to keep us from getting too discouraged as we walked up.
That night we ate at a little hippie spot called Coco Cafe. The food was pretty good, and the whole thing is outside, which is quite pleasant except for the occasional mosquito. They don’t serve alcohol, so if you want a drink you should bring your own, but after the hiking all I really wanted was some water.
OK, I’ll try to finish up my trip report tomorrow or Wednesday.