Kauai Trip Report May 2005

Old Jun 10th, 2005, 12:22 PM
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Kauai Trip Report May 2005

For our 25th anniversary, we spent 4 days in Kauai and 6 days on the Big Island. This is the first time we stayed in B&Bs and I was very impressed overall. The places we stayed had a lot of little extras that you don’t get in a big hotel and we had as much privacy as we wanted. Contrary to popular belief, Hawaii can be pretty darn cheap. Other than the $400 heli flight and $100 for a wagon ride through Waipi’o Valley, BI, almost everything we did was free or less than $10. With a little research you can see and do so much more on your own and save a lot of money. At 46, I am healthy but a 2 mile walk several times a week is the extent of my exercise and my knees aren’t the greatest. OTOH, I’m a pretty tough old bird. We did a LOT of hiking on this trip and my husband was amazed that I held up as well as I did. I tried to remember to put down the times it took us to hike various trails to give you an idea of what to expect. I’d say we were probably average speed. This was not a leisurely vacation. We go hard from sun up to sun down because we had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time but I can honestly say we did pretty much everything I wanted to do.

We arrived in Kauai around 4:30 PM Friday May20. First stop Walmart to pick up some water, snacks and goodies for our outings (our diet consisted of dried mango slices, granola bars, peanuts and trail mix because we out in the boondocks half the time). I also bought a $7pair of long pants to wear over my others in case we were able to squeeze Mauna Kea into our plans for the Big Island

We stopped at Wailua Falls on the way to the Hale Ho’O Maha B&B In Kilauea. They are in a temporary space now while building a place right across from Tunnels beach that is supposed to be done in August. The hosts (Toby and Kirby) were very nice, the place was very clean and the one breakfast that we stayed for was very good. Polynesian Cafe in Hanalei for an excellent dinner. They let us use the refrigerator and freezer and washer/dryer. We brought our snorkels and masks but they had a stash of assorted old snorkels fins, grass mats, boogie boards, beach chairs and coolers. Room had TV/dvd player and they had a selection of movies and books.

Day 1
We had planned to head out to Tunnels (Makua Beach) snorkeling beach early Sat am but it was pouring rain when we woke up again at 5:30 so we decided to chill out and have breakfast at the B&B (most of the time we left before the places served breakfast) Then about 6:30 it started clearing up so we grabbed up our gear and hit the road. On the way we saw a gorgeous rainbow and the darn thing wouldn't go away. We stopped to get pics and head down the road and see a better shot and get out and take more pictures. Then we saw it was a double rainbow and took more. Then we saw it across the valley lookout and took even more. I was wondering if we’d ever make it to the beach.

We finally got to the Tunnels at about 7:15 and snorkeled for a couple of hours. We missed the second lot mentioned in the Blue book and just parked at the campground at Ha’ena Beach Park and made the short walk back. When we were talking to Toby later that evening he told us that you can free dive on the left side of the reef at Tunnels to a shelf about 15 feet below the surface where white-tip reef sharks (?) sleep during the day. I think it’s just as well that I didn’t know that before we went there ;-) Thank goodness the water was so clear everywhere that I felt no need to dive down. I may not have returned to the water if I’d seen them.

I tried my Canon S70 camera with the underwater housing but I couldn't see what I was taking pictures of very well and didn't know my camera well enough to run it without being able to see the button labels ;-(. Luckily I figured it out for the next snorkel photo-op. BTW the directions for the housing were pretty amusing. After almost every line of the instructions was followed by "or the housing may leak". We were scared to death to put our $400 camera in there!

Next we headed a mile down the road to Ke'e Beach, the last beach on the North end of Kauai adjacent to the Napali coastline. We were chilling out at Ke'e Beach before hiking and this Hawaiian guy walked by with a harpoon gun and snorkle mask. I pointed him out to my husband and forgot about it. About 30 seconds later my husband was tapping me. The guy just walked by with a fish in his hand! It was about 15" long with a head the size of my fist. Very cool.

Napali contains a gorgeous series of green ridges, cliffs and valleys that are only accessible by helicopter, boat or hiking. After snorkeling another hour or so, eating some granola bars and trail mix and lying on the beach for awhile, we headed out on the first section of the Kalalau Trail, a 2 mile hike up over the first ridge and back down again to Hanakapi'ia Beach. It took us 2 hours to hike out there.

Believe me, hiking sticks are your friends here. Coming back that last 30 minutes is pretty steep downhill and really hard on the knees. My husband found me a decent stick as we were going along the trail. However we found a piece of smooth, lightweight in a pile of disgarded walking sticks near the trail head. I kept that baby with me for the rest of our stay in Kauai ;-).

We spent about 30 minutes on Hanakapi'ia Beach. There were little stacks of rocks everywhere. Naturally, my husband had to get the most rocks in a stack. He said his 13 stone tower is even more impressive since all the flat stones were already taken. Meanwhile I spent my time trying to get a picture of the endangered Monk Seal that was basking on the beach. As we were hiking there, we heard that one was on the beach and figured he’d be gone by the time we made it. When we crossed the stream right before the beach we could see him but he was lying there so still the whole time, that we thought he was sick or dead. Just as I was getting my camera out to take his picture a big wave came up and hit him in the face and he lifted up his head and moved around. I spent the next 20 minutes waiting for another wave to make him move again. I finally gave up and we headed back out- another 2 miles and 2 LONG hours.

After all that work, where do we go to dinner? Bubba's Burgers !?!?! The burger was decent but the chili tasted like Hormel’s chili to me and their rice cooker was broken so we couldn’t try the “awesome” chili rice. Probably just as well since the chili sucked. Good thing we had ice cream in the freezer to make up for it.

Day 2
We headed out to Lihue for our 7:30 am check-in for the helicopter tour with Air Kauai. Bird food for breakfast again. The flight had some gorgeous views but to be honest, not really anything we didn’t see on our hikes or from the look-outs. The pilot was really good, gave interesting tidbits along the way and turned the chopper and waited to make sure everyone got good views and photos each place but it was a little too calm for my taste. After hearing many people say that they got sick on their heli ride, I was thinking it would be a little more exciting. Now I didn't want to get sick but, for $400+ I could have used a little more pizazz in the flight department ;-) If we hadn’t gone on all the hikes we did, I probably would have appreciated it a lot more.

Next we headed to the south side of Kauai and checked out Opaeka'a Falls, the Wailua River outlook and Spouting Horn. The surf was pretty low so it was less dramatic than usual but it was still neat. I can guarantee that it will fountain high as soon as you look the other way.

Next we drove over to Maha'ulepu Beach and hiked along the shore for a mile or so. We saw ANOTHER Monk Seal (there are ~20 on the Hawaiian islands). This one was a little more lively but not much. There were some really neat eroded lava formations in the water there and a cool horn without a spout. Then we picked up lunch at Tacos Nortenos. It took at least 15 minutes to get our food with only 3 orders ahead of us. The burritos were large but they needed salt or something. The “hot sauce” they put on is like water. They had “chili water” at a place in Captain Cook, BI so maybe that’s what it was. By the time we drove ˝ mile to find a place to stop and eat, the little trays they put the burritos in were overflowing with liquid. I had to drain them off in the parking lot before we could eat them.

After lunch we headed back north toward the B&B. I wanted to see the lava tidepools next to Secret Beach. My husband wanted to go to too because they reportedly have nude sunbathers there ;-) Unfortunately it was raining by the time we got there so we picked up some apple bananas and lychees at
Banana Joe’s fruit stand in Kilauea and then headed out to the Kilauea Lighthouse and bird sanctuary instead. It sits on a gorgeous bluff on the northernmost tip of the main Hawaiian Islands and has a nice waterfall and great views of the beach. Too bad it closes before sunset because I’m sure it would be spectacular from there. Birds are not my thing but they had several unusual types there including tons of Nenes. Speaking of birds, Kauai has feral chickens ALL OVER the place. After that we had a very nice dinner at Zelos Beach House in Hanalei -good food, huge portions. We weren’t real hungry so we decided to share a salad and dinner and had plenty to eat.

Day 3
Monday morning we headed out to Queen’s Bath around 6:30 so we’d be back in time for breakfast. That place was cool. It's about a ˝ mile hike to a fairly hidden lava pool with 2 nice waterfalls along the way- best bang for my hiking buck ;-). It’s a little hard to maneuver some of the trail and through some of the lava shelves into the pool so be careful if you’re not very agile. Our B&B hosts said that you can get a quasi- massage if you sit near the shelf where the waves are crashing. They also said there are usually sea turtles munching on the lava cliffs on the way out to the pool but we didn’t see any. Unfortunately the surf was real low and wasn't reaching the pool so the water was a little green and there weren’t as many fish but it was still a nice place to snorkel with gorgeous views of Hanalei Bay and the beginning of the Napali coast off in the distance. To top it off, we were greeted with a full rainbow. The best part is that we had it all to ourselves. It’s a pretty small pond so I’m sure it gets busy early.

Around 8:00 we headed back to the B&B to shower off and take advantage of at least one of our breakfasts before heading to Waimea Canyon. Along the way we stopped at the remnants of the Menehune Ditch- which was described as a smooth, lined irrigation ditch designed to bring water from the Waimea River to the taro fields. So we’re driving around looking for this “ditch” and can’t see it anywhere. But there is a really cool swinging wooden footbridge across the river with a sign that says “Menehune Ditch” with an arrow pointing left toward a steep rock cliff. Then we see a little plaque on the wall talking about the ditch. Apparently the “remnant” of the ditch is a 12’’ high stone lined up along the street for about 20 feet. Good thing the sign was there! Oh well, we had fun running across
the wooden footbridge. Check out the water meters next to the bridge. It looks like they run water through PVC pipes under the bridge to supply the other side.

Being the dessert queen that I am, I made sure we stopped at Jo-Jo’s Clubhouse for Shave Ice. For those that don’t know, it is a cup with about 1”of ice cream on the bottom and topped with 5” of shave ice (not shaved) with flavored syrup on top. It is supposed to be an island delight and Jo-Jos is supposed to be the best- 100+ flavors. They say it’s not like a snow cone because it’s shaved instead of crushed but it tasted like a snow cone to me. Where I come from, ice cream with bits of ice is considered the cheap crap. To each his own I guess. No more shave ice for this girl.

Next we drove up to Koke’e State Park and stopped at several scenic look-outs along the way. Chickens were all over the place. They must come for food from tourists because we must have seen 30 chickens at one look-out and when we went back there at sunset after all the tourists had left, there wasn’t a single chicken to be found. We go there at 1:00 and they wouldn’t give us our cabin key until 2:00 (and they leave at 4:00!) so we looked around in the museum a little and had a very nice lunch at the lodge.

After we put all or stuff in our “luxury” 2 BR cabin…LOL rustic is being kind but hey, we had beds, showers, a kitchen and a wood burbing stove right in the middle of heaven. We hiked the Awa-awapuhi Trail (6.2 miles- 2 hours each way plus whatever you spend at the lookout) to one of the ridges on the Napali Coast. The trail was pretty strenuous with fairly gradual but constant decline going out and not much payoff until you reach the end. There was a pretty hill along the way that was about 100 feet high and completely covered in lantana. Fog was rolling in and out of the valley the whole time we were walking but people that we met along the way kept saying it cleared up every fews minutes while they were out there. When we were about 20 minutes away we passed up some people that said the group just ahead of them had given up and left right before it cleared up. Poor guys. I told my husband that after that hike we were staying as long as it took to see the valley below! It started raining just as we made it to the clearing and lasted just long enough to get everything wet and force me to open up my poncho. Thank goodness it only rained a few minutes because I don’t know how we’d get back if that trail was wet and slippery. There were a few bands of rain still falling in the valley that were pretty neat because you could see the individual raindrops against the green backdrop and follow their path down into the valley. We were counting how long he could follow the path of a section of drops and got to about 12 secs. The goofy parks put railings up at the edge but they put them about 15 feet from the edge and you CAN’T see the valley from there!!!! So we walked around in front of them 3 feet or so and could see everything. Oh, and we saw a rooster and hen up there at the ridge. I guess people must stop and have snacks when they get to the end of the trail just like the top of Angel’s Landing (?) in Zion where all the chipmunks hang out. The view was spectacular but I’m not sure it as worth the 3.1 mile climb out (especially since we saw it from the air-conditioned comfort of the helicopter the day before ;-). I was soooo happy to see our car at that trailhead! By the time we got back it was close to sunset so we drove about halfway out of the canyon to try and catch the sunset at a look-out we’d seen earlier but the sky didn’t co-operate ;-(. The lodge restaurant closes at 4:00 so you’ve got to bring food in or go back down to Waimea for dinner.

Day 4
6:30 am we headed out to the Pihea Trail. It runs along a ridge overlooking the Kalalau Valley on the coast side and interior forest and swamp on the other. The first half mile of the trail is nice and easy and had lots of lookouts on each side. It was mainly different angles of the same valley but I prefer getting a nice view regularly rather than trudging through the same old forest for hours for one big wow. The trail was mostly out in the open, so I imagine it would get pretty hot midday. Shortly after the first short section with a boardwalk, you start getting into some serious climbing (and sliding) through rocks and clay mounds and much less in the way of views, so this may be a good time to turn around. Pihea Vista (at 1 mile) is gorgeous but you will work for it. Thank goodness for dry trails and strong tree roots to grab a hold of. It was even too steep for my hiking stick so I’d throw it ahead and pick it up again when I got it. The park had closed the paved road to Pu’u o Kila Look-out (where the trailhead starts) so we had to park back at the Kalalau Look-out and walk an extra mile along the road before we even got to the trail so it took us 15 min to get to the trailhead and another 45 minutes to hike the mile out to Pihea Vista. We then headed toward the Alaka’i Swamp Trail hoping to see some of the swamp but time ran out before we got there.

After showering and changing clothes, we left my handy dandy bamboo hiking stick behind and headed for the airport to catch our flight to Honolulu and then to Kona, Big Island. To be continued……
mdod is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2005, 03:29 PM
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Excellent!!! How'd I miss this one?

You ready to go back???
You got a Double Rainbow so you HAVE to now!!!
Kal is offline  
Old Jun 10th, 2005, 05:14 PM
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Hi mdod. We were in Kauai for two, too short, days in mid-May. We did several of the same things you did, and I concur with a lot of your experiences.

Re: monk seals. We didn't know about they sleep on the beach and we came across one on Poipu Beach. My husband was sure it was dead. They had it roped off and it really did look like it wasn't breathing. I insisted that whoever is in charge of wildlife in Hawaii would not let a dead seal sit unattended on such a populated beach! We then came across a descriptive marker and learned how they sleep on the beach.

And I laughed about your husband "winning" the rock pile. You didn't realize it was a competition, did you? My husband's the same way!

And I'm with you on the shave ice. I had a passion fruit one on Maui - it was huge and very good, but really, it was a snow cone. (And quite an expensive one at that!)

Thanks for your trip report, I enjoyed it.
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Old Jun 10th, 2005, 07:53 PM
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Thanks for the great report.

You guys sure know how to stay busy!

I will keep my eyes peeled for that pile of walking sticks at the Kalalau Trail.

47 more days


iamq is offline  
Old Jun 11th, 2005, 03:10 AM
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Great trip report. You were there the same time we were and never even said hello!


Old Jun 11th, 2005, 06:49 AM
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I had a great time but I doubt we'll get back to Hawaii anytime soon, if ever. That's why we covered so much ground while we were there. Just too many places I want to see in the world.

I noticed that I left off the "Bamboo" part of my fave walking stick. Bamboo is the key: strong, smooth and light.

Sorry I missed you I'2. I was really surprised at how few people we saw, especially in Kauai. Also that Kauai and BI were so behind in the times. Not all built up and commercialized like most places- Amen! It reminded me of vacations when I was a kid 35 years ago or when we went to Costa Rica 5 years ago. I get so sick of seeing carbon copies of the same restaurants and hotels everywhere.

LOL, Yep Karens, everythings a competition with my husband. Since we ran into those stones stacks almost everywhere we went, I'm just glad he was able to top everyone at that first stop.

Glad you liked the trip report. Now I've gotta figure out where to go next ;-)
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 09:56 AM
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You're right mdod, Kauai is not as built up as a lot of destinations. One thing that drew me to Kauai for our first of four vacations was the fact that Kauai building codes state that no building shall be taller than a coconut tree....or four stories. I hope that never changes. Harry
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