Month: March 2013

Paradise – The Last Day

(Our last day in Kauai ended at the airport where we prepared for our overnight flight back to Denver. Because we had precious few hours left in paradise, I chose to save my final post about our trip until today. I’m sure you understand.)

Wailua Falls

Wailua Falls

We set the alarm for a 6:30 wake up call because we had a lot to accomplish. Happy to see that the clouds were finally clearing from Lihue, we decided our first stop would be Wailua Falls. Perhaps because this particular destination was relatively close to our lodging, we’d managed not to make it there yet. The mood was already somber in the car as we all took in the gravity of the situation. We were heading home at the end of the day, and not one of us was yet ready to leave.

When we reached the falls, it was lightly misting and the sun was obscured behind some clouds. Still, it was barely 8 a.m. on a workday morning for most folks in Kauai, so we had the falls to ourselves. We stood there for a few minutes enjoying it. The heavy rains from the preceding day had turned what should have been two separate falls into one large one, an upside surprise to visiting Kauai during the rainy season. As we stood there snapping photos, the clouds began to break up and for a brief minute the falls and the vibrant green forest surrounding it were illuminated. Perfection.

Sunny Poipu Beach mostly to ourselves

Sunny Poipu Beach mostly to ourselves

As beautiful as it was, we were eager to get on with our day so we headed to Koloa for coffee and breakfast to take to the beach. We were on Poipu before 9, and it was relatively empty as most folks were still sizing up the clouds and enjoying sleeping in on vacation. I headed for the water immediately, hell bent on getting some more fish photos with the underwater camera. I had hoped to spy a turtle in the surf but had no such luck. It was cool enough on the beach that the water felt pleasantly warm, so I swam and enjoyed the fish for about 45 minutes while the boys played in the mellow waves. We stayed on the beach until 11 and then packed up to go back to Koloa to purchase the last of a few souvenirs and gifts.

Our token Hawaiian souvenir photo for the koa wood frame we bought

Our token Hawaiian souvenir photo

Our last token Hawaiian moment happened after showers. On the first full day of our trip we had bought Hawaiian garb, somewhat tacky and obnoxious and yet wholly necessary. Once we were cleaned, we donned our Hawaiian outfits and drove down to Kalapaki Beach, the first place we touched the sand and the ocean on our very first night in Kauai. There with the late afternoon waves pounding the shore break, we posed in between waves for a quick family photo as our last nod to Hawaii. It was hard to be cheerful about it, but we tried.

Pretty sure I could get used to life in flip flops, tank tops, and no make up

Pretty sure I could get used to life in flip flops, tank tops, and no make up

On the flight from Kauai to Honolulu where we would catch our red-eye to Denver, Joe talked non-stop about how much he wanted to move to Hawaii. He says these things about every place we visit, so I didn’t think much of it. Truth is, though, that I was with him. I could live in Hawaii. Island fever be damned. There’s something magical about Kauai…the quiet pace of life, the light, the lushness, the friendly people, the steady and warm rain. I could do it. I could cash in my busy life to be quietly zen on Kauai. I’m sure of it. It would be a life completely different from the one I am living now, but I’m pretty certain I could live on a steady stream of flip-flops and farmer’s markets in paradise. Luke said that even paradise would seem boring after a few months. After all, if you’ve seen one sea turtle you’ve seen them all right? He asserts that some day even humpback whale sightings would be commonplace, much the way coyote and elk sightings are at home. He may be right. I suppose it’s possible. I’d simply like the opportunity to find out for sure.

Paradise – Day Seven

Joe at the lighthouse

Joe at the lighthouse

I think someone wants us to go home. When we went to sleep last night, it was raining. When I woke up in the middle of the night it was raining even harder. This morning when we awoke it was a full on downpour. We immediately checked the forecast for all parts of the island. It appeared it was going to be wet everywhere, so we decided that we would go ahead and return to Hanalei because if we were going to be wet that seemed like as good of a place as any.

With a quick stop for Starbucks, we headed out of town and up towards the Kilauea Lighthouse, which we had glimpsed yesterday but were unable to visit because it was closed for the evening. As we drove past Wailua, the river we had calmly paddled the other day was torrent of Kauai red dirt. The bay where the Wailua empties was stained red and the seas were rough. The roads were flooded in many spots. Still…we had hopes that perhaps the north shore was simply overcast and not drenched, so we cruised on.

Looking north towards Anini Beach

Looking north towards muddy Anini Beach

When we at last reached the lighthouse, we were there just two minutes before it opened so we waited at the gate. The gate at last opened and we drove into the bird sanctuary there. We were excited to see some of our old friends, the booby birds we had seen last summer in the Galapagos. Sure enough there was a nesting colony of red-footed boobies, along with some albatross and shearwaters, as well. The area was overcast and we were dry for the time being, so we walked up to the lighthouse and enjoyed the view. The seas all around were rough and along the coast you could see the areas where some streams and rivers emptied into the Pacific as they were murky and reddish. Anini Beach, where we had calmly snorkeled a few days ago, was completely tinted red. It would not be so easy to see my sea turtle there today.

Hanalei...a little flooded out

Hanalei…a little flooded out

Onward we went toward Hanalei, stopping briefly at Princeville to take in the Hanalei Overlook. We noticed there were many more waterfalls flowing today than there were the other day. Then, as we approached the road down into Hanalei we noticed it was coned off. Signs noted that the road was flooded and impassable. There were road and police crews there to keep people from making the trek down. Hoping that we might be able to wait it out, we stopped at CJ’s for lunch but when we had finished eating the road was still unopened. Sadly, we waved goodbye to Hanalei from the overlook and decided to head back around the island to Poipu where we hoped to find sunny skies at last.

Luckily, Poipu did not disappoint. Although the seas were far rougher today than they were yesterday there was at least enough sun and warmth for some more snorkeling. I headed straight for the water, determined to photograph some more fish. I was a few minutes into my task, crazily snapping photos of all the awesome fish I was seeing, when I realized that the camera had shut itself off. It was out of batteries. Dammit! Ugh. I hauled myself out of the surf and back to my towel where I lazed and watched Luke attempting to catch that dreaded rooster he wanted to turn in for his $40 reward.

The two fish I captured before my camera pooped out.

The two fish I captured before my camera pooped out.

We’re all disappointed that we’re leaving tomorrow. I have to be honest. As a rule I’m ready to go home after a trip as long as this one. I am not, however, even remotely ready to go home this time. I love it here. This island is keeping a piece of my heart when I leave tomorrow. I love the diversity of the landscape, from the lush Na Pali coast to the desert western shore near Waimea. I love the friendliness of the people and the laid back pace here. Plus, there is so much to see that we didn’t get to see. We’d hoped to hike but it has been so wet that many of the hikes we had wanted to do were too slippery to enjoy. The seas were too rough to enjoy the northern coast by boat, and we missed out on several beaches I would loved to have visited if the weather had been sunnier and the northern seas a bit calmer. We didn’t even get to enjoy one west coast sunset on a beach. So I guess the bad news is that we’re leaving tomorrow. The good news is that we left so much undone we will be forced to return. It’s a small consolation but it’s something. And we still have tomorrow morning, so we’ll be heading out bright and early for one last shot at the beach before we board a plane and return to our Colorado home. On Friday morning when I land in Denver in my flip flops, I hope I will find some Kauai sand still stuck on me somewhere.

Paradise – Day Six

Three boys at the beach

Three boys at the beach

We had one goal to accomplish today. On the cruise last night, one of the shipmates had mentioned boogie boarding to the boys. He recommended Brennecke Beach, directly adjacent to Poipu Beach Park, which is locally known as the place for boogie boarding. Because it’s a small beach, no surfboards are allowed and people are left to enjoy the waves either by body surfing or boogie boarding. So this morning we suited up, grabbed our towels and beach mats, and headed to the Poipu area hoping to escape the rain in Lihue. It worked. By the time we got to Poipu it was obvious we were in for a sunny Hawaiian morning.

Fish friends

Fish friends

My first order of business, though, was to do some more snorkeling. The first day we were here, we’d hit Walmart to purchase an inexpensive underwater camera, a camera we had managed to leave at the condo our first snorkeling day at Poipu and then not truly understand how to use during our second snorkeling day at Anini Beach when I swam with the sea turtle. I was determined not to let our purchase go to waste. Knowing I had seen great fish at Poipu before, I knew today would be my day. Armed with snorkel, fins, and mask, I approached the water with that camera wrapped firmly around my wrist, a woman on a mission. In a matter of minutes I was underwater snapping photos of any fish that would get within arm’s reach. If you’ve ever used an underwater camera, you know that underwater photography is not easy. You mostly aim your camera in the direction of the fish and then pray that you’re actually photographing the subject you’re intending to capture. I had no idea if it was working, but I snapped away like a loon anyway. Imagine my joy when I actually had captured a few shots of actual fish and not just my thumb over the lens or my own, neon-pink fins.

Meanwhile, Steve and the boys ran across the street to procure boogie boards. When they had returned, we walked next door to Brennecke Beach so the boys could try it out. I knew they would love it, and they did. Joe, who had left his rash guard at the beach yesterday for some other nice family to inherit, was getting mighty beat up on his skinny little boy chest but he could not bring himself to care. He loved it. Luke liked it too, but not as much as Joe, so he kindly shared his board with his crazy parents who had some fun too. Eventually, when we were all tired of being bounced around, we packed it in. We shared our battle scars, sandburned knees and bruises from collisions in the crowded surf, and headed to Koloa for some snacks and shopping before heading home to clean up for the second part of our day. Just before leaving as we stood at the park surveying the scene we saw two whales breach in the distance, their behemoth bodies launching halfway out of the water before landing with an enormous splash. They looked as triumphant as we felt.

Kilauea Lighthouse in the rain

Kilauea Lighthouse in the rain

When we finally were ready to head back out, we ran into more rain. It was pouring a steady, strong rain from Lihue through Wailua and Kapa’a, so we kept on driving. We’d originally thought we might make it as far as the north shore. Instead, we stopped off for a quick view of the Kilauea Lighthouse before heading off in search of dinner. The lighthouse and bird sanctuary were closed for the evening, but we caught a peek of the lighthouse from the overlook. The rain let up just long enough for me to snap a few quick photos of it. We might have to head back there tomorrow.

$40 reward for this Kauai Rooster

$40 reward for this Kauai Rooster

We allowed ourselves an early evening tonight because we’ll be getting up early to make the most of our last full day here on Kauai tomorrow. We have a lot to pack into our day. I would like to see another beach or two and snorkel again. Joe is still in need of his vacation souvenir, so he would like to shop. Luke is determined to catch a Kauai chicken or rooster, as we told him on day one that we would award anyone who could catch one $40 for their effort. And Steve found one more shave ice shack he has to try. I’m beyond sad to be heading home soon. Although it will be nice to sleep in our own house, there’s no doubt I’m going to miss this place. Steve told me today that I’d better hurry up and find my get-rich-quick scheme because we’ll need to some serious cash for the home I want to have on this small, idyllic, crazy chicken paradise out in the middle of the Pacific.

Paradise – Day Five

No...your OTHER right.

No…your OTHER right.

Today started very early and far too harried as we realized that our alarm had failed us and we were already 15 minutes behind schedule. We hastily threw ourselves together and somehow managed to get ourselves to the kayak company for our morning paddle just a few minutes after 7 a.m. Determined not to let our weak start ruin our morning, we bucked up and got our kayaks onto the river. When we were in the Galapagos Islands last summer, we did some kayaking with the boys. Kayaking on the ocean when the wind and the currents are working against you is a tough proposition for most people. Doing that with two boys who haven’t been in a kayak before is even more work still. But kayaking on open ocean in wind and strong currents with novice paddlers, one of whom is ADHD and on vacation from medication, is borderline insanity. Our decision to take the boys kayaking again today is testament to either our optimism or our insanity.

Luke crosses the stream

Luke crosses the stream

The plan was to paddle up the Wailua River to the jumping off point for Secret Falls. As the kayak dude was explaining the trek, I started to wonder if we’d perhaps bitten off more than we should chew. Kayak up river. Pull the kayaks out at the trailhead. Cross a stream using a rope to help us through the current. Trek for a mile and a quarter through the mud (it poured again last night) and eventually arrive at a “secret” falls (that isn’t really secret at all) for a little swim.

Luke wades in at not-so Secret Falls

Luke wades in at not-so Secret Falls

We did a pretty good job with the paddling, which is to say no one died or was murdered in the paddle upriver. The hike went fairly well too. And being experienced hikers we did quickly make our way to the falls, which were definitely worth the muddy trek. Another family from Colorado was finishing up their time at the falls, so we were able to have them to ourselves for a few minutes. We all got into the pond for our photo op under the falls. Then, wet and muddy we slipped carelessly back to our kayaks for the trip downriver. Again no one died or was murdered, so we decided to consider the adventure a success.

Big enough for 4 people to share!

Big enough for 4 people to share!

Post adventure we were starved so we headed to The Fish Hut in Kapa’a where we all had (big surprise) fish. Even Luke, who had never been willing to try fish before, ate fish and chips. We shared a huge shave ice before heading to Lydgate Beach Park where the boys wanted to snorkel. We were only there for an hour, but tonight I realized that an hour is plenty enough to fry in the Hawaiian sun. Apparently I forgot to put sunscreen on my legs, and this evening they are en fuego. Oh well. At least I won’t be going home as white as I came.

Steve and Joe on our barefoot cruise

Steve and Joe on our barefoot cruise

This evening, after we’d been cleaned of this morning’s mud and this afternoon’s sand, we went on a sunset catamaran cruise around Poipu with Captain Andy’s Sailing. I knew a cruise along the Na Pali coast would be far more scenic, but after reading some reviews on Trip Advisor about boat trips up there in the rough, winter seas I opted to book us onto a southern trek instead. Frankly, the whole idea of paying $80 a person to yak off the back of a boat sounded unappealing. In theory, we took the boat trip to look for whales. Truthfully, we were simply enjoying an evening at sea. For the two hours we were out there we saw nothing but an occasional and quite distant spout. We were on our way back to the harbor when a baby humpback shared its fluke. Although I missed it, both boys saw it. And that is all that matters as Steve and I glimpsed our share of humpback whale flukes while cruising Alaska’s Inside Passage.

All in all it was another successful Hawaiian day. Our plans for tomorrow are loose and undefined, but they will likely involve a beach or two. And barring non-stop rain we’ll probably be trying out some boogie boarding. My main goal for tomorrow is to see if the four of us can go an entire day without acquiring one new patch of sunburn anywhere. It is a lofty goal, but I’m game. My secondary goal, the one which appeals to me far more, is to see if we can try another new place for shave ice. I think I’ve found my new favorite thing. Macadamia Nut ice cream is heavenly.

Paradise – Day Four

Angels Trumpets...deadly if ingested but fun to look at.

Angels Trumpets…deadly if ingested but fun to look at.

We must be getting adjusted to the time zone difference because our day got off to a later start. We began with a quick lunch in Koloa, grabbing a slice at Pizzetta before heading to Allerton Gardens in Poipu. As a rule, I’m not a big garden fan but this a National Tropical Botanic Garden and because it contains all kinds of exotic plants it seemed like something I should see. Besides which the garden has been used for scenes in several movies, including Jurassic Park and a Pirates of the Caribbean film. I figured if it was good enough for Steven Spielberg and Johnny Depp it was good enough for me.

Dwarfed by nature

Dwarfed by nature

It rained lightly the entire time we were there, which further proved that our decision to do garden over beach today was a phenomenal idea. I was afraid that the 2.5 hour garden tour might send our boys over the edge, but they did fairly well considering they were the only children surrounded by 16 adults. Truth be told, they held it better together than I did because I found 2.5 hours a long time to stare at plants. I tried to be zen about it, but I’m not particularly patient that way. I was, however, fascinated to learn that a type of cluster bamboo plant in the garden can grow 1-3 feet per day. When the plant reaches the end of its life cycle at 150 years, it flowers to spread its seeds and then dies. Who knew?

And I did enjoy standing in the roots of a Moreton Bay Fig Tree that was used in the filming of Jurassic Park. The roots were about 5-6 feet tall, but the tree itself is only 70 years old. Nature is amazing. Still…I’m with my son, Joe, who said he prefers the fauna to the flora as a rule. So it seemed appropriate that as the tour was winding down and we were on our way back to our parked car a pod of humpbacks was surfacing just offshore. That’s the way I roll.

Seriously? No thank you.

Seriously? No thank you.

Post whale watching, we headed back to Koloa for more souvenir shopping (and a latte) before returning to Poipu to check out Shipwreck Beach. Joe had his heart set on doing some body surfing but the red flags were out, so he and Luke settled instead for sandcastles near the edge of the surf. While they watched their creations wash away, I watched a couple brave (read: insane) souls jump from the cliff into the ocean below. One guy used his 30-foot freefall to execute a flip, which I caught midway with my iPhone camera. When I looked back over at the boys, the sandcastle activity had been scratched. Both boys were drenched.

This is what joy looks like

This is what joy looks like

Luke, who had failed to put on his swim trunks this morning, was soaked in his clothes….cargo pocket shorts full of sand. Oh…the joys of boys. I shrugged it off and watched a monk seal do the body surfing the boys had hoped to accomplish.

Worth the rain

Worth the rain

On the way home, boys clothed only in beach towels in the back seat of the Jeep, the rain began to pour. When I read the guide books about Kauai in preparation for our trip, I was concerned about our trip here over the boys’ spring break during the wet season on Kauai. I worried that the water temperatures might be too cold and the rains might ruin our beach vacation. So far, the author was right. A little rain will not ruin your Kauai vacation. The wet season means rainbows. And sure enough on the way back to our home base this evening someone was looking out for us. We got our Hawaiian rainbow.

Paradise – Day Three

Manly boys with spears

Manly boys with spears

Started our day out with no real idea of what we would do and finally settled upon hitting Waimea Canyon on the west side of the island. Popped the top off the Jeep, loaded up the boys and some snacks, and headed northwest on the highway. We found the canyon road without trouble and started our ascent, amazed at how steep sections of the winding road were. When we reached the Waimea Canyon Lookout, we found a couple young Hawaiian men there in full native garb. They explained that they were there simply to share some of their history and culture with the tourists. They had a little basket that people were throwing donations into, so we handed each of the boys a buck and the young men outfitted our boys with garlands and spears and we snapped a couple photos. Luke told me then that “you’re not a real man unless you’re holding a spear.” So wise at such a tender age.

Waimea Canyon Lookout

Waimea Canyon Lookout

Seven miles beyond the Waimea Canyon lookout, you reach the pull out for views down the Kalalau Valley. It was incredibly misty, so we weren’t sure we’d be able to see anything but we trekked up to the edge of the view anyway, just in case. The clouds lifted for a minute and we were able to catch a small glimpse of the view. Steve was standing dangerously close to a treacherous drop off at one point, busily snapping photos without a care in his usual “Safety Dad” brain. I made sure to remind him that his accidental death would net me a million dollars in insurance money so he’d best be careful. After the photo op, we were starving. So back down the canyon we flew in search of food.

IMG_2815

Seriously amazing coconut shrimp

We found a cute little food shack back in Waimea called the Shrimp Station. Didn’t really see how we could pass that up. The menu, with the exception of a couple sides and one hot dog, was mainly shrimp dishes. Steve opted for the garlic shrimp with rice, which he enjoyed. I had the best coconut shrimp I’ve ever had. Joe tried the shrimp burger, which defies description but which he devoured. Luke, our picky eater, even ate a portion of one of my coconut shrimp so you know it had to be good. We followed our shrimp with JoJo’s Shave Ice. I’m going to need to purchase a muumuu to wear for the flight home if I persist with this eating pattern. Grateful that my new juicer is sitting in Denver anxiously awaiting my return so it can chew up some kale for me. I’m going to need it.

Hawaiian Monk Seal hanging loose

Hawaiian Monk Seal hanging loose

Replete after our meal, the boys decided swimming was in order so we hauled it back down the coast to Poipu. The boys opted to do some body surfing. I chose to lounge in the sun because although I don’t tan I would prefer to return home from Hawaii slightly less white than I currently am. Joe and Luke finally spotted a sea turtle, which made their day, and I caught sight of a couple humpbacks breaching off shore. (My fingers are still crossed that they will show for us on Monday night’s cruise.) Poipu’s resident monk seal was back in its cordoned off, private beach section of Poipu, and he was kind enough to pose for a photo for me. It was a successful afternoon of creature sightings.

As the clouds and mist began to roll over the beach, we packed it in and headed back to Koloa Town for some shopping. We purchased some souvenirs and the boys got afternoon snacks. I couldn’t resist snapping this photo. Trust me. They’re animals. Spend some time in a car with them and you will know my truth.

The animals

The animals

No idea what our plans are for tomorrow. Maybe a native garden. Maybe Wailua Falls. Probably the beach. Joe is already depressed that we’re halfway through our seven days here. Given that we received about 10 inches of snow at our house in Denver today, I empathize with his sadness about leaving the island. I’m not ready to hang up my flip flops. Is it summer yet?

Paradise – Day Two

Yep...I was in a helicopter. No lie.

Yep…I was in a helicopter. No lie. Over Waimea Canyon even.

This morning Steve and I left the rest of the family behind and headed to the office of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters for our tour of Kauai. As soon as we’d booked our airline tickets and I’d begun my research about our destination, I knew we would have to take a helicopter tour. The guidebook said that “coming to Kauai and not taking a helicopter tour is like going to the Sistine Chapel and not looking up.” I was sold. I could not miss that opportunity. After careful research about the best tour companies, I confidently chose Blue Hawaiian, picked a random date early in our stay (just in case inclement weather dashed our first attempt at a ride), and committed the fee to our credit card. The deed was done.

Mt Waialeale

Mt Waialeale

So this morning we drove off toward our helicopter ride praying that the clouds would lift enough after last night’s heavy rains to afford us a memorable trip. Apparently all our finger crossing worked because the trip was amazing. Neither of us had ever been in a helicopter before, and we were anxious to cross it off our t0-do list. Our pilot Scott, a retired police force pilot from Texas, was a perfect host. Taking off from Lihue, we circled clockwise around the island, taking in the south shore (and some whales) before heading to Waimea Canyon and then over to the Na Pali coast. I’m fairly sure I spent the entire 55 minute flight shaking my head at the beauty. Un-be-liev-able. My favorite part of the trip was definitely our journey into Mt. Waialeale, the crater of the extinct volcano that formed this gorgeous island. It is one of the rainiest spots on earth, averaging over 430 inches of rain per year, and it shows. The steep, volcanic rock walls are blanketed in lush green carpets that ooze waterfalls. I’m still shaking my head as I write this.

After our tour, it took a while to get our heads back on straight. When we’d done that and had some lunch, we decided our next stop would be the north shore because as we’d flown over that part of the island in the morning it had been sunny. We headed through Wailua, Kapa’a, Anahola, and on our way to Princeville we saw the sign for ‘Anini Beach.

'Anini Beach

‘Anini Beach

This particular beach had been on my list of beaches I wanted to visit for snorkeling, so we stopped. ‘Anini is fringed by a long reef, which keeps it protected from the pounding surf. I was at first disappointed that the bottom was so sandy and the fish were so scarce. But doggedly determined I am so, like Dory, I just kept swimming. After about ten minutes of seeing not a whole heck of a lot, I hit the jackpot. There, a hundred yards from shore, I found a lone green sea turtle feeding on the plants at the bottom of a sandy flat. I quickly popped my head up to signal to hubby and the boys but they were having technical difficulties with their gear. I had my turtle sighting, though, and I didn’t intend to let it go. I enjoyed 20 minutes swimming along with that turtle by myself, basking in the wonder of it all, joining it on the surface for air so I could see it out of water too. Not wanting to be a total turtle hog, though, I hung out there with my reptilian buddy long enough for Steve to adjust his equipment and share in the moment with me. Of course we’d left the waterproof camera back at the condo, so this guy will have to live in our memories.

Misty Hanalei

Misty Hanalei

When I’d debriefed the boys about what they had missed, it was back into the car to head on toward Hanalei. We stopped for our first shave ice and some shopping for gifts. Dinner was at Bubba’s Burgers (Kauai beef…had to do it) before taking a quick trip out to the sand at Hanalei Bay. The surf was too rough and the beach was closed for swimming, so we settled for watching the boys toss sticks into the ocean and delight when the waves returned them. Hanalei, despite its overcast and gloomy skies today, is a hard locale to beat. Everything about it is charming. We will need to head back up that way again in the next few days because we skipped the Kilauea Lighthouse and the bird sanctuary, and I would like to try the snorkeling at Tunnels Beach.

Overall it was another great day today. I might be pressing my luck by saying this, but I’m having a hard time imagining how this island could ever disappoint. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow will hold.

Chilling with my yoga pal Buddha

Chilling with my yoga pal Buddha, post snorkel adventure