Jonathan and I have returned to the land of rain and clouds and cold after a lovely and relaxing vacation on the island of Kauaʻi. And you know what? We deserved it. Our trip couldn’t have come at a better time. You see, the Pacific Northwest has been stricken with the longest winter and coldest April in recorded history. The fewest days over 50ºF between the months of January and April ever. Plus, the current forecast is making the remainder of May look very grim indeed. Lucky us!
The combination of this cold and wet has made us very unhappy campers, and coming back from warmth and sunshine has turned out to be pretty demoralizing, to be frank. Sharing a few highlights from our trip with you is the best way I know how of getting a little bit of sunshine back in my life.
I took a lot of random phone pictures, but I ended up having an especially good time using the “Polaroid” filter on one of my new apps. I admit it is somewhat juvenile, but I’m actually loving the casual, vintage vibe it gives our trip. Reminds me of something I might find in my grandparent’s attic under a pile of old photographs…
That’s Honolulu, Oʻahu — as seen from the top of Diamond Head. Before heading to Kauaʻi, we spent one afternoon/night on Waikīkī Beach; with so little time to do or see anything, we figured Hey! Why not go for a hike and earn our Mai Tais! The trail leading up Diamond Head is not a long one — not even one mile to the top — but when you climb up a steep 74 steps only to go around the corner and come face-to-face with 99 more steps at a near vertical incline… well, you feel it.
I’d say the view was worth the leg pain.
Our first order of business when we started our first full day on Kauaʻi was to drive along the west side of the island thru Waimea Canyon to reach the road’s endpoint: Mt. Waiʻaleʻale, “the wettest spot on earth” — or so read the sign next to the lookout.
We’d considered ourselves fairly lucky during the first few lookout points along the road; no rain, only sunshine and vibrant colors. Driving up to the lookout at Waiʻaleʻale, however, moisture and water literally hung in the air, and the moment we stepped up to the railing — struggling for a glimpse of the Nā Pali coast through the steam and fog — it started raining so hard and so heavy it may as well have been a warm shower.
(Psst… The greens and reds and browns of Waimea Canyon are a true sight to behold and simply do not shine through in my photo. Go here for the real deal.)
I am happy to say that I’ve found the most perfect beach on Kauaʻi. It may not look like much, but trust me: it’s absolutely ideal for a relaxing spot to swim and sunbathe.
Kalihiwai Beach, located on the island’s North Shore near Princeville, is idyllic Hawaiʻi. I had been to this beach before with my family several years ago, but no one could remember what it was called, how to get there, or even how they’d originally found it. Luckily, it only took a dozen Google searches to narrow down my options.
This is not a popular beach with tourists, possibly because there is no snorkeling, but my guess is that most people just don’t know it’s there. I can’t imagine why; the turn-off to get to this beach is (not surprisingly) Kalihiwai Rd., the same road that leads you to the infamous Secret Beach.
Parking is ample, and the beach is secluded, quiet, and great for kids. There’s a river that meets the bay, which has rope swings hanging above it and boasts the perfect wading opportunities.
Jonathan and I didn’t do a lot of swimming (pool or ocean) while we were on vacation, but we easily spent an hour and a half riding the waves, people watching (an old woman whose bathing suit was a little too big flashed us probably a dozen times as the waves hit her), and basically goofing around like little kids. It’s easy to swim out past the breaks and still feel the sand, but it can get a little intense when the big waves crash. If you are learning to surf or aching to do some bodyboarding and don’t want to feel crowded by other water-hungry folks, visit Kalihiwai Beach.
This man was set up at Wailua Falls, a popular tourist spot, making bowls and hats and baskets out of palm fronds. I’d seen a different man making similar bowls at Waimea Canyon the day before, but no one was stopping to buy them. Here, however, they were getting snatched up left and right! The craftsman even fit one to a customer’s head!
I was so impressed and was coveting one of the bowls (he said they will last forever if you take care of them), but Jonathan was not enthused, so I left empty-handed. Note to self: Carry your own cash.
Our one indulgence of the trip was a heavily discounted catamaran ride around the west side of the island to view the sunset along the Nā Pali coast from the ocean. Captain Andy’s is a well-established boat tour that I’ve done twice before; I’ve been fortunate enough to take his 5.5-hour daytime snorkeling tour with my family in the past. For the sunset cruise, prices average $112 per person… but with a discount through our hotel timeshare (my parents are owners at the Point at Poʻipū), we got to go for only $44 per person! That includes a full dinner buffet and many many many drinks (Sneaky Tikis!), along with a 4-hour tour. Plus, two unanticipated humpback whale sightings—flukes in the air and all!
And there’s Nā Pali. Worth every discounted penny.
Coming to the end of our trip — fat on fried foods and sweet booze — we thought the best way to end our trip was the same way we started it: hiking! The Māhāʻulepū Heritage Trail, which leads to Māhāʻulepū Beach just east of our resort, is a decently strenuous 4-mile round-trip hike with some pretty spectacular views.
This is not a hike I would recommend for kids, especially if you have rambunctious ones. The cliff faces are steep, like, certain death steep. Pretty much only if your kid can be strapped to your back (or they’re experienced little hiking tykes) would I say bring them along.
The sand at the beach was soft and the stream we passed through to get there brought much-needed relief to my aching feet. Hiking back was a little on the confusing side; there are several paths leading to the beach from the Grand Hyatt (where the trail begins). We ended up taking a completely different (and much shorter) route back after getting lost and turned around a few times.
I’d say we earned our Mai Tais again. ;)
And that’s it: Our first real vacation together, in a nutshell — minus a handful of less interesting details, like how I almost missed the Royal Wedding due to jet lag! It was worth every dollar spent, particularly because this guy is one hellova travel companion.
(Top image: “Hanapepe Valley” watercolor by artist Marionette Taboniar)