Kauai, Hawaii

We are fortunate to have good friends who kindly invited us to spend the week of November 4-11, 2017 with them at their timeshare resort in Kauai – the “Garden Island”. Bob and Diana allowed us to share a 2-bedroom/2-bath unit in Poipu that was on the water’s edge and that overlooked the beautiful southern volcanic coast, (“R” on map). The view allowed us to daily watch the many large sea turtles which came into the numerous craggy coves to feed.
The last time we were in Hawaii was in 1988, also in Poipu, when we took our young boys on their first adventure vacation. Back then, we hiked the Na Pali coast, viewed the Waimea Canyon, swam at Poipu Beach and enjoyed the quiet, sparely populated island that was still-off-the-beaten-trail. This time would be quite different.

Map of Kauai showing key places referenced in the web log

After a direct flight on Saturday from Atlanta to Honolulu and a short air-flight to Kauai, we were greeted at the airport by our friends and settled into our “home” for the next week. After the long trip, a night out to dinner at Keoki’s for fresh fish and calamari was finished off with a huge piece of Hula Cake completed the evening.
Sunday, after a brief stop at Brennaki’s of Poipu, (“1” on map), we ate breakfast at Kalapaki Joe’s – the most western-located sports bar in the United States – where the two of us split a Loco Kalua – a breakfast of rice overlain by sautéed onions, pulled pork and covered in brown gravy and finished with a fried egg! After washing it all down with coffee and mimosas, we headed west on highway 540 to Kalaheo where we toured the Kauai Coffee Company, (“3” on map). Coffee is now the key cash crop of Kauai since the exodus of pineapples and sugar cane years ago from the islands. After walking the fields, touring the gift shop and drinking our fill of free coffee, we headed back on the road west through Hanapepe to Port Allen where we stopped and explored Salt Pond Beach, named for the nearby commercial salt pond business. Then, we stopped in the town of Port Allen for lunch and beer at the Kauai Island Brewery, (“3” on map). After lunch, we shopped at the famous “Red Dirt” store, well known from a “Dirtiest Job” episode, and where the shirts and clothes have been permanently stained by the islands red soil. From here, we headed back to the town of Koloa where we grocery shopped for steaks that we grilled poolside that evening, accompanied by shrimp, mushrooms salad! The night was finished off with wine while resting in the resort’s spa before our pillows finally called our name.

Pictures taken in 1988 during family vacation on Poipu Beach


View of resort’s pool

On Monday, we awoke to sip our coffee while watching the sunrise and sea turtles coming to feed. When the local fish market opened, we bought fresh fish for dinner, and then drove the coastal road to its end at Spouting Horn Beach Park, (“2” on map), a place we had visited 29 years earlier. Today, the hole in the lava rock still spouted the ocean swells, but the park was now encircled with vendors and typical tourist venues. From here, we went onto the island’s Kaumualii Highway, past Hanapepe to the coastal town of Waimea where we stopped for lunch at “The Shrimp Station”, (“5” on map), a little drive-up that serves the very best shrimp tacos any of us have ever had! After lunch, we turned north onto the Waimea Canyon Drive, where we drove up the scenic west side of the spectacular Waimea Canyon, the largest canyon outside of The Grand Canyon in the United States, and commonly known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Waimea Canyon is 15 miles long, about 1 mile wide and up to 3000’ deep, and offers challenging hikes as well as unmatched views, (“6” on map). We were lucky to have great weather and perfect visibility during most of our ascent through viewpoints and overlooks. However, by the time we arrived at the summit, fog rolled in from the north spoiling our view of the Na Pali Coast. There are no roads in the northwest corner of the island as the rugged topography has made the area accessible only by hiking treacherous trails or by boat. We called it a day, drove back to our resort, and grilled our fish for the evening’s dinner, and prepared for a day at the beach tomorrow.

Sunrise and daytime view from below our resort balcony
Entrance to Kauai Coffee Company
Two views of Spouting Horn from 1988 & from 2017
A view of Waimea Canyon from Overlook

Tuesday, we woke, had coffee and breakfast, and then headed a short walking distance to Poipu Beach, (“1” on map), where we swam, snorkeled and laid on the sand. The water visibility was excellent, and all sizes and colors of fish ventured into the shallows to visit the reefs. After such a relaxing morning, we returned to the resort for a refreshing fish salad late lunch and began to get ready for our evening entertainment – a Luau Kalamaku at historic Kilohana Plantation! This Luau presents like a musical play that pays homage to the earliest discovery and settlement of the Hawaiian Islands by Polynesians from Tahiti. Since the Luau includes an open bar, we all took a charter bus to the event located east on Highway 50 just before the city of Lihue. While bussing there, it began to rain, making us more thankful for the arranged transportation. We arrived at the Kilohana Plantation, (“7” on map), and were greeted with a ranch-type complex including a real train & depot, craft fair, restaurant and Event Main Stage Pavillion. After sightseeing and enjoying the open bar, Rocky was convinced to join the stage group and learn the Luau. We sat with some young people from Portland, and had a buffet dinner of salads, rice, poi, sweet potatoes, fish, pork, chicken and desserts. Dinner was followed by the show that included dramatic re-enactments, traditional music and fire dances. It was late when we left, and we were grateful for the bus ride home to complete our day.

Colorful Angelfish at Poipu Beach
Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana Plantation

On Wednesday, Julie and I decided to “recreate” our hike along the Na Pali Coast that we did 29 years ago! The trip begins with a 2-hour car ride counterclockwise around the island past the towns of Lihue, Wailua, Anahola, Kilauea and Hanalei, (the home of Puff, The Magic Dragon!) At the end of the road, at the trail head, the Park Ranger checked our plans and reminded us that it was a 2-hour, 2.5 -mile-one-way hike to the “hidden beach” – Hanakapiai Beach – located in the Kalalau Valley and only accessible by hiking the ancient trail, or by boat. If we wanted to additionally hike to the Hanakapiai Water Fall, it would be another 2-hour-one-way hike up an even more challenging trail. Since it had rained the night before, the trail was slippery and muddy, so we took our time and decided that we would not try to go to the Falls. The trail wanders up and down clay-covered, slippery rocks, around a series of ravines and ridges, (each with a unique view of the coast), and across two running streams over which we tip-toed on the tops of boulders. In 105 minutes, we arrived at the beach, “10” on map), which was much smaller and rock-strewn than it was 29 years ago. We were greeted by a park ranger at this end, as well, along with more people than we might have expected. We had packed a lunch of salami and crackers, chips and water, which we enjoyed, while wading in the surf and exploring the coastal caves. Finally, the time came to begin the hike back, which started with a stream crossing and a ½ mile climb up from the shore, before walking the way out in time to meet Bob and Diana who had agreed to pick us up at a set time. Upon return at the trail-head, we washed the mud off our shoes and ourselves, and had a chance to get cleaned up before joining our friends for the ride back. After returning to the resort, we showered, and all went to dinner at Brennecke’s Restaurant – the same place we took our two boys to eat 29 years ago!

View of the Na Pali Coast Trail and the coastal hike ahead
Views of the rainbow and Kee Beach
Brenneke’s Grill still sitting in the same spot 30+ years

On Thursday, November 9th, after breakfast, we returned to the Koloa Fish Market to purchase dinner, before driving back to Salt Pond Bay for another day at the beach, swimming and snorkeling, (“4” on map). After picking out a nice spot under the local palm trees, we spied a rare Monk Seal resting on the beach. The Monk Seal is endangered with only 1300 of them left in the islands, and the beachgoers a seal respectfully tolerated each other’s space. Meanwhile, we snorkeled behind a lava rock breakwater where reef fish abounded, although the visibility was reduced by the water breaking over the rocks. After exploring the beach for sea-glass and taking in the views of the Salt Pond and Southern Shore, we returned to the resort for a late snack and drinks in the hot tub spa before cooking fish dinner on the grill, and enjoying an evening of good friends and wine.

Julie and Monk seal on the beach at Salt Pond

Friday would be our last full day in Kauai, and we decided to go somewhere none of us had ever been! A friend recommended that we visit a Hindi Temple located in Kapaa just north of Wailua. On the way there, we stopped to view Opaekaa Falls, (“8” on map), and river just outside of Wailua, when the mist started to roll in. At Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, (“9” on map), we all put on sarongs and explored the grounds. The Monastery was founded in 1970 by a monk named Gurudeva, who raised funds to purchase the grounds and grew the complex to include an Indian Banyan Tree, Temple, Library, Meditation Center and Visitor’s Gift Shop. In the Temple is located one of the largest single-crystal quartz stones in the world, “The Earthkeeper” that stands 39” high and weighs 500 lbs! After exploring the Temple grounds, we headed back to the Kilohana Plantation for the free rum tasting at the Koloa Rum Company’s store. Today’s special was “coffee rum”, and after tasting it, along with 4 other rums, we shopped before having lunch of fish tacos and shrimp spring-rolls at Gaylord’s Restaurant, located next door. After finishing with Mai Tai’s, we shopped the shops there before returning to our resort to enjoy the hot tub spa and starting to pack. Bob and Rocky went to the Koloa grocery for shrimp and wine, and after a fine dinner, we finished our packing for our trip tomorrow.

Pictures of the Opaekaa Water Falls from 1988 & today

November 11th would be our day to leave and head home. After completing our packing, we all went back to Kalapaki Joe’s for breakfast and our last taste of a Loco Kalua. From there, we checked out of the Resort and started heading to the airport located at Lihue. However, since we had plenty of time, we decided to stop one more time at The Koloa Rum Company’s Tasting Room for a round of dark, spice, coconut and passion fruit rum. From there, it was on to the airport to catch a flight to Honolulu, and a subsequent flight back to Atlanta and onto Florida. A great holiday in Paradise!