Love & Light and everything bright...

23 Jan 2011

Updated Dec 24, 2009... a weekend in Kauai

Kauai Surf Rodeo

Riding 15-ft swells off Napali coast at 40 mph against 20 mph headwind; Hawaii's "Grand Canyon"


Kauai Surf Rodeo


HAIKU, Maui, Dec 23 - Kauai is the oldest major Hawaiian island.  It is known as the Garden Isle because it is so lush and green.  Kauai is also home to the wettest spot on the planet (Mt. Waialeale - see the map on the left).  What is less well known is its wild and woolly Napali coast, on the west side of the island.  That's because it is accessible only on foot, with a great deal of difficulty at that, and from the ocean.

Elizabeth and I became acquainted with it by chance even before we set sails for Kauai.  On our flight home from New York earlier this month, out of several dozens movies that were available for viewing, we happen to have picked "A Perfect Getaway."  We had no idea it was going to be about Kauai.  It turned out a bloody thriller that takes place on the Napali coast and the Kalalau Trail.  Several movie murders later, I could feel Elizabeth's apprehension about our upcoming weekend adventure in Kauai rising the closer we got to Napali coast. 

Yet she was a real trooper.  Never one to run away from her fears, Elizabeth faced them head on.  Not only did she start walking up the Kalalau Trail, she survived a grueling 5.5 hour-surf rodeo off the Napali coast in a Zodiac (raft) boat that clambered over 15-foot swells at a speed of 40-45 mph against a 20 mph headwind.  She was one of the two iffy swimmers among the 15 people on board.

Not only did she survive the surf rodeo; she reveled in it.  Elizabeth and I took the point (the bow of the boat) for about an hour of the roughest part of the ride.  Hanging on to the ropes for dear life while being soaked and chilled to the bone, she screamed her head off in exhilaration until finally, utterly exhausted from both physical exertion and screaming, she collapsed in a chair at the back of the boat (stern). 

The ride was only marginally smoother back there.  After all, Zodiac (left) is a small, 24-foot boat with a rigid hull and inflatable rafts on its sides.  But back at the stern, at least we were somewhat sheltered from the wind and the ocean spray that turned my jeans and shirt into a heavy, bone-chilling swim suit.  Which I was happy to lose as soon as we arrived in port and warm sunshine.

First Day: Touring Eastern and Northern Shores

Okay, with that as a preamble, let us take you now on this trip, step by step...

We left the Kahului airport in Maui just as the sun was rising over the Haleakala volcano (left).  After a short stop in Honolulu, we were already in Lihue, Kauai by mid-morning (see arrival pictures taken at our hotel).  This meant we had nearly the whole day for sightseeing along the eastern and northern shores of Kauai.


Our first stop was at a country fair in Kapaa (see the map), where we bought some locally made souvenirs (left).  After that, we drove to the Kilauea lighthouse, a bird sanctuary at a beautiful peninsula...

...with 180-degree views of Kauai's northern shoreline.

Hanalei Bay

We proceeded from the lighthouse to Princeville and Hanalei Bay, some of the prettiest sites on the island.

Having parked at the Hanaley Bay resort (left), that incorporates many private villas, we walked down a steep jungle path (middle left) to the beach (two left shots).

We followed the beach toward Hanalei, stopping to admire some giant trees along the way.


Elizabeth stopped before we got to the above volcanic rocks, but I continued on in order to take a photo of the Hanalei pier (left).  Seconds later, my feet slipped on wet stones and I fell gently backwards.  It was sort of a slow motion fall that would have looked pretty funny to anyone watching it. 

After I checked myself out, I realized I had a fair size scrape on my left forearm.  So I used the ocean as an antiseptic and a large leaf for a bandage.

As I was explaining to Elizabeth what had happened on the rocks, she kept snapping pictures.  

On our way back up to the Hanalei Bay resort, we were accompanied by two birds, one of them a cardinal of unusual color (two left shots).  The rest of the shots were taken from the lobby of the resort.

As you can see, the views were spectacular even on a cloudy day.  The picture on the right is that of a shell ring that Elizabeth has been wishing for ever since she saw one last month during our trip to the Big Island.  We found one she liked at a Hanalei market store.  And it became one of her birthday gifts, along with this trip.

North Shore Beach Scenes

The photos from rest of our drive westward along Kauai's north shore don't require much narrative.  The raw beauty of Mama Kocha (Mother Ocean) speaks for itself...

The two left shots of the jungle just back of the beach represent the positive and negative images of the same thicket.  The two outer pictures, on the other hand, of an ocean inlet that looks like an emerald lake.

CLICK HERE to view additional north shore beach and surf scenes, most of which were filmed by Elizabeth.

Kalalau Trailhead and State Park

The north shore road ends at the state park which also marks the start of the famous 11-mile Kalalau Trail.

As you can see, there are all sorts of warnings at the start of the trail. The local people we've talked to say that most hikers underestimate the severity of the climb, and get exhausted in the first two miles of the trail.

Elizabeth wanted you to see it right at the start (pointing, left).  But since we had neither the camping gear, nor the time, nor the inclination to do the grueling 22-mile roundtrip hike, the Kalalau's start was also our finish. :-)

After that, we walked on a rugged beach below the trailhead that had as many warning signs as the Kalalau itself (left).  Some of the trees that lined the beach looked like giant monsters walking on the sand (middle right).

The beach also features some of Kauai's famous wildlife.  There are wild chickens on every Hawaiian island, but none has as many as Kauai.  The locals tell us that that's due to the 1992 hurricane which freed many domesticated chickens from their coops and returned them back to nature. Some, as you can see, joined the photographer on this beautiful beach.

Another thing that's remarkable in this area are the three peaks that to me looked like "three kings" of Kauai. I had to trespass to take a shot of all three of them in one frame (middle left), although you can see one of them from the Kalalau state park beach (left).  Thought you may also appreciate some close-ups of how lush and green the jungle is in this area (two right shots).

After bidding a farewell to Mama Kocha (left), we finished our  north shore road trip with an early dinner at this excellent Mediterranean restaurant on the north shore right on the ocean (right).


CLICK HERE to go to Hawaii 2009 TOC

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