Places I’ve Lived #18 – Hawaii including Waikiki, Manoa, Windward Oahu and Kapa’a, Kauai

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubWhen I moved to Hawaii – I had $100. I booked a dorm bed into the Polynesian Beach Club Hostel in Waikiki for seven nights and bought some rice and cheap veggies in Chinatown. During the next week, I ate rice and beat the streets looking for a job. I found a job painting houses and then moved into a longer term hostel down the road called the Beachside Hostel. I got a discount for waking up early and cleaning up the common areas.

Painting houses wasn’t very fun and while the owner of the hostel I was in was giving me a discount, she wasn’t a particularly nice woman – so my life wasn’t the Hawaii dream I’d been expecting. I’d made friends with some of the people who worked at the Polynesian Beach Club Hostel and was down there when the owner came in and told everyone that the manager had stolen a bunch of cash and left the island. I’d talked with the owner a few times in the past and had a friendly relationship – I volunteered to be her new manager. She agreed. I quit the painting job and moved into the manager’s apartment. My Hawaii dream life was taking shape.

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubA little over a year after I started, she took a month long vacation and left me to handle everything. It all went good except I’d gotten a dog while she was gone. She told me to get rid of it. I’d grown attached and honestly, I don’t respond well to orders. During her absence a shady character who was opening a new hostel on the windward side had been trying to recruit me to come help him build his place. She gave me the ultimatum about the dog and I resigned and moved to the new hostel “Countryside Cabins” in Punalu’u.

Punalu’u was AWESOME. We built this amazing country Hawaiian hostel where our guests regularly decided to skip their flights home and stay longer. We had bonfires every night, we had an outdoor kitchen we cooked communal meals in every night, we integrated with the local Hawaiian community and they taught us how to cook in an imu, spearfish, hunt pigs, catch prawns, and much more. It was like a Hawaiian dream. Then it became a little like ‘The Beach’. The owner was older and single and all of us young guys were regularly hooking up with our guests and he wasn’t. He started drinking more, getting sort of abusive to the staff, and frankly, being a dick. People stopped staying longer. It was unpleasant. Some of the locals had developed some heavy ice habits (smoking meth) and there were a couple of scary incidents. The owner kept driving away our guests and then when I took issue with it – he drove me away. We’d made a gentleman’s agreement – I would come, help him build, recruit a staff, and set up tours and activities. I would be paid a salary and the tour revenue would be mine. He renegged. When I complained he said “What are you going to do? You have a dog and you don’t have anywhere to go?”

I gave my dog to a local guy who liked him and I put my things in a storage locker at Kailua Mini Storage. Then I bought a ticket to Kauai where I hiked out the 22 mile trail to Kalalau where I set up a camp in the jungle and stayed in solitude for a couple of weeks before I met some of the other outlaws out there and began to take part in the Spiritual Pizza parties, pakalolo sharing, and heavenly communal living in the valley.

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubWhen I finally hiked out of Kalalau, I was in love with Kauai. I got a job at the Blue Lagoon Hostel in Kapa’a and then got hired as a kayak river guide at Paradise Kayaks. I bought a VW van and lived on the beach in Kapa’a next to the Kayak shop. For the next two years, I was a river guide – then I fell for a flight attendant and went to Portland where I published Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond before coming back to my senses and returning to Kauai. After that I took a trip to the Philippines and when I returned I decided to live in Kailua on Oahu and write a novel. I bought another van (I’d sold the one on Kauai) and wrote my first novel,  Slackville Road. When the book was finished I was ready to do something else. I got a job as a tour guide and limo driver and rented a studio in Kailua. It was one of the best places I’ve ever lived. I began blogging and creating an online used bookstore and everything empire. I was the Chairman of the Fukn Bored and CEO of Fukn Books, Fukn Records, and Fukn Clothing. I met an amazing woman, we fell in love, we got engaged, and she went to Africa to help the people of Sierra Leone. Then we mutually fucked everything up. For the next couple of years we tried to fix things but were unable. We lived in Lanikai and then on the Punchbowl. Finally, I enrolled at University of Hawaii and rented a studio in Manoa. Our relationship never recovered – which is a pretty huge bummer. She was one of the most awesome people I’ve ever known – and today, we’re not even in contact. I miss her friendship.

Polynesian Hostel Beach ClubAnyway, I did my best to make myself important but school took all of my energy and the Fukn Empire began to fall apart. I put my energy in becoming the managing editor of Ka Leo,  the University of Hawaii student newspaper, the president of the Honor Student Organization, an Osher Scholar, the President of the UH Sierra Club Chapter, and a dozen other things. I made student films, wrote an undergrad thesis, and graduated with honors. That was December of 2008 and the economy was fucked. So I gathered what money I could, sold all of my possessions, and decided to take trains across the USA and then go travel the world – that’s when Vagobond.com was born.

Kapa’a, Kauai

Kapa’a is a small town on the East side of the island of Kauai. It’s beautiful and not really a big tourist destination – at least it wasn’t when I lived there, mainly because there were few hotels there. The population is about 10,000 today – to the south is the Wailua River and the once famous Wailua Beach – home to the destroyed Coco Palms Hotel that was  devastated by the 1992 Hurricane Iniki. The Coco Palms was where Elvis loved to stay in Hawaii, many movies were made there. Frank Sinatra stayed there too. The Wailua River is a popular kayaking destination. There are waterfalls, a Hindu Temple, some surprisingly tasty restaurants, and large empty stretches of beach nearby.

A Day Trip to Kauai – Flashback Friday

Kauai

I don’t make it to the neighbor islands nearly enough. I live on Oahu, which is my favorite island of them all (for many reasons but mostly for Honolulu) but when I get the chance, I love to explore the Big Island, Maui, Lania, Molokai, and of course Kauai – which, if I didn’t have to work and had enough money to take trips when island fever hit – would probably move to the top of the list – mainly because of the raw natural beauty sculpted over millions of years by wind, rain, and surf.

I lived on Kauai in 2002 and 2003. At the time I was working as a kayak guide on the Waialua River and living in a VW van that I parked on the beach in Kapa’a. Over the years I’ve made many trips back to Kauai, mostly to hike into the dreamlike Kalalau Valley – but earlier this year I took my shortest trip to Kauai.

Kauai

During spring break, I had the pleasure of introducing my wife and daughter to the Garden Island on a 14 hour day trip. I’d found cheap fares going in early and leaving at about 8 pm. Here’s what we did.

Kauai

We arrived in Lihue at about 6 a.m. – we got our rental car and checked the weather forecast – unfortunately it was going to rain all day – that’s the way it goes on the island that contains the wettest spot on earth (I know, wet is wet but Mt. Waialeale gets more rain than anywhere else on the planet).

Kauai

We drove into Kapa’a and grabbed breakfast at the famous I Heart Country Cafe before driving as far North as we could – the road was closed past Hanalei Bay but we had the chance to see a couple of roadside waterfalls, drive across the one way bridges, and see 5-7 foot waves rolling into the very brown and muddy bay.

Kauai

It was a terrible day to kayak or take beautiful pictures (mostly) , so we didn’t kayak and mostly enjoyed the sites without taking many pictures.  We admired the epic views of the taro patches in the Hanalei Valley but the rain was so heavy that none of the pictures we took looked like anything but rain.

Kauai

Next we drove to Kilauea and the lighthouse for some bird watching. We saw plenty of nene, the state bird of Hawaii and lots of other birds in a 15 minute period where the rain dropped to a mere drizzle.

Kauai

At one point, my wife learned how to fly like the magic creature she is….

We continued on south taking the Kapa’a bypass and admiring the sleeping giant and then stopping for the incredibly swelled Waialua Falls. Further on we explored the arts in Kikaha and then the amazing beauty and overwhelming colors of Waimea Canyon. My family got their first look at the Kalalau Valley (albeit only from above in the Koke’e) 

Kauai

Back towards town and a stop at the Kauai Coffee Company for a quick tour and some seriously discounted Kauai coffee (it is better than Kona, in my opinion) and then on to Poipu where we had lunch at Duke’s and enjoyed an all too brief respite from the rain.

Kauai

14 hours isn’t really enough time to see or explore Kauai – but with a good guide and a day where the rain barely lets up, it was enough for us this time. The next time we go, we’ll stay for a little longer – unless it’s raining again.

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