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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.