Return to Kauai

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Darlene and I just spent twelve days in Kauai, my favorite of the Hawaiian Islands.  There’s just so much to do and explore there – you can never have enough time! Twelve days was still not enough for everything we wanted to do. I last visited Kauai about eleven years ago on an REI Adventures trip.  And, as I found with the extra days after my REI trip last time, I highly recommend Andrew Doughty’s The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook to making the most of your time in Kauai.

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We stayed four nights in the southwest, in Waimea, and did a bunch of hiking in Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park. Our first full day was along the Awa’awapuhi Trail – out and back only as the Cliff Trail is currently closed due to cliffside collapses.  Another day was the Pihea Trail through the Alaka’i Swamp to the wonderful Kilohana lookout and another day for the Cliff Trail to the top of the Waipo’o Falls.  Every trail was more than the usual adventure (and slow-going) due to all the clay, mud and severe trail erosion, particularly along the Pihea Trail.  Finally, we also explored a little bit in the south near Po’ipu along the beaches and cliffs.

We found ourselves getting a late start on seemingly every day-long excursion so that we were always the last ones out of a given location, which was pretty cool for feeling like we had the place to ourselves and getting pictures without anyone else present.

Our next four nights were at a rented condo in Princeville, overlooking the ocean and we were thrilled to be able to watch the lengthy parade of humpback whales blow and breach right from our lanai.  The super dark night skies here were also fantastic for star watching.  From here, we visited the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, hiked the Kalalau Trail through the start of the Na Pali Coast to Hanakapi’ai Falls, checked out a couple of the wet and dry sea caves (including swimming into the “blue room”), watched the winter storms pound the coast around Hanalei Bay and at the “Queen’s Bath” and kayaked one evening up the Hanalei River. (And unexpectedly met Josh, my guide from my previous Kauai trip eleven years ago, who now owns a kayak rental/tour outfit of his own in Hanalei: Napali Kayak Tours.)

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Our last four nights were spent at a hotel on the east side in Wailua.  From here, we rented kayaks and paddled up the Wailua River and then hiked the remainder to “Secret Falls”.  (This is a very popular and well-known kayak/hike outing.  They’re anything but secret!)  We also visited Wailua Falls and hiked our way down one of the very unofficial trails to swim in the large pool of the falls. Another long day was spent trying to hike into the center of the island and the crater of Waialeale.  Once again there’s no real dedicated trail: it’s more about repeatedly finding and following and re-finding hunters’ trails to make your way as far as you can.  And of course we encountered plenty of mud along the way! We got further than I managed the last time I was here, despite having to hike the road a couple of miles due to fallen trees blocking our rented vehicle.

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We made a few attempts over the trip to get in some snorkeling from various beaches but were repeatedly thwarted by high surf conditions due to the winter storms and/or too-shallow sheltered waters in low tides.  We finally squeezed in a little snorkeling at Lydgate Park by ignoring the protected but shallow fish-feeding/snorkeling pool and swimming out what seemed like nearly a half-mile on a relatively calm evening.  (We had to go that far out to just get like a dozen feet of depth and find some fish.)  On some future trip I still want to set aside a few days to go out on a boat for scuba diving.  We ended our trip like my first one with a spectacular helicopter tour around the island.

Click through for the full gallery or below for a video montage from the trip:

(5-minute video, 71 MB download)

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