Growing up, most of my adventures were neatly contained within the pages of the books I loved so desperately. I easily devoured a book a day during summer vacations, loading up my little wagon with fourteen books from the mobile library to make sure I had enough to last me until its next visit to the local grocery store parking lot.
And when I ran out of books, my imagination easily took over where the books left off.
I grew up a military brat, so every couple of years we had a new home in a new state. This constant state of flux birthed a wanderlust deep in my soul. As an adult, I chose to grow deep roots in my beloved adopted hometown, and satisfy my wanderlust by traveling as often as I can.
Most of our trips are little weekenders to places we can get to in a few hours. But last September, I spent two gloriously exhausting weeks on Kauai, Hawaii with my beau. He was raised on Kauai, and gave me the kind of insider’s view that most tourists, (or haoles,) never get to experience.
Kauai is aptly named the Garden Island. I discovered that plumeria isn’t just a lotion sold at Bath and Body Works, but beautiful trees loaded with bright, cheery blossoms. Awapuhi isn’t just a shampoo, but glorious white or pink flowers that grow wild along winding, dirt roads. Driving around Kauai feels like driving around a movie set, as if the trees, bushes and flowers had been arranged just perfectly for the next scene.
Many of Kauai’s exquisitely pristine locations are most easily accessible by four-wheel drive.
One of those places is Mahaulepu Beach. The road to Mahaulepu is a bumpy, minimally-maintained dirt cane field road that had historically been used by the sugar plantations. After the sugar plantations stopped operations, there was little economic benefit to maintaining the road to Mahaulepu beyond the last golf course. Even with four-wheel drive, it is a slow, harrowing trek.
But once you get there? Then it’s just you, a local Hawaiian family picnicking and fishing, and a couple of kite surfers. Oh, and if you’re lucky, you might see a baby Hawaiian monk seal taking a nap on the beach.
One of my favorite spots on the island is Queen’s Pond in the Polihali State Park on the Na Poli Coast. Queen’s Pond is a shallow, sandy-bottomed pool surrounded by a reef. The reef makes it the only calm spot on the insanely wild Polihali beach. Like Mahaulepu, it is located at the end of a bumpy, dirt road (about five miles long), and then down the sandy Polihali beach.
Although the dirt road is in better condition than the road to Mahaulepu, because of the recent rainy season, the four-wheel drive made taking on the dirt road much more realistic. It also allowed us the flexibility of driving across the sand to Queen’s Pond, after consulting with a local bruddah about how much air to take out of our tires. (About half, if you’re curious.)
My second favorite way to see Kauai is on a catamaran tour. Capt. Andy’s has been providing catamaran tours of the exquisite Na Pali Coast since 1980, and was a natural choice for us because my beau’s sister, (who met us on Kauai), worked for Capt. Andy’s in the days before she had a husband and babies.
The catamaran tours cover either the Na Pali coast on the north side of the island or Poipu Beach on the south side of the island, depending on the season. We were lucky enough to hit the end of the summer season before the ferocity of the winter waves shut down the Na Pali coast tours. There are no roads that lead to the Na Pali coast. The only way to get there is on foot by way of the Kalalau Trail, which was named by Backpacker.com as one of America’s ten most dangerous trails. For the average tourist like me, that just isn’t a possibility. But, a catamaran tour is a most excellent way of witnessing the untouched beauty of the Na Pali coast.
My favorite way to experience the vast lushness of the island of Kauai is a helicopter tour. Although I spent the last thirty years swearing I would never go up in a helicopter, we decided that my birthday present would be just that.
Uncle John, the barefoot pilot with Sunshine Helicopter Tours, flies a helicopter like he was born in one, and his buttery-smooth voice filled our ears with stories of Kauai for the entire tour. They call him the Hawaiian Morgan Freeman.
My beau is the ultimate outdoorsman who walked the length and depth of the island when he lived there. And he still saw parts of Kauai that he had never seen before. One of the most amazing sites on the tour is the Manawaiopuna Falls, which most people would recognize from the movie Jurassic Park. Our trip was right after a particularly rainy season, and we saw more waterfalls than I could count.
I quite literally held my cell phone under my arm, pointed it out the window, and sporadically snapped the shutter to take pictures. And somehow ended up with the most incredible pictures of our entire two-week trip.
Our time on Kauai was simply magical, and we are already planning our next trip and new ways to experience its majesty.
Kayaking with the whales?
I can’t wait to find out!