A week on Kauai Island, Hawaii, page 2

Page 1: North shore and Na Pali coast.
Page 2: Waimea Canyon, south shore, and snorkeling.

Wednesday, January 21

After eating a hot breakfast at our cabin, Kathy and I set out on an 11-mile hike that Kathy had picked out for us. It was a loop comprising of the Nualolo trail, Nualolo cliffs and the Awa-awapuhi trail. Some of these Hawaiian words are difficult for us to pronounce. The Nualolo trail had a sign at the trailhead that warned of steep, slippery, washed-out surfaces near drop-offs and ended with the words "hike at your own risk." We took the trail anyway because we had read that it has great views. Unfortunately, a cloud bank covered most of the trail making our visibility very short. The trail went down steeply and was deeply eroded, making it feel like we were hiking through a stream bed or bobsled course. The slippery surface slowed us down, but eventually we lost enough altitude to emerge below the clouds and get a good view of the Nualolo valley. We followed the edge of the valley for a while along the cliffs trail, but we soon ascended back into the clouds and then could see only the nearby trees, birds and a small waterfall.

Our small cabin.

Hiking the Nualolo trail.

Looking down into the Nualolo valley.

Waterfall on the Nualolo Cliffs trail.

After our hike we drove up to the Kalalau Lookout that overlooks the Kalalau valley from a height of 4000 feet. Although it was cloudy, some breaks in the clouds gave us good views of the valley that we backpacked through 3 days ago. The cliffs around the valley are so steep and tall that they are difficult to photograph well.

Tonight we are exhausted again. We'll try to avoid long hikes for the rest of this trip, perhaps by playing at the beach or snorkeling.

Looking down at the Kalalau valley.

Pretty bird.

Kathy reads while our wood stove heats up the cabin.

Thursday, January 22

We spent most of this morning eating, cleaning our cabin, and driving down Waimea Canyon while a steady rain fell outside. I'm glad that we were able to hike around yesterday because today it might have been impossible.

Once we returned to sea level we drove out to Polihale Beach on the southwest side of Kauai. It's a 17-mile beach that borders the Na Pali coast at its northern end. The rain stopped shortly after we arrived so we ate lunch there. During lunch a helicopter flew in from Na Pali twice and made landings before flying north into the clouds again. It looked like it was flying rescue missions since on the first landing it was carrying a long cable with (what appeared from a distance to be) people hanging on the end. I would not want to be hiking Na Pali today, walking on the slippery edge of cliffs over the ocean.

Eating lunch at Polihale Beach. The bruise on Kathy's leg is from falling down while hiking Na Pali. She fell down 5 or 6 six times, but fortunately never fell off a cliff.

After lunch we visited Spouting Horn County Park, where blowholes in the lava shoreline spray water into the air as the waves come in. We briefly visited Poipu Beach to see if we'd like to swim there tomorrow, and while we were looking we saw a monk seal resting on the beach. Monk seals are the most endangered of all seals, and the park staff had already roped off the area so that no one would harass it.

We didn't have any plans for the evening, so we cooked dinner at our hotel room and went out to the theater to watch a movie. We were delayed when I locked our keys in the car, but an employee from the rental company showed up quickly to unlock it again.

A blowhole at Spouting Horn County Park. The best blowhole was destroyed in the 1920's by a sugar cane farmer who was upset that the blowhole sprayed saltwater on part of his farm.

An endangered monk seal resting near one of the ubiquitous wild chickens.

Friday, January 23

After grabbing snorkels, masks, flippers and boogie boards from the hotel lobby this morning we drove out to Lydgate State Park north of Lihue to play at the beach. We went to Lydgate because we had heard that it was a good place for 1st-time snorkelers. The park has built a wave barrier out of rocks that separates a small section of beach from the rest of the ocean. When we arrived there were already 10 to 20 people snorkeling in this pool. It looked like a safe but boring place to snorkel. As it turned out, it was a fun place to snorkel. The water is packed with a wide variety of fish. Many are multi-colored and would look great in an aquarium, though most home aquariums aren't big enough for these fish. Some traveled in schools. The fish must gather in this area to take a break from the rough sea.

After snorkeling we walked over to the open ocean to play with the boogie boards. We weren't sure how to use them, and we never really figured out how to ride the waves, but we still had fun and accidentally swallowed a lot of saltwater.

Kathy snorkeling at Lydgate State Park.

Tropical fish. None of the pictures taken with our underwater camera came out very well, but the fish looked great in person.

More fish.

Kathy playing on a boogie board.

When we were done playing at the beach we drove up to Waimea Canyon to get a look at the canyon on this mostly clear day. The canyon looks similar to pictures of the Grand Canyon that I've seen even though Waimea Canyon is much, much smaller.

For dinner tonight we ate at one of the restaurants of the Marriott resort across the street. The food was expensive (by my standard) but very good. After dinner we walked through the resort. It has a fancy swimming pool, hot tubs, balconies and gardens all somewhat integrated with the restaurant. The resort is attractive, but out of our acceptable price range. That's fine with us since the real attractions of Kauai are its natural wonders, not its resorts.

Waimea Canyon

The gray shadow on the ocean is the nearby island of Nihau, which is owned entirely by the Robinson family. They bought the 46,000 acre island in 1864 for $10,000. About 200 people live there and Hawaiian is still their primary language.

The dining area of the Marriott, which borders the pool.

The pool at the Marriott.

Saturday, January 24

We got up late this morning and decided to go snorkeling again. The hotel let us borrow snorkel gear even though we were checking out, and then we drove to Poipu Beach at the southern tip of the island. During the winter Poipu has the calmest water of all the beaches on Kauai. The snorkeling here was even better than at Lydgate Park because the water was clearer and there was more territory to snorkel. Unfortunately, we used up our single-use underwater camera yesterday, so we couldn't take any pictures of fish. The fish here are colorful - some are even striped like a rainbow. I saw a couple eels slithering around the rocks.

The snorkeling area at Poipu Beach.

After snorkeling we were too tired to do much, but our plane didn't depart until 10:00 p.m. so we went shopping and visited an art gallery featuring local artists. We cooked dinner, packed our gear, and headed to the airport for our long flight home.

Kauai was a fun place for us to visit, especially at this time of year when cold, short days in Colorado limit our fun outdoors.

Page 1: North shore and Na Pali coast.
Page 2: Waimea Canyon, south shore, and snorkeling.