Kauai – The Garden Island


The day before our flight to Hawaii, I had an interview in Santa Rosa. Since it happened to be the day before my trip, I was easily able to get off work to attend by just extending my time-off by a day. I drove up after work on Monday and did some final preparations for my seminar talk in the hotel room. While it was overall a good interview, there were definitely some parts that I didn’t think went well. Afterwards, I hurriedly drove back, picking up some Valentine’s day chocolate along the way, to pack and see Britton, who had flown in to spend one night in San Jose, and to make an appearance at a Bachelor viewing party at our apartment. 

On Wednesday morning, we landed in time for lunch and a tasting flight at Kauai Beer Company. We drove up to the north side of the island towards our AirBnB in Princeville. We stopped to take in the views of the Kilauea Lighthouse and to dip our toes in the water at Ha’ena Beach Park. Finally we checked into our AirBnB, and I walked along a short trail that led down a muddy hill to a fairly secluded beach. We got dinner at Kalypso and turned in for the night. 

Hiking the Napali Coast Mountains and Valleys

Thursday, we woke up early enough to beat traffic driving all the way around the island to the Pihea Trail. Along the way we experienced epic views of the ridgelines and valleys that make up the western half of the island. I was also interested to see the military radar installations on some of the peaks way out here in the middle of the Pacific. The Pihea trail started out muddy and slippery, and only got worse from there. We did take in epic views of the Kalalau valley, and the rainfall meant all the waterfalls, little and large, were flowing strongly. This valley turned out to be the furthest north that our coast boat tour took us along the Napali coast. We made it to the Pihea peak and lookout, but collectively decided not to continue on to the swamp trail since it was so slippery, muddy, and steep in parts, and was only getting worse the further we hiked. We stopped at a couple lookouts on the drive back, including Pu’u Hinahina Lookout and an unmarked roadside pullover that overlooked a small farm and the Waimea Canyon. We stopped at the market in Kilauea for dinner where I got a sushi burrito from Sushigirl.

Boat Tour of the Napali Coast

Friday was our boat tour of the Napali Coast. We woke up early and met up with our boat at the Kikiaola small boat harbor, where the plan was to drive around the island to the west, and up to the Napali coastline. The swells were quite high at first, enough to eclipse our six-pack motorboat, and it was cloudy and a bit cold. Our captain almost called the trip and turned around at the southwestern tip of the island due to the rough seas, but ultimately decided to push through. I’m glad we did, since it cleared up almost immediately after that. It was still a bit cold, but the swell died down and we even got a glimpse of sunshine. We were rewarded with stunning views of the coastline, dolphins swimming with the boat, and a brief snorkel. I probably would skip the snorkel next time. It was fine and I saw some cool stuff, but there’s better places to snorkel on the island and it felt a bit rushed and cold. 

Back on shore, we had poke for lunch from Ishihara Market and shaved ice from JoJo’s . While I was eating this shaved ice on the roadside, I got the call from the company I interviewed at earlier in the week, and was surprised to get an offer so quickly, especially since parts of the interview didn’t go as well as I would have liked. But getting this call while eating shaved ice and having just spent the morning on the water off the Napali coast certainly made my day. 

On our way back around the island, we stopped briefly to relax at Poipu beach. We took it easy for the rest of the day, catching a breathtaking sunset from the Hanalei Valley lookout on our way to dinner in Hanalei. 

Exploring Princeville

Saturday morning, we woke up early to get some of the famous Holey Grail Donuts. We also walked around Princeville a bit and checked out their Saturday farmer’s market, where I got some fresh fruit to snack on. It seemed to rain every time we tried to leave the house. I convinced Claire and Britton to go with me down the muddy trail to the beach near our Airbnb. I brought my speargun in case I saw anything good.

Snorkeling around the reef at Anini beach was really cool. The first time I got in, the left side of the beach had zero viz due to silt runoff from the stream. But there was a clear line running straight out from the middle of the beach where the silt stopped and the visibility was great. I got in myself and explored the reef structure. It was essentially a large, flat mesa of a reef that was only submerged by a couple feet of water, with a large canyon with a sandy bottom. This canyon ran straight out from the beach, eventually reaching depths of 25 to 30 feet or so, with steep walls on either side up to the top of the rocky reef that was just barely submerged. It was fascinating structure to float through. There were even some swim-through passages that lead from the main canyon off to small, deep holes back in the reef. Although I’m sure this structure is prime for forming riptides, the water was exceptionally calm today despite the rain. I was startled by sea turtles sneaking up on me, and saw abundant reef fish.

Once I got back, I was able to convince Britton to come out for a snorkel and I retraced my path up and back along the canyon. Unfortunately, by this time the silt had started to spread out in the cove and so the visibility was rapidly degrading. We still saw some cool fish and structure, though, and I did manage to spear a kole, so I could fry it up into what I’ve heard is a Hawaiian delicacy. We rounded out our day by catching the sunset at Hanalei Pier. 

Hiking the Okolehao Trail

On our last full day on the island, Claire and I hiked up to the Okolehao lookout point in the Hanalei NWR and Halelea Forest Reserve. It was a muddy trai but well worth it for the views. Britton took this time to relax by the pool and read a book. At the end of the day, we went back to Ha’ena Beach Park to lay on the beach for a bit and catch the sunset. I got in for a swim up and down the beach just beyond the breaking waves. It was a nice place to finish out our trip to the island. The next morning we packed up, returned our rental car, and boarded our flight back home.

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