As Mark may have mentioned, this is our third-ever trip to Hawaii, and somehow I’d never really appreciated the islands on the previous two trips. We’ve done Oahu and Maui and I could never quite understand why everyone else was so enamored of the place. Well, our three days on Waikiki Beach – at the same hotel we’d stayed at in 2016 – displayed some of the magic that others love but I’d somehow missed. And five days on Kauai, the smallest of the four major islands, clinched it. I’m now a big Hawaii fan.
The main priority for our time on Kauai was to visit my brother and his wife, Al & Anita. They have not one, not two, but three rental properties up in Princeville (which have five-star reviews on VRBO; just sayin’) on the northern coast of the island. For years they’ve been inviting us out to visit and once we’d made the decision to go to French Polynesia it was a no-brainer to include time with them.
While we were still on Oahu when we would mention that we were going to Kauai people would get almost misty-eyed describing the peace and beauty of the island. And they weren’t wrong. The island is almost impossibly green with beaches seemingly everywhere. And when you’re with locals, or at least quasi-locals, there are a lot of things to do.
First, of course, there are the beaches. We spent a fair amount of time at Hanalei Beach, first introduced to me many decades ago by Peter, Paul, & Mary, the land where Puff the Magic Dragon lived. And yes, from a distance you can see where the ridge of hills looks like a lying dragon. Who knew it was a real place? Tunnels Beach was another highlight, and it seemed as though every conversation started with “Well, we could go to such-and-such beach,” with a discussion of the relative merits of the parking, surf, crowd, etc.
Another great beach was Hanakaipi’Ai, but the real attraction there was the start of a stunning trail along the Napali Coast. Na Pali in Polynesian means “high cliffs” and that kind of makes sense. The cliffs climb from sea level as high as 4,000 feet, making for stunning views, every bit as gorgeous as hiking the Amalfi Coast (though to be honest the perfect little cafés you find on the latter are missing here…). So we hiked a challenging two miles up and over some of the cliffs to another beach before turning around and coming back.
Then the next day we saw it from another perspective, joining a boat excursion to see the entire 17-mile length of the Coast. Again, stunning and admittedly easier than hiking. Our boat was a surprisingly large zodiac, kind of an inflatable thing that in our experience was always smaller and less user-friendly. In this case it had reasonably comfortable benches and even a bathroom. Oh, and we managed to sail along the biggest pod of dolphins I’d ever seen. That and a stop for snorkeling off Tunnels Beach made for a great outing.
And of course the real highlight of the trip was hanging out with Al & Anita and (in much shorter bursts) their daughter Sierra and her boyfriend Tommy. Somehow the latter two thought of better things to do than hanging out with her parents and old uncles. Beyond all the activities and everything, just hanging out on their lanai looking over the ocean, enjoying meals and all, was great fun.
So Kauai is pretty great. It’s worth mentioning, I guess, that all that greenery around the island suggests that perhaps it rains sometimes. And indeed, there were regular little spritzes all through the day. It would be perfectly beautiful on the beach one minute and five minutes later you’d notice that it had started sprinkling. And then five minutes later sunny again. Sometimes it was annoying but almost never would it be raining hard enough to really interrupt your day. Mostly it just added to the charm of the place. Mostly.
And just like that I’ve become a fan of Hawaii. Good thing, because we’re headed back to Waikiki for a couple days before heading off to Tahiti. And after that we have 10 days on the Big Island. Good thing I’ve learned to love it!