We boarded the plane at noon in Los Angeles, to start our trip to Kauai, Hawaii. A young guy walked up to me, and after reading my t-shirt, asked if I was from Nantucket. I didn't realize that he was joking until he said, wow, I always heard about "the man from Nantucket" but never thought that I'd meet him (if you don't know, this refers to an old fraternity poem that, if published, might get me arrested).
The flight was uneventful and smooth. Arriving in Kauai must be the best airport experience in the world. The moist, warm air surrounds you when you leave the plane, and you are quickly overwhelmed with the fragrant smell of tropical flowers growing in the open air terminal.
Our bags didn't make our plane, however they arrived on the next flight, while were picking up our rental car and we were on our way.
We started our drive at dusk, and the scenery grew more spectacular as we headed north. Kauai is one of the least developed of the Hawaiian Islands, and the landscape was mostly beautiful deep green fields with mountains in the distance. We passed several cattle farms on the road but did not see many people or homes.
After driving for thirty minutes, we came upon the town of Kapaa. There were hotels, restaurants and many tourist shops. It wasn't long however before we were driving along the ocean and were enjoying the natural beauty of Kauai.
We drove past the sign for Princeville, another resort and shoping area, and through the town of Hanalei. Since it was getting dark, and our directions were not very clear, we had the feeling that we had driven too far. We were looking out for a small general store which was just before two, single lane, wooden bridges. We crossed many bridges, wooden and otherwise, and thought of turning around. We drove with the windows down, listening to the sounds of crickets or cicadas as we sped by. Finally, we came upon the brightly lit Hale Kaepuhi House. We were on the north end of the island, on the Napali Coast, just three miles from the end of the road. We rented the house with Steve and Michelle, who came in from Los Angeles, and David and Kathy who were visiting from Boise, Idaho (they had arrived a few hours earlier).
The house was on the ocean, situated in a cove, and the stars and a full moon lit up the waves that came crashing in to the shore.
We unloaded our bags and drove back down the road to Hanalei for dinner. We decided upon Zelo's Beach House, which was crowded, looked lively and had no windows. The restaurant had great seafood and a casual atmosphere. We all became drowsy, went home and quickly went to sleep.
2/ 6/1996 Tuesday
I woke at 6am to the sounds of the ocean, and watched the waves rolling in. Soon I was in the car and off to buy breakfast. The scenery on the narrow road was magnificent, thick with trees and vines climbing up the steep face of the mountains. In Hanalei, I shopped at Foodland, one of the two food stores in the area. The prices of some of the groceries were twice the mainland prices.
When I returned to the house, everyone was awake and David and Kathy had already taken a strenuous run along the sand. We had breakfast and explored the beach, and eventually piled into the minivan to start our day. While we would have been content to swim and snorkel near the house, the winter water conditions were such that we could end up killing ourselves - we decided to head south. We stopped at a store in Hanalei to buy some swimsuits and hats, and continued to Kapaa to an outdoor market for fresh fruit. The prices at the fruit stand seemed much more reasonable than the grocery store and everything was delicious.
During the drive, we were able to see all of the beauty that we missed the night before. The ocean was deep blue and turbulent due to high winds, and the towering mountains to the West were covered in a blanket of thick, dark green foliage.
After passing through what must have been the most developed part of the island (Walmart, fast food and commercial buildings), we drove through the Tunnel of Trees on the way into the south side of Kauai, near Poipu Beach. Although a hurricane devastated Kauai several years ago, stripping the trees bare, the area seemed to be close to full recovery with the island in full bloom.
Koloa Town was the next stop to rent snorkels and fins A small booth at a gas station offered equipment for ten dollars for the week. Michey and I remembered that there was a taco stand down the road toward Poipu called Taqueria Nortena (known to locals as The Crack) - we stopped to take out food for a picnic lunch. We ate near the Spouting Horn, a volcanic formation that periodically blasts a geyser of water, caused by waves forced through the rocks.
We drove to Poipu, and tried snorkeling. The beach was narrow and many people were swimming in two protected coves. The water was no more than a few feet deep and we were surrounded by a rainbow of colors (the swimmers feeding the fish were obviously quite appealing).
After a few hours of sunning and swimming, we packed up and drove and stopped at Walmart, the Foodland in Kapaa and a fresh fish store in Hanalei. Once we unloaded everything at home, Steve, David and I decided to drive to the end of the road. As we proceeded, the road narrowed and the trees and ferns grew thicker and more colorful. The road led to Haena Park and the secluded Ke'e Beach, both of which appeared to be barely touched by civilization. This was paradise. We decided that we would spend much more time in this area over the rest of our trip. Since the sun was setting, we soon headed back towards the house. We stopped for a moment to look at an enormous cave with a fifty foot ceiling, that had a small body of water leading out of our sight.
Shortly after we returned home, our wonderful spouses cooked an incredible meal of grilled seafood, salad and rice. We relaxed and soon went to sleep.
2/ 7/1996 Wednesday
We awoke to a big rain storm. The tide was in and the waves climbed up to our house. It became obvious why many homes on were built on stilts. David, Steve and I went out to the supermarket to buy pancake mix and we stopped in town for some cappucino.
After breakfast, we drove to the southwest side of Kauai, in search of good weather. As we made our way around the island, we were treated to breathtaking ocean views.
Our first stop was Hanapepe - a sign announced it as The Biggest Little Town - it looked like they hadn't quite recovered from Hurricane Iniki. Many stores were vacant and several had not been rebuilt. There was a fine clothing store, a book store/espresso cafe and a few neighborhood staples such as a hardware store and a hair salon.
The sky started to clear up and the rain stopped. We continued on our way, and the air became cooler as we climbed to an altitude of 4,000 feet. The devastation from the hurricane was clear as we passed acres of bare trees.
We had lunch at the lodge at Koke'e State Park. We were told that the hiking trails were excellent, however we didn't go because of the slippery conditions from the rain.
We stopped along the road a few times for a view of Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pacific. The incredible beauty was intensified by the dark shades of green that covered the canyon walls, and by the waterfall that poured into the gorge. As we drove down the road, we passed great fields of sugar cane and enjoyed the panoramic view of the ocean and the wide expanse of farm land.
We stopped by Spouting Horn again to buy some presents at the outdoor market - the pearls were very inexpensive. We then drove a few miles to the Hyatt Hotel. This palace-like resort had an open air four story high lobby filled with greenery. It was clear that the hotel was designed to frame the magnificent ocean view. We walked through tropical gardens and past beds of Koi Fish, and came upon models being photographed in the black bottom pool with a jacuzzi in the middle. All paths led to the beautiful beach. When the waiters started serving poolside drinks, we decided that we'd seriously consider staying here on our next visit to Kauai.
We went back to the minivan and drove to Hanalei. We decided to bring home burgers and Korean food from Papa Al's for dinner. David liked the Buffalo Burger and everyone else seemed happy with their food. We watched the movie, Desperado, but most of us didn't last very long and went to bed.
2/ 8/1996 Thursday
After all of the driving that we had done over the past few days, we decided to stay local. We had a good breakfast at the Hanalei Wake Up Cafe. The decor consisted of brightly colored floral tablecloths and lots of surfing pictures.
We went home and collected our gear, and headed out on this very sunny day to Anini beach (just south of Princeville). At the end of Anini road, we arrived at a very secluded area. A few of us snorkeled in the shallow waters of the dead reef, finding some beautiful fish among the openings in the coral floor.
After spending some time in the sun, we decided to get lunch. We stopped when we saw the Tropical Taco truck in the Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant parking lot. We ate great mexican food on a picnic table overlooking kayakers in the river.
We drove north past our house and back to end of road. We walked by a beautiful home, hidden behind the palms and brush, and up a path overlooking the ocean.
When we came home to relax before dinner, the ocean was turbulent, and the air was thick with a mist of light rain. Sitting on the lanai, we watched the water explode in the distance, as waves crashed against the rocks where the island curved. A giant rainbow filled the sky.
David and Kathy had dinner alone for their anniversary at the Princeville Resort. The rest of us went out to BeamReach, a steak and seafood restaurant, also in Princeville. The BeamReach was recommended to us by Mark Barbanel, someone I know on the island via the Internet who owns The River Estate Guest House.
Our dinner was very good, although the ambiance was nothing to speak of. David and Kathy however, ate on a patio by the ocean under the stars.
We all met up after dinner in the hotel, another palace, and talked for a while in the Living Room Bar. We were told that the view from where we sat was supposed to be the best on the island - it was late so we couldn't see anything. The sky was filled with stars so we knew that we were in for a great day. We drove home, and soon went to sleep.
2/ 9/1996 Friday
I awoke to a beautiful sunrise. Soon the sun was out in a cloudless blue sky. Steve, David and I decided to go for an early morning walk on the Kalalau Trail. We drove to Ke'e Beach and made our way up the path. Some people in their 50's came out sweating and muddy and said that the walk took them four hours with a stop for lunch; we figured that we could do it in two. The trail was narrow, steep and wet. In many places, the surface was all rocks, but mostly we walked or slid on dirt. We were surrounded by thick green tropical plants, listened to the sounds of birds and were overwhelmed with the views of the Napali Coast.
We reached Hanakapi'ai Beach in approximately one hour. The rock filled beach had once been filled with sand, prior to the hurricaine. A lone camper held court over the area and had secured a spot on high ground with the best view of this remote beach.
The hike home was exhilerating. There was more uphill walking on the way back, and the sun was warming up the path. I picked up a lei that had been left on a rock near a stream. David joked that I shouldn't take it because I might risk some of the bad luck that that Brady Bunch encountered when they visited Hawaii. We finished our hike in two hours, covered in mud, and headed back to the house.
Michey and I decided to go to the National Tropical Botanical Garden, at the south side of the island. Michelle and Kathy stayed at the house while Steve and David went to play golf.
We made a stop so that I could make a phone call, and then drove to The Crack for another mexican lunch. Michey and I had picnic with a view of the ocean and the Spouting Horn (the Botanical Garden tour bus started from the parking lot). When I went to make another phone call, the curse of the lei became a reality. My Sharp Wizard handheld computer was gone. I immediately realized that I had left it by the telephone when we stopped earlier in the morning.
We cancelled our tour and started making calls - we spoke to the police, called the market near the telephone and changed our home answering machine message (my number was on the start-up screen). We went so far as to post reward signs. A hot dog vendor said that Hanalei is a small town, everyone is pretty nice and once the person who found it figures out how to get in touch with us, they would return it.
We spent the rest of the day on the beach by the house. The golfers returned and had a wonderful time. They highly recommended the twilight fees at the Princeville Resort - $60 instead of $110 - they played from 2pm until 6pm and were treated to incredible views, great service and saw a whale.
Sure enough, like the vendor said, I got the great news on my home answering machine that someone had found my computer. Steve and I quickly drove to meet Peyton and I gave him a fifty dollar reward. His wife Zena had actually found the Wizard and he was excited to use the money for their wedding anniversary which was coming up in a few days.
We had a great pasta and caeser salad dinner waiting for us when we got home, and everyone surprised Michey and I with a cake, balloons and some presents for an impromptu baby shower. Michey is due at the end of May.
We talked for a few hours and soon everyone went to bed. If it wasn't for the good samaritans that we met, this update would have never made it - plus I would have lost a lot of important stuff. It ended up being a great day and showed us how kind people can be.
We woke up early and went to the Princeville Resort for a breakfast buffet. The view was incredible and the sky was clear. A Roman orgy of food was served including smoked salmon and bagels, tropical fruit, eggs made to order, eggs benedict, waffles, pancakes, cereals and numerous other delicious items. We ate far too much food, but were very happy anyway.
Steve, David and I drove back to Koloa Town to return our snorkel equipment while the women shopped, sunned on our beach and played Scrabble. On the way back, we stopped at Opeakaa Falls (there are better falls to visit) and the Kilauea Lighthouse. The park was closed, however the view from the of the ocean and the lighthouse was spectacular.
We stopped at the Princeville Resort Pro Shop to buy some gifts, and we were given a day pass to the health club (since Steve and Dave played golf the day before). Again, we were awed with the heavenly views of the mountains and the coast.
We stopped at the Tropical Taco truck for lunch and bought a few t-shirts. We returned to the house to spend the rest of the day on the beach. Late in the day, Dave and I ventured into the rough ocean outside of our house. The water was chaotic with tides and waves moving in every direction, and we were pulled by a fierce undertow. The water was warm but dangerous, so we didn't stay in too long.
We all left for the Princeville Resort, for drinks, appetizers and sunset in the Living Room Bar. Even though the sky was very overcast, the 180 degree view of ocean, mountains and waterfalls was unreal. We played a board game called Scategories which was a lot of fun, and were entertained during sunset with Hawaiian folklore and song.
We returned home, were full from appetizers, and continued playing board games (Scrabble and Pente) until we went to sleep.
This was our last full day. Steve, David and I went out first thing in the morning to the Princeville Resort health club for a short workout. The main exercise room had all the usual machines and weights, however, what set this place apart was, as usual, the sweeping views. Three floor to ceiling glass walls faced the rolling hills of the award winning golf course and, in the distance, the mountains and the ocean.
Included in our free day pass was the use of the all of the club facilities. We relaxed in the outdoor jacuzzi for some time and then went inside to enjoy the steamroom and sauna.
After we returned to the house, and everyone lounged around or played games, we set out again to the Princeville Resort, this time for lunch. The brunch menu had mostly breakfast items, but they also had salads and burgers. The food was pretty good and there was a nice view of the golf course.
We stopped in Hanalei, for some last minute purchases and ice cream, and then spent the rest of the day at the house to enjoy our last moments in paradise.
Dinner at the Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei was one of the best meals that we had during our trip. We started with a drink on the deck, with a cool breeze blowing, Hawaiian music playing and lamps burning and lighting up the night. The appetizers, salad and our main dishes were great. We all ate seafood which was fresh from the restaurant's fish market.
Back at home we all started packing for our morning departure. I caught a gecko (a small lizard) in our kitchen and we soon went to bed.
We woke up and said goodbye to David and Kathy who were leaving on an early flight. I went to visit Marc, my Internet friend, who lived down the road. We had never seen eachother before, and it was nice to finally meet.
It wasn't long before we had the car packed and we set out toward the airport. We made one last stop, just north of Kapaa, at Banana Joe's produce market. We bought some great fresh fruit smoothies and frosties (one is a drink and the other a dessert) and were on our way home.
Kauai is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we all would highly recommend a visit to anyone in search of paradise (this is probably as close as it gets).