This is the eleventh blog post on our round the world trip August – November 2016. It covers our stay on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Go here for a picture gallery.
Arriving in Kauai
The Hawaiian Airlines plane from Pago Pago to Honolulu, a rather elderly 767, was almost full, but thankfully we were in just 2 seats (window and aisle) and had no large Samoans sitting next to us. It left early at 11.30pm. We were served a sandwich and drink just after takeoff and coffee just before landing at 5am Hawaii time (1 hour later than Pago Pago). The airport was very quiet at that time and we were soon through immigration and then had a long walk to the inter-island terminal for a 20 minute flight to Lihue on the island of Kauai in a brand new and almost empty small jet.
We had booked a small rental car from Budget and the agent greeted us with “You need a 4WD or SUV”. She looked annoyed when I told her that we had been to Kauai before, then tried to sell us some extra insurance because “people lose car keys while they are swimming and your insurance doesn’t cover this”. I told her we wouldn’t go swimming – it’s pretty dangerous in the sea in a lot of Hawaii anyway because of high surf. It makes you wonder how much commission they get for selling unnecessary extras. We got the keys and walked out. The car was absolutely fine.
We couldn’t check in to our apartment until early afternoon so we had a leisurely late breakfast in a shopping mall then stocked up with food at Safeway. We were staying in Sealodge, one of the developments in Princeville which is a huge resort area in the north of Kauai. Princeville is actually rather pleasant as most of it is lawn and golf course. Sealodge is on a bluff overlooking the sea. We passed some huge houses on the way to it.
Our apartment was well equipped and nicely presented, if rather over-furnished as the Americans like. It was nice to cook in a real kitchen on our first evening and the washing machine and dryer were soon put to work.
Kauai is not called “The Garden Isle” for nothing. We went there for a week when we lived in New Jersey in the early 1990s and loved it. Some of the mountain scenery, especially the Na Pali Coast in the north-west, is absolutely stunning. There are enormous sandy beaches and Mount Wai’ale’ale, which is usualy shrouded in mist, has the highest annual rainfall on earth. Like the other Hawaian islands, the south-west side is much drier and almost desert-like. The island is almost round but there is no road on the Na Pali Coast and so you cannot drive all the way round.
Another feature of Kauai is the number of chickens living wild and wandering around. There must be plenty for them to eat as we saw some excellent specimens all over.
Sightseeing on the north coast
On our first day we drove through the nearest village Hanalei and then west as far as we could before walking on several beaches including Lumaha’i Beach where Mitzi Gaynor washed that man right out of her hair in the movie of South Pacific.
On the way back we stopped in Hanalei for a shave ice which the Hawaiians tend to consume instead of ice cream. It’s exactly what the name implies, very tiny slivers of ice shaved off a block and built up into a snowball in a dish. Fruit-flavoured syrup is then poured all over it. Most people have two or three flavours.
The next day was also rather quiet – it rained a bit – but later on we went out to try to see the sunset from the St Regis Hotel in Princeville. This hotel looks across the bay to the mountain which is supposed to be Bali Ha’i in the South Pacific although it’s been doctored bit for the movie. It wasn’t a very good sunset and so we retreated and cooked some ahi ahi Hawaiian fish stew for dinner. After some research on the Internet we booked online to go to the luau (Hawaiian feast and entertainment) at Kilohani for the next evening.
The following morning we drove west again to Limahuli Tropical Gardens at Haena. This was very impressive. We were given a booklet with a page describing each of 40 stops on the walk around the garden. I was very interested in the vegetables grown by the early settlers. I had no idea what sweet potato plants look like, or turmeric. All was very lush and the view out to sea was lovely.
Luau at Kilohani
On the way to the luau we drove up to the viewpoint for Wailua Falls, a 50m high waterfall up a side valley. We had a good view from the top but you can’t walk
down to it as it’s too slippery and dangerous.
Kilohani was originally a sugar plantation but it has now been developed for tourists, with a toy train, restaurant and shops. We arrived in good time for the luau. I was given a flower lei and Martin had one of shells. There was a free drink and time to look round some stalls of which by far the best had some stunning photographs of Kauai taken by Kerry Oda who was there minding his stall.
We were assigned a table for dinner and found ourselves with 2 couples from Utah. They were obviously embarrassed at the US election goings on and so we didn’t press them about it. In any case we were right by the band and so conversation was not easy.
The luau proper began with an imu ceremony uncovering a pig which had been roasted in an underground oven rather like those in Samoa. The food was very much better than that we had a few years ago at a luau on Oahu. Salad was served on table then there was a buffet with pasta salad, rice, tomato salad, poi (taro paste), fish, chicken, and pulled pork.
The entertainment was amazing. It told the story of the first arrivals in Hawaii. The highlight at the end was several firedancers who were twirling torches. One of them was a fireeater as well.
Waimea Canyon and Kalalau Valley lookouts
Our time on Kauai was running out and so the next day we set off on a longer trip to the Waimea Canyon which is a huge gash rather like the Grand Canyon on the west side of the island. To get there from the north you have to drive south on the east side of the island to the south coast and then west through some of the drier areas.
We stopped in Waimea village to photograph another statue of Captain Cook who visited Kauai in 1778 – was there anywhere he didn’t go to? The road up the canyon went up steeply and then along a ridge in the forest. The view out at the viewpoint was spectacular with scenery rather like the Grand Canyon.
Further up there is a small museum and picnic tables at Kokee in a forested area. At the end of the road the Pu’u O Kila lookout gives an amazing view down on to the Kalalau valley where the sea is almost 3500 feet below. Cloud was swirling around a bit but it cleared enough for us to see the view. It had taken us well over 2 hours to get there but the lookout is only about 20km as the crow flies from Princeville.
Martin decided to try one of the hikes from the lookout and came back very muddy.
We topped at Kalalau Lookout on the way down. It gives more of a sideways view on the valley and we were glad we had gone to end of the road.
It was shave ice time again when we got back to Waimea village. At JoJos Shave Ice one with 3 fruit flavours and macadamia ice cream in the bottom was enough for the two of us.
When we went to Kauai in the early 1990s both of us had hiked some of the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast. After 2 miles (on the side of the mountain) you can walk down to the first beach at Hanakapiai without needing a hiking permit. I decided to give it a miss this time but Martin took off on his own and met plenty of other people on the way. He came back very muddy again.
Back in Hanalei in the evening, most restaurants were very busy but we had a nice local meal at Hanalei Gourmet.
Last day sightseeing
We had an overnight flight the next day, but made the most of the day with more sightseeing and some shopping. At the viewpoint for the Kilauea lighthouse we finally saw the nene (Hawaiian goose). Several chickens came running as we sat down to eat lunch at a picnic table on Lydgate Beach.
We drove up the road from Wailua village and stopped at the viewpoint for Opaeka’a Falls where there were more chickens.
We went to the end of the road (a stream) where there was a view of Wai’ale’ale with only a little cloud. Perhaps it was one of the few non-rainy days.
At Poipu on the south coast we had an unsuccessful attempt to find where we stayed before, but Spouting Horn blowhole nearby was behaving itself very well.
Flight to Orlando
After a quick Chinese barbecue dinner we returned the car at the airport and checked in for our Delta flights to Orlando. The checkin kiosk informed us that the flight from Lihue to Los Angeles was delayed. We began to worry about missing our connection and the next one in Minneapolis, but a human agent told us not to worry.
After 6 hours in the air we had to wait to land at LA because of fog, something we had never seen there before. However we did catch the connection as did our baggage. The airport in Minneapolis was very modern. There were rows of tablets which all had a credit card swipe machine next to them. We had not flown on Delta for some time and were rather impressed. All three flights were on new planes (two really because the second and third flights were on the same plane) and the service was good.
Our favourite Hawaiian island
If you want to go to Hawaii I would definitely recommend Kauai. We have been to four other Hawaiian islands and Kauai is definitely our favourite, especially for the scenery. There are plenty of options for a helicopter trip around the island. We didn’t do it this time as we did it on our first stay, but I would highly recommend it. It’s a must if you are a fan of Jurassic Park.
Not quite the end
I’m not planning to write up what we did in the two weeks in our house in Florida as it was all rather domestic and dull and so this is the last blog describing what we did on our round the world trip in 2016. I will, however, be writing another one setting out how we pensioners organized the trip and how we dealt with the practicalities.