Kauai: Paradise on Earth
Five days after Gabi's arrival to Oahu, we jumped on a 30 minute flight to Kauai where we planned to spend almost all of the next week. It was my second visit to the Garden Isle, and the first for Gabi & Vlad. The highest ranking items on our agenda were visiting the Waimea Canyon and hiking down the Nā Pali Coast towards the spectacular Hanakapi'ai Falls. As luck would have it, weather played some tricks on us and our Waimea Canyon trip ended up being a bust. Heavy fog covered the entire canyon and visibility was lowered to a point where we could no longer see into the canyon! Since seeing the canyon was a priority, we remedied the situation by taking a scenic flight and flying over not only the canyon but the entire island (separate post on this coming soon!). Barring this slight mishap, we enjoyed exploring Kauai with our usual relaxing the beach, with the addition of taking outdoor showers at our cottage rental - a new favorite activity. Lastly, Vlad's eagle eye even spotted US pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reece at a grocery checkout, with whom we had a lovely chat.
A little bit about Kauai: it is the fourth largest and geologically the oldest island of the Hawaiian chain. It is home to about 67 thousand people. The climate of the island is semitropical and the landscape ranges from rainforests, high mountains cut with ridges and valleys, to canyons, sea cliffs, waterfalls and beaches. There's something to do here for everyone.
On our first day in Kauai we woke up bright and early to see the Waimea Canyon. This is as much as we would see of it that day. Sadly, thick clouds descended down and covered the entire canyon before we got a chance to take a look. In only few minutes we were starring into a white abyss. We drove to few more lookout points but the weather only got worse as it started raining and the clouds kept getting thicker. We were all disappointed, especially me... As we drove back to the main road we stopped by a beach near Waimea. The waves were majestic - so powerful. Vlad was trying to cheer me up with his kisses... and it worked! :-) (duh!)
Another thing that cheered me up was this tiny but wonderful glass sand beach. The beach is located in an industrial area where decades ago people used to dump bottles and broken auto glass. Little did they know that the ocean would work its magic and turn this "garbage" into the gems you see here! This process takes about 10-30 years and results in polished, frosted, jelly-bean like pebbles that are now often used by locals to create fun, island-esque jewelry.
For the first two nights we stayed at a hotel in Kapa'a on the east side of the island. In the 19th and 20th century, this town was known for its sugar and pineapple fields. Java Kai was a cute local coffee shop we found by the magic of the googles (and Gabi's research). I was skeptical as I ordered a bagel (let's face it, it's hard to match our NYC bagels) but I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was, despite the unusual combination of pesto cream cheese with fresh tomatoes. We liked it so much that we came back there again few days later, for round two. Walking along the beach in Kapa'a we came across this aloha car with the coolest pets ever. They had one more passenger sleeping in the back. Chilling by the ocean. Gabi was channeling her inner kid on the swings, going WEEEEEEEE! One of the attractions listed in all Kauai guidebooks is Opaekaa Falls, which is only a couple minute detour from the main road... As you can see it's a fine waterfall, but not of magnificent proportions. While it is big, it loses some of its glory due to the distance from the road and the lush vegetation surrounding it. But worry not, we will show you a more spectacular waterfall in a post coming soon ;-). We decided to explore the area and drove towards the middle of the island. Oh cool, a stream. Not much behind there, just a cool view of a valley. Fish tacos for lunch. Yum. Tacos were always a good choice! And of course after a busy day of errr, casual sightseeing, one deserves a solid rest at the beach. We picked Kealia beach near Kapa'a. Gabi was working really hard on her tan.
Aren't these type of photos what GoPro was made for? LOL. The waves were quite big but really fun to play in. Did this wave crash on top of Gabi and Vlad? (Anser: yes, yes it did) This was our cottage near Princeville, on the north shore of the island. The area is surrounded by manicured houses and cottages, fancy golf courses, and of course - beautiful mountains. Princeville is the best spot to locate yourself if you are planning to explore the Napali Coast. But keep in mind, the north of the island gets a lot more rain than the south where the popular Po'ipu town is located, so bring an umbrella!
The owner of our cottage was one of the first on the island to install solar panels on his property. This was our view.
And our outdoor shower! We waited until the evening so we could look at the stars while showering. One of the happiest moments in our lives! The owners had a large 5 acre property on which they grow various fruits and vegetables. They welcomed us to use their garden and we happily obliged. Freshly squeezed citrus juice every morning was followed by a salad of amazing tasting greens, which taste went beyond our wildest expectations. Even the utmost organic produce at Whole Foods does not come close to how good everything tasted from the garden. As it turns out, the owners imported glacier dust and some other organic matter to fortify his garden which gave all of the plants its superior flavor.
Young and fearless - surfers at Hanalei Bay. He was just waiting for the right moment to jump in.
Wanting to enjoy the sunset we parked in a residential area and enjoyed it from a patch of grass overlooking a golf course and Napali Coast. Happy sisters. We walked to the golf course and from the edges of it looked over the famous Queen's Bath area, a natural pool surrounded by lava, really dangerous to swim in as you can get swept into the ocean at any time. It used to be a bathing place for Ali'i, Hawaiian Royalty, and a place where umbilical cords of infants were deposited. Random, and weird. Gabi's new tote is totes awesome. Looking for some local flavor we decided to dine at Tahiti Nui restaurant in Hanalei. If you're a movie buff or just a fan of George Clooney you may recognize this spot from The Descendants. As you can see Vlad dressed up for this occasion ;-). There was live entertainment throughout the entire evening. Our food was very 'ono' - that's 'delicious' in Hawaiian. Purpled mash yams were amazing. Relaxing on Anini Beach in Princeville. Stretching for two miles it's one of the most serene beaches in Kauai. It also has the calmest waters and... ...chickens. Chickens were first brought to the island as a food source by Polynesian settlers. Later they mixed with those brought by Europeans. They multiplied and ran free. Free like the wind! Having very few predators, thousands of wild chickens roam Kauai. Aren't they cute? Vlad and I came back to this beach after Gabi left. It was very peaceful there. After Gabi left Kauai, Vlad and I had another day to explore the island. We drove to Kilauea Lighouse but did not get to go in as it was already closed (hours are 10am-4pm).
To end the day we took a quick 15 min hike to a nearby Secret Beach where we relaxed and watched the sunset. And also found this guy chilling on some drift wood. We also witnessed a couple getting married.
Pretty seashells I collected. Sunset.
If you are looking for lush greenery, peace and serenity, Kauai is the island for you. We have some more Kauai adventures to share with you in the next few posts. I promise you that after you read them all you will be planning your Hawaiian vacation or you may even have your tickets booked. :-)