Hawaii is one of those places which you think are cliché and overrated but then you go there and never want to leave!
I’ve always thought of Hawaii as an expensive destination. Search for pocket-friendly accommodation confirmed that theory. Browsing through the places, it was especially difficult to justify the prices. I was “aesthetically frustrated” because it looked that Hawaii was stuck in the 60’s. Not the kind of look I was after for our trip. But that’s what Hawaii turned out to be when we finally got there – slightly outdated and tired. I was truly surprised to discover that Hawaii wasn’t as modern and fancy as I imagined. Nevertheless, we had so much fun and I will struggle for superlatives to describe the beauty of Kauai. Also, we eventually got to find nice places to stay in Princeville and later in Kilauea.
It took us a while to make up our minds on the itinerary. Hawaii is a massive archipelago with 8 main islands. Each offers unique experience. Initially we wanted to do some island-hopping. However, when we looked at our first draft of the Hawaii agenda, we got really tired just reading it. We tweaked it and decided to spend most of the time in Kauai, also called the Garden Island, which is the oldest island. We were thrilled about the prospect of soaking up the prehistoric beauty. Every travel blog or guidebook I read raved about the countless geographical credentials of the island.
Our Kauai highlights
1. Na Pali Coast
It’s just WOW! There’s no way to describe the green pinnacles, lush forest, deep valleys, golden sand beaches or turquoise waters hugging the coast. No wonder why Steven Spielberg chose it as the movie set for Jurassic Park. I can imagine the coast hiding some big secrets and not-so-extinct dinos!
Most of Na Pali Coast is unreachable. The best way to fully embrace the grandeur of the vallyes and cliffs is to fly above the high pinnacles in a chopper. Not great for faint-hearted (us), but breath-taking bird’s eye views of the marvellous landscape are truly rewarding. It’s not a cheap activity but worth every dollar. Just get fewer beers throughout your stay in Hawaii, easy peasy.
The most incredible thing to see from the heights was the staggering diversity of landscapes: from lush forests and waterfalls to dry canyon and desert. And they all co-exist so close to each other, literally metres away. The Na Pali is one of the rainiest spots on the planet while Waimea Canyon looks dry as dust. Kauai has a few microclimates responsible for different weather patterns. It is amazing to experience them all at once, either from above in a helicopter or on a drive along the island.
2. Kalalalu Trail
The Na Pali Coast dramatic topography makes it extremely challenging to explore the place. It can be reached only on foot, by boat or by a helicopter. Because it’s so impenetrable, some parts of the landscape still remain untouched and pristine. Having marvelled at the emerald peaks from a helicopter, we decided to do the trail to further indulge in the beauty of the Na Pali Coast. Kalalalu trail is 11 miles in total. We only did the first part from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai which is only 2miles. It seems short but it’s a difficult hike and no one should underestimate it.
It had rained the night before and the trail turned into a muddy, slippery and quite dangerous track. Despite a couple of meltdowns we preserved and made it to the first checkpoint of the track – the Hanakapi’ai beach. The track goes further than that but you have to be an experienced hiker to do the whole distance. The weather is highly unforeseeable so be prepared for different scenarios. One minute you might be sweating in the scorching sun, only to find yourself stuck in heavy rain 60seconds later.
Hanakapi’ai Beach was our finishing line. To get there, you have to cross a stream It’s quite a daunting task. If the stream swells and turns into a raging river, it’s best not to try to get to other side. Strong currents have claimed many lives already. We didn’t cross the river (although it was only knee-deep). Instead we walked on the rocks along the water.
It was just a tad muddy. The whole trail path felt like melted milk chocolate!
3. Waimea Canyon
It’s regarded “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. When we arrived at the first of many lookouts I thought it was all wallpaper, cleverly spread over the landscape to fool vistas-hungry tourists. The canyon is an amazing festival of colour. We were so lucky to see a rainbow join the show.
There’s a couple of trails and you can even pitch a tent in the canyon. So if adventure is your middle name, then put on your hiking boots and grab that tent to fully explore the place.
4. Hanalei Bay
Attracts surfing lovers, sunset watchers, lovebirds and movie directors. It is a beautiful crescent-shaped piece of a bay with the formidable Na Pali Coast in the background. My favourite memory of the bay is the sunset swim after an all day long drive around the island. The water had never felt more refreshing!
5. Beach Hopping
I feel very spoilt by Australia and its beautiful coastline! No surprise I find it very difficult to like non-Australian beaches. Kauai, however, delivered big time!
The island boasts amazing spots which will suit even the most jaded beachgoer’s palate. There are beaches great for surfing, swimming, kayaking, snorkelling, sunset-watching, instagramming and many more. If you’re lucky you might even spot dolphins, sea turtles (tick) or seals (tick). Sunset Beach and Tunnels Beach were my favourite spots. So misty-eyed right now! #takemeback
Po’ipu Beach is the sunny shore of the island. Unlike the northern part, it gets less rain and more sun-rays. Unfortunately, the views are not as dramatic as the ones offered by Na Pali Coast.
Kauai is not all about golden sands. Black rocky shores are equally captivating! The only issue is when you want to spread flat that tired body of yours. Might be less comfortable on the spiky rocks. oUCH!
Tunnels Beach is just so juicy green and invigoratingly blue! It was a love at first sight.
6. Wild Chickens
One thing impossible to embrace are…roosters! They’ve turned the tropical paradise into not so much paradise. There was a hurricane in the 90’s that destroyed chicken coops releasing hens and roosters into the wild and letting them spread their gang across the island. Wild chickens can be found all over the place now. The most annoying thing is that roosters just love to crow at any time of the day and night. One morning we woke up to three different roostes heralding a new day!
Kauai is still pretty awesome!