There was still much more to see and do on this little island of Kauai. The smallest of the major Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is only 553 square miles. But it is packed with beautiful sites and filled with engaging activities.
The next big thing on my list was to get Elliott to the north coast of the island. On our first drive we aimed to go all the way to the end of the road, where the Na Pali Coast begins. On the way we passed more mountains on the mauka side (“toward the mountain”, as opposed to makai, or “toward the sea”), where we saw King Kong’s profile and a hole in a mountain aptly named Hole-in-the-Mountain. As we continued our drive the vegetation became even greener and lusher. We drove over Waipa Bridge, built in 1912, and stopped to take a look in Manini-holo Dry Cave. We passed some “wet caves” as well but decided against swimming through them this time. (I’ll need to work on convincing Elliott for next time.) We were on a mission for some great snorkeling, and for that we planned to visit the last two beaches on the north part of the island – Ke’e, and Tunnels.
Ke’e was gorgeous even early in the morning but I could not believe how crowded the parking lot was – we had to use the overflow lot a half mile away, which didn’t even exist last time I was there! Many people use the same lots to start their hike on the Kalalau Trail, the trail that traverses part of the Na Pali Coast. We did some snorkeling and saw some great fish but knew the rough winter ocean waters prevented us from leaving the reef and seeing the best the snorkeling that beach has to offer.
Getting to Tunnels beach was even tougher – both access roads were filled with cars, so we drove on to a tiny town where we could park and then walked a half mile along the beach to get to Tunnels. It was a long walk on the beach with all of our snorkel gear but well worth it for the beauty alone, and we ended up on a part of the beach that was very remote – another benefit in my book. It felt like paradise as we ate a picnic lunch (okay, it was our daily pb&j sandwiches, not so glamorous), lay back and took a little nap, and went snorkeling. The snorkeling at Tunnels turned out to be much better than Ke’e, and we were super psyched to find a sea turtle to play with.
That night I surprised Elliott with a luau at Smith’s Tropical Paradise. We have been to a few other luaus on other Hawaiian islands but this one definitely took the cake. Its location is on the grounds of some beautiful gardens, so they start you out on a tram tour of the property. Then it was time for the Imu Ceremony when they blow the conch shells and unearth the pig from the ground. During dinner they had live local music, and suffice it to say there was a lot of food, mai tais and other drinks, and coconut cake as well as other desserts. It was quite the feast, especially after eating frozen microwaveable dinners for several consecutive nights prior!
The luau show was fabulous – hands down the best one we’ve ever been to. Rather than showing the dances of Polynesian islands only, this luau was expanded to include traditional dances from Hawaii’s Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino “Cousins.” As if that wasn’t enough, there was an erupting volcano too.
We spent a second day exploring the north side of the island, checking out more beaches, the ritzy town of Princeville, and the Kilauea Lighthouse. Our first beach of the day was Hideaways – and what a perfect name. The hiking trail down to this beach was fun for us but would be completely treacherous for many. We had to hold on to old rusting pipes and ropes as we tried not to slide down the steps-turned-slippery-slope. We did some snorkeling over the shallow but beautiful reef once down on the beach, which was very secluded. It was also a great place for a swim in the tiny area not covered by reef. Later that afternoon we hiked to an area named Queen’s Bath where we hoped to swim in the rock enclosed inlet, but once there we found that the waves were way too rough for swimming. I tried to convince Elliott it was safe but to no avail, so we sat up high on a rock and watched the waves bang against the boulders at the rear of the inlet. At least there was a lovely little waterfall on the hike there and back!
To be continued…