This is the first day of our vacation on Kauai, the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands. We arrived yesterday and drove to the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Village on the northern coast in the pouring rain. Today, though, has been nice and sunny. We set out early for our first day of adventure to drive to the end of Highway 560 and it turned out to be quite a day.
We turned right on Highway 56 which soon turns into Highway 560. Less than quarter of a mile down the road we turned into a scenic overlook with fantastic views over the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. Down on the valley floor we could see the taro beds set out in rectangular areas of water. Taro is used to make poi, which is the staple food of most Hawaiians. I have yet to taste poi, maybe on this visit to Hawaii I will get to sample some. Taro beds make an ideal refuge for many endangered species of wetland birds, which use the plants for protection and nesting.
A little further down the highway we turned off the main road, after crossing a one lane bridge, onto Ohiki Road. We had bought an atlas of the Hawaiian Islands and I could see this road led into the wildlife refuge. Immediately we were in close proximity to the taro beds and an amazing number of wetland birds. Already on this trip I have seen so many different kinds of birds and top of my list of things to buy is a book on Hawaiian birds. The road is just one lane. Fortunately there was not a lot to traffic as very few tourists venture down here I’m sure. We passed small houses with lush tropical plants in the yards. Seeing a few local houses instead of the ultra modernness of the resort is a refreshing change. Along the way we picked up a bit of tree debris brought down by yesterday’s rain. Immediately we heard a continuous noise under the car but we had to go some way before we were able to find anywhere to pull over. Looking under the car we spotted a twig. It was an easy job to remove it and miraculously the noise disappeared.
A gate barred our way so we turned around and drove back. Along the way we stopped of in a small parking lot. On our way down we had spotted a trail and now decided to try it out. It was called the Okolehau Trail. It started with a little wooden bridge over a ditch and the path rose quickly. The trail was narrow and a bit muddy. A dense tropical array of trees surrounded us. It was wet and drippy. It felt like we were in a jungle. The path twisted and turned so frequently that Tom kept losing sight of me. As I didn’t want to be completely isolated I stopped often and waited until Tom caught up with me. He kept stopping to take photos of course. Each time I stopped I just stood and soaked in the restricted view. All the trees, plants, shrubs and flowers were alien to me.
The narrow trail we were on came to an end when we reached a wider trail which was probably the beginning of the Okolehau Trail proper. Instead of taking the uphill route to the left, we turned right and soon came to a large grassy open area on the side of a hill. On closer examination we found it was an old Chinese cemetery but the headstones were in several isolated sections. The first group appeared to be the oldest section with some headstones with Chinese writing. All of the ones with English writing belonged to the Ching family. Further up the hill we spotted another section with another family name and to the far right were two more sections where the headstones had different names. In the middle of the whole area was the remains of an old water fountain. It was a beautiful place, very quiet and isolated and hidden from view. From there is was an easy walk down to the road to our car.
Back on Highway 560 again, we headed into Hanalei. Last night we drove into the town and had dinner at the Kalypso Island Bar and Grill in the heart of downtown Hanalie. Tom wondered whether Hanalei was the place where Puff the Magic Dragon lived. When we got back to the hotel we looked up the lyrics to the song and it goes like this:
Puff, the Magic Dragon lived by and sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Though Hanalei is pronounced Honah Lee, the spelling is completely different. In my opinion, Hanalei is the sort of place you would expect Puff to live as it is the perfect spot for a magic dragon.
Before we hit Hanalei town itself, we took a right towards the sea and headed to the beach. As it was still relatively early, we easily found a parking spot in the small car park adjacent to the beach. The sun was warm and the sea looked inviting. I slung a beach towel – courtesy of the Westin Princelville – over my back pack and set off. Our first goal was to walk out on the concrete pier which had a covered area at the end. People were frolicking in the water (no sign of Puff or Jackie Paper). The water looked very shallow but not at all clear so no good for snorkeling. We then returned to the beach passing a couple of vans with lots of surf boards. I walked down to the waters edge, took off my sandals and enjoyed the sensation of the sea washing in over my feet. High on the beach near the high water mark I saw a lone coconut. Tom said it had probably been washed ashore. I expected a coconut to be brown and hairy but the outside husk is green. At the end of the beach the Hanalei River flows into the sea and here the water is clear. I could see a shoal of tiny fish at the water’s edge and watched them for a while. When we decided to walk back to the car and carry on with our drive, I realalized that the towel was no longer slung over my back pack. Thinking I had dropped it along the way I hurried to retrace my steps. I desperately wanted to find it because if the towel was not returned to the hotel, I wouldn’t get my card returned so I would be charged $20. Fortunately I spotted it hanging from one of the vans hiring out surf boards. I profusely thanked the guy and he said he was happy to oblige.
Back in the car and on to our next adventure. I must just mention that the whole of Highway 560 is very scenic and, in fact, is now on my list of the top ten scenic routes I’ve had the pleasure of driving along. Apart from the idyllic sandy beaches and the crashing surf, there’s the lush vegetation including palm trees and colorful flowers plus exotic birds and one must not forget the feral chickens. One interesting feature along this highway is the one lane bridges. Before each bridge there is a sign saying that the courtesy is to allow 5-6 cars to cross the bridge at one time and for the most part this is adhered to.
Our next stop was at the end of Lumahai Beach where the Lumahai River empties into the ocean. An official notice is posted telling visitors to be careful as there is no lifeguard on duty. There was even an unofficial sign warning tourists to be aware. We were warned by the concierge that at the moment the surf is high and snorkeling is not advised. Indeed, the waves breaking offshore did look pretty fearsome but the shore side of the coral reef seemed calm. I wandered down to where the river met the sand and wondered how the river reached the sea. Tom explained that it sinks through the sand. I paddled in the clear river water to get the sand out from between my toes and then sat of a three foot high bank of sand at least twenty feet away from the the incoming waves. Tom was closer to the water’s edge and had to retreat in haste when the water surged in. I felt fairly safe where I sat and started to apply sun block. I always try to heed the warning about not turning my back on the ocean and on this occasion I was facing the sea but concentrating on applying sun block to the back of my neck and had taken my eyes off the water. In a split second I was up to my waist in water and felt the sand back collapse under me. I acted very fast by grabbing my backpack and shoes and getting the hell out of the way. Tom was by my side immediately to assist me out of harms way, though a little wet. I quickly checked that everything in my pack to was OK including my iPad and watch and checked they were in working order. My brand new camera was in the pocket of my shorts and I was convinced that it would be out of commission bu,t thank goodness, it was OK. The only casualties, apart from me being wet from the waist down, were my nice black leather backpack which now sports white patches and the sun block lotion which had disappeared completely, presumably sucked out to sea.
I had no other clothes to change into but felt confident that I would soon dry out as it was a warm day. I sat on a towel in the car though to protect the seat. We drove a little further along the road passing through Wainiha. For the next few miles we passed a lot of houses built on stilts. Obviously living close to the ocean has its hazards so it is best to take precautions. Our next stop was at the Maniniholo Dry Cave. What an awesome site. The entrance to the cave is right at the side of the road. The entrance is wide and it is possible to walk some way into the cave. What takes your breath away is the immensity of the towering peak above with sheer sides but is also covered in vegetation including trees where the roots hang down until they find something to latch onto.
After that experience, we walked to the beach and watched a mother chicken clucking over her one partly grown chick and a flock of zebra doves hunkering down in the sand, seeming oblivious of humans nearby. Parked in the car park was a van selling drinks and snacks. A sign announced the fact that they sold shave ice. This is something I had not tried before so now was my chance to try something new. They had lots of different flavors and I chose coconut and pineapple. Tom chose vanilla and coconut. They were served in polystyrene cups with the white coconut flavor filling half the cup and the yellow pineapple, for me and the lurid blue vanilla for Tom, filling the other half and peaking six inches above the top of the cup. Each came complete with a wooden spoon and a straw. I must say it was delicious though the cold ice caused several painful instances of chest freeze.
Almost at the end of the road is the Limahuli Garden and Preserve in Haena. This is one of the places on our list to visit but today it wasn’t possible as it is not open on Mondays. We drove right to the end of Highway 560 at Kee Beach but decided to turn around without visiting the beach as parking was almost impossible. We stopped on the drive back to eat our sandwich lunch looking over Lumahai Beach.
Before returning to the hotel, we drove past the entrance and on to Anini Beach. This is the nearest beach to our hotel and though it is possible to walk to it, the trail is particularly treacherous when it has been raining. There were several people snorkeling so we promised ourselves we would return later in the week to do some snorkeling.
In the evening we drove back to Wainihi to have dinner at the Mediterranean Gourmet which is located in the Colony Resort. It had been recommended by the concierge at the hotel. Finding somewhere nice to eat on a Monday night is challenging but we struck gold here. Tom had a very tasty seafood broth and I enjoyed a tower of portobello mushrooms, grilled eggplant and mozzarella cheese. To finish we shared a pineapple upside down dessert al la mode.
Back to a second night of blissful sleep in our Heavenly bed.