Our bed and breakfast here-South Shore Vista-is a very, very impressive surprise. It is obscenely spacious, and gives us sole use of a full kitchen (complete with pots, pans, dishes, glasses, silverware), bathroom, dining room, living room, bathroom, and backyard deck. The view from the deck and the dining room (which had huge glass windows facing this view) is smashing, since it overlooks banana and papaya trees, a lush valley, Kauai mountains and the Pacific Ocean. In addition to Edge of the World on the Big Island, I strongly recommend this bed and breakfast.
First up is the startling, unexpected Waimea Canyon, which Mark Twain, when he first saw it, dubbed the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." We find his description was extremely accurate (photo at left). I never expected to see such a dramatic, colorful, expansive canyon in Hawaii. The canyon is 10 miles long, one mile wide, and 3,600 feet deep. Stopped at Waimea Canyon Lookout, which provides breathtaking views of the canyon. It is then on to the end of the road-Pu'uokila Lookout at the end of Route 550, which Doughty calls one of the greatest views in the Pacific. After seeing the view, which includes Kalalau Valley and the Pacific coastline, I have to agree. We hike into the canyon on the Canyon Trail in the Koke'e Trails area. This trails area is full of an overwhelming network of trails. The Canyon Trail is exceptional, giving us stupendous views of the canyon. I cannot stop taking photos with my camera along this trail. On the downside, the hike is very hot, dusty, and dry. We strongly recommend bringing along plenty of water.
Kauai is very aptly named the Garden Island, since it is very lush and attractive. We notice that the island seems to be covered with feral chickens, which are seen almost constantly on roadsides and fields. In the morning, the crowing of roosters is very noticeable.
For dinner on our first night at Kauai, we sample bottles of Kauai Gold microbeer. I find it to be fair to partly cloudy with regard to quality. The natural wonders of the islands are outstanding. The island beer is not...
Overall, we drive about 75 miles on our first day on Kauai.
Day two on Kauai starts with a visit to the Spouting Horn blowhole. We then head to the Fathom 5 Diveshop for our Kauai dive. Our first dive is the most popular and impressive dive on Kauai-Sheraton Caverns. Have about 70 feet of vis. During this dive, we see graceful (and big) green sea turtles, and we glide through a fabulous series of swim-thru lava arches. The second dive is at the 3 Fingers site. Poor visibility. More sea turtles. Spotted a green crown starfish.
After the dive, we check out Poipu Beach. Very attractive, but roped off surf because a native and rare Monk Seal just had a calf at the beach. We also visit Gillin's Beach, which is very attractive. Next, we drive through the well-known "Tunnel of Trees," which consist of formally aligned, very tall swamp mahogany (eucalyptus) trees which were donated to the county and planted on the road several years ago after Walter Duncan McBryde, a local landowner, discovered he had 500 of them left over after landscaping his home almost 100 years ago. While the trees have recently suffered from a hurricane, it remains an impressive drive. We visit the 80-foot Wailua Falls, which is the falls used for the opening credits in the Fantasy Island TV show, a twin falls that is worth seeing. As an aside, we visit Nawillwili Town and Lihue town and decided they are mediocre and not worth visiting.
Overall, we drive about 100 miles on our second day on Kauai.
We start the third day on Kauai with a 30-minute hike to Ho'opouli Falls. The trail is lush and adventurous. We first come upon a smaller falls. The trail passes along and across a small stream, and braids through a very soft, low-growing fern ground cover. Arriving at Ho'opouli Falls, we discovered the falls are impressive, but the floor of the falls appeared to be inaccessible due to the sheer walls surrounding it.
We stroll on Moloa'a Beach, which is an exceptionally attractive beach within a small cove (photo at left). Behind the beach is a very pretty freshwater stream that flows to the sea and appears very good for kayaking. We lounge and frolick on the beach for a while.
We go see the Kilauea lighthouse, which is extremely postcard picturesque.
It is then onward to the anticipated "Secret (Kauapea) Beach," which I look forward to because the name given to it is partly the result of having some "nude beach" history. A pretty beach that is not much in use while we are there. The waves are rather large and powerful here, similar to the Banzai Pipeline.
A famous view we look at is the Hanalei Valley Overlook, which provides postcard beauty to even amateur photographers like me (photo below right).
We visit Queen's Bath for a quick dip, which is a warm pool next to the sea embedded in an igneous rock depression. After leaving the Bath, and walking back to the access point, we pass a small cove and there watch a family of green sea turtles battling the surging waves inside the cove. Easy to watch them because again, the water was crystal clear.
We head to Ke'e Beach State Park, where we check out some large caverns embedded into the cliff walls next to the park. We then find the trailhead to what is considered the most stunning, famous trail hike in all of Hawaii-Kalahua Trail. Unable to resist, despite our exhaustion, we hike the first 1/2 mile of the 11-mile trail. The trail follows the incredible Na Pali coastline, scene of incredible cliffs, waterfalls, beaches rugged wilderness, and stupendous kayak trips. At the 1/2 mile marker, we have special views of the Na Pali cliffs, and Ke'e and Tunnel beaches (photo lower left) in the opposite direction.
After returning to the valley floor, I snorkel the Tunnel Beach lava formations. True to its name, the beach offers outstanding snorkeling in a dense maze of volcanic, underwater tunnels, crevasses, walls, caves, and drop-offs encrusted with attractive coral reef and home to a nice population of tropical fish. It is said that the lava tunnels are so prominent that they can be seen from space. Like other snorkel adventures we do in Hawaii, this great snorkeling is very close to shore and easy to get to from the beach.
For dinner, we were fortunate to find the excellent Coco Café in Wailua. Superb dinners, funky atmosphere, folksinger, gravel floor in our outdoor, tented seating area. They had excellent ahi fish dinners.
Overall, we drive 132 miles on our third day on Kauai.
On our final day on Kauai, we take a 60-minute copter ride over Kauai with Air Kauai. The helicopter is very luxurious and a newer model. The pilot is a very knowledgeable narrator and skilled pilot. Oh, and the views we have during the ride take our breath away—especially the Na Pali coastline (photo below) and the canyon areas where major films such as the Jurassic Park series was filmed. The spectacular, extremely tall and numerous canyon walls and canyon falls made it easy to see why the area had been chosen as a backdrop for major films. Our impression after our ride: this company offers the Cadillac of Hawaii helicopter rides.
More so than other Hawaiian islands, Kauai seems filled with churches, Subway submarine sandwich shops, rainbows, and shave ice stands, not to mention a huge number of places renting an endless supply of kayaks, indicating the kayaking is very good in Kauai.
We plan to return to Kauai (and probably Big Island) since, of the 4 islands we visit in Hawaii, we are most impressed by Kauai. And there is much we have not yet sampled here.
Total Days on Kauai: 3
Total Miles Driven on Kauai: 307 miles
Grand Total Days in Hawaiian Islands: 14.5
Grand Total Miles Driven on Hawaiian Islands: 1,972
Our adventures, unfortunately, do not end on Kauai, the last of the 4 islands we visit. After waiting two weeks to get back to Oahu to retrieve my expensive digital camera from our Oahu B&B, we fly back to the Honolulu airport from Kauai to prepare for our flight back to Florida. Fourteen days before, I had forgotten that camera at the B&B. It seems silly and a little risky to arrange to have the camera mailed to me in Florida, since I am so near it already in Oahu.
The task seems straightforward and simple. Or so it seemed. We arrive at the airport at about noon. Our flight would depart for Florida at 6:30 p.m. The B&B with my camera is 18 miles from the airport. Just arrange for travel to the B&B and return in plenty of time for the flight to the mainland. Right? If only it had been so easy...
My first mistake is to decide it makes a lot of sense to just take a city bus. We'd save a lot of cash for expensive Hawaii taxi service, or a car rental.
The blunder is that I forget about the difference between a "local" bus route and an "express" route. The fateful mistake: we board a "local" bus at about 1:30 p.m. The bus driver tells us we'd need to transfer buses. No problem. Plenty of time.
90 minutes later, our bus arrives at the transfer point (having stopped at all the hundreds of stops behind us, it has taken quite a bit of time to travel about 10 miles). It is then an anxious 30-minute wait for our transfer bus to arrive. Plenty of time left.
Our transfer bus seems to stop every half block as it approaches our B&B. It is also taking side routes off the main highway, as local buses need to do.
We finally arrived at what we think, foolishly, is the closest bus stop to the B&B 1.5 miles from the B&B (turns out that there is one a stone's throw away from it). By now, I am getting extremely nervous and panicked. Would I have time to retrieve the camera a mile and a half away and get us back to the airport in time? In my haste to jump off the bus and make a mad dash for the B&B, I NEGLECTED TO PICK UP MY CARRY-ON BAG SITTING NEXT TO ME ON THE BUS! Which has our $300 dive regulators in it. And my expensive, conventional camera. And ALL our 15 rolls of film I have shot during the trip. Oh, and it also contains our plane tickets back to Florida...
Maureen notices I did not have my bag and screams to me our only hope: "You need to sprint after that bus and catch it!!! You forgot your bag on it!!!!" Of course, in suburbia, it is hopeless. Unlike the urbanization behind us, where the bus stops at every stop, in the suburbs the bus never stops because no one uses it. After 5 minutes of running, frantically and hopelessly, after the bus with my heavy hiking shoes on, I realize I have lost sight of the bus and have no hope of catching it.
I am convinced we are doomed. After all, how could I possibly retrieve the bag (assuming it is not stolen by a passenger) at the bus terminal station in time for us to catch our flight only an hour or so away? But giving up was not a possible option.
I dash into a nearby gas station. I call the bus station and am told that the bus loops back to the street we are on in about 30 minutes. The gas station staff confirms that the bus does, in fact, loop back, and they tell me where to wait. I begin to very frantically and anxiously pace back and forth on the sidewalk, looking for the bus, and glancing back to Maureen, who decides to wait back at the bus stop we had gotten off at a few blocks away.
It was now 10 minutes after the bus was supposed to have looped back. I ask a guy waiting on the sidewalk with a young boy in a wheelchair if he knows about the bus, since it appeared he was waiting for it. He tells me he was not waiting, and that the bus had gone by about 15 minutes ago.
I am crushed. I missed the bus!!! He tells me I can wait for the next one, or he can give me a ride in his car to catch up to the one I missed. I tell him that the next one was useless, and I am not sure if the one that had passed was the bus I was on. I am stunned by his generosity, however, since he soon drives back with his car—his wheelchaired companion loaded in the car for the trip.
I thank him for his generosity, and bid him a warm goodbye.
I am now completely convinced that the situation is totally hopeless. Even if I could somehow find the bus, we'd have missed our flight, and the bag would almost certainly be stolen in all the time it sat alone.
Ten minutes later—miraculously—a bus pulls up. I board it. My bag is there. What an enormous relief! I snatch it up. I assess the situation: No time and no way to let poor Maureen know what has happened as she waits for the bus 5 blocks away. I would have to just hope that she knew that I had gotten the bag back.
But it is now 5:00 p.m. The only thing I can think of is to make a desperate, wild-eyed sprint to the B&B 1.5 miles away. Uphill. In hot, dry weather. With heavy boots on. I stash the bag at the gas station and started my dash, cursing myself for not being in Olympic runner shape.
Finally, I arrive at the B&B front door. I rang the bell. The host opens the door to a guy who had sweat pouring off his body and was out of breath. "Thank you for finding my camera. Can you let me know of a cab I can use to rush to the airport immediately? Oh, and can I also use your bathroom at once?"
I cannot imagine what she is thinking as she observes this spectacle. Am I being rude or asking too much of her? Fortunately, she very graciously helps out. She calls a good taxi service she knows of. He arrives just after Maureen gets to the B&B. It is now 5:50 p.m. And we have Honolulu rush hour, 18 miles, and a plane soon to leave in front of us.
The taxi driver, thankfully, is skilled enough to get us to the airport with no time to spare. We pay him a fare and a nice tip. They start boarding the plane just as we get to the gate.
As it turns out, we would have saved time, money, and seriously stressful aggravation if we had simply paid the one day rate for a rental car.
But it is so much more politically correct to take the bus. Next time, the first question I'll have when boarding: "Is this an express or local bus?" And the first question before I get off the bus is, "Do I have my bag?"...
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