Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Family trip to Kauai

We’re back from our vacation in Kauai, HI. This is the third time Dawn and I have gone there – but the first time the kids have gone. It’s a bit strange to me that we have never really been to another Hawaiian island besides Kauai, but our first two visits were so great that we decided to go there for our winter vacation with the kids. I suppose some of that is just knowing where things are helps facilitate the vacation to some degree. By all accounts it was a great vacation, Kauai delivered once again.  

The vacation started poorly, before we left the house we got a call from United Airlines saying the first leg of our trip to Dulles was canceled due to bad weather. We were told they could get us there on January 5th at the earliest (the trip was scheduled to start on the 3rd!). We booked four tickets on Amtrak to Washington and white knuckled the drive to New Haven to catch a “red eye” train (absolutely miserable!). It turned out getting to Dulles was the easy part, getting a plane out of Dulles was much harder. After six hours of messing about in IAD we finally got on a plane to LAX. Unfortunately it landed too late and we missed our connection out to Hawaii. We got four seats on the first plane out in the morning and United paid for two hotel rooms for us in LA. It was disappointing, but really only cut 6 hours or so of awake time out of our time on Kauai.

On to the good stuff: 
We rented a house in a resort area in the Poipu Beach area, it was a beautiful area and a nice house. The sunrise was beautiful from Poipu, and easy to see considering our body clocks were five hours ahead

What we would call a deck, the Hawaiians call a lanai, and this house had a huge one - we spent a lot of time out there.

"Shave Ice" is a popular treat in Hawaii, we had it a couple of times, good vacation food:

We bought snorkeling gear for everyone before we left, we spent many hours on vacation snorkeling off Poipu Beach,
which was within walking distance of the house we rented.

Locally grown rambuten:

Excellent Mexican close by:

Hanging out

Classic Hawaii scene:

Another sunset, ho hum

Walking to beach for a snorkeling session:
It’s hard to describe just how many fish and how many different types of fish are in the water there. It was really like swimming in someone’s well stocked fish tank. Fish of every size and color swam around in the reef protected waters. I kind of wish I had an underwater camera just to show what we were seeing, it really was incredible – just think of any undersea nature special you’ve seen, it was like that, really.  We also went on a guided snorkeling/whale watch tour, we didn’t take any pictures but it was a good (though cold) time and we got to see whales up close and swim with green turtles. That said we saw way more fish at Poipu Beach than we did on the boat. 

Scampering amongst the tidal pools was another favorite activity:

Various times during our visit we saw Monk Seals and Green Turtles resting on the beach. They seemed to have no worries about the people all around them, interesting that they have little fear of humans. 

I would be forgetting a big part of the wildlife in Kauai if I didn't mention the chickens and roosters, they are everywhere and LOUD
The first day we took a hike down to Mahaulepu Beach, it was a great hike along the coastline with excellent views. On your first hike in Kauai you take a hundred pictures in the first five minutes, slowly you realize that this beauty is everywhere in Kauai, the pictures don’t do it justice and it’s impossible to capture it all, regardless of how many pictures you take. 

 One of many rainbows we saw in Kauai, however this one brought us a pretty good downpour during the last few minutes of our hike (enough for us all to get soaked!).

 The trail runs along side a golf course at one point, Aaron was dying to get out there and hit a few, at $240 for a round it was slightly out of our price range: 
How is this for varied terrain? One minute you're looking at this amazing mountain range, 

then next you're walking through tall grasses

and then you're walking on volcanic rocks. Amazing! 

Our next adventure was a horseback ride along that same coast we walked the previous day – we were in similar spots a few times, but we were mostly on a different trail with entirely different views. 
I have been on horse back rides like this three or four times, despite that (and Emily owning horses for a few years) I am not comfortable on top of a horse. I just can’t seem to get the rhythm, at speeds faster than a slow walk it’s pretty uncomfortable. 

Emily and Dawn seemed to fall right into it and even Aaron seemed to have a lot easier time than I had. 

We all had a great time, it was a good three hours, the guide was great I loved hearing about the land and the history.

We did an ATV tour on Kauai as well – we weren’t sure what to expect, the guide prefaced the ride saying it was a slow tour on easy terrain (which I found a bit disappointing). While the ATVs had governors on them, the terrain was rough enough to keep my interest. 
We all had a great time (again), we got a good history lesson on the land and got to see several famous movie sites. 

Raiders of the Lost Ark - where Harrison Ford swings on the vine and jumps into the river to catch the plane while the natives are chasing him:
The Descendents - where George Clooney is standing at the top of the hill and showing his kids the land they own:
 Jurassic Park - where the small dinosaurs were running through the field:
We saw some wild pigs on the tour (though they seemed a bit less than wild to me:
I'm probably using the word "beautiful" too much:

The last two days we did somewhat serious hikes. I’ll admit not everyone in our party was excited about the prospect of hiking, but at the end we all had a good time on both. We found a really good groove on both hikes where we were power hiking at speeds I haven’t really done before, I’m happy we’re all in good enough shape to do that kind of thing for that length of hike. 

The first hike was on the Na Pali coast (north shore), this is the first two miles of an 11 mile hike that Dawn and I have done twice about 15 years ago. 

It was as beautiful as we remembered. Four miles of fast-hiking over extremely slippery rocks proved to be quite a work out. Those rocks are covered in a thin layer of really slippery mud.

 I'm going to have to go to the thesaurus for a new word:

 At the end of the hike we had to cross this river to get to the "beach" and our picnic spot, again there's that slippery mud on all the rocks, it was quite challenging:
It was interesting to see the contrast between the conservative/upper class trappings of Poipu and the hippy/gritty feel of the north shore, it was quite a dramatic difference. 

The beach at the end of the hike was a small inlet where the waves came crashing in, the noise here is incredible, the sign by the beach said that 83 people had died there to date, I can't imagine anyone going in that water! Ok this picture doesn't do it justice, these waves are at least 10' high.

The second hike was Awa’awapuhi Trail in the western part of the island. On the way to the hike we stopped at Wimea Canyon - pretty impressive hole in the ground (nice win-doo).

Dawn and I had looked briefly at the Awa’awapuhi Trail on one of our previous trips to Kauai, but hadn’t ever hiked it. The trail starts at 4,700’ and descends from there to 3,500’. We fast-hiked the trail both directions, but on the way down we were pretty much jogging the whole way. The trail itself wasn't really all that great - more slippery Kauai mud, but mostly its just hiking through the forest

Once you get through three miles of slipping and sliding, the trail ends on a pali (ridge) that juts way out and above the terrain around it. It was strange to see helicopters flying below us as we stood on the pali. None of these pictures do it justice, just an amazing view and a great place to just sit and contemplate things. We ate our lunch overlooking the ocean.

Beyond the end of the trail there is a narrow bridge with a 500' drop on either side that takes you really out to the edge of the pali. Aaron and I went out first

We came back up to the top and went back down with Dawn. 

Despite her pretty severe fear of heights she somehow made it out there. 

Great trip, I think we are all thinking about how we can get back there. The final day we spent a few more hours hanging out down at the beach. Emily finally got to get the sunburn she wanted so badly.


  1. wow that place is beautiful, that looked like a great trip! Not sure if I would ever make it out there but if I did I always imagined going to the smaller island like you did, I like quiet, and from the lack of tourists in your photos its very inviting. Now I will ring you up for an itinerary for my trip.

  2. I just don't log into Google often enough - sorry I missed this comment. It was an excellent trip, that place gets into your head. Don't be fooled by the pics though, there are a lot of people visiting that island all the time - its not hard to find some peace and quiet, but its even easier to find ugly tourists doing what tourists do. I can talk for days about Kauai though, any time!