After flying for 5 hours over unbroken Pacific ocean, it feels like a miracle to land on a relatively small island in the middle of the sea. Kauai’s beaches, lush mountains, trails, waterfalls, and mix between the dry south and wet north make it instantly lovable.
Kauai’s north shore is a dream if you have good weather. We did. We stayed way out past Hanalei, almost as close to the end of the road as you can get. Life moved a bit slower on the one lane bridges, as we rolled past banana trees, hibiscus, palms, and lush, steeply sloping mountains, the clouds hanging deep in folded green crevices. Since Kauai is a small island, the drive from the Lihue (aka main) airport to Hanalei takes only about an hour. Kauai is almost completely connected by one outer road, which rings the island, except for the black hole mysteriousness of the Napali Coast. In Hanalei, locals, hippies, and tourists create an eclectic mix. Some of our North Shore favorites included:
Sushi Girl: poke poke poke! yum yum yum!
Hanalei Coffee Roasters: latte fix, even in one of the most remote places on earth.
Makua (aka Tunnels beach): crystal clear waters. Pictured above. Inner and outer reefs for snorkeling.
Ke’e Beach: gorgeous. At the base of the Kalalau trail. Watch for strong currents and fresh coconut sellers.
Keep your eyes peeled for rainbows!
Grab your hiking boots and prepare for mud. Jurassic Park style mud. While in Kauai, we completed two hikes. The first began at the Pu’u o Kila lookout. The scale of the mountains is tremendous, and is hard to grasp in the pictures above. From the lookout we hiked the Pihea trail to the Alaka’i Swamp trail, ending at the Kilohana lookout. Unfortunately the lookout was lost in a cold wall of silent fog, not unlike a nice summer day here in San Francisco. The trail is partly made up of raised planks, some of which are in very poor condition – beware but enjoy! The Alaka’i Swamp feels like an otherworldly place, far from the hot beaches of lower Kauai, and is filled with native plants and birds (much of the vegetation on Kauai, including all those beautiful tropical flowers you love, are actually invasive or imported species). Get lost in the foggy timelessness of the endless footpath.
Our second hike led us along the Kalalau trail, from Ke’e beach to Hanakapi’ai falls. If you have time and the weather cooperates, do this (seriously, do not try to cross the ‘stream’ in case of large amounts of rainfall, you could easily die). Take lots of water and remember to take a nice picnic break at Hanakapi’ai Beach. Be rewarded by a breathtakingly ginormous waterfall and vegetation-covered rock walls, while dipping in the huge swimming hole at the base of the falls. Consider hiking the length of the Kalalau trail (11 miles in, 11 miles out) and camping for a few days, reveling in the remote beauty and clear blue waters.