Kauai – South Shore Sun

Warm water and sunny days make Kauai’s south shore a dream. Coming from the mainland, Kauai has an ease about it that fosters relaxation. The island isn’t too big, making it easy to drive around in much less than a day, but it’s also not small enough to get stir crazy. In California, everyone drives like a bat out of hell, but in Kauai, the pace of the road is slower, and invites stopping to take in vistas or grab a roadside coffee. Driving through the Tunnel of Trees, be awed by the tropical vegetation – huge, broad leaves, hanging vines and trailing flowers. Dark purple rainclouds hang about the looming interior mountains, which are the wettest place on earth, but the sky can remain blissfully clear right above your head.

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See Poipu Beach. Sunsets here aren’t too shabby 🙂 Our bed and breakfast was within walking distance, and was also near the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Unfortunately the bed and breakfast, which had just two sweet units, is now being rented as a whole house (fortunate if you want to rent a beautiful house). In terms of the Grand Hyatt, I thought this hotel would be an overdeveloped monstrosity, but the landscaping and lobby oceanside are actually pretty amazing. There is public access to Shipwreck Beach in front of the Hyatt – if you stay in the area, feel free to stroll through.

If plants are your thing, take a tour of Allerton Gardens, in the National Tropical Botanical Garden (the NTBG is a non-profit, not some sort of national or state park). You’ll need a guided tour – it’s definitely not the cheapest, but neither is Kauai, and bamboo thickets, Art Deco mermaid sculptures and coconut palm lagoons are priceless, right?

Stop by Wailua Falls and take pictures of the all the pretty horses.

Latte fix: Living Foods Market in the Kukui’ula Village Shopping center. Also a good place for lunch and snacks; prices for their produce and grocery items can be shocking. Or, on the way out to Waimae Canyon, stop at the sweet vintage trailer spilling coffee scents, known as Dark Roost. We also enjoyed Ha Coffee Bar in Lihue.

Though we didn’t have time, next time I would try hiking the Maha’ulepu Trail, at cliff’s edge, right near Shipwreck Beach.

For dinner, try Eating House 1849, and eat on the porch.

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Kauai – North Shore Bliss

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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