(all pictures are low res, for high res click here)
Ellen and I have started a tradition of visiting someplace warm every New Year's holiday. Last year we went to Nevada and the previous year we visited Los Cabos; and this year we chose the garden isle of Hawai'i, Kauai. For our stay on the island, we chose to stay in Poipu at the beautiful Poipu Beach Club. We had a terrific room with a magnificent view of the ocean . If you happen to go to Kauai, I highly recommend staying at the Poipu Beach Club Bed and Breakfast -- Chuck and Deb are awesome, and you won't get stuck dealing with a huge bill (every resort charges over $500 a night to stay there, Chuck and Deb are well below that.) To get to Poipu, you need to drive from Lihue airport past some incredible views thru a tree tunnel past Old Koloa Town down to Poipu. We stopped in Koloa Town on numerous occasions to shop , drink coffee, shoot weird photos , and rent snorkel gear.
As we found out at breakfast the first morning, our hosts, Chuck and Deb Tomesko are originally from the same part of the country as me. Chuck, especially, who is originally from the hell hole, we commonly refer to as Youngstown, Ohio. Chuck and Deb are great, besides knowing midwest jokes, they are really knowledgeable about the island. For our first trip, they suggested we visit the western part of the island, which included more incredible views , a stop in Hanapepe to visit a suspension bridge and then a long drive to the top of Waimea Canyon (large pic). At the top, we stopped at the lodge at the top for lunch, but then the weather turned inclement (which would become an omen for the week) so we decided to forgo visiting Kalalau Lookout and began hiking the Honopu Ridge Trail instead. That night, we drove back to the B&B, but we knew we'd return to this part of the island because there were a bunch of shops and sights we didn't get to visit. That night we were treated to a Hawaiian trademarked sunset right outside of our room. .
The next day we wanted to visit the northern part of the island, so we began the long drive north. Eventually, we arrived at Kilauea Lighthouse , took in the views , and looked at some ...ahem... birds. :-) Further north, we passed the yuppie place of Princeville as well as the quaint touristy village of Hanalei, which boasts magnificent views of the Bali Hai (made famous in the movie, South Pacific). At the end of the road is the trailhead for the famous Kalalau Trail - 11 miles of hard hiking along the Na Pali Coast. Ellen didn't really want to hike for a second day in a row, and I wanted to get exercise, so we decided to just go snorkeling at Ke'e Beach instead. We spent most of this day snorkeling (which was surprisingly good given the strong rip tides) and laying in the sun.
That night the weather started to change on us, and thus began the wet part of the vacation. Given that we were going to be stuck in rain, we decided to check out Spouting Horn (check out the video - remember videos take a long time to load, so be patient) which was next door to our B&B and the National Tropical Botanical Gardens (home of McBryde and Allerton Gardens). Fantasy Island, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Jurassic Park were all filmed there. We really didn't feel like seeing the gardens, so we stopped at Koloa Fish Market where I picked up some laulau and Kauain pulled pork (Ellen got ahi poke) to take with us on the Maha'ulepu Beach Trail. That pretty much consumed the rest of our day.
That night, all hell broke loose. I played with a gecko (who thankfully didn't try to sell me insurance) as I watched a mild tropical storm attack the island. I say mild (video) as the storm only had 50 mph wind gusts.(video)
The storm caused flooding all over the island, and water poured out of the rivers at a furious pace causing erosion. Here you can see the stream next to our little bay had caused the water outside the B&B to turn red. We felt it was prudent to take advantage of this weather event, so we chose this day to visit some of the great waterfalls of Kauai, since each would be flowing well above capacity. As expected, we were not disappointed. Our first stop was the famous Wailua Falls, however traveling there was tricky. Every road was flooded, including the parking lot . We spotted the falls and were shocked at the volume of water flowing from it. For perspective, check out this external link to pictures of the falls prior to a rain storm then watch this video. Notice the red dirt erosion found in the falls. Ellen noted that we would have to tell our kids that the waterfalls in Kauai are made out of chocolate, ala Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This mud is so strong they dye T-shirts with it. Oh I forgot to mention this was the point at which we had our fill of these god damn wild chickens which followed you everywhere on the island! Our next waterfall stop took us to Opaekaa Falls which is right off of Route 581 outside of Kapa'a. Again note the volume of water coming off the falls! There's even waterfalls forming off the adjacent mountainside. ...then I put on my Ansel Adams hat and took another picture of the Wailua River....and with color. We continued our waterfall quest north to see if we could reach Hoopii Falls, however all the roads were washed out. As luck would have it, we did happen to pass another hardcore Steeler fan . Since we were this far north, we felt the need to make a pilgrimage to Duane's Ono Char Burger, which is a staple on the island. If you ever stop there, I highly recommend getting the teriyaki burger.
The next day was our last full day on the island, and the weather finally cleared, so we decided to seek out a secluded beach to sunbathe and snorkel. Well, we found the secluded beach we were looking for -- ironically its called Secret beach which is found off a hidden dirt road and requires a steep 10 minute hike to reach. The beach is famous for encouraging nude bathing, so needless to say I don't have any pictures -- sorry Chuck :-) -- I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what the beach looks like.
The riptides at Secret Beach were very strong, and it wasn't very conducive to snorkeling, so we left this beach after a couple hours to visit Lydgate Park where they have a rock wall that protects the swimmers. Much to our surprise the storm from the previous nights ravished this park and the swimming area was closed. Finally we decided to head back to Poipu, to snorkel there. The water was still very cloudy but you could still see some fish. For our last meal on Kauai, we chose to eat at The Beach House -- we drank a bottle of wine, ate a LOT of food, and had more to drink. After our walk back to the B&B we were both still tipsy so we began taking photos of each other - yes, I was still drunk as you can tell by the photos. I don't think any of them are in focus. Then Ellen took the camera and I acted like my idiot self. . Ellen gave me the camera back and I tried again. -- not too bad for a drunk guy.
On Jan 3rd, we had plenty of time to kill before our flight, so we drove back to the western side of the island, to visit a few more shops we missed earlier in the week. We started at Aunty Lilikoi where we basically bought one of everything. Then we headed across the street for an incredible shrimp lunch at the Shrimp Station. I had the Thai Garlic Chili shrimp and Ellen had the "Got Garlic?" shrimp, holy crap we burped garlic for the next 2 days. YUM! A stop in Waimea is not complete without a stop at Jo-Jo's Shaved Ice -- another Kauai staple. I got the #2, tropical rainbow with Guava, Papaya and Lilikoi syrup on top of macadamia nut ice cream. . Our last fun stop of the trip was another obscure beach known as Glass Beach. The beach received its name because it is located by a nearby trash dump which causes the glass to be washed by the ocean and thrown ashore, creating this incredible beach. Notice that the sand crystals are actually tiny particles of glass!
We didn't do anything too exciting the rest of the day and then headed to the airport for our flight home. Ellen and I simply loved Kauai and would love the opportunity to go back yet again.