I wanted to start off my travel series with one of the most recent trips we've taken. Since moving to Seattle we've discovered how much more accessible (physically and financially) Hawaii has become. We spent 9 days in Hawaii, 4 on Kauai and 5 days on Maui. Simply put, it was stunning. I cannot pretend to have the words to express the shear beauty and peace that is Hawaii. Mentally, I'm already planning our return trip.
I'll start first with Kauai. This trip was a little off the cuff, we did not schedule many (okay only 1) activities and planned to play it by ear. We were looking for some much needed R&R after a busy year of home buying/cross country move/ new jobs. Hotels in Hawaii are pricey, especially if you're staying for such a long time and only planned your trip 2 months in advance. The Sheraton on Poipu Beach was our splurge. Located on the south side of the island, it was the perfect setting for sunsets, drinks by the pool, and laying in the sand. We were able to get a deal online with Priceline where you can choose the general vicinity of the hotel but won't know which one until after you book. I think any of the hotels in the area would have been wonderful (there's not an overwhelming amount in the area of Poipu Beach so it's not so much of a wild card) but I highly recommend the Sheraton. We stayed in a basic room, but the pool and beach were to die for. Winters in Kauai are very rainy on the north shore of the island, this is why we choose to stay on the south shore. On our next trip I hope to explore the north shore of the island. Unfortunately, we didn't allot our selves enough time this trip.
Right off the plane we were starving! I was ready for some local flavor and fortunately found the Kauai Food Truck in Koloa, ten minutes from our hotel. I had a "plate lunch" which included mac and cheese, salad, and teriyaki chicken. I think this was one of the best things I ate during the entire trip! CJ already knows because I say it too often, but I love "street meat" (and will exclaim this, loudly while eating it). Food trucks are my thaaang and after the movie Chef came out, I am even more determined to eat at every truck I can find. This one did not disappoint!
Our first full day we spent on a tour of the Na Pali Coast. The Na Pali coast has to be one of the most stunning coast lines in the world. The mountains are lush green and shaped like nothing I've ever seen. It is definitely the most picturesque part of the island. After some extensive googling, I scheduled a tour on one of Captain Andy's rafting day expeditions. We were fortunate to have gone on our first day (even though all we wanted to do was lay in the sand) because the weather for the rest of the week would not have permitted us to go. During the winter, the swells on the north shore can get aggressive and would have significantly limited the tour. Disclaimer, this raft tour is not for faint of the heart! It involves riding a 24' zodiac for around 6 hours. When you're on a boat of this kind you're sitting on the edge, side saddle style, and your hand is in a glove holding on to a rope for dear life. The tour guide frequently tells you to switch sides to avoid one sore butt cheek and one strong arm. It was well worth the pain (we were both so sore the next day!) as the raft allows you be close to the water and provides easy access to the beach and caves. For $165 each we spent from 9 o'clocl in the morning, until after 5 in the evening cruising the coast, exploring caves, and having lunch on a secluded beach.
Going on this tour in the winter provides its challenges. The weather is unpredictable, the waves can be choppy and it can be difficult to safely drive the boat into some of the more famous caves. Wisely, I left my DSLR at home even with the provided dry bag. The waves were intense which it made it difficult not to get sick if the boat was stationary. If the boat was moving, my hands were otherwise occupied (i.e. death grip on the rope). Taking pictures in the rain/tumultuous waves were almost impossible. It would have been ideal to have GoPro, it would have created some epic pictures and videos (note to future self). It was very overcast and hazy that day, which made for such a mystical and romantic back drop.
Within 20 minutes of the tour we came upon a pod of spinner and bottle nose dolphins. It's the stuff dreams of a Flipper lovin kid are made of. There were hundreds of them! Being on a raft low to the water meant the dolphins were only inches away, ducking and diving under the hull of our boat. I couldn't stop smiling. In the distance we could spot humpback whales (imagine me saying humpback whales using my best Oprah Winfrey ala Dane Cook voice) breaching the shoreline. It was purely magnificent! I felt that the trip probably could have ended right then and there and I would have had my money's worth. Our tour guide, Allison, was hilarious, knowledgable, and worked really hard at giving us the best tour she could possibly give us, even staying out later than scheduled.
Tips for Captain Andy's
-If shaky boat rides aren't your thing (even though the water is much calmer in the summer) they have a catamaran option. It provides a more comfortable tour, on a larger boat, with the exception of the caves and the beach landing.
-Bring a GoPro! If you don't have one, borrow one from a friend! I'm still kicking myself thinking of the footage I could have gotten underwater of the dolphins. This would have been the only camera I would have felt totally comfortable with bringing.
- Don't forget the sunscreen. Apply before you leave because you won't be able to until the boat stops and you'll rather spend that time watching dolphins! Even on the very overcast day I got sunburned (oops).
-I hope you don't mind mice.... On the beach where the group eats lunch there are lots of them! However, there were also goats and turtles!
-Tip your tour guides!
-Take what I say with a grain of salt. This tour is VERY different in the summer, when there's lots of sunshine (think emerald isle green shore) and the ocean can be flat as glass.
The Grand Canyon of the pacific, also known as Waimea Canyon, was our one other must see of the island. It's expansiveness is breathtaking. It's located on the west side of the island, off of 550, with many impressive look out points. A popular tourist attraction on Kauai is to take a helicopter tour through the canyon, which we opted not to do this time around (it's a bit expensive) but I have heard great things. You can see several water falls from afar, think Jurassic park opening scene! It's a windy road to the canyon, and each lookout is more impressive than the last.
A little windy...
Thank you for sticking around on such a long post! More to come on our Hawaii Trip, including food in Kauai and adventures in Maui!
I hope you find the good in today,