Kauai: Catamaran Tour

We had booked a helicopter tour, but Manina felt uneasy about it after hearing stories from her friend Hannah Stayner, who had thrown up several times during the hour-long flight. So instead we looked around for some boat charters for a Na Pali coast tour. We eventually chose Catamaran Kahanu because it wasn’t a booze cruise, and it was a smaller boat with fewer people.

The boat was captained by a surly Kauai native captain who said “Hold on to the rails!” more than anything else in the entire trip.

As we headed out along Polihale beach the captain pointed out a couple whales way out in the distance. I think I saw the spray maybe once.

Then we came along a pod of porpoises. They swam right along the bow of the boat, and the captain invited one of the ladies to lay down to look the porpoises eye-to-eye. It was a cool experience.

A few minutes later as we approached the Na Pali coast we suddenly veered out toward the ocean and the captain cut the throttle. He pointed out a pair of turtles getting busy in the ocean, saying we needed to leave them alone for the good for their species.

The Na Pali coast was very impressive from the water. The seas were very calm for a winter day, so we were able to get really close.

It was really cool to see the cliffs, sea caves, arches and remote beaches that are at the other end of the Kalalau trail which we’d hiked several days before.

On the return trip back to Port Allen we had quite an experience.

The captain suddenly cut the throttle and pointed out a momma, baby, and bodyguard humpback whales in close to shore. Literally right off the bow of our boat. At one point, I could have taken a running jump off the boat and landed on a humpback whale. They were that close. They also had a couple bottlenose dolphins with them as well.

It was an amazing experience. We watched them for several minutes. The captain explained that sometimes sharks will attack the calves, and the momma and bodyguard whales will shepherd the calf into very shallow waters for protection. The bigger whales can lay on the sea floor and surround the calf, creating a barrier from any attacking sharks.

The captain was so excited that he called his mother from his cell phone to explain what was happening. No joke. Captain Kahanu is a native Kauaiian who has done this tour thousands of times and he’s calling his mom to tell her what is going on.

We also stopped for lunch and to do some snorkeling, but it wasn’t very impressive, especially after our awesome humpback whale encounter. The water was pretty murky. It was probably better in the morning when the other boats were doing it. But, seeing the humpback whales made it all worth it.

Overall, it was a great day on the water. Manina cried; she said it was one of the coolest experiences of her life.

Kauai: Beaches

Kauai has some amazing beaches. We visited many beaches and were amazed at how few people were on the beach with us. Sometimes we even wondered if we were trespassing on private property (we weren’t) because we were the only ones there. Here are some of the beaches we visited, from the north end to the south.

Hanakapi’ai beach

This is a 2.2 mile hike along the Kalalau trail to get there. Warning signs about a hidden current which has killed XX visitors. So, not for swimming. But lots of cool rocks and a remote beach to watch the waves come in.

Ke’e

This is at the end of the road in the north, right where the Kalalau trail hike begins. This has a great reef for snorkeling and conditions were great the day we were there.

Secret

Took a bit of a hike to get there. This big beach had big surf on the day were were there, and a great view of the lighthouse. A storm blew in while we were there and we got rained on.

Tunnels

Tunnels is famous for snorkeling, but the seas were too rough on the day we were there. It’s a very nice beach up on the north side that is pretty easy to get to. We spent a Sunday afternoon reading and watching the waves. Has a great view of the Na Pali coast.

Hideaway

This was probably our favorite little beach. However, it was tough to get to. There wasn’t a lot of parking, and the trail down was borderline treacherous. Sections of the trail had rope and dilapidated guiderails to help get down. The snorkeling was great, this is where we harassed a couple octopus trying to hide out from us.

We also found a couple little crabs along this beach as well. Our friend KC (pictured below) caught a couple and ate one raw (one smaller than pictured below) — gross!

Hanalei Bay

We absolutely loved the town of Hanalei and the bay was just as awesome. We sat, swam, and beachcombed for an afternoon. We played a game of koob there with sticks washed up from recent rains. Another night we came back and watched surfers (not newbies like me) and walked out to the pier.

Sunsets in Hanalei are highly recommended. The sun sets right over the top of “Puff the Magic Dragon” in the mountains across the bay.

Aliomanu

We spent a lazy afternoon here and literally had this entire beach all to ourselves for several hours. We saw a total of four people while we were there. Three were surfers who were showing up after school right when we were leaving. We set up the hammock, scavenged in the tidepools, laid out in the sun and really took it easy on this beach.

Donkey

Donkey beach was a short bike ride from Kapa’a along the bike path. We rode our bikes here one evening and watched the waves roll in while the sun set behind us.

Kapa’a

Did yoga here one morning as the sun rose.

Shipwreck

This was a fun beach. It had really good swimming and a big rock to jump off of. We kept saying this would be a fun one to return to with the kids. Had something for everyone.

Poipu

This was the busiest beach of the bunch, but for a good reason. It had great sand, calm seas, and easy access. There are often turtles here (we didn’t see any) but there was a seal napping away on the beach oblivious to the gaggle of people surrounding it wondering if it was alive. The snorkeling was good here too.

Kiahuna

This is where I took my surfing lesson. It has a nice lawn with limited parking in the cul-de-sac and several nearby resorts so it gets a fair amount of people. Not as popular as Poipu, though.

Whew! That’s quite a lengthy list. If you made it through all that, leave a comment and let us know which beach seemed like your favorite. Or, if you’ve been to a Kauai beach, let us know which one you preferred, even if it wasn’t on our list. After all, the whole reason we write this stuff down is so we can remember which ones to go to the next time we’re in Kauai.

Kauai: Hiking Trails

One of the reasons we went to Kauai was because it is remote and offers some very good hiking trails. Both Manina and I love to hike, it is one of the things we have always done together.

Both Manina and I packed appropriate footwear and clothing for hiking. I even brought along my trekking poles, so we were obviously planning on hitting the local trails, not just surfing each day.

Kalalau

Our very first real activity on the island was to hike the world-famous Kalalau trail.

Kalalau is a serious trail. It’s an 11-mile trail along the most spectacular coastline, the Na Pali coast. The scenery is incredible.

Some people make it a full backpacking adventure, camping for several days at a remote beach at the end of the trail. But we didn’t do that, we decided that we’d make a quick trip to Hanakapi’ai beach, which was 2.2 miles in along the trail.

We sat on Hanakapi’ai beach, ate a snack, and watched the waves roll in. Since we had been flying all night and not getting any sleep we didn’t have the energy to continue on to Hanakapi’ai Falls or Hanakoa Falls.

We hiked this trail with our friends and neighbors KC & Hannah Stayner, who were in Kauai and overlapped our stay for a few days. It was fun to hang out with them and have them hike with us along this wonderful trail.

Ho’opi Falls

This one was a gem of a hike. It’s in the Kapa’a area, a little trail hidden away in a residential area. There are a couple different “falls” to hike to and it makes for a very fun excursion. Here is our GPS record of this hike.

We set off late after lunch, planning to spend most of the afternoon on the hike.

Not long after we began, it started to rain. It seemed appropriate since we were hiking through a rain forest.

About half a mile in, there is a path down to a set of falls which has a few pools where you can jump from the lava rock into the stream. When we were there, a few local teenagers were taking the plunge. We pressed on.

After about another mile (including a wrong turn) we got to the actual Ho’opi Falls. By this time it was raining quite hard. It was a really good thing we brought along our rain jackets and were hiking in our water shoes.  We were soaked.

Manina was concerned about a flash flood, so she wasn’t interested in using the rope swing which hung temptingly over a large pool just downstream from the main falls. So, we took a couple pictures and started the hike back.

Hikes we missed

We missed out on a few hikes we would have liked to do. I guess that means we’ll just have to go back soon. When we do, these will also be on my short list:

Awa’awapuhi Trail

We headed up the Waimea canyon with the intent to do this hike, which promises an amazing overlook of the Na Pali coast from up above. Unfortunately, the weather turned nasty so we turned back and never made this hike. It’s a 6 mile round-trip hike with some pretty serious elevation gain, so it’s not a walk in the park.

Sleeping Giant Hike

This is a six-mile round trip hike up a mountain with a great view of the east coast of Kauai and surrounding valley. It’s also called the Nounou trail. The Stayners did this one and recommended it highly. Another one I’d like to finish on our next trip to Kauai.

Kauai: Surf lessons

Over one dinner midway through our Kauai vacation, Manina asked me, “What is one thing you want to do while we are here?” I thought about it for a while and said, “I’d like to take surfing lessons. I want to learn how to surf.”

When we got back to our house that night we did some research. Kauai Surf School had really good reviews on TripAdvisor, so we booked a lesson for Thursday morning. We headed out to Kiahuna beach down in the Poipu area.

I had a little trouble finding the “shack” to meet my instructor, but that was the only hiccup in the whole process. I lucked out with just about everything else. There was no wind, the waves were good, and no one else had booked a time in the 10am slot, so I had a private lesson.

The instructor, Alan, was great. He had the stereotypical super-chill surfer vibe going on, and kept mentioning to go slow. We practiced on land for a while, taking time to get the standing-up part down. One key thing Alan taught me was not to worry about my feet. He said that all the wave action and craziness is happening at your feet, but the key to surfing is your head. “Your board goes where your eyes go.”

So, keep the head up and let the feet follow. Sounds easy.

After about 20 minutes on land we were ready to head out into the water to try the real thing. Surf’s up!

I got up on my first attempt. I beached it (riding the wave all the way in to the beach) several times too. I had a bunch of really good runs. At first, I was nervous that I wouldn’t even be able to stand up. But I caught on fairly quickly and had a great time out in the ocean. At one point, Alan asked if I was even getting tired. I was not, I was just having fun.

Alan told me my years of practicing yoga really helped. He said if he could make one recommendation to dudes in Iowa who never get to surf but want to learn or to keep their skills sharp it would be to practice yoga.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. I wiped out plenty of times. I “pearled it” (getting the nose stuck in the water causing the equivalent of an endo), had to bail because I was going to run into someone else, and just flat out mistimed waves. But, I really enjoyed the whole process.

So, now I drop the fact that I’m a “real surfer” whenever my kids start to think I’m terribly uncool. I know that doing that automatically proves that I am terribly uncool, but I don’t care. I’m a surfer now. I take life as it comes at me one wave at a time and just enjoy the flow, dude.

Manina’s San Diego Visit

I took my annual trip to San Diego in February. When one of my besties moved away, I was devastated. However, Seth promised me that I would be able to visit her often. He has held true to his word as he encouraged me to head out and spend time with her and her kids while her husband kept busy during tax season.

Kristy is a workout maniac. When I got to visit I know I will come home beat down. 🙂 She works me to the core and I love it. We went to her gym one day and did sprints and circuits. The next day we went hiking. On Saturday we ran along the beach starting at Torrey Pines and running up the coast. Unfortunately it was pretty overcast and rainy while I was there, but it didn’t stop of from having a blast. **Notice I made her carry big ol’ Graham around!

We also did some shopping, eating and lots and lots of laughing. We were solo in our movie, Lion, that we went to. It was us and three others reclining in our fancy seats. We also spent one morning getting massages that turned out to be more of a couple’s massage. We laughed till we cried. Then we ate at a fancy organic restaurant, Flower Child and then I was off to the airport.

I always have such a great time being with Kristy and her family. The kiddos love me and probably think of me as some great aunt that comes in to town randomly. Brett is always so good to let Kristy sneak out for some girl time.

I can’t wait till next year and another San Diego adventure!