Manina’s 41st Birthday

Manina had quite the jam-packed day for her 41st birthday. It started out with her girlfriends Hannah Stayner, Penny Bergeron, and Emily Hunter taking her out for breakfast.

When Manina came home, we had a quick birthday song and gave her a new bike: a 2016 Trek FX 7.2 WSD. I was pretty proud of this gift — she’s been wanting a bike like this for a while.

In keeping with tradition, Manina wanted to take the family on a little outing. We went ice skating at Seven Peaks ice arena. Unfortunately, that was pretty much a flop. Drew barely left the wall, Megan lasted for all of 10 minutes, before stating how stupid this all was, then Jake left to go stare at his phone along with her, but at least nobody was seriously injured.

We left after only an hour and pretty much swore never to do it again. Then we went out to dinner at El Gallo Giro in Provo and ordered one too many entrees.

It was a pretty darn good 41st birthday for Manina!

Kauai: Travel Tips

We had a wonderful time in Kauai. We loved the beaches. The catamaran tour was unbelievable. The hikes we did were lots of fun, and so were the surfing lessons. But, there was still plenty of other things worth remembering and a few things to do differently the next time we get a chance to visit Kauai.

Places to stay

Our first few days we stayed up north in Princeville in a great condo. It was a great find. The owner had just remodeled and was looking for some tenants who could provide good reviews. The price was very reasonable and we liked being up north for the first few days of our trip.

During the second half of the week, we stayed in Kapa’a. It was an AirBnB, which was a pretty nice little unit, but the location wasn’t very nice. We were right off the main highway and then out the back gate was a boat launch / homeless person hangout.

There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Kapa’a, most people either go south or go north. They had a cool bike path, but other than that, there wasn’t a ton to do around Kapa’a.

I actually liked splitting up our trip into two different places to stay, but next time I would avoid Kapa’a. Stay near Poipu down south for half the time and then up north for the other half.

Driving

We almost cheaped out and just got the base rental car, and I’m so glad that we did not. We shopped around a bit, paid just a little extra and rented a convertible Mustang. It was totally worth it. We loved putting the top down and driving around the island. A small SUV or Jeep would also have been a good choice.

Eating

Food on the island was just OK, and quite expensive. We ate at only a couple places worth their cost and worth writing about. The food truck up in Hanalei was good.

Duke’s was amazing. It was pretty expensive, but we got there early and got a great table overlooking the beach and the food was great. Totally worth the time and the cost.

The Dolphin in Hanalei was also excellent. We got there later in the evening and the wait was still long, but the food was good. The sushi was excellent. I ordered the Hanalei roll and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We also looked for any excuse to stop and try a shave ice. My favorite included some macadamia nut ice cream, but your mileage may vary. Better to try different flavors and styles at each place you pass just to make sure you get a wide variety and can narrow down your favorite.

Sightseeing

We were bummed that the day we went out to see the Wailua lighthouse it was closed. It was on a Tuesday or Wednesday, so check a guidebook or call ahead. We had seen some whales out near the lighthouse from afar from when we had gone to Secret Beach, but we didn’t ever get out onto the peninsula to where the lighthouse was to get a closer look.

While down exploring Poipu and the surrounding area we stopped by to see the Spouting Horn blowhole. It was pretty busy with tourist busses stopping by and there was a bunch of pop-up tourist-trap shops to fight through, but it was pretty cool to see the waves come in and force their way up through the blowholes. The seas were pretty calm on the day we were there, so this wasn’t crazy explosive.

We didn’t get enough time exploring Waimea Canyon. We’d planned to do a few hiking trails up in the canyon, but the one time we drove up there, a pretty nasty storm blew in, so we headed back to sunny Poipu.

Next time we’re there

Get an earlier arriving flight. Our flight didn’t arrive until about 10pm, so it was pretty much drive to the condo and head right to bed. I think the ideal thing would be to arrive on the island earlier, mainly to load up on groceries and supplies at Costco and Walmart before heading up north to our accomodations.

We had some friends kayak to the Wailua waterfall and highly recommended it. Definitely on our short list for the next time we visit lovely Kauai.

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.