If you have ever been to Kauai or ever dreamed of going,
you know that the North Shore is magical.
Scraps of song and misty images spring to mind:
“Puff the magic dragon… lived by the sea… and frolicked in the autumn mist… in a land called Hanalei.”
Nurse Nellie Forbush in South Pacific on Lumaha’i Beach, under the shower singing, “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair!” And from the same movie, the mythical, mystical strains of the song “Bali Hai….” will forever bring you to the jagged green peaks of Kaua’i’s North Shore.
So many movies have been filmed here, South Pacific, Jurassic Park, The Descendants, Elvis’ iconic Blue Hawaii, and an old classic that I found in a search for all things Kaua’i – Donovan’s Reef. I almost felt as if I had been here before, at least in spirit, like I knew this place in all my dreams.
Here’s a link to the coolest song about Kaua’i! It’s “The New Hula Blues” by Taj Mahal and The Hula Blues Band. Band was named after the song, it was so good! I think a little bit of gritty blues is perfect for Kaua’i. It’s the real sweet thing. The album is “Sacred Island”. Brian just got it and it’s my new favorite! Hope you like it:
We stayed on the south shore, in Poipu, this March because we needed sunshine.
Brian was definite that we should stay where we could be more assured of sun, and find an ocean front condo for a reasonable price. Poipu, I found, was the place. March in Hawai’i, especially Kaua’i, especially north, we heard, can have volatile rainy weather. Where did we learn all of this valuable information? Trip Advisor forums! I also learned that to get to the quaint neighborhoods of Haena and Hanalei you cross one lane bridges that are regularly closed in storms. We just didn’t have a long enough trip to take the chance of getting stuck in, or out of, our vacation lodging. Even though we loved the idea of lush green north, embodying our ideal of Kaua’i, we knew it takes lots of rain to create all that green. When we return to Kaua’i next it will be summer, when the weather and ocean conditions on the North Shore can make it a vacation dream.
So when we chose to stay oceanfront in “Sunny Poipu”, we knew that getting up to the North Shore had to happen, rain or shine. We hoped for the shine.
With our delayed arrival, we had only 4 and a half days total on Kaua’i, and so many things we hoped to experience. We knew this was just a taste, added on to our Maui trip, and we would plan a longer return trip.
We had narrowed down the THINGS WE REALLY HOPED TO DO – Relaxing on the lanai, soaking up the sun, and watching the ocean, plus these 4:
- Napali Coast boat trip
- at least one day of wandering the North Shore
- Waimea Canyon
- Mahaulepu Lithified Cliffs hike
Beach time with snorkeling is always a priority for me, but on this trip I knew I could get that on Maui. On Kaua’i we planned to fit in beach time where we could, choosing activities each day in a flexible way, depending on the weather.
We had lucked out on fantasic sunny weather for our first day with Captain Andy’s Napali Sail! Check that one off. I didn’t want a check list vacation, but it would be so easy to miss out without at least a list of priorities. Weather forecasts always seemed to include rain, but when we woke up on Day 2 it looked like there would be sunshine on the North Shore. A visit to that part of the island was absolutely our next priority.
After a quick consultation on Facebook with my Kaua’i loving friends, we decided to simply grab our swimsuits and drive north stopping where we would. With the three of us consulting on the plan, and that lanai calling us to sit awhile with our coffee, we didn’t get going as early as we should have. I have a friend who always says, “Never should on yourself!” I think that’s especially apt on vacation, so strike that “should have”.
We took off around 8:00, after a bit of breakfast on the lanai, watching the ever changing blues of sky and sea. It can be hard to pull ourselves away. If we had been very early, say 6:30, we would have driven all the way to the end of the road hoping to be one of the first to score a coveted parking place at Ke’e Beach. Even though we have all these great tips from TA, it’s not always easy to follow them and still enjoy a little island time. We knew we wouldn’t get an early spot now, so we thought maybe later we could catch someone leaving. We would work our way to the end of the road. You’ll see how that plan turned out.
Besides warm sunshine, tropical sea breezes, and snorkeling, I had been dreaming of fresh Hawai’ian fish. Ahi tuna, mahi mahi, ono, opah…. seared, grilled, or raw… In soups and sauces, salads, sushi, sashimi, tacos, and especially in poke, that delicious Hawai’ian specialty of fish chunks – usually raw, marinated with various sauces and seasonings, seaweed and vegetables. Yum!
I posted a question on Trip Advisor. Where should we eat lunch?
TA came through for us! I had a list of great possibilities fom Kaua’i experts: coalminer, 22 Kauai, jebett and shantybob. Hanalei Dolphin was supposed to have very good fresh fish in their restaurant and fish market. “Pat’s Taqueria, a food truck down by the pier” sounded good, and Kilauea Fish Market too, or Mediterainian Gourmet on Haena Beach. My good friend Joan made a wonderful suggestion to bring lunch out to the Hanalei pier. So, we would see where we ended up, choosing as the wind would blow us, but we did have a list of recommended choices.
We drove through our little section of Poipu, up through Koloa Town again and through the tree tunnel. Very cool. We drove along happy to drink in the green scenery, and watch the people lucky to be going about their lives in Lihue and Kapa’a. We kept going past roadside beach parks where I’d love to stop. We drove on through the east side until we got to our first north stop, Kilauea. Brian didn’t always trust my navigation at first, but I got us there. Between signs, Trip Advisor and Google Maps I felt no longer “directionally challenged”. Hooray!
Kilauea Lighthouse & Bird Sanctuary was a cool little stop. We got there before the lighthouse was open so we looked around a bit and decided to stop again on our way back. Kauai is the Hawai’ian Island for birdwatching with species not found on the other main Oahu, Maui or Hawai’i Island. They don’t have the mongoose that was imported to the other islands. Mongoose eat the bird eggs. And the piercing mongoose cry can scare the beejeebers out of a couple looking for a little romance on a night time stroll in the wilds of South Maui. 😉
The little nene geese, found only in Hawai’i, may be endangered, but they were not shy at all, wandering around our feet, nibbling the plants and posing for pictures. At the overlook to the ocean and the lighthouse we could see most of the birds shown on the sign soaring and swooping around each other. Our phone cameras just can’t capture them from such a distance. Those albatros, shearwaters, boobies and tropicbirds in the blue sky over the bluer water were a sight to behold.
The lighthouse out on the point reminded me of the ships of old finding their way across the ocean, navigating by stars, and even using the birds to find their way. The light beacon would help them steer safely around this island. Even longer ago, the original sailors in their outrigger sailing canoes arrived from Polynesia by following a bird, the golden plover. Now the bird sanctuary helps these birds to safely live and breed on the island of Kaua’i despite the human development.
When researching our trip I had found this blog about the albatross of Kaua’i. It’s worth your time to take a look at the monthly photo blog. http://albatrosskauai.com/page%20blog.html
They post amazing photos and stories of the chicks and adults that they get to know generation after generation. The fuzzy little guy featured on the front page of their April 2014 page is CJ. They write, “C.J. is now 10 weeks old and he continues to thrive. He likes to stay in the shadows of the shrubs between the yards.” This month they have 12 more photos and observations. These are the coolest birds. The chick’s grow up wandering the Princeville neighborhoods and golfcourses. They are funny flightless things until they’re ready to go soaring off the cliff in their first flight. Then they stay at sea, feeding for 3 years. Then they return to their breeding grounds to nest in the shrubbery or on the golf course and raise their own young. The lucky residents here follow the lives of their favorite albatross friends. I would love to see those adorable clown-like adolescent albatross one day. We did see adults soaring gracefully in the sky.
Peaceful blue Anini Beach was our next stop. It was already our second day, and I had not had my usual Hawai’i arrival ritual of running down to the beach and sinking my toes into the sand and surf. Arriving so late at night, and the next day finding our way around a new island, then taking the Napali cruise, we had somehow missed even a short beach stop. I still can’t believe I let that happen!
And so, when the gentle waves of Anini kissed my toes, it became my very first beach on Kaua’i. There is a certain joy the touch, that words just can’t explain.
Driving up along the rolling ocean on the East shore and then watching the wild waves at Kilauea, we assumed that all the North Shore beaches would have high surf. At Anini the waves broke in the distance on the fringing reef. Inside the reef were acres of placid blue water. The chill in the morning air and the even chillier water told me to leave my jacket on and enjoy my feet in the ocean. I would wait a bit longer for a swim.
This morning there were only 4 other people as far as I could see on this long golden beach. The road that runs behind the beach is lined with quaint cottages that gave me a longing to spend an entire summer right there. Unfortunately, our fortunes at this time would not stretch to cover the cost of such an idyllic summer. But we can dream. And a happy dream it is.
As much as I would have loved to plop down for a long beautiful beach day at Anini, we knew there was much more that we wanted to see this day. And our tummies were rumbling. On vacation in Hawai’i our bodies are still on Central time. We don’t eat by the clock, we eat when we’re hungry. Even though it was only midmorning, I liked my friend Joan’s suggestion of bringing something our to the iconic Hanalei Pier. So we were on the road again, off to find some food, and explore.
We stopped at this amazing overlook above the taro fields. Did this view look any different hundreds of years ago? It must have always been stunning. I pray that it always will be.
We knew from Maui that Foodland Farms grocery stores have very good poke. We had missed Kilauea Fish Market, so we stopped in Princeville and picked up a few items for our early lunch on the Pier. Or our first lunch, as we had decided to do an early lunch and a late lunch. Hey, we were on vacation. No eating rules! We got water, Maui onion chips, and 2 half pounds of poke! In the store we sampled several different pokes and chose ahi wasabi, and sesame ahi. LOVE it!
We also picked up some sunscreen. You’ll notice in these pictures, my pasty white skin. Some of that is just what you get being a fair skinne Midwesterner in March. But some of it is slighty pasty white, mineral based, reef-safe sun block. I ordered 3 ounce tubes of Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen from Amazon before we left home. They’re small enough to work for carry-on luggage, which is all we travel with. I belive in the importance of reef-safe, skin -safe products. However, it is a bit of a pain to rub it all the way in. And it still looks a bit white, despite the word “Clear” in th eproduct name. So Brian and Conor decided they won’t wear the chemical stuff in the ocean, but they would take a chance on their own skin and use the standard chemical sunscreen when not in the ocean. I’d sure like to save their skins too, but they are big boys and can decide. No chemical sunscreen in the ocean, though. I now step down from my soap box. Thank you for your patience.
Here’s another beautiful overlook pullout where we had to stop and take photos. I believe that’s Hanalei Bay behind the guys, right where we were headed.
Hanalei Beach Park by the Pier:
Watching the shifting clouds and sky this day was fascinating. You can see a bit in these pictures. The pier was in full sun but straight ahead and to the left (west) were thick clouds and rain over Mount Waialeale. To the right (east) of the pier was bright blue sky, full sun with a few white fluffy clouds.
We headed for the end of the road, Ke’e Beach and the Kalalau Trail. Now that it was afternoon we hoped that people who had been there early may be leaving and we could catch a place to park. As we drove the folliage became denser, wilder, more of a rain forest now. Also becoming much denser was the traffic. Yikes! Our plan was a definite bust. There was no place to park that we could see at any pullout, parking lot or roadside shoulder. We passed the dry and wet caves. I would have liked to stop, but where? No place to put the car. We crawled along with the crowds of cars to the end where it was overcast and rainy. We turned around, still scanning for any possible parking.
Now we know for sure that getting there very early is the only way to be sure of parking and some semblance of peaceful hiking or beach time. Truthfully, for us, the beauty of this area was far outweighed by the crowds of people and cars. I will definitly return, and hope to stay nearby for easy early morning acecss. By the time these crowds descend I will hope to be ready to find a less visited, though perhaps less specatular spot for the rest of my day.
Finally, as Brian drove over one bridge and then another, I spotted an open space to park under the ironwood trees. Waves were crashing and splashing high on the rocks at the left end of the beach below.
We walked through the trees and onto the sand, watching the waves . This was no swimming beach today. We walked downhill toward the water, feet sliding in the sand. It was a gorgous place to sit and contemplate the power of the ocean.
We wondered what beach we had found. I got my phone and hit up Google maps. There we were, next to the Lumahai River flowing into the Pacific at the west end of Lumahai Beach. Gotta love Big Brother Google! The east end of this beach, about a mile down, was where that man was washed right out of Nellie’s hair. Or at least the attempt was made. I do believe that love won out in the end. Which is exactly as it should be, in the movies, on vacation, and in life.
I watched a coconut on the beach get swept out in the waves and tossed around, only to roll back to the sand, time and again. I believe creation designed a coconut for such tossing. I was a bit concerned, though, that the two young children playing at the edge of the surf could be swept out in a similar way. I doubt that kids are made to withstand such force as a coconut is.
The waves here seemed a bit unpredictable, steady for a while, then a big one would sneak in and surprise us with a mamouth splash. We stayed well back from the water here. My swimming time was not yet to be. We loved hanging out on the sand at this spacious beach.
The texture of the sand was intriguing, with bits of black lava, white coral and tiny tan pebbles rolling against each other. Walking the mile long beach would have been a good workout, the way the sand slid when we walked. Instead we decide that it was time for “2nd lunch”!
We headed back to Hanalei, wondering if we should look for a happy hour or just some good fish. We had wanted to stop at Tahiti Nui, made famous in The Descendants movie for it’s rustic Kaua’i atmosphere, great local music, and not so good food or service. We heard on TA that the mai tais couldn’t be beat, and every now and then the pizza was good. Hanalei Dolphin won out for it’s reputation for good fish and the peaceful outdoor garden setting next to the Hanalei River. We watched kayakers making their way along and planned our next trip, the one where we would stay in Hanalei town.
2nd Lunch at Hanale’i Dolphin: I love to try lots of different fish tacos. The ones on the menu at the Dolphin were breaded and fried. That sounded too heavy for me, so I passed and ordered a salad with rare seared ahi fillet. Brian had fish and chips, I think. Conor said all he wanted was a dessert, so he ordered some sort of ice cream pie, the kind of thing you could easily put together in your kitchen. It was something like $10 a slice. It came immediately, and he promptly snarfed it down, and then decided to order a fish sandwich too!
We weren’t in any hurry but it was quite a while before our food came. I love the way ahi tuna, seared and rare inside, is like butter, so smooth, tender and rich. I sliced into mine and ran into some tough stringy sinew that the steak knife wouldn’t cut. I tried another spot, and found the same. Hmmm… the salad greens were tasty enough, but this was a bad piece of fish. sinew ran all through it.
I rarely make a complaint in a restaurant, but I looked for our waitress. Maybe it was a shift change because we never saw her again. We also looked for iced tea refills for a long time. Finally another waitress came by. As soon as she saw my mangled fish she took my food, and said she would get me a new order. When it came it was fine, but meanwhile I sat for 15 minutes with nothing to eat. Of course, by the time I got the new one the guys were done! This was the first of our restaurant experiences that led us to believe that cheap eats are better than the more expensive places on Kaua’i. We enjoyed our Foodland deli poke at the beach park so much more than we did the Dolphin.
We drove around Hanalei a bit and looked, but did’t end up stopping anywhere. We tried to find the cottage where my friend Deb would be staying soon. No luck there, and I think we were so close! We did end up reocognizing the cottages in the movie, The Descendants.
I would have loved to stop back at Anini Beach and go for a swim, hoping it had warmed up a bit. Brian and Conor were ready to head back, though. We were all tired. We still wanted to stop by the Lighthouse and go into the park while it was open. We got there at 3:50 and the sign says it closes at 4:00. Darn! Oh well, we knew we couldn’t do everything. And this would definitly not be our last time here!
Back to Poipu and Beach Time for Teri! So, off to the south side, through the east side traffic we went. We stopped for a few things at a grocery store, and the guys were ready for some lanai time when we got home around 5:30 or so. No one cared about dinner.
I needed to get into the ocean. I walked down the road a few blocks to the west, to a small beach I had seen. I scrambled over the lava rocks a ways instead of walking on the road, when the sidewalk ended. So much more fun!
The sun was so warm I was hot. Bring on the sweat! I had missed that heat so much. At the beach I waded in and dove into a wave. So Happy! I wished I had brought a boogie board. The waves were nice. I swam out a little past the breakers and back floated in the sunshine – pure heaven.
I talked to a dad and daughter who were attempting to snorkel. They told me this was Brenneke’s Beach. I wouldn’t call it a great snorkeling spot, but they said they were seeing turtles. As I was going in to lay on the beach a turtle swam right by me, but the shallow water was pretty cloudy. A local girl came over, picked it up, and brought it to the surface to show me better! Ummm…. yikes! I think there’s a $1000 fine for that! Very friendly of this girl, but not such a good idea to even touch the turtles. She said she wasn’t worried about it. Well I was, but didn’t want to be unfriendly. Hope the turles there will not be harrassed, and can be enjoyed from a safe distance.
I didn’t bring my phone since I walked over alone, so no pictures here. I was so happy to have my real beach time with swimming. I wish I had a picture or two, but this blog helps me enjoy the memories again.
Poipu Makai Sunset
I walked back to the condo in time for a lovely sunset and a fresh fruit and Koloa rum concoction on the lanai. Ahhhh…. yes!
Aloha, A Hui Hou
Until we meet again,