We got married and decided to celebrate in Kauai with a honeymoon of hiking, kayaking, exploring, and a little oceanside R&R! It was an unforgettable experience on a small island that offers so many big outdoor options. Here are a few photos of our latest outdoor adventures as we tried to see everything Kauai has to offer.
First, we hopped in the Jeep and headed to Poipu on the south side of Kauai. Beautiful coastline, clear ocean water, and lots of sun. Poipu is one of the driest and warmest spots on the island, and although there were a few clouds in the sky, they did not give way to rain. The coastline provides an incredible view, complete with a plethora of whales to watch during the winter months. We stood atop the bluff pictured below and watched as numerous whales repeatedly breached just off the coastline. We also saw a few fishing boats, and we even saw one lone fisherman, quietly and patiently trying to net some sea treasure.
Next, we explored the Keahua Arboretum in Wailua. All of Kauai is so lush, and the Arboretum is no exception. It offers a solid option for easy day hikes for hikers of all levels. The range of hiking trails--from easy to difficult--allows hikers to choose their level of difficulty and still see much of Kauai's natural beauty. Even though we were there during the rainy season, the mud on the trails seemed to be at a minimum. The easier trails were clearly well groomed and well worn, making them perfect for families with young children who want to get outdoors. Overall, the Arboretum is a nice, quiet place for families to explore without the worry of running into too much mud or difficult trails.
Nearby is the Wailua Heritage Trail and Wailua River. The Wailua River is very calm. We saw quite a few paddle boarders, canoeists, and kayakers (mostly) effortlessly gliding down the river. You can rent canoes and kayaks at several outfitter shops on the island, so if you ever wanted to try paddle boarding, canoeing, or kayaking, the Wailua River would probably be the most serene and picturesque place to experience any of those outdoor activities.
The next day, we took off on a helicopter tour. Much of Kauai is not navigable by land, so if we wanted to see certain parts of the island, we had to do it by air. Our helicopter tour started in Lihue and then snaked around and through the island. It was a 90-minute tour that landed at the waterfall used as a backdrop in the Jurassic Park movie. The area is (sort of) protected to help preserve it, so we couldn't go in the water near the waterfall (the picture below shows us standing as close to the waterfall as we could get). After our stop at the Jurassic Park waterfall, we headed north along the Napali Coast. Seeing it from the air made us want to see it from the ground, so the next day, we decided to go for a hike!
The Napali Coast and Kalalau Trail are famous for their natural beauty (Fodors ranks the Kalalau Trail as a top 10 hike in the U.S.!). As we drove north to the head of the Kalalau Trail, we stopped at several local shops, and all the locals told us that the Napali Coast hike was a muddy and tough terrain with a lot of ups and downs. Many of them thought the trail would be closed now because it would be impassable due to all the recent rain, but we continued on anyway. When we reached the Kalalau Trail, we realized the locals weren't kidding--the mud was everywhere. At the trail head, we saw ample warning signs showing us all the dangers we may encounter. We felt prepared though (we'd brought our essentials, were wearing adequate hiking shoes, and even brought walking sticks for added support (super helpful on this trail!)), so we headed for Hanakapi'ai, a pseudo beach area that is typically the stopping point before continuing on to the Hanakapi'ai Falls.
Given that it was the rainy season, the trail was insanely muddy--that greasy, slippery, get-your-foot-stuck-and-lose-your-shoe-in-it kind of muddy. It was also really rocky with a lot of climbing on the way out. With that combination, it proved really important to have a solid pair of shoes to provide as much traction as possible on this trail. We saw several hikers at the outset of the trail, but as we continued on, we crossed paths with only a handful of people, making it clear that most hikers decided the muddy and rocky trail wasn't for them. Once we climbed up high enough on the trail, the view of the Napali Coast was stunning. Totally worth any difficult hike a million times over.
Two miles in, we reached Hanakapi'ai Beach. Hanakapi'ai Beach isn't your typical beach. It's really just a rock-filled area mostly out of the way of the crushing ocean waves. After a tough two-mile hike though, this was the perfect resting place--rocky as it may be. The waves were an unbelievable sight. Bigger than any we'd ever seen before, they were mesmerizing. And although we were out of harm's way sitting on the rocks, the waves looked almost close enough to reach out and touch. We hung out at Hanakapi'ai Beach for quite awhile, and while we were there, a couple of hikers mentioned they had tried to continue on to Hanakapi'ai Falls, but the trail was virtually impassable. We wanted to see Hanakapi'ai Falls, but given the news from the other hikers and the time of day, we stayed parked at the beach and eventually decided to head back to the trail head when the waves started rolling in close enough to actually touch!
NOTE: To see as much as possible of the Napali Coast and the Kalalau Trail, you absolutely cannot skimp on your hiking boots or shoes. You need a secure pair of boots/shoes with ample traction. We saw several people on the trail in flip flops or pseudo hiking shoes/boots, and we saw several of these people fall flat because their footwear was just not good enough to keep them vertical. Whether it's the rainy or dry season, it's an absolutely gorgeous trail and outdoor experience--don't risk getting hurt and ruining the experience by wearing sub-par hiking boots or shoes!
The next day, we took off for Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Waimea Canyon is 10 miles long, one mile wide, and more than 3,500 feet deep. Formed by erosion and the collapse of the volcano that formed Kauai, Waimea Canyon is bursting with color, even on cloudy days. You can drive the road surrounding the canyon to get a top-down view of the canyon, or you can enter Waimea Canyon State Park and hike the trails for an on-the-ground view. This is another great place for families or easy day hikes because the trails through the canyon range in difficulty, providing an opportunity for even the most novice hikers. On our drive out of Waimea Canyon, we got out of the Jeep and stood at the canyon's edge. Although not as big as the Grand Canyon, Waimea Canyon had a feeling of infinite enormity. It's a dramatic sight.
As we were leaving Waimea Canyon, we happened to notice a BSA camp sign. The Eagle Scout (Scott) had to stop. No surprise at this point that the road to the camp was thick with mud. This time, the Jeep--and, of course, skilled driving by Scott--really came through as we slipped and slided all over this hilly trail to the BSA camp. We came out unscathed, but we put that Jeep to the test!
Next, we explored the (not so) Secret Falls. To get there, we kayaked a few miles down the Wailua River and hiked two miles inland. Just like we saw a couple days prior, the Wailua River was really calm--a very easy glide for any new canoeists or kayakers out there. (We did run into a bit of a headwind on the way back, but it wasn't bad at all. Given the scenery and perfect weather, a slightly slower, more arduous paddle back to our Jeep was nothing to complain about.)
The hike inland was even muddier than the Napali Coast hike, but a lot of fun (if anyone has run a Tough Mudder or Mud Run, you'd be completely prepared to conquer this trail!). This trail was fairly narrow, so avoiding the mud was almost impossible. Often, we just went right through it. When we did, the mud seemed to desperately try to suction our water shoes right off our feet. The hike is short--only about one mile--but secure shoes with solid traction are an absolute requirement to help keep you upright and not completely covered in mud.
Again, the journey to the Secret Falls was worth every step! They were absolutely breathtaking.
If you're looking for a Hawaiian vacation where you can get outside and really see the island and immerse yourself in its natural beauty, Kauai is definitely the place for you! Everywhere you look on Kauai, you are surrounded by postcard-perfect views that leave you in a state of awe. Of course, if your idea of a Hawaiian vacation is sitting by the pool, soaking up the sun, and reading a good book with an umbrella drink parked next to you, there's always Maui!