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Day #10: Kauai & To Home

Since this was our last day, we changed our routine a bit to allow time for packing and a last trip to the hotel’s beach (as Emerson wanted to build a sand castle). This made for a fairly relaxed morning and we weren’t especially in a rush knowing our flight wasn’t departing until a little after 9:30 that night.

We checked out of the hotel around 11:30 and headed out to see some of the sights in central Kauai that I’d reserved for this day. This included visits to a couple of fairly impressive waterfalls, namely Wailua and Opaekaa Falls. 


Opaekaa Falls


From there, we headed down to Lydgate Beach Park. It has an impressive beachfront and protected swim area, but we were visiting to allow Emerson to play at the Kamalani Playground. And, while the playground is impressive, the Kamalani’s “Play Bridge” a bit further down the trail was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Needless to say, Emerson was very impressed:


Emerson loved this!

After the park, we visited the modest in size yet impressive in quality Kauai Museum. The collection provides an overview of native Hawaiian life, the state’s royal history, the island’s natural history, and a sense of the multi-ethnic backgrounds that make up Hawaii’s population today. 


Kauai Museum

Following our visit to the museum, we returned to our hotel to have dinner at again Duke’s (which is hard to beat in terms of quality and ambiance) and gelato at an excellent little place that we’d discovered called Papalani Gelato. This made for a short drive to the airport to return the rental car and get checked in. Our flight left on time and everyone slept fairly well en route to Los Angeles. 

I’m writing this final blog post at LAC during our 4 hour layover before heading to Tampa. Unless something interesting happens on the way home, I’ll probably make this my final post of the trip.

It was really good to return to Hawaii after all of these years and even better to share it with the girls, who really seemed to enjoy it. It’s much as I remembered it… though my memory was clearly more impressionistic than vividly detailed in some respects. We could have easily and happily spent another week, and I’m fairly confident that we’ll return in the future, if possible. 

Aloha and mahalo, Hawaii!

Day #9: Kauai (North)

Today, we made the drive to northern shore of Kauai to the Princeville, Hanalei Bay, and Haena State Park area. At a few points, we experienced a little drizzle but otherwise had good weather. The surf was really up on Kauai’s north shore, making for some impressive vistas:


Surf on Kauai

Unfortunately, pictures don’t really do it justice, as the scale of the waves (some 20 feet high at certain points) was difficult to capture. 


Not safe for swimming…

In Haena State Park, we visited the Maniniholo Dry Cave, which is safe to enter and explore with children.

Maniniholo Dry Cave

On our way back, we stopped in Hanalei for lunch at Puka Dog (a purveyor of Hawaiian style hot dogs that feature a special garlic sauce, tropical fruit relish, and mustard — all squeezed into a cored rather than sliced hot dog bun):


Puka Dog!

After this, Emerson and I shared a shave ice:


Emerson’s stawberry shave ice …

We spent the late afternoon at the hotel’s pool and grabbed dinner near the hotel.  

Day #8: Kauai (South)

Today, we headed for the southern side of the island. We started out by picking up some coffee and malasadas (a Portuguese hole-less, yeast donut that has been embraced as part of the cultural stew that comprises Hawaii after successive waves on immigration). The donuts were pretty good: very reminiscent of my family’s German fasnacht tradition and of a similar pre-Lenten donut origin.

We enjoyed breakfast at Poipu Beach Park, where we intended to swim and try snorkeling again. To make things easier for Emerson, I bought her a “boogie board with a window” to toe her around, and I have Libby some snorkeling lessons the prior day in the comfort of our hotel’s pool. This was a partial success: Libby found the snorkeling much more enjoyable, but Emerson struggled a bit with the board as we had a little surf to contend with.

After the beach, we picked up food for a picnic lunch and drove to Waimea Canyon, aptly called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and another example of the diversity of the Hawaiian landscape:

En route to the canyon…


Waimea Canyon

From Waimea, we continued up the road to Kokee State Park where we did a nature walk and got to see a glimpse of the largely inaccessible (unless you have a boat or a helicopter) Na Pali Coast:

Na Pali coastline from Kokee State Park

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Kauai Coffee Company and sampled a variety of their offers, all of which were pretty good. Indeed, I might join their coffee club. After a dip in the hotel’s pool, we picked up take-out Chinese and ate it on the balcony off of our suite’s living/dining room. 

Day #7: To Kauai 

The morning started with breakfast, a bit of packing / repacking, dropping of the rental car, and checking in for our slightly longer flight to Lihue, Kauai. Although the distances aren’t great between the islands, you lose approximately 1/2 a day unless you fly out really early in the morning or really late at night going through the airport rituals. That’s probably the greatest downside to island hopping. The benefit, however, is building a richer tapestry of appreciation for the islands. 

Like Maui, we arrived a little before noon, grabbed our luggage, and picked up out rental car at National. Since we could “pick any car” with national, Emerson sold us on a cherry red Ford Mustang convertible — not awful for a mere $34 per day!

Coming from the airport, we stopped by Fish Express for a proper, no frills Hawaiian lunch plate like the locals eat. We then went to a local park and had a bit of a picnic, where we got to experience Kauai’s now (in)famous wild chickens up close and personal. According to perhaps an urban legend, it seems that these chickens really blossomed following the landfall of Hurricane Iniki in 1992 — though wild chickens are found on every island, Kauai does seem to have an outsized share of them. 


Our car and Kauai’s wild chickens…

After checking into our Marriott Beach Resort hotel (decent room, underwhelming “oceanview”), we ran a few additional errands for beach and food supplies and then spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging by the pool. 

For dinner, we went to Duke’s an enjoyed good food and drinks in a really nice beachside setting. 

Libby and her “Lava Flow”

Day #6: Maui R2H & Beyond

This morning we woke up early to drive  the Road to Hana (R2H), which is a narrow, curving, single-lane bridge festooned roadway to (unsurprisingly) the town of Hana on the lush, windward side of the island. I sort of vaguely remembered it from childhood (having not paid especially close attention to driving conditions as a kid), but I figured that I was either brave or stupid enough to just go with it as an adult.

The drive and environment really is spectacular. Neither words nor pictures can do it justice. It must be experienced firsthand to really appreciate it. There’s also a lot to do along the way; thus, we were a bit forced to make decisions about what to do and what not to do. We opted from the Garden of Eden Arboretum (totally worth the proverbial and literal “price of admission”), the (not so) Secret Falls, and the Wai’anapanapa State Park (for lunch, seaside lava caves and blow hole, and black sand beach). 


View from Garden of Eden


Wai’anapanapa State Park

After lunch, we arrived in the small town of Hana and faced a decision: return via the route we’d come or press on to “The Beyond” (which I’ve heard might not even be approved for rental cars to traverse). Having managed the R2H without any white knuckle moments, we opted to press on and make the full circle. 

The scenery–though less lush–was as or more spectacular. The road–about a lane and a half at its widest, unpaved or poorly paved in parts, and blocked occasionally by cows–might have been a bit too much for some, but I didn’t mind the drive. Our Buick SUV handled it fairly well (though a smaller car would’ve been nice).

Driving “The Beyond” in Maui

After completing this lap, we drove up the mountain we’d been circling for the better part of the day: the 10,000 ft volcano called Haleakalā, which means “House of the Sun.” This too is a spectacular drive, especially on a day like today with a cloud layer between the base and the peak that you get to drive through on the ascent. 


Into the clouds…


Above the clouds…

Amazing! It’s like driving your car to heaven. 

The summit is pretty amazing too. The crater of the volcano looks more like the surface of the moon. This, of course, is even more spectacular when juxtaposed with the tropical lushness and sun-baked brush that we’d see but a few hours prior on different sides of the same mountain. 

View from the summit…

Libby and Emerson at the top!

For dinner, we ate at a local Mexican place called Amigo’s. It was surprisingly good and all the more so after a long day!

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