In late August/early September of 2021, Stephen and I took a trip to the garden island of Kauai, the smallest of the Hawaiin islands. We spent a little over a week exploring the island through driving tours, helicopter rides, ziplining, and sailing on catamarans – and we totally fell in love with this magical “mist-ical” place (said to be the wettest place on earth)! Below you will find many many pictures (but these are only a portion of the ones I took) with some captions to take you on our journey with us. After each day’s worth of pictures, you will also find a more detailed description of the day in text, and also a handful of videos from the day.
NOTE that although ALL of the pictures look even more amazing if you click on them for an expanded view – if you see that the description is preceeded by the symbols **, that means that particular picture is either very wide or very tall, and you will want to click on the picture to expand it and get its full spectacular beauty.
DAY 1 – Monday, August 30, 2021
DIARY - DAY 1 (click toggle to expand)
Monday, August 30, 2021
After a 5ish hour flight from Los Angeles, we landed at Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai about noon. We had used “Turo” to arrange to rent a woman’s car – and she had left it at the airport for us. We were able to find the car – but it took us a while to figure out how to get a picture of Stephen and his driver’s license in front of the car in order to get the code to unlock the box with the car key! We finally managed it, and we set off in our poop brown Kia Soul.
We made a short stop at the Koloa Rum Company – but the rum tastings were sold out for the day, so we made a mental note to check back later in the trip.
We then headed to the Driftwood Bar & Grill – a beautiful resort on the ocean just north of Lihue – where we shared fish tacos for lunch. Stephen had a beer, and I had a “skinny” Pina Colada. I also headed to the beach to wade into the water – but didn’t stay long because of the signs warning of man-o-war sightings!
Back in the car, we kept heading north to the Smith Family River Cruise and Fern Grotto Tour. We boarded the big flat boat with about 25 other folks, and headed up the Wailua River. After a while, we got off the boat and headed into the jungle until we climbed the platform to see the famous “Fern Grotto” where the ferns grow upside down from the cave walls. (We were told that the ferns used to be much longer, but they were all blown away by hurricanes a few years ago).
While we enjoyed the grotto, we were entertained by a local group that included a guitar player, two yukeleles, and a dancer. They sang the Hawaiian Wedding Song, and then joined us on the boat to entertain us on the way back by singing “Tiny Bubbles” and teaching us the moves for a Hula dance.
We then continued north another half hour or so until we got to the north coast town of Princeville and checked into our hot, stuffy little 1 room condo. (The vegetation on the drive up there was spectacular – not surprising since the north coast of Kauai is considered to be one of the wettest places in the world.)
Princeville is a pretty small town – but we found a shopping center with one take-out restaurant open for dinner (most of the other stores are closed on Mondays!). This was a Chinese/Tai restaurant – Stephen had pepper steak and I had garlic eggplant. Afterwards we went to the grocery store to try to find fixings for breakfast – but couldn’t find anything that would work with our tiny microwave and no dishes. We settled for ice cream from Lapperts – and then “home” for a little television and a very hot night’s sleep.
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 1
1 – On our way through the jungle just off the Wailua River
2 – Climbing the ramp to the fabled Fern Grotto
3 – The view of the Fern Grotto
4 – Some entertainment
DAY 2 – Tuesday, August 31, 2021
DIARY - DAY 2 (click toggle to expand)
Tuesday, August 31
Early the next morning, we headed back to the shopping center where there was already a long line for take-out breakfast at “The Spot”. Stephen had what was billed as a “Fancy Bagel”, and I had Avocado Toast. We then drove to the nearby Princeville Botanical Garden to begin a 3-hour guided nature walk.
We were lucky to have a very knowledgeable guide who had lots of info about the indigenous plants and their properties, like ulu (breadfruit).
The grounds were absolutely gorgeous – with flowers and fruits everywhere. Periodically, we would stop to taste some of the plants – like jackfruit and pineapple. Mid-way through the tour, we stopped under a big gazebo for a chocolate tasting that included 6 or 8 types of chocolate from around the world – and ending with the chocolate made right there on the grounds.
Then we finished the walking tour with more beautiful views (and a gorgeous waterfall!), and a taste of cacao nibs with banana.
We made a pit-stop at our condo to freshen up a bit (we were pretty hot and sweaty!) – and then went to meet our (previously) Long Beach friends Tom and Maddie for a light lunch outside at the Makai Grill on the Princeville gold course. It was great to learn more about the business they are building with the artist Dorothy Jung, and to get a peek at the new home they just bought. Tom then took us to the ocean and led us on a rather treacherous trip down to the Queen’s Bath (passing several signs warning us of the danger of drowning!). Once we made it down to the lava rocks at the water’s edge, we saw a couple of sea turtles – including one that seemed to be stuck a tide pool but eventually found his way out. We continued to the gentlest tide pool where I, of course, had to go swimming! The water was warm but still very refreshing on such a hot day! We then made the arduous trip back up – and headed over to Tom and Maddie’s current rental place for ice water, and some suggestions for other places we should visit while on the island.
We headed home to shower and freshen up again, and then joined the convoy of cars waiting in line for the road to open up for the evening shift. We were heading for Hanalei Bay – and the road is currently only one way – north for part of the day, and south for part of the day. We parked at Black Pot Beach and walked out on the pier to watch the sunset over the Bay. That particular beach was clearly a favorite of families and we saw lots of kids jumping of the pier. We marvelled at the mountains surrounding the bay that were dotted with many waterfalls; and enjoyed the formation leading down to the harbor which is apparently “Puff the Magic Dragon” (remember the song – “Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea, frolics in the autumn mist in a land called Hanalei”?) until we were ready for dinner. The restaurants that Tom had suggested were either closed or full – but we wound up sitting outside among the tiki torches (and gnats) at The Dolphin. We started our meal with a mixed fish Poke (raw fish) and then had blackened ahi tuna and roasted veggies over rice – very yummy! For dessert, I had chocolate cake (with ice cream from Lapperts!) and Stephen had coconut ice cream cake. Then we headed home to bed – exhausted from our busy day!
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 2
1 – The Princeville Botanical Gardens
2 – The lava coast near the Queen’s Bath
3 – A sea turtle is trapped…
4 – The sea turtle escapes!
DAY 3 – Wednesday, September 1, 2021
DIARY - DAY 3 (click toggle to expand)
Wednesday, September 1
We were up early to pack and check-out of our condo and head to breakfast at Java Kai Bar (recommended by Tom!) where I had a croissand/egg/avocado sandwich, and Stephen had blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes. We drove to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse – but had to view it from above because it was closed! We then opened up our Shaka Guide phone app and began a driving tour of the Wailea Valley. Our “guide” was a funny, cheesy guy who told us lots of history and sang us songs as we drove from Kapa’a to Lydgate Beach (where I put my toes in the ocean next to a shark-sighting sign); past a couple of beautiful waterfalls; and then on to a Hindu monastery where we wandering under the Meditation Banyan Tree, then stood outside the temple during a very active ceremony with chanting, bells, and drums (no pictures allowed!) – and enjoyed a spectacular Shangri-la type view of the monastery grounds. We then drove to the nearby Sacred Forest where we saw the trees that drop huge blue berries that eventually dry into nuts that are used to make ceremonial necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc.
We made a quick pit-stop at a mini mart to buy items for a strangely random ad hoc picnic lunch and set out on what our Shaka Guide called an “easy” hike to a couple of waterfalls. It was not by any means an “easy” hike – it was a long hike to the first waterfall, and then we made the decision to continue for what was supposed to be another 30 mintues to the second waterfall – and that part turned out to be very very steep and difficult to navigate – so much so that we actually needed to use ropes that were tied to the side of the hill. We did finally make it to that final waterfall – which was gorgeous! – and we ate our picnic lunch there. I then decided to go swimming in the swimming hole – even though I wasn’t wearing my bathing suit. But is was another hot and sweaty day – so I was happy to get wet and enjoy a refreshing swim! We then used the ropes to hoist ourselves back up the mountain and found our way back to the car (after only getting lost two or three times).
We then made the 50 minute drive to the south coast town of Poipu where we checked in to our lovely one bedroom apartment with vaulted ceiling in a secluded setting that was a five minute walk from the beach. After settling in, we headed out to a nearby mall to have dinner at Keoki’s Paradise – a very Hawaiian restaurant with a thatched roof, a mini waterfall, tiki torches, and a Hawaiian singer we made friends with by applauding him and then thanking him for NOT singing Tiny Bubbles. Stephen had panko/macadamia encrusted ono (fish) and I had a Taro burger. We also had two different versions of Mai Tais. For dessert, I had an ulu “cheese” cake and Stephen had Hoola Pie with macadamia ice cream and fudge sauce. We stopped at a grocery store to get some supplies for our kitchen, and then we headed home – very sore! – for a much needed night of sleep.
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 3
1 – A waterfall in Wailea Valley
2 – More of the waterfall
3 – The surf at Lydgate Beach
4 – Under the Meditation Banyan
5 – The “easy” upper waterfall
6 – The swimming hole at the lower waterfall
DAY 4 – Thursday, September 2, 2021
DIARY - DAY 4 (click toggle to expand)
Thursday, September 2
After a VERY hot and very LONG night, we walked down to nearby Poipu beach and I did some body surfing with some pretty big waves! There was a small sheltered beach right near by which head a sea turtle “basking” area that was full of sea turtles! Back at our condo, Stephen made us bagels and scrambled eggs for breakfast, and then we drove to Koloa Ziplining to check in for our morning appointment. They suited us up with helmets and harnesses and then did a training session with us. I volunteered to try the “fly” position in the hopes that it might give me the courage to try it for real later on. (It involves getting your harness attached to the guide line straight up from your back, leaning forward, and diving into a sort of “superman” position – pretty scary at first, but then not too bad!) Then we loaded up into a truck (10 fliers and 2 guides) for a 20 minute bumbpy ride to the first zip. It was a really easy run – I volunteered to go first (and one of the younger women on the trip called me “bad ass”). Next up came two longer zip runs – between which we had to hike up what the guides called “hell” hill. Around the 4th zip, I “flew” for real and it was really fun! The 8th and final run was the longest at half a mile! Some of our group did that run upside down – but I didn’t try that. Along the way, we had a couple of pit stops for water and snacks and pictures of the view. Then we hopped in the truck to head back to home base. The whole trip was about 3 hours – and we ended up hot, sweaty, exhausted, and thrilled!
We made a quick stop back at home to splash water on our hot faces and then drove to Lihue to have lunch at Rob’s Good Times Bar & Grill. I had a veggie quinoa wrap with sweet potato fries; Stephen had a burger and regular fries.
Next we checked in at Safari Helicopters and headed in a van to the aiport with four other riders. Once at the airport, we were given emergency flotation devices on belts. When our helicopter arrived, we were seated, buckled in, and given headphones.
We then spent about an hour in the air with our pilot – Joe – telling us lots of stories and info as we saw spectacular views of Waimea Valley, the Na-Pali Coast, and all the way up north to Hanalei where we had watched the sunset just a couple of days ago!
We had a little bit of mild turbulence here and there, but basically it was a smooth and lovely flight!
After de-planing at the airport, we drove to the very fancy Timbers Resort. I changed in the ladies room, and we had cocktails (Mai Tais) by the infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Eventually we went inside the restaurant Hualani’s (well, sort of inside – it was still sort of half outside) a lovely dinner. We had a shared appetizer of ahi tuna sashimi tataki. I had pan roasted ono with purple sweet potato and veggies; and Stephen had stead. For dessert (which was on the house since it was our anniversary dinner!) we had banana bread pudding with ice cream.
After dinner, we went back out to the infinity pool and sat for a while until we were ready to head home.
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 4
1 – Basking honu (sea turtles)
2 – Stephen on the zipline!
3 – Elise on the zipline!
4 – Elise flies like Superwoman (but you can’t see it here)
5 – A view from the helicopter (1)
6 – A view from the helicoper (2)
7 – The Na Pali Coast from the helicopter
8 – More coast from the helicopter
9 – From the helicopter (5)
10 – From the helicoper (6)
11 – A last one from the helicopter
DAY 5 – Friday, September 3, 2021
DIARY - DAY 5 (click toggle to expand)
Friday, September 3
We started out the day with another in-room breakfast of bagels and scrambled eggs, and then booted up our Shaka Guide app again to take the Waimea Canyon driving tour. We headed west into the canyons – with lots of great views and more waterfalls. We decided to ignore our guide’s suggestion for “hikes” and settled for stopping at look-outs to check out the views.
Our first stop was actually Kauai Coffee estate where we got some free sample coffee. Then a quick stop at a red dirt waterfall and the Iliau Nature Loop.
As we got above 3500 feet, it started to get very misty, rainy, and quite chilly! I actually needed to wrap up in a shawl!
Near the top of the canyon, we stopped at the Koke’e Lodge for a surprisingly good lunch. I had grilled cheese on dark seeded bread with a side of cornbread; Stephen had a kind of a casserole called “Strata”.
Then we headed back down the hill to Waimea Town, the Menehune Ditch, and the Swinging Bridge.
On our way back to Poipu we found a spot that had been recommended by Tom – “The Right Slice” – which specializes in sweet and savory pies. We bought a Shepperd’s pie, Purple Sweet Potato pie, and slices of Passion Fruit, Macadamia, and Island Lime pie.
Once back home, we did some laundry – and I took a walk to the beach for another swim. Then for dinner – we ate all of our amazing pies!
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 5
1 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (1)
2 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (2)
3 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (3)
4 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (4)
5 – Windy view of Waimea Canyon (5)
6 – View of the Na Pali Coast from Kalalau Point
7 – The end of the road (for our driving tour)
8 – Elise crosses the Swinging Bridge…
9 – Stephen does not…
DAY 6 – Saturday, September 4, 2021
DIARY - DAY 6 (click toggle to expand)
Saturday, September 4
We spent a very lazy morning and breakfast in the room, and took another walk down to the beach for some more body surfing. Back home, we showered and were generally lazy again. For lunch, we had more pie, along with some potato chips and pineapple that we had gotten down at the beach.
After lunch, we headed to Port Allen in Eleele to board our motor-powered catamaran with Captain Glenn and a great crew for four hours on the ocean for a “Sunset Dinner Cruise”. It got a bit bumpy at times – but we both had wrist bands and dramamine pills so we were fine!
There was a never-ending flow of (very weak) mai tais; crudite and cheese plate appetizers; and then dinner of rice, teriyaki chicken, roasted veggies, salad, noodles – and a brownie for dessert.
Our skipper stopped periodically so we could get lots of good shots of the amazing Na Pali Coast. “Na Pali” means “the cliffs” or “many cliffs” in Hawaiian, and the Na Pali Coast stretches fifteen miles along the north west coast of Kauai. These cliffs are infamous and have been the backdrop of many famous movies including Jurassic Park.
The crew was also great about taking our pictures! On the way back down the coast, we saw what the captain said was very unusual for this time of year: a pod of spinner dolphins. They are very small and very acrobatic – they actually jump out of the water and spin in a complete circle before landing back in the water.
Sunset on the water was glorious and it was altogether a great and relaxing trip.
On the way back to our condo, we stopped in Poipu and got “Puka Dog” hot dogs; then went home to watch a little television and get to bed fairly early!
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 6
1 – Elise body surfing
2 – More surfing
3 – Catching a tall wave!
4 – Heading west out of Port Allen on our catamaran
5 – Approaching the Na Pali Coast
6 – Along the coast
7 – Sailing along
8 – A few bumps along the way
9 – Attempting a selfie video
10 – The infamous cliffs!
11 – Stephen enjoys the view
12 – The section called “The Cathedral”
13 – A little closer
14 – Anchored under the cliffs
15 – A little closer to the cliff…
16 – Starting the return trip…
17 – Homeward bound (2)
18 – Dolphins! (wait for it!)
19 – Sunset
20 – The end of a beautiful day
DAY 7 – Sunday, September 5, 2021
DIARY - DAY 7 (click toggle to expand)
Sunday, September 5
Bright and early, I headed back down to the beach to catch some more waves! Then we headed to the same deli (where we got hot dogs the night before) and got muffins and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
Then we headed back to the Koloa Rum Company in Lihue (where we had stopped when we first arrived in Hawaii, only to find all the rum tastings sold out). This time we had reservations for a special Rum Safari – and what a blast that was! Twenty of us were loaded up into a big Range Rover and we drove through their plantation – seeing lots of different fruits growing (including pineapple bushes) and even a couple of pigs. Our tour guide kept getting out of the jeep to pick up various fruits. Then we all got out and headed into the jungle to a lanai where they poured us rum tastings of various flavored rums (including coconut and coffee!). Then they used the pineapples they had picked up on the way to make us all rum cocktails which we sipped under a huge banyan tree. Then we were back in the jeep where we headed through more orchards and our guide picked up starfruit and coconut. We then stopped at a beautiful lanai that was perched on top of a pond – where we had another cocktail (made using the starfruit and coconut) and some potato trips. It was an absolutely amazing trip and we were so glad we decided to go since it hadn’t been on our original itinerary.
On the way back home, we stopped at Orly’s Patisserie (which had been recommended by our tour guide- Fletcher) and got Lililoi Cheesecake (passionfruit) and creme brulee.
Back in Poipu, we went to Brennecke’s at the Beach for fish & chips – overlooking Poipu Beach from the second floor – and then went back to the condo to eat our pastries for dessert.
We had a lazy afternoon watching television, and then headed to The Beach House where we sat at the bar (the restaurant was packed and had no reservations at regular tables) to watch the sun set while eating pumpkin ravioli and poke tacos. Then home for some more TV and another early night.
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 7
1 – One last morning surf
2 – Driving through paradise
3 – The orchards of the Koloa Rum Company
4 – Rainbow Eucalyptus
5 – Some pigs!
6 – Pouring rum for our tasting
7 – Making cocktails!
8 – Our guide feeds his bird friend
9 – I could have stayed on this lanai all day!
DAY 8 – Monday, September 6, 2021
DIARY - DAY 8 (click toggle to expand)
Monday, September 6
On our last full day, we got up at 6:30am and drove to Port Allen for another catamaran trip. This time it was through Captain Andy’s – although our Captain’s name was Captain Sterling and it was his retirement trip.
We took a very similar route to our evening catamaran trip, but one of the first things that happened was that we ran into a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins, and later a pod of spinner dolphins.
We had breakfast of oatmeal bars on board – and took lots and lots of photos of the spectacular views. At one point, the crew hoisted our sail and we actually sailed for a while.
Then we actually anchored near the shore, donned our gear, and snorkeled! The water was beautiful and we saw lots of fish – and a sea turtle!
Back on the boat, we had lunch of roasted veggie sandwiches, rice, and a white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookie.
Then we had a FAST and bumpy trip and got back to Port Allen by 1:30pm.
We headed home to shower, clean up, and pack, and then headed to The Eating House 1849 for our last dinner. We did a bit of shopping at the little mall first (Stephen bought a Hawaiian shirt!) and then had an awesome meal and another glorious sunset. We started with a Hawaiian martini and a Mango Mule; followed by red wine. Our appetizers were roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts, and sizzling stead and mushrooms. For our mains, Stephen had short ribs and mashed potatoes, and I had a Tofu Hot Pot Rice Bowl. For dessert we had an Apple Volcano and a Pineapple Upside Down Cake – wow!
The next day we would head to the airport to return our car and fly back home – tired, sore, and full of wonderful memories we will hold dear forever!
VIDEO PLAYLIST DESCRIPTION – DAY 8
1 – So many dolphins on our 2nd catamaran trip!
2 – More dolphins!
3 – Motoring along!
4 – More of that gorgeous Na Pali Coast
5 – Now we are actually sailing!
6 – Leaving the coast behind
7 – A tour of our condo as we say goodbye