Well, I did it. I made an impromptu decision and got a ticket to Kauai, Hawaii. One of by best friends, Zachary (pictured multiple times) works for Sky Dive Kauai and lives on the island, and graciously allowed me to stay with him. For three weeks. Yes, it’s the longest (working) vacation I’ve ever been on in my life, but I embraced the life of freelancing and being a free-spirited 20-something, and went. Why not?
My flight was long, but not the worst thing in the world. I was sweating upon arrival, as I left 40 degrees in Wisconsin and was greeted by a 80 degree wet-heat. If you know me, I despise humidity, but once I was dressed weather-appropriate, it wasn’t as bad. It took my usual 2 day-tempering period of sweaty eating, sleeping and hiking to adjust. Just yesterday I put on a sweatshirt for the first time at night.
A sweatshirt, in 73 degrees. SOS I’m assimilating.
I arrived to this gorgeous view overlooking the Kalihiwai river, serenaded by tweeting birds, snorting pigs (yet to be seen), and chickens. Lots and lots of chickens. Chickens were originally brought to the island as a food source, but since have been granted protection, so they have nothing to do but procreate. So chickens. Lots and lots of chickens.
After settling in, Zachary took me on a tour of the north shore, through Princeville and down into the small town of Hanalei, where we grabbed lunch at Kalypso. It might have been the fruit snack meal I had on my 13 hour plane journey, but I ordered the Poke and it tasted like the most amazingly fresh ahi tuna I have ever tasted. Given where we are, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.
Then we wandered down to the cliff overlooking Kalihiwai beach where I have been told, Ben Stiller lives on the cliff down the road, and has been often seen surfing (I bought it).
The next day we ventured nearly 360 degrees around the island of Kauai to Waimea Canyon. Also known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea Canyon stretches 10 miles long, one mile wide, and over 3,500 feet deep. A vast crater of iron dyed dirt and striations of rock, it was truly breathtaking on a clear day.
At the end of the road, a mere 10 miles from a complete lap around Kauai, lays Kalalau Lookout, another vast and breath-taking view, this time of the Pacific. Located in Koke’e State Park, there were numerous hiking trails and camping sites in the area – great views and breath-taking experiences for the more adventurous.
After a beach day, Zachary convinced me of an amazing waterfall hike that was a must-see nearby. Little did I know what I was getting into.
We kayaked our way up the Kalihiwai river until it was rocks and rapids and we could go no further. Then the adventure began. We thrashed our way through tall grasses of over 8 feet, on a “path” that seemed like we were making for the first time. After nearly losing my water shoes and getting whacked in the face a time or two, we emerged at the same river we had kayaked, but further upstream. We traversed the rocky bottomed current, not gracefully I might add, and reached a roughly crafted set of muddy steps that lead to the first of two waterfalls.
The lower falls led directly into the river that we had just crossed and was truly beautiful. We then climbed a steeper, slipperier set of steps to the second and more robust waterfall, where tour groups are often brought to enjoy lunch (without the river crossing, grass thatching bit).
At this point I was exhausted, but appreciative of what exactly we had accomplished. My body was sore, but my eyes and heart were full with the beauty of just one sliver of what Kauai has to offer.
In a moment of, what I now consider pure genius & pure stupidity, I suggested, instead of grass whacking or stumbling over slippery rocks for the near half-mile back to our kayaks, to jump in the river and let the stream take us where it may. Rushed by the current, floating on my stomach, we made our way town the river. We hit a few rocky patches where we had no choice but to get up and walk, or risk a concussion, but overall we floated our way back down stream. To date, one of my favorite moments of this trip, and one of my Top 5 list of “Becca’s Spontaneous Decisions That Ended Well-ish.”
We spent the rest of the day loafing at Kahiliwai beach and itching and scratching from the hike.
Friday, after Zachary returned from a long morning of flying, we went to the small town of Hanalei on the north shore, where there are numerous shops and restaurants. My favorite sight in town was the Wai’oli Hui’ia Church that sits settled in the valley, surrounded by amazing mountains and the tallest waterfall on the island. A petite place of worship, the church was almost completely incased in beautiful stained glass windows and featured an in-house pup that napped as the church was prepared for a service.
Saturday, we explored Kilauea and the National Wildlife Refuge that features the Kilauea Lighthouse. For Veteran’s Day, the park was free to the public, so we took advantage of perfect timing and explored the park.
Naturally, there were more wonderful views of the Pacific and the unreal blue water with its crashing white peaks. A surfer’s dream.
The lighthouse was something out of a painting. It’s crisp white exterior and copper top were remodeled in 2012, along with the stunning Fresnel lens inside. Set against the bright blue sky and vivid green grass, I felt like I was in a Wes Anderson film.
Purchased by the Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company in 1909 for just one US dollar, the Kilauea Lighthouse was first lit in 1913.
Everywhere you look there were local birds, wildlife, and plants, including the endangered Hawai’i state bird, the NeNe, red-footed boobies, and a plant called the Pandanus tree, or “tourists pineapple.” (Which I was convinced was in fact, pineapple).
Overall, week one was a severe success and I’m afraid at the end of it all, I won’t want to leave. I’ve heard there is snow on its way back home, and in some convoluted way I’m sad I’m not there to see it. However, I’m embracing the hot nights and sunshiny days, and look forward to exploring more of Kauai. I’m hoping to make my way to Oahu as well, so keep your eyes peeled for week two and three of my spontaneous adventure in Hawaii!