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I have visited Hawaii twice, visiting Maui in 1976 and visiting Kauai for my honeymoon in the summer of 1995. Maui was very rural in 1976 and has now become somewhat urbanized, from what I understand. Kauai was incredibly beautiful and relatively undeveloped. For example, there were times when there were only two or three other people on the beach besides us. Also, Kauai has the most white sand beach per mile of coastline of any of the Hawaiian Islands.
The northwest shore contains the Na Pali Coast, Na Pali meaning "The Cliffs", which is a remote area filled with breathtakingly steep cliffs and thousand foot waterfalls. We visited in July and early August which is a great time to visit since the surf is low, making the Na Pali accessible via boat. The surf reportedly reaches 75-100 feet in winter making the Na Pali suicidal for water traffic.
One way to access the Na Pali Coast is by the motorized rubber rafts called Zodiaks. There are several tour companies that operate Zodiaks along the Na Pali Coast. We chose a tour through Hanalei Sea Tours that offered a lunch stop with snorkling and a guided walk through the ruins of an old Hawaiian village.
It was a cloudy, cool day and the water was very rough. We left from the north coast of Kauai and our lunch stop was at the other end of the Na Pali on the northwest corner of the island. The ride wasn't too bad earlier in the day when the weather was better and we were headed west with the current but was very bumpy, cold, and wet when we returned east after lunch.
The guided walk was interesting and informative and we had a great time snorkling. The crew threw a little food in the water to attract fish and a school of brightly colored fish soon took advantage. There were also some fairly large fish, about the size of my torso, that showed up to investigate. This was a little unnerving for those of us who were unaccustomed to diving.
Another way to appreciate the beauty of Kauai is by helicopter. We flew with a company called Bali Hai Helicopter Tours. This turned out to be a great way to see the waterfalls, cliffs, and canyons of Kauai. It was also a very smooth ride and seemed like it would be gentle on people who have trouble with motion sickness.
Like all of the Hawaiian Islands, the east and west sides of Kauai have very different characters. The east side of the island receives most of the rain and is very wet. The high rainfall carves away at the hillsides and has created a very extreme landscape with steep mountains and very high water falls. The west side is in the rain shadow of the east and receives very little rain. The west is very desert-like. Waimea Canyon, which is called the "Grand Canyon of Hawaii", is located on the west side and contains dry pine forests like you might find in New Mexico. This contrast was very apparent from the helicopter.
One of the highlights of the tour was flying near one of the large waterfalls. The helicopter pilots used to fly very close to the falls and used to approach them very fast to thrill their guests. An example of this type of flying in Kauai can be seen at the beginning of the Movie "Jurassic Park". However, a couple of crashes due to the unpredictable air currents near the falls convinced the aviation authorities that this was not a good idea and helicopters are no longer allowed to get very close to the falls. Violating the rule leads to immediate suspension of a pilot's license. Our pilot stayed well outside of the forbidden zone.
We later drove to Waimea Canyon. The drive was the type of twisting mountaneous drive that you might expect to find in Colorado, Utah, or New Mexico. There isn't much shoulder at several places where there are large drop-offs along the drive. As you might expect, there are also several spectacular view points to stop at during the ascent.
Waimea Canyon - The Grand Canyon of Hawaii
The highlight of our trip was kayaking along the Na Pali. It was a five hour paddle, leaving from the western end of the Coast and ending at the eastern end where vans waited to drive us all of the way back around the island to where our cars were parked. The water was an incredibly clear turquoise and dolphins and giant turtles occassionally breached a few feet from our kayak. The Na Pali also contains several sea caves and the trip included paddling into many of them. It was a beautiful, sunny day that also happened to be my birthday.
I enthusiastically recommend Kauai to anyone seeking solitude in paradise. I have one caution to pass on, however. Night life on Kauai is essentially nonexistent so, if that is what you're looking for, you'd be better off visiting Oahu or Maui.
I also highly recommend the bed and breakfast where we stayed. It is situated above Kapaa, the main population center on Kauai, on a flower farm at the foot of the mountains within sight of 6 or 7 thousand-foot waterfalls,. The B & B is a three bedroom house with two hot tubs and a reasonably-sized gym, equipped with olympic-style free weights, a few cables, a leg press, and some aerobic equipment. Apparently, they have also built a swimming pool with a waterfall, made out of native rock, since the time we were there.
Hale O' Wailele from the back
The proprietors are very friendly and helpful and supply all of the equipment that you might need for the beach or for various other activities, including towels, boogie boards, masks and snorkles, coolers, lawn chairs, and mountain bikes. They will also arrange activities for guests. They've tried out most of the activities on the island and have negotiated low prices for the best activities for their guests. It was hard to believe that we were going to get all of this for the advertized price (around $100 per night in 1995) but it turned out to be true. If you'd like to check it out for yourself, you may contact the proprietors, Ohelo and Dejon Kaopio, via their home page, which contains further information and photos.
Ohelo and Dejon
Further information on Hawaii can be found on the official Hawaii Home Page.
Mark A. Martin <email@example.com>
Last modified: Tue Jul 25 16:42:59 CDT 2000