Friday, January 26, 2018

From the Evergreen State to the Garden Island: Kauai Winter Getaway

Here in the Pacific Northwest, winters are long and damp, days are short, and dark gray skies often rule.

Although it's still a good time to get outside, a winter getaway to somewhere warm and tropical is something we Northwesterners often indulge in. You'll find plenty of us over in Hawaii this time of year.

While I've been to Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii a few times, a couple friends and I jetted to Kauai recently, my first time there.

Boasting some of the heaviest rainfall on the planet, Kauai didn't disappoint when we were there. One day it rained so hard roads were closed in some areas. But I think falling asleep during a warm tropical downpour is just about the best sleeping weather. During my week there, I slept better and longer than I have for months, maybe years.

True to the spirit of this blog, it was a pretty active vacation, with several hikes I'll tell you about.

Waimea Canyon/Pihea Trail
With a 3-hour time difference, we were up and out early our first morning for the winding mountain road drive up to Waimea Canyon area to explore and hike. We stopped at several overlooks for some shots; the canyon really is as spectacular as the many photos I've seen. 

At the very end of the road, as far as you can drive on the northwest side of the island is the Pihea Trail. This relatively short trail (about 4 miles out and back) is not in very good condition due to extensive overuse.  

It was rough, rutted, full of gnarled roots, and of course muddy. We turned around before the final push because it got so bad, but not before we got some spectacular views of beautiful Kalalau Valley just a few hundred yards down the trail. Here's hoping that some trail maintenance/restoration work will be done there soon (they could use some WTA volunteers).

On the way back we stopped in the coastal town of Waimea and had the first of several marvelous fresh mango banana smoothies. (Didn't get the name of the place but it's next to the Shrimp Station.) Fresh tropical fruit in the tropics is the best!

Awaawapuhi Trail 
From Poi'pu, the next day we went back up to the Waimea Canyon area and hiked the longer Awaawapuhi Trail (about 6.5 miles RT). With an early start, we headed down the trail from elevation 4,120 feet through a tropical jungle down to a narrow ridge with stunning views of the Na Pali coast, at elevation 2,500 feet.  

For those of you with any fear of heights (hand up in the air here), don't venture all the way out to the very narrow rock bridge to the small rock promontory beyond. I started to cross it, but just couldn't. Signs warn hikers to not go beyond the railings anyway.

Watch your step because it's easy to misjudge, and there have been fatalities here. (Check out HuffPost if you want to see one of the scariest selfie videos ever at this trail.) But the views of the otherworldly cliffs are magnificent.

Mahaulepu  Heritage Coastal Trail
On the popular and increasingly developed south shore of Kauai, the Mahaulepa Heritage Coastal Trail is an easy but lovely hike along the only accessible undeveloped stretch of coastline. Our third day here, we literally walked from our ocean-view condo past resorts and a golf course in the Poi'pu area to this coastline trail.

As you can see in the shot above, tropical rain squalls were threatening, and we ultimately did get caught in a soaker. But it was refreshing on a hot afternoon. After the first quarter mile, we had this lovely trail along the coast pretty much to ourselves. Surprising since we just left a dense cluster of resorts and condos.

This easy trail (a bit of scrambling over rocks can be involved) is only 4 miles roundtrip. As always, generous use of sunscreen was imperative for this paleskin.

Kalalua Trail
This trail on the Na Pali coast of northern Kauai is the biggee that draws intrepid hikers from all over the world. Its 11 miles meander up and down along the steep and dramatic cliffs, with dicey sections (numerous fatalities here over the years). I can hardly claim to have hiked it, since we just drove to the end of the road and hiked up only half mile to the first viewpoint (time limitations).

I eyed with envy some backpackers passing us; backpacking this trail has been on my bucket list for years. Another trip...

And more 
There's a lot more I could write about Kauai. Perhaps another blog post in the works, although I don't want to stray too far from the Pacific Northwest here. A few quick highlights:

  • The local food shacks. I had an incredibly delicious fresh ahi tuna burger in Lihue at the Kalapaki Beach Hut near the waterfront. And the smoothies!
  • Snorkeling and surfing at Poi'pu. So I didn't surf, but the snorkeling was lovely and relaxing at Brennecke's Beach area.
  • Exploring Hanapepe Town. This charming historic town built by entrepreneurial immigrants who came to work the sugar plantations is a must visit. It has great shops, galleries, an indie bookstore, eateries, and more. At one shop, the lovely, relaxed saleslady suddenly started doing a hula dance to the background music, the aloha spirit in action.
  • The sunsets. What else can I say? The photo below doesn't completely capture the stunning skies. This view was from our balcony.

It's good to be home, but I'll gladly go back to Kauai for some more.

Have you been? I'd love to hear about your hiking (or other) experiences in Hawaii in a comment below.

Aloha, happy trails, and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!  

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news. 


JoJo said...

Beautiful pics! And you got to see where the Pineapple Express is born! lol

jill said...

Thanks for your comment JoJo! Hope your year is off to a good start.

Suezy P said...

Jill....what a vacation - you packed so much in, and slept like a baby. The photographs are amazing. It's sad to read that trails are in the condition they are, but very happy you were able to see so much and hike about, knowing to trust your gut about potential dangers ahead.

jill said...

Suezy, yes, one of my mantra's is "a good night of sleep is one of life's greatest pleasures." I hope they do some hard core trail maintenance out at the Pihea Trail because of the heavy use. But still beautiful views. Thanks as always for your comment!

Salish Sea Communications said...

Looks and sounds like you had a great trip; there never is enough time to see/enjoy everything- which is the reason for going back. My father grew up in Kilauea when the plantation was there and we returned every summer when I was growing up to fish the north coast. Two summers ago we took the family for a week to Poipu and the grandkids say it set the bar. Maybe a return this year, maybe Maui. Good NW winter dreaming. Mahalo.

jill said...

Ah, I think I've read, Mike, that you grew up in Hawaii? Your father must have had great stories from life back in an early, pre-major tourist era. I'm sure you too have many great memories. Here's to a return this year for you...and maybe me too. Mahalo for your comment and Aloha on this raining January morning.

Anonymous said...

Wow that wass unusual. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submmit my comment didn't show up.
Grrrr... well I'm not writfing all that over again. Anyhow, just
wanted to say wonderful blog!

Unknown said...

You should have a "wow" button, too, Jill, because the photos you post with your writing made my eyes pop, they're so glorious. Thanks for sharing.

jill said...

Thanks Nicola! Lovely to meet you yesterday. Looking forward to diving into your book. Hope to make it up your way later this spring/summer. Cheers!

Patti said...

Ok so is it that your an incredible photographer with an incredible camera or is there no way to take a bad shot of Hawaii. Can't wait to visit the big island next week!!!