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!
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.
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...
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!
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