We have had the pleasure of staying in Kauai for several weeks during the end of summer when the weather is perfect for exploring. The days are warm with a mixture of sunny and rainy days which makes for a nice variety. The nights are cool enough to be comfortable while sleeping without even considering the need for an air conditioner.
Combine great weather with the beauty of this island and the almost non-existent COVID cases here and we have to admit that we fell into a very fortunate situation!
Those who know us will not be surprised to learn that we have managed to stay busy and we have explored a bit of the island. Although we have only anchored in Hanalei Bay, we have taken TTR down the Nā Pali Coast a couple of times to view her beauty from the water. We have also taken several hikes in different areas of the island. And we took a helicopter tour of Kauai! So indeed, we have explored by land, by sea and by air!
Initially I was going to cover all of our hikes, sails and helicopter tour in one post, but there are so many great pictures that I am spreading the information over several posts.
Let me begin by sharing just two photos from our sailing trip down the Nā Pali Coast since I have already written about that.
Looking west along the Nā Pali Coast.
From a sailor’s perspective, Kauai looks magical and difficult. I could imagine how fertile the land is in places and how available fresh water is from all of the waterfalls. Yet the sheer wall faces and uneven terrain look like it would be difficult to walk or settle the area.
A small waterfall near the ocean.
However, one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever taken, the Kalalau Trail, traverses this Nā Pali coastline for 11 miles. The complete hike covers five valleys, takes a full day and requires a park pass. However, the first two miles of the trail end at the Hanakāpī’ai Stream and park signs estimate walking to the stream takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
The beginning of the Kalalau Trail.
We were definitely up for the hike to the stream and set off at a snails pace since the scenery and fauna were captivating… and I had to try to get some decent pictures.
Most of the trail was shaded and easy to walk.
The trail was originally built in the 1800s to connect Hawaiians living in remote regions of Kauai and the beginning portions of the trail were restructured in the 1930s to accommodate horses and cattle.
Looking east back toward Kē’ē Beach where we started the hike.
Once the restructured portion of the trail ends, the remainder of the hike is a narrow, natural trail that weaves up, down and around. It can be very muddy and slippery, but fortunately we caught a dry day and the “conditions were perfect.”
Clearly these ferns thrive in the damp environment.
The views changed constantly as the plant species include indigenous and imported varieties. Combine the varied plants with a trail that weaves toward and away from the cliffs along the ocean and we were rewarded with visions that changed from land to ocean.
Looking west along the Nā Pali shoreline.
My Eagle Scout is always well prepared so we had plenty of water but we forgot to bring any food. However, Mother Nature provided an abundance of ripe guava along the trail and we ate a few of these to satisfy our hunger.
Frank breaks open a guava…doesn’t get much fresher!
These roots reminded me of hula skirts.
A perfect day for hiking and photographs.
Even though the trail was mostly shaded, after walking a couple of hours, we were a bit hot. Luckily for us, the end of this portion of the trail stops at the fresh water Hanakāpī’ai Stream. The stream tumbles around time worn boulders and ends right on the white sand beach where it meanders into the Pacific Ocean.
The fresh water stream winds downward to the beach.
Of course we took a dip in the pools formed at the end of the stream and watched the ocean waves crash against the cliffs and sand while we sat in the quiet water of the river.
Sitting in the rock edged pool at the mouth of the Hanakāpī’ai Stream.
If we had any doubt that the water was fresh water, the numerous tadpoles put our minds at rest.
No signs of transformation on this tadpole.
The last river pool and the path the escaping fresh water takes to the right.
The stream made a very definite path through the sand beach, flowing to the right, heading slightly downhill, then turning left until the tide crossed the sand and the two bodies of water met in the middle of the beach.
You can see the stream flow to the right and in the distance cross left to join the ocean.
We must have spent about an hour exploring the beach and wading in the stream. There were even a couple of caves along the beach that we looked into. It was a very refreshing change to be in fresh water and not feel sticky from salt as our skin and clothing dried on the walk back.
In non-COVID times, this walk is extremely crowded and is one of the most popular hikes in Hawaii. How popular is the hike? Well the Hā’ena State Park limits their day use permits to 900 per day!!! Furthermore, the site says the passes sell out quickly.
A helicopter view of Hanakāpī’ai Beach with an arrow pointing to the river on the beach.
I counted the number of people we encountered during our day. All told we saw fewer than 30 people on the hike, in the stream, on the beach and in the ocean.
Needless to say, we experienced the Kalalau Trail in a way few modern travelers have or will.
The Nā Pali Coast, found on the northwest side of Kauai, stretches for 16 miles. Pali means cliffs in Hawaiian and with some cliffs rising 4,000 feet out of the water, the area is aptly named.
It is impossible to put into words how beautiful this coast line is with verdant cliffs rising dramatically from intensly blue water and waterfalls cascading periodically through the deep green foliage. Instead I will include photographs that only partially capture the beauty.
Early one morning we upped anchor in Hanalei Bay and chose a course close to the coastline. The wind was pretty light and the sea state calm so we motored at a casual pace which allowed us to enjoy the views.
Higher and higher cliffs.
In addition to the waterfalls and cliffs, the coast has several sea caves. After spotting a few interesting looking caves, we found a shallow spot to anchor Ticket to Ride and launched the dinghy for a closer look.
The caves were not particularly deep and certainly were not at all similar to Painted Cave in the Channel Islands of California, but it was still fun to pretend we were intrepid adventurers scouting out unexplored places.
After re-boarding TTR and traveling another 30 minutes, we arrived at the iconic Honopū Valley where we again dropped anchor.
TTR anchored off of Honopū Beach.
Stretching up to 90 feet, Honopū Arch is the largest natural arch in all of Hawaii. A must see in our opinion.
We swam from TTR to shore and were dazzled by the dark rock arch rising from the creamy white beach. Honopū Beach is isolated and no boats or aircraft are allowed to land in Honopū Valley which gives the area an unspoiled and somewhat sacred ambiance.
We walked to the nearby waterfall and Frank and I cooled off in its fresh water before walking back to salt water and swimming to Ticket to Ride.
One of the most spectacular caves along the coast is Open Ceiling Cave; just a short dinghy ride from Honopū Beach. Like other caves, we slowly dinghied into the arched opening. The unusual part is that once inside, the cave is filled with light because the ceiling fell down into the water.
Now sunlight streams into the circular cave and illuminates the walls as well as the fallen ceiling which can be seen underwater marking the center of the cave.
Open Ceiling Cave is a huge contrast to Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island, CA. This one reveals all of its beauty and secrets in the sunlight while Painted Cave is deep and pitch black as you go blindly into its depths.
After returning to Ticket to Ride, we spent a bit more time motoring along the coast. Soon it was time to turn around and point TTR back to Hanalei Bay. Since the coast line is an exposed area, we preferred to spend the night back in Hanalei where we are in protected water.
On the trip back we raised the main sail and genoa, then threw out a couple of fishing lines to see what might bite. We managed to snag a skipjack tuna but chose to release him. Although the fishing wasn’t successful, the sail was very pleasant and exploring the beauty of the Nā Pali Coast was a wonderful way to spend the day.
Thanks for visiting our blog. We hope seeing the beauty of the Nā Pali coast brings a bright spot to your day. As the virus cases rise in Hawaii, we are doing our best to stay healthy and restrict our interaction with others. We hope all of you are staying healthy and sane too. All the best from us to you.