I may have never seen Europe or Africa or even the Grand Canyon. But I have seen Kauai.
Just 4 weeks ago, my sister, Shae, who lives in Denver called me to say she had to go to Kauai for a work trip and asked if I wanted to join her. Neither of us had been to Hawaii and it seemed tempting but of course my initial reaction was, "never gonna happen." I then called my dear friend Jes, who grew up on Oahu and asked two things: #1 "is this unrealistic to even consider," and #2 "do you want to go?"
Thanks to our wonderful husbands, Shae's boss, and some amazing people from work, we booked our trip.
As the vacation drew near, I dreaded the flight and the 5 hour time change. I wasn't sure if it would be worth it, but I was excited nonetheless to be able to experience this with my sister and to do it all with a once-local to show us the ropes. It was the most spontaneous thing we had ever done.
The trip there surprisingly wasn't that bad at all.
Around noon on Tuesday, we checked into the Kauai Marriott in Lihue, which was a gorgeous resort. We hung out relaxing there that first day.
Then on Wednesday, the whirlwind of non-stop adventures began. Everyone told us, "why even bother to go for just 4 1/2 days", but in that amount of time we were able to travel around the entire island either by car or boat. We were quite impressed with ourselves. That first full day there, Jes and I went site seeing while Shae worked. Our first stop was Wailua Falls.
To grasp the enormity of this waterfall, in this second picture, try to spot the little white bird in the center of the photo. That was a large seagull next to the heaviest cascade of water I have ever seen. Kauai has the rainiest spot on earth, which would explain the constantly immense amount of water flowing down multiple mountainsides.
We then drove on to see the Keahua Arboretum.
We happened to stumble upon this little lush haven....Kamokila Hawaiian Village.
I decided to try my hand at paddle boarding. It may have only been for a couple of minutes around the dock, but at least I can say I've done it!
We opted NOT to stay and kayak there and instead signed up to go on Saturday when Shae isn't working on a self-guided kayak tour up the river, then hike to the Secret Falls.
That night, we drove to Poipu to eat dinner at the Beach House. We stopped to see the infamous blow hole, Spouting Horn, on the South shore.
Before dinner we had to have a "Shave Ice", a favorite in the islands.
And then at dinner, this was our view. Not bad.
Did I mention that just the driving around the island made the trip worthwhile. I had never seen trees as tall as Kauai's. They just towered like walls to Heaven on both sides of the road. Unfortunately, the pictures do not do it justice, but we tried our best to capture the beauty.
Shae had gone on a helicopter tour before we arrived on Tuesday, and she heard that Kauai is 97% uninhabited land. Here are a couple from her cell phone that she got when flying over the Napali Coast.
So if you're not looking at the gorgeous blue ocean, you are looking at the steepest mountains, or the greenest valleys, or the tallest trees. In fact, Kauai has more beaches, rivers, streams, and waterfalls than any of the other Hawaiian islands. There is so much beauty here.
Thursday night we headed north for dinner but first stopped to see the Kilauea Lighthouse. Walking up to it you say "wow" about ten times, louder each time, the closer you get to the lookout point.
This is what the drive away from the lighthouse looked like.
We had to eat at the St. Regis Hotel because everyone said it was a site to see. Here was our view at dinner on the terrace.
Sunset dinner view...again I said over and over "this is the prettiest thing I've ever seen."
(These were all taken with my cell phone as I had forgotten my good camera.)
Friday morning, Jes and I ventured onto a 6-man speedboat tour for 5 hours up the Napali Coast. The company we used was the Na Pali Experience and we highly recommend them! The entire way up the coast, there was a rainbow to our backs.
It took about an hour to get around the military base. But when we did, this was our first view at sunrise.
And then this...
Majestic and mystical all at the same time. I then started to understand the Hawaiian belief in the spirits and gods. This place was other-worldly.
And then as if the view weren't enough, we were joined by hundreds of frolicking dolphins.
Then came the caves.
Had we opted to take a calmer ride in a larger catamaran boat, we would not have been able to actually go into the caves.
In fact, the waves were so large by the caves that the first speedboat only got to the entrance and then came back out. Our amazing captain maneuvered backwards all the way into this amazing place.
On the way back up the coast we stopped to swim a couple of times in the turquoise water.
(These are the fish who joined us as we swam.)
(Below is a picture taken with my cell phone without any editing. That is how blue the water was.)
After the tour, we decided to head up to Waimea Canyon. Upon arrival, we had to check out this local produce stand.
At the lookout of the canyon, there was an eerie silence as all of the tourists just stood and watched. We stood higher than the clouds as they slowly blew across the canyon making the only sound up there that of a humming breeze.
The drive down from the canyon was just as jaw-dropping.
That night, we went to a luau. It was the Smith Family's Garden Luau which has been around for 50 years.
We just couldn't believe this tree was real!
(By the way roosters were EVERYWHERE on this island.)
Saturday morning we woke up excited to do our kayaking tour. Unfortunately, the rain from the night before caused flooding in the river and it was cancelled. Instead, we rented some snorkel gear and headed back up the coast towards Hanalei Bay. We stopped a couple of times for some more photos of the scenery.
We passed Hanalei and got to the snorkel spot called Tunnel Beach. But first we had to go inside this dry cave, called Manihiholo. Be sure to notice the lady walking in so you can understand the proportion here.
After the cave, we snorkeled. Here is Tunnel Beach (taken with an underwater camera).
And here are some of the best shots we got with the $15 underwater camera.
It was a great way to end the trip!
Going to Kauai, I thought to myself, we need to fit everything in since I may never come back. On the last day, I wasn't worried about missing the kayak tour since I am hopeful we will return again and again. Truly, it was a little Heaven on Earth.