This year we finally visited Kauai… Wow !
After much reading, we chose to stay along the North Shore and to visit in July. The North Shore town of Haena sounded perfect to us and the books we read all said it rained considerably in the winter so we chose July and rented a small cottage about a five minute walk to Haena Point.
One of the few life guarded beaches on the North shore, Haena beach park apparently offers good swimming when the ocean is calm. That was never the case while we were visiting… the waves were steady and a lot of fun for me but not so much fun for Yim, who is not as comfortable in the water as I am but I had a ball walking straight in to five and six foot waves and having them hurl me up on the beach and body surfing on a small boogie board.
The beach break can often be temperamental, and many tourists find themselves walking 15 minutes up the beach to the section know as Tunnels, an area offering excellent snorkeling.
Tunnels Beach, located on Haena Point on Kauai's north shore, is a postcard-perfect, two-mile (3.2 km) stretch of golden sand fringed with ironwood trees and tropical palms. Tunnels Beach is one of the north shore’s most popular beaches.
One of the main attractions is the large reef offshore. The beach is unique for having an inner and an outer reef. About an eighth of a mile offshore is a half-moon shaped reef. Within this, lies the inner reef. This area is ideal for families with kids and novice snorkelers, while advanced divers and snorkelers can enjoy and explore the outer reef, which has lava tubes, arches and coral formations. Apparently, during the winter months or times of high surf, the water conditions are hazardous at Tunnels Beach and swimming and snorkeling are very dangerous, but since we visited in July, conditions were very calm and enjoyable.
The journey further along the north shore of Kauai ends at one of the most popular beaches on Kaua‘i - Ke‘e Beach. The beach marks the end of Highway 560 and the portion of Kaua‘i that can be seen by car. More than likely, the beach should be renamed ‘Beach of Extremely Rare Parking Spots’… We visited a couple of times but were not impressed. There were too many people and too many of the irritating roosters and chickens that populate the island everywhere you go, but K’ee Beach was particularly annoying, so we visited once then came back to watch the sunset you see above and concentrated on the less popular spots which dot the entire island.
One of the most striking aspects of this beach is its breathtaking view of the Na Pali Coast, which begins here. When you are facing the ocean, Na Pali can be glimpsed to your left. The best time for photographs is early morning (on a clear day) or right at sunset.
From here on in, the rest of north Kaua‘i is occupied by the Na Pali Coast, a series of rugged seaside cliffs stretching along the northwest shore that is not navigable by vehicle.
At the far end of the beach on the Na Pali side is a trail that winds through the jungle to an ancient Hawaiian heiau (temple), Ka-ulu-Paoa Heiau. This heiau has been used as a hula school for over 1,000 years.
The famous Kalalau Trail also begins at Ke‘e Beach. We decided that we were on vacation and strenuous hiking was not really on our wish list and after hearing just how strenuous the hike was, we were glad we chose to concentrate on beaches instead of jungle hiking.
Waimea Canyon is the largest canyon in the Pacific and very beautiful to drive through and stop at the numerous vantage points along the way. The canyon measures 10 miles long, 1 mile wide, and more than 3,500-feet deep. It was carved thousands of years ago by rivers and floods that flowed from Mount Waialeale's summit. The lines in the canyon walls depict different volcanic eruptions and lava flows that have occurred over the centuries.
There are numerous lookouts and hikes along the drive which offer terrific views of every aspect of this natural wonder. The canyon is protected by the Koke'e State Park, which encompasses 4,345 acres of land and has 45 miles of trails that run through the canyon and the nearby Alakai Swamp.
We did not visit the swamp as signs were telling us that if it has been raining, mud can get thigh high... no thanks.
The elevation makes the air 10-15 degrees cooler than in the valley and by afternoon many areas are often shrouded in clouds, but we discovered that those clouds also move quite quickly and if you visit and it is cloudy, make sure you wait an hour. We drove back down to the small museum a half mile down the road and waited… the sun came out and we raced back to get some of the most fantastic photos we have ever taken at one of the most beautiful spots we have ever seen.
Then we took a Helicopter Tour of the Na’Pali Coast and across the island, which was one of the most fantastic experiences we have ever had.
We lifted off from the Port Allen airport and headed over towards the Waimea Canyon and weaved our way through the mountains then out along the coast for an exciting and extremely pleasant narrated flight, culmination in a drop down into the mouth of the central volcanoe, where we were surrounded by cascading waterfalls dropping thousands of feet from the top of the mountains into the core of the volcano. Fabulous. This is a trip not to be missed if you are ever visiting Kauai. We recommend Inter Island Helicopter Tours as they are headquartered closest to the coastline, which means more time sightseeing and less time flying over populated areas.
There is so much to do that I can hardly begin to write a one page article on Kauai, so visit our Blog regularly for further updates.
There are Islands and places
on Islands and then there is
the north shore of Kauai.
Nestled at the foot of the
the towns of
Ha’ena are hard
to describe and
easy to love...
and then there
are the beaches...