|Say "Aloha" to Kauai for a Perfect Family Getaway|
They say you can’t go home again, but can you go to Kaua‘i again? The answer is a resounding Yes! Dan and I went there 20 years ago on our honeymoon and now we have two teenagers!
While Kaua‘i had been little more than a backdrop for romance on our last visit, this time it was the star, front and center. Scenic and compact — you can be just about anywhere in 90 minutes or much less — Kaua‘i turned out to be one of the most rewarding vacations we have ever taken. Our non-stop teenagers set the pace, but we could see that the island’s attractions are equally friendly to those who prefer a more leisurely journey.
They say only about ten percent of the island is accessible by car, so, on our first full day, we boarded a helicopter for a “doors-off” overview of the island. What a thrill! In addition to non-stop green, we flew over waterfalls, craters, canyons, valleys and the steep ramparts and ocean-swept shoreline of the Na Pali coast. Fantastic!
With that birds-eye perspective we headed west the following day, dawdling along the coast between Poipu and Kekaha and up Waimea Canyon Drive into the state park. Nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon is every bit as colorful and dramatic as the mainland version. We picked up trail maps at the ranger’s station, spent several hours hiking along moderate trails and ate our picnic lunch at a breathtaking overlook as we tried to identify the birds we could hear.
The next day, we rented bikes and explored the south part of Kaua‘i, between Koloa and Poipu. We shopped and ate ice cream in the sleepy little sugar mill town of Koloa and followed the Koloa Heritage Trail to a botanical garden, an ancient volcanic cone, an early Hawaiian temple, fascinating sand dunes full of fossils and finally to Poipu Beach. We lazed on the beach, snorkeled (“Mom! Turtle!”), and stood entranced by the Spouting Horn, with its hissing, roaring blowhole, a glorious sunset in the background.
For our first trip to the north end of the island, we had booked an early tee time at the Princeville Makai Ocean golf course. The air was fragrant and light, the views amazing and the challenges…well, let’s just say that the green looked like a teacup awash in the surf a hundred feet below us.
After lunch we continued west along the north shore to Lumahai Beach and Haena Beach Park. Lumahai, better known as Nurses’ Beach in the musical “South Pacific,” is gorgeous, with world class people-watching and waves suited only to the most intrepid body boarders. Across the road from Haena is Maniniholo Dry Cave, an impressive gaping hole in the cliffside. Not far from there is the entrance to Haena State Park, Kee Beach and the Wet Caves — a pair of 4,000-year-old water-filled caverns. We ended the day with a short hike on the Kalalau Trail — the only land access to the Na Pali coast. While many hikers take two days to traverse the 11 miles of trail, camping in between, we decided to hike only as far as a spectacular lookout point.
In between our two north shore visits, we spent a day on the east side of Kaua‘i, the “Coconut Coast.” The day’s first highlight was getting serenaded by local musicians in the acoustic and visual beauty of the Fern Grotto. The second was taking a tubing tour through the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation. It was the perfect thing to do on a hot day — and great fun for the whole family.
Returning to the north shore, we stopped at the Kilauea Lighthouse, the very picturesque northernmost point of the Hawaiian Islands. Then it was on to our most thrilling adventure: zip lines! Strapped into a harness and given some official instructions, you’re on your way, zipping along a line that’s strung between two poles. Over streams, valleys, and jungle, the course had multiple lines with a little hiking in between, a daring walk across a suspension bridge and a refreshing swim by a waterfall. What fun!
The zip lines are a hard act to follow, but we managed to round out the day in the old surf town of Hanalei. We strolled through galleries, ate shave ice and collected a few treasures — mementos for ourselves and for friends back home.
Our trip to Kaua‘i will stoke our family scrapbooks and memories for a long time, packed with action, laughter, terrific food and plenty of hammock time to enjoy the tropical breezes.