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Kauai: Part Two

October 29, 2015

We were greeted at the North Shore by jagged, verdurous peaks not all unlike those we saw on the East, but I was still mesmerized. I half-expected to be used to the fairytale landscapes and wonder of it all after several days of travel, but as you might expect, a place that looks like FernGully, Jurassic Park, Pandora, and wherever the fairies dance during the nutcracker suite in Fantasia is endlessly surprising.

When we arrived at the resort, we rid ourselves of our belongings and headed straight outdoors. I shook out my road-weary bones as we walked in the grass, seeing what there was to see. Soon we found ourselves perched atop an overlook of the ocean when the winds picked up, and I wrestled to simultaneously keep my hair out of my face and my dress down as I snapped a photo, before ducking into the shelter of a cabana where I fell asleep, curled up on an enormous wicker chair, to the sound of rustling curtains.

I was out for about a half hour, and fought consciousness for several minutes after I awoke before I reluctantly opened my eyes with one thing on my mind: Lava Flows — again — and maybe some food. This same scenario played out in various iterations basically every day, sometimes with “food” being more specifically replaced with “brunch,” or done away with altogether in favor of even more delicious delights, like “waterfall views.” The Lava Flows, of course, remained a constant.

Either way, we had our cake and ate it, too.

Other afternoons were spent exploring, taking in the views, getting caught in rain storms wearing all cotton, or doing all three.

But the very best afternoon was spent on a catamaran off of the Na Pali coast, ducking in and out of sea caves, and getting dunked under waterfalls.

At least that is what we did in between drinking in a kaleidoscope of color on the open ocean, and swooning over the sprawling vistas of magnificent cliffs and valleys laid out before us.

I’ll never forget it.

We made a fast, and extremely wet trip back around the coast to Hanalei, and disembarked the boat covered in salt, with sunburn on our necks and noses, smiles on our faces, and full hearts. But our Kauaian adventure wasn’t over yet. There was still the business of drinking more lava flows, making time for actual relaxation, then driving back around the island, and up the mountain to the Waimea Canyon. And at an average speed of 22.8 miles per hour, we did just that. The views from the lookout? Oh, you know, ho-hum…

I’ll never forget that either.

In fact, I’ll never forget any of it.


Kauai: Part One

October 14, 2015

Our plane landed in the hazy heat of the evening. A live band was playing Hawaiian music in the airport on a make-shift stage, and we encountered no less than six signs pointing the wrong direction for baggage claim/shuttle transport/car rentals. Alex and I had been on the Island of Kauai for maybe 30 minutes, only five of which had actually been spent outside of the confines of a plane, and this trip was already amounting to be nothing like what I expected. For six months, and up until that very moment, I was imagining myself bursting through the doors of the airport and into the sunshine, bee-lining to the beach on a perfect 80 degree afternoon, getting lots of rest when I wasn’t on said beach, and drinking Lava Flows amongst the backdrop of verdant green mountains. And that was only the itinerary for the first 12 hours. Reality, instead, was live bands, crazy signs, bursting through the doors of the airport after sunset, and bee-lining to a bench where we’d wait for shuttle to take us to a car rental agency. From the agency, we’d drive 50 mph in the dark, on mostly unlit two-way streets, and get lost three times on the way to a hotel where I would promptly fall asleep at 9 PM without consuming a single drop of anything fruity and alcoholic, or so much as seeing a beach.

By morning, however, I was on the way to redemption. We got up nice and early to start our exploration of Kauai by saying a temporary goodbye to East Side to head South. Several miles, many switchbacks, and a tunnel of trees eventually revealed to us the town of Poipu. It was there that we found our Airbnb on a quiet suburban street, a short, beautiful walk from a resort and several noteworthy locales of the South Shore, of which we promptly took advantage.

This path set the course for our quest to avenge the prior day’s lava flow that never was, and we sidestepped chickens, and talked about things like Hawaiian school districts and HOA fees along the way.  We finally found a relatively quiet bar, ordered two Lava Flows to the astonishment of an employee who momentarily boosted my ego by being convinced that we were both under 21,  and officially commenced our vacation.

Drunk on relaxation (way) more than the glorified ice cream that is the lava flow, we found our way back to the path, and followed it down to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. It was a process we repeated often: walk the path, go somewhere pretty, go somewhere with food and drinks, go back to the Airbnb to relax — and it was everything we needed.

Full on enough relaxation to last us the week, we loaded up our rented black Camaro, and left Poipu in search of the even greener pastures of the North. The only thing that stood between us was the winding road across the East Shore, and the siren song of it’s mountains, rivers, and waterfalls which successfully lulled us from our final destination and deep into a lush, emerald paradise.

By the time we made it to Wailua, I thought we were somewhere in FernGully. It turns out that we were only at an overlook at the side of a quiet highway, but soon found if we traveled down the mountain and up the Wailua River, we’d end up somewhere just like it. So, we snaked our way down into the valley, and over to a marina where we boarded a boat just as the sky grew heavy and grey.

Seveal miles later we were greeted at a dock with the promise of eden, and a short uphill trail walk delivered just that:

Fern Grotto, known as the most romantic spot in Kauai. It was magical. The dreaminess was enhanced by performers singing the Hawaiian wedding song, and I was completely swept away by the beauty of it all. I practically floated my way back down the trail to the boat, and was lost in a haze of my own thoughts and beautiful views on the way back down the river.

Further up the highway, the North Shore still beckoned.

Each curve of the road revealed to us landscapes and greenery straight out of Jurassic Park, and it was hard to imagine anything more enchanting.

But we were just getting started.