Kauai – Hawaii’s Garden Island

After our amazing time on Maui and Big Island we were absolutely looking forward to Kauai. Especially because we heard so much good about it. That is also why we planned 8 days for this small island. The first four nights we were about to stay in one of the two hostels on the island and the second four nights we could stay at a couchsurfer’s place.

The first day was a lazy day for us. We strolled through the little town of Kapaa where our hostel was located, had some good talks to people we met at the hostel and went to Bubba Burgers right next door for dinner. We found this burger chain only on Kauai and thought it offered good burgers and fries – much better than McDonald’s or Jack in the Box but in the same price range.

 

Kalalau Trail

The next day we headed north to explore this part of the island. Sam and Justin who we met at the hostel the day before chipped along as they weren‘t able anymore to get a rental car at their arrival. The first thing we noticed while driving on Kauai‘s coast were the many beautiful beaches that we kind of missed on the Big Island. We stopped at a viewing point right before Hanalei and were stunned about the view over Hanalei Bay.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

We continued our drive along taro fields, crossed a river where some people were stand up paddling and after another 10 minutes drive finally reached the end of the northern road where the famous trek on the Napali coast starts. So we decided to do part of the trail. It was already about 10am by then so we couldn‘t have done a long trail and we also weren‘t equipped for it. So, together with Sam and Justin we just took a 2 miles hike to the 1st beach along the trail.It was raining the day before and during the night so everything was wet and the trail turned out to be extremely muddy. On this slippy terrain, it took us a while to do the 2 miles and reach the beach but still, the views were absolutely amazing and the trail totally worth it.

These two miles are also the first bit of the Kalalau trail (about 11 miles one way) which leads to a further beach in the middle of the Napali coast. To do this trail you have to camp on the beach for at least one night. as we didn’t bring our tent, that was not possible for us. But after this beautiful first part of the hike, we decided to do more of the trail another day. In the end, we did the 13miles/22km hike to the Habakkuk waterfall and back. This time we had just the perfect weather for the trail. There weren‘t any major rainfalls for the past few days, so most of the trail was absolutely dry. if we hadn‘t seen how muddy the exact same path can get with a little rain, we probably wouldn‘t have believed it. This hike to the waterfall is one of the most beautiful hikes we ever did. After the first two miles, the path gets quite narrow and it is a constant up and down. We highly recommend to look for a walking stick at the beginning of the trail and bring it with you. This was a great help for us when climbing over rocks or when crossing rivers (even though they weren‘t high at the time we were there). Some people say that this trail can only be done with actual hiking sticks, but we think the one wooden stick does the trick easily. However, it is really important to watch the river streams and only cross them when the water level isn’t too high. At many places, there is a risk of flash floods, which means that the water level can raise within minutes. As it was absolutely dry at the time we were on the trail, we could cross the rivers easily by hopping from one stone to the other. On the trail, we already assumed thought that this would mean less water in the waterfall as well. and we were right about that. But still, the area around the waterfall was so beautiful and did feel like from another planet. This spot actually resembled Jurassic Park and it was an easy thing to imagine dinosaurs at the cliffs and between the grassland. After a break at the waterfall, we started our hike back. It was quite far for us, but in the end, we made it back by around 4.30pm (we started at 8am). we rewarded ourselves with a nice swim on the beach right next to the starting point of the trail.

 

Kekaha Beach Park and Polihale State Park

Another rainy day on this beautiful green island started. We read in our guidebook (Kauai revealed – by the way: we found these guidebooks really helpful and definitely recommend them) that the weather on the southern part of the island is supposed to be better in winter. So, we decided to head off to explore Kauai’s southern part. We did take the coastline road whenever we could and got a first idea of the area but didn‘t stop much as the rainy weather was chasing us. It wasn’t until we reached the west coast that we were sure that the nice weather would stay. But there we were treated to an absolutely amazing and huge sand beach. The best thing: It was almost empty and the waves weren‘t too high to swim in. Of course, we took the chance and spent a little time at this spot. After a while watching the ocean, we even saw some whales jumping in the distance. What else can you wish for? It was already late in the afternoon and we wanted to explore the last bit of the Westchester that is accessible by car as well. So we packed our things and drove off, only to find an even more beautiful and secluded beach at Polihale State Park.

Polihale State Park

Polihale State Park

The first bit of the park is a paved road, but after a while, there are only two dirt roads leading further. We took the one in direction coast. At first, we weren’t quite sure if our car would manage the street as we came by a few Jeeps that were actually covered in dirt and could only see through the cleaned front part of their window. But after a bit, we realized that they had just a lot of fun with the mud along the way. So it technically would have been possible to avoid some of the dirt. Anyhow, we had fun on this road too and reached this beautiful beach with its dunes and the so-called Queens pond where we had a nice dip. A lot of the locals actually drove down to the beach with their car, pulled up a tent and had a barbecue – how fun would that be?!

 

Waimea Canyon and Awa‘awapuhi Trail

Wow! Waimea Canyon is absolutely stunning! Just standing there and taking in the view of these mountains with their red, green and yellow color has already been an amazing start to the day!

Waimea Cannyon

Waimea Canyon

For this trip, Warron, who we met at the hostel joined us. It was his last day on the island and he still had enough time to do a small trip before his flight left. We stopped at several lookouts to enjoy the view over the canyon, waterfalls, and rivers until we reached the parking spot of Awa’awapuhi Trail we wanted to take. It is a 3.5-mile hike to the cliffs and goes the same trail back again. On this trail we found some muddy spots too and cleaning our shoes the day before was just absolute nonsense. I guess this mud just belongs to Kauai. Most of the trail was easy to walk through. We were walking there and after a while, every one of us secretly thought that we picked a boring trail that didn’t give us much of a view. We kept on walking anyhow and at the very end of the trail, our beautiful reward appeared: the view over the western part of the Napali coast! Absolutely amazing!

Awaawapuhi Trail

Awaawapuhi Trail

The only disturbance was the many helicopters flying by at certain times. In fact, we were thinking about doing a helicopter ride too, but after this trail where we were actually standing on the Napali Coast and get a very good view of the coastline, we felt like we couldn’t add much more value to our trip with a helicopter ride worth $250 – $300 each. After we took our time taking in this view, we returned to our car to get back to the hostel. After a while, we realized that there wasn‘t as much time until Warron‘s flight departed as we thought. When we arrived at the hostel there were only 50 minutes left until his flight departed and 20 minutes until the baggage drop-off closed. So Warron quickly got all his stuff at the hostel, jumped back in the car and we drove off to the airport. When we arrived at the baggage drop off we had only 5 minutes left, but with some assistance we made it and Warron caught his flight. It was only four days later when we had to catch a flight ourselves when I was extremely grateful that I already knew how small this airport was and how everything worked. Our flight from Kauai to O’ahu left at 6:20am. We had to get up really early to get there in time and to fill up our tank before we dropped off our car. So we got up, got ready and drove off. When we were in the car we looked at the clock and it was 5:10am! We agreed on bringing back the car at 5.00am. We realized that we set our alarm clock one hour too late and that we were an hour late. So, we had to rush to the airport again. We skipped filling up gas to save time (we had to pay a whole extra tank, even though ours was still half full!), Tobi dropped me off with the luggage and brought back the car. I had 15 minutes left to drop off the car. Pha, peanuts! So we caught our flight too and even gained an extra hour of sleep (and lost some money for the extra tank…).

 

Our first Couchsurfing experience

After our stay at the hostel, we were really looking forward to our first Couchsurfing experience at Gordon’s place. Now we can also tell that it was one of the best experiences we had in Hawaii. Gordon and his wife Yoli welcomed us warmly into their home and made us part of their daily life. They invited us to have dinner together whenever we wanted. The first night was New Year’s Eve. So, we went to Poipu Beach to see the firework at the beach (Gordon’s recommendation of course). When we arrived there, we felt like this is the place to be for this night. There were some food trucks and an open-air movie was offered as soon as it was dark. We stayed for the movie and enjoyed being in the middle of families with young kids and watching the event. As the movie had finished (it was about 8.30 pm) the fireworks started already. Standing under palm trees with the ocean as a background we enjoyed the New Year’s firework in Kauai. Much to our surprise, everyone started to pack their things as soon as the firework was over and people were about to leave! At 10 pm there was hardly anybody left at the before crowded Poipu Beach Park. That was quite odd to us. But now we know, that Kauai is just a very laid back island and not the place for parties (doesn’t have to be either). We still had a really nice evening and last day of 2017. The first night of the new year and our second one at Gordon’s we were invited to join Gordon and Yoli for dinner with their friends who were invited over. As everyone brought a dish to this dinner we prepared something too. We cooked a “Bündner Gerstensuppe” and a Swiss Apple Tart for dessert. When all the guests arrived it soon became clear that we had way too much food (what else would you have expected?). One family brought an amazing cioppino soup with lots of different seafood in there. We had spent a great evening that night and appreciated it a lot that could be part of it.

 

Hanalei Bay and Queen’s Bath

Apart from the Kalalau trail, we haven’t had the chance so far to explore the north coast. So that’s what we did on our last day on Kauai. Hanalei Bay is at Kauai’s North Shore and has some pretty big waves during winter time. That meant for us there were some pretty good surfers we could watch. We sat on the beach, had a little Poke for lunch (You like Sushi? You will have a new favorite when you try Poke!) and watched how the surfers mastered the waves.

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay

After lunch, we headed east of Hanalei to another secluded beach. To get there you either need to be guest of an expensive resort or you walk about 10 minutes through a private park (open for pedestrians) full of mango trees. Yes, you guessed right. We did pick some mangos there! Probably the smallest ones I have ever seen, but still tasty. We had them at the beach and headed back after a bit to see Queen’s bath. This was actually this day’s highlight. As the waves were pretty high that day it was absolutely impressive to see how Queen’s bath got filled with water, emptied again and got washed over after that, just to be emptied again. Just don’t stand too close to the cliff! Every now and then there is an extra high wave that crashes onto the shore unexpectedly.

 

We left Kauai after these 8 days packed with new impressions and beautiful memories about the people we met, the landscape we marveled at and the food we discovered. Oh! By the way: The best Shave Ice (not: Shaved Ice) on the island is in Kapaa at Wailua Shave Ice They use only natural ingredients for their syrup. I had a mango Shave Ice and really did get to taste the real mango flavor.

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