Getting Engaged in Kauai
I’m currently transitioning from my job in Longmont, CO to a new job as an IT Specialist in Fort Collins, CO. I asked my future employer for additional time off between jobs which I was fortunate to get. My girlfriend and I have been wanting to go someplace warm and tropical, visit my family out east and I had my own surprise agenda.
Chelsey is an ICU nurse and was able to move her schedule around enough that we could spend 10 days traveling abroad and another 4 days visiting family! Since my passport was expiring within the 6 month window that most countries require, that eliminated most foreign travel (When you need more than an unexpired passport). So we took a look at the top tropical destinations to visit without a passport: US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida Keys, Guam and Hawaii.
Using tripmasters.com we were able to setup the following itinerary: Denver > San Fransisco > Kauai > Maui > San Fransisco > Den. This included 4.5 days in Kauai and 4.5 days in Maui with lodging, car rental and transfers. I swear by this site now because you can fly into one location, move around the country and fly out of another location.
Day 1 Wed – Waking up at 2:30 am to catch a 6:00 am flight to SFO gave us plenty of time. We brought our own travel cups, forks and gluten free cereal; We were able to get milk on the plain which made for a nice celiac friendly breakfast. With time change we arrived at the car rental office by noon island time. We had opted for the economy mobile to cut cost and the craziest thing happened when we were loading our luggage into the Hyundai. A Nissan 350z pulled up in the spot next to us and the staff told us that we could take it! Now we could barely fit our luggage in this but we only needed to take it 45 miles to hotel. We took our time getting up to Princeville where we were staying and stopped at the Fishstation Express for poke and shrimp. Poke is just fresh raw fish, usually Ahi, Ono, Mahi Mahi, and we will be eating it everyday. Our hotel was more like a condo with a full kitchen and living room. This was great to store fresh produce and fish from the farmers market!
Day 2 Thur – This is the day. The day I have been planning my surprise for. We have a Zodiac boat tour taking us up the west coast of Kauai to the northern Na Pali Coast (Where the opening scene of Jurassic Park was filmed). We wake up at 5:00 am and I start making breakfast. Chelsey is starting to dig around in my backpack to make room for the camelbak reservoir when I snap and tell her that I will pack my own bag. On top of this I guess I was very quite on the drive to Port Allen where we would board the boat and when I was a bit shaky when I was signing the waiver. I just remember rehearsing the plan in my mind. Jake is our first mate today and sends us over to the captain for the saftey speech. It’s at this moment that I run back to the van where Jake was and tell him that I’m going to propose to my girlfriend on the trip and I want him to record it. That’s it, that’s my plan. I have no idea where it’s going to go from here. Luckily everything played out as it should. We saw spinner dolphins and sea turtles, beaches and waterfalls and of course the Waimea Canyon of Na Pali Coast. Jake asks if anyone wants to do a group photo. That’s my queue. While the captain tells the legend of how the demi-gods came to earth and turned into the stone that makes the stunning backdrop behind us I’m setting the camera to record, handing it to Jake and digging through my drybag for the surprise.
The rest of the day was all smiles. We got Acai bowls from G’s Juice, these are basically organic gourmet version of Inta Juice and worth a visit, and took these up to the top of Waimea canyon in the Z. That evening we went to Wai Pu beach to watch the sunset where we ran into two of the families that on the boat with us! They congratulated us again and told us that we made their trip. Queue amazing sunset.
Day 3 Fri – We had heard about some special destinations from our waitress the night before. One of them is known as the Blue Room. Picture hiking up a steep jungle mountain to a cave, the entrance surrounded by palms, vines and ferns. This is actually an old lava tube and it is filled with crisp cold water. About 100′ below there’s a small sandy ledge to leave your cloths and towel at. The story of the Blue Room goes that if you follow the tunnel to the right to where the water and the cave ceiling meet you can dive under and follow it to where the cave opens up again. In theory, if it’s the right time of year and sun is shining down into the cave entrance, hitting the water below just right, it refracts into the opening on the other side where the tunnel opens up again. This illuminates the mystic Blue Room. We arrived at the same time as a group who had tried the day before and couldn’t find it. They had floaty noodles, dive lights and glow sticks. At this point we did not know that the room is only blue when light is hitting the water from the entrance (maybe there was an opening on the other side allowing light in? nope). We followed the group into the dark cold water reaching a point where you had to look strait up to keep your mouth above the water. We decided at this point to hang out in the open while the prepared ones searched. They never found it. So the Blue Room is still a mystery to us, and it sounds like it wouldn’t have been blue had we found it that day. Still this was a pretty special adventure, and just up the road is Ke’e beach. There is great snorkeling, trees for hammocks and of course… chickens!
Day 4 Sat – This morning we went to The Dolphin Fish Market (the fish market is behind the sushi restaurant of the same name). Get here before noon to get the best selection. We got ahi, langoustine and tako poke as well as a spider roll. Pro tip, get a cooler at the beginning of your trip to transport your poke and beverages to the beach. The best beaches are a bit of a haul from the main road. Another destination we had heard about from our waitress the other night was Secret Beach. It seems like empty beaches, or mountains for that matter, are so hard to come by these days. If you are lucky and come at the right time, and are willing to travel a little further than the next person you can still find them. It’s not a great snorkeling beach and maybe not even a great surfing beach but it’s pristine and we spent the whole day here rolling with the waves. On the way back to our villa we stopped at the trail head to Queen’s Bath in Princeville. Parking is extremely limited here, very early or very late seemed to be the most promising times to visit. Be careful if you come during high tide as waves will crash into the pool and could drag you across the rocks. The hike is steep and always slippery, careful which vines you reach for when you slip as some are dead and others are spiky. The short hike is totally worth it. When you get to the bottom of the small river head left past the first “bath”. Continue a 100′ or so where you fill find the unmistakable Queen’s bath.
Day 5 Sun -We had a leisure morning and drove the Z back to the Lihue Airport and took a short 45 minute flight to Maui. I always ask the locals at the airport or the car rental company for dining/hiking recommendations. Da’ Kitchen had been recommended by more than one local but it was closed so we took a chance and stopped at the Kahili Golf Course Restaraunt. I had the best Mahi Mahi fish and chips ever! We had a late check in at the Royal Lahaina resort and had passed a craft fair driving along the beach and decided to kill a few hours there. There were the typical “hand crafted” mass produced imported souvenirs but there were also some truly talented locals selling their craft. We purchased pounds of fresh fruit and large clam shells that had been fired and glazed as gifts for our folks. That evening we went snorkeling at black rock down the coast from our room. Everything below us was moving in concert with the waves and tide. Then we saw a family of turtles, practically soaring along the rocks with the tide, extending their heads to pick pieces of algae off the rocks as they flew by. We spend about 20 minutes just enjoying their company. That night we walked Front Street and found a pricey place that served gluten free pizza. Having tried several GF crust this one was one of the best and the toppings are very fitting, lobster and cheese, ahi tuna sausage and fennel. Gourmet! Honu Seafood and Pizza followed by a Maui Sunset (and Maui Mai Thai’s).
Day 6 Mon – Today was a mission day! Find where the locals eat and drive to Hana for the 7 sacred pools. Our authentic food find ended up being Poi By the Pound. Poi is a traditional Polynesian dish, made from the root of the toro plant, with what I’m told is an acquired taste (I never acquired it). However, everything else was amazing. We loaded up our cooler that we purchased from the Walmart by the airport and headed out for Hana. The drive to Hana is gorgeous, winding and slow at times due to the number of blind corners, lack of shoulders and single lane stretches. You will pass many little villages with fruit and BBQ stands, hidden turn offs for quite black sand beaches and about 12000 water falls where tourist have lined the narrow road. We stopped at one beach to eat our delicious food and then continued to Haleakalā National Park, home of the 7 sacred pools. We skipped most of the pull offs so we would have time to explore the park. Unfortunately or fortunately, the pools were closed to to high water volumes from the past week of rain. We decided to hike to Waimoku Falls and this was one of my favorite parts of the trip. About half way up you will pass all of the pools and enter the bamboo forest. It is surreal. Just as the bamboo forest ends you will hear water crashing from 400 feet up. The mist and wind generated by the falls is powerful and amazing. Bring bug spray, hiking boots or chacos (it gets wet, muddy and slick), rain jackets and head lamps. On the way down the rain came. For the last hour the trail was flowing beneath our feet and the sun had set but we were well prepared. It’s a long drive from Lahaina to Hana and long drive home, so be prepared, don’t stop at every pull off, and give yourself as much time as you can to explore.
Day 7 Tue – This was our second “guided” adventure. We scheduled another snorkeling tour, this time of Molokini and Turtle Beach. During World War II the US used the small half crater island of Molokini as a shooting range because it roughly resembled a battleship. Now it is protected and house some of the best snorkeling/diving in the island chain due to the variety of marine life and the truly clear water. Chelsey and I both took turns free diving to get close to the creatures beneath. After a good hour of this we climbed back on the ship and when I pulled of my mask blood gushed down my chest. I hadn’t equalized the pressure at all and had a terrible bloody nose. So, after the fact, I learned and would like to share these tips for freediving. The tour we were on explained that the amount of sunscreen entering the Hawaiian coastal waters was building up on coral below and causing some of it to die as coral gets energy from the sun. They recommend wet suits for sun protection and warmth. We opted to keep working on our tans but will definitely consider this for future trips. At Turtle Beach we found sharks! No, just kidding, more turtles. We also were introduced to the various types of sea urchins. Mainly the colorful Pencil Urchin and the shy Collector Urchin which picks up and covers itself with debris as it walks across the sea floor (they’re only fooling themselves, I see you spikey ball). Upon another recommendation for dinner we ate at Miso Phat. A very expensive and wonderful sushi restaurant. One cost saving tip is you can buy your own booze next door and they will open it for you at the restaurant free of charge.
Day 8 Wed – Today was a much needed day of relaxing and poke. We filled the cooler again with drinks and poke from Tamuras. A poke/liquor store! Our good friends Mark, Michelle and Alia were watching our new kitten and we wanted to bring them back Maui coffee. There is a small friendly shop in Lahiana called MauiGrown that will let you sample coffee until you are shaking. After shopping for thank you consumables we spent the entire day snorkeling at Napili and Kahekili beach knowing our trip was reaching the end. We sat on the beach eating like Polynesians queen and king. I would catch Chelsey staring at her ring as it sparkled and she smiled. We ate a little poke and snorkeled a little bit and repeated.
Day 9 Thur – The flight doesn’t leave until 9:00pm Island Time and we are not wasting a minute of it. I had reserved a Honda Shadow from Eagle Rider in Lahaina The staff was not happy, at least not as happy as I would picture anyone working and living in Hawaii. The service was good enough though and we fired up the bike. We originally planned on riding to the top of the Haleakala volcano but we would be cutting it really close. Instead we decided to check out a few points we had found on Pinterest along the north shore. Our first a major stop was heart rock, most people stop at this point for the blow hole, which is really fun to watch and shoots water like a geyser every other wave. But being the newly engaged too cute couple that we are we went strait to the photo op! The couple taking our picture literately “awwwwed” at our picture. The rest of the road around the north east shore is much like the road to Hana with less traffic. I highly recommend this for experienced riders, and take it slow, honk around blind corners and enjoy the ride (that’s the destination). We stopped during a brief rain storm at a house selling coconuts and random pre-owned jewelry. All this riding made me hungry for shrimp truck shrimp. There’s a famous one “somewhere along the Kahului Beach Rd”. It’s parked along the harbor, we found it roughly here. After dropping off the bike with the friendly’s at Eagle Rider we had to hit up Da Kitchen before the airport. I thought it was good, but I wasn’t blown away and that’s probably because I was full of shrimp so I will have to come back to give an accurate review.
Day 10 Fri – That’s it! We lose a day flying east back to Colorado. Chelsey goes back to work for 2 days, then we head to New York to visit my aunts, uncles, cousins and 102 year old grandfather!