Exploring the Waimea Canyon and Wailua River

While in Kauai, our adventures included hiking the Waimea Canyon and kayaking the Wailua River. Both were highlights of our trip and things I hope to do again.

100_9322 Thankfully I had done my research and knew about Waimea Canyon before leaving home. This is the reason I packed hiking boots for a Hawaiian vacation, causing some to laugh at me. The boots were a must.

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Our hike took us to the top of this waterfall. This photo was taken from an overlook.

100_9317Waimea Canyon is breathtakingly beautiful, with each roadside vistas more impressive than the last. Waimea Canyon State park is the largest canyon in the Pacific.

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The Kauai chickens are everywhere

Ten miles long and more than 3,500 feet deep, it is on the western side of the island and is only accessible from the 18 mile long Rt 550. The hiking is rugged. At times we questioned whether we had gone off trail; unlike many other state parks I have hiked, there are no guardrails.

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We started out journey at the boat launch

100_9578The geography of the Wailua River, on the east side of the island was completely different. We chose Wailua Kayak Adventures to guide us down the river and on a very muddy hike

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Yummy mangoes and chocolate to refuel
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We hiked through an ancient mango forest to get to the falls

through the rain forest to the Secret Falls, where we took a break and snacked on mangoes and chocolate! Our knowledgeable guide pointed out flowers and seeds and told us that the hibiscus100_9668 flower can forecast the weather. The flowers apparently bloom yellow and turn

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The 120-foot Secret Falls

red within 24 hours. If bad weather is approaching (also known as “big water”), the color changes much faster. A light rain started while we were heading back and the river had many red hibiscus blossoms floating.

 

Kauai’s Garden Paradise

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Evidence of Kauai’s volcanic heritage can be seen around the island. This is near Hanalei.

Kauai’s Garden Paradise in Hawaii is the only place I have visited that I could honestly say I could permanently relocate to. With a year round temperature of about 78 and terrain ranging from powdery sand beaches to mountains and cliffs, it the perfect environment for me. (If only it weren’t so far away from everywhere else!)

100_9764Known as the garden island, Kauai is also the rainiest place on earth, with an annual average of  350 to 400 inches measured at Mt. Wai’ale’ale. We happened to visit during the rainy season, in mid November, but this didn’t dampen my appreciation of all the natural wonder the island has to offer. Even though it rained every day we were there, it was not raining everywhere, and since the main road encircling the island can be traversed in under an hour,

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Chickens, as well as wild boar can be found on the island. They have no natural predators and can be seen all over. (The chickens that is, the boar are more elusive.)

it is easy to just go for a ride to find someplace sunny. We stayed in Lihue, which is fairly central, and over the course of a week traveled pretty much the entire island. (There is plenty more to see, hiking or boating farther inland, plus some areas accessible only via 4-wheel drive. We hope to do more exploring on a future trip.)

It would be impossible to detail everything to do (or even everything we did) in one post, so I will focus here on just a few places: Kilauea Point Lighthouse, Hanalei , Opaekaa Falls, and Hanapepe.

100_9500Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is well worth the admission fee and the 0.2 mile walk from the parking lot. The views are amazing, especially on the south side of the lighthouse, where a U shaped crater is all that remains of the 100_9511volcanic vent that formed this area

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This small island is home to many albatross which if you look closely can be seen nesting here.

15,000 years ago. (The banner photo on the main website page features this spot.) The area is home to a number of birds, including the Laysan Albatross, which nest on the refuge, and the Red Footed Booby as well as a number of native plant species (signs help

This Wedge-tailed Shearwater crept out to say hello

identify these). A number of young Wedge-tailed Shearwaters were roaming about, peeking from under the fence protecting them from visitors (there are many notices warning that the birds are protected, and that touching or harassing them is an offense). 100_9517The 1913 Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Lighthouse is the northernmost point of Kauai and is on the National Register of Historic Places; tours are offered on select days, pending staff availability.

 

We spent one afternoon wandering the shops in Kapaa Town and headed north, up the coast to Hanalei Town. We stopped to100_9774 take a look in one of the caves (didn’t see Puff the dragon) and continued on to where the road ends at the shoreline.

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inside the cave

Though we didn’t go explore it, there is a trail from here that goes along the Napali Coast. There is a bridge on the main road that frequently floods, cutting off access to the rest of the island. It was raining that day,

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The end of the road

so we didn’t want to take our chances and stay too long. We chose a restaurant for dinner and had one of many wonderful seafood dinners.

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They are serious about safety

Though people say that Hawaii is very expensive, it seems to me that if you eat food grown and harvested on the island, it is no more so than back home.

 

100_9695Also on the east side of the island is Opaekaa Falls, which can be viewed from the road, but can be accessed via a reasonable hike. Although we questioned whether we were still on the trail a couple times, as it went around several large boulders, we enjoyed the walk. 100_9707Nearby, overlooking the Wailua River, is Poli’ahu, where we explored the sacred temple ruins of100_9720 Hawaii’s past. I found the informational placards interesting and the environment as a whole was peaceful.

100_9557Another day we traveled southwest and found ourselves at the home of Lilo and Stitch, Hanapepe Town. The town is small but considered Kauai’s art

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The Hanapepe Swinging Bridge

capital, with more art galleries than any other place on the island. It was once a busy town and has been the “location” for films such as “The Thornbirds,” and “Flight of the Intruder” as well as the aforementioned Disney film. We picked up some gifts for family back home and made a trip across the famous Hanapepe Swinging Bridge.

There are many beaches with varying coarseness of sand. We tested out the water at Poipu Beach Park, and I sat watching the birds run into the surf, then back as it chased them up the beach. Not far from here, on Route 50 (which is the only main road on Kauai) we stopped at The Shrimp Station, a roadside stand, for what they advertised as “The Best Coconut Shrimp on the Planet.” After trying it, I would have to say I agree.100_9211

There is much more to see on Kauai and I will share more at a later date. I also hope to return and explore the Napali Coast, more of the beaches and maybe even try ziplining or go on a helicopter tour.