Kauai – My Island Paradise


One of the most beautiful, yet least commercial, of Hawaii’s islands is the island of Kauai.  While at one time the sugar plantations were the biggest source of income on Kauai, now tourism is the largest industry.

by Christopher Michel via wikimedia commons

There’s so much history on Kauai – in 1778, British explorer Captain James Cook landed in Kauai’s Waimea Bay for the first time, calling his discovery the Sandwich Isles, named after the Earl of Sandwich. In 1835 the first sugar mill was opened in Old Koloa Town.

In 1837 in Hanalei Town, the Waioli Mission House and Waioli Huiia Church were established, bringing missionary life to the island. In 1864, the Grove Farm Homestead in Lihue was one of the earliest sugar plantations. The Kauai Museum, also in Lihue, is a great place to start learning about the island’s history. You can see Native Hawaiian artifacts, historical photos, and exhibits by the artists of Kauai.

Kauai is the oldest and northern-most of the Hawaiian Islands. Because of the lush greenery, mountains, waterfalls, and rain-forests, it’s known as the Garden Isle. And although Hawaii became a state in 1959, much of the magic and wonder instilled by dozens of movies and tv shows filmed here, still exists. It’s a part of the United States, but it’s different, too, and exotic, and – sort of foreign.

by Alejandro Barcenas via wikimedia commons

Our trip to Kauai came about as something of a spur on the moment trip. Most people do not decide to visit Hawaii on the spur on the moment I’m sure. Our trip began a number of years ago when my wife and I were both working in sales for a graphic arts company. Luckily for us, sales were going very well at the time.

We were at home one evening and my wife was reading our RCI magazine when she suddenly spoke out, informing me that there was a deal where we could trade our timeshare for a week in Hawaii no matter what sort of week we owned.

Since ours were less-expensive weeks, this was an especially good deal. I was not overly interested, since going to Hawaii had never been very high on my list of places to visit. However, it was probably in the top three places on my wife’s list.

Needless to say, we were soon booked for a trip to Hawaii. As it turned out, we were able to go for two weeks and made reservations at two different resorts. (After we got there, we discovered the resorts were actually across the street from each other.)

by Matt Wright via wikimedia commons

Before too much time had passed, we had booked a flight to Honolulu with another flight arranged from Honolulu to Kauai. Much to the amusement of our friends and co-workers, we took our two boys, ages 8 and almost-2. Much to the chagrin of a couple of young ladies on our flight from Atlanta, the toddler behaved much as you would expect on a ten-hour flight. I do not think the ladies appreciated our decision to take the boys with us.

With only a slight mishap concerning our luggage, which meant I had to return to the airport in Lihue (on the other side of the island from our condo) later in the evening to retrieve it, we were able to get settled into a great condo in Princeville. Princeville is on the North Shore of Kauai.

by Daderot via wikimedia commons

The airport in Lihue, by the way, was quite primitive when we visited. When I got back to get our luggage, it was sitting on an outside counter – no one was anywhere around. It’s much larger now, and more modern. Sort of a shame…

Much to my surprise and I am sure theirs, the first people I saw the next day at the pool were the young ladies from our flight from Atlanta. I, of course, explained to them it had been my wife’s idea to bring the boys.

About all I will say about our accommodations for the two weeks is that the first condo was great, with cross ventilation from front to back and the sort of landscaping one expects to find in Hawaii. It was a one-bedroom, however, and we opted for a two-bedroom for the second week.

The nicest thing I can say about the second one, other than it being just across the street and still in the gorgeous Princeville area, is that it was in Kauai. And it had a second bedroom. Basically, it was pretty much like the first apartment you ever rented, with very few amenities.

Nonetheless, we spent two wonderful weeks on my island paradise. I can truly say that a return trip to Kauai would list among my top three places I want to go.

by Christopher Michel via wikimedia commons

The island is small. Although there are several highways listed on the island, it really seems like one big road that goes three-quarters of the way around the island. The Na Pali Coastline, on the northwest side of the island, is accessible only by water or helicopter or on foot. No highway through that portion of the island. A permit is required to camp there, and some areas of the hike also require a permit. The rest of the shoreline, however, is quite accessible. There are beautiful beaches all along the roadway, and all you need to do is pick your spot, park and enjoy a day at the beach.

by Bealbrown via wikimedia commons

One spot you will definitely want to visit is the Hanalei Valley. Scenes for the movie South Pacific  were filmed here. The beach at Hanalei Bay has been listed as one of the top ten beaches in the world. And the view from the lookout is spectacular, with squares of taro fields, and mountains in the distance.

Kauai has one thing in common with my other favorite island – Kauai has chickens roaming wild. Much like the chickens of Key West, these birds are suspected to be descendants of the European cock-fighting breed and the chickens of the early Polynesian settlers.

Kauai is also the home of the Pacific Missile Range Facility. We didn’t really know much about that at the time. But by following directions in the Kauai Underground Guide, we managed to drive through a sugar cane field past some “Do Not Enter” signs to visit a beach either within or next to the facility. I’m sure it was Barking Sands Beach, and it appears that access is now restricted to military personnel or those with permission.

by Ewok_Slayer via wikimedia commons

In those days, however, we just wandered down this dirt road, and there it was – absolutely beautiful! One piece of advice, though – do not put your two-year-old on your shoulders and walk across the beach to the water. You will receive blistered feet for your experience.

My wife and oldest son went out on a dolphin cruise one evening while I stayed home with the little one. It was a catamaran, and they were able to lie on the net between the floats to watch the sea-life below. This was one experience I’m sure my wife will never forget.

All in all, we had a wonderful two weeks on the island of Kauai. And while we didn’t actually experience the more adventuresome activities available, there were a surprising number of things to do and see. We visited small towns and drove along highways with views you could never get anywhere else.

Our kids dug for treasure and built pirate ships with driftwood found on beaches where we were the only people around. We visited a farmers’ market where we bought fresh leis and yummy fruits and vegetables. We wandered through a (probably fake) traditional village and saw how salt was harvested from the sea.

Since our trip in the late ’80s, much has changed on the island. Hurricane Iniki caused over a billion dollars of damage in 1992 and killed six people. After the hurricane, more resorts were built and commercialism increased, but it is still the least developed of the Hawaiian Islands.

by Christopher Michel via wikimedia commons

While we didn’t partake while we were there, you should definitely take one of the helicopter rides over Kauai if you get the chance. You will see some beautiful scenery that you would definitely miss if you stayed on the ground, especially in the Na Pali region.

And there’s much more to see too – Waimea Canyon State Park, the largest canyon in the Pacific; Spouting Horn; hundreds of breathtaking waterfalls; beautiful gardens; numerous helicopter, kayak, ATV, horseback and just about any other kind of tour – even a movie tour, taking you to places where more than 70 movies and tv shows have been filmed. And there are even ziplines now…

But I’m sure there are still out-of-the-way beaches and quiet getaways as well.

If you get a chance to visit this island, I hope you will. I know most tourists visit the other larger islands when they go to Hawaii, but even if you take a puddle jumper to spend a day, it will be well worth your time.

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