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Kauai 2013

Exploring an island paradise

Last Sunday (November 3, 2013), I returned from a nine-day trip to the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The trip was awesome. Kauai is an amazing place with ideal weather, awe-inspiring scenery, chirping endemic birds, and impossibly lush foliage. The island offers endless recreational opportunities and a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.

And then there are the smells. Kauai smells! Sometimes it’s the pungent odor of fermenting fruit off to the side of a trail, but mostly it’s the sweet aroma of whatever tropical foliage happens to be prevalent where you are. I’ll never forget all of Kauai’s smells.

We kept ourselves busy. I didn’t see the beach in front of our hotel (Kalapaki Beach) during the daytime until the fourth day of the trip because we were always out exploring the island.

We visited beaches (Lumahai, Kalapaki, Puʻu Poa, Lawai, Keʻe, Kekaha, Shipwreck, and Hanakapiai), hiked 22 miles of trails (Awaʻawapuhi and parts of Kalalau twice), cruised on a catamaran along the Nāpali Coast at sunset, stopped at roadside attractions (Waimea Canyon, Kalalau Lookout, Puʻu o Kila Lookout, Wailua Falls, Opaekaʻa Falls, and Kilauea Lighthouse), visited resorts (Kauai Marriott, Grand Hyatt Kauai, and St. Regis Princeville), golfed at Kauai Lagoons, visited towns (Lihue, Kapaʻa, Poipu, Waimea, Kilauea, Princeville, and Hanalei), watched sunsets from Kekaha Beach, Keʻe Beach, the Kalalau Trail, Shipwreck Beach, and the Pacific Ocean, and ate at cool restaurants (The Beach House, Duke’s Barefoot Bar, and Bubba’s Burgers).

Hanakapiai Beach from the Kalalau Trail on Kauai

The highlight of the trip for me was the hiking. The Awaʻawapuhi Trail brought us to a perch 2,400 feet above the Pacific Ocean surrounded by sheer cliffs. Our trek on the Kalalau Trail, which follows the rugged Nāpali Coast into lush valleys and back out to the ocean for eleven miles (although our lack of a permit allowed us to hike only six of the eleven miles), was the best hike I have ever done.

There were still plenty of things we wanted to do that we didn’t have time for, including kayaking, more hiking, surfing and paddleboarding, and possibly a helicopter tour. But I have no regrets and no complaints. This trip was about as perfect as a vacation can be.