Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vacation in Kauai - The activities

One weird thing about blogs is that if your write about something over multiple days, people always read the last thing you wrote first.  So, to make more sense of this, you might want to start with the post below.

The one thing I would suggest to everyone visiting Kauai is a helicopter ride.  It's the only way to see vast sections of the island and you get spectacular views.  Julie and I went with Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours.  Lots of the helicopter companies use big helicopters that can seat six people plus the pilot.  That means that some people have middle seats and are struggling to see out the windows over others.  Mauna Loa offered three things:
  • Only three people, so no middle seats
  • If you booked with two people, they wouldn't bother adding a third
  • If you prefer, they leave the rear doors off.  As a photographer, you just can't beat the view with nothing but open space next to you.  If you have a fear of heights, you might want the door.
They operate out of Lihue airport and we had a great experience.  All of the photos from the trip that look like they were shot from the air, were.

Another day we hiked the Kuilau Ridge Trail.  On a dry day, it's wet.  On a wet day, it muddy.  On a rainy day, it's a sloppy, muddy stream. I am not sure they actually have dry days.  It was nice getting wander through different ecosystems, most of which looked like variations out of Jurassic Park.  Thankfully we had some spare shoes in the car.
There is a famous 11 mile trail along the Napali Coast called the Kalalua Trail.  It's very rocky with large elevation changes which make for slow going. We did the common, non-camping version, which is two miles to Hanakapia Beach, and then back.

This is Julie at one of the overlooks.
This is Ke'e Beach, which is where the trail starts.  As you can see, we have climbed quite a bit in the first half mile.  Simply gorgeous!
But it isn't all fun and games. The official beach warnings included:
  • Waves break on ledge
  • Rip currents
  • High surf
  • Sudden drop off
  • Strong current
  • Slippery rocks
That's enough to get most people's attention
The unofficial sign said "Hanakapia Beach.  Do not go near the water.  Unseen currents have killed xxx visitors",  where xxx seemed to be a very large running count.
Can't imagine why there is a problem. Just some little waves...
and the rocks they smash into.  I guess that could be a problem.

However, having done the hard two mile hike to get to the beach with the violent surf, we discovered these two locals. Both cats were fairly small and seemed quite comfortable.  We couldn't figure out how they got there, but I guess as long as there are lots of people with food, no hurricanes, and lows in the 70s, being a beach cat might be just OK. Hang loose little kitties!
Another day, another trip.  We did an 8 mile kayak journey down the south side of the island.  The ocean waves were fairly calm that day. There were five of us and a great guide (Adam).
We stopped at two beaches along the way, one for some body surfing and this one for lunch.  As you can see the beach was quite crowded.  This little protected cove had the smoothest water we saw the entire trip. I couldn't grab pictures, but we saw about a dozen Green Sea Turtles and an endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.  The turtles would float along a few feet from the kayaks until they decided we should probably be avoided. The biggest were about 3 feet across.

If you want to do a kayak or adventure trip, I would happily recommend Outfitters Kauai.  They were well organized, had great guides and equipment and for us, were located conveniently in Poipu Beach.
The big activity that unfortunately, comes with no pictures, was surfing.  We were both in the water, struggling for success, so there was simply no time to go grab a camera.  Trust me though, it was AMAZINGLY fun.  I think our biggest trip regret was not having done this sooner in the week. If we had, we definitely would have done it a few more times.

Julie and I took a class from Jamie at Kauai Surf School.  You did about 30 minutes of training on the beach before heading into the water.  We had nice big beginner boards and some fairly small waves to learn on.  The trick was to get up and ride the board all the way on to the beach and then simply step off the board.  There were lots of crashes along the way (accompanied by great laughter), but we both did some nice beach rides and we felt for a very brief moment, like surfers.

At this point the instructor left and we had another 30 minutes trying to do it on our own, which meant that you had to learn to pick your own waves and get the timing right.  This is WAY up on our priority list for a return trip.

One more post in another day or so....
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