Kauai: the Not-So-Touristy Island
Only a 30-minute flight from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, Kauai, known as the Garden Isle, is the greenest of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s no wonder many movies were filmed on this laid back island such as Jurassic Park, Six Days Seven Nights and a gorgeous location for television shows such as Fantasy Island and Gilligan’s Island and the television miniseries The Thorn Birds. About 40 beaches grace Kauai and for old movie buffs, Lumahai Beach was made famous in the movie South Pacific.
A car is almost mandatory, as there is no public transportation. However, even people who rent a car take one of the many tours to get a local’s perspective about the island.
It’s a beautiful hour-long drive along Kauai’s coast to Hanalei Bay Resort Inn in North Kauai. The first two days were cloudy with showers but Mother Nature perfected the weather the last three days. The sun shone during the day and rain at night.
The view from Kilauea Lighthouse
Highway 56, the main road, leads to many attractions. Kilauea Lighthouse was built in the early 1900s to guide ships heading to and from the Orient. Open 7 days a week (10am to 4pm) the US$2.00 charge is based on a honour system to view this bird sanctuary with a variety of species. The waves crashed on the rocky shoreline beneath my feet.
I admired the breathtaking view of Hanalei Valley, a patchwork of rectangle patches (many shades of green) called taro fields from Hanalei Valley Lookout. The Bali Ha’i cliffs in the background and the Hanalei River running through the valley add beauty to this picture perfect site.
I ignored the typical tourist entertainment by a trio, two men playing instruments and a hula girl, to soak in the beauty cruising down Waialua River, where the first Polynesian landed. Stepping off the boat, we walked up a steep path to the Fern Grotto, one of the most popular attractions on the island. This spot is popular for a marriage ceremony where a couple can be serenaded with the Hawaiian Wedding Song. Because of the 1992 hurricane, most of the trees which provided shade for the ferns were destroyed. Due to the lack of shade, the ferns burned off and it will take about 30 years for Fern Grotto to get back to having full-grown ferns.
The Coco Palms Hotel, the oldest in Kauai, hasn’t been open since the hurricane of ’92. It was scheduled to open in 2001 but last I saw in the Internet, it’s not. In the movie Blue Hawaii, the romantic wedding scene between Elvis Presley and Joan Blackman took place there.
My next visit to this island, I hope to play some golf. This time I just enjoyed my lunch at the clubhouse overlooking Poipu Golf Course, a 6,959-yard par-72 of pure challenge. Hole 16 reminds one of Pebble Beach; this 501-yard par 4 hugs the coastline weaving along the entire left side. The 17th hole tee is built on an ancient Hawaiian stone formation. Since Tiger Woods played here, the fees went up. Naturally.
The twist and turns of the road leads to Waimea Canyon, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. This smaller version of the Grand Canyon is nature’s work of art. A massive earthquake sent streams flowing into a single river, carving the 3,567 feet deep, 12 miles long canyon of stunning beauty rich in colors of copper, rust and gold. I caught a view of this gem at Waimea Canyon Lookout.
I was mesmerized at the sound and sight of Spouting Horn. The waves hit with enough force to send a spout of funneled salt water ten feet high or more (can go as high as six stories). The loud moaning sound comes from the legend about a giant female lizard that gobbled up intruders except a fisherman. The lizard chased him into a lava tube. He escaped. The lizard didn’t. The moaning sound is her cry for help. I love legends.
The Na Pali range from Kalalau Lookout
I couldn’t believe I was actually viewing the incredibly spectacular Na Pali, meaning “the cliffs”, instead of watching it on TV. This chain of mountains forms the steep cliffs that plunge into the deep blue ocean. Since no roads lead to Na Pali, you can explore it by boat, foot or helicopter.
I would not hesitate to visit Kauai again. I hope it remains as a not-so-touristy island but I know that could be an impossible task since the bottom line is economy. This friendly, quiet and quaint island is the perfect getaway.