An Aerial View of Paradise

Toward the end of our trip to Kauai we actually paid attention to the weather forecast and were pleased to see that it was clearing a little bit. Mostly we just wanted a decent day on Saturday. This was due to the fact that four of us were scheduled to take a helicopter tour of the island, and for obvious reasons, we wanted good weather. Saturday started with the usual showers but not as many. It was Dusk and Rinda’s departure day, so we had a nice walk on the beach and then got ready for our flight. They were to head to the airport for their flight home shortly after the helicopter ride. Bill and Machelle had a lazy afternoon hanging out in Hanalei.

Rinda had booked the tour for us and chosen Sunshine Helicopters. They are based in Lihue, not far from the main airport, as are most of the helicopter companies. The staff were friendly and checked us in efficiently. You must provide your weight when making the reservation and, just to make sure you weren’t being overly optimistic, they take your weight when you check in. It’s done discreetly using a floor mat in front of the check in desk! There was a basic safety briefing and introduction and then we were driven by van to the heliport. As we sat under a shelter by the helipads, we saw our bird come in from its previous flight.


After disgorging its passengers and taking on some fuel, we were ushered over to the still running chopper and loaded in according to our seat assignments. Supposedly they assign seats according to weight, but Dusk and Rinda were given the opportunity to pay a little extra to ensure they got the two front seats. The helicopter we were in seats six, so there were four of us in the back seat. Two others, whom we didn’t know, were joining us for the flight. Unfortunately, I got almost the worst seat in the bird for taking photos or getting the best views. The right side is highly favored, as is the front. As you circle the island clockwise, most of the views are out the right side. I was seated next to the window, but on the left, so I couldn’t see much of anything out the right side. The back seat of this helicopter was not very big, so the four of us were crammed in like sardines, and Michael was totally smushed between me and the not petite gentleman next to him. All that being said, I enjoyed the tour. But another time, and I would go again, I would pay a little more and go with a different company that uses more comfortable helicopters, and I would do everything possible to ensure a better seat. It’s worth it and it’s totally possible. To his credit, our pilot, Brian, did do a few circles in certain places so that the left side could get a better view, but there was still definitely an unavoidable bias toward the right. As we toured the island, I tried to take some photos of the incredible scenery, but it was exceedingly difficult to get any good shots. Between the glare off the glass, the rain spots on the window, the framing in the pilots window in front of me, and the cramped quarters, I had a hard time getting much of anything. You’ll see what I mean in the photos that follow. I have chosen the best of what I got and even those include some crooked ones and a bit of glare. As we flew around the island, Brian gave us a bit of a tour which included pointing out numerous locations where films have been made such as Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Avatar, etc. We all wore headphones and could communicate with him which was nice. There was a soundtrack that played when he wasn’t talking which consisted of instrumentals, many from films. So it was that we took off with the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark playing in our ears.

Brian, Rinda, and Dusk, in the front seat before take off.

Brian, Rinda, and Dusk, in the front seat before take off.

Leaving the airport

Leaving the airport




After heading south along the coast from the airport, and flying over Poipu, where we had spent our first three days, we turned inland and flew up the magnificent Waimea Canyon. From the air we got to see so much more of it than we had on our drive. It was an incredible sight with reddish earth mixed with vivid greens. We had passed through some rain, so a lot of my photos were too marred by rain spots on the glass. However, I did manage to get a shot or two of the same waterfall we had seen from the road.

Waimea Canyon - you can just see the rainbow above the falls.

Waimea Canyon – you can just see the rainbow above the falls.


After Waimea Canyon, we headed up the Na Pali coast. This is one of the main attractions of Kauai but is really only visible from the air or by sea. You can hike along some of the coast. but it is truly rugged and the stuff of wild tropical dreams. I was glad I got to see it from such a vantage point.


P1050866 P1050868



As we came around the north end of the island we passed over Ke’e beach and the Limahuli Gardens, which we had visited previously. Before we knew it, there was our own little slice of paradise laid out before us – Hanalei Bay.



Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay



These are the waterfalls we see from the house.

These are the waterfalls we see from the house.


After flying up the Hanalei river valley toward the interior of the island, we flew over the top and back south a bit, then turned up into the Waialeale crater. The top of Waialeale is one of the wettest spots on earth and the crater is a sacred place to the native Hawaiians. As we followed an ever narrowing canyon, the waterfalls kept multiplying. When we came to the end, the narrow canyon took a left turn and ended. Amazingly, we kept going right into the middle of this narrow space, with sheer walls rising all around us. Brian did a 360 degree turn. It was very dramatic and quite magical, but impossible to photograph. This was the best I could do.


Water streaming everywhere!

After Waialeale, we made our way back to the airport and landed safely after a little less than an hour’s flight.

P1050906 P1050908

Here we are still wearing out life vest fanny packs.

P1050913 P1050917

Back at the Sunshine offices, we said goodbye to Dusk and Rinda and then made our way back north to Hanalei.

Someday maybe I’ll get to do that again. I sure hope so. For anyone visiting Kauai, I have to recommend a helicopter tour, especially if you have good weather. There is nothing that can compare to the views and experience of seeing the Garden Isle from the air.







Surf’s Up!

Despite my previous comments about the rain being quite nice at times, we were relieved to see more sunshine poking through on Friday. Around mid morning we strolled to the beach to check out the waves and discovered that they were looking a little more promising, at least from a surfer’s perspective. Michael and Dusk decided they wanted to surf, so we went off to one of the surf shops to rent them some boards. Hanalei Bay can have epic surf in the winter. At times it can get really big. In the summer, it tends to be smaller. Since our trip was during an in-between time, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. The surf had been pretty mild so far. It wasn’t very big that day but there was enough that it looked worthwhile to play around in. So the boys went down to surf and I chose to stroll the town for a bit before joining them in the water. I wanted to get a few shots of the area with my bigger camera.

A typical view with clouds on the mountains and waterfall

A typical view with clouds on the mountains and waterfall

Main road through Hanalei

Main road through Hanalei

One of the many local roosters

One of the many local roosters

The Hanalei River

The Hanalei River

A Taro field

A Taro field

After my stroll I went down to the beach and went for a swim. The water was nice and the waves looked so fun I ran back to the house to get a boogie board and my fins. Back at the beach I swam out to the lineup and said hello to Dusk and Michael who were bobbing about with the other surfers and catching the occasional wave. It was definitely beginners surf, but that suited me just fine. I’m sure they would have liked bigger waves. I tried for a few waves on the boogie board and swam around for a bit. Then I borrowed Michael’s surfboard when he was done and tried a little surfing myself. The conditions were good for someone like me, but I needed a bigger board. All in all we had a fun afternoon at the beach and enjoyed playing in the water. Hanalei has a perfect beach. It has a sandy bottom and there are no sting rays or jelly fish to watch out for.


Since it was Dusk and Rinda’s last evening, we went out to dinner at The Dolphin Restaurant and Fish Market. Wow! It was fantastic. Some of us had sushi and we all tried some poke which is a Hawaiian dish of marinated raw fish, a little bit like ceviche. Here we are having a drink before dinner.


Dusk and Rinda wanted to take a helicopter tour of the Na Pali coast and Michael and I were game to join them. So on Saturday we had a new adventure with spectacular views. Stay tuned for an account of our flight in the next post.

Mahalo and aloha!






Day Trippin’

On Thursday, while Dusk and Rinda went off in the morning to hike a little of the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coast, Bill, Machelle, Michael, and I decided to pay a visit to the Kilauea Lighthouse. Kilauea is a small town on the North Shore only about 15 minutes away by car from Hanalei. The lighthouse sits on a point which is the northernmost point in Hawaii. The area surrounding the lighthouse and a small island off the point have been designated a National Wildlife Refuge, primarily for birds. We lucked out with the weather as it was windy, but mostly sunny, when we visited. There were spectacular views up and down the coast and we saw lots of birds and enjoyed a few small exhibits.


A frigate bird (I think)

Looking toward the aptly named Secret Beach

It was quite windy on the point but that is what you would expect when facing the open ocean. We enjoyed watching the waves crash into the cliffs creating dramatic explosions of seawater. Bill even spotted a sea turtle way down below in the water. It was quite a large one. Then Machelle spotted another that was a bit smaller. There were hawaiian geese wandering about as well as some red footed boobies across the way on a hillside. We saw some young wedge-tailed shearwaters hanging about their nests and looking all fuzzy.

This is where Bill spotted the turtle

I love my zoom lens!

After we left the lighthouse, we stopped in Kilauea town to browse in a couple of shops and have a snack. I have been enjoying the local arts and crafts. The beauty of the surroundings here cetainly inspires some lovely artwork!

On the way back toward Hanalei we detoured to Anini Beach and got in a little beach time. Anini is a lovely sand beach with an offshore reef that creates a protected lagoon in which to swim and snorkel. We saw a kite boarder setting up his equipment which was of particular interest to Michael as he has dabbled in kite boarding and would like to do more. It was very windy, so when the kite boarder took off, he went ripping across the water straight out the break in the reef, and played in the waves, all of which were quite advanced maneuvers. Michael and I went in snorkeling. It was not really the best snorkeling as the water was a little choppy, the visibility wasn’t all that great, and there wasn’t a ton to see. However, the highlight for me, which made it all worthwhile, was that we found a turtle and I was able to follow him for a bit. Snorkeling with turtles is one of my favorite things to do!

Beautiful Anini Beach


The Kilauea Lighthouse in the distance.

The kiteboarder setting up.

That evening we had some semblance of a sunset which was a nice change of pace. Dusk and Rinda had enjoyed their hike, though Rinda was a little banged up from a fall during their river crossing. Fortunately it was nothing serious, just some scrapes and bruises. We walked into town for some happy hour Mai Tai’s and cooked ourselves some dinner back at the house. All in all it was an excellent day.




















Let’s Hula!

Our days in Hanalei have been fluid and only loosely structured. A lot depends on the weather. It rains every night. Usually this includes a few torrential downpours with high wind that feel like you got dropped into the middle of a hurricane for about 10 minutes. They never last long. In the morning the showers dissipate and become less frequent. Walks on the beach or around the village punctuate time lazing about the house, reading, or playing dominos.

On Wednesday we all piled into one car and drove down to Wailua to go to the Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau. Yes, the name Smith's may seem a little strange when attached to a Hawaiian luau, but they have been doing the luaus for 30 years and are on their fifth generation of their family business. Ages ago some guy named Smith married a Hawaiian lady. Imagine that! The weather was a little iffy but it all worked out just fine. Arriving to the locale felt a little Disney-esque because first we were leied with shell leis, then we had our picture taken, and then we were put on a little tram for a tour of the gardens. Fortunately, that was the end of the “tour” and we were left to wander the gardens ourselves before the start of the Imu Ceremony. The gardens were beautiful and included peacocks wandering the grounds along with many other birds and prime examples of indigenous flora. I didn't take a lot of photos as the light was fading and I only had my iPhone.

The Imu Ceremony consisted of an explanation of the Hawaiian cooking technique used to make Kalua pig, followed by the unveiling of said swine. Basically they dig a pit, make a fire to create hot coals, add lava rocks covered by leaves, throw the pig on, cover with more leaves, and then a tarp and some dirt. The pig cooks in this oven for 12 hours. Sure enough, they dug up a pig and it was steaming hot! After that, we all processed into the dining area and found our seats. There was an open bar and a buffet of traditional Hawaiian fare, including that Kalua pig, which was delicious. During dinner there was some entertainement in the form of guitars and singing and even som hula dancing. They did a little demonstration and then got a few people up on stage to try the dance. The hosts and entertainers were very nice and sincere and had a sense of humor, so it wasn't too tacky. The food was delicious. There was a lovely cucumber salad that was a hit, as well as the pork and many other dishes. What was less of a hit was the poi. Poi is a local dish made from pounded and stewed Taro. Apparently it's what the early Hawaiians ate all the time and is still eaten a lot today. We've seen Taro plants growing all over the place. You have to cook the Taro root down for a long time to ensure it's edible. The end result is a rather unappetising, dirty grey, treacly mush. Oh, and it's tasteless too. We all agreed that it was surprising they didn't try to flavor it with something, like roasted garlic poi, or ginger sesame poi. At least the MC was up front about the likelihood of us liking the poi (or not). He was pretty funny. Here we are at dinenr.

After dinner we were directed down to the amphitheatre where the show would take place. The show was a collection of dances not only from the Hawaiian Islands, but also from other cultures that call the islands home and contribute to the overall Hawaiian culture, such as Japanese, Chinese, Tahitian, and Filipino. Then for good measure they threw in some other Polynesian based cultures to round it out – Maori from New Zealand and Samoan. The Samoan guy was very entertaining and nearly lit himself on fire a few times (probably on purpose!). All in all it wasn't bad. They included some history and explained some of the symbolism. It was a fun evening and I'm glad we went. However, now that I've been to a Hawaiian luau, I think I can check that off my list and won't need to pursue it again.

The next day we went to see the Kilauea Lighthouse, so stay tuned for more adventures in the next post.

Mahalo for reading!


The Garden Isle

Kauai is beautiful. And yes, that is an understatement. When you stand on the beach at Hanalei Bay and look around, you realize that you have truly arrived at the quintessential tropical paradise that all those movies and fantasies are based on. There are palm trees swaying, waves lapping the shore of a perfect sandy, crescent beach, and steep, jungle clad mountains shrouded in clouds. There are a million shades of green, brightly colored flowers everywhere, and birds calling to one another. Even the telephone poles sport plants growing out of the tops of them. Everything is alive. Of course, in order to have this extraordinary growth, you need rain, and there is plenty of that too. I think we are here in a rainier season, so probably, in the summer it would not rain as frequently as it has now. It has rained everyday, multiple times a day. This might not sound so great, but in reality it's delightful. I never thought I would say that about rain! The rain here can be light as a feather and last 1 minute, or it can be torrential and last 6 minutes. It never seems to last more than 10 minutes. It rains every night which keeps it cool for sleeping. You learn that rain is not something you need to run from. It will pass. You might get a little wet, but you will dry. The clouds add drama to the peaks, although just one day, I would like to see the entire ridgeline just to see what it looks like. The one drawback to the rain is that it makes photos less vibrant. Some things come out well and some don't. I have been using my iPhone for some pictures because it's easier to carry around, but my big camera is really so much better.

Our house is well laid out. There are three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. Two bedroom and bath combos are on the first floor where there is a porch, entryway, and off the porch, a laundry room. On the second floor there is a third bed/bath and a huge living/dining room and open kitchen and half bath. Windows surround the big living area and there is a wrap around lanai (porch) with additional dining space. This lanai has views of the mountains and always has a wonderful breeze. Whenever it rains, the waterfalls come streaming down the mountains. I think I counted 5 or 6 at one time. The kitchen is well equipped and there is plenty of seating for the 6 of us. Next door is a cottage that is similar, but smaller, and owned by the same people. So far no one has been there that we can tell. For anyone who is interested, this is Ileina's Hanalei House and Cottage.

One morning we looked out the window and saw this fellow perched at eye level. Michael saw him hop down a branch and scoop up a gecko. Breakfast!











Our other friends arrived Monday afternoon and quickly acclimated with a walk on the beach. That evening we walked into the village and had dinner at Tahiti Nui, a local bar/restaurant/wine bar/pizza joint. I guess they cater to everyone! They had some entertainment which was quite good – a couple who played guitar and sang traiditional hawaiian songs. It was a fun evening.

On Tuesday, despite the possibility of rain (you just have to ignore it), 4 of us went up to the end of the road to see what we could see. Hanalei is only a few miles from the north end of the main road that follows the coast of Kauai. Because of the Na Pali coast, there are no roads that circumnavigate the entire island. I like being on the North Shore. The towns are small and less developed. It's a bit wetter than the South Shore, but that makes it more green and lush. Up the road from Hanalei are several beaches and, at the end, the start of the Kalalau Trail which runs 11 miles along the Na Pali coast. We stopped at a couple of beaches along the way. The first one had powerful waves and the second one was more calm and had snorkeling.

At the end of the road, at Ke'e Beach, we couln't find parking due to its popularity and the limited parking spaces. As we headed back down the road looking for a parking space, the one we found happened to be right by the entrance to Limahuli Gardens. The Gardens are part of the National Botanical Tropical Garden system. We took a look and decided that it might be worth our time. What we found was spectacular! It was cloudy but never rained hard on us. We walked the 3/4 mile trail slowly up the hillside and down again. There were many plants and sights described in the self guided tour and we found it very informative. The walk taught us about the subsistence habits of the early Hawaiians. What we did on spec turned out to be a real winner. I loved the feel of the place. We strolled through restored native forest, traditional Hawaiian terraced plantings, and more modern forest, including introduced species. There was a lovely stream, lush landscape, and nice views. I took some photos of various plants and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.



A breadfruit tree near the visitor center


There were many hibiscus of different colors.













I called this the Braille plant because of all the dots you could feel.



















We saw this beautiful purple flower but weren't quite sure whether it was an orchid, an iris, or something else.

The adventures continue, but I will leave you there for now.



Gettin’ In the Groove

What a great day it's been! To top it off I'm now sitting at the bar counter in the kitchen of our rental house in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. The tantalizing smells of garlic and onion sauteeing are the prelude to one of Machelle's authentic Italian spaghetti dinners. Watching great friends cook dinner and my husband making fruity rum drinks while good music plays on our speaker in the background is what it's all about.

Machelle gives a toast with the bottle of Balsamic!

We started the day in Poipu by packing up the groceries and our belongings and loading the car. It was pretty full when all was said and done!

It was a gorgeous sunny day – the perfect weather for a trip up Waimea Canyon. This was sweet validation for our decision to wait the day before. Heading south on the highway, our first stop was for sustenance. We had a nice breakfast at a lovely place called the Kalaheo Café.

Suitably fortified, we drove to Waimea and turned up the hill toward the canyon. The road was well maintained and pretty soon we were treated to some spectacular views. We drove all the way to the end of the road and looked over to the other side of the island. All along the way we kept remarking on what a beautiful day it was. Here are some photos of the incredible views.


After the canyon we made our way north to Hanalei. It didn't take us too long really, so we arrived around 3:30pm and found our house – Ileina's House. After all the research I did looking for a house to rent, it was gratifying to be pleased with the results and my choice. It's beautiful! Our first order of business after unloading was to make ourselves a fruity rum drink and breathe a huge sigh on the second floor lanai while enjoying the view of the mountains. Next, Michael and I took a walk to the beach – always our first order of business! Bill and Machelle took a walk to the village, an equally short distance. Here are some shots of our first views of Hanalei Bay. The sun was shooting through the clouds making a spectacular sight.

Now we are ensconced in our own little piece of heaven and it looks like dinner is just about ready. Tomorrow our other friends arrive and more adventure awaits.


Agenda? What agenda?

So far we have had a pretty relaxing and leisurely time on Kauai. Yesterday we whiled away the afternoon sitting on our lanai (the hawaiian term for a porch), sipping wine or beer and playing dominos. We play a game called Mexican Train and it is a lot of fun with from 3 to 8 people. 8 is a lot and makes it a little slow, but still works. We have often played with our good friends the Richburgs, so the four of us have a strong tradition, especially on vacation. As we played we enjoyed watching local birds flit by to entertain us. We saw a beautiful red crested cardinal and a tropic bird that had a split tail. 


The cardinal

In the early evening we rallied and freshened up, then headed out to go to a Friday evening Art Walk in Hanapepe, a town just down the coast. We arrived just as things were getting set up. There were numerous art galleries, a few boutiques and gift shops, and various food trucks. Pretty soon there were many other people strolling the street, enjoying the evening, perusing the art, and finding some supper. It was a pleasant evening and felt like we were seeing a bit of the real Hawaii. There were a lot of different one or two person musical offerings in front of the stores. It seemed that most stores of any size hired someone to entertain for the evening, or at least welcomed them. It made for some competing sounds along the street. Nevertheless, we had a good time and enjoyed ourselves. Afterwards, back at our condo, we enjoyed seeing shooting stars and some unfamiliar constellations in the night sky before turning in.

This morning Michael and I woke fairly early – a somewhat happy side effect of the time change – and went out for a walk to explore the beach in the direction we hadn’t yet been. We made our way to Shipwreck Beach where we found the surf had drawn some people into the water to boogie board, surf, and body surf, all of which was of interest top Michael. It was a cloudy morning with occasional spitting sprinkles of rain, but that didn’t stop any of the folks enjoying the beach or out for a walk, including us. The conditions were such that only an experienced surfer or swimmer would want to go in the water. Any others would be foolhardy. Nevertheless, we saw a man take a swan dive off the big rock at the end of the beach (without incident) and swim along the bay. We deemed him a very strong swimmer, even if the currents were in his favor. 


Shipwreck Beach


After a nice invigorating outing we returned to our condo and cooked a nice breakfast with the Richburgs, who had since woken up. Since the weather was not looking great, we postponed our trip up Waimea Canyon and rearranged our intentions for the day. Instead, Michael explored the beach a bit more, checking out the snorkeling, and Bill, Machelle, and I toured the shops in the local area. We were forced to indulge in some island ice cream in order to avoid a deluge – a rough job, but somebody’s got to do it, right? Later in the afternoon, Machelle and I drove up to Lihue to do the major grocery shopping for the week. We took one for the team while Michael and Bill went to the local Happy Hour and made us some dinner reservations. Our chores accomplished, dinner was a short stroll away at Brenneke’s Beach Grill. The Macadamia Nut crusted Mahi Mahi was delicious! 

Tommorrow we hope to drive up Waimea Canyon to enjoy the views before heading North to our next home base, Hanalei Bay. 

Paradise Found

Dear gentle readers and loyal followers,

I know it’s been a long time since I have blogged but I thought I would do a little writing since I am inspired by my beautiful surroundings. It was a busy summer with house projects taking up our time but now we are on a special trip with friends. We are in Kauai, also known as paradise! It is the first time I have been to Kauai. Previous visits to Hawaii included the Big Island and Maui, but now we find ourselves on the Garden Isle. We arrived yesterday after an uneventful flight from San Diego. Alaska Airlines had a direct flight and all those Delta miles I acquired from our trip to Africa last year got us a couple of free tickets. I have a big birthday coming up in December and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate it than by lounging in paradise with dear friends. Hence, we find ourselves here.

As usual I did lots of research while planning this trip and settled on the following itinerary. We spend the first 3 nights in Poipu on the South shore in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath vacation rental at the Poipu Plantation Inn. Then we move to a house in Hanalei on the North shore for 8 nights. We have close friends with us for the entire trip and another couple also joining us for 5 nights in Hanalei. It should be a merry time!

Michael and I arrived yesterday in early afternoon and zoomed through arrival and bag retrieval. I had researched various car rental options and ended up choosing Budget with a USAA rate. Though this was slightly more than the cheapest Thrifty or Dollar rates through, I had heard horror stories about long lines and poor service at those two and wanted the better vehicle model that Budget offered. It worked out perfectly! There was virtually no line and we ended up with a slightly bigger vehicle than I had reserved – something that will actually be useful. The vehicle is clean and quiet and newer than ours. Michael and I headed straight to Poipu to check in to our rental. Even though it was only just after 3pm, the office personnel were gone and had left us an envelope with keys and instructions. Our unit is just about what I expected. It is not the most modern or plush in the area but it is perfectly sufficient, clean, and has everything we need.

After dropping our bags and changing into shorts and t-shirt, we walked down to the beach which is only a short way from our digs. You can see the water from the lanai.

Though there were sprinkles of rain we walked along the beach and enjoyed the sea air, warm temperatures and rainbows!

Soon we felt the need of a frosty beverage and found our way to Brennecke’s Beach Bar & Grill. Mai Tai’s and pupus are a great way to slide into vacation mode! The sunset, though not the most spectacular we’ve seen, was nothing to sneer at.

Later that evening we went back to the airport to fetch our friends. They were pretty tired, as were we, but we managed a celebratory drink back at the condo before fallling into bed.

This morning we took our coffee down to the beach, opted for a breakfast burrito, and took a nice long walk along the beach and coast. We saw Hawaiian monk seals napping on the beach and sea turtles – my favorite!


Now we are lounging on the lanai and about to start a game a dominoes.