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.


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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.

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Here we are still wearing out life vest fanny packs.

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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!






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.