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.







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!


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.


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.