Kauai: Queen’s Bath and a Heavenly Haku

Wednesday, May 20

Holy smokes, we’re getting married tomorrow! I checked my email this morning and saw a note from Kelvin, our officiant, proclaiming the weather outlook looked good. That’s what I like to hear.

We had actual tasks to take care of today, not just aimless exploring, so after our usual morning coffee and island breakfast (what I’ve come to call my overflowing plate of bananas, berries, and macadamia nuts), we were off north again. This morning was the first that the weather was slightly rainy. We stopped off at the Kilauea Lighthouse before it opened and explored a bit before continuing on to Princeville

Once we turned off of 56, we weaved in and out of developed roads until we came upon the little parking area (about 6 cars worth, I’d say) for Queen’s Bath. There was only one car there given the time and the rain, and we were pleased. One look at the path to the right of the parking area and I knew sneakers were in order. This was one of those times where this adventure seemed like a Disney resort- curated and cultivated to bring you this insanely rich experience-but it wasn’t. Instead it was the experience that inspires or provides the setting for the movies and the rides and it is just that awesome.

We wandered down the path, relatively easy compared to the paths to come, but a bit slippery at parts. As we walked we passed a beautiful little waterfall before the baths and sea opened up before us. At first we were startled at the ferociousness of it all; despite the warnings that demanded you heed them and signs of fatalities all around, I heard there was an area that during times of very, very calm seas was swimmable. What we saw was decidedly not. I was disappointed, truthfully. But moments later another couple walked by and advised the swimming spot is over there! and I was pleased to say the least.

We walked on for a bit, careful not to be tempted by the cliff-side overlooks, and came upon the most startlingly beautiful scenes. We did a bit of boulder-hopping and reached the end of the accessible trail before turning back to reach Queen’s Bath.

There were only a few pairs of visitors there, so we found a spot away from the crashing waves and stored our belongings. The water was perfectly calm, the tide just right. I couldn’t resist jumping right in, though it was indeed colder than the perfect waters days earlier. How incredible! You don’t even need snorkeling gear (while I was bummed I forgot mine in the car) it’s so clear, and the water so dense with salt that it’s effortless to stay afloat. Fish gather around your feet and there are crabs scattering here and there. I was in heaven. We chatted with a family from Southern California and I couldn’t resist blurting out our news of our impending nuptials. Next, I struck up conversation with another young woman who had just gotten engaged on their trip to Kauai. LOVE I tell you… It’s rampant on this island.

The crowds started pouring in and we took that as our cue to depart this paradise, but not before spotting sea turtles swimming about in the area outside of the pools. We wandered back up the path, more difficult now with obstacles (of the human variety), and arrived back at our car only to find a line of cars waiting as patiently as they could for a spot. Come early.

Back on the road we finally made the quick turnoff we’d been eying each visit: Jurassic Ranch. Oh, how beautiful! Worth a quick stop over and nothing more (or allowed), but it was such a trip. Further down the road we made one last stop at Hawaiian Hardwoods where Randy makes simultaneously powerful and dreamy sculptures out of driftwood and fallen trees…art out of waste. He met us to give us an overview, then was off to take care of his farm while we perused. It was incredible and is a total must-see.

Once back at the cabin as we had business to take care of in the form of going through our vows a bit more…independently, of course. Before that, however, was the task I’d been most excited about since we arrived–hunting for flowers for my bouquet. My original plan was to put together a bouquet from finds at the farmers market, but what was available in the wild as well as on the farm was more than I could have dreamed of.  I made my way down the drive, picked a few, decided to return in the morning to preserve the freshness of others, and ended piling them in a cooler and filling it with water from the outdoor shower.

After lunch, we set off on our adventure down to Poipu to fetch my haku lei (a floral headpiece for the big day). This was our first experience driving anywhere south of Lihu’e. The scene is far different, much more arid, the further down you go. Amazingly, it suddenly turns to desert complete with vast, open spaces, and all types of flowering cactus.

We passed Koloa town and promised to return in the days that followed as this time we were on a mission. A few minutes early, we kept going on the road towards Sprouting Horn and pulled off for a minute to get a glimpse of the site at which the ocean speaks. Pleased with our quick view (it was beautiful, just not necessary to linger), we headed back to the Gourmet Market at the Shops at Kukuiula.

It was far more crowded than what we were used to up north and far more geared towards tourists, but really beautiful and bursting with vendors of all kinds. In addition, there were food and drink specials and live music. We wandered a bit before finding who we came to see at the booth on the other end: Heavenly Hakus.

Immediately I recognized Elvirne from her video on the Kauai Home Grown website. We introduced ourselves and immediately clicked. She shared her story about how she arrived here, marrying her husband after only two weeks of knowing him! She also shared beautiful insight about what brought her to create hakus the desire to create something beautiful out of nothing using what is around her in the most creative way possible and all the while respecting the source. She inspired us both so much with her you just have to go spirit in reference to adventure (sound familiar?) and I was truly sorry to have to leave. She handed me my beautiful haku, I put it on, and she proclaimed me a bride. Another person I will us to cross paths again on our future travels. Until then, I treasure my priceless haku.

Once out of Poipu, our last errand was a hair appointment in Lihu’e. I was welcomed by a sweet woman, Lauren, who proceeded to place my hair in pinned up curls with the instruction to simply let it down in the morning. That I could do. Midway through her sister and her sister’s friend arrived and they all created the kindest environment I could have asked for. Before I left, they advised me of must-do hikes and places to eat while we were on the island, writing each down on a small piece of paper.

Before falling into bed back at the cabin, we had to run back to Walmart where we proceeded to have our picnic “rehearsal dinner” on the roof of our car.

Once home, I gathered our marriage license, vows, and other odds and ends and placed them in our bag that would accompany us to the beach. And by the beach I mean our wedding.

Tomorrow!

Kauai: Tunnels Beach and A Man of the Island

Tuesday, May 19

Two days.

The routine of early morning wakeups was the perfect remedy to overcrowded parking lots and beaches. At least the possibility of overcrowded parking lots and beaches. The day before we’d e-mailed our officiant and photographer asking if maybe it would be at all possible to move the ceremony up just a little bit? The strength of the sun is nothing to underestimate and thankfully they were able to comply. Funny now that I think about it our photographer, Rachel, had suggested 8:00am or 8:30am weeks before and I thought that to be a crazy suggestion. Not crazy, just smart. 8:30am, two days from then.

We headed north again today, this time almost to the end of the road. Navigating the island couldn’t be easier with the mile markers and really only one major road that takes you to the north shore beaches. I’ll say, however, GPS is a precious resource when you’re winding down those uncharted beach roads and it still works.

On our way, we prepared yourself to stop right over the bridge at the Hanalei taro fields. I’d spotted them during my research and again at the overlook the day before. They’re a vision. Before our trip I daydreamed about having our ceremony there. But private property is private property, so a visit would have to suffice. We carefully pulled off the road to the left after the Hanalei Bridge and parked at the end. We wouldn’t be long. I walked along the road as folks made their first morning rounds on their quads to examine the taro. My goodness, was it beautiful. For many moments no cars passed or other vehicles droned and I was standing there in the middle of the road surrounded by water in some form and birds and plants of all different species. It was as prehistoric as you can imagine.

We continued on, passing Hanalei and entering an area of the island that was indeed much slower, less developed. There were roadside stands for flowers and coconuts (though as we’d learn later, purchasing coconuts just to drink the water is indeed a waste) and a general store that could indeed be useful. We were entering Ha’ena.

According to my guidebook, Kauai Revealed, the parking for Tunnels Beach is right beyond mile marker 8. You will know it otherwise by the plethora of signs telling you that it is precisely not the place to park for Tunnels Beach. There is a dilemma it seems between residents and the county’s commitment to making it public access, so we drove on. Further down the road is Ha’ena State Park and there is plenty of parking, not to mention a changing area, bathrooms, and shower to rinse off.

We parked and decided to explore a bit before gathering all of our things. It was just magnificent. Surrounded by cliffs and the sea extending in front of us, we walked across the street to the dry cave (former sea cave). Again, minutes along in the back of the cave in almost darkness is really quite amazing. I looked back and saw L standing in the center like some type of mirage. This photo is one of my favorites.

Back across the street we gathered our gear and headed to the right to reach Tunnels Beach. I’ll tell you, though, Ha’ena is special too. There’s even an area to camp if you’re so inclined. It’s exposed, but who would pass that up?

But Tunnels is spectacular. It’s no wonder why it’s so popular. And from the moment we arrived, I was plotting our return. It’s likened to Fiji, and it really doesn’t need to be…it’s absolutely stunning in its own right. The mountains, the perfectly calm (that day) water, the sunshine…it was paradise, truly. We settled in under a large tree that provided us with all the shade we needed. Lucky, too, because in the hours that followed the trees around us filled up with families. I spent most of the day in the water snorkeling. The unobstructed sun made for a perfect day for it, and one I won’t soon forget. In between, I finished up my vows, finally getting to the place of calm I was searching for in the weeks before. I scribbled all over the lone piece of paper I had, boxing the final section I came up with.  I was happy with them. I read them out loud a few times to get a sense of the flow.

A bit after noon we had lunch together at the picnic area at Ha’ena Park. We spread out our salads and sides and relaxed for a bit. Later, a man rode up and parked his bike at the nearest pole. He was older but in incredible shape and carrying what appeared to be many of his belongings on his two wheels. What’s for lunch? he asked, and it started a conversation that never left us. He told us of his experiences hitchhiking around the island (very popular) and exposure to all of the ingredients that grow wild there. Also, his attitude towards rotting fruit that may be on someone’s property. I just knock on their door and see if it’s OK. Not only is it OK, but they usually insist on bringing me a ladder so I can get the good stuff. He mentioned his time living in the magical Kalalau Valley. That in the 70’s, they had a Rainbow Gathering type of thing going on in that valley. Speaking of which, did you know there’s such thing as a “moonbow”? As he tells it, they’re known to happen in the beach at the end of the Kalalau Trail. Our conversation ended as he grabbed some seed and peanut butter and set out to feed the birds nearby. He’s known for that-taking care of the plants, animals, and environment that is Kauai-and being a kind and inspiring person. We were so fortunate to cross paths with him.

L and I walked to the right, along the beach and passed the beautiful, untouchable homes. We walked until we couldn’t walk anymore. The beach was empty (no access or facilities) and the views were all-consuming. Could this day never end? After another swim, we headed home. The sun and waves were tiring us both.  That and the crowds really poured in in the later afternoon.

On our way back, we ran into the lone farmers market we’d end up finding. Very close to closing time, we were greeted with discounted produce and vendors very eager to have us purchase their products. After one vendor peeling a few for us to try, we grabbed a bag of lychee, a first for us both. It was plentiful this year due to low rain. Making our way around, we struck up a conversation with an attendant from one of the stands. She was from New Jersey, living here and working on the farm. As we later come to realize, there is a huge network of people travel around the world, moving from farm to farm. Where do I sign up?

Once home, we assemble our dinner plates and take our positions on the lanai, willing ourselves not to fall asleep in the process.

This place, these people, the lessons of this life… We are so fortunate.


Recommendations:

The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed This book was a holy book to us during our stay. The directions to beaches and trail heads are spot on, as are the descriptions of what you can expect at many of the sites. We weren’t as fortunate with the restaurant recommendations, though. But then again we only tried two and I’m relatively picky, so I really can’t evaluate that part accurately. Get this book.

Waipa Farmer’s Market This site has a list of the farmers markets on the whole island. The Waipa market was the only one we visited, and we just happened to run into it! We tried to get to others, but for one reason or another they were never where multiple guides said they would be! A bus driver admitted that oftentimes if the yield isn’t good, they just don’t set up. Good to know. This one is very special and worth a visit. Prices are fair and if you visit towards the end, there are deals to be had.

Tuesdays 2pm
5-5785A Kuhio Hwy
Hanalei, HI 96754

Kauai: Getting Our Marriage License in Hanalei

May 18, 2015

Early risers again, as was the trend. We decided to just let ourselves submit to it and enjoy the extra moments pre-morning light…prepare ourselves for it, even. You see the sunrise on our little farm was just magical. The sounds of the animals, the cool breeze, the perfect pink skies. We would pour coffee, assemble a breakfast of fruit and macadamia nuts and sit on the porch and soak it all up.

This day, May 18, we had a bit of business to take care of. First, however, we were intent on visiting a roadside honor stand on the other side of the highway. Eggs, fruits, and vegetables are put in a cabinet with a thin metal netting and prices are labeled with a small sign or tape. There was a bucket for your payment. I insisted we check for avocados, but no luck. Never mind, these stands are everywhere!

We continued on, allowing ourselves an hour or so to scope out two beaches, Moloa’a Bay and Rock Quarry Beach, as possible ceremony spots. Moloa’a was just minutes away, so we headed there first. Down the quiet road we decended until we came upon the small parking area. As we approached the beach, we just knew. It sounds silly but there really wasn’t any question…we’d found our spot. The beach was spectacular and almost empty. It was a calm, perfect, cove that morning. It reminded L of our favorite spot in Greece. We walked along the water’s edge and settled at a spot near a tree with a bit of shade. That is where we’d be married.

Driving along the north shore is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It is absolutely spectacular and the views are other-worldly. Trust me, you want to be the passenger. As we drove we gawked at the soaring mountains and the indescribable ranch that ended up being none other than Jurassic Ranch. As we neared Hanalei, I noticed an unbelievable overlook on the right, immediately before the downhill drive to the bridge. Don’t stop here. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to, though. Oh, the bridge! One lane and equally adorable and confusing. The rule is you follow the car in front of you so long as you’re within the limit of cars going that direction (i.e: 5-7 oftentimes). We crossed and immediately happened upon the Taro Fields on our left (don’t miss them!). We’d return, we promised. We continued on and were in the town of Hanalei in moments. Quite charming, really, with slow movement of cars, shops, and those killer views. We parked and found our way to Relish Salon where we were to sign the final papers for our license.

We entered the salon and were greeted warming. We waited a few moments until the agent arrived. At that time one other couple entered waiting for the same person. It was all very quick and anti-climactic! We agreed the information was correct, paid $5 and that was it! License received! We wandered a bit afterwards, finally settling at one of the picnic benches and taking out our packed lunch. I’m going to tell you something, packing your lunch on a daily basis while on vacation is the best thing you can do. Honestly. Especially when jet-lagged

After lunch, we headed over to Hanalei Bay, a few blocks away. We parked easily and approached the beach quite near the pier. Oh my goodness, was it beautiful! Perfectly calm water, large trees for sun protection and those mountains that you just can’t get enough of. I lathered on sunscreen (PSA: Wear sunscreen. A lot of it. Especially here.) and within moments was in the water. It was sublime! One of my greatest indulgences must be floating on my back in a beautiful body of water and absorbing my surroundings. That, or going under water and opening my eyes while looking up at the sky. I feel like a mermaid. A very lucky mermaid.

We went on a long walk down the beach as far as we could. We arrived at this perfect inlet sort of thing where the water was rushing in and creating these perfect pools. I splashed about, not too dissimilar to the dog nearby, and could have basked in that sun for the rest of my life.

We made our way back, collecting our belongings then headed over to Lumahai Beach for a quick peek. We made the fortunate mistake of stopping where all of the cars were, assuming it was the correct place. It was, in fact, what most call “Tourist Lumahai”. Whatever it’s called, it’s absolutely stunning and I was sour that I’d already changed into real clothes before the hike down because the water looked sublime.

Heavy with exhaustion, we made our way home. En route we stumbled upon the Hanalei Valley Lookout and figured why not! Another stunning vista, this one absolutely special and one you could gaze at afternoon. But the crowds combined with my jet-lagged mood called us home.

Once back, L made perhaps the most thrilling discovery as of yet…a banana tree bursting with ripe bananas on their way to falling to the ground. We were beside ourselves! We grabbed a box and approached the tree. We analyzed the situation. ah ha! of course! I would get on his shoulders. Perfect until mosquitoes swarmed my head (now that I think about it, it was one mosquito, but a swarm makes for better writing) and I jammed bananas in his face to speed up the process, almost falling probably 8+ feet in the process. I got over it and continued to grab what I could, trying not to waste. Oh, sweet success!

Another evening on the porch enjoying another homemade meal, this time paired with a fine (Costco) Rioja. Another 8pm bedtime.

Savoring this life with every piece of me, I’ll tell you what.

Kauai: When Chores are a Luxury in Lihu’e

Alternate title: The Costco of Your Dreams

May 17, 2015

I woke up in the middle of the night in that frantic oh-my-god-I-can’t-sleep-I’m-so-jetlagged state. You know the kind. But this time, not only was my mind racing but the critters out of doors (mostly) were in full swing and it didn’t cross the line to charming just yet. I found my earplugs, popped them in, and was out until the ripe old time of 4am. Later, Luke emerged from the bathroom and the first words out of his mouth were Please don’t be scared…(who starts a sentence like that?!)…but I just killed the biggest bug I’ve ever seen. The conversation unfolded as you’d expect-me asking loads of questions and looking around the floor promptly thereafter- only to find out that it was, in fact, the lone bug that you should fear…the centipede. I did everything but play it cool, including Googling, searching the room with my flashlight, and coming up with ways to block points of entry…city girl. For those of you researching how common is it to see a centipede in Kauai the answer is not common so don’t be scared. We were just lucky!

Up so early, we ventured into Lihu’e the closest thing to a “city” this island has to offer after exploring the property a bit more. My god, in the daylight it was a perfect Eden-fruit trees, flowers, palm tress, total isolation. And chickens. Lots of chickens. We gathered our things, piled into the car, and were off.

Thirty minutes or so we arrived at Walmart along with the other early birds. We toured the aisles and emerged with a sun hat for L, sunscreen, a few food items that we certainly didn’t need in bulk, and other toiletries we didn’t anticipate needing. It should be noted that Walmart in Lihu’e is honestly wonderful. Perhaps it is, in fact, the chain you said you’d never go to… but it has everything you might possibly need and is insanely convenient. And on vacation, that’s what we are looking for. Approaching our car, we were suddenly surrounded…by chickens! They were completely unafraid and we couldn’t help but test their limits ans we attempted the perfect picture. We were unsuccessful.

We had a bit of time before heaven (aka Costco) opened its gates to us, so we headed over to the closest beach: Kalapaki. Coffees in hand, we strolled along, our first taste of island life on a perfectly sunny Sunday morning. The beach was incredibly calm so likely one preferred by families. We relaxed a bit, watched the classes of beginning level paddle boarders, and when the time was right, set off.

We parked our car, looked up, and there were those green mountains again. How is this real? We wandered inside and grabbed a cart and promptly filled it with the first rows of items. We were overjoyed! Not only did they have most everything we buy, but specialty items from the local area such as, you know, macadamia nut everything and prepared food items. I told you, heaven. We piled the car high with snacks, fresh produce, and once in the meat and fish department we noticed a shining star: they had a liquor store. We must have looked like maniacs, snapping photos and literally skipping about, but who could help it? We snagged a bottle of Champagne for our special day a few days away.  Especially with my sensitive-belly self, this was an absolute gift. That, and there really isn’t anything as charming as making a house a home by cooking each night with your husband (to-be at the time).

On our way home, cruising down 56 North with Shaka radio (103.1 FM) playing in the background (find it! The best!) we attempted to find the Anahola Farmer’s Market, known for its wild boar I’m told. We drove up and down the street numerous times with no luck. Is it closed? We couldn’t find it the following weekend either.

We arrived back at our cabin, loaded up the fridge and set to work on lunch and much needed coffee. We created the first of our Costco Gourmet meals and were pleased at salad in front of us. We willed ourselves to keep moving, knowing there was no chance of revival after settling into our bed with the perfect cross breeze and call of uninterrupted sleep. We slipped on our bathing suits and set off on the dirt road to Aliomanu Beach. We arrived after a journey that was part-wonderland part-terrifying-one-lane-road and found ourselves among local families enjoying their Sunday afternoon. Grills were lit, dirt bikes were started up, and whips were cracked. Literally. It was bizarre but a pleasure, especially to get a peek into life for some residents.

We settled in at an isolated area a bit away from the action and enjoyed the waves and afternoon light.After some reading, dozing, and reflecting, we wandered “home”. Along the way we spotted properties rich with sustenance of all kinds from mangoes to goats. Arriving back at the cabin L gathered up precisely one mango, lime, and pomegranate respectively from the farm.

We assembled dinner in the perfect little kitchen and opened our first bottle of wine. We become spoiled shortly thereafter as every meal was  basically the greatest food you could eat, as far as we’re concerned. I think we’ve finally found the ticket to long-term travel: cooking your own meals (within reason, and depending on location, obviously). We set up our dining area that would remain so for most meals for the next two weeks: two cushion chairs on the lanai. And yes, I checked for centipedes first.


Resources and Recommendations: 

Costco Costco, Costco, Costco If you’re going to Kauai a $50 membership will more that pay for itself. Think gas that’s $.20 lower than anywhere else on Kauai, a wonderful selection of organic products, cheap booze, and specialty items from all over Hawaii (in fact, the dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts I found here were my only souvenir)…things like coffee and prepared foods, and macadamia nut everything. They even have a local granola. And fresh leis! I’m convinced that if you were just whisked off to Hawaii on a whim, you could get everything you need here.

M-F 10:00am – 8:30pm
Sat. 9:30am – 6:00pm
Sun. 10:00am – 6:00pm

4300 Nuhou St
Lihue (Kauai), HI 96766-8002
(808) 241-4000

Walmart While no Costco, Walmart is a great option. Especially if, say, one does not want 20lbs of rice or four bottles of sunscreen. Walmart to the rescue! They have pretty much anything you could need and at the prices you’re used to. Not to mention specialty items like chocolates, leis, coffee and all sorts of cheap souvenirs. Oh and their hours are insane.

M-Su 6:00am-12:00am

3-3300 Kuhio Hwy
Lihue, HI 96766

a few words

…because I’m too busy to write.

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one month ago today my sweetheart and I went to a beauty parlor to get our marriage license. There was a couple behind us waiting to do the same thing. Them from the west coast, us from the East, both traveling far away in the name of love. Or paradise. Or both.

We emerged from the salon positively giddy as the soaring mountains stood and greeted us as if to say, you’re on your way! Or something like that. Wedding bells make you recognize symbols and signs far more often…or it could be the days spent pouring over readings and vows and speeches.

This weekend we celebrate with as many “nearest and dearest” as we could fit in a tiny restaurant. My lists aren’t necessary dwindling but perhaps getting more specific. Items like purchase marmalade only if under X amount. If more, go to WFM. It’s safe to say I may very well be losing whatever “it” is.

Anyway, a few words because I’m too busy to write, but want to document a little bit of the excitement. Yay marriage!