The road round Kauai only covers three quarters of the island. The remaining quarter is the Napali coast which is only accessible by boat or on foot. During my four days, I drove as far as I could in each direction. Kapa’a is centrally located so it was easy to go either way. Speed limits on the roads are variable and are rarely above 50kph so progress was slow, which suited me.
When I visited, the road in the north was blocked at Hanalei Beach. Recent flooding severely affected the area and the road beyond was under repair. There were obvious signs of damage on the beachfront where houses had collapsed. It is a wide sweeping sandy beach and is beautiful even when mist shrouds the mountains and it is drizzling with rain. It also has a well-known surf break.
I started each morning with a visit to the breakfast truck across the road from the hostel. The granola with papaya was excellent as was the coffee. The locals congregated on one side of the bus and the visitors on the roadside. I infiltrated the ‘locals area’ on my second morning. On the third day, they included me in the conversation! I also met two young ladies, one from Philadelphia and the other from Nova Scotia. They were both solo travellers and also a little bemused by the hostel. We enjoyed exchanging travel stories whilst imbibing our coffee.
Waimea Canyon was my principal reason for visiting Kauai and it did not disappoint. A comparison with the Grand Canyon is often made and, whilst not as extensive, it is nevertheless impressive. The road up to it is long and windy with beautiful views over the inland area and to the coast. I drove to the last viewpoint where I was rewarded with a wonderful outlook of the rocky coastline of the Napali Coast.
There are many hiking trails in the canyon area and I had spent some time studying which one to do. There were dire warnings about those tracks which only experienced hikers should tackle and I played it safe; too safe. I chose the Canyon trail, which seemed to be the most popular, judging by the number of people on it. It didn’t take me as long as the suggested time and the track was not as difficult as anticipated. From the ridge, it was possible to see down and across the canyon where a sightseeing helicopter hovered. I went to the end and hung over the top of the waterfall, holding on to a tree branch for safety. I needed the challenge!
Afterwards, I continued on to the western end of the road hoping to access the beach. However it was closed (or I was in the wrong place). I found a large and intimidating missile base instead! I returned to Waimea town for a wander and a late lunch of shrimp tacos. This used to be an important trading post and the wharf still stands intact. In the past, there had been many Chinese and Japanese immigrants, who played an important part in the trading history of the area. They also influenced the styles of the buildings, some of which remain today. There is still a strong Japanese influence in local businesses.
On the way back, an impromptu diversion took me to Salt Pond Park, where many families were enjoying the late afternoon sun. The salt ponds next to the beach are maintained by specific families. The quantity of salt produced depends on the amount of rainfall and the degree to which the water dries out. This year’s harvest could be in jeopardy because of the large quantity of rainfall that has fallen so far and the salt may not have time to dry out. You have to ‘be in the know’ to gt some salt!
On my last day, I climbed up the Sleeping Giant or, to give it its proper name, Nounu. The hike was steep in places and required some rock scrambling at the end. At the top, it is possible to climb onto the rock, which represents the Giant’s chin. It is not for the faint-hearted and I wasn’t one of the brave souls who did it! However, below is a cave-like hole that locals refer to as the Giant’s eye. It is possible to walk through this, perch on a ledge and admire the view over the sheer drop. This I could manage! From the top of the ridge, the views were magnificent in all directions. Inland from Kapa’a is a volcanic crater with several peaks surrounding it. I had chosen a hot sunny day to do the hike, so all was visible.
Four days passed very quickly and I would have liked to have had more time to explore the beaches. It seemed no time at all before I was packing up and heading for the airport and my return trip to Honolulu. I am pleased to report that the car hire lady was very understanding about the big dent!
Hawaiian Airlines run several services a day from Honolulu. Flight time is approximately 40 minutes. Prices on their website are for a return ticket.
There is a local bus but you really need to hire a car.
Accommodation is expensive. I paid $150 US per night for a private room and shared bathroom in the hostel. There are many condominiums, hotels, resorts and some Airbnbs and a wide range of prices. The hostel was one of the cheapest places I could find at the time of booking.