Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brothers and sisters of the sea

Families get to know our big-brained siblings of the sea at the nonprofit Dolphin Quest in the man-made lagoon at the Hilton Waikaloa on the Big Island. Strolling spectators can kick back along the banks of the ocean-side pool and watch the show, as kids, trainers, and dolphins charge about the lagoon in a splash-filled interplay.

There’s plenty do at the Hilton. Guests arrive at their rooms by monorail or Disney-type outboards that circle the property on a narrow canal. The huge grounds are filled with artwork, fine architecture, cultural displays, and a wealth of flora.

A shallow man-made lagoon, which opens to the ocean at the far end, is refreshed by a waterfall. Just the ticket for kayaks, paddle craft, and beginning snorkelers.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Burned trees stand forever

In the late 1700s, a flood of lava some 12-feet deep scorched the slopes of an ohia tree forest in the Big Island’s Puna District. As the molten mud flowed onward and downward into the cracks of the earth, some of it remained coated to the trunks of the green trees, which eventually burned up, leaving the rock spires.

Now part of Lava Tree State Monument, the weird statues are surrounded by 17 groomed acres of tropical greenery and bordered by towering monkey pod trees that are home to fluttering songbirds. The net effect is an installation any artist could brag about. See Page 162 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lapakahi, a Hawaiian First

Koai’e Village, on an arid section of northwest Big Island, wasn’t prime real estate for the Hawaiians who farmed the land and harvested the sea cove here, beginning in the late 1300s. But they managed to do quite well, planting terraces that rose to the 2,000 foot level and took in nearly 300 acres, and building stone-foundation huts with classic thatched roofs and interiors made confortable by layers of woven mats.

But in the 1800s, wayward cattle (introduced by seagoing Europeans) destroyed most of the agrarian way of life, and the last settler moved out in the early 1900s. The village got new life in 1966, when it became part of Lapakahi State Historical Park, the state’s first so-designated. The village layout remains intact, with several house sites, a canoe halau, a burial site, a curbed trail, and a fishing shrine. Likewise, species of vital trees, such as kukui, ki, hala, and hau, grow on the 10-acre hillside that encompasses the village.

With a little imagination (and the free park brochure) you can time travel to those years gone by—there’s no development along the coastline to spoil the reverie. The coastal section was made a marine preserve in 1979. See page 41 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hawaii’s most-underrated scenic drive

The Kehena-Pohoiki Scenic Coast would rank right up there in a statewide beauty contest among scenic drives, but it is far from the resortlands of the Big Island, way out in the Puna District outside of Hilo—and few tourists see it. On weekends, locals show up in droves. The sleepy road hugs a coast of low cliffs and crashing waves, penetrating a tropical arboretum, and without any twisting curves to distract drivers, since this young island hasn’t had time to erode into streambeds.

Along the way you see: the massive lava discharge that filled Kalapana Bay (from where you can see the current towering steam plume); a black sand beach (the shoreline of which dropped 5 feet in an earthquake of 1995); Mackenzie State Park, with its acres of ironwoods; newly expanded Isaac Hale Beach Park, a magnet for surfers that also has a hidden natural hot pool;

Ahalanui Hot Pool (Olympic-sized), a free county park; the Waiopae Tidepools, which are large and smaller snorkeling pools in a lava reef (part of a Marine Conservation District; and (finally!) historic Cape Kumukahi, site of a 1960 lava flow that added a half-mile to the shoreline, and the trailhead for a short walk to the large Kapoho Seapool (a.k.a. Champagne Cove) a huge geothermically heated pool with sparkling clear waters. Whew. See Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer, pages 156 to 162.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The first text messages

Throughout the Big Island—virtually everywhere you can find the smooth kind of lava rock (called pahoehoe)—you will find drawings and symbols etched into the stone. Some of these petroglyphs (called ki’i pohaku in Hawaii) were mysteries to the voyaging Tahitians when they arrrived many centuries ago, while others are more clearly placed in time, as they depict the arrival of Western sailing ships or firearms.

Other drawings represent the birth of children, the passage of a journey, or men and women paddling, surfing, fishing, or carrying a spear. Several petroglyph fields are located on the periphery of resorts and golf courses or identified in parklands, but others are unmarked and in the wild. The practice pretty much died out after Europeans arrived.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Destructive Waters, Boiling Pots

Lava isn’t the only dangerous element flowing from the mountains in Hawaii—cloudbursts create flash floods in streambeds and have racked up more fatalities than the combined forces of eruptions, tsunamis, and hurricanes. The Wailuku River (translated as “destructive waters”) gathers runoff from the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, the world’s tallest mountains as measure from their underwater bases to their peaks, and sends a torrent screaming through bedrock into Hilo Bay. Wailuku River State Park features two falls popular on the tour-bus circuit.

Rainbow Falls, a wide 80-footer, has a huge pool and a cave behind the water curtain, where in ancient times the demigod Maui saved his mother, the goddess Hina, from the giant eel-lizard Mo’o Kuna. On calm days, local kids swim at pools above the falls. Swimmers also like the pools called Boiling Pots that are in the bedrock canyon below Pe’epe’e Falls, which is just up the road. But when the falls are pumping, the pots are a caldron and anyone with brains stays well back.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rough road to paradise

When the sun is bright and the surf is low, beachgoers have no problem driving the mile-and-half so-called road across a hellscape of lava to Kekaha Kai State Park. Nowadays, since gravel fills in some of the deepr ruts, even passenger cars can make the journey. Awaiting is another mile-and-half of coastline with soft-sand beaches and turquoise waters set along a slender oasis of coco palms and ironwood trees.

Makalawena Beach is the most desirable (powder sand, colorful water) and the farthest out—which fits the no-pain, no-gain theory just fine—but the problem is that a 4WD drive road also accesses this beach from the other side, and the net result is more cooler-hefting people.

So, the palm-fringed crescent Mahaiula Bay, only about a quarter-mile from the car becomes the smart choice for visitors who want a little more low-key day. Fewer people still visit the beach you can drive right up to, Kekaha Kai Beach Park, even though it has shaded picnic tables, new restrooms, and a better-than-decent swath of sand and swimming beach. Moral of the story: Sometimes what you are looking for is right in front of you, and not down the hot trail.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Valley of the Kings

Waipio Valley is the end of the highway on the northeast tip of the Big Island, where a 4WD-only track (open to hikers) descends about 600 feet over a mile to a verdant floor that is not a whole lot different than when Hawaiians first called it home, about 1,200 years ago.

The place is layered in history, although the occasional tsunami and flash flood tends to obscure history. Early ali’i (kings) favored Waipio in the 14th and 15th centuries. Kamehameha the Great, was born in the area in the 18th century (in a hidden spot to protect him from rivals), surfed the waves as a boy, and as a young man was bequeathed the god of war, Kukailimoku.

On this day Kam and his crew would have found poor surf, blown out by trade winds. Up the valley, some 25 farms grow taro in the old way, on small stream-irrigated plots in the shadow of the Waipio’s waterfall-laced cliffs. Old Hawaii lives on.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some enchanted evenings—and days

In the 1920s, in oasis of seaside coconut palms and amid a sea of jagged lava, sat the assemblage of stone cottages and main house that were the dreamy retreat of Francis I’i Brown. Here over the next decades partied the likes of Babe Ruth, Bob Hope, and Mae West, and a host other former rich, pretty, and/or famous, mixing for days-long soirees under both moonlight and scorching sun. It was the place to be.

Francis, who also owned what became the Mauna Lani Resort just north, was the grandson of author-historian John Papa I’i, who had been counsel the Hawaii’s first three kings. Today a rusted barbed wire fence surrounds the place. Local guys fish the shore. The few visitors who get here can enjoy a swim in the gin-clear waters of coarse-sand that fronts the former hot spot—both literally and figuratively. A short walk north is where lava in 1859 crept 35 miles from Mauna Loa and met the ocean. Coral rocks and lava chunks grind together in the ceaseless waves of Weliweili Point. The old Brown Retreat still is a place to be. See page 63 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A place of refuge

Now a national park, Pu’uhonua o Honaunau was in ancient times a “place of refuge,” where defeated warriors and violators of the kapu system of laws could go voluntarily to escape punishment.

On this day, the park was on edge as a place to flee, after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Tonga put the low-lying coastline on notice that erratic waves could arrive in the afternoon. But that didn’t stop this adventurer from taking a leap of faith from the Keane’e Cliffs at the south end of the park, where she was joined by a slow-moving pod of some two-dozen spinner dolphins.

The leaping spot (not officially permitted by park rules) is reachable via a lava-rock ramp that was built in 1871—prior to that time south-bound travelers had to pay a toll and then climb a ladder that would be lowered by the gatekeeper. This part of the park, less than a mile from the entrance gate, is the site of many ruins that were once Ki’ilae Village. Unmarked and just off the trail beyond the ramp is the mortared-stone gravesite of the last Hawaiian to live here, John Kekuiwa, who died in 1929. The Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Parks preserves many of Hawaii’s most significant sites, including the Great Wall (1,000 feet long), Hale o Keawae (where the bones of 23 chiefs are interred), and the vast platform of Alealea Heiau.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mauna Lani Fishponds

Fresh seafood was not a problem in ancient times on the Big Island of Hawaii, as the harvest was there for the taking at shoreline fishponds teeming with mullet (the “pig of the sea”) as well as shrimp, sturgeon and other delectables. On other islands, fishponds were constructed by using rocks to make artificial coves.

But on Hawaii’s west shore are anchialine ponds, where freshwater comes to the surface from underground springs, usually quite brackish from seawater intrusion. A wall was built along the shore that included a gate (makaha) of vertical branches that allowed little fishies in to feed and fatten up, at which time they were too big to swim back out.

The Mauna Lani is one of Hawaii’s most desirable luxury hotels, boasting several class-A swimming beaches as well as spacious grounds that include the ponds, the remains of Kalahuipua’a Village, and Eva Parker Woods Museum, a tiny cottage run by Daniel Kaniela Akaka, Jr. On the evening of full moons, Danny (who is the son of Hawaii’s longtime senator) holds a “Talk Story” gathering of cultural entertainment that brings a crowd from miles around.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!

Manny Vincent is to the Kawaihae Canoe Club what Vince Lomardi was to the Green Bay Packers, although it is hard to imagine Lombardi spending thousands of hours shaping a huge koa log by hand into a sleek racing canoe and then calling the effort, “spiritual.” But, like Lomardi, Manny Vincent commands the respect and has gained the affection of his paddlers—from the kids on up to the novice adults and buffed-out pros—and his teams from sparsely populated Kawaihae Harbor in at the north end of the Big Island are often at the top, or near it, among the 75 or so clubs who compete in the state-wide Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association.

To out-stroke the red-and-white of Kawaihae, the other clubs know they have to bring their A-game. The harbor has few residents, so most of his athletes commute, the closest from Waimea, about 10 miles up the mountain. Thousands of paddlers take part in the nonprofit club sport. With many fewer people to draw from, Manny knows his crews must work harder and listen intently to his tutelage, which he has honed over some 50 years since he was a paddler on championship teams in Honolulu. He does have a bullhorn, but he also uses hand-signals to save his voice.

The Kawaihae Canoe Club keeps afloat from contributions, a large chunk of it coming from revenue from a yearly luau. If you’d like to send them some help, call 808-987-2819.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The hinterlands of Pololu

Kohala is closer to Maui’s Hana than to the south end of the Big Island, to which it is attached, an anomalous green nub that a million years ago was a separate Volcano. (The Big Island is comprised of what were once five separated volcanoes.) The years have been kind to Kohala, as wind, rain, and waves have etched valleys, ridges, and waterfalls.

The coastline is roadless, ending on the northeast at Waipio Valley and on the northwest at Pololu Valley. Plenty of cars jam the ill-designed overlook of Pololu for the cover-girl photo op and a chat with basket weavers who are truly ambassadors of aloha. And some visitors brave the bumpy, switchbacking trail that drops some 400 feet over less than a mile to the stream and rough beach on the valley floor.

But the crowds thin drastically from there, and few venture on the (unsigned) trail from the end of the beach, the start of a tropical ridge-and-valley escapade that is among Hawaii’s best adventure hikes. The next two valleys—Honokane Nui and Honokane Ike—can be gained with about six more miles and 2,000 feet of effort, with a reward of wild streams, slap-face views, ancient ruins, and a garden of pandanus and other tropical flora. From Honokane Iki the going gets very rough, especially since the 2006 earthquake, and tourists don’t want to brave the 20-mile trek to the Muliwai Trail that ends at Waipio, penetrating tangled wilds rumored to be home to “torchlight marchers,” warriors from days gone by. See page 35 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The weekend Pilgrimage to Hapuna

Ceaseless, soothing waves, acres of fine sand, and a shaded backshore hillside dotted with picnic pavilions: Hapuna State Beach is a beach-lover’s magnet. It is reliably the Big Island’s happening people-beach, and among the best in Hawaii. It’s kind of nature’s miracle, really, on an island whose west shore is largely rough-hewn lava with coral-sand pockets, and east shore is lush and cliffy with few beaches. People drive here from miles to get weekend restoration.

The state has finally fixed the restrooms and added a tasty sandwich and beach-rental stand. Coastal walks are also in the offing: just over the bluffs to the south is Beach 69 (also a state beach with new parking and restrooms, and in case you are wondering, it is named for its proximity to telephone pole number 69). A trail to the north takes you by two top-end destination resorts: the Hapuna Beach Prince, new in 1994, and the venerable Mauna Kea, if a history that dates from 1964 is now historic.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thar she blows!

No, not a whale offshore, but somehing up the slopes of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii. On March 19, 2008 at three in the morning Halemaumau Crater—home of the fire Goddess Pele, which had been fairly dormant for nearly 40 years—let loose with explosive debris that covered 65 acres and has since spewed tons of vapor rich with killer sulphur dioxide gas.

What had been the visitors overlook platform was blown away, and trails across the Kilauea Caldera, the heart of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, remain closed. Crater Rim Drive is half closed, but you can get the big look at Halemaumau from Jaggar Museum, next to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, an organization of big time volcanologists who have been taking readings since 1912.

This new blast is related in an indirect way to the lava eruptions that have been taking place down the eastern rift zone since the 1980s. The current Halemaumau vent has opened to about 300 feet wide, with lava some 350 from the surface. Scientists predicted this latest outburst, but are unsure of Pele’s next move.

The Beamer-Solomon Halau o Poohala from Waimea performed the legend of Pele finding her home at the park this weekend—which took place indoors rather than at the ancient hula platform due to poor air quality. During the performance the white plume turned black and then back again to white. Scientists at Jaggar were puzzled.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Malama Koke’e

After a day of rain, the sky opened up for hundreds of volunteers and well-wishers who made it down a muddy road to “malama the aina” (respect the land) in the high woodlands of Koke’e State Park, set above 3,000 feet at the upper plateau of Waimea Canyon.

Grammy Award-winner John Cruz capped a final day of celebration, after workers had spent days clearing downed trees from YWCA Camp Sloggett (which is not named for what you have to do to get there).

Nonprofit booths ringed the camp’s meadow, sprinkled among food booths. Huli-huli chicken sizzled on the bbq. Children wiggled impromptu hulas for a crowd that was one big family. The YWCA camp was the main beneficiary for the outpouring of contributions, but a number of other community-oriented nonprofit groups were represented—Kauai has a goodwill synergy happening that is refreshing to experience. Cruz, who flew over from Oahu for the day to show support, was preceded by Na Opio O Halelea Tahitian dancers and the Papa’a Bay Boys, who threw in a little country with lively slack key.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kauai honeymoon

At the Grand Hyatt Kauai, the make-believe wonders of architecture marry seemlesssly with those of mother nature to create the kind of paradise depicted in Condé Nast and other travel mags. But this story is no hype, and that's why so many people come to get married here, from the elopers to a full-on bash. Lovers can't get enough. After all, what is marriage but the promise of making the real world a paradise?

Between the resorts all-over- the-place swimming pool with caves and water slides is a large saltwater lagoon with a sandy bottom and a shore that is a gardenscape with bridges and hammocks. From there, the newlyweds can take off across a surfing beach and walk coastal bluffs that are home to seabirds. Wander further up the chalky coast lined with ironwoods and watch the sun go down. All the planning and rose petals and champagne toasts are memories. Life together begins. Good luck.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Flying on foot at Awa’awapuhi

As you head up Waimea Canyon, overlooks on the right side of the road reveal a deep gorge worthy of the American Southwest. To the left of the road—amazingly—the Napali (The Cliffs) radiate out from the canyon rim like spokes of a wheel, separated by deep valleys and ending at overlooks nearly 2,000 feet up from the blue Pacific. You have a choice among nine hikes, all 7 to 10 miles roundtrip and all down and back up 1,500 to 2,000 feet.

The most popular is the Awa’awapuhi Trail, which swerves a slippery 3-plus miles through a natural area of native ohia and koa forests (as well as the flower for which the trail is named) before ending abruptly at a railed lookout with a point-blank view down the green escarpments. Here, at home with the goats on a cliff face, we ran into Charlie Cobb-Adams. You may guess by looking at him that this super-guide has been hunting these rugged valleys since his youth. But his Anglo name belies his heritage that dates back to ancient Polynesia, in a bloodline that includes both the earliest Marquesans as well as the Tahitians that followed. His grandmother was one of the last people to live in Kalalau Valley. His knowledge of Hawaiian culture and nature is superlative. He does search and rescue for the state and carries ropes and harnesses with him on his adventures.

Charlie isn’t the kind of guide who is going to make happy talk and cut the crusts off your cucumber-and-sprout sandwiches. But when adventuring into the wilds of the sometimes-treacherous high country of Kauai, you can be damn sure he’s going to bring you back out no matter what. To take a trip with Charlie, contact Native Hawaiian Conservation & Hiking Expeditions at explorekauai@yahoo.com, 808-652-0478.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mr. Monk lives in Hawaii

The endangered Hawaiian monk seal is the only mammal that evolved from nature in the islands, unless you want to get technical and count a species of bat or include humans, who had to use boats. The big fat creatures favor Kauai, the northern-most of the eight principle islands, because it the first landmass south of the 100 or so islands that are mainly sea-washed atolls that comprise the Hawaiian Archipelago (which are part of the 1,600-mile-long state of Hawaii).

In the archipelago sharks are the major threat to these animals, while down here they are endangered mostly by fishing gear and plastic associated with humans. Law requires that people keep at least 100 feet away from monk seals when they haul out on the sand—not an easy task when they choose resort beaches like Poipu Beach or others on Oahu. But on the wild beaches of northeastern Kauai (there 8 or 10 beaches that you hike to or have to drive dirt roads) the seals have room to snooze. They will sometimes swim along the shore alongside beachcombers or pop up out the water where people are sitting.

Larsen's Beach, where this seal is pictured, is a miles-long, hike-to stretch of sand that also is home to seabirds including the Laysan albatross.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kuilau Crowd Pleaser

The Kuilau Ridge Trail above Kapa’a is just the ticket for vacation groups with varying interests. Everyone will put on a happy face. It works best as a family tropical ridge hike, ascending a wide trail under a leafy canopy gradually over 1.25 miles to a grassy picnic shelter with a view of the densely verdant downslopes of Mount Waialeale. Great, the less energetic people can kick back here.

But the kicker is the next half-mile on the trail which wiggles along a ferny ridge through a botanical garden to a stream and footbridge. Adventure hikers can continue on the Molape Trail to a view of Makaleha Ridge, and then get picked up at a different trailhead by the rest of the group. Any mountain bikers will also be happy here, as this is a popular ride that connects with lots of trails out of the Keahua Arboretum. (Anyone who doesn’t feel like hiking at all can take a restful sojourn at the arboretum.) As long as you are packing windbreakers, don’t let rain keep you from the Kuilau Ridge Trail, since the route is not steep and the greens are rich under cloudy skies. See page 84 of Kauai Trailblazer.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Wahine Wave Riders

Pull in at the guardrail heading down to Kalihiwai Beach Park and you have a grandstand to watch local surfers take a sweet ride into the bay—while trying to avoid a head-on with the cliff. This break is favored by some of Kauai’s best wahine (female) surfers.

Kauai has two of the state’s better spots to learn to surf, at Hanalei Bay on the north shore and at Poipu Beach on the south. But surfing is a great spectator sport. Events are always free, even at the famed pro surfing competitions on Oahu’s North Shore. But many events are unscheduled: when the surf is up, they will come. See page 22 of Kauai Trailblazer for the seven best places to watch surfers; all Trailblazer Travel Books include the best spots to be a spectator.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

West Kauai: Razing cane, one last time?

Workers at Gay & Robinson lift some of this year's 50 tons of sugarcane into the plant that has been feeding America’s sweet tooth for 120 years. But operations will cease next year, leaving only a single plantation on Maui to carry on a business that lured workers from around the Pacific and shaped the modern social fabric of the islands.

Although devastating in the short run for G & R’s 225 workers, many of whom still live in weathered “sugar shacks” just down the road, the future is not all grim: In 2007 the sugar king partnered with Pacific West Energy to develop the first fuel ethanol plant in America to create renewable power and clean-burning ethanol fuel from sugarcane. Some $80 million will be needed to re-purpose the bounty from the 7,500-acre plantation. In addition, the company plans to install a new hydroelectric power unit that will increase their current capacity by five to 10 megawatts and provide renewable energy to the island's power grid.

Using remarkable efficiency and Kauai’s abundant water, Gay & Robinson was able to compete in a world market that benefited from cheaper labor, but in recent it has incurred significant losses mainly due to the rising costs of fuel and fertilizer. Hawaii's first sugar cane plantation started in 1835 in Koloa on Kauai. Plantations were started later on the Big Island, Maui, and Oahu, and agriculture was the state's main economic engine for nearly a century.

Hawaii immigrant Eliza Sinclair; her daughters, Jane Gay and Helen Robinson; and their sons, Francis Gay and Aubrey Robinson, formed Gay & Robinson in the 19th century. The family owns the island of Ni’ihau, home to only pureblooded Hawaiians, and has always been know for taking care of its workers.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hawaiian Kingdom endures

The Kanohona Festival at Waipa on Hanalei Bay celebrated Hawaiian tradition—the conclusion of the winter makahiki season, when Lono, the god of peace and abundance is honored. This hula halau (group) rests between dances, perfomed to the cadence of drums and chants by their kapuna (leader). Throughout Hawaii the cultural traditions of living in harmony with the earth are perpetuated.

But the Waipa Foundation’s gathering was not about the past, but rather the near future, when many believe federal courts will reinstate the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom that was unlawfully annexed by the United States in 1898. President Grover Cleveland at the time agreed with the Hawaiian monarchs, but his ruling was ignored and then overturned when President McKinley took office. In 1993, President Clinton formally apologized to the Hawaiians on behalf of the U.S. Hawaii’s current Prime Minister, Henry Noa, spoke at the gathering, and is scheduled to meet with President Obama in the coming years To many, reinstatement of the Hawaiian Kingdom is a radical and far-fetched idea.

No one really knows how the matter can be resolved. But constitutional lawyers who look at the case—which was built back in 1898 by deposed Queen Lilioukalani—say the movement is on firm legal ground. Even so, the Kanohona Festival was not your usual political event, as slack key guitar greats such as Bruddah Smitty joined other musicians, dancers, food vendors, and artists at the event on the green pastures.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Magic Time

Select an afternoon stroll to any beach on Kauai’s north shore (this shot is from a path to secluded Kenomene Beach) and you feel the magic—tropical temps, banana plants and pandanus, the golden light of the salt mist wafting from the surf, sticking your toes in sand and warm water—and always the majestic backdrop of the green pali with signature Makana (Bali Hai) Peak.

It relaxes people and you wind up having conversations with strangers. After a rainy period this week, two dozen waterfalls streaked down the faces of the mountains of a land called Hanalei. BTW: “Hanalei” does not rhyme with “sea” as in the folk song, Puff the Magic Dragon. It rhymes with lay, as in lay your body down and watch the world happen.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Up the lazy rivers

Is there any more compelling image from jungle adventure movies than paddling the still waters and lagoons of a river, swallowed by tropical greenery, eyes searching for the source of exotic birdsong? You can spend ten days or more in Kauai getting different versions of this experience on rivers and wide streams.

The most popular paddle is the Wailua River, the waterway of royalty. Several outfitters offer tours. An easy rental is from Kamokila Village, a few-mile drive inland (an ancient site that was featured in the movie Outbreak) where vessels await dockside and a short voyage takes you to Fern Grotto and Secret Falls, reachable after a short hike. Outfitters also service the north shore, on the Hanalei River into the a National Wildlife Refuge, and wide Huleia Stream, which leads from Kalapaki Bay in east Kauai past the ancient Menehune Fishpond into another NWR, shooting locale for movies like Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Independent travelers can rent a kayak and try the Hanapepe and Waimea rivers on the more arid west side, leading into red canyons. But we’re not done by a long shot. On the northeast side of the island are several slack streams that lead from beaches into the jungle: Lumahai, Kalihiwai, Anahola, and Kilauea. After these freshwater excursions, it’s time to head into the sea, but summer is a better time for that.