Kaua’i: Beyond the Brochure


We flew from Honolulu, Oahu to Li’Hue, Kaua’i Friday mid-morning. The friends we were meeting just happened to be on the same flight, so in an instant we were off. We both got our rental cars and split up until lunch. It wasn’t until I jumped into our red Jeep Wrangler that I realized my Rosie the Riveter button had fallen off my backpack. Needless to say, I went from high to low in an instant.

As we pulled away from the airport, we heard on the radio that July 26 is National Auntie and Uncle Day. How fitting!

My aunt and uncle showed me almost a third of the island. All I wanted to do was play the song “Cruise” but we listen to HPR all the time. They told me that The Big Island is the most versatile, but this island has the most luscious and exotic plants here. I could already tell that each island is its own because I don’t think I saw a single plant here that was the same as Oahu.

We saw the Alakoko (Menehune) Fish Pond,


traveled through the tunnel of trees,


and practically pretended to be guests by while touring through the Grand Hyatt resort in Koloa. Oh and when you check in, they really do greet you with a lei. The guy knew I wasn’t staying there but when we were talking I mentioned this is my first time here and he lei’d me anyways 😉 (4th one so far!)

They even have a ping pong table!

They even have a ping pong table!

We met up with our friends for lunch at a place called Living Foods. All organic. I tried an antioxidant juice, but it was very unpleasant.


We then decided to caravan for more sightseeing. The Spouting Horn is a popular place to watch the waves come in and spray through the blowhole. There were also a lot of woodcock and merchandise booths, and the dirt turned my black tennis shoes to red.

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We saw a lot of coffee fields on the drive towards our destination. This island is known as The Garden Isle, so of course they have tons and tons of flora to showcase. We stopped at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens and walked around the grounds since we didn’t have time to do a tour. Also in their gift shop, they sold shell leis (or lei pūpū) which are collected and made by the people of Niihau, so they are super expensive shell. This island is known as The Forbidden Isle because very few people outside of native Hawaiians are allowed to go there. In 2009, the population was found to be 130.

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All over my Kaua’i maps I saw heiau’s. These are Hawaiian temples and were often used for human sacrifice. I wanted to visit one, so we stopped at the one which also marked the location for the birthplace of Prince Kuhio.

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I'm guessing this was the platform for sacrifices

I’m guessing this was the platform for sacrifices



As we neared Hanapepe, a crowd of people had gathered along both sides of the road protesting the GMO bill. This is currently a debate amongst those in Hawaii. There is no precise way to control these experiments that are mixing species, and they are often met with rude shocks that disturb other controlled species. We honked in support but had to keep going. Here’s more: http://hawaiiseed.org/about-gmos/


Our last tourist stop of the day was the Salt Pond close to Hanapepe. After seeing it on my list of “Must See’s in Kaua’i” we were expecting it to be much more, especially since neighbors give bags of this sand as gifts. Oh well, maybe we just didn’t drive to the right area. This is the only shot I got, which I think is still pretty cool. Rad Red.


After buying our lilikoi cream pie at Big Save (where we really don’t think we saved), we rode up to our cabin in the Waimea Canyon. It took us an hour of super steep slow driving and very bumpy roads to reach our cabin, but it was a beautiful view.

We quenched our thirst and satisfied our stomachs with huli huli chicken risotto. Then I found out I really like to play drums and even learned a little guitar. I had a good night’s sleep.



I woke up to the sound of the woodcock and was freezing. It gets fairly chilly at night here. We ate breakfast and packed our backpacks for today’s hike.

I started off the day wearing my thick leggings, bathing suit, tank, and rain jacket (because at first it was drizzling). MY attire definitely changed over the course of the day.

It was very hard for me to remember that we were in Hawaii. It felt a lot more like Colorado. I felt this way for almost the entire weekend because this area is just so far away from the traditional luau’s and beaches that you see all over the media.

We first walked south on the road to start on Black Pipe Trail. We were covered by the trees and eventually I took off my jacket. On this trail we saw a lot of trees that felt like sponges, koa trees and their sickle-shaped leaves, tall weeds, and exotic flowers. Also, you can see that our trail’s width and texture changed quite often.

spongy tree

spongy tree


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Koa leaves

Koa leaves


We will eventually hike to the orange road you can see standing out in the middle. This is where we would see the best view.

We will eventually hike to the orange road you can see standing out in the middle left. This is where we would see the best view.

Trails full of obstacles

Trails full of obstacles


Later Black Pipe ended, so we jumped on the Canyon Trail going east, which would eventually lead us to Waipo’o Falls and, of course, the canyon view. This trail was covered in red dirt, which comes from the fact that this is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and has eroded for longer. It was pretty steep, and I found myself running up and down the dirt hills to keep my momentum and prevent myself from slipping or falling.

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We came across, what I like to call, a garden of lava bombs. There were several areas with dozens of lava bombs on our path; lava bombs are large molten rocks that are fragments from a volcanic eruption. Many previous tourists had carved their names or images on these bombs.

My uncle giving a history lesson about the lava bombs.

My uncle giving a history lesson about the lava bombs.

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the inside of a lava bomb

the inside of a lava bomb

And now: Waimea Canyon


Me and the tree living on the edge

Me and the tree living on the edge

purple dirt

purple dirt

the valley

the valley

Team Koke'e

Team Koke’e

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I wish I could stay here forever. When we finally reached the climax of our hike I had no words. Not because I was tired, but because it was breathtaking. The colors of the mountains against the valley and all the bright red dirt around us composed the most stunning view I had ever seen. I just wanted to reach out and touch this huge unreal postcard. I felt so connected to the life around me and wished that all of my closest friends and family could have been there to share this moment with me.

I’m in love.

I just stared without interruption until the group made me leave with them.

We walked to Waipo’o Falls, which was further down the red trail and through some claustrophobic greenery. We claimed the big rock as our lunch and sunbathing spot, and the water was ice cold.

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view from our rock

view from our rock

After eating our sandwiches and drinking plenty of water, we packed up and took one last look at Waipo’o Falls before returning west on Canyon Trail.

The colors of Waimea had changed since we last passed her, and she continued to absorb my view once again. Ahhh


We hit the trail crossing again and stayed on Canyon Trail this time, which is a more “family friendly” route. The form of the trails changed probably every 5-20 minutes. Rocky, dirty, leafy, rooty, you name it. Finally we merged onto Cliff Trail and ended at the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout off Hwy 550.

There were tons of blackberry bushes that kept poking us with their thorns.

There were tons of blackberry bushes that kept poking us with their thorns.



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The view from

The view from Pu’u Hinahina Lookout

And we saw goats at the lookout!!

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We left the lookout and hiked north on Hwy 550 to head back to the cabin.

We saw all of this.

We saw all of this.

You can follow our trails and check out the other ones too.

You can follow our trails and check out the other ones too.

We hiked approx. 5 miles (maybe more) over the course of 5 hours. We got back in the early afternoon, so I took this time to absorb more of the sun’s rays. (Plus, the atmosphere is thinner here. More sun for me!) As I watched the clouds, I noticed that they were moving so quickly, not pausing to form any shapes. I am just amazed with the beauty that is hidden here. It makes you feel spiritual even if you don’t normally feel that way and disconnected from the chaotic realities of the world.

We all showered and ate dinner with our neighbors. They live up here in the canyon and have the most adorable home. I took a lot of pictures, but I think this one describes it best.

Fresh game of Yahtzee, flowers from the garden, and countless collections of bottles and porcelains.

Fresh game of Yahtzee, flowers from the garden, and countless collections of bottles and porcelains.

I tried to go to bed a little earlier, but our neighbor knew how to play slack-key guitar which is a genre of music that originated in Hawaii. I had already listened to his great stories as a native of Hawaii, so now I listened through the walls to the sound of Hawaiian bliss.



Today I wore a jacket and long pants. Thank goodness I did because quite a few thorn bushes attacked me.

Kalalau Lookout to start the day.

Kalalau Lookout to start the day.

We took a Jurassic Park adventure in the Jeep down further into the canyon to the start of the Kawaikoi Stream Trail. You could tell the road down there had been dynamited and could look up to see trees hanging off the cliff.


This trail was less steep, but more wet and slippery. I almost twisted my ankle on multiple occasions because the ground liked to test my balance. There was moss everywhere and in every color. Not only the moss was squishy, but the ground was very soft to walk on too.

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We only hiked a little over 3 miles today. It was pretty cloudy and sometimes drizzly. Of course, we became warm from hiking, but never hot enough to swim in the stream or even take off our jackets.

There was ginger everywhere on this trail. Everywhere.

There was ginger everywhere on this trail. Everywhere.

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The grasses were sometimes over my head and without the people in front of me I may not have even seen which way to walk sometimes.




We stopped for lunch on the stream, feasting on all our leftover foods from the cabin but mainly salmon, cheese, and bread.

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The sounds of the water trickling through the many rocks was so soothing and made me want to fall asleep on the rocks in the stream.

near the beginning of the trail

near the beginning of the trail

near the end of the trail

near the end of the trail

I had a great time and could go into many details, but I’m running out of energy for this post.

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We did have to hurry to return to the cabin to clean, so we drove up to the Koke’e State Park Museum and Lodge to catch a glance of it before we left the area.

We stopped at one last lookout on the way out of the canyon and all I think was “A hui hou”.


(Our flight came in late, but I got to see Air Force One leave the Honolulu Airport!)

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