Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hawaiian Holiday: The Vintage Highlights

As usual, I left for Hawaiʻi with lofty goals of coming back and presenting you all with a grandiose, half dozen-part series about our trip.  Needless to say, I've been back over two weeks and not a word has been written or picture posted.

Shame, shame, shame.

I'm not sure what's made it so difficult to write; normally this type of thing is right up my alley.  I shouldn't have any problem posting some photographs and giving you a run-down of our trip from start to finish.  I mean hey, I even took notes along the way, you guys.  This is kid's stuff.

The only thing I can make of it is this: I left for our trip with the anticipation of it being the perfect excuse to bombard you with article after article of B.S. travel notes and amateur photos, but upon arriving home, I realized that it only had one purpose and one purpose alone: to let us forget ourselves for a while.

That being said, Jon and I have returned to the land of rain and clouds and cold after an absolutely lovely and relaxing vacation on the island of Kauaʻi.  And you know what?  We deserved it.  Our trip couldn't have come at a better time.  You see, the Pacific Northwest has been stricken with the longest winter and coldest April in recorded history.  The fewest days over 50ºF between the months of January and April ever.  Plus, the current forecast is making the remainder of May look very grim indeed.  Lucky us!

The combination of this cold and wet has made us very unhappy campers, and coming back from warmth and sunshine has turned out to be pretty demotivating.  So I figure it will be best to approach this recap by focusing on just a few highlights, with a very un-Stacy-like motto:

Keep it short. (That means one long post instead of six long ones—don't get your hopes up.)

That's Honolulu, Oʻahu—as seen from the top of Diamond Head.  Before going to Kauaʻi, we spent one afternoon/night on Waikīkī Beach; with so little time to do or see anything, we figured Hey! Why not go for a hike and earn our Mai Tais!  The trail leading up Diamond Head is not a long one—not even 1 mile to the top—but when you climb up a steep 74 steps only to go around the corner and come face-to-face with 99 more steps at a near vertical incline... well, you feel it.

I'd say the view was worth the leg pain.

Our first order of business when we started our first full day on Kauaʻi (and after recovering from hours of travel) was to drive along the west side of the island thru Waimea Canyon to reach the road's endpoint: Mt. Waiʻaleʻale, "the wettest spot on earth" —or so read the sign next to the lookout.

We'd considered ourselves fairly lucky during the first few lookout points along the road; no rain, only sunshine and vibrant colors.  Driving up to the lookout at Waiʻaleʻale, however, we were met with something  a little different.  Moisture and water literally hung in the air, and the moment we stepped up to the railing—struggling for a glimpse of the Nā Pali coast through the steam and fog—it started raining so hard and so heavy it may as well have been a warm shower.

Naturally, I had left my raincoat in the hotel room.

I have to take a moment to apologize for the picture of Waimea Canyon and how dreadfully plain it looks... because it is anything but.  The greens and reds and browns simply do not shine through in this photograph.  I was hesitant to even include it, but I felt some perspective was necessary.  To get your "pretty fix", go here for the real deal.

I am happy to say that I've found the most perfect beach on Kauaʻi.  It may not look like much, but trust me: it's absolutely ideal for a relaxing spot to swim and sunbathe. 

Kalihiwai Beach, which is located on the island's North Shore near Princeville, is idyllic Hawaiʻi.  I had been to this beach before with my family several years ago, but no one could remember what it was called, how to get there, or even how they'd originally found it.  Luckily, it only took a few dozen Google searches to narrow down my options.

This is not a popular beach with tourists, possibly because there is no snorkeling, but my guess is that most people just don't know it's there.  I can't imagine why; the turn-off to get to this beach is (not surprisingly) Kalihiwai Rd., the same road that leads you to the infamous Secret Beach.    Parking is ample, and the beach is secluded, quiet, and great for kids. (There's a river that meets the bay, which has rope swings hanging above it and boasts the perfect wading opportunities.)

Jon and I didn't do a lot of swimming (pool or ocean) while we were on vacation, but we easily spent an hour and a half riding the waves (I wish I'd had a boogie board!), people watching (an old woman whose bathing suit was a little too big flashed us probably a dozen times as the waves hit her), and basically goofing around like little kids in the water.  It's easy to swim out past the breaks and still feel the sand, but it can get a little intense when the big waves crash.  If you are learning to surf or aching to do some boogie boarding and don't want to feel crowded by other water-hungry folks, visit Kalihiwai Beach.

My favorite series of pictures from the trip.  This man had his handicrafts set up at Wailua Falls, a popular tourist spot.

I'd seen another man making the same baskets out of palm fronds at Waimea the day before, but no one was stopping to buy them.  Here, however, baskets and hats were getting snatched up left and right!  This crafter even fit one to a customer's head!  I imagine he makes a pretty solid income as a result of setting up shop at this location, since a lot of traffic comes through.

I was extremely impressed, and desperately wanted a bowl (apparently they'll last forever if you take care of them!)... but Jon seemed unenthused, so I left empty-handed.  Note to self: Carry your own damn cash.

Our one indulgence came in the form of a heavily discounted catamaran ride around the west side of the island to view the sunset along the Nā Pali coast from the ocean.  Captain Andy's is a well-established boat tour that I have actually done twice previous to this trip; I've been fortunate enough to take his 5.5 hour daytime snorkeling tour with my family in the past.  For the sunset cruise, prices average $112 per person... but with a discount through our hotel timeshare (my parents are owners at the Point at Poʻipū), we got to go for only $44 per person!!  That includes a full dinner buffet and many many many drinks (Sneaky Tikis!), along with a 4 hour tour.  Plus, two unanticipated humpback whale sightings—flukes in the air and all!

That's Nā Pali.  Worth every discounted penny.

Coming to the end of our trip—fat on fried foods and sweet booze—we thought the best way to end our trip was the same way we started it: hiking!  The Māhāʻulepū Heritage Trail, which leads to Māhāʻulepū Beach just east of our resort, is a decently strenuous 4-mile round-trip hike with some pretty spectacular views.

This is not a hike I would recommend for kids, especially if you have rambunctious ones.  The cliff faces are very steep.  We're talking 'certain death' steep.  Pretty much only if your kid can be strapped to a bag on your back (or they're experienced little hiking tykes) would I say bring them along.

The sand at the beach was so soft, and the stream we had to pass through brought some much-needed relief to our (okay, my!) aching feet.  Coming back was a little on the confusing side, because there are quite a few little paths that lead to the beach; we ended up taking a completely different (and much shorter) route back after getting lost and turned around a few times.

I would recommend this hike to anyone who loves a little bit of strain, but isn't sure they want to tackle something as intense as Nā Pali on their supposedly relaxing vacation.

Once again, we earned our Mai Tais.

And that was it!  That was our trip—in a very long, picture heavy, convoluted nutshell—minus a handful of less interesting deets (like how I almost missed the Royal Wedding because of jetlag, grrrr)!  It was worth every second and every dollar spent, but I was happy to get home to see Ennis and Peekay.  Fry, too, I guess... sort of.  (Ugh, cats.)

Now, the most important thing is that this post is finally over.  Thank the gods.

*All photos property of The Sleepy Peach

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