Sunday, June 29, 2014

A brief post about our trip to Kauai

Very recently, my wife and son and I had the opportunity to visit the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. My awesome sister-in-law wanted to go over there to marry her fiancé (now her husband), and was so kind to invite us to go along. While I was unsure about making the trip, and whether or not I cared at all about Hawaii, I can now say, Kauai is AMAZING!!!
One of the many gorgeous river valleys on the island.
We stayed on the southern end of the island, in Poipu, and in one of the nicest hotels I've ever seen. We were right on the beach, and our room had a balcony with a view of the blue, blue ocean. Every morning, I'd wake to the sound of hundreds of birds singing, and the waves hitting the beach. From the hotel, I could go running along this path, which eventually became a dirt and lava-rock trail. It was a pretty wonderful thing; a very spiritual environment, in which to run and start my mornings.
Local surfers were a regular site at the beach by the hotel. The water was so comfortable--around 75 degrees, so the surfers would stay out as long as they were catching good waves, right up until it was too dark to see.

This was our hotel, the Grand Hyatt in Poipu. There were regular swimming pools and jacuzzis, as well as these tidal pools. I was surprised to see so many people spending more time in the tidal pools, than just out in the ocean itself. Not us; I don't think we ever set foot in the hotels pools. It was the ocean, or nothing for us.

There is something incredibly special about this island. I felt it. I don't think you can help but feel it. Kauai is nicknamed "The Garden Island," which is very appropriate. The entire place is covered in jungle, basically. There are green plants and trees, everywhere you look, and so thick that you'd need a machete to navigate most of it. I could not help but notice that the island just feels so ALIVE!! So much plant life. So many beautiful rivers, full of life-sustaining water. So many huge, powerful waterfalls along those rivers. The mountains on Kauai are gorgeous, though many of them are often socked in by steam and rain clouds. Near dead-center of the island, Mt. Kauaikini rises up over 5200 feet, being the island's tallest peak. It receives over 400 inches of annual rainfall. I can't help but wonder how much more beautiful it would be here in Utah, if our mountains received even 200 inches of annual rainfall.

We were only on the island for a week, but enough to get a sense of the people there. They are hard-working, but also quite relaxed. No one seemed to be in a rush, or very stressed out about anything. The fastest speed limit on the island is 50mph, and most of the narrow stretches of highway, where I would assume the speed limit might be 55 or 60mph, the speed limit was only 25mph. It made driving very pleasant, and such that you could really see things, and take it all in, as much as possible. I was very fortunate to be able to meet up with a missionary friend, who I hadn't seen since we were both serving as Mormon missionaries in Los Angeles, CA...17 or 18 years ago. He is from Kauai, and continues to live there, now with his wife and son. And he showed us a great time at Anahola Beach, about 2/3 of the way up the west coast of the island. The beach was so nice, and secluded from all of the tourists. (We would never have known about it if he hadn't have invited us and given us good directions). There, we sat on the beach, did some snorkeling--where I got stung by jellyfish--and tried paddle-boarding for my first time. I LOVE it!! Now I want to buy one, and try it out on the lakes around here.
Sheldon Espina and I at Anahola Beach, Kauai, Hawaii. He hasn't changed a bit, after 17+ years, when I knew him as a fellow-missionary in the California Los Angeles Mission. It was really great to see him, and I hope it's not so long before we can hang out again.

This is at Wailua Falls, one of the first places we found a ways off the beaten path. I didn't get any good photos of them, because they were too far away for my wide-angle lens, but we watched these beautiful White-tailed Tropicbirds, circling around below, and near the river, and they'd follow each other, almost in a dance, and fly in and out of the falls. It was a cool thing to watch.

Opeakaa Falls--allegedly this is shown during the opening credits of that old show, "Fantasy Island." (Remember it? "Da plane! Da plane!")

Opeakaa River. And if you click on the photo, you can see some tiny kayakers, probably having one of the most amazing experiences of their lives.

I took over my nice camera, hoping to do lots of photography. But, on a family trip, I realized that was more easily said than done. So, I didn't get as many photos as I might have wanted. I did manage to capture some nice pics at sunset, in Poipu. As far as wildlife in Kauai, it's pretty much birds. LOTS of birds, including a gazillion wild chickens. Yep. Wild chickens. That no one eats. I asked my friend, as well as the lady working one of the delicious food trucks, and they told me no one eats the wild chickens; that the meat would be too tough, and not that tasty. That surprised me; I would have assumed one could subsist well on nothing but the wild chickens. They were EVERYWHERE. 
Common Myna.

Cattle Egret.

A very handsome Red Junglefowl rooster, one of the MANY wild chickens on the island. These were introduced to Hawaii by some early Polynesian settlers, and they have no real predators on Kauai, other than a few raptor birds. On some of the other Hawaiian islands, there are Mongoose, which helps keep the Junglefowl populations in check.
While I didn't take photos of them, I wanted to mention that I also saw: A black-crowned Night Heron, Hawaiian Hawks, many finches, lots of Zebra Doves (very common over there), Northern Cardinals and Red-Crested Cardinals, Peacocks, and many others I couldn't identify. It's also worth noting, I think, that there are raptors that we also have in Utah, such as Short-eared Owls, Barn Owls, Osprey, Peregrine Falcons and others.

I appreciated the simple, yet soulful architecture on Kauai, and found a couple of churches to be very charming.
This was the Mormon Branch Building in Hanalei. Still a bland looking ward/branch house, but with a tropical, Hawaiian twist.

Wai'oli Hui'ia Church. (It's a Christian/Bible-based church). Why doesn't every church have stained-glass and palm trees?!

Same thing--different angle.

For my sister-in-law's wedding, the ceremony was held at a place called Smith Gardens. It was a simple and beautiful ceremony, with a mountain and jungle backdrop. I didn't take any photos of it, as I didn't want to be an "Uncle Bob," and bother the professional photographer that Smith Gardens provided, as part of the wedding package. But it was a gorgeous afternoon, birds were chirping, romance was in the air, etc... ;) Following the wedding, we attended a luau in the same location. The food was SOOO GOOD!!! And that was followed by a presentation by island dancers/performers, representing all of the different peoples of Hawaii (called the Rhythm of Aloha show).
This was the backdrop for the ceremony, or at least one small part of the backdrop.

It was super hard to take nice photos of the show, as it was very dark, the lighting was poor, and the dancers were 25 yards or so away from where the audience was sitting. This fire dancer was amazing, and had A LOT of personality. We really enjoyed the show.

There truly is something special about Kauai. There is a spirit there that I couldn't ignore. It's in everything. It's in the people. It's in their culture and traditions, which they keep alive. It's in the wildlife. It's in the green jungle, the rivers, the waterfalls and the ocean. It's in the gorgeous starry skies at night, and in the sunrises and sunsets. Kauai isn't too commercialized, like some of the other islands. There aren't any skyscrapers. There aren't a lot of roads. The ecosystem seems, in great part, to be intact, and unmolested. The whole place just feels very much alive, and I was invigorated by it all. It changed me. And we look forward to going back.

And just a couple other pics to end on.

Huge cave, just beyond Hanalei Bay.

The hotel's dining area was open to the outdoors, which was lovely. The air always smelled so good, and the sounds of the ocean and all the birds were better than lousy elevator music. After people would leave their tables, these Mynas and Finches would swarm in and start cleaning up the plates and bowls, as much as they wanted. It was kind of awesome.

"Spouting Horn," near Poipu.

"Spouting Horn." This lava outcropping has been hollowed out underneath, over time, and when the waves come in, the water is forced up through these channels and holes in the top. Not nearly as cool as Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone, but still pretty cool. And hey, you're at the beach!


  1. I cannot wait to go back! Beautiful pictures of a beautiful place :)

  2. Just so you have evidence. I did read and look through your little trip. YOu are a lucky bastard, and a good person. What a great family...