The South Shore of Kaua’i offers the best beaches in winter, when the North Shore is typically too rough for anything but surfing. We spent a few hours walking parts of the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, which follows the coastline and passes many beautiful and remote beaches. Along the way, we stumbled upon a small caged area where someone had introduced giant tortoises, like the ones found in the Galapagos. Visitors were free to enter and walk around with the pre-historic beasts. Po’ipu is the main resort town in the South and we spent half a day there boogie-boarding on Brennecke’s Beach, a beach exclusively dedicated to that sport. While waiting for the next wave, something big and rigid hit Sam’s leg. Looking down, we discovered a giant sea turtle swimming calmly through the waters. Our only night out on the island we spent in Hanapepe, where every Friday is Art Night. The small village seems to have more art galleries than inhabitants. Our favorite painting showed four chickens riding a wave, using a cow as a surfboard.
We spent one day driving up to the North Shore, where all the surfers enjoy the huge waves in winter. In the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, we saw Hawaii’s State Bird, a native Hawaiian goose called Nene, for the first time. The highlight of the Refuge, however, was the tour of the small lighthouse located there. The lighthouse was quite pretty and their huge Fresnel lens on the top was impressive, but all of that was surpassed by our lighthouse guide, who had an enthusiasm like she was showing us the only building on the planet.
Farther up the road was Hanalei Bay, home to some of the world’s best surfing spots. Unfortunately, this was already the end of the road for us. In April of this year, a flash flood had destroyed roads past Hanalei and it was still closed in December. This robbed us of the opportunity to see the most beautiful beaches of the North Shore and the best hike of Kaua’i, which would lead far into the wild nature of the Na Pali Coast. The destruction of the April flood was still widely visible in the town of Hanalei.
The East Shore proved to offer the best activities on the island. We spent one day kayaking up and down the Wailua River. Luckily, we did this on a Sunday, when all the guided tours do not run. We just rented our own kayak and enjoyed the time on the almost empty river. From one point on the river, only reachable by kayak, there was a 1½ hour round-trip hike to a large waterfall. The hike was quite difficult. It involved wading through rivers four times and large parts were muddy and slippery.
Another day we hiked up to Nounou (Sleeping Giant) Mountain, named so because its shape resembles a sleeping giant. The steep hike up to the giant’s head rewarded us with fantastic views over the entire East Coast and the inner parts of the island too. A large part of the East Coast is accessible through a long paved coastal walkway, called Ke Ale Hele Makalae, which we also walked in parts.
The highlight of our stay on Kaua’i was a flight over the island. Most of the inner part of the island is completely inaccessible or privately owned, so the only way to see this area is by flying over it. We booked a one-hour-flight in a small Cessna that was only seating the two of us and the pilot. On our flight we got amazing bird’s-eye views of many green valleys and hundreds of waterfalls. It was also very interesting to see all the places we already visited on the ground from the air, like the heart-shaped Po’ipu Beach, the vast plantations of the Kaua’i Coffee Company, the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, Hanalei Bay with the mountains raising behind and Wailua Falls.
For the last night before our departure, we went back to our favorite camping spot at Kekaha Beach and enjoyed one last sunset on Kaua’i.