About Me

Tired of the mundane and craving an adventure, on Saturday, May 22nd, 2010, I embarked on the ultimate American road trip through all fifty states. After nearly a year and a half on the road, on a budget of less than 50 bucks a day, this is my story...

Hawaii Highlights & A Hui Hou

68 Days in Paradise!

Swim with dolphins
Snorkel/Cliff-Jump "Black Rock
Road to Hana
Sundays at Little Beach
Old Lahaina Luau
Paia Fish Market

Next time: Snorkel Molokini, Sunrise at Haleakala, Commando Hike, Witness "Jaws" breaking

Big Island
Swim with giant manta rays
Get up close to active lava
Green Sand Beach
Snorkel Kealakekua Bay
Sunset at Mauna Kea Summit

Next time: Hike Waipi'o Valley, Mo'okini Luakini Heiau, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau

Napali Coast Hike
 Waimea Canyon
Kipu Falls
Hanalei Bay

Next time: Queen's Bath

Perimeter drive
Hanauma Bay
Haiku Stairs Hike

Next time: Nu'uanali Lookout, Diamond Crater Hike, Drive west side, Sansei Sushi

Best Maps: Franko's
Best Song: "One Day" by Matisyahu    

Hawaiians don't really say goodbye.  They say "A hui hou."
Until next time, Hawaii :D

Hawaii, Chapter 8: Oahu - Gathering Place


  "Oahu is the most commercial of the islands, and in many ways, the center of the Hawaiian universe.  It's home to Waikiki (famous the world over, where urban culture and the distinct Polynesian flavor of Hawaii co-exist) and jam-packed Honolulu (the state's capital and home to nearly 80% of the state's population). But don't let that fool you:  Oahu mesmerizes visitors with rainforests, mountains, valleys, and spectacular ocean waves. A great suggestion for any island newcomer is to rent a car (an open top is ideal) and drive the perimeter of the island - you may well be awed by how slow-paced, undeveloped and quaint much of the island remains, particularly on its northern and eastern shores."

Thursday, February 10th - Drivin' with the Top Down!
This morning for $71 I flew to Honolulu, and went to Hertz to pick up my rental car.  I had reserved a little economy car for $122, but there was evidently something wrong, because when I finally spoke with the inexperienced agent behind the counter, after waiting forever in the slow line of people, she went and spoke with a fellow associate, then talked on the phone part-way into another room so I couldn't hear her admit her mistake, then finally came back and asked if I would be okay with a free upgrade to a convertible!  HECK YES!  SWEET!!!  A few minutes later I was driving off the lot in a new, red Mustang convertible with the top down!  WOO-HOO!

Waikiki Beachside Hostel, Photo f/ Google Images
I checked into Waikiki Beachside Hostel, a large hostel located a block away from popular Waikiki Beach.  The hostel is run like a hotel (the staff is even in uniform!), so I felt pampered, since I've stayed in hole-in-the-walls with bedbugs!  I went to my room which was nice and secure, an a 8-person co-ed dorm with a little kitchen area, telephone (free local calls), bathroom, lanai (deck), air conditioning, lockers, and electronic door lock :)

I walked up Kalakaua Ave, the main drag along Waikiki Beach, lined with restaurants, hotels, shopping boutiques,  to Duke's, where I had the lunch buffet recommended by a fellow Banana Bungalow-er in Maui.  The open-air dining room is great, open to great views of the beach, and the service was good, but the buffet didn't have much selection, and I found hair in my food!  Needless to say, I lost my appetite and left.  On the way back to the hostel I stopped to check out the busy beach (a bit overrated in my opinion).

Upon arriving back at the hostel, I hopped in the car for a drive around the perimeter of the island.  Heading southeast from Waikiki, I passed iconic Diamond Head, and "a dozen bedroom communities tucked into the valleys at the foot of the Koolau Range, with just fleeting glimpses of the ocean from a couple pocket parks. This is where civilization falls away, the four-lane Kalaniana'ole Highway narrows to two lanes, and you enter the rugged coastline of Kokohead and Ka Iwi.  This is a cruel coastline: dry, wind-swept, and rocky shores, with  notoriously treacherous untamed waves." 

Koko Head Crater & Hanauma Bay, Photo f/ Hawaii.edu
"At this point, you're passing through Koko Head Regional Park.  On your right is the bulging remnant of a pair of volcanic craters that the Hawaiians called Kawaihoa, known today as Koko Head.  To the left is Koko Crater and the area of the park that includes a hiking trail, a dry land botanical garden, a firing range, and a riding stable.  Ahead is a sinuous shoreline with scenic pullouts, beaches, and Makapu'u Point.  Named the Ka Iwi Coast for the channel just offshore, this area was once home to a ranch and small fishing enclave that were destroyed by a tidal wave in the 1940s."

Passing Hanauma Bay (a tuff ring breached by the ocean), I stopped at a handful of scenic lookouts, Lanai Lookout (features a very distant view of the Island of Lānai on a clear day), Hālona Blowhole (ocean swells surge into lava tube and spout up 50 ft. (16 m) high.
Whale watching in season; next to "From Here to Eternity" Beach at Halona Cove), Sandy Beach Park and Makapu'u Point State Wayside.

Continuing along the coastal highway, I passed Mānana Island, Makai Pier (long, concrete pier built that houses several commercial marine engineering firms and HURL - Hawaii Underwater Research Laboratory), more beach parks, and I accidentally dead-ended at a marine corps base, lol.

"Chinaman’s Hat,"Photo f/ HawaiiWeatherToday.com
I got some gas and picked up a slushie (I like to use a mixture of flavors), before continuing my drive along the eastern, "Windward Oahu" coast.

"Looking at Honolulu's topsy-turvy urban sprawl, you would never suspect the windward side existed.  It's a secret Oahuans like to keep, so they can watch the awe on the faces of their guests when the car emerges from the tunnels through the mountains and they gave for the first time on the panorama of turquoise bays and emerald valleys watched over by the knife-edged Koolau ridges."

"It is on this side of the island that many Native Hawaiians live. Evidence of traditional lifestyles is abundant in crumbing fish ponds, rock platforms that once were altars, and taro patches still being worked.  Here, the pace is slower, more oriented toward nature."

Windward Oahu, Photo f/ HawaiiWeatherToday.com
turned out to be a Mormon Temple, with beautiful manicured gardens surrounding the striking coral-white temple, which has been a La'ie landmark since 1919. I made a brief stop in the visitor center (features a breathtaking replica of Thorvaldsen's "Christus" statue), before being hounded by a couple of "friendly representatives," eager to know my religious beliefs and pressuring me to watch their "informational video" (I declined).

I then curved around Oahu's North Shore, the region known for surfing, surfing and more surfing.  Roughly from Kahuku Point to Kaena Point, is an area of small farms and big waves, tourist traps, and other-worldly landscapes, and I passed several parks and beaches, roadside fruit stands and shrimp shacks, between the one-time plantation town of Kahuku and the surf mecca of Haleiwa.  Just opposite of tranquil Waimea Valley was my favorite place along the North Shore, Waimea Bay, an influential surf spot during the dawn of big wave surfing in the 1950’s, with wide stretches of sand to sunbathe and picnic, and a rock outcropping to climb and jump off of - lots of feral cats, lol. 

Haleiwa, "Surf City U.S.A," has had many lives, from resort getaway in the 1900s to plantation town through the 20th century to its life today as a surf and tourist magnet, offering fashion boutiques, surf shops, restaurants and "shave ice." 

Beyond Haleiwa is the tiny village of Waialua, a string of beach parks, an airfield where gliders, hang-gliders, and parachutists play, and, at the end of the road, Kaena Point State Recreation Area, on a windy barren coast that lacks both shade and fresh water (or any man-made amenities), which offers a brisk hike, striking views and whale-watching in season.

Halawei Town, Photo f/ ParadiseBabyCo.com
It was getting dark, so I didn't follow the coast back, though I did get a good taste of the rural countryside that the west part of the island is known for, along Kamehameha Highway heading south.  "There are commuters from this side to Honolulu, but many are born, live and die on this side with scarcely a trip to town.  For the most part, there's less hostility and more curiosity toward outsiders. Occasional problems have flared up, mostly due to drug abuse that has ravaged the fringes of the island. But the problems have generally been car break-ins, not violence. So, in short, lock your car, don't bring valuables, and enjoy the amazing beaches."

"The beaches on the west side are expansive and empty. Most Oahu residents and tourists don't make it to this side simply because of the drive, but you'll be hard pressed to find a better sunset anywhere," speaking of which, I did get to witness a pretty spectacular one from the rear view mirror on the way back to the hostel.

The hostel was pretty happenin' when I got back.  They cooked up an all-American dinner of burgers and beans for $5 (yummy veggie burgers, too), and while sitting down to plan my next day I met David from Ann Arbor and Jenna from Vancouver.  The 3 of us got along great, and we went for a little walk around the neighboring streets of Waikiki to check out the local nightlife.  On the way back, David and I were propositioned by friendly women (prostitutes) countless times.  David's a very handsome guy, so I had no problem with him telling the girls that I was his man, LOL. 

Friday, February 11th - Hikin' Haiku!
View f/ Puu Keahiakahoe Summit
Photo by David Gorham
This morning David and I got up super early (maybe 5 am?) and went for one of the most unique, most awe-inspiring hikes I've ever done!  Last night I was thinking out loud with David about which hike I'd like to do today (Manoa Falls, Diamond Head...), when a fellow hosteler spoke up and recommended the "Haiku Stairs" (aka "Haiku Ladder" and "Stairway to Heaven," as it frequently disappears into the clouds), a network of connecting sections of metal stairs, scaling the slope of Koolau Mountain up to an abandoned radar tower in Kaneohe. 

"The trail began as a wooden ladder spiked to the cliff on the south side of the Haiku Valley, installed in 1943 to enable the construction of antenna cables and a building to provide continuous communication between Wahiawa and Haiku Valley Naval Radio Station - elevation approximately 2800 feet. The extraordinary antennas transmitted radio signals that could reach US Navy submarines as far away as Tokyo Bay, even while the submarines remained underwater."

"When the Naval base was decommissioned in the 1950s, the United States Coast Guard used the site for an Omega station. In the early 50s, the wooden stairs were replaced by sections of metal steps and ramps — by one count, 3,922 steps. The station and trail were closed to the public in 1987."

View of Sunrise f/ 1st Platform of Haiku Stairs
Photo by David Gorham
"We parked in the residential neighborhood of 'Haiku Village,' and quietly found our way to the gate with signs reading "No Trespassing" and "Haiku Stairs Closed. Trespassers will be prosecuted."  We squeezed through, and this is where the real "Mission Impossible" fun started.  No matter who's directions on Yelp you follow to get to the stairs, you'll most likely do some back-tracking as we did.  Through fences, under fences, around fences, turning here, turning there, paved paths, dirt paths, "follow the "orange ribbons," "go under the bridge" - with ambiguous directions and the light from David's phone, we eventually made it to the blue tarp, where at 6:20am the guard would be stationed, turning away all hopeful trespassers.

A few chain-link fences later, we began our ascent up the 3,922 slippery stairs, potentially with one wrong step making for a very, very bad day.  "The stairs are comprised of approximately eight-foot-high segments which are interlinked by hooks and anchored by spikes driven into the mountain side. A pair of hollow steel-tube railings, an average of 18 - 24 inches apart, are bolted to each segment. The grade of the ascent ranges from completely flat to nearly vertical, however, the majority remains above a 45-degree gradient.  The step spacing is very manageable, but one should realize this is equivalent to about a 60 - 90 minute continuous work-out on a "stair-climber" machine.

We made it to the first platform of the Koolau Mountains just in time to witness the spectacular sunrise over Honolulu giving way to jaw-dropping views.  As an additional bonus, we looked to left above the highway to find a giant double-rainbow!  I took a few minutes perched on the concrete slab, catching my breath and thanking the universe for this amazing experience.

"Ganja!" - Abandoned Hoist House
Photoby David Gorham
We kept climbing, making our way to an abandoned concrete structure which houses the antenna's winching equipment, elevation at 2,480 ft.  We had fun checking out the old, rusted equipment and interesting graffiti walls, before making our final climb to the 2800-foot summit of Puu Keahiakahoe overlooking Haiku Valley.  Here, you feel a million miles up from the dots of buildings on the valley floor, with an incredible, panoramic, bird's-eye view of the the ocean, mountains, and communities below.  We had fun striking a couple poses for the camera, checking out the abandoned radar tower, and chatting with a few others who made it up.

It started raining before we descended the mountain, making the metal stairs even more wet, but we made it down without a problem, chatting with the friendly, social guard upon leaving the trail.  The guard was interesting, sporting a pink mohawk-type do, and sharing his love of the trail us - he said he's made it up to the top in a record 26 minutes (or something like that - it was too early to remember details, lol)!

David and I refreshed ourselves with a trip to Jamba Juice (difficult to find!), before grabbing a fish plate lunch with a "groupon" at a local hole-in-the-wall, where David accidentally squashed a giant cockroach lurking under our table!

We attempted to spend a day at the beach on the North Shore, but turned around when it started raining heavily.

When we got back to the hostel I intended to watch a little "Dexter" with David, but their internet connection was down, so I took myself to dinner and a movie.  

Oceanarium Restaurant
Photo f/ travelofscool-anda.blogspot.com
To make up for the disappointing, hair-in-the-food buffet let-down at Duke's, I treated myself to an upscale experience at Pacific Beach Hotel’s award-winning Oceanarium Restaurant, where "the flavors are as amazing as the views," just a few blocks away from the hostel.  I indulged myself with (5 plates in all?) fresh island crab legs, sushi, mahi mahi and more, with a trip to the delectable dessert station  – all alongside window-paned views of "nearly 400 fish from more than 70 different species of marine life."

Then I went and saw "Green Hornet" at Consolidated Theatres Ward 16, in Oahu's bustling downtown business district.  

When I came out of the movies it was a beautiful night, so I decided to take advantage of it with a joyride around Waikiki's hip nightlife scene and surrounding suburbs, top down, music up :)

When I got back to the hostel, the party was just starting.  I said hi to Jenna and the others playing drinking games in the common area, ran with Jenna to catch the end of the fantastic fireworks show above the waters of Waikiki, and introduced David to my favorite TV show, "Dexter."

Saturday, February 12th - Swimmin' with the fishes!
Makapu'u Lighthouse, Photo by Google Images
This morning I slept in, said hello to Jenna as she was setting out for a joyride on her scooter rental, and drove back to Makapu'u State Wayside to hike Makapu‘u Point's popular Lighthouse Trail, an easy 2-mile round-trip trail involving an elevation climb of 500 feet. 

Along the paved trail I took in the scenery of low-growing kiawe and panini (cactus), and beautiful views of O‘ahu’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head and Koko Crater. Upon reaching the end of the line at Makapu‘u Head, I found the quaint, historic red-roofed Makapu‘u Lighthouse built in 1909.  Then I walked to the cement platforms for magnificent views of the windward coast and offshore islets that are wildlife sanctuaries for Hawaiian seabirds.

On the way back to the hostel, I satisfied my hunger with a strawberry-banana smoothie, before packing my things, saying goodbye to my friend David, and checking out.

No trip to Oahu is complete without a trip to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.  "The exterior wall of a volcanic crater collapsed into the sea thousands of years ago, thereby giving birth to Oahu's most famous snorkeling destination. Even from the overlook, the horseshoe-shape bay is a beauty, and you can easily see the reefs through the clear aqua waters. The wide, sandy beach is a great place for sunbathing and picnics."

Hanauma Bay, Photo by Vince Tylor
It was a pricey $20.50 when it was all said and done, including $1 parking, $7.50 admission and $12 snorkel mask & fins (next time I'll save $ by renting the gear in town).  And you can't just hop in.  Upon admittance down to the bay, you're required to go through the Education Center for a short video explaining the cultural history of the area and the importance of protecting its marine life.  But this was all well-worth the world of pristine marine life that awaited me in the clear, shallow waters.  I swam with over a dozen different spectacular species of strange, colorful fish, coral and sea urchins, and was given quite a thrill when an eel darted across my path!

When I was done with my day of underwater discovery at Hanauma Bay, I spent a while saying goodbye to Hawaii with the top down and music up.  I mean who knows when the next opportunity for a drive in the tropics would be?!  I drove all around the greater Waikiki/Honolulu area, from within downtown's hip nightlife scene, all the way west to the quiet outskirts of Kapolei and back, before returning my rental car and taking the red-eye to California (I actually slept - a first for me!). 

*Note - my camera was stolen with all the hundreds of photos of Oahu in it, hence I'm using photos from friends and the internet. 

Hawaii, Chapter 7: Kauai - The "Garden Isle"

"Even a nickname like "the Garden Island" fails to do justice to Kauai's beauty. Verdant trees grow canopies over the few roads, and brooding mountains are framed by long, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and sheer sea cliffs.

The main road tracing Kauai's perimeter takes you past much more scenery than would seem possible on one small island. Chiseled mountains, thundering waterfalls, misty hillsides, dreamy beaches, lush vegetation, and small towns make up the physical landscape. Perhaps the most stunning piece of scenery is a place no road will take you—the breathtakingly beautiful Napali Coast, which runs along the northwest side of the island."

Thursday, January 27th
For $120 I flew into Lihue, Kauai this evening, and got to witness another Hawaii sunset as the plane was landing.  One certainly cannot get lost at the airport here - it's the smallest one I've ever been to by FAR!  The inside was beautiful though, with Hawaiian cultural artifacts and art on the walls, and beautiful dark wooden beams above head.  They were playing traditional Hawaiian music over over the speakers and I was reminded yet again just how much I love this place, Hawaii.

Like on the Big Island, my first stop after picking up my rental car was Wal-Mart to pick up the gear I would need, like tent, hiker's backpack and sleeping bag.  I would be hiking the Napali Coast though, so I bought lots of extras like water bottles and chlorine tablets.  And of course, I would return later to refund everything, lol.  I love working the system of a place that's guilty of sweatshop labor and exploiting countless employees around the globe.  I talked to my sister while I shopped (it had been way too long), and made a couple of calls to nearby hostels.

I arrived at the Kauai Beach House in the town of Kapaa after night fall (do you remember the movie quote from "Honeymoon in Vegas?").  The beach house is a funky, tropics-meets-orient, brightly-painted, open-air hostel located right on Kapaa Beach Park fonting the ocean.  Upon checking in, I was given a little tour of the property, and shown the large, co-ed dorm room that I would be sleeping in, complete with mosquito net over the bed!  I was pretty exhausted, but made out of the beautiful sounds of a girl singing great tunes over her guitar on the back deck below me. 

Friday, January 28th
View from the back of the hostel's upper deck
This morning I woke up to the birds, stepped onto the back deck and saw a beautiful view of the Pacific.  What a way to start the day!  I went to Starbucks to check the weather and get an itinerary together.  After exploring all the wonderful things Kauai has to offer, I lengthened my trip to two weeks without hesitation!  I bought a couple camping permits, but not for my Napali Coast adventure, because the government office was closed, so I was just going to have to risk getting fined.

I followed the one and only road that circles the island, Kaumalii Hwy, down through Lihue, around the south side of the island to Lappert's Ice Cream (YUM!) in the historic plantation village of Hanapepe, and stopped to take in the gorgeous views of the dramatic divide, fertile river valley, and taro farmers from Hanapepe Valley Lookout, before driving down the rugged sugarcane road (recommended for 4-wheel drive vehicle only, but whatever, lol) to Polihale State Park, the last beach on the road of Kauai's westernmost point, with sand dunes reaching up to 100-feet in height, flanked at the north end by the Napali coastline.  I was nearly found in breach of contract when my rental car got stuck in the sand, by a stupid attempt to back it up to my camp site.  Luckily I was able to get it out with the help of some fellow Minnesotans!  The beach was pretty empty, but became pretty loud later on when obnoxious people in their big trucks decided to joyride up and down the beach, and when the partiers in the site next to me started blaring their club music. 

Saturday, January 29th
This morning while getting cleaned up down at the restroom area (world's worst, lol), I met a friendly German guy named Robert, who gave me his information in case I come to Germany!

On my way to Hanapepe I took Nectar's recommendation (hitchhiker on the Big Island) and checked out "Swinging Bridge" on Menehune Road in Waimea.  It wasn't quite like the one in Indiana Jones, lol, but it did rock quite a bit when I was walking over it.

View at Kalalau Lookout, Photo from the internet
Next I explored Waimea Canyon, a dramatic gorge nicknamed the "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific," carved over countless centuries by the Waimea River and the forces of wind and rain.  "Hiking trails wind through the canyon, which is 3,600 feet deep, 2 mi wide, and 10 mi long. The cliff sides have been sharply eroded, exposing swatches of colorful soil. The deep red, brown, and green hues are constantly changing in the sun, and frequent rainbows and waterfalls enhance the natural beauty."  I could not stop saying "WOW!" when seeing how amazing it was from the lookouts: Waimea Canyon, Pu'u Hina Hina and Kalalau.  It was time to leave the car and do a little hiking, so I took the Canyon Trail, a popular, moderate, 1.8 mi (2.9 km) scenic trail spurring off the Cliff Trail to follow the north rim of Waimea Canyon to Upper & Lower Waipo'o Falls, where I sat in tranquility, admiring the awesome view (next to the native doing yoga next to me).

I camped for the night at the head of Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Koke’e State Park, at secluded site #9 (thanks Nectar!).  There was just one other set of people at the campground, a couple from Australia, and let me tell you why - situated on a plateau between 3,200 and 4,200 ft, it was very, very [pretty but mostly] cold.

View from Waipo'o Falls, Waimea Canyon, Photo from the internet
Sunday, January 30th
This morning's journal entry read:
VERY, VERY COLD up at Kokee State Park last night!  Very tough sleeping.  At 4:30am slept in car with heat (and engine) on until 7:30am.  Went back into tent to sleep more.  Started raining.  Leaks in brand new tent I had "sealed" with the spray.  Grr.  Folded tent in the shelter pavilion.
After crappy service and very expensive quiche and hot cocoa at Kokee Lodge Restaurant, I took one last look at the stunning Waimea Canyon, with a short, easy .2-mile hike on Cliff Trail, leading to an overlook of the canyon.

For lunch I took some Subway to the small Japanese Garden in Kukuiolono Park, where I was relentlessly hassled by one of the several feral chickens that inhabit the island.  If you've ever been to Kauai, you've probably asked yourself, "What is up with that?!"  Frequenting beaches, parking lots, food courts sugar cane and corn fields...they are everywhere - crowing day and night.  Well apparently it has generated so much buzz (i.e., complaints) that the Wall Street Journal actually released an article on it.  Basically they say there were a large number of them used for cock-fighting, and Kauai lacks predatory mongooses (present on the other islands).

Next I paid a visit to Spouting Horn Park to check out the natural blowhole that hisses and roars as it shoots water up as high as 50 feet!

Hanalei Valley Lookout, Photo from the internet
After getting a new tent, one that is actually waterproof (by the way, several locals answered my question the same way - there is no place on island to buy a high-quality tent!), On my way up to the North Shore, I pulled off the road at Hanalei Valley Lookout, featuring picturesque views of the Hanalei Bridge and the beautifully manicured taro fields, back-dropped by jagged green mountains.

By evening I arrived at Haena Beach Park to camp for the night.  It's  a favorite camping spot for both visitors and locals, most popular with a younger crowd, many of whom stay at Haena before hiking the Kalalau Trail just north of the park. Located on the very end of the North Shore of Kauai, the park sits at the edge of the Na Pali coast.  It's also located across from the Maniniholo Dry Cave, which is about 300 yards deep and was formed by the powerful surf when the water level was higher. According to legend, Manini-holo, chief fisherman of the Menehune (little people) dug this cave in search of the supernatural beast, akua, who had been stealing their fish.  Because there is no reef protecting this beach, currents and waves can be very powerful and often dangerous,so swimming in the winter months is pretty much out of the question.

It was interesting, however, to discover there is no drinking water available here, but I was even more disappointed to find that the 2-person tent I bought was a JUNIOR tent!  I was barely able to lie flat - and that's when lying diagonally, LOL! 

Monday, January 31st
For breakfast this morning I ate waaaaayyy too much eggs, potatoes, croissants at Bobby V's breakfast buffet.  Ugh, I should know better than to waste my limited budget for that!  Then I went and exchanged my tent, lol, for yet another (tent #3!).  This one is a "3-person" camouflage tent.  Then I went to Starbucks to charge my camera and catch up on emails.  I picked up a young, native hitch-hiker; he told me a little about Hawaii. 

I camped for the night at Anini Beach Park.  The tent had so much space, yippee!  This was a great park!  Anini Beach (see more photos) on Kauai's north shore is a 3-mile-long (4.8 km) sparkling sand beach sheltered by one of the longest and widest reefs in Hawaii measuring 2 miles (3.2 km) in length and 1,600 feet (488 m) at its widest point. The protective reef creates a beautiful and calm blue lagoon, great for snorkeling.  The campground floor, however, was pretty bumpy from whatever falls from the trees above-head.  No buggy though; I had a mat :) 

Tuesday, February 1st - Kalalau Trail, Day 1
Kalalau Trail, Photo from the internet
Perfect way to start a new month!  Today I began my trek on the Kalalau Trail on the famed Napali Coast, Hawaii's ultimate adventure hike through lush tropical vegetation, and while the hike itself is strenuous, its rewards are white-sand beaches, awesome waterfalls, and unforgettable views, along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in all Hawaii. 
 The 11-mile trail begins at Ke`e Beach, etched into cliffs that raise as much as 4,000 feet above the ocean below and crosses 5 major valleys and countless smaller ones, ending at Kalalau Valley. Conditions of the narrow path may range from muddy puddles to dry, crumbly rock; eroding cliffs and big surf sometimes take out small sections of trail.
It's lengthy and challenging due to the extreme elevation ascents and descents (it's almost never level) over ridges and around gulches, with loose rocks underfoot and sometimes muddy narrow (single track) trail, sheer cliffs and steep drop-offs adjacent the trail, dropping hundreds or thousands of feet to the ocean below, possible strong currents and flash flooding at river crossings, dangerous shorebreak and riptides at Hanakapi`ai and Kalalau, oh and its remoteness - with no roads, this stretch of coastline is only accessible on foot or by boat.  It's rated a '9' out of '10' in degrees of difficulty by the Sierra Club!
Hanakapi'ai Falls, Photo from the internet
I hiked 12 miles today.  IT. WAS. GRUELING.  But the views were stunning!  At two miles in, I took a 2-mile detour up through the lush jungle and bamboo forests of Hanakapi’ai Valley to the 410-ft falls - beautiful!  You can't see the entire falls from within the valley, but estimates based on topography say that the Hanakapi'ai Falls may top 1600 foot in height; only the bottom 410 feet of the falls are visible from the ground.  After hiking the 2 miles back to the Kalalau Trail, I continued hiking 6 more miles, meeting Joel & Michelle, a couple around my age from Utah, on the way.  The mile 6 campground we stayed at is interesting, since areas are completely leveled for tents and there are fire rings, yet government signs are posted, reading "No Camping," lol.  A couple we passed earlier told us about a little grassy area on the edge of the cliff here, which was awesome - the perfect place to relax from the arduous day.  I played with the idea of camping overnight on the site, but with the high winds I decided not to - we don't want to go rolling off into the ocean now, do we?!  Of course, that didn't stop a different pair of people (Isaiah & "Hippiegirl") from sleeping there that night!  

I saw another spectacular sunset tonight.  The sun was deep orange and appeared HUGE!  

I was so sore, so tired, and had a huge headache, but it was worth it :) 

Wednesday, February 2nd - Kalalau Trail, Day 2
It got cold and windy out on the cliff edge last night, so I was glad to have my tent set up in the woods across from it.  This morning a woman who apparently stayed here last night gave me fresh-picked oranges and lilikoi!  Joel & Michelle were already gone when I awoke; I know they wanted to get an early start, since they are hiking to the end and then hiking all the way back today.  I got to say goodbye to Isaiah & "Hippiegirl" before they left, and "Hippiegirl" said she'd make me dinner over the campfire tonight, woo-hoo!

Kalalau Beach, Photo from the internet
After a little breakfast I packed up and hiked the last 3 miles to Kalalau Beach.  No one was there, it looked desolate!  Then I saw "Hippiegirl" walking on the rocks behind the beach and I waved hello.  She told me to set my tent up anywhere.  I walked around inside the wooded campgrounds and found a few tents.  There was so many empty sites!  I picked one and set up camp, and explored the beach, "somegirl" was now gone.  I never did see"Hippiegirl" again; there is a whole other area of the valley up "Hippie Highway" where the "Outlaws" stay, and I didn't know how to get there.  Check out these interesting blog entries about it when you have time:

There's a great little waterfall (Ho‘ole‘a Falls?) at the south end of the beach, where someone thoughtfully placed a 3-ft plastic pipe for showering - it worked like a charm, and I was so happy to be refreshed with the cold water.  Then I went for a little swim in the ocean, before hiking around, finding a couple of natural swimming pools on "Valley Trail," a poorly maintained, easy-to-get lost-on footpath.  I found a series of small, cascading falls with pools that looked like a water-slide from a 5-star resort!  On the way back I met Amy from Tennessee, who said I should set goals, since it's the first day of the new moon.  People in the valley include nudists, hippies and others who seek solitude from civilization.  

I met Zack and Riley when I went for another shower under the little waterfall - they were scaling the mountain walls to try and reach the top!  They invited me to enjoy their campfire tonight.  Also at the waterfall I met "Gold" from South Korea, who was hiking with a friendly couple from Tahoe, Peter & Christine.  I met Brian and Lindsay from Utah who were nice as well.  After I explored a couple sea caves south of the beach, I campfired with Zack & Riley, a couple of surfer dudes who currently live on the island of Oahu (my next stop!), and had a nice time exchanging stories.

Thursday, February 3rd - Kalalau Trail, Day 3
Big Pool, Photo by Peter & Christine

After breakfast with Zack & Riley, we hiked to "Big Pool," that Brian & Lindsay mentioned, a 2-mile hike located off Valley Trail.  The 3 of us took an accidental Rambo-type detour to get there.  I found we had passed Big Pool, so I didn't go any further and told them I would meet them there, but they wanted to keep going and see what was ahead; they ended up at some guy's "place" with a barking dog, and got the heck out of there, lol.  Peter & Christine were already at Big Pool, and enjoying the rewards of our little hike with a refreshing dip, we all hiked back together for the most part (Zack & Riley veered off track again, lol).  Riley picked us fresh oranges right from a tree along the trail - the best, tastiest, juiciest orange I've ever had!

View behind Space Rock, Photo from the internet

When I got back to camp with Peter & Christine, I got water, packed up and the 3 of us hit the trail back.  We hiked 5 miles to the campground in Hanakoa Valley (Mile Marker 6 from the Kalalau trail-head), where we set up camp for the night.  Hiking with them has been great!  It's nice having the company, and they showed me things on the way like the eye-dropping view behind "Space Rock"), and Peter has the world's greatest water filter (seriously, it makes the water taste like Figi), and Christine cooks gourmet meals (she practiced different dishes just for the trip!) - tonight she made shrimp zucchini alfredo (she reconstituted the shrimp she dehydrated - brilliant!).  Then we had tea (this is come civilized camping, lol) and I built a campfire.  Perfect day! 

Friday, February 4th - Kalalau Trail, Day 4
After breakfast (Peter & Christine whipped up tea and delicious oatmeal with raisins and granola - yum!) we packed up and did the easy, 2-mile (round-trip) side-hike to Hanakoa Falls, a 1400-ft tiered waterfall that drops from a tributary of Hanakoa Stream.  "The cliffs surrounding the falls form a 270˚ arc that puts Hanakoa Falls in the middle of a lush, natural amphitheater, making it one of the most eye-opening views on the entire coast - and we had the whole place all to ourselves :)

The bottoms of my feet were soooo sore from hiking in the coral shoes I wore yesterday (the hiking shoes I had were very heavy).  In fact, upon inspection after removing them, I found a hole worn in the bottom the size of a quarter!  We hiked a few miles to the Hanakapiai stream for lunch under an old stand of some sort, and of course we ate nothing but the best - Christine's curry tuna wraps with quinoa, onion and sweet potato!

We did it!  Me w/ my new Napali pals, Peter & Christine
A couple miles later we reached the trail-head at Ke'e Beach, threw our gear in my car (where a guy who had also finished the trail approached us asking for a ride), and cleaned off at the outdoor shower.  Feeling refreshed, we all hopped into the car (luckily not broken into), and drove into Kapa'a (stopping to check out a YMCA camp on the way) where I dropped off our hitch-hiker friend, then I said goodbye to my friends Peter & Christine as I dropped them at their friends' house nearby.  I hope I get to see them again one day.  

Helpful links for those possibly planning to ever hike the Kalalau Trail: 

I drove down to Lihue to switch rental cars (I couldn't keep the same one when I added days, because I switched companies to get the best rate), which was no easy feat!  I came to realize that the rental car I was switching into had its location miles apart from the others, and with having tons of stuff that I had to swap between cars, I had to leave my stuff unattended outside Company A, take a shuttle to Company B to pick up my car, then drive to Company A where thank goodness my stuff was present!  Phew, lol. 

Photo from hanaleigourmet.com
After 3 1/2 days of strenuous adventure, I did the logical thing and stuffed myself silly, lol!  In the hip lounge in back of Kauai Pasta in Kapaa, I ordered super tasty pomme frites with the world's best homemade ketchup!  Oh god, I drool just thinking about it, lol.  Then I went up to the laid-back, funky village of Hanalei, for drinks (margarita and lava flow) and live music at Hanalei Gourmet, a quaint, tropical bar and cafe with fun staff (Amy the bartender ROCKS!) and patrons, great food and good music.  Afterward I drove to the YMCA camp on the North Shore near Haena, where for $15 I had a bunk bed in my own cabin (the camp was pretty empty)! 

Saturday, February 5th
This morning I had the first hot shower I’ve had EIGHT days! Thank you YMCA! It was heaven…in return, I picked up a hitch-hiker on his way to work in Hanalei, the same town I traveling to :) He was around my age, and we talked about life in Kauai, specifically, how “growing up with intolerant native classmates was difficult as a white kid,” and how island fever sets in (i.e., feeling stuck on the island).

Watersports Swap-Meet, Photo from hanaleisurf.com
I visited the Hanalei Farmer’s Market, a small but vibrant event with live music every Saturday, where locals come to sell fresh, exotic and unusual fruits, vegetables, & flowers in addition to standard produce. I enjoyed a vegetarian chili tart (dee-lish!), acai smoothie with banana and granola, and many free samples. When I had my fill I walked pretty much next door to check out the monthly Watersports Swap-Meet (“you know you’re in Hawaii when”).

I picked another hitch-hiker, a handsome guy who talked about weird hitch-hiking experiences (“dropped off by a crazy woman that said her kids felt up uncomfortable with him,” and “a guy picked him up, took a detour and offered him more than just a ride”), and how great island life is as a guy that “shows hot female tourists around, so that they get attached and buy him shirts and stuff,” and how “tourists try to change Kauai, instead of respecting the culture and laid-back, open-minded, hippie lifestyle.

Poipu Beach Park, Photo from HawaiiGaga.com
I picked up some magazines at the grocery store (where the ATM ate my debit card), then picked up some beer, bread and brie, and went down to Poipu Beach, the most popular beach on Kauai’s South Shore, fronted by Poipu Beach Park and a few resorts, and named “America's Best Beach” by The Travel Channel. This busy beach is a series of golden sand crescents, strung together, with excellent snorkeling, swimming, a natural ocean wading pool, boogie-boarding and surfing.

Afterward I revisited Hanalei Gourmet for more live music, another lava flow, and delicious crab-stuffed mushrooms :)

I got back to the YMCA camp around 11pm, and yet again had a whole cabin all to myself!

Sunday, February 6th
This morning I did some sight-seeing and bird-watching at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge & Kilauea Lighthouse. “Located at the northernmost point of the main Hawaiian Islands, this beacon for sea traffic and National Historic Landmark was built in 1913, and has the largest clamshell lens of any lighthouse in the world. It's within a national wildlife refuge, where thousands of seabirds soar on the trade winds and nest on the steep ocean cliffs. Endangered nene geese, red-footed boobies, Laysan albatross, wedge-tailed shearwaters, white- and red-tailed tropic birds, great frigate birds, Pacific golden plovers (all identifiable by educational signboards) along with native plants, dolphins, monk seals, humpback whales, huge winter surf, and gorgeous views of the North Shore add to the drama of this special place, making it well worth the modest entry fee,” which was free with my America The Beautiful National Parks Pass :)

I watched through the free binoculars the visitor center lends out, at the hundreds of birds soaring to and from Moku'ae'ae Islet (just offshore from the peninsula) and Crater Hill (landward from the lighthouse, and part of an extinct volcano that looms above the refuge), then I stopped into the little gift shop and checked out the large 3-D display of the Hawaiian Islands, selection of books about the island's natural history and other merchandise, with all proceeds benefiting education and preservation efforts.

Kilauea Point, Photo by Miron Kiriliv
Then I traveled to the roadside overlook of double 'Opaeka'a Falls (no hiking required!), a 151–foot waterfall that flows over basalt from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.

Just before reaching the parking area for the waterfalls, I turned left into a scenic pullout over the Wailua River Valley, to get a good look at where "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Jurassic Park" and "Outbreak" were filmed, and to the right to view a Kamokila Hawaiian Village.

I picked up a hitchhiker on the way back to Hanalei, who, as luck would have it, was on her way to her job at Hanalei Gourmet – the exact same place I was heading! It turned out to be way too crowded there, so I watched the Superbowl at Bouchon’s Hanalei Restaurant & Sushi Bar across the street – their fish tacos were lame (should’ve gone with the jalapeño cream cheese & salmon poppers), but that’s not important – the game was great, with the Packers just barely won against the Stealers.

Then I rented the movie, “Smokin’ Aces,” before checking out Bar Acuda, a bougie restaurant with poor, snobbish service, serving overpriced wine and tapas. I didn’t stay long, lol. I went back to YMCA camp (full house tonight!) and watched my movie – great little action flick!

Monday, February 7th
Rainy day today (the “Garden Isle” needs to stay lush somehow), so I went to the nearest laundromat (in Kapaa) to wash some clothes (long overdue) – ALL my clothes were dirty, so I got creative and must have looked like a wacko with my fleece sleeping bag wrapped around my waist, lol! Oh well, I’m never going to see these people again, lol. I caught upon emails and booked my airfare to Oahu, dropped off the movie rental at Blockbuster, then went to Verde to relax with couple magazines and $3 margaritas!

In the evening I took my Forbes magazine and gorged myself on the delicious buffet at Brick Oven Pizza, then went and saw “Black Swan” at
Kukui Grove Cinema down in Lihue. What a trip! I was still trying to wrap my head around the movie as I headed back up to the North Shore. I was tired, so instead of driving all the way back up to the YMCA camp (a slow, 33 miles north) I saved myself the time and money by pulling the car into a ditch and sleeping there for the night.

Tuesday, February 8th
This morning I drove to Kipu Falls (thanks Johan!), located on the private property of tolerant owners. It makes up in fun for what it lacks in height - a 20-foot rock wall with jumping off points surrounds most of the falls, with rope-swings dangling from nearby trees invitingly over the deep pool below.

Kipu Falls, Photo by traveladvisor.com
Upon arriving to the falls via the narrow mud footpath through the tall sugarcane plants, I crossed the stream bed above the falls and jumped off the rocks into the cool water, then climbed up the metal ladder to a high rope swing and played Tarzan for a little while, plunging into the water ! It’s a super fun spot, and only a handful of other people there (including fellow Minnesotans!), perhaps because of the potential danger or because it’s lesser-known. Either way, I had a great time and highly recommend it to thrill-seekers! 

I picked up some artichoke dip from Hanalei Gourmet and brought it to Hanalei Beach Park, "part of four beaches that make up the 2-mile, crescent-shaped bay that is quintessential Hawaii, and the sight of the lush, majestic mountains to the east, ribboned with waterfalls, will take your breath away." I lied out and sunbathed for a quite while, wining and dining as I caught up with my dad over the phone, before doing some body-boarding on the fun waves. 

Afterward I went back to Hanalei Bay (yet again, lol) and grabbed some fish nachos, before heading back down to Lihue to see the movie "The Rite."

I checked back into Kauai Beach House and paid for tonight and tomorrow night; it sure was nice getting some rest on a real mattress again - I slept like a baby.

Wednesday, February 9th 

Today I returned my things to K-Mart & Wal-Mart, went to Starbucks, and saw "The King's Speech." Yes, I've been seeing a lot of movies lately, lol (it's been raining). When I returned to the hostel, I was unfortunately surprised to find my eye-glasses, toiletries, and inflatable pillow gone, and my bed made up - they thought I checked out! Luckily I recovered my glassed and toiletries (just setting out on a table in plain site), and retrieved my pillow (the manager had it in her room!). I got all my things packed up in my car, took a shower, and went to bed; tomorrow I'll be waking up early to fly to Oahu, woo-hoo!

*Note - my camera was stolen with all the hundreds of photos of Kauai in it, hence I'm using photos from friends and the internet.