Archive for January, 2011

A few blogs ago, I mentioned Fern Grotto and the beautiful scenery surrounding this place. However, one of the best ways to get to Fern Grotto is the water. And I recently had the opportunity to treat myself to one of these water tours, so you get to hear all about it.

For one thing, this cruise down the river doesn’t take long. I think it took a grand total of 40 minutes to get to its fern-filled destination, and the trip was totally worth the time. The Wailua River is a lovely place to visit, even if you aren’t going to the grotto. You can rent kayaks, find a tour, or even swim if you feel so inclined. I personally took the riverboat, since it is the only riverboat trip in Hawaii and that made it something special.

And special it was! I have been to Fern Grotto a few times with family and friends, but this time was a completely different experience. We saw the sights from the docks to the grotto, and many places were just too beautiful not to get on film. Since the Wailua is the only navigable river on the island, there were lots of other people in boats about, but they weren’t a bother. In fact, it rather seemed like we were all being drawn to the same sacred location.

When we got to our destination, there was a short walk along a paved road to the fern-draped grotto, and the sights were as lovely as I remembered. But then something extra-special happened. The tour had musicians hired specifically to play in the natural amphitheater that makes up the heart of the site. The music was serene and infectious, drawing me in with its traditional, local songs. The guitar sounded absolutely amazing with the stringed-sounds reverberating off of the canyon walls. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and it was only $15.

So if you are planning to visit Kauai and want to experience the Fern Grotto, I recommend you take the Waialeale Boat Tour. It was definitely worth the money.

January 29, 2011 by, Emily

The Coconut Coast is right by the north shore on the NE side of the island, and there are many beaches and sites to see on this stretch of the island. However, one of the most historical and interesting places is the site of the Bell Stone.

The bellstone itself is a large reddish/brown rock that doesn’t look incredibly significant. However, for the ancient inhabitants of Kauai, this rock signaled some of their most important points in history. You have probably figured out from the name that the “Bell Stone” has some interesting properties. In fact, those properties allow it to, when struck sharply, give off a clear musical note.

I’m sure you are already visualizing hitting a rock and getting music out, which is something truly amazing. But there is more. You see, the location of the Bell Stone is the real key for, when this musical note is achieved, it is then resonated over the entire Wailua Valley.

Kings and Queens of Kauai used this rock for announcements, especially for royal births. This way, the people of Kauai always knew when a new successor to the thrown was born. It was a sound of hope, of fertility, of success, of thankfulness, of triumph, and of joy. So take a trip a few miles out to Coconut Coast and see this natural wonder for yourself.

I don’t normally recommend too many locations on the West side of the island, mostly because they take a long time to reach when you are starting in the north. However, this story is one that I have loved for years. So if you find yourself of the West side of the island and want to see something a bit different, here is your new adventure.

There is an ancient aqueduct that runs from the Waimea River, and it is rumored to have been built by the Menehune. Now, I’ve mentioned the Menehune before, a people of special nature who have always lived on these islands. And every legend tells that these people were the true rulers of the islands, invisible in their cunning and secretive in their craft.

Well, according to the legends, there was once a high chief of Waimea named Ola. Ola was a kind chief and was worried for his people, who were having difficulty bringing water from the Waimea River to their farmlands. Of course, Ola himself had no way to redirect the river or to help his people, but he knew that the Menehune could do just that. So, he formed a plan to please the Menehune, hoping that he could enlist their help in aiding his people.

High Chief Ola then made a kapu for his people, a taboo that was to be followed to the letter. No one could leave their houses at night from that time forward, or curses would be brought to their house. Of course, this allowed the Menehune to rule the night, which was something they very much liked. Seeing the cunning of the high chief, the Menehune (a hardworking and industrious people) set about to help his people. They began a long process of diverting the river water, working little by little every night, until there was an elaborate cut in the land that would provide water for the farmlands.

Today, this aqueduct of legend is called the Menehune Ditch, and can be visited by interested tourists. While this isn’t the most interesting place in the world to see, it is worth a look if you are already planning on visiting the area or viewing the Waimea Canyon. To get there, simply take the 56 around the island past Waimea. Turn right on Menehune Road just before mile marker 23, and travel up the road about a mile. If you have kids, tell them the story of the Menehune on the way and then allow them to look around for any Menehune footprints when you get there. They will learn a bit of Kauai’s history and have some fun in the process.

January 25, 2011 by, Emily

If you want to visit the caves or anything else on the north shore of Kauai, chances are that you’ll want to stay somewhere nearby. Might I recommend a Hanalei vacation rental for your stay? Hanalei is a quaint and lovely town filled with art lovers and friendly people. And it is one of the most beautiful places in Kauai, for it has the Hanalei Bay (the most sought-after tourist spot on the island). So if you are up for staying in a welcoming place with natural and artistic beauty, how about staying in Lokelani?

Lokelani is a vacation home in Hanalei just 200 steps from the sand of beautiful Hanalei Bay. So, you will be right in the middle of things, able to walk to the beach or into town for a quick shopping trip or a meal in one of the fine restaurants. Not to mention the fact that there is a gorgeous garden and views from the house of the distant waterfalls and turquoise bay waters.

But, of course, the location isn’t everything… though it sure counts for a lot. The house itself is lovely, with bamboo floors and artistic touches throughout. There are two bedrooms and an extra daybed, so up to five adults can sleep there comfortably, and there are two bathrooms so there will be no fighting over counter space in the mornings. Plus, this home comes with all of the best amenities from a full-service kitchen and laundry room to high speed internet, television, and an outdoor grill for cooking up some of the local flavor. If you want to walk down to the beach for a swim in the bay, you can. And when you get back, you can easily rinse off in the outdoor shower so you don’t drag sand and saltwater into your home.

The freedom of having your own getaway home is a priceless comfort, and this house provides exactly what you need: living space, the ability to escape the crowds, a kitchen to save you money on eating out, closeness to shops and the beach, and a wealth of things to do. In fact, the only thing that I didn’t like about this house was the quilt on the bed. It was perfectly warm and snuggly at night, but I didn’t like the colors. And if that is the only thing I can find to hate about this house, I think you’ll be truly happy with it. Enjoy!

January 22, 2011 by, Emily

As a child, I always loved caves. There was just something about them that drew me in, causing me to imagine my life underground or living in our historical past. Natural cave formations always fill me with wonder and make my imagination run wild. Perhaps that’s why I am always finding excuses to visit a cave or two.

So I figured if I liked exploring caves, some of my readers might like it too. Therefore, I’m going to briefly describe a few caves in the area that you can visit while you are staying on Kauai.

The first cave is the Maniniholo Dry Cave, and it is called that because you won’t have to get wet to see it. This fun natural cavern is only 300 yards deep and wanders back to a small exit hole on the side of the mountain. According to my grandparents, this cave used to be a lot bigger. However, back in 1957, a tsunami filled over half of it with sand, meaning that a large portion of the cave was lost. As a child, I used to pretend to be an archeologist, digging out the lost parts of the cave and discovering a whole new civilization living under the sand. Now, however, I just visit for the fun of it. If you want to see this cave, it is located near Haena Beach Park on Route 560. When you get to the park, look for the cave off to your left. You should be able to find it without a problem.

Of course, no cave exploration is complete without a little bit of water. Underwater caves are probably my favorite, since the sea depths have always been a mystery themselves. Somehow a dark underwater cave seems to scream hidden treasures, natural wonders, and an abundance of mystery.

There are two underwater caves within a couple hundred yards of each other, so I will direct you there. These caves are the Waikanaloa and Waikapalae Caves. They are both underground and have been explored over the years by scuba divers of all ages. These caves are close together and fun to explore, but they are a bit trickier to find. Located after Haena but before Kee Beach, you can simply drive north on the 560 through Hanalei about 9 miles from Princeville. You will see signs for one of the caves directly off the left side of the road. From there, you can also explore the second cave, since it is only accessible from the water.

January 21, 2011 by, Emily

Have you ever seen a fern growing upside-down? If not, then you probably haven’t been to Kauai’s Fern Grotto in Wailua. This unusual natural wonder is a favorite amongst tourists as it shows off the classic wonder of the island and the beauty of the surrounding vegetation.

The grotto itself was formed out of lava rock in Kauai’s ancient past, and now is covered with tropical ferns of all sizes and shapes. But unlike the mainland where ferns grow in the dirt toward the sky, these ferns grow above you, covering the natural ceiling and hanging down toward the earth. And because of this natural cushioning, the grotto has the amazing properties of an enhanced amphitheater, carrying voices and music up and down the ravine.

If you want to visit the grotto, it’s not hard to find. Wailua is located on Kauai’s east side right along HWY 56 and is a beautiful spot to visit when you’re on the island. There are a few walking tours that allow you to hike into the grotto, as well as a few water tours that you can take. But never fear; you can simply go yourself if you don’t want to hire a tour guide.

January 19, 2011 by, Emily

Well, I finally caught it – the flu that’s been going around. I thought I could hold it off and avoid it altogether, but then, a week after New Years, there I was sick in bed. I was achy and icky and unprepared for my extended bed stay. Luckily for me, I have friends who deliver groceries.

I did decide to look for the silver lining, however. I mean, there usually is one if you just look for it. And in my ponderings, I realized that I was lucky. Instead of being stuck in a freezing cold city covered in ice and snow, I was in a beautiful paradise that people spend their whole lives dreaming of visiting. And since the weather was lovely, I could sit outside and enjoy the tropical climate while I got well. Most people would be stuck in bed under a blanket during the month of January.

Sure, in the end I was still sick for almost two weeks. But at least I was better off than most winter flu victims.

Wow, I actually got a question from a reader of this blog who heard of a place called Spalding Monument and wanted to go. Since I had never mentioned the monument, this reader was wondering if it was worth the drive. Well, let me take that question and run with it.

Technically, if you are expecting some large and glorious monument like the Lincoln Memorial, then you will be sorely disappointed. Very rarely does someone go to visit the monument with the sole purpose of seeing it. In fact, it isn’t much to see, just a monument built to honor a former plantation owner. The plantation itself isn’t even open anymore.

However, there are a few other things to see out that direction. There are several hiking trails and sight-seeing locations that are near this location. The Spalding Stroll is a dirt trail that leads you away from the monument toward the blue water of the Kapaa coast. You will see some great vistas and, if you enjoy bird watching, there are several species of feathered friends that hang out in this area of the island. Of course, I would turn around before the trail takes its steep path into the valley. Climbing back up isn’t much fun.

Unfortunately, I would normally recommend Waipahee Falls for those heading toward the monument but it was been fenced off because of some flash flood and landslide issues. Still there is a beautiful reservoir near the falls that is a sight to see if you want to take the trail out there. It’s a fine 3-mile walk but, without the falls, it’s a bit anticlimactic.

All in all, there are several things to see in that part of the island, but unless you really like viewing scenery from multiple angles, I wouldn’t recommend going. Hmmm, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever mentioned something on my blog NOT to do, but there you have it. I hope that answer helped.

January 4, 2011 by, Emily

Today, I had lunch at Hukilau Lanai, a restaurant right behind Coconut Marketplace. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned them on this blog before, so they will be my focus today.

The Hukilau opened here in Kauai back in 2002. I remember wanting to visit after it first opened, but it was several months before I found the chance. Of course, that was just my first of many trips to this yummy location.

Perusing the menu, I saw a lot of my favorites. But unlike other restaurants in the area, this place strives to put their own unique spin on every dish. I loved trying something new each time I visited, and I was rarely disappointed with what I received. That’s why I go there so much. I can safely say that everything is good.

Of course, while I just go for lunch and the occasional dinner, they have specials that keep the tourists and other natives coming back for more. For instance, they have this food and wine tasting option that offers five courses and five wines for only $40. It’s available everyday from 5pm to 6pm, and their tasting menu is online if you want to check it out. They also have a poolside happy hour from 3pm-5pm daily.

If you want to visit Kukilau Lanai, there are directions online. But for a simple guide, Kukilau is just north of Lihue up the 56 in Kapaa. And if you are from the north like I am, just head down the 56 instead of up. The Kukilau is on the ocean side and is a great place to visit if you are in the mood for some good cooking.

January 3, 2011 by, Emily

Happy New Year everyone! And what better way is there to welcome 2011 than a trip to Kauai?

Seriously though, Kauai is a beautiful destination location for anyone who wants a vacation in the sun in a moist, tropical paradise. Why do I say moist? Well, Kauai is considered the island with the most rainfall every year. And that is exactly what gives us the designation of “Garden Island.”

With the extra precipitation, more varieties of plant life can thrive here, which is something you will notice right away when you visit. Stepping outside is like experiencing the freshness of spring with the glorious scent of flowers blown along tropical breezes. The warm sun gives our tropical forest life, and the moisture-rich seasons keep everything looking its best.

When you visit Kauai, you will be astounded by the lush beauty surrounding you. It’s like nowhere else in the entire world, and it’s my home. So come to Kauai this year and experience a little piece of heaven on earth.