Thursday, March 14, 2013

Three Days in Kauai: Day Three

DAY THREE: WAILUA RIVER
 
Waking up to once again roll over to a view of the ocean, I packed up my things, loaded up my rental, and checked out of the hotel.  Because my flight was in the evening, on my third day I would stay closer to the Lihue Airport so I didn't run the risk of getting stuck in traffic on a trek from the far reaches of the island and miss my flight. (Though honestly the island is small enough such a precaution probably isn't necessary.)

First I went on one of Smith's ferries up to the Fern Grotto.  Sadly, the grotto has not fared well since the last time I was here.  The hurricanes decimated the ferns.  They are starting to grow back, but they are more five feet long than the ten or fifteen feet they were before.  But the biggest change is that since 2006 when Kauai had all the rains and landslides, the Fern Grotto is no longer open for visitors to walk inside.  You can stand on a platform in front of the grotto, but when your guides sing the Hawaiian Wedding Song, there is no amplification of their voices and instruments by the natural amphitheater in the cave.


On the way back down the river, our guides continued to serenade us, hula for us, and teach the entire lot of us the hukilau hula.  We passed Mt. Nounou, or the Sleeping Giant.  (Can you see him?  Hint: the tallest point of the mountain is his forehead.)


And then, after getting off the boat, I saw a chicken in a tree.  Seriously.  I'd never seen a chicken in a tree before.  Just felt like sharing that little bid of odd with you.  After that I headed up to the Opaeka'a Falls lookout...


...looked out over the sacred Wailua River...


...then went down to the reproduction of a Hawaiian village to rent a kayak.  (HINT: If you don't want the singing and the hula to go with it, renting a kayak is a great way to go out to see the Fern Grotto, too.)  You can paddle to Secret Falls and swim beneath a waterfall (fair warning, it's COLD), see the Fern Grotto, or paddle out to the swimming hole where there is a handy cliff for cliff diving (so much fun!).  Or just enjoy the peace of the river.




If you rent from the village, a tour of the huts is included in your rental.  Just try not to step on the peacocks.  They are everywhere.

 
After that I drove up to look out over Wailua Falls...


And then down to Nawiliwili Harbor, a touristy little beach and string of shops where the infrequent cruise ships that visit Kauai come in.


(The couple in this picture were in their seventies and when he put his toes in the water, he turned to her and grinned and yelled, "I've been in the Pacific Ocean!"  I loved that moment.)

And then, it was off to the airport, returning the car, climbing aboard the first-come-first-serve seating mini-jet to fly back to O'ahu, and waving goodbye to Kauai.


Three days, two nights.  What do you think?  Did I redeem Hawaii?  If I'd had another day, I would have biked along the Kapa'a coastline.  Another two days, I would have probably added a catamaran up the Napali coast.  And three more days?  Probably one dedicated entirely to lazing by the pool lost in a good book.  What about you?  What's your idea of a perfect Kauai vacation?

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