This is how we do Kauai
I originally planned my trip to Kauai around the Kalalau trail. I wanted to link it with my Rainier bid to do a Summit to Sea adventure for my 30th birthday, but that’s not quite how it worked out.
Kauai experienced historic rains only a month before my boyfriend, Robin, and I intended to go. The road leading up to Kalalau trail, as well as a lot of the north shore, was closed. I held out for hope that the Kalalau trail would reopen, but there were ominous sounding articles like “The Kalalau trail closed indefinitely” published just a few days before my trip.
Being bummed but overall optimistic, I decided keep all the reservations I booked. We had the additional issue of having no where to stay the nights of my 4 day backpacking trip. We decided to take our camping gear and throw hazard to the wind by just seeing what happens.
We landed in Kauai after a long day of delayed flights and canceled layovers. We stayed at a lovely air bnb in Lihue and ate at a James Beardsley award wining dive noodle shop.
The next morning we bought Leis, went to the county park permit office, and purchased two nights of camping at Salt Pond campground on the South Shore. I thought it would be a bigger issue to not have prebooked camping accommodation before the trip but it turned out to be no big deal. The permits were only 2 dollars per person per night. There also wasn’t a line at the permit office. It was just, like, the easiest thing. There was no need to worry about being homeless in Kauai. (not that camping makes you not homeless). We decided to spend our day in Poipu beach until we went over to Salt Pond to camp.
Poipu is an amazing beach where we saw the cutest monk seals and at least three massive turtles. I had a lot of fun there but wanted to head over to the salt pond camp ground because I heard that it would be the most fun place to swim. Boy was I wrong. I did not like the vibe at all, boy howdy. It was more of a locals campground. Read: not inviting. The place smelled like pee. The whole island is a cluster of parasitic chickens and this is apparently the source of all parasitic chickens. It was a nice place to set up my hammock but we got out of there pretty fast all things considering. We decided to forgo our second night and wing it for the next day.
The next morning we went into the Waimea canyon and did the Kalalau Trail overlook hike to see just what we missed out on. It was supposed to be an easy 4 miles but it turned out to be a difficult 6 miles. I don’t think I am used to hiking in a place where it rains. The soft ground and the mud made us hike much slower than I am used to. Going downhill was a lot harder than moving uphill. I am glad I packed my hiking poles. It was worth the effort, though, and it was unlike any other hike I’d been on before.
Our shoes were so muddy that I worried about the rental car. We were covered in mud from sole to hip. We had to pack our poles and boots in their own bags. When it rains as often as it does in Kauai (everyday!), you would think they would include floormats in every car rental. But, alas, I had to keep the rental vehicle I was basically living in tidy without that particular amenity. That evening we had a delicious dinner in the south shore where I had coconut crusted Mahi Mahi and drank a Mai tai out of a coconut. I wore my three day old Lei. That makes it sound like I dressed up, but we were covered in mud from our hike. I don’t think we were very well received compared to the other grand Hyatt guests, but they didn’t kick us out.
That evening we went to a private campground, Kumu Camp, that we heard about in Anahola bay. It was like staying at the Hilton Garden Inn compared to Salt Pond. It was beach front property, and I loved it there. Hot showers, clean bathrooms, privacy guards, and firepits made it one of the more fancy campgrounds I have ever stayed in. We only stayed there for one night since we had backpacking permits for Waimea canyon the next day.
The next morning we went out for our customary coffee and fresh smoothie. We had lunch at the Shrimp Station and started our backpacking trip into the Waimea canyon. We had overnight permits at camp Williwilli.
We started the hike NOT feeling it. The hike down to Williwilli was 3 miles long down a steep trail that lost 3000 ft of elevation. It was pouring rain and my windproof jacket wasn’t as waterproof as I was hoping it would be. (How would I know living in Southern California?). Our packs weighed about 25 pounds. Not heavy, but not nothing. We asked ourselves if we wanted to be in that much misery during our “vacation”. The answer was a resounding yes. I was excited about how hard the hike out of the canyon would be in the heat, of course.
My camera died at Wiliwilli, devastatingly. I was hoping I would have energy to swim in the river in Williwilli but I did not. Descending into the grand canyon of the pacific was taxing. It takes a lot of energy to try not to slip on the soft mud and over wet rocks. I set up my hammock and had relaxing reading time. I enjoyed the most privacy I had in Kauai down in that canyon.
The next morning we quickly hiked out in less time than it took to hike in. It turned out to be not as difficult a hike as I was hoping, but the views were gorgeous. We stopped in the visitors center and bought a beautiful wood print. We also rented boogie boards and set up surf lessons for the next day. We boogied our butts off in Anahola bay. We were so tuckered out after a long day of hiking and boogie boarding that we fell asleep in my hammock before waking back up at 11pm to get back in the tent.
The surf lesson was so incredible. You would think that we would know how to surf living in Socal but you would be wrong. It is almost mandatory that we learn at this point, but it turned out to be just so much fun. I even caught a few waves (!!) Then, that evening we had the most incredible dinner at the Grand Hyatts Tidepools.
We attempted the weeping wall hike the next morning, but were quickly shut down by raging rivers and bad trails that I had to weakly pull out of even with 4 wheel drive. We might have made it, but it was dicey work in a rental car. We ended up driving to Queens bath to check out that spectacle. It was worth every second. I wore a white bathing suit and trekked through the mud with the lot of them. It was one of the most incredible natural wonders I had ever seen.
We checked into one night into an Airbnb so we could have the opportunity to take one one indoors shower right before our flight out. It was a lovely little place, but they didn't like us as much as we liked them.
The next day we went to the Kilauea lighthouse. I bought a stuffed sea turtle at the visitors center. We then headed over to a secret hike on the north shore along incredible volcanic rock views. The black rock was absolutely breathtaking. We tried are hardest not to get wet because we went from there directly to the airport.
I had so much fun on this trip. Our whole vacation was full of fresh fruit, fresh air, light rain, flowers, and ocean breeze. We hiked, laid in hammocks, I read. When I close my eyes I still feel the sensation of driving my jeep through the jungle covered with mud with and my hair dried with sea salt.