#Kauai: Hanapepe Old Town

Hanapepe Old Town
Hanapepe Old Town

After being cooped up in our house for a few days because of rain (and a sick daughter), visiting Hanapepe Old Town was a fun way for Brett and I to get out and spend an afternoon last week. We hadn’t been to Hanapepe in a while, and had heard there was a new restaurant we should check out, as well as some new shops.

The historic town of Hanapepe is home to art galleries, gift shops and boutiques, Kauai’s only bookstore, a few restaurants and a wonderful bakery. There was plenty to see and do on this short little stretch of road that forms a gentle curve off the Kaumualii Highway on the south side of the island. The best way to see the town is to park your car as soon as you arrive and walk, which is exactly what Brett and I did.

There’s lots of history in Hanapepe. While many of Kauai’s towns were built and owned by the sugar plantations, Hanapepe was created by entrepreneurial immigrants who had either retired from the plantations or could not adapt to the plantations’ strict working conditions. Most of the stores and shops on the street today are in renovated and refurbished buildings that have been around since the 1920s and 1930s. Many have plaques that tell when the building was erected, and what the original business was. For example, the Talk Story bookstore once was the home of the Yoshiura Store, which carried food and clothing, and carried often hard-to-find goods from Japan. We discovered other buildings that held a grocery store, a hardware store, and a bakery (a whole pie from the bakery was just 10¢ back in the 1930s!).

These days, every Friday evening Hanapepe hosts an Art Night, with sixteen galleries open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to meet and chat with the artists, and can enjoy local food and live music. There were several galleries open the day Brett and I visited, with a wide variety of genres for sale including oil paintings, photography, sculpture and even painted and lacquered surfboards.

One interesting piece of trivia about Hanapepe town is that it was the inspiration for Kokaua town, the fictional village in Disney’s animated film, Lilo & Stitch.

No visit to Hanapepe Old Town is complete without a walk across its swinging bridge. The bridge was originally built in the early 1900s as a way for people to get across the Hanapepe Stream to get into town. It was restored following Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and still rocks and sways as you walk over it. There is an art gallery on the far side of the stream once you cross the bridge, but the area is primarily residential and visitors are asked not to go any further than the gallery.

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Outside of the historic old town, Hanapepe is also home to Lapperts Ice Cream, Anahola Granola, the Kauai Kookie Company, and Salty Wahine – all have retail outlets out on the main highway, or at the end of the old road, before you enter back on to the highway. The Salt Pond Beach Park is also in Hanapepe, offering a protected swim pond and views of Niihau (the “forbidden island” – it’s entirely owned by the Robinson family, and visitors are not allowed).

#Kauai: Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kilauea Lighthouse

About two miles, six or seven minutes, off Kuhio Highway (56) at Kilauea lies Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse, as well as sea birds and marine life. When Laura and I arrived at around 11:00 a.m. on Valentine’s Day we were greeted by the sign below and two people directing traffic suggesting we come back in the afternoon because there was no parking (you cannot enter the refuge on foot). However, after about a five minute wait, several cars came out and we were able to enter the Refuge.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge sign

While we waited, we wandered over to the fence and watched nesting red-footed boobies, soaring Laysan Albatross, some lolling sea turtles, and even a couple of humpback whales. However, neither of us have the sort of camera that allows us to capture credible shots of turtles and whales—all we get are brownish gray spots. The only good photos from the fence were of pounding surf the and the red-footed booby community (those white spots in the brush) above the cliffs.

Pounding Surf, Cliffs, Red-footed Boobies, Nests
Red-footed booby nests on the cliffs

One of the first and most important signs before you even enter the refuge is this one: Do Not Feed Wildlife! No, the wildlife here won’t rip off the top of your car to get at your stuff, but if you are inclined to toss them a treat, you shouldn’t.

Do NOT Feed Wildlife, Mahalo
First and most important sign within the refuge

We  first visited the refuge while vacationing here in 2012, but since moving to Hawaii Laura and I seem to have found a thousand reasons (excuses) not to go beyond Kong Lung Market in Kilauea, which is only a mile-and-a-half from Kilauea Point. However, since our first visit the lighthouse has undergone renovations, and reopened with the name of late Senator Daniel K. Inouye appended to its name. Shortly before moving to Hawai’i, we had purchased a lifetime Access Pass for U.S. National Parks and Recreation Lands which turned out to be valid for our admission to the refuge (otherwise $5 each), and since the Valentine’s Day weather was positively gorgeous, off we went.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse
Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Following restoration, the lighthouse’s lens still can cast a beam but does not rotate because the bearing that allowed rotation consisted of an open trough containing 260 gallons of mercury. Nevertheless, the 8,000-pound fresnel lens is impressive.

Among the endangered species, the nēnē (Hawaiian goose, and state bird) was the first to greet us on the lawn in front of the lighthouse. The number of nēnē was once down to 40 throughout the Hawaiian Islands and within the refuge, but the numbers now grow every year. This cunning nēnē totally ignored all the visitors and continued grubbing for insects and shoots throughout our entire visit.

Nēnē, Hawaiian Goose, grazing
Nēnē, the Hawaiian goose

There is an island, Moku‘ae‘ae (‘fine small island’), just off the end of Kilauea Point that supports its own colony of sea birds, which you can see dotting the rim in the photo below. To a certain extent, this rocky outcrop protects the point itself from the punishing waves. Although we witnessed it twice, we weren’t fortunate enough to capture a video of the islet’s impressive water spout. It’s well worth the wait for a look and listen of the spout.

Small Island North of the Point
Small island off of Kilauea Point

Looking to the west (your right as you exit), you get a splendid view of Kauai’s entire North Shore, from Secret Beach to Makana (‘the gift’), aka ‘Bali Hai,’ and Ke‘e Beach.

Kauai's North Shore
Kauai’s north shore

Before returning to our car, we stopped into the gift shop to refresh my wardrobe because my 2012 lighthouse shirt is no more – I wore it out. Just like that archival moment when a child gets their first driver’s license, my new Kilauea Point Lighthouse shirt is preserved for posterity.

New Winter T-Shirt-Kilauea Lighthouse
New winter shirt–Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Kapaa Farmers’ Market: How Much Did We Spend?

It was cool and drizzly yesterday, so crowds were larger than usual. If the weather's good there are fewer tourists.
It was cool and drizzly yesterday, so market crowds were larger than usual. If the weather’s good there are fewer tourists – they head to the beach!

Every Wednesday afternoon Brett and I get ourselves down to the Kapaa Farmers’ Market, located in the parking lot near the New Town Park. The market begins at 3:00 sharp with the blowing of a whistle (with no buying or selling allowed before the whistle), but we always like to be there a little bit early so we can scope out what’s available and how much it we can afford. We always go with a list, but are open to buying other things if we see something we like and can eat in the coming week, and if the price is right.

The last few weeks at the market have been frankly amazing. We’ve been going to the market for over three years now, and I can’t remember seeing such an abundance of fruits and vegetables, all of them freshly picked that morning. There really is something for everyone.

Here is just a fraction of what was available yesterday:

Giant heads of broccoli
Giant heads of broccoli
Even bigger heads of cauliflower
Even bigger heads of cauliflower
Ripe papayas
Ripe papayas
Beautiful breadfruit (ulu) - so many tasty ways to prepare this
Beautiful breadfruit (ulu) – so many tasty ways to prepare this
Giant beets
Giant beets
Local honey
An assortment of local honey
Sweet, tasty jackfruit - these babies are bigger than soccer balls
Sweet, tasty jackfruit – these babies are bigger than basketballs
Hawaiian ginger bouquets
Hawaiian ginger bouquets

Our favorite produce stall is Dang’s Anahola Fresh Farm – we head there first every week, and buy most of our produce from them because of their great selection and prices. Although many farmers sell to restaurants and stores on the island, this family makes a good living selling at just three island markets during the week. Otherwise, they’re working on their farm.

Hanging Dang's sign before the market starts - the Dangs are from Thailand.
Hanging their farm sign before the market starts. The Dangs are from Thailand.
Some of Dang's beautiful produce, including lettuces, zucchini blossoms, fresh mint and daikon radishes.
Some of Dang’s beautiful produce, including lettuces, zucchini blossoms, peppers, beans, fresh mint and daikon radishes.

Finally, here’s what we bought yesterday. Can you guess how much we paid for all of this beautiful produce?

Our fruit purchases
Our fruit purchases
  • 1o navel oranges
  • 3 tangelos
  • 2 papaya
  • 1 bunch of bananas (7)
Our vegetable purchases
Our vegetable purchases
  • 1 giant head of broccoli
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • bag of ripe, medium tomatoes (9)
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 large bunch bok choy
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 small jar honey with comb as a treat for Brett

Prices will be revealed on Sunday!

#Kauai: Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand

Banana Joe's is located on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway, just north of the Kilauea turnoff
Banana Joe’s is located on the mauka (mountain) side of the Kuhio highway, just north of the Kilauea turnoff.

My all-time favorite Kaua’i treat, without hesitation, is a banana frostie from Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand, located in Kilauea, on the north shore of the island. The frostie is made by pushing frozen, local bananas through a Champion juicer, and the result is a cool, creamy ice-cream like treat that’s pure fruit and deliciousness. Every bite tastes like Hawai’i. Pineapple frosties are also available, or you can get a combo of both pineapple and banana. Frosties made from summer fruits such as mango are available in season. Frosties come in one size, and are $4.50 each.

Banana frostie - yum!
Banana frostie – yum!
Banana Joe's offers a wide selection of Kaua'i-produced treats as well as local produce and drink.
Inside the Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand.

Besides the frosties, the stand also offers smoothies made from local fruit, and sells a variety of locally made products and drinks as well as a wide assortment of local fruit and produce. If you’re visiting the island it’s a great spot to pick up some local products to take back home.

Banana Joe himself!
Banana Joe!

The best part for me of visiting Banana Joe’s, besides the frosties, is that I get an opportunity to chat with the owner, Joe Halasey. He’s a genuinely warm,friendly guy, and we share a love of Japan, so always have plenty to talk about and catch up on.

The Chocolate Shack, located next to Banana Joe's and in front of the entrance to the Chocolate Farm Tours.
The Chocolate Shack, located next to Banana Joe’s and in front of the entrance to the Chocolate Farm Tours.

A new feature that’s popped up since our last visit is the Chocolate Shack, located right next to Banana Joe’s! We’ve known for a while about the Chocolate Farm Tours that are offered, but now you can purchase chocolate bars made from Kaua’i grown cacao, drinking chocolate and other chocolate treats right at the source. The three-hour tours are offered several times a week, and include an all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting experience at the end of the tour! WenYu and I already have plans to (finally) take one of the tours this coming summer.

Kaua'i Mini Golf and Botanical Garden is a popular attraction on the island, for both visitors and locals alike.
Kaua’i Mini Golf and Botanical Garden is a popular attraction on the island, for both visitors and locals alike.

The Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand is also located right next to the Anaina Hou Community Park, which contains the Kauai Mini Golf and Botanical Gardens, a popular Kauai attraction, along with many other things to see and do. Located in the Park is also the head of the Wai Koa Loop Trail.

Whether you live on Kaua’i, or are just visiting, you owe yourself a stop at Banana Joe’s! It’s a purely Kaua’i experience.

#Kaua’i: Winter Hike

Hiking in winter is occasionally just like summer, but more often than not it’s wetter and muddier all across the Garden Island. Because Sleeping Giant (Nounou) is nearby and has three trails, I most often hike there (although it appears that I rarely blog about it). The eastside trail, from the Wailua House Lots, is the steepest, but undulating along the west slope from the southside is the Kuamo‘o (‘backbone’)-Nounou (‘throwing’) trail, the longest trek of the three. My favorite approach however is from the west trailhead, principally because it is usually the driest.

At the end of Lokelani (‘red rose’) Road, there is a cash only/honor fruit stand at the west trailhead, just in case you didn’t pack enough of the right kind of snacks, or you just happen to see something you’ve been craving. The winter selection is slim, but even when fruit is plentiful, don’t be surprised if all you find is a half a dozen limes.

Fruit Stand
Fruit Stand

Off Kamalu Road, the west trailhead follows a grassy lane which yields abruptly to a lattice of Eucalyptus roots crisscrossing the trail as it gets steeper. One other prominent feature of winter hikes is vog (volcanic smog), which blows in from the Big Island, and sometimes blankets Kaua’i for a week or more.  If you often have difficulty breathing, either do not hike on vog days, or plan to take plenty of breaks.

Then, just beyond the quarter-mile marker, the lattice transitions to strawberry guava.

Crisscrossed root of Eucalyptus trees in red dirt lane.
WenYu hikes up through the eucalyptus lattice . . .
Strawberry Guava Lattice
. . . and through the strawberry guava lattice













A little beyond the strawberry guava lattice is a fork in the trail. Be nice instead of taking the shortcut to the left, and help prevent erosion by veering right, up to the four-way intersection with the Kuamo‘o-Nounou Trail. Straight ahead, it’s two miles to Kuamo‘o Road, often through muck and mire, and mosquitoes, and the broad pathway to the right ends about 2oo yards down mountain at the western edge of the Nounou Forest Reserve. The latter course is an interesting diversion that offers a magnificent view up the continuation of the west trail through a tall grove of Cook Pines.

Shards of Light
Shards of light













Fortunately, the upper trail was dry, but not too dry. When it’s too dry, you can easily lose your footing because a fine dust settles over the clay and can be like walking on marbles, invisible marbles. Luck was with us on this hike, as evidenced by this four-leaf clover near the three-quarter mile marker.

Four-Leaf Clover at Center
A four-leaf clover can be seen almost directly in the center

Lichens form on the bark of both living and fallen trees, and are more noticeable in winter when much of the greenery surrounding them is missing. Because lichens fatten up by storing water in winter, they are a treasured food source for many of the fowl and field mice with whom you share the trail.

Lichen on a fallen branch
Lichen on a fallen branch

So after hiking through this and that, around a few bends, and doubling on many switchbacks, you will pass by the intersection with the Wailua House Lots trail on your left, and about three switchbacks later you will arrive at a picnic shelter. Just east of the picnic shelter is a narrow bench or love seat with a scenic view through a break in the trees. Sit a spell, have lunch if you brought it, or just talk story with other hikers who happen by every few minutes.

Still Dry beyond the One Mile Marker
Still dry beyond the 0ne-mile marker – WenYu stops to catch her breath
Lookout at the Picnic Shelter
Lookout at the picnic shelter – vog blocks the view













Thus ends the state sanctioned hike. That is, the trail is only maintained up to a point about 25 yards beyond the picnic shelter. While the views are stunning, hiking past the “End of Trail” sign, which someone has recently twisted 90 degrees away from hikers, is strictly at your own risk.

View Just Before End of Trail
View just before end of trail
NOTICE: End of Trail
NOTICE: End of Trail!













Up ahead the trail runs a few yards along a narrow spine, scarcely wide enough for two people to pass, then continues ever steeper over a widening course to an 8-10 foot near vertical climb to the path along the summit. Going left at this juncture leads either to a hollowed out cave or up onto the “face” of the Sleeping Giant. Use extreme caution if there is any wind at all over the top because a light breeze becomes a shearing wind up there and there is no path, only rough stones, some of them loose, and a 500-foot drop to the east.

I visited the cave on this hike simply because I was tired. Nonetheless, a trip to the cave is always refreshing both for its shade and the venturi effect. NOTE: Field mice also enjoy the cave, although there were none up there the day of our hike.

West portal of the “Giant’s Eye”
View from the East Lanai
V0g-less view of Kapa‘a from the east lanai













From the junction above the little rock climb, the trail continues south up to the true summit at 1,280 feet above sea level ~ give or take. There you’ll find a concrete slab that served as the base of an abandoned warning beacon for the disused grass landing strip up the Wailua Valley (which is behind me in this photo).

Warning Beacon at True Summit
Warning Beacon at True Summit

 Your return trip to the trailhead may take nearly as long as the climb, not only because of variable terrain, but because you may find some of the views you missed as captivating as anything you saw on the way up. My personal favorite of the day was seeing Wai‘ale‘ale, like a floating dragon between the vog and clouds to the west.

Wai'ale'ale Amidst the Vog
Wai‘ale‘ale amidst the vog

#Kaua’i: The Tip Top Cafe

The outside of the Tip Top gives no clue to the good food that's waiting inside
The outside of the Tip Top gives no clue to the good food that’s waiting inside

There is “local” in Hawai’i and then there is local, those places where residents like to hang out and you rarely see tourists. The Tip Top Cafe, located in Lihue, is nothing if not local. And, it’s our new favorite breakfast spot on the island.

They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2016
They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2016

We’d heard about the Tip Top, off and on, from different sources, but nothing that really made us want to go. One day a couple of months ago though I heard about it again and finally told Brett that we should probably check it out.

The Tip Top is located a block off the main highway in Lihue, next to the small (and I’m assuming very inexpensive) Tip Top Motel. If you didn’t know to go look for it, you would never see it, and we actually drove by it before we figured out that’s where we wanted to be.

The dining room has a very 60s vibe. It's always crowded.
The dining room has a very 60s vibe. It’s always crowded.

Step inside and it feels like you’ve been whisked right back to the 1960s. After passing through the lobby/bakery/shop, there’s a large room filled with lots of booths. Waitresses wearing colorful hospital scrubs move through the dining room pushing carts carrying coffee and water, cups, glassware, cutlery, and napkins on top and either food to be delivered or dirty dishes (never at the same time) on the bottom shelves.

The Tip Top's awsome, plate-sized banana pancakes
The Tip Top’s awesome, plate-sized banana-macademia nut pancakes

Service at the Tip Top is brisk and very friendly, and both the breakfast and lunch menus are filled with both traditional items as well as Hawaiian favorites like loco moco, saimin, and fried noodles. The portions are generous. Their banana pancakes are legendary, and their oxtail soup is locally famous. Everything we’ve ever had there has been delicious, including the coffee, and it’s all very affordable. Depending on the time of day you go, you may have to wait in line to be seated, but we’ve also been when there was a sign up for us seat ourselves (even though the place looked packed).

The Tip Top's oxtail soup is legendary. It comes in three sizes - this is a small!
The Tip Top is famous for their oxtail soup. It comes in three sizes – this is a small, and WenYu almost couldn’t finish it!

The Tip Top celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, and after dining there a few times we get why it’s been a favorite with locals all these years. We’ve also been there for lunch, and again the food was terrific and affordable.

The girls were happy to find fried rice and fried noodles on the menu - both were delicious.
The girls were happy to find fried rice and fried noodles on the menu – both were delicious.

The Tip Top is probably not even considered by many tourists to the island because it isn’t marketed to tourists – it’s definitely a local place. Still, while it may be off the beaten path, the Tip Top is well worth taking the time to find. You’ll be greeted warmly and have some terrific food at an affordable price, no matter whether you live here or are just visiting.

The Tip Top Cafe is located at 3173 Akahi Street, Lihue. It’s open daily from 6:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

#Kaua’i: Winter Is Different Here

Kapaa Lookout
Greening Up

Although it does not snow on Kauai, there is a marked seasonal change that occurs sometime after Halloween, and may linger past St Patrick’s Day. The grass is often greener, the surf a bit rough and choppy all day long, and the sky a deep gray as it appears a little closer to the beach before it engulfs the mountains.

Rough Surf
Rough Surf

We frequently carry sweatshirts or sweaters when we go out in late afternoon because the trade winds gust up as the sun goes down. Really, it takes no time at all to acclimate to the warmer summer weather, and begin shivering as the mercury dips below 70 degrees Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius) on wintry evenings and early mornings.

Heavy Clouds; Windswept Waves
Heavy Clouds and Windswept Waves

Throughout the non-hurricane season, we make fewer trips to the beach, and umbrellas are more frequently seen at cocktail bars. And, occasionally it rains like it’s never going to let up. Great masses of saturated soil slump and creep, and big things fall down the mountains with a rumble or roar. On the other hand, this is the best time of year for watching migratory marine life from the shore.

Whale & Porpoise Watching
Whale & Porpoise Watching

A few weeks into this season, flash flood watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service for days on end. Roads are temporarily flooded and closed, and tragedy strikes more often in rivers and streams due to the heavily silted and rapidly rising water.

Gloomy Sunset
Distant Heavy Rains

Winter is different here, but it’s still paradise, still home.

Kukii Point

This past weekend, Mrs. Occasional Nomad asked what I intended to do while YaYu was studying with her Mandarin tutor, and I told her I thought I might explore another little beach near Lihue. However, on my way to the Ninini beaches (there are two), I was distracted by the sight of a little lighthouse. By following the “Shoreline Access” signs from the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort I arrived at Kukii Point, across from the breakwater at Nawiliwili Harbor.

Little Light at Kukii Point
Little Lighthouse at Kukii Point

Parking was available at the end of Kalapaki (double-yoked egg) Circle, and I walked from there around the loop surrounding a huge ficus to get to the somewhat steep pathway and stairway down to the 16th hole of Kaua‘i Lagoon’s Kiele (Gardenia) Golf Course.

Loop at Kalapaki Circle
Steep Pathway

At the turnaround for golf carts, there was a short rubber-clad stairway that ended only a little closer to the shoreline.

Golf Cart Landing at the top of the Stairway
Golf Cart Landing at the top of the Stairway

A blue warning sign was waiting at the bottom of the stairway, where the path simply disappeared into bushes and guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus), also called buffalo grass or elephant grass. If, like I was, you’re wearing shorts, you won’t want to go this way because this tall grass bears fine, whisker-like stickers the first few feet above ground, and the upper blades are just that: blades. I walked around the berm between the bunker and green to my left and found a more inviting, though steep, descent.

Warning Sign
Warning Sign

Once I was down to the harsh pumice field (where my hide would have remained in perpetuity if I fell—probably should have recommended running/hiking shoes earlier) I could see three channels scouring away the point to the left of the lighthouse.

pumice field
Pumice Field

Both the two narrow channels and the broad channel up the middle of the pumice field afforded spectacular demonstrations of the hazardous surf at work here.

Surf in the Narrow Channel
Foamy surf in the near Narrow Channel

Rip-rap dumped at the head of the broad channel created interesting random click-clack sounds like the colliding balls on a pool table at the break.

Surf in the Broad Channel
Surf in the Broad Channel

Intense wave action on the other side of the point often makes for some decent surfing at Kalapaki Beach, but at the same time the surf rips into the jagged stone that supports the foundation for the lighthouse.

Shoreline below the Lighthouse
Shoreline below the Lighthouse

I could spend hours—weeks, months, years perhaps—exploring and sharing photographs of these rocks, and the wave action, but know that may not delight everyone. If you enjoy geomorphology as much as I do though, I invite you to come on over to my island sometime and watch the shoreline tumble into the Pacific.

Shadows on Kukii Point
Shadows on Kukii Point

After watching rocks and surf for a while, it was time to proceed back up the stairway, pick up YaYu, and head for home.

Looking back up the Stairway
Looking back up the Stairway

#Kaua’i: Duane’s Ono Char-Burger

Lucky day: Only one customer in front of us at the Ono Char!
Lucky day for us: Only one customer in front of us at the Ono Char!

This small hamburger shack, located in Anahola on the eastside of Kaua’i, has been an institution for both locals and tourists alike for more than a quarter of a century. Locals stop by all day to get their fix, and pretty much anyone who visits Kaua’i makes a stop here as well. The ‘Ono Char’ is the first place Meiling has to go whenever she comes home to Kaua’i, and it was our first Kaua’i dining experience on the island on our visit in 2012. Everyone who either lives on Kaua’i or has visited is always more than happy to tell you about their favorite Ono burger or make a recommendation.

The Ono Char menu
The Ono Char menu – my favorite is the teriyaki burger. It’s the most popular item on their menu.
An "Old Fashioned," with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and fresh sprouts. All burgers are served cut in half, with each half individually wrapped
An “Old Fashioned,” with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and fresh sprouts. All burgers are served cut in half, with each half individually wrapped

Duane’s Ono Char-Burger opened in 1975 (Ono means ‘delicious’ in Hawaiian), and has been run by family ever since. They serve fourteen different types of burgers, as well as other items, like sandwiches, fish and chips or chicken strips. Burgers start at $5.15 and go as high as $8.00 for one of ‘Duane’s Specials,’ and bacon can be added to any burger for $1.50. Their milkshakes are delicious (marionberry is reputed to be the best), but I love the ‘Aloha Special,’ a smoothie made with fresh papaya, mango, banana and pineapple juice. I tried the fish and chips (their fries are amazing!) on our last visit and they were very tasty – and hot! Several locals had also recommended I try the teriyaki mayonnaise with my fries – so good!

Fish & chips - very tasty!
Fish & chips – very tasty! The fries at Ono Char are outstanding
An "Aloha Special"
An “Aloha Special”

Making a good burger takes time, and appearances aside the Ono Char is not a fast food joint. Each order is cooked individually, in order. That means that you have to wait for the orders ahead of you to be done before they’ll even start on yours, so be prepared to wait. I’ve heard of people having to wait 30 minutes, but we’ve personally never had to wait that long – 10 minutes is about our average. If you don’t want to wait, or have a large order, you can call ahead and they will have it ready to go for you. The wait is worth it in my opinion though because when you finally get your burgers they are hot, and the lettuce, onions and tomatoes are still fresh and crispy. The beef patties used in the burgers are locally prepared, and seasoned with a special blend of Hawaiian salt made just for Ono Char.

Shaded, outdoor seating
Shaded outdoor seating

All seating is outdoors, in a nice shaded area. Besides other diners you will most likely share the space with a few chickens and roosters who hope you will accidentally drop something for them. Just like the Ono Char, the chickens are a Kaua’i institution and aren’t going anywhere, so we just deal with them.

Duane’s Ono Char-Burger is located in Anahola, right next to the Anahola post office and a small Whaler’s grocery store. Heading north on the Kuhio highway from Kapaa it will be on the right (makai) side of the highway. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily except for Sunday, when it opens at 11:00.

Hiking the Kuilau Trail

Another great eastside Kaua‘i trail is the Kuilau Trail, which starts on the right side of Kuamo‘o Road, about 100 feet (30 meters) before arriving at Kawi Stream.

papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), white ginger (Hedychium coronarium), blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora)
Papyrus, White Ginger, Asian Sword Fern, and Blue Ginger, amongst other lush greenery

About seven miles up Kuamo’o Road from the Kuhio Highway, just before crossing Kawi Stream, there’s a small parking lot (currently closed for repair) on the left. Additional parking may be available across the stream, on the right. However, DO NOT CROSS if the stream is running high (knee deep or higher). Limited parking along Kuamo’o Road, headed back down to the east is also in vogue at this time, and there are three reasonably safe spots by the trailhead (two other nearby commonly used spots are not safe because they block the gate that is used by trucks, and earth moving equipment that also use the trail.

Kuilau Trailhead
Kuilau Trailhead

At the beginning of your hike, there’s a large clump of papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) that grows along the side of the road between the stream and the trailhead. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the trails have been wetter than usual this year, which takes a bit of the fun out of hiking, and the Kuilau is no exception. Sometimes the easiest path on the Kuilau Trail is right down the deep impressions made by tractor tires; in other spots, the path between the ruts is less soggy.

muddy ruts
Muddy Ruts

As I gained elevation on my last Kuilau hike, the sun began to dry out the ruts, and some of the smaller creatures began to move across the trail while attempting to remain unseen. Can you spot the tiny gecko in the picture below?

Green Anole
Fellow Hiker (Anolis carolinensis)

There is no potable water available along the trail, but edible fruit is abundant in season. On my first hike, someone told me the vine-y little briar with the white, five-petal blossom was wild raspberry, but on tasting I discovered it was something I had known on the mainland as thimbleberry (Rubus rosaefolius), also known as: West Indian raspberry (ola’a), roseleaf raspberry, or rose-leaf bramble.

Rubus Rosaefolia

Both guava (Psidium guajava), and its invasive cousin strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum) are also prevalent at lower elevations along the trail, and while the low hanging fruit is almost always picked bare, the fragrance of the remnants is intoxicating.

Farther along, I saw a strange vine with what appeared to be potatoes growing from it. The air potato or bitter yam (Dioscorea bulbifera) is best left alone. For one thing, it’s invasive, but most importantly, while it may be pleasing to the eye in the wild, it is almost certainly poisonous.

invasive; poisonous
Bitter Yam or Air Potato

Other vines, although invasive, are not quite so dangerous. Monstera (Monstera deliciosa) is ubiquitous in Hawaii, and internet search results highlight its delicious aspects.

Monstera, M. deliciosa
Monstera appears on every trail I’ve hiked

These prehistoric giants thrive in heavy shade as well as on bright, open slopes all along the trail. Due to my limited botanical knowledge, I cannot tell whether the fern pictured below is the native Hapu’u Pulu (Cibotium splendens), or the invasive Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea Cooperi), but like a tinkling bell in a light breeze or trickling water, its presence is soothing and cooling.

tree fern
Tree Fern

Easily recognizable, common era ferns along the trail were much easier to identify because of their similarity to those I had known at Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. The most common fern along the lower ridge, as well as many other trails, is the Asian Sword Fern (Nephrolepis brownii aka multiflora), often seen among smaller, lacy ferns that I cannot readily identify.

Asian Sword Fern
Asian Sword Fern

Around the half-mile mark the landscape grows more interesting. The shadowy “amphitheater” shown here is an eastern crater below Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale (‘rippling waters’) known as the Blue Hole.

crater to the east of Wai'ale'ale
Blue Hole

A little less than three quarters of a mile along, a break in the trees permits this splendid view across the valleys of the Keāhua (‘the swelling, as a wave’) and Kāwī streams to the saddle between Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale and the Makaleha (‘to look about, as in wonder’) mountains. The peak in the distance is Keana‘awi Ridge.

Saddle between Wai'ale'ale and Makaleha Mountains
Saddle of the Makaleha Mountains

Eucalyptus tree are prevalent at the three-quarter mile point as well. As a matter of fact, there is a tunnel of eucalyptus on the Moalepe Trail, about a quarter mile past the bridge that separates these two trails. When conditions are just right, a little warmer and much drier, the scent of the eucalyptus is almost overpowering. As shown below, the eucalyptus not only provide shade for the understory, but a home for other plants as well.

Eucalyptus at Upper Elevations
Eucalyptus at Upper Elevations

I spotted a lone cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) at one mile. These birds eat bugs and geckos, and can always be found following behind lawn mowers to snatch whatever the mower churns up.

Cattle Egret
Cattle Egret

Below is the breathtaking view of the Makaleha Mountains from the picnic shelter set up at the one mile distance on the trail. Many visitors are unaware that this is not the end of the trail. From the lawn surrounding the picnic shelter, the trail veers off to the right, but is rather inconspicuous when the grass is tall.

Makaleha Mountains
Makaleha Mountains

About a half mile beyond the picnic area is a little waterfall near trail’s end.  This little fall on the upper part of Opaeka‘a Stream (which eventually leads to Opaeka‘a Falls in Wailua) is more often heard than seen. Its splash pool lies about 30 feet below, and because Opaeka‘a Stream is barely a trickle at this point it’s just a pleasing sound, an affirmation that we have had sufficient rain.

little waterfall
Little Waterfall

A bridge joins Kuilau and Moalepe trails if you want to hike further (about 2.75 miles). The signs are somewhat misleading, and if you zoom in you’ll see that someone has scratched through the line “1.25 MILES TO PARKING AREA” because the other side of this sign lists 1.75 miles as the distance to Keahua Arboretum, which is only a quarter mile from the Kuilau trailhead.

End of Kuilau Trail

According to the Division of Land & Natual Resources website, Kuilau Trail is 2.1 miles long. So, allow at least three hours, more if you plan to take photographs and even more if you want to stop for a picnic lunch; pack at least a liter of water, and as always, sunscreen and mosquito repellant.

Finally, here’s a long view from the trail looking down the Opaeka‘a valley to Wailua (‘two waters’) along Kauai’s east side, somewhat obscured by dense clouds earlier in the day.

Wailua Water Gap