#Kauai: The Moalepe Trail (Part 1)

 

The Moalepe (chicken comb) Trail, located on Kauai’s east side, follows the old Moalepe Road from the continuation of Olohena Road beyond Waipouli (dark water) Road. The trail goes across Moalepe Ridge to a footbridge over the headwaters of Ōpaekaʻa (rolling shrimp) Stream, which serves as the dividing line between Moalepe and Kuilau Trails.

The first half of the trail is more of a road through fields, but eventually transitions to a true trail as it gains elevation. Wildflowers bloom almost year-round along this trail. The six- to eight-foot yellow giants below (which have long defied my limited ability to identify them) stand behind the parking area across from the trailhead.

Unidentified yellow flowers, 6-8 feet tall

Flowers gone wild

Smaller flowers that lie along both sides of the trail, as well as up the center strip, fall into the weed category, but are nonetheless quite pretty in bloom. If anyone can identify these two ankle-high weeds, or the giant yellow flowers above, I and maybe many others would be delighted.

 

Orchids are chief among the easily identifiable delights in the first mile of this little hike. First, within a quarter-mile of the trailhead is the Bamboo Orchid, Arundina graminifolia.

 

In late spring/early summer, strawberry guava (psidium cattleianum) blooms, and the first fruits appear in mid to late summer. Strawberry guava are edible, but hikers are asked not to spit seeds on the ground as it’s an invasive species that consumes one-third of the rainfall and upland mists on which Kaua’i depends for drinking water.

Strawberry Guava

Strawberry Guava

At about the half-mile marker, there’s a less problematic, and sweeter fruit growing low to the ground. This little briar was introduced to the island, but is not as invasive as the strawberry guava or Malaysian blackberry, and the fruit is more scarce.

 

Hikers may also encounter a second orchid variety between half-mile and three-quarter-mile markers, the Philippine ground orchid (Spathoglottis plicata).

 

On one hike I blundered onto this gorgeous specimen of the hau (hibiscus tiliaceus), The blossoms of the hau tree transition daily from yellow in daylight to crimson by night. This flower below obviously missed the roosters’ call.

Blushing hau blossom

Another of the dazzling, low growing weeds that often fills in between and beneath others is variously called whiteweed or flossflower (Ageratum spp). As shown below, it’s white in the bud and varies from blue to lavender after it opens. Similar to the story of the ugly duckling, what begins as a common weed becomes a flower in maturity.

 

Owing to a rapid change in the weather, I was only able to complete half a hike on my last trip to Moalepe, but captured the change just beyond the one mile marker. This is approximately where the road truly becomes trail as one leaves pastureland behind and enters the Kealia Forest Reserve.

 

Stay tuned for Moalepe Trail (Part 2) which will show off the other half of this gentle hike.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Nine Tourist “Tells”

Kaua’i welcomes tourists with open arms and aloha. We know we live in a very special, very beautiful place, and that people spend lots of money to come here to experience the island, even if it’s just for a week. We want all our visitors to have a positive experience, and make wonderful memories.

After three years here, I’m still taken for a tourist now and then. I’m pale and pretty much look like I just stepped off the plane from the mainland (I don’t tan, and also have to watch how much time I spend in the sun). Brett has a nice tan, but we’re still occasionally asked where we’re visiting from, or how long we’re staying. However, more often than not these days we’re recognized as kamaaina (residents).

Being a pale haole (white) is not something that automatically marks someone as a tourist though as whites make up over 30% of the island’s population, and not all have a tan. What does make visitors stand out from locals are their actions and behavior, which are often markedly in contrast to local culture and customs, and are the equivalent of carrying a sign saying “I am a tourist.”

Here are the tourist “tells” our family came up with. The hardest part was admitting that we did some of these things too once upon a time:

  1. In a hurry. The island pace of life is slower than it is on the mainland, so when someone’s in a hurry, there’s a better than good chance he or she is a tourist. We get that people are only here for a week or so and want to see and do it all, but slowing down lets you experience one of the things that makes life in Hawai’i so special.
  2. Traveling in packs, and being loud. Visitors almost always come here with family and friends, and we understand that they want to spend time together, but moving in a pack on the sidewalk or through stores and making everyone else move is not cool. Also, people in Hawai’i generally talk softly, so loud voices really stands out.
  3. Pronouncing the name of the island “Kow-ee.” It’s Kah-wah-ee. We’ve been genuinely shocked by how many times we’ve heard the first pronunciation.
  4. Too dressed up or matchy-matchy. Kaua’i is casual. When we see someone with lots of jewelry, or a perfectly coordinated outfit, chances are very good they’re a tourist.
  5. Wearing expensive sport sandals: Slippahs (flip flops) are the name of the game here, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing cheap slippahs either.
  6. Not using the crosswalks. Year-round, we typically have to stop two or three times on every trip through Kapaa for tourists who can’t be bothered to walk a few feet down to the crosswalk, where we and every other local driver would stop when they see them waiting to cross (see “In a hurry”).
  7. Not slowing down to let people turn into the highway or make a left turn. We have one mostly two-lane highway around the island, and in cities like Kapaa or Lihue it can be hard at times to turn into the highway from businesses along the road, or to make a left turn, depending on the traffic. There aren’t many stoplights or stop signs on the highway either. Local drivers will often slow down or stop to let someone make a turn or come onto the highway. Maybe visitors don’t know that letting someone in might earn them a shaka!
  8. Costco carts loaded with big bottles of liquor, wine and/or beer. We understand that visitors don’t want to have to drive to Costco from Princeville or Poipu more than once while they’re here, but having enough liquor in their cart to open their own store is a dead giveaway they’re not from around here, even if they are wearing a DejaVu surf shirt and already have a tan.
  9. Driving a convertible or a shiny new Jeep. This is probably the number one indicator that someone is a tourist. Locals don’t drive convertibles, and very, very few drive new Jeeps. There’s a reason these two cars are broken into more often than any other type of car on the island.

We were guilty of a few of these on our first trip to the island, although we’ve never mispronounced Kaua’i, always use a crosswalk, and don’t buy tons of liquor. I’m not sure we’ve ever been accused of dressing too nicely either. We did drive a Jeep on our first trip though.

Again, we enjoy having tourists visit Kaua’i, and want them to have a wonderful time while they’re here, spend lots of money, and make wonderful memories. We’re not judging them either – honestly. But after being here for a while we have noticed that they self-identify pretty easily.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

#Kaua’i: Hamura’s Saimin

Hamura’s Saimin – in business since 1951

WenYu and YaYu are both huge noodle afficionadas, so it made perfect sense that Hamura’s Saimin would be their choice of where to go to celebrate the end of their respective school years last week.

A small bowl of Hamura’s regular saimin is very filling!

Hamura’s Saimin is an institution on Kaua’i, and has been around as long as most people can remember. Aiko and Charlie Hamura began selling bowls of noodles from their car in 1951, and the restaurant they eventually opened is still family owned and operated. Every day locals and visitors alike head to the humble restaurant, located on a back street in Lihue, and often line up to wait for a spot at the big winding counter in order to enjoy a bowl of homemade noodles and wontons topped with meat, kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) and vegetables.

There were seats available when this picture was taken, but there’s often a wait for a place at the counter.

Originally developed in Hawai’i during its plantation days, saimin is a Hawaiian version of ramen, with Chinese, Japanese and Filipino influences. It is considered a traditional state food in Hawai’i.

Hamura’s is old school, and proud of it. Noodles and wontons are made fresh from scratch every morning, then cooked and served in bowls of fragrant broth. The small restaurant has won many awards over the years, including an “American Classic” award from the James Beard Foundation in 2006. In spite of it all, their noodles remain affordable: $6.75 for a small bowl of regular saimin, $7.00 for medium, and $7.75 for large. Specialty bowls are only slightly more.

Our girls eat their saimin Chinese style: Chopsticks in one hand for the noodles, and the soup spoon in the other for sipping the broth.

Hamura’s also offers an incredible homemade lilikoi (passionfruit) chiffon pie for dessert, the perfect finish after a bowl of saimin. It’s sold by the slice, but sometimes whole pies are available for sale.

Hamura’s light and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth homemade lilikoi chiffon pie

If you want a taste of traditional Hawai’i, Hamura’s is the real deal. Hamura’s Saimin is located at 2956 Kress Street in Lihue. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 12:00 a.m. on weekends. Payment is cash only.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Three Years: The Bad, The Good & The Sublime

It doesn’t get any better than palm trees and rainbows.

This month marks the beginning of our fourth year on Kaua’i. It’s almost a cliché to say it, but it both seems like it was only yesterday that we were scrambling back in Portland to sell our house and make our move, while at the same time feeling like we’ve been here for far longer than three years.

Has it been perfect? No, because nothing ever is. Still the good and the sublime far outweigh the bad we’ve experienced since our move.

Beautiful but annoying

Here’s how things look after three years on Kauai:

The Bad:

  • Humidity: As I wrote just a short time ago, I’m not sure I will ever adjust. When it’s bad, I’m miserable.
  • Bugs: Hawai’i is Bug Central. We do pretty well inside our house keeping the critters out, but they are still always with us: mosquitos, centipedes, giant cockroaches, ants, spiders and other small flying things.
  • Dust: Keeping up with the dust here is a daily struggle.
  • Chickens/roosters: They’ve grown on me in some ways (some of the roosters are positively gorgeous) and they eat lots of bugs, but they have torn up everything we’ve planted in the yard, and can be incredibly loud and annoying at times. I guess I just wish there were fewer of them.
  • Frogs: There are poisonous toads (bufo) here and they give me the willies. Thankfully they only come out at night when I’m safely inside, and they too eat bugs. Still, they’re a giant ick factor for me.
  • It’s expensive: We prepared ourselves for the higher cost of living here, and are managing fine, but food, housing, airline flights, etc. are still more here than elsewhere – prices can still be a shock at times.

    One of our favorite farmers at the Kapaa market – we stop by her stand every week

The Good:

  • Farmers’ markets: The abundance of fresh, locally grown, affordable produce has meant we are eating more fruits and vegetables than in the past, and paying less for them.
  • Hawaiian-style: We absolutely love the Hawaiian spin on things, especially the way food is prepared using or substituting local ingredients.
  • It’s casual: Every day is casual Friday here. Really, no one cares what you wear, or what your nails look like, or what kind of purse you’re carrying. No one cares about your car either.
  • Our girls’ experiences: None of our girls wanted to move here, and although Meiling returned back to the mainland shortly after we arrived, WenYu now says moving here was the best thing to happen for her, and YaYu concurs. They have thrived here on the island. All three consider Kaua’i home now.
  • No snakes: It took me almost a year to accept that there are no snakes, poisonous or otherwise, on this tropical island; in the whole state actually. Yeah for no snakes!
  • The expense: While this is one of the not-so-good things about living here, it’s also helped us hone our frugal skills much more than we might have otherwise.
  • Manageability: Although there aren’t loads of stores or shopping opportunities like in other places, and we’ll never get a Trader Joe’s, we have everything we need here, and it’s easy to get to them. The island is just the right size (for us).

    My all-time favorite island view

The Sublime:

  • The slow pace: The slower way of life here suits us perfectly. Everything gets done, but there’s little to no sense of underlying urgency. Feeling stressed is a rare thing these days.
  • The green: There’s a reason Kaua’i is called ‘The Garden Island’ – it’s beautiful, lush and green all year round.
  • The weather: This was the main reason for our move here, and we have not been disappointed. Yes, it rains and can get very humid, but most of the time it is warm, sunny and the trade winds keep it comfortable.
  • The ocean: I love that I can see the ocean every day, and experience its wonders, from crashing waves to spectacular vistas with colors transitioning from clear turquoise to deep, dark blue. And, there are seals, dolphins, big turtles and leaping whales to observe. There is nothing more invigorating than an hour or so under the umbrella at the beach, even if I don’t make it into the water.
  • The moon and the stars: There aren’t words to describe how beautiful the night sky is here. Because there’s no ambient light to dull the view, stars literally blanket the sky. The full moon here shines like a spotlight.
  • Sunrise, sunset: One word: breathtaking. Almost every day.
  • Diversity: Hawai’i is well-known for its population diversity – it’s a daily fact of life here – but we also experience other types of diversity as well. Even a small island like Kaua’i has multiple micro-climates, so a trip to the north shore or the west side of the island means different foliage and temperatures than we have here on the east side. The local culture is also different depending on which part of the island you’re on.
  • The aloha spirit: There is a genuine friendliness here that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in the U.S. Aloha means sharing, living in the present, caring for others and the land, and enjoying life and feeling joy, and we experience these things every day in our interactions with others (even though most locals still think we’re tourists).

Here’s to three wonderful years – lucky we live Hawai’i!

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

#Kauai: Nani Pua (Part II)

This second part might more acurately be called Nani Hihiu Pua (beautiful wildflowers) because it features some of the abundant and beautiful wildflowers on Kauai that are often overlooked, but that I see frequently on my walks. Some of these plants and flower are poisonous, or have barbs and needles that can hurt, so care should be taken around them.

First is Lantana, that may be familiar to many because it grows in sunny locales all around the world. Near the ocean its growth is stunted by the tradewinds, rarely stretching greater than the height of a primrose (about 4 inches/10 cm). On upper slopes it becomes an impenetrable thicket, up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall. It also produces small green, unripe berries [which] are poisonous and contain the toxin lantadene.  Ripened berries are black, and although people have eaten them (and lived), I’d leave them for the birds.

Lantana blossoms

Lantana (Lanatana camara)

Predominant along the shores is the lovely purple Beach Morning Glory, whereas its delicate little cousin is widely distributed all over the island.

Another common wildflower along the coastline is Beach Naupaka, the “half flower.” These are tree flowers, and the trees vary in height according to how sheltered they are—low, ground hugging rhododendron-like near the surf; reaching 15–20 feet upland. Although they are usually salt tolerant, white skeletons appear here and there at the surf’s edge. When they are in full bloom in early spring their fragrance is somewhat like maile, but when the first blossoms appear one practically has to kiss them to smell them.

Beach Naupaka, "half flower"

Beach Naupaka (Scaevola sericea)

Among the flowering trees, the Hau, also known as Beach Hibiscus, is most widely distributed (i.e., invasive). In the mountains, it grows just so high and then yields to its own weight, often vining along the ground and attempting to rise again occasionally. For this reason it fairly well blocks trails, and passage is only possible by constant pruning, such as the “tree tunnel” through Kealia Kai to Donkeys Beach. Most people recognize the yellow blossoms right away, but after they’ve had sex (been pollinated), they blush and fall to the ground.

The Sensitive Plant (or Shameplant) folds up its leaves when touched. However, that’s not its only defense. See the little barbs, jutting out in opposing directions along the stems? You’ll have to armor up if you wish to pluck them from your yard because they mean business. Nonetheless, their pink puffball blossoms are delightful.

Sensitive Plant or Mimosa with pink blossom

Sensitive Plant (Mimosa Pudica)

Speaking of barbs, check out the Pāpipi (literally cattle fence, or pānini maoli, ‘indigenous cactus’ in Hawaiian). The cactus presumably came originally from Mexico, and is now naturalized in warm climates throughout the world. In spite of its pretty flowers it is listed as a threat to our local ecosystem. The cactus are prevalent on the drier west side of Kauai, and quite rare on the wet east side.

Prickly Pear or pāpipi, pānini maoli

Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica)

Yet another immigrant species is the Mexican Prickly Poppy, lovely to see but not to touch. This specimen grows in the fence row that separates Kealia Kai from the path that goes by the coast on the north end, and I saw it for the first time about a month ago.

Mexican Prickly Poppy (Argemone mexicana)

Finally, this little flower, Mamane, is everywhere (and you might not want it to be) – it appears to love our red dirt. It follows all the prickly things because it features another reason to not touch—it’s poisonous. Only the palila (Hawiian honeycreeper) and one moth are immune to the toxicity, and the palila in particular is dependent on Mamane. Although this plant is in the pea family, it can grow in to a hardy tree when uninhibited by shore breezes and salt spray.

Mamane or Mamani, a toxic little flower that looks like butterflies, but smells like creosote

Mamane (Sophora chrysophylla)

As with so many beautiful things Hawaiian, this plant has multiple defenses. Mamane most notably smells like creosote, so best to enjoy the beautiful bounty in the wild, and leave it be.

95% Paradise

Someone asked me the other day if there was anything I didn’t like about living on Kaua’i. Didn’t I miss all the shopping opportunities I’d find elsewhere, not just for clothing and such, but places likeWhole Foods and Trader Joe’s? Didn’t I miss all the restaurants, coffee places, etc. that I’d enjoyed back in Portland?

The answer was no, I didn’t miss those things (well, I do miss Trader Joe’s still, but just a little). Our move here has been a very positive experience for us, and we’ve adjusted well to island life. Kaua’i is home.

But surely, my friend asked, there must be something that bugs you?

I couldn’t think of anything on the spot, but after some reflection came up with two things that make my life here just a tiny bit less than ideal:

  • After three years here I am no closer to adapting to the humidity than I was when we arrived. My skin loves it, but the rest of my body doesn’t, and I dislike the way I feel overall when the humidity climbs, which along with feeling like a wet, sticky mess sometime includes occasional  headaches. I know air conditioning would take care of it, but we don’t feel like putting an air conditioner into a rental property, or paying the electric bill that would result from running it. I’ve developed some tricks for staying cool(er) and more comfortable, but overall I still really dislike the humidity.
  • I’m often frustrated that we have to get in our car to go anywhere around here. Compared to Portland ,where it was very walkable, it’s not so easy here. There are few sidewalks, and unless we wanted to live in what’s a tsunami-warning zone (we don’t), houses are typically located far enough from the commercial areas to make walking an unpleasant chore, not counting the heat and humidity. Just walking up to the main road from our house can turn into an adventure, with cars speeding close by. Brett and I had dreamed of living somewhere after retirement where we could walk to our favorite coffee shop every day, but that’s just not possible here. I’m very grateful for the beach path, even though we have to get in our car to get to it, and I have to admit it’s nice to be in the car at times with the air-conditioning.

And that’s all I could come up with. I also don’t care for the big toads here, but am willing to put up with their occasional appearance in our yard in exchange for living in a place that has no snakes.

So no, life on Kaua’i isn’t perfect, but it’s practically perfect for me!

#Kaua’i: Nani Pua (Beautiful Flowers) – Part 1

Heliconia – locals call it “sexy pink”

One of the joys of living on Kaua’i is the abundance of vibrant, beautiful flowers everywhere, all year round. Every day here we’re treated to an amazing array of colors and blossoms. Some of the flowers, like plumeria or gardenia, have intoxicating aromas, but even if they don’t smell I’m still drawn in by the stunning colors on display. Whether we’re at the weekly farmers’ markets or just walking around the neighborhood or wherever, the abundance of flowers provides a daily feast for the eyes.

Hawaii’s most famous flower is the hibiscus (the yellow hibiscus is the state flower). Hibiscus bloom year-round, and come is a variety of colors and petal arrangements.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The most common flowers for sale at farmers’ markets are Hawaiian ginger, bird-of-paradise and heliconia, which can be seen year-round. Other flowers, like gardenia, can be found when they’re in bloom.

Hawaiian ginger

Bird-of-Paradise

Fragrant gardenia bouquets for sale at the market

Many trees on the island also get into the act and have striking and colorful flowers. Perhaps the most well-known is the plumeria, with its beautiful, fragrant flowers, often used for lei. At night, when they’re in bloom, we can sometimes catch their sweet aroma on the breeze. The royal poinciana tree is also a delight, with its giant red blooms. More of a shrub than a tree, bougainvillea can be found everywhere on the island, typically covered with  purple flowers but sometimes orange can be found. There are other exotic trees as well with interesting and unusual flowers.

Bright red blooms cover royal poinciana trees

The flowers on an angel’s trumpet tree are gorgeous, but highly poisonous

Plumeria blossoms can also be a deep, bright pink or white with pink and orange. The tree is seasonal, and during the winter all the leaves and blossoms are gone leaving only thick, bare branches – the tree looks dead!

Vibrant bougainvillea

The pictures above show only a fraction of the flowers we’re treated to here all year long, and I have yet to get tired of them, or fail to notice them whenever we’re out and about. Sometimes we even get lucky, and find something truly unusual, like the white bird-of-paradise we spotted a couple of weeks ago when we were out for a walk – we had no idea they were in any other color than bright orange!

White bird-of-paradise

#Kauai – Things I See on My Walks

Daily walks are a fact of life following our recent trip to Japan—I never want to be so out  of shape in another country again. To keep it fairly mudless, I decided to walk sections of Ke Ala Hele Makalae (The Path that Goes by the Coast) from Kapa‘a to Kealia to Paliku Beach, also known as Donkeys Beach. The one-way distance from Kapa‘a Community Center to the north end of the path is about 3.4 miles, and Kealia Beach is a nice midway turnaround.

Sunrise, April 17, 2017, Kapaa

Sunrise at Kapa’a Community Center

So, over the past month I’ve walked at least one hour each day at 3–3.5 mph (5–5.5 kmh) while observing tide changes as well as familiar and unfamiliar scenery along the way. When conditions are just perfect following a good rain one can see Wai‘ale‘ale and Makaleha Falls from the north end of town; on days like this, you just know that they’re out there.

Manicured Hedge & Makaleha Mountains

Manicured hedge & Makaleha mountains from Kapa’a

Just over that hedge is the north end of the Kauai Products Fair, a kitschy little tourist trap. The path overlays the roadbed of the former Ahukini Terminal & Railway company right of way, and thus features many of the elements one might expect to see on a train ride. Below is a shot taken within the cut at the summit between Kapa’a town and Kealia. I took this shot not only to reveal the striations in the soil but the various wildflowers growing along the top and left face of the cut. The fence in the foreground is to catch falling rocks—a recurrent hazard along the path.

Creeping Vegetation and Slide Fence

Creeping Vegetation and Slide Fence

Just beyond the crest, the landscape and flora change rapidly. Here, overlooking the mouth of Kapa‘a Stream are plants that look like they were plucked from the Sonoran Desert. They are growing out of inhospitable rocks, but as the soil improves downslope, they give way to the usual and customary specimens.

South Kealia Beach

Looking down to Kealia Beach from the Little Cut

One morning I was fortunate enough to glimpse Makaleha Falls, looking west at the intersection of Mailihuna Rd and Kuhio Highway (56) near the mouth of Kapa‘a Stream. That photo bomber at left center was a Nene, the indigenous goose, I believe.

Makaleha from Kealia

Makaleha Falls from Kealia

Typically, at low tide the scene from the north end of the bridge, looking south, resembles the one at left. For the first time since we moved here I caught the windless shot at right. The old railroad cut is evident in the background and clearly illustrates the effect of the prevailing wind on plants along the coast.

I often park at Kealia Beach because it expands my options for going north or south, or a little of both if it suits me, and that variety helps keep the walks interesting. Other days, I walk up from the house, and down Mailihuna Rd and cross Kuhio Highway at the north end of Kealia Beach, then head back to town, and home via Kawaihau Rd. Below, the Kealia Lifeguard Station, as seen through the windshield from the parking lot.

Lifeguard Station

Lifeguard station at Kealia Beach

Proceeding north out of Kealia, both wind and ocean, deafening at times, are constant companions.This shot was taken about halfway between Kealia and the Pineapple Dump.

Pathway north of Kealia Beach

Beyond the 2.0 mile mark, north of Kealia Beach

Next stop: the Pineapple Dump. Once upon a time, the sugar trains were idled only on Sundays, and an engine and side dump cars were made available to the cannery at Kapa‘a. Pineapple tops were hauled out onto the little pier, tipped and emptied into the ocean to be carried far away. Sometimes the tides and wind were not so favorable and the tailings were slammed back into town along the beach, and the smell was… awful, so I’m told.

Pineapple Dump at the Horizon

Pineapple Dump at the horizon

Looking back on the Pineapple Dump, and on the way to Donkeys Beach. Again, the direction of the prevailing winds is easily distinguished by the habit of the trees and shrubs hugging the coast.

Pineapple Dump from the North

Farewell to the Pineapple Dump: going north

Stopping to study another planet, or so it seems from the random distribution of stones on all but lifeless red dirt.

Red Scabland - Like Craters of Mars

Red scabland – like craters on Mars

Further along, I encountered what looks like a nursery for table rocks. Yes, if you have a state or national park and are seeking table rocks for your collection, this may be where they’re born and raised.

Tropic Table Rocks

Tropic table rocks

“Reindeer Slug,” the first thing that came to mind when I looked up and saw this old snag lying on the ground. We do have some pretty big slugs and snails here.

Whitenend Fallen Tree by the sea

Reindeer Slug

Even weeds are special here. I cannot identify them all, but enjoy them nonetheless. Three or four varieties of morning glories thrive on and off the path, some low ground cover that looks rather more glacial than tropical, and here and there so hardy bright yellow flowers.

There you have it then, 3.4 miles in what, 20 minutes? You’re fast! There are many more plants, people, and other animals to see along the path, but my objective was to cover a considerable distance as quickly as possible, exercise that is, so whether you live here, or you’re just visiting, take a hike; have a look.

Our Hometown Getaway

The makai (ocean) side of the Coral Reef Inn (yes, the storm clouds were gathering). Our room was on the second floor, second from the right.

Brett and I have driven by the Hotel Coral Reef in Kapaa more times than I can count; it’s just down the highway from where we turn off to go up to our house and we pass it every week on our way to the farmers’ market. Although it’s somewhat unassuming from the mauka (mountain/highway) side, we’ve strolled past it on beach path walks, and been intrigued by the building and the beautiful landscaping. So, when we wanted to take an overnight getaway to celebrate our 38th anniversary (March), and both our birthdays (April &May), we thought of the Hotel Coral Reef.

Our room at the Hotel Coral Reef – the room and furnishings were lovely. The strip around the top of the room is actually a soft light that for some reason shows bright orange in the photo.

We did look at other resorts on the island for our getaway, but most were w-a-y over what we wanted to pay for a one-night stay. Rooms in Poipu in the south or Princeville on the north side ranged from $300 to over $600 for one night. They all had superb amenities and ambience, but the splurge just wasn’t worth it to us.

The view from our balcony looking south.

The lagoon pool and waterfall – it was too stormy and windy during our stay to use the pool, but it was looking inviting by the time we had to check out.

The Hotel Coral Reef has been called one of Kauai’s hidden gems, and has received awards from TripAdvisor as one of the best places to stay on Kaua’i. It’s regularly given 4.5 stars by TripAdvisor readers, as well as on Expedia, Hotel.com and other travel sites. This year it received a “Best Kaua’i Hotel” award from Honolulu Magazine. The hotel has had an interesting history: It was first opening by the Matsumura family (date unknown) on the same land that housed the first fire station in Kapaa. In 1962 the sixteen-room masonry building was constructed, and it’s survived two major hurricanes. The Matsumura family sold the hotel in 1985 to new owners, and in 2001 it was sold again to Pixar Development. Pixar undertook extensive renovations, including the lush landscaping around the hotel and the lagoon pool and waterfall. The hotel got new owners about a year and half ago, and more renovations are planned in the near future including a third story addition to the masonry building which will include two suites and a plantation-style roof, and updates for all guest rooms.

The view while we had our coffee and breakfast on the balcony in the morning.

Brett and I booked a deluxe oceanfront room for our getaway, and the views did not disappoint. My only complaint about the room was the mattress was too soft for me, but otherwise every amenity you could think of was provided, including a free continental breakfast, free bikes to ride around town or on the beach path, a large movie selection, and books. You can also get an oceanside massage during your stay at the hotel, although it’s provided by an outside contractor so not free.

Our dinner at Sam’s Ocean View was yummy.

The view was complimentary with dinner.

It was a short walk from the hotel to our dinner spot, Sam’s Ocean View restaurant. We had decided ahead of time to keep both expenses and calories down by ordering two small plates (crispy tempura-battered cauliflower and roasted brussels sprouts with sun-dried tomatoes and panchetta), and the grilled cheese sandwich board (brie with apple and fig jam on local sourdough). Everything was so delicious! Brett had thought he might have dessert, but we were both too full before we finished, and ended up bringing the leftovers back to our room (and then home the next day for lunch).

You can sort of see it in the picture, but the wind was quite strong and getting stronger while we took our after-dinner walk.

After dinner we took a 30-minute walk south on the beach path, down to Baby Beach and back to the hotel. It had been overcast when we arrived, but as we set out on our walk more clouds were really rolling in and the wind picking up. It was rather gloomy, but we made it to the beach and back to our room before the storm began. Both Brett and I stayed up to listen to the ocean’s roar, and hear the wind whip through the palm trees – very exciting!

The sun trying to break through the clouds at sunrise . . .

About 10 minutes after “official” sunrise it was getting a little brighter.

Forty-five minutes after sunrise there was plenty of blue sky, although the wind was still quite strong.

One thing we wanted to do while we were there was wake up early on Sunday morning to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the previous night’s storm hadn’t disappeared completely, and there were still too many clouds on the horizon to enjoy anything spectacular from our balcony. We did sit outside to enjoy our morning coffee and continental breakfast, and eventually the clouds broke up and the sun and blue sky appeared again. We had wanted to go for a bike ride on the beach path before we checked out, but the wind was still too strong and we had to skip it.

We had the sun at our back, and had hoped to take a morning bike ride, but the wind was just too fierce.

YaYu asked us a couple of weeks ago why we had decided to stay so close to home for our getaway. “Because someone else is still going to make the bed, and cook the dinner and wash the dishes, that’s why.” And because it was affordable – for less than the cost of the lowest-priced room elsewhere we had a wonderful getaway and celebration, right in our own hometown!

Hotel Coral Reef: 4-1516 Kuhio Highway, Kapa’a, Kaua’i, Hawaii, 96746; 1-808-822 4481 or 1-800-843-4659; reservations@hotelcoralreefresort.com

Sam’s Ocean View: 4-1546 Kuhio HWY, Kapaa, HI – 96746 1-808-882-7887

#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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).