This is the view down the beach in front of our resort.
We decided early on that we'd choose a few activities and spread them out over the two weeks that we were on Kauai. Much though we wanted to go on a helicopter tour, it was really fucking expensive and we would have blown all of our activities money on that one thing. So we chose not to do that, although I'm sort of regretting that now.
But we signed up for a couple of other things, based on recommendations from our awesome guide book, The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, which was an absolutely incredible book. They did not lead us wrong once and we used it for everything. After a lot of hemming and hawing, we opted for a boat tour of the Na Pali coastline, on the North Shore of the island, which is unaccessible by car, a kayak trip down the Wailua River, and horseback riding up on the North Shore.
We booked those right away, but we had a bit of a gap before we were scheduled for that, so we were on our own to amuse ourselves. We'd packed our own snorkeling gear, which Jamie's family owns from their last trip to Hawaii, and we headed out on our second day to hit the water.
Let me tell you, snorkeling is one of the coolest fucking things I've ever done in my life.
There is a park on Kauai that's set up for people to get the hang of swimming and snorkeling before heading out into the ocean proper. They've make a little pool with huge rocks surrounding it, so that the water flows in and out but there is very little current. It's full of fish (because it's the one place on the island you're allowed to feed them, so they're basically tame), and it's perfect for learning.
Jamie took a few minutes to explain the gist of snorkeling to me (while my family is more of a "let's go look at historically interesting things" vacation family, Jamie's is a little more inclined towards beachy-type vacations. Don't get me wrong, they still go and look at historically interesting things, but they're more likely to do it in a tropical climate. Hawaii was the first proper tropical vacation I've been on, unless you consider Zimbabwe tropical.)
Anyway. Needless to say, the water was a totally surreal experience for someone whose ocean experience up to that point featured California (warm in the comparative sense to my other experiences, but hardly tropical), Vancouver (surprisingly pleasant for Canada, but hardly warm), Wales (lovely beaches, actually, but not exactly warm water either), and Newfoundland (Jesus Christ, that water is cold). We were in the water pretty quickly, and just as I was pulling the last strap on my flipper tight, something brushed my leg. I thought it was Jamie, but as I ducked my face in under the water, I quickly discovered it was not.
It was a fish.
They were everywhere. Totally bizarre colours that you would never expect to see in nature. Swimming around in a very orderly fashion, in their little schools. They all seemed to be constantly bustling despite the fact that they weren't really going anywhere, and they zipped past me without seeming to care if they occasionally crashed into me.
I squeaked so loudly that I got water in my snorkel.
We swam around in there for quite a while, me frequently squeaking and pointing things out to Jamie, who was quite amused by my flailing and pointing. I got the hang of the flippers quite quickly, and I loved them. I'm a reasonable swimmer, but the speed and ease that flippers give you is incredible. I could swim for hours in snorkel gear. I loved going under water and finding myself in an entirely different world. It was totally surreal to put my face in the water and find this whole other existence that had been there, out of my sight, for all that time. Snorkeling felt like a gateway into another world. It was incredible.
Once I had my bearings, I was eager to hit some proper beaches. So the next day, we headed off to Tunnels Beach, a lovely spot towards the north shore of the island, and a popular spot for snorkeling:
He's a monk seal, and an endangered species. You get huge fines if you touch or bother them, but he hung out on the beach napping for several hours. Fortunately, you don't get fined for taking pictures, because we were totally seal-paparazzi.
Most of our good snorkeling pictures are on the underwater cameras, and I didn't have the sense to get those put on disk when I had them developed. Alas. But we saw some really cool fish and had a ton of fun out in the water, despite the fact that every trip out to snorkel required twenty minutes of sunscreening. (We are tomato-burning people, me and Jamie. No tans in sight on our honeymoon, alas.)
A few days into the trip, we went on our Na Pali Coast boat trip. We booked through a little company that uses much smaller boats than some of the others, and while the bigger boats had better seating and fancier lunches, ours could fit into much cooler places: We went into several of these sea caves, and they were extremely cool. One of them had a huge skylight at the top, and another had a waterfall running right into the middle of it which got all of us drenched, much to the amusement of the boat captain. The cruise along the coast line was incredible, and once we got to the northernmost point, we were let out into the water to snorkel for a while. We saw some cool fish, but the current was pretty strong, so we headed back to the boat after about 20 minutes. Naturally, as soon as we did, this guy showed up:
It's hard to tell from this shot, but it was a sea turtle. I was so excited (and so determined not to miss him) that I jumped back in without my flippers. Swimming without them when you've had them on for the last four days is somewhat of a challenge, especially in such a strong current, but it was totally worth it. The turtle was absolutely incredible. He was huge, and so easy-going, and just looked like the most relaxed creature I've ever seen. Less cool was the fact that we'd run out of underwater film about five minutes earlier. Grr.
This is a view of the Na Pali Coast line (I believe this section is called the Cathedral.) where we took our boat trip. This is actually the view from the other side - we drove up around the other way as far as you can go. The water that you see in this picture is only accessible by boat, foot, or horse. We went there by boat, obviously, and saw a few hardy hikers and one kayaker making their way along the coastline. The inability to loop around the entire island is a major factor in why Kauai is the least touristy of all the islands. It's not nearly as convenient for getting around, but as a result, it's a gorgeous often undeveloped island.
This is a panoramic shot of the Hanelei Valley, which was absolutely stunning. The vivid colours on this island were truly mind-blowing.
A few days after our boat cruise, after several more days of snorkeling and hanging out on beaches, we were heading out on our horseback ride. Jamie and I are rather spoiled for horseback riding, because my best friend and her husband work at a camp where there are horses, and as a result when we go visit them we all take horses out and are able to do pretty much whatever we want. Jamie is an excellent rider, and I'm sort of semi-competent, but we're always better than the average tourist on a trail ride. The stables that we went through, though, were better than most, as it wasn't a nose-to-tail ride. We were allowed to roam around the fields on our horses, as long as we didn't get too far ahead or go too quickly, so it was surprisingly satisfying for a commercial ride.
The half-way point of the ride featured a rather strenuous climb down into a gulley where there was a lovely waterfall and pool waiting to be swum in. Mmm. The hike was not my ideal plan for after two hours of riding, but the water was lovely.
That's us down in the pool and some other people from our group up on the rocks. We have some pictures of us under the falls as well. After we finished in the pool and had our lunch, we then had a neat little climb back up which featured sort of a mini-rappel up a little cliff and over the falls. We had to be harnessed in and everything! Very Amazing Race.
We then rode back to the stables, which was about another hour on the horses. My word, my legs were stiff that night.
Me on my horse! (Whose name I sadly now forget.)
We did a lot of really cool stuff while we were there, not all of which I will write about. We took a super fun kayak trip down the Wailua River, which was very enjoyable. It also featured a hike through some jungle-type stuff, which was really interesting but incredibly warm. But that hike also had a waterfall to swim in at the end of it, which was definitely worth it. (I think all hikes need waterfalls to swim in at the end. I am not a fan of aimless hiking, but I do like hikes that result in swimming.) We checked out Wailua Falls, although we didn't stop at the apparently excellent swimming hole there. We did a lot of puttering through small villages and stopping at local craft fairs, and also went to an extremely cool pottery workshop. We ate at several very tasty restaurants including an insanely expensive but beautiful and delicious place called The Beach House Restaurant, which boasted ocean front sunset views. We went to this ridiculously busy but unbelieveably delicious Shave Ice place, where we gorged ourselves on ice cream and shave ice. (Shave Ice is sort of like sno-cones on speed. They are about seven times bigger, the ice is shaved much finer, and they are way more delicious. Especially with ice cream.) We went up to the Waimea Canyon, which Mark Twain called "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." And we lazed on a lot of beaches, did a lot of snorkeling, checked out a lot of really interesting animals (highlights being the pod of dolphins we saw up by Spouting Horn, the sea turtles, the monk seal, and the freaking HAMMERHEAD SHARK we saw at the lighthouse. That was probably the coolest thing.)
And we relaxed. We read a shitload of books (which some people think is a lame way to spend vacation, but it's one of my favourite things to do when I'm relaxing.) - even Jamie plowed through at least four which is quite unlike him. I think I read about 12 or so - I'd have to check my book log to be sure. It was so nice to be able to lounge around in bathing suits and shorts all the time. We barbequed, napped, goofed around, and generally had an incredible time. I would go back again in a heartbeat (although there are so many places I want to go that I'm not sure I'll be able to afford to go again any time soon!), and I recommend it to anyone who wants a relaxing, fun, and beautiful vacation spot. We didn't spend much time on the other islands (one day in Honolulu, one day on the Big Island), but Kauai was gorgeous and I miss it. It was the ideal place for a honeymoon.Sunset over the water from the Waimea Canyon Road.