Kauai, the Garden and Chicken Isle

Caroline taking a plunge in the Queen’s Bath.

When Hawaii comes up in casual conversations on the mainland, a question that always seems to be asked is, “Which is your favorite island?”  Unofficially, Kauai tends to come up on top, followed by Maui, with Oahu being a distant third.

Time to give Kauai a try!

This is my fourth visit to Kauai, but my first unscheduled trip.  Three were fairly specialized and unique.  The first trip was in 2000, when we noticed an ad in the Honolulu Advertiser for spots on a 7 day cruise around the main Hawaiian Islands.  As I remember the story, Lions Club International was having their annual convention in Honolulu, and the organizers had booked a US-flagged ship, the SS Independence, for both the pre- and post-convention tours, but there had been delays in marketing the cruises.  Thus, in the 11th hour, the ships were severely under-booked, and there was a fire-sale to fill spots.  Caroline, Katelin, Wesley and I booked passage, and there ended up being about 300 visitors on a ship built for 1000.  I remember being in a lounge with the band playing the song “Hawaiian Superman,” and Wesley sitting on a stool singing with the band... there was no one else in the lounge!

SS Independence in Honolulu in 2001.
The ship stopped for 1 day in Kauai, and we got off, rented kayaks to go up a river (I can’t remember which one) and then hiked back through ag fields.  We were told that the valley was used during the production of Jurassic Park.  Then, we were back on the ship and off to another island.  It was a short experience.  We did cruise by the Na Pali coastline, which was beautiful.

The next time I was invited to Kauai to visit with Mike Linnell, who was a USDA wildlife biologist working to keep the Lihue airfield free of birds during aircraft landings and take-offs.  We spent most of our time on the airfield (the bad birds?  Barn owls and cattle egrets), discussing potential graduate projects for his MS research (he ended up working with another professor).  The vast majority of airline passengers are oblivious to the efforts to keep airplanes away from birds, and vice versa.  This is labeled as BASH, or Bird-Aircraft Strike Hazard.

The last time I visited Kauai was even more esoteric.  In 2006, a landowner on Kauai illegally modified a dam spillway, resulting in a dam breach and the death of 7 people (only 3 bodies were recovered) as 400 million gallons of water rushed through their small community.  As evidence of the criminal action was uncovered, part of the investigation of the Kaloko dam disaster involved the assessment of damage to the reef below the dam.  My neighbor was involved in organizing a team of reef experts to assess the damage, and I was able to tag along for 3 days as an observer (although I did hold the end of a measuring tape on occasion).  A fine, red dirt covered much of the beach and the nearshore reef community.  If you dug into the beach, you could hit clean sand about a foot down.  While snorkeling, I found a $5 bill in the water.  I buried it in the sand.

This dam breach is very close to where I am staying for a week with Caroline, Jordy, and Tessa, in Princeville on the North Shore.  Here we are, close to the 12th anniversary of the date of the collapse, and who remembers?  Life is precious.

Speaking of precious life, we probably pushed things a bit today on our first full day on Kauai.  We walked about 7 miles, and our path took us to a beach called “Hideaways” (Pali Ke Kua beach) and “Queen’s Bath.”  I would classify both beach accesses as advanced trails.  For Hideaways, there is a hike from the road about 10 minutes down... I don’t even know what to call it.  There were about 25 uneven concrete steps, then the rest of the way there was a loose rope and a muddy path (it didn’t help that there was considerable rain last night and the day before... Hanalei Bay had considerable brown water in it).  You would not have been able to go down or up without hanging on the rope, and you were staring at your feet the whole way to try to find a semi-solid step.  But the beach was very nice, with a coarser sand, whales breaching in the distance, and a rocky reef. Tessa and Jordy had a short swim, and Caroline had to snorkel around the whole damn bay! 

Caroline at Hideaways Beach. 

Queen’s Bath was equally advanced.  After passing a huge warning sign (“Many people have drowned here!!!), you drop down a steep valley along a stream and a waterfall.  Again, the rain the previous 24 hours did not help.  It was slippery, dirty, wet, and treacherous.  After reaching the bottom, there was no swimming hole in sight.  You had to turn to the left and walk about 200 meters, and there... was the Queen’s Bath.  This pool-sized area is a depression in a lava flow (collapsed tube?) that fills with every large wave that breaks over the edge.  Conditions were ideal (not always the case), and you could jump in from 4 meters up or do a giant stride into the pool.  We all made it in, but Tessa, Jordy and Caroline all jumped while I... strided.  After about 15 minutes, it was back up the nasty path, then to our room for lunch.

So my impressions of northern Kauai so far?  Lots of chickens (I’ve read that the high numbers are partially because of Hurricane Iniki in 1992, but I think it is more because of local tolerance... part of Kauai’s “character”).  There are numerous cats around our condo, some very skittish.    There are storm warnings and flash flood warnings for the rest of today, but it is supposed to dry out a bit as the week continues.

Looking over Hanalei Bay

These waterfalls on the far side of Hanalei Bay actually become more pronounced to see as the rain falls on the highlands.

What is this... an abs clinic?

Tessa and Jordy checking out the Hanalei River

Brown water in Hanalei Bay from the storms... not attractive for swimming.


  1. By the way, that was my $5 bill in the water. I lost it there a few years ago. Please return it.

  2. It’s under that softball-sized rock!


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