I love Hawaii! For me in the past that has always meant Oahu, which is one of my favorite places, but I just got back from Kauai, and that experience has given me another reason to love Hawaii. I lived in Oahu for more than 4 years in the early 90s and consider it to be one of my homes. Since then I have visited Hawaii many times but always stayed on Oahu. I love the windward side, the North Shore, Hanauma Bay, and even Waikiki for a fun weekend. I knew Kauai would be different, but I thought it would be very similar to the less developed parts of Oahu. Wow was I surprised at how different the place and the experiences were.
One huge difference is the waters off Kauai. With very few reefs there aren’t many beaches with gentle waves and little to no current. But that didn’t stop us from enjoying the gorgeous waters around Kauai, even in areas with warnings, we were just more careful of the currents and riptides. Our original plan had been to stay at the Barking Sands Cottages for the whole trip. Although they are only available if you have a military ID, they are very nice for only 85.00 a night for a two bedroom cottage right on the beach. However, everything we read online pointed to hazardous swimming conditions at the Barking Sands beach, and the sign on the beach right in front of our cottage once we got there reinforced that warning. The warnings led us to change our plan well before the trip. We wanted to be able to relax in the water, maybe even snorkel, and then enjoy an evening on our lanai. Since we were able to get a beach front cottage for only the first two days and would have then had to move to a cottage in the second row (still a great location and view, but not optimal), we decided to keep the reservation for the first two days and then move to another area on Kauai for the remainder of the stay.
While staying at the Barking sands cottages we enjoyed some great walks on the beach; most of the time it seemed like our own private beach. We also enjoyed some Mai Tais on the lanai, a couple BBQs, and despite the warnings some very fun body surfing and boogie boarding. There were great waves, but the current was amazingly strong. I would not recommend going in the water unless you are very comfortable in the ocean. If you do go in, I recommend that you don’t overdo it. Don’t stay in, “catching one more wave”, even once you are exhausted. Get out while you are still pretty fresh, rest awhile, then hit it again if you want more.
Barking Sands is also close to Waimea Canyon so we headed over there on our second day on Kauai. The canyon itself is spectacular and I can’t wait for a chance to do some longer day hikes there. By the time we got to the areas overlooking the ocean and the Na Pali coast some clouds had moved in. We couldn’t see more than about 3 feet into the valley. We really had no idea what the view was supposed to be. Luckily we spent a few minutes talking by the lookout. One of our group glanced back at the view and said “Oh my God.” We turned around to see this awesome view. Pictures do not do it justice! I’ve been at the Pali lookout on Oahu many, many times and it is spectacular, but this was unbelievable.
I think the biggest difference for me were the waterfalls. They are everywhere, surrounded by lush vegetation, and inspiring to see and swim under. I loved hiking to Sacred Falls on Oahu, it was the only truly spectacular waterfall that I was aware of whole living on Oahu. Of course that was before Google, how did we figure anything out without the Internet! Now a quick Google search shows that there are others, so I’ll have something new to check out next time. We did the hike to Sacred Falls many times, even though there were very direct warning signs. There have been several deaths on that hike due to flash floods and landslides. On Kauai you have lots of falls to choose from and some are right by the road, read “no hiking required”! We visited two easy to enjoy falls by just taking quick detours while driving to other places on the island: Wailua and ‘Opeaka’a. There are signs on the road from the Lihue airport to Kappa that will lead you directly to the lookout points for these falls.
The most fun I had on Kauai was the visit to Uluwehi Waterfalls (a.k.a. Secret Falls). We did a kayak and hiking tour to the falls . Our guide, Web, was fun and really knew the trail and the vegetation. I’m really glad we brought a substantial lunch to eat at the falls because we definitely worked up an appetite on the way there. The pool was a little cold but very refreshing. The falls are over 100 feet high and the water really picks up some energy on the way down. There was a light to moderate flow the day we were there. If the flow is heavy you may not want to go directly under the falls. Even if the flow is moderate and you do go under the falls, watch your footing on the big rocks!
Although I’m adding Maui and Hawaii to my bucket list and may visit them first, I can’t wait to return to Kauai. I have a long list of things I would love to do next time.
To read about the rest of this visit see the post: Kauai (Part 2)
To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.
More photos from Barking Sands and Waimaia Canyon.