Paradise on the Na Pali Coast

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2008

The day after my sister-in-law, Patty, and her husband, Mike, were married in Hawaii, we drove, with my husband, to Port Allen to sail up the Na Pali Coast on Catamaran Kahanu.

Courtesy Of Peter French
Courtesy Of Peter French

Captain Lani gave us strict instructions on how to board the catamaran. He talked in a clipped voice and was quite serious about how to walk safely to the bench seats.

We were lucky that there were just 13 passengers on the Kahanu, which is approved for 40 passengers. However, the Kahanu never carries more than 18 passengers.

Our guide, Kalio, was a kick, full of energy and quite handsome. He told us that he knew how to operate any camera and is a great photographer. He also talked about safety. He entertained us with tall tales. He flirted with all the women and made palm roses for all the ladies.

Kalio took two younger couples, who were probably on their honeymoons like Patty and Mike, to the bow of the catamaran and left them clinging to the lines while they were sprayed with ocean water for at least 30 minutes before he rescued them.

We saw a sugar mill spewing gray smoke. Seventeen miles of beach and land on the Na Pali Coast belongs to the military. Guards are on duty 24 hours a day. Capt. Lani followed the coast up to the roadless area of the west.

We saw sea turtles, spinner dolphins and flying fish. The captain motored up close to waterfalls, caves and the Valley of the Lost Tribes. The valley's rugged mountains are believed to be the homes of ghosts, gods and legends. Much of this area has not been explored except by Native Hawaiians. Kalio has hiked and explored some of the Valley of the Lost Tribes.

From the Valley of the Lost Tribes, we returned to a reef to snorkel and swim. The captain insisted that everyone go into the water to cool off. After everyone boarded the catamaran and we were under way, Kalio brought out a deli lunch that was quite good. Everyone enjoyed the sliced turkey, ham and beef for sandwiches, pasta salad, fresh pineapple and chocolate chip cookies.

The Na Pali Coast is incredibly beautiful. The falls, caves, rugged mountains, valleys, beaches and reefs are spectacular.

The next day we visited the historical villages of Hanapepe and Old Koloa Town. Hanapepe has a wonderful swinging bridge. We crossed the swinging bridge and took photos of a red soil dike, admired a bright green cottage and saw a building that was probably damaged by a hurricane. Eight goats also grazed in a fenced barnyard.

We walked back over the swinging bridge to Hanapepe's main street, bright with many colorful flowers and bushes. Hanapepe is quite proud of its historical past. Only three blocks long, almost every building has a plaque with an old photograph taken in the 1920s or 30s and a written history of the building and the owners.

From Hanapepe, we drove to Old Koloa Town. We were hungry and the first thing we did was to go to the TomKat Grill for a late lunch. After the four of us ordered pulled pork sandwiches, I headed to the restrooms. Just outside the Ladies, a woman said to me, "I should know you." We asked each other's name. The woman was Myrtle Synder who worked for the Juneau School District. She and her husband now live in Olympia, Wash.

We toured the Koloa History Center that is housed in two semi-open buildings. We admired the huge monkey pod tree that was planted in 1925. We also enjoyed the company of a black and white cat.

On our way back to Kapaa, we traveled through the Tunnel of Trees. Mike and Patty took us to see the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club. Sculpture, art, antiques and waterfalls are everywhere on the grounds and in the buildings. In 2006, a horrific storm blew down trees that covered the beach. A gigantic mudslide roared down the hill and through the lobby into the pool. Within a year, the hotel was restored.

That evening, the seven of us had dinner at the Caffe Coco in Kapaa. It was our last dinner in Kauai. Don and I returned home the next day. We had a grand time at the Caffe Coco, an outdoors café. The café does not have a liquor license, so we brought our own wine. The food was delicious. The Lost Pelican Band entertained us for several hours.

Kauai is remarkably rural, laid back and incredibly beautiful. Kauai is Hawaii's oldest island and has four different ecosystems. The extreme ecosystems include the relative dry Waimea Canyon and Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on Earth.

Kauai is a perfect island for a perfect wedding.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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