Day 3, Monday. We planned a big outing for Monday! This island is just so beautiful, that we can’t stay at our hotel the entire time, even as pretty as it is right here! On Sunday we thought through all of the places we want to go this week, and decided to lay out our plan based on the weather – the air is supposed to be clearest the first few days of the week – and will be getting progressively more “hazy” as the humidity builds back up following the cold front. So, outing #1 is to the Waimea Canyon. The Waimea Canyon is a spectacular gorge which is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The canyon is 10 miles long, 1 mile wide, and 3,600 feet deep. The trip up to the top of the canyon area from the town of Waimea is a 40-mile round trip with a 4,000 foot elevation rise. The temperatures are generally 10-15 degrees cooler at the top. So, a clear view and lots of sun are highly desired when visiting this beautiful area.
We managed to get a good, early start to the day. First on our list was the feeding of the koi at the hotel. They have huge ponds in the open area off of the lobby and conference area, and the ponds are filled with koi, black-necked swans, and ducks. The 9:00 am koi feeding is a tradition here at the Kauai Marriott, and the crowds include folks of all ages. We helped feed the fish and took some great photos. The fish literally swim up out of the water on top of one another to get to the food. It was really fun to watch! Mike the koi-lover really enjoyed it! Then we finally took off on the outing. We dropped by a restaurant which had been recommended (The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook) for breakfast – Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Co – had an wonderful and too filling breakfast special. Then we headed out for the mountains. We drove up Waimea Canyon Drive, one of two routes up into the area. As we ascended, Mike mentioned that it was strange to have the rear view mirror completely filled with a view of the Pacific Ocean – I turned around to look and WOW was he right. Can you imagine seeing an ocean in the distance, everywhere you look? That was our view, and we know how lucky we are to be here… We climbed up to 4,000 feet with ears regularly popping, and stopped numerous times to take pictures – The Waimea Canyon looks very like the Grand Canyon, just a smaller area. We stopped at “lookouts”, and we stopped many times at tiny pullouts – with me screaming, “stop here, quick!” Bless Mike, he managed it every time, even with I was fretting that he could have stopped 15 feet earlier. We got some terrific pictures. BTW – per our driving experiences in Panama (if you will recall), I have learned to be MORE decisive. So, I got pretty forceful with the “stop here, quick” messages. 🙂
OK. So we got to the top… At the final lookout, Pu’u o Kila, we hiked a little ways down the trail at the end of the road, and got more wonderful pictures. How to describe the views? Overwhelmingly beautiful. Just wish we had the skills to hike all over the place and experience the land up close. The lookout had views of the Kalalau Valley, which is the largest valley on the Na Pali coast. (Note: It was inhabited until 1919, and is accessible only by an 11 mile hike or by kayak. Can’t imagine living there!). We aslo had a birds-eye view of Wai’ale’ale, one of the wettest spots on the planet, with an elevation of 5,148 ft. It receives an average ot 428 inches of rain per year! But we lucked out – not a cloud in the sky and we could fully enjoy the views of the Na Pali valley, the mountain, and the views back towards the interior of the island as well.
One the way back down, we stopped at the Koke’e Museum and Lodge where we wandered through the tiny museum, saw a lot of roosters and chicken families, and had a glass of chardonnay. By the time we headed down the mountain, we had spent the better part of the day. Terrific experience, and the weather was picture perfect. We headed back to the hotel and closed out the day with a nice dinner at Duke’s overlooking the beach and harbor! Can’t wait for tomorrow…