Kaua'i - The Garden Isle
Sunday, February 19
We'd had our day of touristy wanderings in metropolitan Hawai'i. Now, it was time to get closure to nature, and to kick off on one of the human-powered exploration portions of our trip.
Pagoda's Floating Restaurant
Pagoda's Floating Restaurant
After having an enjoyable breakfast at the Pagoda Hotel's floating restaurant (nice fish pond, btw), we made our way back to the Honolulu Airport and returned our rental car. It was time for us to leave the island of O'ahu and board a flight heading northeast, to the island of Kaua'i. We would spend the better part of the next five days getting to know it. We had several points of interest we planned to visit, including a centrepiece backpack along the famous Na Pali coast.
Our Bags, Island Air
One thing about Hawai'i that I had already learned -- even before setting foot here -- is that logistics are complicated, unless you decide to stay on one island. And, since we had planned a trip that involved four of the Hawaiian islands, there was a lot of complicated logistics. There is really no other practical way to get between the islands except by air, and this meant that we had a lot of airport and car rental check-ins and check-outs in our near future. Including this one.
Our carrier for the short hop (almost all of the flights between all of the islands take about 35 minutes) to Kaua'i was a small regional carrier called Island Air. The combination of leaving from the commuter terminal of Honolulu's airport, with its tired-looking 70s decor, the open-ramp approach to the plane, the small turboprop aircraft (in this case, a De Haviland Dash 8), and the open air ramp boarding - all of this gave this little trip a tinge of 3rd-world, off-the-beaten path vibe.
Embarking for Kaua'i.
After watching the ground crew load our big duffel bags into the cargo hold (always nice to confirm, of course), we boarded our plane and were soon humming off into the Hawaiian sky, bound for Kaua'i. The plane made a nice fly-past of Pearl Harbour, where we had spent much of our time the previous day, before heading northeast over the Kaua'i Channel - the body of water that separates O'ahu from Kaua'i.
Pearl Harbour from above
Kaua'i is known as 'The Garden Isle'. And for good reason: Kaua'i is draped, for the most part, in thick, tropical vegetation. Farms and agriculture abound - Taro, an edible tuber that grows in the tropics and which is very central to traditional Hawaiian cuisine - is grown here more than anywhere else on the island. And Kaua'i is reputed to be one of the wettest spots on earth, receiving more rainfall - tens of inches per month - than almost anywhere else. Hopefully that could be kept to a minimum while we were visiting!
Sunny Pacific Morning
Thirty-five minutes after taking off, we arrived at the quaint little airport at Lihue - the biggest town on the island, with a population of nearly 6,000 people. Much of the interior of the airport is open to the outside air, once again reinforcing that tinge of banana-republic tropicality that we were occasionally encountering.
Guava Punch Slushy
Another amazingly friendly group of service workers (the shuttle driver to the Enterprise car rental location, then people at the car rental location itself), helped us to get on our way on Kaua'i. Tomorrow we were schedule to start a backpack, so we had several things to do in order to prepare. The first was to get a camping permit for one of the beach parks near the start of our hike; the second was a stop to stock up on some groceries; and the third was to find some fuel for our stove (the no-fuel-on-planes rule combined with the continuous island-hopping that we were doing made this task one of the logistical difficulties of backcountry exploring in the Hawaiian islands).
Arriving in Kaua'i.
We had arrived on a Sunday. I had overlooked this fact in our planning, and all of the forestry offices where one could obtain the beach park permits were closed. So, we moved on, heading north on highway 56 - the Kuhio Highway - which follows the eastern coast of the island. We would simply have to deal with the results of not having a pre-bought permit (which the various websites I had consulted said were required).
We stopped in a grocery store en-route, picking up necessary items for the next several days.
We made several observations as we drove along through our first bit of 'countryside driving' on the islands: one - there's a lot of traffic on these roads; two - this place was lush and dense with tropical plants and foliage; and three - even on a sunny day like it was this day, it still rained frequently! A five-minute rainshower seemed to arrive like clockwork throughout the day. Oh, and, four - there are a lot of wild chickens on Kaua'i. I mean, like, they're really everywhere!
The Kuhio highway soon started to bend west, along with Kaua'i's rounded coastline - we were transitioning to the North Coast region. This happened sooner than my mental clock had expected. Clearly I had not yet properly mentally calibrated the island I saw on a map, blown-up to full page size, with the actual distances on the ground. Compared to all of the long-distance driving I was used to doing in North America, the distances on Hawai'i, especially on the smaller islands like Kaua'i, made every highway drive relatively short.