A DAY IN KAUAI, Hawaii's Garden Isle

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
At the end of our trip to Hawaii last April we flew from Kona on the Big Island to Kauai, for a short, but relaxing vacation before returning to Los Angeles. We spent two nights at the Plantation Cottages in Waimea--historic cottages from the sugar cane era.
Lawn in front of our cottage at the Waimea Plantation Cottages resort
Ours was built in 1910. It was modest but had a million dollar view as we sat on our front porch just a few yards from the beach. For supper we ate at the barbecue restaurant in the main lodge as we looked out onto the coconut grove.

Waimea Plantation Cottages
Kauai is the oldest island in the Hawaiian chain. On the rugged north coast the cliffs are almost vertical. The week before we visited torrential rains (up to 50 inches falling in one hour!) poured down the cliffs, causing mudslides that closed major roads. Luckily our plans had been for the south side of the island so we weren’t affected.
By the time we arrived the weather was perfect--sunny and warm--a change from the rain and overcast we had experienced most of the time we were in Kona. Part of The Descendants was filmed in Kauai, and it looks just like the movie.
Looking into Waimea Canyon
Our main activity was a drive to overlooks of Waimea Canyon--Hawaii's version of the Grand Canyon--and the Na Pali coast. The road began in Waimea, gradually climbing along the edge of the canyon. We stopped several times at both official and unofficial overlooks. We noticed the bright red of the soil–an indication that when erupting lava created Kauai, it contained a lot of iron.

One of the many waterfalls in Waimea Canyon
Art tried, with only moderate success, to photograph the white-tailed tropic birds that we saw soaring on the updrafts in the canyons. They were far away and moved fast, but he managed to capture a few with his long lens.
White-tailed tropic birds nest on the steep canyon walls
On the other hand, chickens were everywhere and close-up. Chickens, or jungle fowl, were brought by the early Polynesians to the islands and have gone wild. Most birds that you see in Hawaii have been introduced.
Chickens and doves
About half way along the Waimea Canyon road is Kokee State Park, where we stopped to eat our  picnic lunch. We ate in the shade of a tree while watching a group of hula dancers practice on the grassy field near the visitor center. A small museum in the park tells about native vegetation and bird life in Kauai (with stuffed birds on display.) Outside the museum there is a guide to local hikes. There is also a restaurant in the park–the only place to eat on the canyon drive. Apparently one can also rent cabins in the park.
Na Pali coast viewed from the end of the Waimea Canyon road--at 5148 feet above sea level
The end of the road is a spectacular view of the Na Pali coast–sheer cliffs above lush greenery and a small beach with sparkling waves beyond.
The beach at Waimea in front of the Plantation Cottages
We retraced our steps to return to the Plantation Cottages for a swim in the resort pool and walk along the beach.
Wrangler's Steakhouse is in one of Waimea's historic buildings; in 1909 it was Ako Store supplying local rice and sugar plantations
Then after dinner at Wrangler's Steakhouse, a restaurant in town located in a building that had once been the general store, we sat on our front porch to watch the stars come out. Orion rose over the ocean in front of us and the Big Dipper and North Star were low in the sky behind us. It was a perfect end to our short stay on the Garden Isle.
At 5148 feet above the Na Pali coast, Wai'ale'ale is one of the wettest spots on earth.

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