Travel Notes: Kauai

Kauai is the fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands and is nicknamed the Hanging Garden. Its volcanic formation resulted in a serious peak, Kawaikini, which receives the most rainfall on the planet. This moisture drains into an elevated swamp, the Alawa’i Swamp, which drips moisture down onto the island. The tropical beauty and mystic peaks made it the perfect backdrop in the Jurassic Park movies.

The flight schedule is a little cumbersome from Minnesota. The western states have great service, but the central states must transfer through a hub. And of course there is the four hour time change which messes up one’s schedule for a few days. Covid wise, things are more favorable than going to Canada. Vaccines are required to avoid quarantine, and there is a government app that needs info, but no 72hr testing.

The weather has been spectacular with temps ranging between 70-85 degrees F. It’s not as damp as the Caribbean and not as dry as Cabo. Perhaps we were just lucky- but it’s a good thing as there are beaches at every turn to enjoy. The inlets allow for sheltered swimming and snorkeling, whereas surfers paddle out a bit to catch the waves.

We had wonderful experiences with the scuba folks on three different two tank dives. The first focused on highlighting the giant sea turtles. Many are snoozing down on the reef, but some will come out and swim with you for a while. A boat dive took us out to a reef with a large variety of fish. And we ran into a couple dozen dolphins on the way back to the small craft port. Finally our night dive opened up a whole new selection of wildlife that prefer the later hours like a ghost octopus.

All three dive masters were interested in sharing their love of the underwater sealife and took care to show us the different species. They had a bunch of hand signals to communicate en route as they pointed to a rock looking thing that fluttered away with colorful fins (devil scorpion fish) or they used an open and close puppet motion to indicate a spotted eel. The wildlife is abundant and they are please to welcome you to their world.

Captain Adam was our boat captain who talked pretty steady. He’s fishing when he’s not driving the scuba tanks or taking tourist around to the Na Pali coast. There’s a rhythm to his speech that islanders get even though he looks like he could be from Wisconsin. The way the multi vowel Hawaiian words rolled off his tongue seemed to say he’s a lifer.

One thing you notice right away is all roosters wandering about. In fact you hear them before you even see their assorted feathering patterns. They are protected as the import only feature of the island has created a creature unique to its environment. This is true too of some regional fish, in particular the state fish of Hawaii, humuhumunukunukuāpua (yes, real name for a trigger fish with distinctive markings).

Hiking is a feature attraction as well. The diverse landscape offers many distinctly beautiful settings to stretch your legs. Although the trail infrastructure isn’t quite what it is on the mainland, the roads are well paved and the shoulders are used by pedestrians. There is a maze of paths through the Waimea canyon.

Overall this island scored high on our preferred island adventure destination list.