Kuaui by foot


And now for the long anticipated conclusion of the most drawn out series of posts I have ever made, I now present the final chapter of my wife and I’s trip to Hawaii.

After spending the first few days on Kuaui on two different boats and another day of kayaking, the northern swell moved in creating hazardous seas, so we decided it was a good time to explore the island by foot. We got up early and headed north through the surf town of Hanalei and all the way to the end of the road at Ke’e beach. Here, we got ready to start the short but steep hike to Hanakapi’i (sp?) beach. I have hiked this portion of the Na Pali a few times in the past, but the views are still just as amazing.

Looking back at Ke’e beach from the start of the Kalalau trail

A very nice view of the Na Pali Coast.

Getting a little closer to the beach.

One more picture of the coast for good luck

Unfortunately, when we reached the beach, it wasn’t much of a beach at all, the strong northern swell had washed all the sand away. Apparently this is normal and when the swell moves to the south the beach returns. This surprised me as my previous trips here were in the summer and the beach looks like it should be there all year.

Very large waves off the north coast of Kuaui

After sitting and watching waves crash into the sea cliffs we headed back over the hill to the car. We headed back to Hanalei to get some lunch then took our time driving back south to calmer water and the beach.

This water filled lava tube is a neat roadside attraction on the north coast of Kuaui

Sarah admiring the views of the Hanalei Valley.

During our time on Kuaui, Sarah and I had a photo contest to see who could take the best picture of a rooster. This was my winning pick.

We spent the rest of the day enjoying cocktails on the beach in Poipu. The next day we got up and took a drive to the Waimea Canyon also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. It was a little rainy so I didn’t have much luck with pictures so I suppose you will have to go visit to see it for yourself.

The beach near our hotel.

Sarah stoked on a nice, sandy beach.

The next day was our last day in Hawaii. We spent the morning on the beach enjoying what little time was left before leaving for the airport. On the way to the airport we stopped at a beach in Lihue where we watched a handful of surfers for a little while.

Surfers in Hawaii

On the way home we talked about how next time we will have to learn how to surf and how we didn’t want to leave the Hawaiian paradise and return to winter in Montana. We made it home without event and it was the end to another trip of a lifetime.

Another great finish to a great trip.

Kauai by boat


[Sorry about the posting hiatus, but life often gets in the way of blogging. This post resumes from my Hawaii trip, which you can go back and read about here.

Humpback Whale

After we spent a fun filled week snorkeling and exploring volcanoes on the Big Island, Sarah and I hopped on an inter-island flight to spend a more stereotypical vacation week on Kauai. It was neat to go from the youngest island to the oldest island and compare the two. The thing we noticed most? More tourists on Kauai.

After getting settled in our room in at the Kauai Beach Resort, we went to check out the beach out the hotel doors. We were a little disappointed that swimming conditions were not ideal this time of year at the Kauai Beach Resort, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the views.

Sarah excited to be at a nice resort with air conditioning.

The beach right outside our hotel.

The next morning we got up for a free breakfast and informational meeting the resort offers guests who have just arrived. Here, our honeymoon luck continued and we won a 2 for the price of 1 kayak tour on the Wailua River. Due the the high probability of getting wet on a kayak trip I left my camera at the hotel, but I did bring my GoPro, and the video at the end of this post has a little footage of us kayaking as well as Secret Falls, the waterfall we kayaked and took a short hike to see.

The next morning we woke up super early (4:30 a.m. early), to go board a boat and go on a boat tour of the Na Pali coast as well as a snorkel off the coast of Nihau, the forbidden island. Nihau is a short distance from Kauai and used to be a part of the same island as Kauai millions of years ago. Now, the whole island is owned by two brothers who maintain a Calvinist settlement. You can only access the island with permission, and that means you pay several hundred dollars for a helicopter ride to the island, and in turn, you are allowed a whopping 15 minutes to walk around and see whatever there is to see. The other way, and most popular way, to see the island up close is to pay a couple hundred dollars for a boat ride to snorkel just off the coast. That is what we did.

Before we reached Nihau, we were treated to a nice boat tour of the rugged and beautiful Na Pali Coast.

Na Pali Coastline

Waterfall on Kalalau beach

I had hiked the 12 miles to the Kalalau beach several years ago with my brothers, but I had never taken a boat ride along this coast. It was cool because we boated along the portion of the coast that you cannot hike, this made it seem as though I had never been there before.

Coastal Arch on the Na Pali Coast

Waterfall into the ocean

Sea Arch

Waterfall onto a beach only accessible by boat.

Unfortunately, my camera battery died before getting to Nihau, but the video at the end of the post has some footage of snorkeling off the coast of the forbidden island as well as the “keyhole”, a natural arch formed on a small volcanic crater by the crashing waves of the ocean.

The next day, we had scheduled another boat trip. This trip was originally a sunset sail along the Na Pali coast, I know, the day before we went on a Na Pali boat trip, but this trip was less adventure oriented and more romantic (a critical component for any successful honeymoon). Also, we thought it would be cool to see the Na Pali coast during sunset with the dramatic lighting most Hawaii sunsets provide. We originally scheduled this trip for our last night on the island, but the trip was bumped up because a large northern swell was moving in.

As we enjoyed cocktails and rounded the western edge of Kauai, we realized the swell had arrived early. We found ourselves on a tour boat in the largest seas I have ever seen. Waves were cresting 5-10 feet higher than the boat we were on, which was a 60 foot, two story, catamaran, it was spooky and exhilarating at the same time. Obviously, it was too dangerous to continue to the Na Pali coast, so the boat turned around.

But not all was lost. The humpback whales were absolutely going off. I had only seen a whale once, in Northern California, who had swum up the Klamath River. This evening, we saw countless whales, some even jumping only short distance from our boat. I never was lucky enough to time an epic whale jump, but I did manage a few good whale shots.

Whale waving hello

The whales were not far from the boat.

Whale raising its fin with the Na Pali coast behind.

We also had some dolphins join us.

Sunset off the west coast of Kauai.

In the end we had a great few days riding boats on Kauai, and with the Northern swell coming in we spent our last few days on the beach or hiking.

Also, I finally managed to put together a short video of our trip. I didn’t have an underwater camera, so I used my GoPro pretty much for snorkeling, so that is how the video is oriented. I also have a few clips from other adventures so I highly recommend you take a watch.

Waipio Valley and Mauna Kea


Waipio Valley

Following our adventure to Volcanoes National Park, we loaded up our jeep with some friends we made at the farm and headed North to the Waipio Valley. We drove for a few hours through heavy rain and because of the rain we were forced to abandon a couple stops. When we finally arrived at the Waipio Valley, we were glad we had a jeep so we could drive, rather than walk, down to the black sand beach.

To drive into the valley it is required that you have four-wheel drive, otherwise you have to walk the 4-mile long road down to the beach. The road is not particularly rough but very steep and you need to have a low gear to stay in control. We made it down to the beach, parked and checked the area out.

Waipio Valley at the beach.

Hello little bird.

Waipio River

Beautiful colors on the river

More vegetation in the Waipio Valley

After checking out the beach and river and with rain starting to build we decided to head out of the valley and head up in elevation, to the top of Mauna Kea. Some people argue that Mauna Kea is bigger than Everest if you count the relief from the bottom of the ocean to the summit, I’m not sure how true this is but it is very cool to be nearly 14,000 feet above the ocean, in the middle of the Pacific.

Astronomical Observatories on top of Mauna Kea. The landform in the distance is the island of Maui.

We had planned on staying up on the summit to watch the sunset, but unfortunately one of our friends from the farm was feeling the effects of AMS so we quickly and unanimously agreed we better head down to lower elevation. Even though we missed the sunset we still had plenty of time to chill and explore the observatories on the summit.

Some hikers climb a subpeak of Mauna Kea

An observatory with building cumulus clouds

It seemed as if you could see forever from the summit.

Building clouds made for some dramatic pictures.

The next day we slept in and went on our Volcano adventure as mentioned in a previous post.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park


After our first day spent driving around the island and the next day snorkeling at the amazing Kapoho tide pools, Sarah and I were in no hurry to do anything and just enjoy the vacation. We made a morning trip to Hilo to do some shopping at the farmer’s market. We made the rounds at the fairly busy market and looked at a variety of fruit and crafts. When we had our fill of food and shopping, we made a quick stop at Rainbow Falls then headed south to snorkel a little and head to Volcano National Park for the afternoon.

Rainbow Falls in Hilo

The vegetation in Hawaii is amazingly lush.

We got to Volcanoes National Park at about the same time as 20 tour buses full of tourists of East Asian descent. We made a couple of quick stops to see the Kilauea Volcano and take a short walk to scope out the “Steaming Bluff”.

The Kilauea Volcano belching fumes.

The Steaming Bluffs on the Kilauea Volcano rim.

After getting crowded out at the Jaggar Museum by busloads of gawking and shoving tourists we backtracked to the Chain of Craters road. Here we stopped at a Thurston Lava Tube and took the short walk through a lava tunnel. It was a very easy and well lit walk through the lava tube, though still flooded with tourists.

Thurston Lava Tube.

With still quite a bit of energy left from the short walks, we crossed the street and took another stroll along the Kilauea Iki crater rim. There is a trail down and across this old caldera but neither of us were prepared for the 8 mile round trip hike.

Kilauea Iki Crater with Kilauea Volcano in the background

Sarah, my wife, jumping for joy to be out of the February winter in Montana.

Of course it wouldn’t be the Big Island without a black sand beach. This is the newest black sand beach on the island (I apologize I can’t remember any of the hard to pronounce/remember Hawaiian names) and this is the closest replacement to what was once was the greatest black sand beach in the world, which is now under 70 feet of lava. This is what made the Big Island so fascinating to both of us, it is a place where the ground you are standing on is not much older than you (and in some instances younger than you).

New black sand beach just outside of Volcanoes National Park

Now, at this point you are probably wondering if we saw lava or not. Well that’s a funny story…

Sarah and I bailed on Volcanoes crowds to drive around to the other side of the active Pu’o eruption. Here, we read in a guide book you could potentially see the lava. We arrived in the evening (everyone told us to see the lava at night) and were promptly solicited $100 each for a guided walk to see the lava, it was the only we could see lava from this side. We were reluctant to spend so much money (in addition to not having that much cash on us and the nearest ATM was 20 minutes away) so we decided to walk as far as the county would let us and think about it. At the end of the road, there was a county security guard who told us that we shouldn’t pay and rather head back to Volcano and hike in from the other side. He told us it was only 1 mile further than the guided hike, plus you could go unguided and get as close to the lava as you dared . It was too late to drive all the way back that night so we decided we would save that adventure for our last night on the island.

After a few more days of fun (don’t worry I will fill you in on these days in the next few posts), we headed down the Chain of Craters road around 3 p.m. (again, to see the lava at night). We arrived at the trailhead and quickly made progress over the first mile of flat road. Then, we reached the spot where the road is covered by lava and the trail is marked by white reflectors out into the lava field.

This road was buried in lava only 10 or so years ago.

We kept trekking across the lava field until we reached a sign that said “End of Trail”. There were still white reflectors past this point, only more spaced out and we continued past the sign in the direction of the steam plume in the distance. Eventually the reflectors disappeared and we realized it would be foolish to continue without any form of navigation. We planned on returning at night and we knew we couldn’t navigate 4 miles across a lava field without at least a compass, so we decided to stop, climb up to a high point, and drink a beer while watching the ocean in the distance and head back to the car and into Pahoa for a nice romantic dinner to make up for not seeing the lava.

I would not want to be lost out here at night.

Mid-Winter Break


When we headed out in the morning this hadn’t slid. After having to bail on our initial plan due to dangerous conditions we returned to see this from the trailhead.

Amid growing persistent facets, including a scary collapse in the Hyalite Canyon, I bailed on the cold and headed to Hawaii with my wife for a two week tropical honeymoon.

It appears the slide was triggered by a cornice or ice fall.

We flew out of Billings and had layovers in Denver and San Francisco without any real problems.

After a late arrival in Kona, we rented a Jeep and crashed at a roach hotel (a warning for the budget minded traveler: Despite the allure of a $40 a night hotel in Kona, I highly recommend avoiding the “Kona Hotel” known for its distinct pink color) and got up early to head out and snorkel at Captain Cook Bay where we were inked by an octopus (video coming soon). Afterwards, we headed to the “City of Refuge”, a place where if a criminal could make it to the village before being caught, he had the opportunity to be exonerated by the King.

Palm trees in the City of Refuge.

Tiki man.

We explored some tidal pools and watched turtles swim and soak in the sun before we headed to the other side of the island and our accommodations for the week.

We then saw some turtles while tidepooling.

Sarah found a great place to stay for the week called Josanna’s Garden. It is an organic fruit farm deep in the jungle outside of the small hippie town of Pahoa. Steve and Janelle run a fascinating operation and utilize the WWOOF system. In exchange for 25 hours of farm labor, mainly picking fruit and packaging it, you can stay in a small bunk for free. While Sarah and I paid for our cabin and didn’t have to work it certainly got our minds thinking this could be a great way to travel cheaply.

Sarah inside our cabin near Pahoa on the Big Island.

We had a great time at “The Farm” and even Janelle, who used to live in Basalt, Colorado, used to swim with my dad. She claims she was faster than him, but I think her memory is a bit off as no one was really a faster swimmer than him.

Our cabin was a converted gazebo with a kitchenette and outdoor shower. It was most comparable to a forest service cabin in the jungle. They had tried their best to seal out the windows but the mesh screens provided minimal bug protection. Thus, we slept under the additional cover of a mosquito net. There were also a few geckos, a keoki frog, and a green anole as welcome housemates who feasted on the ever present bugs.

A green anole

While we could not swim in the ocean at the point closest to the farm, a short 4 wheel drive (good thing for the jeep) down the road would take us to the “Champagne Pond” in about 8 minutes. This was a large, geothermally heated, tidal pool filled with fish, turtles, and eels. The temperature was around 91 degrees and was perfect for snorkel soaking. I have a lot of GoPro footage of snorkeling and I hope to have a short video put together in the near future.

The eastern side of the Big Island is incredibly diverse with thick jungle broken by lava flows. The Farm was about a 2 mile walk to the rugged but beautiful Puna Coast. One night Sarah and I stargazed out on this point and it was one of the coolest and most unique things I have done on a trip.

The Puna Coast

In an attempt to avoid the huge “photo dump” posts I typically create, I am breaking this trip up into smaller segments so I can tell a better story. So, stayed to tuned for more posts in the coming days and weeks on our Hawaii trip.