A week in Kaua'i

13 May 2022

Manasi and I wanted to take a long vacation before she started her new job, and since I still hadn't taken my one-month recharge break. Planning a one-month break is hard, though, and as Manasi's job start date loomed, we ended up spending a week on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i instead. Sharing some vignettes from the trip.

Basic economy flight meant we didn't get to pick seats but were sat next to each other across the aisle anyway. Nice! The Lihue airport reminded me of Long Beach — LGB is a secondary airport in LA, just like how LGA is in New York. Ha! Rental car was a Kia Forte, I was hoping for a Kia Soul (so cute!) but oh well. Maybe I should've just asked.

Nicer hotel than expected. Manasi booked a condo on Airbnb, and we were expecting a flat, but this turned out to be a resort instead. It was a timeshare that was being sublet, which these days just means hotel apparently. How they're able to make money renting it out is a mystery, though. Shouldn't the resort company be able to undercut the timeshare “owner” and pocket whatever cut the owner and AirBnB are making? Guess this isn't an Economics 101 perfect market. 🤷‍♂️

Waimea Canyon is called the Grand Canyon of the pacific, and was pretty! Red soil, deep gorges and valleys with a river running through them. It was striking how the leeward side of the island has visibly less dense greenery and trees than the rainy side. Pretty extreme difference. The highlight was probably the hike though. A light drizzle as we started the hike became a full downpour with no respite on the way back. It was a down-and-back hike, and climbing back out was easier, and less slippery despite, or maybe because of the rain. Walking through a tropical rainforest in the rain was quite a magical experience, and though we missed on the views at the bottom (too foggy) the hike itself remained truly memorable.

As we stepped out of the hotel room one evening, we heard live music. Following it led us to the shopping center across from our hotel with a live Polynesian performance ongoing. Hawaiian songs, Samoan fire Poi (reminded me of Anand's fire rope dart), and Tahitian dancing with a lot of aggressive hip shaking. I tried shaking too, but just couldn't do it. Totally unexpected and a super fun event! They were making and selling Leis as donations. Manasi wanted a haku (headband) though, so she had them custom-make one for her. She smelled great all day wearing it.

The island felt extremely American, and one of the striking Americanisms was the car-oriented-ness. One morning Manasi went to get some Starbucks. The closest one was about a kilometer away — a very walkable distance — but the road that goes there is a high-speed highway, with no sidewalks (not even crappy narrow ones). Reminded me of walking in suburban New Jersey a couple years ago where I genuinely felt fearful for my life as I walked next to cars and trucks zooming past at 70mph. The other day in Po'ipu, when I was waiting to cross the road to get to a pie shop, I waited for a good two minutes, if not more, before the signal changed to let me walk. It seems obvious that these places aren't designed to be walked in. For all my complaints about car-centrism in the Bay Area, I'm thankful that even in suburbs like Sunnyvale, we can at least take sidewalks for granted.

One morning, we had a family of chickens come visit us in our hotel room. Mommy and chicks came first, and eventually daddy showed up too. "Cheep! Cheep! Cheep!", they were pretty clearly asking for food, and seemed used to getting some from hotel guests — indeed I saw them do the same family act with a different hotel guest across the yard an hour later. The mommy would nibble at what Manasi tossed, but then drop it again for her chicks to eat. Maybe testing for its foodworthiness? Softening it? Sucking away the spice, if any?

Of all Hawaiian islands I've been on, this is my absolute favorite yet. Fantastic beaches, small — so less driving to do, stunningly green, fantastic hikes, great food, cool snorkeling. Seems like it has it all! Big part of it, of course, is that I'm generally in a great mood and super relaxed on this trip. Great company, so excited about Bob (placeholder baby name), got my naturalization interview date and might be able to vote in June! Seems like when you're happy you notice the good things around you more and don't mind any inconveniences at all.

There are so many food trucks and food truck plazas here! Reminds me of Portland. This island feels significantly more developed (for tourists) than the big island. It is just as possible, though, that most things there were closed when we visited there smack in the middle of the pandemic.

After some so-so snorkeling on the north shore, we headed to Po'ipu on the south shore hoping for better luck the next day. First, saw a blowhole at Spouting Horn Peak. Waves put high pressure water into caverns that comes shooting out of a tiny orifice on the top. Fun! We'd see some blowholes from underneath the next day, when the heroic captain of our boat tour would navigate the 60ft yacht into a cavern on the Na Pali coast. Anyway, after the blowhole, headed back towards a beach where we saw a snorkel rental shop and people snorkeling. This time, the snorkeling did not disappoint! Plenty of fish, including the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, puffer fish, and plenty more I don't know the names of. Large wide sheltered area to swim too. Just as I'm tired and thinking of heading back, I hear a squeal from Manasi and turn back to see a Honu (sea turtle) heading towards us. This guy was huge! At least a 150 pounds if not more. He was swimming at a languid leisurely pace and didn't seem too bothered by people around. I free dived and chased after him, with Manasi following on the surface. Followed him for a good bit, till we got tired and turned back. Manasi tried freediving too but was far too buoyant and wouldn't sink. I guess a lot of adipose tissue to protect Bob!

Boat tour of the Na Pali coast, including a voyage to Ni'ihau and snorkeling at Lehua rock. So much wildlife spotted! 2 humpback whales in the distance with their splashy tails; spinner dolphins following in our boat's wake, jumping out of the water and doing backflips and spinny tricks; group of bottlenose dolphins jumping out of the water; one solitary monk seal just lounging in the water.
नाव से कई पंछी दिखे, तो मैंने उनसे कहा, "की गल है?". उनका भी जवाब आया, "Seagull है!"
Na Pali was incredibly beautiful. Unlike other Hawaiian islands, the roads don't encircle the entire island, and thus Na Pali on the northeastern part of the island is only accessible by hiking or boat. The pristine green valleys and the many cliffs of Na Pali were quite a sight to see, as were the enormous caverns created by sea erosion.
बोटीमध्ये समोर बसल्यामुळे चेहऱ्यावर खूप मिठाचे पाणी उडले. खूप शेंबूड होता, पण चवीने वाटतच न्हवतं नाक-आलेले.
Snorkeling near Lehua rock — a tiny barren island next to Ni'ihau — super blue clear calm water, though a strong current pulling in one direction meant you had to constantly keep kicking. An underwater ledge with 20 ish feet depth on one side and couldn't see the bottom on the other. Different fish on both sides — they got bigger and more numerous on the deeper side.

The island of Ni'ihua is privately owned, and still owned by the Scottish family who bought it in 1860 from the Hawaiian Royal family. They don't live there, though they “allow” some Hawaiian speaking native Hawaiians to live there, though not to have cell phones or much technology to "preserve" the old way of life. It felt like an oddly colonial/feudal arrangement to me ad an anachronism in the 21st century. A different situation, but felt similarly morally dubious as the tribes who live on the Northern Sentinel island in the Andamans.

What a fun week, and how it flew by! Planned to go Kayaking up the river on the last day, but Manasi got sea sick (but not so Sikh that you could see her beard and Turban) on the boat and we decided to an easy day instead. Riding a bike in Kapa'a was also on the list, but couldn't get to it. I'll be back, Kaua'i!