Opaekaa and Wailua Waterfalls in Kauai

If waterfalls are your thing, you would have a great time in Hawaii! In Kailua itself, we saw a couple of them – Opaekaa and the more popular Wailua falls, both easily accessible (just off the road with no hiking required).

Opaekaa being close to our hotel, we first went to see it in the morning. You just have to turn up Kuamoo Road (580) from highway 56, and the falls are a few steps from the parking lot (on the right-hand side).opaekaa fallsIf you go across the road, you are treated to the majestic views of the Wailua River Valley. We saw a few people Kayaking out there.wailua river valley.jpgbest views in hawaii.jpgYou wouldn’t need more than 15 minutes to cover these falls from the parking area. So, we headed to the more popular Wailua Falls (double-tiered falls), which were about 20-minute drive from this location. Just head north from Lihue on Highway 56 and take a left on Maalo Road in Hanamaulu. The falls are at the dead-end.
wailua falls.jpgwaterfalls in hawaiiI especially loved the mist created off of the falls. We’ve had times when the mist hit us in the face at a couple of places on our earlier trips – and the feeling was just enthralling.mist from waterfallIf you are running short of time, try to cover the Wailua Falls at least…they are one of the best attractions in Kauai.

America’s Best Beach – Poipu Beach, Kauai

The most popular beach on the South Shore of Kauai island of Hawaii is also the America’s Best Beach (rated by the Travel Channel) – Poipu Beach. It is fronted by a park by the same name and a few resorts.

After we were done seeing the Na Pali Coast from high above earlier in the day, we made our way back to the hotel about an hour away (we were living close to the airport with Kauai Shores Hotel). This beach was on the way, so we quickly took the exit for the beach and thought of spending half-hour or so we had. The very next day we spent half-a-day there (after our boat trip for Na Pali Coast). I am combining our experience from both days here.kauai beach resortbest beach americapoipu beach park.jpgThe beach is made up of golden sand and is a hot-spot for snorkelling, swimming, and surfing. If you have enough time, you should picnic there. We could see some people arriving during Sunset. Even so, it felt so relaxing out there with hardly any crowd.

Since it rains in Hawaii quite often early or late in the year, the clouds make for dramatic views most of the time. In my opinion, the twilight time should not be missed on any beach in Hawaii!sunset in hawaiiThe second day I and Saru had plenty of time to enjoy walking and playing in the water. At one time, I even spotted a seal…it actually made its way onto the sand and was greeted by a lot of kids. It spent some time there before venturing back into the water with a few turns on its back. best sunset view.jpgkauai top attractions.jpgIf you are looking to stay in Kauai and do not mind staying a bit away from the airport, the resorts around this beach would make for a great choice!

If I have to choose my best Sunset experience so far, this would be it. Our entire Hawaii trip was full of awe-inspiring views…we hope we get to make another trip to this heavenly state of the US.

Our best stay yet: Kauai Shores Hotel

I am quite fond of beaches, but most of our stays to date have been anything but on the beach.

When we looked up for hotels in Kauai, we came across the highly-rated Kauai Shores hotel – situated in a small town called Kappa and just about 6 miles from Lihue Airport. Its restaurant and bar is right on the beach (they call it Lava Lava Beach Club), so was expensive even with booking about 3 months in advance – at USD200 per night. But we are not budget travellers as such!kauai shores hotelOur check-in was smooth and we were given a room not far from the beach (in the opposite building to the reception). They have a valet parking facility right outside their reception area; they also bring over the car in a matter of minutes in the morning. The room, I must say, was one of the best we have stayed in so far – quite vibrant with shades of green, white, and others hues that go on beach towels. They also had a couple of chairs outside in a small balcony.beach hotel kauaibeach access hotel hawaii.jpglava lava beach clubI went to their beach each of the 3 nights and mornings we were there. It felt as if nothing else in the world should matter – I just wanted to stay there forever!best kauai hotelmorning in hawaiiEvery morning is different, and there isn’t a better way than to experience it at a beach. Being their private beach, there was not much crowd either – the evenings can be noisy though, as the club might have some event going on.sunrise in hawaiisunrise at the beach.jpgIf I were to rate the hotel, I would go with 4.5 stars. If you look over the Internet, they average 4.2 from thousands of ratings.

*This is not a sponsored post.

The first look of Nā Pali Coast, Kauai

As we made our way further up from the Waimea Canyon lookout, we were soon greeted by the best attraction I have seen till date – Na Pali Coast! We had entered the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, known for its unparalleled beauty – rugged, deep, and narrow valleys, numerous waterfalls cutting across the steep slopes, clouds making their way through these landscapes often, and views of the stunningly blue water. The towering cliffs rise as high as 4,000 ft above the Pacific Ocean.

We were at the most famous and photographed lookout of the valley – Pu’u O Kila Lookout. The views were just jaw-dropping!napali coast kauaiThe lookout gives a glimpse into the heart of the Kalalau Valley. The valley and the coast as such served as the backdrop of numerous films, including the Jurassic Park. You can even get to the beach and into the valley by following an 11-mile grueling trail (mind you, it is not for everybody).

You will more-often-than-not see clouds floating around…we waited an hour or so for them to pass by for a clear view the second time.best view of napali coast.jpgSome people could even see whales from the lookout – the width of the valley at the lookout is at its maximum at two miles. Looking at the whole setting, one can easily make out why it is one of the greatest sights in all of Hawaii!best attraction in hawaiiWe had a boat tour reserved for the coast the very next day, so just being able to see what we could look forward to created so much excitement in us.

Notes:

  1. How to reach the lookout – Since the only way to reach there is by car, the GPS should pick up the name of the lookout.
  2. You can also turn right on Waimea Canyon Road after Mile Marker 23. The lookout is near the end of the road at Marker 19.
  3. Just a mile before this lookout, you will see another lookout at marker 18 – Kalalau. You should stop there as well.
  4. There is enough (free) parking at the lookouts, and restrooms too.

 

The Grand Canyon of Hawaii – Waimea Canyon

Have you ever heard of Grand Canyon in Hawaii? Well, we hadn’t too. The only one we knew of was the one in Arizona that we had visited a few years back.

While doing research for the Kauai leg of our Hawaii trip, we encountered a place loosely called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii (formally referred to as the Waimea Canyon). Unfortunately, it was not even mentioned as an attraction, let alone as a must-visit. However, we have a knack for spotting lesser-known but spellbinding places. Such was Waimea Canyon!

After landing at Lihue Airport on the second island Kauai of our trip, we picked up our rental car from Alamo. It was about noon and we were so hungry for pizza that we hadn’t had (yet) as we would have liked in Hawaii. As our favorite Pizza Hut was on our way to the first attraction, we couldn’t have been happier.

The scenery along the way so attractive…the cloudy weather surely added to the experience.nature in hawaiikauai attractionAs we were about the reach Waimea Canyon, an hour away from the airport, I could see the landscapes that resembled the famous Grand Canyon. I thought this was actually a part of that, maybe just separated by miles. I started stopping our car quite often, wondering if this was what the canon was all about.best natural photographThe road was zig-zag with sharp turns and a steep slope at times – exactly what I love on long drives! There was hardly any traffic after we had taken an exit for the canyon off the main road (around half-way through). No wonder, people don’t even know about this place!

As soon as we reached the main spot overlooking the canon, our happiness knew no bounds. Just imagine looking at the Grand Canyon all over again, with much more greenery and natural waterfalls in the view! best of hawaiiwaimean canyonThere were many clouds in the view when we reached there, but cleared up while we spent about an hour just at this stop. The crowd must not have been more than 20 folks at any time we were there, and one onlooker pointed at a wild sheep deep down in the canyon. We saw that breed quite close later on during our Hawaii trip.grand canyon in kauaiOur main attraction (that Kauai is famous for) was NaPali Coast, and its Pu’u O Kila lookout was just about 5 miles from the Waimea lookout. So, we were actually covering one main attraction and having a glimpse of an even major one on that day. But that day was primarily for Waimea, so we took our time and saw Waimea from every possible stop that we could make in that 5-mile stretch also.

Some stops are indeed worthy of a taking a pause and admiring for as long as you can. My suggestion has always been to hit the brakes even if you see just a couple of people at what seems like a stop!natural waterfalls in hawaii

*There is an ample parking space (and washrooms) at the Waimea lookout and it is free.

**If you are stopping on the road at non-designated stops, make sure you take precaution as the road is narrow and it is often rainy or cloudy there.

My love-affair with Airports and Flights

As I wrap-up posting on the attractions we primarily visited in Oahu, I want to mention about my love for Airports and Flights. The reason being – we had booked short-haul flights to hop across the four islands we visited in Hawaii.

I love reaching early at the airports. In fact, there was a time long back when I used to take early morning flights from Bangalore to Delhi to visit my family, and I used to reach Bangalore airport the previous evening itself. I don’t remember sleeping on any of those nights…I would just watch the departure statuses of flights to some of my favorite destinations and imagine flying there. I know I might not be able to see all those places in this life (there are just too many!), but I so wish to.

There is a different feeling when it comes to being at the airports – just look at all those happy places going to the places I love! Sometimes, I enjoy the shops and have even bought some souvenirs. Some airports have vantage points where you can get a close-up view of the aircraft – that adds to my excitement.Coming back to Hawaii – After spending a couple of days in Oahu, we took a morning flight from its airport to our next Island, Kauai. It was just about a 40-minute-run, but the views were so amazing. Btw, Hawaiian gives you a delicious juice to enjoy – so it’s not exactly a no-frills airline 🙂 hawaiian airlinesin-flight hospitality.jpgThe other airline we took once (from third to the fourth island) was Mokulele. While they don’t serve anything, they run Piston planes, which was so exciting to be on. The co-pilot himself greeted us. Moreover, I was sitting right besides the pilot/co-pilot…with just a small wooden partition between us. See for yourself…mokulele airlinesflight panelWe even got to see the entire Diamond Head rim (remember my post on it?) as our aircraft passed over Honolulu. You can’t even imagine how amazing the Hawaiian landscapes look from above.honolulu airporthawaii from planehawaii from aboveThere are too many breathtaking pictures to put up all here, so I normally post them on my Instagram account over the course of time.

The highly-rated Hanauma Bay State Park

Formed within a volcanic cone, Hanauma Bay is one of the most popular attractions of Honolulu. “Hana” is the Hawaiian word for “Bay” and “Uma” refers to the curves of the indigenous canoes. If you love marine life and coral reef, it is the best place to snorkel on the island of Oahu. Moreover, its beach was voted as the best in the United States in 2016!hanauma bay honoluluWe’ve been to countless beaches across countries and seeing Hanauma Bay from above didn’t really excite us that much to spend on the entry fees for it (read notes), so we just loitered around and gave it a miss. I made sure to capture it from the top, though.natural attractions hawaiibest of hawaiisnorkeling in oahu hawaii.jpgNotes:

  1. Park is open every day except Tuesday from 6am to 6pm. The charge for parking is flat at $1.
  2. There is a fee to enter the bay – $7.50 and free for those under 12 yrs.
  3. The entry fee does not include the snorkel fee, which is $20 for standard snorkel set.
  4. If you are staying at one of the hotels at the Waikiki, you can reserve the shuttle to Hanauma Bay at $2.5 per way and it takes about 45 minutes.
  5. For more info, visit their site here.

Nightlife at the Waikiki – the best one can ask for!

I become a fan of visiting the core attraction of any place at night after we had a great time in Miami a few years back. That’s when such places get the most footprints and seem to come alive!

Being close to the Waikiki Beach allowed us the luxury of visiting it any time of the day. Apart from covering it during the day-time (previous post), we visited it a couple of times during the night as well. It was raining on one of the evenings, so the place didn’t look like what it is known for; but the other night, it surely was!waikiki beachshopping in honoluluThe center of attraction is the Royal Hawaiian Center, a 310,000 square feet shopping area, making it one of the largest shopping malls in entire Hawaii. One can go crazy buying luxury items there and still not get tired of it.

There are many activities one can enjoy there – we got to hear a singer entertaining a decent audience. I must add the Hawaiian dance is a sheer delight to watch, just so unique.royal hawaiian center.jpgpalm trees in hawaiiNot to forget, there is a long stretch of the famous beach you can head to. It is just so amazing the sit by the ocean, or walk on the beach itself. We saw kids dabbling in the water even late in the night. There are a few artworks to enjoy too if you are fond of them.art in honolulu

The world-famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu

If beaches are your thing (as are mine), you would love being at the Waikiki Beach. Also called just Waikiki, it lies on the south shore of the island of Oahu in Hawaii and is a world-famous attraction. We had seen a glimpse of the beach from a long distance when we hiked up the Diamond Head crater. However, our accommodation was just about 4 kilometers from the beach!beachfront honolulubest beach in hawaiiWe decided to give the beach a visit when we had some time left in the day. I spent a long time walking across it in the night as well (and will cover separately, for its beauty was just unparalleled then). What gives this 2-mile-long beach high rating is that its white sand and calm turquoise blue ocean water is fringed by towering high-rises and boutique resorts. You name a luxury brand, and it would be there! No wonder, the area was a playground for the Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s.shops at waikiki beachwaikiki beach market.jpgMy only regret is that the day we visited the beach was pretty dull, so the pictures can’t do justice to the stunning beauty of the area. You never know when it would rain in Hawaii!nature photography.jpgParking is definitely an issue there. But if you are staying in one of the numerous hotels/resorts around, you can just walk over. I chose to go further up the Kalakaua Avenue and park in the large parking area just opposite Starbucks. The benefit was that is it free and the beach is also pretty close, but the most happening area is about a kilometer away.

Canadian Tulip Festival – Commissioner’s Park

Having seen a bunch of Tulips at Lansdowne Park, our excitement had already started to build-up. The main location, however, was Commissioner’s Park (next to Down’s Lake Pavilion). Had we know about it beforehand, we would have started our experience from here. Nevertheless, we still had a bit of time left on our first day, so we headed to the Commissioner’s Park (just 2.5 kilometers away from Lansdowne Park).

You can go with the official parking there (the charge is $15 per day). However, there are numerous streets around where you can park for an hour for free (the weekends are free anyway). Do you really think people come back within an hour? There were many who parked for even half-a-day. With a world-famous festival going on around, guess nobody really bothers!dow's lake pavilionvarieties of tulips.jpgThis was the location that caught our fancy, and we visited it thrice over the 3 days we spent on the trip. There were long batches of tulips of almost every color and variety.too many tulipstulipsbest tulip festivalbest nature photographnature photograhyThe tulips were marked with their names, some were fancy too – like The Princess. The kids and adults alike were having the time of their lives. We were no different!tulip festival ottawa.jpgThere was information too on the history of the festival and how Britain still contributes every year with a generous gift of Tulips.canada tulip festival.jpg