Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another Westside Adventure on Kauai

Today was all about Sunday driving.

Ok, so it's Wednesday. We're on vacation!

The point of the day was to visit some of the waterfall overlooks and beaches at which we knew swimming would not be an option. Each of these required far less time than the full-day given many of the beaches, trails and other adventures we've enjoyed this trip, so we figured we'd plan a route, kick in some shopping and make a day of it.

We kicked off the day's adventures with a mini waterfall run. We began with the quick drive to 'Opaeka'a (Rolling Shrimp) Falls just upstream from the town of Wailua. There is no trail or river access to the falls, according to the research I've done, but the overlook provides a glimpse of the stream plummeting into the tropical forest far below. We looped around to Wailua Falls, the 170-foot drop featured at the opening of every episode of Fantasy Island. This another popular spot, particularly among tour companies and those who are not in shape to take a long hike to a remote waterfall. Our guidebooks told us there is a 3/10-mile trail down to the falls, but it's steep, treacherous, potentially slippery and incredibly hazardous. The state has fenced off areas where people have clearly made crazy descents. We opted to play it safe, which made for a fairly uneventful visit but also certainly protected our health and the well-being of our children. If you want to see a waterfalls but aren't willing to hike, this might be a good route for you. Expect crowds and traffic.

After a few stops to pick up some goodies, we headed straight out to the westernmost end of the road - Polihale State Park. Signs at the pavement's end clearly point out that there will be no aid for those who break down or get stuck along the final 5 miles of dirt road or the 15 miles of sand beach. Further, our guidebook noted that AAA won't respond to tow a vehicle stuck in the sand there (but will respond to a broken down vehicle...hint-hint). The warnings are probably enough to deter lots of potential visitors, but I've driven a heckuva lot of dirt roads in my lifetime, and this one paled in comparison to some of the worst I've hit, even with the minivan. We were hardly alone in our adventures - locals in the know make the trip regularly to pick up surf there, and there were several other intrepid visitors like us along the way.

On our way to the park we passed several turn offs for facilities related to the Pacific Missile Rance Facility before finding the first turnoff to the park (with no thanks to those who plastered the signs with surf stickers that obscured any direction). We walked the sand (no barking) and found a fantastic collection of rocks and shells polished smooth by nature's rock tumbler before heading to the end of the road (and restrooms). The beach was reminiscent of our own Guadalupe Beach in that it included MILES of soft sand that dips deeply into dangerous crashing waves and treacherous tides of the Pacific. It was fun to watch the surfers motor in to the fast-traveling waves behind Jet Skis. The tow-in gives them the speed they need to catch the waves, a ride away from the waves once they're finished with their rides, and safety from the rip tides and currents that head quickly out to sea here.

From Polihale, we headed back toward civilization and opted to stop at Glass Beach. Mr. B and I had wavered on this because it is, essentially, the old dump. According to various reports from travel guides and locals alike, back in the "olden days," the community tossed all of its trash in this little cove to be washed out to sea. While most of it has washed away, the glass has been pounded nearly to smithereens and some of it remains strewn upon the beach. When Our Little Scavengers caught wind of a potential plethora of sea glass, they were all over it, so we made the stop. We found a veritable haven for sea glass enthusiasts. The beach is awash in sea glass, from a simple smattering to six-inch-deep treasure troves. Most of the glass was quite small, slowly breaking down into the sand from which it was born. But we quickly discovered the trick to finding larger pieces. The girls each came away with their own small collections.

The shadows were growing quite long, so we opted to skip Poipu Beach Park in favor of a look at Spouting Horn. Either location drew us into the incredibly heavily developed Poipu area. This is hotel/condo heaven. We took the short, paved walk through the tourist-magnet vending area to the top of the viewing area to listen to the sea pound its way into the lava tube, and ultimately through the blow hole. We watched the sun descend toward the horizon and the sky turn magnificent colors, then headed back toward our little screen shack in the countryside via our favorite local pizza place - Brick Oven Pizza in Wailua. The food was, again, very good and the service wonderful.

Aloha from Kauai!

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