Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Experience
This morning, we caught a relatively early flight from the island of Oahu to the island of Kauai. On the plane, we took a look at our original plans for our time on Kauai and discovered that we had more time than we had thought, so we decided to change our schedule a little bit. In the morning, we decided to go to the Waimea Canyon Lookout on impulse. Then in the afternoon we went on a tour with the Na Pali Experience group.
We had originally planned to go to the Kilauea Lighthouse before going on our Na Pali Experience tour, but since those are on the opposite sides of the island, we decided to push the lighthouse to the following morning. Now that we had several hours before we had to be at the harbor for the tour, we decided to drive around and check out the area. After some internet searching for interesting attractions in the area, we ended up heading for the Waimea Canyon Lookout.
Just a few minutes into our drive, it became apparent that Kauai is very different from Oahu. Oahu has lots of greenery and some tall mountains, and so does Kauai, but they’re different some how. Yet, I can’t quite to seem to put my finger on what it is that is different. One thing is for sure though, Kauai is a lot less commercialized.
The road to the lookout is long and winding, but along the way there are several scenic spots where you can pull off the side of the road and get some decent pictures of the area. However, none of those spots even compare to the view from the lookout point.
This was the first time I’ve ever really seen canyons (since I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon or anything) so to me, the views from the lookout point were absolutely mind blowing. The canyons were covered in red dirt and all sorts of greenery. We were even able to spot a waterfall in the distance. It was so hard to move and let somebody else get in and take a pictures simply because I was just so captivated by how beautiful everything was. This was definitely the best thing I’ve ever decided to do on impulse.
After leaving the lookout point, we made our long descent back to civilization. However, we stopped one last time at one of the scenic points to get a good picture of the nearby ocean. I got my pictures and then got back in the car. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of being in the car, I suddenly felt a searing, burning sensation run across the back of my neck. Knowing that only a bug could cause that kind of irritation, I wiped the back of my neck with my hand. To my horror, a wasp fell down on the seat in front of me, and then it hit me, I had just been stung by a bee. Thankfully, I’m not allergic, but it’s still an unpleasant experience. For the next several moments, I was incredibly unhappy.
When we arrived at the boat harbor, I convinced myself that I would forget about the bee sting and simply have fun, despite how much it hurt. However, within just a few minutes of being at the harbor, I found that I was being eaten alive by bugs. While putting on sunscreen, I found at least three new bug bites. I was definitely not a happy camper.
Before the tour started, we met Captain Nate, the person who would be driving our 6 passenger boat. He gave us a quick safety briefing and a dry bag to put all of our stuff in to ensure that none of it got wet. Then, we were off!
Once the boat tour was finally under way, I found myself forgetting about the unpleasantness of bees and bugs. For our tour, we chose to do the “afternoon adventure”, which meant that I had a lower chance to see dolphins (as compared to some of the other tours) and the seas would probably be more rough, but I would have a high chance to swim with turtles and it would have optimal lighting for photos. Plus, there would be an incredible sunset finish, or so they advertised.
The water was definitely a little rough, although Captain Nate only rated it about a 5 out of 10 on roughness. The boat would go up and down and side to side with every wave, sometimes so much so that I was sure we were going to take on water, but the boat just kept plowing through.
On the way to the Na Pali coast, where our tour would actually begin, we chit-chatted with Captain Nate. He was a native of Kauai and knew a lot about the area. He said that almost none of the houses had central air conditioning or even window air conditioners, which absolutely blew my mind. I couldn’t imagine life at home without air conditioning, although it is probably a little different here with the nice breeze from the ocean. We also asked him what other stuff there is to do on Kauai. He said that there isn’t much on the island as far as entertainment went, no big concerts or anything like that. However, it was abundant with outdoor adventures such as hiking, fishing, and more. It was far from the tourist attraction Oahu had turned into.
Once we made it to the Na Pali coast, I found myself in absolute awe. While at the canyon lookout, I had been at the top looking out, but now I was at the bottom looking up, and I was able to appreciate how truly gigantic these cliffs were. At the beginning of our tour, the cliffs were about 1,200 feet tall, which is almost the size of the Empire State Building. As you go down further along the coast, the cliffs get as tall as 2,000 and even 4,000 feet. The Na Pali sea cliffs are the second tallest in the world (the first being on the Hawaiian island of Molokai).
On the sides of the cliffs, you can see long red spots indented into the cliffs where waterfalls used to run. Unfortunately, in those specific spots, water no longer runs because it was diverted to use for watering crops. However, even though there aren’t any waterfalls in those spots anymore, people say that some good came out of it. The red dirt is no longer falling into the water, making the water all murky. If it were still dirty, the dolphins and turtles wouldn’t be in this area. Plus, there are still several more waterfalls throughout the Na Pali area.
Also along the Na Pali coast are several sea caves, all different in their own way. The first cave was cool because, once you get through the arch that leads into the cave, you find that there isn’t a ceiling. For this reason, it’s called the Open Ceiling Cave. Another one of the caves actually had a huge waterfall that dropped inside of it, and another was often called the pirates cave because, when its low tide, the inside looks like a skull. In one of the caves, captain Nate even blew into a big conch shell so we could see how it echoed inside the cave.
When we were done exploring the Na Pali coast, we made our way back closer to the beginning of the tour, and then it was time to go snorkeling. I’ve never been snorkeling, and to be honest, it really hadn’t been something I was super excited for. Snorkeling had just been part of the package and wasn’t the main reason I had booked this tour, but since they were doing it, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Captain Nate provided us with our goggles, snorkels, and flippers, and then we were off!
I’ll admit, for the first few seconds I was in the water, I wasn’t a fan. My life jacket helped me float so I didn’t have to worry about that, but when I put my head under water, the mask would suction to my nose and I couldn’t seem to get adjusted to breathing through the snorkel. However, I was way to stubborn to give up that easily, so I forced myself to relax a bit and give it another go. Thankfully, there was plenty to see under the water, and I soon forgot about everything else. My body did it all naturally.
According to our captain, this spot was one of the best for snorkeling, and I totally believe him. We were right along a reef, so there were plenty of fish around. There were all sorts of cool colored and shaped fish. Some swam by themselves while others swam in schools, looking for food along the reef. A little further, there was a big drop off before a gigantic reef that sort of formed a wall. There I found some turtles. There wasn’t just one or two there, but several, and they didn’t seem overally afraid of humans. Some came to the surface, briefly poking their heads out of the water, and I took that moment to get even closer to them. If my arm had been just a few inches longer, I probably could have touched one. Then, they started heading back down into the water, and I did my best to follow them, often having to remind myself that I had to stay on the surface of the water in order for my snorkel to work properly. Thankfully my life vest kept my afloat when I forgot that I needed to, but oh how I would have loved to dive down deep with the turtles!
I ended up heading back to the boat before I was really ready to be done snorkeling. I had bought a disposable underwater camera to use to take pictures, but unfortunately I really only get about 25 photos. After I used all my pictures, all I could think was “man that would make a great picture, I wish I had another camera.” It was practically torture, so I decided to take one last moment to appreciate how absolutely amazing it all was, and then called in quits. Even after getting back on the boat, I was still stunned by how cool the experience had been. It’s not like I had been looking at a turtle lazily lying on a rock in a fenced in enclosure in the zoo. I was actually in the water with these creatures, seeing them in their natural habitat, and I had a front row seat to it all!
Once everybody was done snorkeling, sadly it was time to return to shore. I was sad to say goodbye to the spectacular scenery, but happy that I had been able to experience it all. I think part of what made it so awesome was that we had a good group of people on the tour. Everybody was pretty laid back and courteous to one another. Plus our captain was great. As a native, he was very informed about the area, and entertained us with stories of things he had done, such as cliff diving and and hiking the kalalau trail, known for it’s dangerous “Crawler’s Ledge.” I have to say, today has been the best day of our vacation. Our trip isn’t over yet, but that is certainly going to be hard to beat!