When you are surrounded by the sun and the sand, rainbows & cliffs, colorful plantation gardens and lush green mountains, waterfalls, the vast ocean and friendly inhabitants, it’s worth pausing, and experiencing this wonderful island’s easy going pace.
Everyone rises early here in Kauai, to say hello to the golden sun and breathe in the first sea breeze of the day. You can enjoy your morning cup of joe to the relaxing sounds of the distant waterfalls, until the family of wild roosters decides to “Hit it”. Rather than being disturbed you are quite entertained and appreciate how well the chickens, the hens, the roosters get along, despite the differences. No seriously, each creature looks completely different. These exotic birds scurry along and move the party elsewhere to entertain some of the other inhabitants, while the energy of the vast blue ocean and the shaded green mountains coaxes you to try something new, like a traditional Hula dance lesson. You are in luck to find a graceful instructor who teaches the Art of Story telling, through the steps of Kaholo, Hela, Ami and much more. You enjoy dancing to the tunes of the song about fishing, and transcend to a state of blissful creativity.
The afternoon greets you with blasts of rainfall, as if the sky has tears of joy at your wonderful Hula performance. And just like that it passes and the sun is out again, crisp and bright, bringing along with it wafts of fish and grilled food along the Poipu beach restaurants. Hunger pangs lure you to try the island’s special fish tacos or Ahi poke and you aren’t disappointed. Polishing it off with fresh pineapple juice, or coconut water or even a delicious Mai-Tai, it’s never too early to start drinking on the island.
You are in a good mood and decide to look into some of the adventurous activities and are sold on the need for a UTV tour of the jungle and mountain river. You not only get to drive the 4X4 through the treacherous and muddy mountainous trails where you would never be able to get to by car, but you also get to see spots where movies like "Indiana Jones", "Jurassic Park" and "The Decendents" shot memorable scenes. Heck, you even swing over the muddy river on the rope like Indie and feel relieved you landed safely back on the bank (secretly thanking your upper body strength). The drive continues through the Kipu Ranch hearing stories of how the sugar cane era ended and new agro and tourism industry has evolved. The tour guide and you are both thankful that despite the need to expand tourism, this island is still not as commercial as some of the bigger islands, and one still gets to experience the purity and small joys of a small island feel. No kidding, the island is small indeed, only 33 miles wide, and on days like this, you can cover all of it in less than half a day.
But you want to slow down a bit and get to enjoy Happy Hour at many a scenic bars and cafes, overlooking the bay, or the Valley, or the beach or the plantation gardens. You’re not sure what you enjoyed more, the variety of scenery or the variety of tropical cocktails. The bartenders and servers are quite friendly, you learn than some of them chose to move to Kauai from the mainland as far as New York & New Jersey. One restaurant owner tells you her family ditched their mid-west mainland life in exchange for turning around an old dive-bar to a thriving bar & eatery that hosts popular local artists every evening. Why this Island when asked, her response, it was a favorite vacation spot and considering they came down here so much, it made sense to settle down some place they loved. Later you learn that the Hula dance teacher who gave the lessons earlier is one of the famous performers at that joint and quite popular herself having being an instructor for JLo’s kids. Everything is connected on the island and everyone shares a sense of purpose.
There is much more to explore and capture in the following days, but you find that you must beat the weather to get the best views. Waimea Canyon to Napili coast, is full of breath taking photo opportunities and the home of so many more scenic Hollywood movie scenes. You will come across one of the wettest places on earth on the top of the Canyon at Mt Waialeale. And if it’s late afternoon, you will find yourself surrounded by thick clouds hiding the deep gorges and valley underneath.
Cruising on the choppy seas could be brutal for the sea sick, but sticking it out could reward you with seeing Dolphins or even a Whale, making the trip totally worth it.
Island Art will have you hooked, as you come across scuba photography of ocean creatures to oils of landscapes or even animations of tourists. Certainly a treat for the creative kinds, as there is so much to capture and so many mediums to express in. Waimea’s Red dirt T-shirts or Plantation Coffee dyed clothing, weird but pretty all the same. The art dealers and artists seem to have no airs as they talk to you at length about their life, and their process. Once again you learn that many have moved from far, countries like New Zealand, Japan or Philippines. You run into tourists who are visiting friends who live up in Princeville, a coast that boasts some of the prettiest homes. And these aren’t just vacation homes, people have actually set up their residence here. Some choosing to retire on the island.
Every evening watching the Sunset over the ocean illuminating the pewter colored shapeless clouds, giving a picturesque backdrop for the sailing ships, it is quite an experience. It is a mesmerizing and a moving experience in fact, as it makes you feel that time has stopped and everything and everyone has paused along with it. The palm trees hold still bending their leaves, the ocean calms down, all the humans stop talking, even the roosters and the feral cats freeze, and the only thing that is moving is the Sun. It’s on a slow path to take a dive and disappear into the deepening ocean with a promise to see you again tomorrow. Makes you thankful for being there to witness this beauty. And it strikes you that even though this is in the middle of the pacific, so far away from the mainland, it’s an island worth considering to settle down in, it’s an island worth loving.