Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm on a Boat!

While I didn't think anything could top Tunnels beach- the boat tour was AMAZING! We got to see everything we hoped to and more. The whale season here is usually over this time of the year, but a group of humpbacks have stayed here longer- one with her baby calf. While we saw the whale spouts in the distance one morning at Polihale, we could never have guessed that we would get to be close enough to hear them breathing which is exactly what happened this afternoon.

The boat was a large catamaran that was motored the whole time because the winds were not good for sailing. We left Port Allen and after rounding the edge of the naval base and approaching Polihale, we were able to watch several pods of spinner dolphins come play in front of the boat, flirting with the rudder and giving us a show of jumps and spins. We continued out to the Napali coast and snorkeled in a calmer cove where we again got to swim with enormous sea turtles. After turning around at Kalalou, we turned back towards the port and were gifted by two rare sightings. The first was a bottle nosed dolphin that is rarely seen off of Kauai because they are more private and don't like the boats. This one, however, was very large and impressed us with jumps and flops. Next we saw a monk seal out in the water that was timid, but we got a good look before it swam away. The captain of the boat was very judicious in his proximity to the wildlife and was not overly aggressive to get too close.

As we were headed back to port he spotted whale spouts in the distance and we veered off course to try and get "the last treat of this whale season". It was difficult to catch up to the group of whales. His thought that it was most likely a group of males vying for the female's attention. When we finally caught up with whales, the motor was turned off so all we could hear was the deep in & out breaths the whales took as they surfaced, arched, and dove down displaying their footprint black & white tail fins. We were in absolute awe.
The boat tour made us all VERY happy
Laurel & I watching humpback whales spout from the front of the boat
happiest captain of the boat
i'm on a boat-don't you ever forget
Laurel & sea turtle
I'm just lucky to know these guys
After the snorkeling comes the booze

hawaiian monk seal out swimming
large pod of spinner dolphins

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hiking in Koke'e & Polihale Beach

Last night we celebrated Laurel's brother, Woody's, birthday by a big cookout at Ke'e beach (the last one on the road/trailhead to Kalalou). We got to watch the sea turtles swim as the sun set and eat fire-cooked fish, and of course, more elixer. Today, Woody took us on a hike in Koke'e (the highest part of the island & the wettest place on earth). Kauai is a very cool island because it has desert, swamps, canyons, beaches, and rainforest-like places. We took the winding drive up Waimea Canyon and started our hike at about 4000 elevation.

The hike was fun and not quite as long as the one that we took to Hanakaupiai Falls. As we approached the sea cliffs, the vegetation laid off of us and we were able to walk a thin ridgeline and see down the thousands of feet at the beaches that we've been to: Ke'e, Kalalau, Hanakaupiai. . . a bird's eye view of the Napali coast. After the hike we headed to Polihale beach to set up camp. There are many legends and history surrounding Polihale and it is tradition in Laurel's family to take camping trips there and sleep under the stars.

Woody leading the way for his birthday hike

mountain goat perched on a ledge
Kenneth & I on top of Kauai

The Graefe siblings reunited- this photoshoot was for Isa's mother's day gift
Now an honorary Graefe

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hike to Hanakapi'ai Falls

James turned 30 today and it was an all day birthday celebration! We started out at Ono Family Restaurant for strawberry french toast and pancakes. Isa has a tradition for birthdays and special occasions where she makes a magic elixer and it is passed around as wishes are made for the person of honor. This was the first of many elixer experiences this trip as James' birthday was followed by Woody's, then Doug's, then Annie's. So before our pancakes, the elixer was passed around and wishes were given to James.

After breakfast, we quickly packed lunch and our hiking stuff and headed to the Kalalou trail where the road ends on the north shore. We hiked the first two miles of the trail to Hanakapiai Beach and then broke off into the mountain to hike another couple of miles to the Hanakapiai waterfall. It was later in the afternoon by the time we made it to the falls and had the place to ourselves. We had a very invigorating swim in the mountain water and a delicious lunch before we hiked the steep terrain back. It was a perfect 8 mile hike and we were all tired and happy by the end of the day having seen so many beautiful sights. Not a bad way to turn 30.

James' Birthday Breakfast at Ono Family Restaurant
Just a little ways on the trail to Kalalou
Great view of the Napali Coast

Hanakapiai Falls
Cold water

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tunnels Beach

Today has been the greatest day yet. Tunnels is the most magical beach with the mountains in the distance, surf beyond the reef, and an entire colorful underwater world inside the reef. One of my great hopes for this trip was getting to swim with a sea turtle and it came true today. After spending the morning snorkeling the reef- seeing almost every fish on the 'fish card' and lobsters, sea cucumbers, urchins, etc- we had an amazing lunch of ono fish salad. Shortly after we finished eating, I spotted some turtles swimming up the reef towards the deeper water. After scrambling to get there in time, we had almost a full half hour swimming with a couple of turtles and I was in heaven. They were timid at first, but became more curious as we just hung out and watched them swim. Our day finished by watching the sun set over Hanalei Bay while eating ice cream. I love vacation.

the reefs are full of technicolor fish like this one
I heart snorkeling

who knew turtles can fly?
Kenneth & I chillin with some sea turtles

sunset at hanalei bay

Monday, May 3, 2010


James, Kenneth, and I went on an exploration adventure of southside/westside Kauai today. We drove west until we found sun and found it at Waimea where we walked the beach and got wrecked trying to body surf some rougher waves. After getting pretty crispy we headed back home by way of Poipu to see the Spouting Horn rocks- which are pseudo-geysers. These long holes in the rock spout and spray water as the waves crash in. Visually, it was very cool, but the auditory experience was more so: it sounded like the rock was very old taking large belly breaths.

spouting horn in poipu
checking out the tidepools

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Sunday started out rainy so our morning had a nice Sunday pace to it. Laurel learned how to make the world's best granola from her mom, the boys played scrabble, and Doug & I played some bluegrass music. Isa, after learning that snorkeling was my latest calling, let me borrow her wetsuit because I'm such a thermowuss and my coldness was cutting my snorkeling sessions short. When the rain finally cleared, we decided to head to Larson's beach- famous for the endangered hawiian monk seals that like to rest on that beach. Larson's also has the healthiest coral on the island. Unfortunately the fate of the beach is in jeopardy right now because the adjacent land may be sold to a rancher which would put a lot of wildlife at risk and people would lose access to this amazing beach.

When we hiked up to the beach there was yellow rope protecting an area of the beach and at a closer look we saw why. A momma monk seal and her baby were resting in the sand (see pics below). There is a monk seal response team on the island that ropes off areas and tries to make sure that the seals are not disturbed by people. These seals spend a lot of energy evading predators and they come to the beach to rest and restore. When people get too close and scare them back into the water too soon, they are at risk to be too tired to flea. We snorkeled for a while and enjoyed looking at the reefs and headed home when the rain started up again.

Laurel & Isa making granola

diva mask party dance

hawaiian monk seals

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Aloha Kauai

Welcome to vacation! Shortly after our trip to Greece, our great friends and travel partners (James & Laurel) invited us on this trip to Kauai to visit Laurel's mom, Isa, who lives here on the island. We arrived late in the day and were greeted by Isa, Doug (Isa's friend), and Woody (Laurel's brother) in true aloha spirit with a meal of coconut water, fresh pineapple, fresh ahi, and sweet potatoes and settled in. We could not have felt more welcomed or more relaxed as everyone's shoes kicked off and we breathed deep vacation breaths. This trip is particularly unique because it does not involve climbing- a first for Kenneth & I. While climbing trips are still our favorite climb, it limits us from visiting other places in the world with amazing things other than great rock.

For our first full day on the island, we went to Tunnels Beach- best beach I have ever been to! I have never really snorkeled- or I guess I just never had much to look at when I've tried to go snorkeling in the past. In just one day, snorkeling is now on my top 10 list. We saw all kinds of colorful fish, coral, etc- a whole underwater world just waiting below the surface. One of my big hopes is that I will get to swim with a sea turtle this trip so I've been on the lookout. Tunnels is on the north shore of the island- known for its mountainous beauty and little development. Just a couple miles north of Tunnels, the road ends and the rest of the north shore is accessible only by hiking the Napali coast on the trail to Kalalou which we plan of hiking this trip. After a little rain and lunch, we walked at Hanalei Bay and then went to Kealia beach to watch the surfers before calling it a day.

My first taste of Kauai
Kenneth taking a break from snorkeling
Hanalei Bay