Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Kauai Adventures

If you follow me on social media, you are probably aware that the hubby and I went on a recent trip to Kauai. Some of our friends were planning a trip and they were gracious enough to add us on (they were able to upgrade their reservations to a two bedroom condo for an extra $50 a night so let us tag along and pay the increased amount - SCORE!). While we were there we did a few new-to-us excursions (we have been to Kauai once before with these same friends) and I thought I'd share our take on them in case you plan to head to the islands and are looking for things to do.

Kayaking the Wailua River (& Hiking to Secret Falls)

We rented a double kayak (from Wailua Kayak Adventures which we would HIGHLY recommend - very competitive pricing {$35 per person}, sweet couple who run the business, easy loading on your vehicle, etc) and hit the river. The kayaking itself was 2ish miles from the state park where we launched our boats to where we "parked" for the hike to Secret Falls.

We took it easy (with my fibromyalgia, the twisting that you do during kayaking can really screw up my back which meant the double kayak was nice so Ryan could paddle when I needed to take a break) and did the 2 miles in about 40ish minutes. The views along the river were gorgeous and since we didn't go with a tour group we could go at our own pace and didn't have a crowd to deal with. (We were given a map and great directions so we weren't worried about getting lost.)

The trail to Secret Falls was a MESS! We've been told the trail isn't always a mud pit, but due to recent storms there was quite a bit of muck and mire to wade through. We were slipping and sliding all over. The hubby did it barefoot because he thought he could grip the ground better without his sandals. It felt like you were walking through butter the whole time. Correction - not the "whole" time... there was one spot where you crossed the river so that was rushing water, not mud ;)

I wasn't kidding... It was a mud pit! 

Secret Falls was a pretty awesome reward for the hike. You could swim in the natural pool in front of it (and even go behind the waterfall if you dared) or just enjoy the scenery with a snack. We hung out for a while before making the journey back to the kayaks (which felt easier, but maybe that's because we knew what we were getting ourselves into).

But the waterfall made up for the journey! 

Out of all our adventures, this was one of our favorites. You could do it at your own pace, explore as much or as little as you wanted, and got to see some pretty amazing sights. It's a little off the beaten path too so it isn't super crowded.

Mountain Tubing

My friend had been talking about going tubing in Kauai since our first trip there almost 7 years ago, so when we started planning this trip I knew it would be one of the adventures we would HAVE to do. It was actually the first thing we planned. Unfortunately there's a weight restriction so the hubbies couldn't go, but they took it like champs and went golfing instead.

Kauai Backcountry Adventures has exclusive access to the historic irrigation system of the former Lihue Plantation. This ditch and tunnel system that once irrigated vast sugar crops had been unused since sugar was taken out of production in 2000. I didn't realize (maybe since it wasn't my dream), but 75% of the tube ride would be UNDERGROUND in tunnels!

I probably should have been clued in when they gave you helmets with headlamps attached to them...

Our guides B-Dog, Josh and Cody were awesome. They made sure we knew what to expect (the water isn't as warm as bathwater, but it definitely wasn't as bad as I was expecting), kept us safe and made us laugh along the way. On the way to the "ditch" we did a bit of an ice breaker, going around the vehicle and sharing a little about ourselves. Although I'm normally not one for ice breakers, it was helpful because you weren't always cruising next to the people you came with so it gave you something to chat about with your new friends. (Of course I talked about running with 95% of the people ;))

I'll be honest, I was disappointed with this adventure. For the price, $110 per person, I would have expected to be on the water for more than what you actually are. The "tour" was three hours long but you are actually tubing for a little less than an hour. The rest of the time is spent driving to and from the plantation, eating lunch, etc. Also, the fact that you're underground for the majority of the time is a little bummer... not to mention you are technically just in a drainage ditch.

It actually rained on us for the majority of time we weren't in
the tunnels. It was so unlike the sunny Hawaiian picture I have
in my head that I loved every soggy minute of it! 

Again, the company itself and our guides were great - but I think had I actually looked into the tubing a bit more or wasn't with someone who was gung-ho about going I would have passed in the first place. But it's memory and something I can now check off my list. (I am glad the guys couldn't come because $220+tax per couple would've been hard to swallow.)

If you know me, you know I can never pass up a good photo op ;) 

Boat Tour up the Na Pali Coast

Coming from Southern California where we don't really experience seasons, we were surprised when we arrived for our tour with Blue Ocean Adventure Tours and the crew told us that due to it being winter we may not be able to go into caves or snorkel. (Wait, what?! We were going on a cave and snorkel tour with the possibility of not being able to go into sea caves or getting a chance to snorkel?! I would assume there was some fine print somewhere letting us know this, but we would have much rather been given a disclaimer upfront so we could have potentially rescheduled the tour for a trip in the summer. So, in case you're curious or are planning your own trip - October thru March is considered Hawaii's "winter"...)

You can't take this crew anywhere... HA!

Although we started the tour a little disappointed, we were stoked with our captain (Mads) and crew (Candice). They were super knowledgeable and efficient on the ocean. They told us about our surroundings, found a few pods of spinner dolphins for us to hang out with, kept us entertained with interesting stories and 90s jams, etc. Not to mention you couldn't be mad when you were in the midst of such beauty! It may not have been what we were expecting, but it was stunning!

At our turnaround spot we were even able to do the infamous jump... (I didn't do the research on this excursion so wasn't aware of it, but it seemed like most people on the boat were most excited about this part.) The ocean was a little rougher than they would have liked, but they made sure we all felt comfortable and the situation was safe before they let us jump (PS You do NOT have to jump if you don't want to! I made another couple go first before I'd agree to it ;)).

Ready, set, JUMP!

On the way back we dropped anchor and had a quick snack (chips, granola bars, pineapple, juice, etc). The hubby and I did a quick jump in the ocean at this point too so we could stretch out a bit. (The boat we were on was a zodiac and you had to hold on with both your hands and feet, so getting the chance to relax for a few minutes felt nice.)

Seeing as we were in a zodiac we were "in" the elements. It was quite a wet and
wild ride, but that was part of the adventure. (We were glad we packed our rain gear!)

To be honest, I don't think I would do this again. Maybe in the summer it would be a different experience because the boats could take you to some snorkel spots that you might not be able to access on your own, but for the cost ($145 plus tax and tip per person), I didn't find it 'that' amazing.  But, you live and you learn, right?!

Wailua Falls

We had driven to see Wailua Falls on our previous trip to Kauai, but never actually hiked down to the bottom. Let me tell you, the views are worth the work. The "hike" to the bottom isn't crazy long, but it is pretty vertical and we were dealing with some slipping and sliding due to the mud. Thankfully there were ropes that had been "installed" that you could use to stabilize yourself and get you up and down the hillside without too much struggle. (Although, truth be told, when we were going down to the waterfall we were behind a group of folks who were having quite a difficult time - not sure if it was due to their shoe choice, their athletic ability or just a lack of coordination, but apparently some people may have a hard time.)

Obviously we didn't have our phones out when we were swinging from ropes, so you'll just have to imagine that.

This was another waterfall where you could swim in the pool, but we decided against it. We did hang out for a little bit (I was having fun catching baby frogs and the hubby was climbing around on rocks) to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. (Pro tip - if you want good photos, earlier in the morning is better because the sunlight will be on the waterfall... the later in the day you go the more likely the waterfall will be back lit and the pictures will turn out pretty dark.)

Gorgeous, right?!

Whether or not you trek down to the base of the waterfall, I would still recommend getting off the beaten path a bit and driving back to see the 170+ foot waterfall. You'll quickly understand why it is one of the island's most popular waterfalls.

Other than these excursions, we spent the majority of our remaining time relaxing, snorkeling, running, eating, etc. The hubby and I have been extremely fortunate to be able to have gone to Hawaii multiple times (twice to Kauai, once to Maui, and five or six times to Oahu) and it is always an amazing time. I don't know that I could live there full time (although we have discussed the option more than once), but it is a fabulous place to visit! [And word on the street is that Southwest is going to start doing $100 flights to Hawaii in the "off season" so maybe we will go even more regularly ;)]

Mahalo for the memories, Kauai! 

Have you ever been to Kauai?

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