The iconic Na Pali Coast on the north shore of Kauai is only accessible by boat or air. Well, except for that treacherous 11-mile hiking trail that didn’t especially appeal to us. Fortunately for us, the Pride of America was scheduled to sail along the 17-mile coastline of Na Pali. We were excited to experience sublime views of the emerald-green cliffs on our last day aboard the NCL Pride of America. Unfortunately for us, the weather did not cooperate. Our first view looked like this.
Approaching the Na Pali Coast
The coastline was almost completely obscured by clouds. As we got closer, they began to dissipate a bit but our views remained misty at best.
Low clouds on the Napali Coast
The first bit of green appears before our wondering eyes
We made the best of the situation, however, and enjoyed what we could see. Actually, in retrospect, I think it was fortunate that we initially thought we’d see nothing because then we appreciated what we did see so much more.
Misty Na Pali Coast
Closer view through the mist and low clouds
Na Pali Coast
Looking up the valley along the Na Pali Coast
Na Pali means cliffs–you can see why
My favorite view of Na Pali coast
We had considered a helicopter or a catamaran tour but I’m glad we didn’t spend the money in view of the weather. The fact that our tour was included in our cruise made us feel like we got something extra. The captain of the Pride of America tried so hard to get us close enough to the shore to see the amazing lush vegetation and velvety emerald cliffs through the mist. We tell people if you haven’t experienced surreal Na Pali in the mist, you haven’t seen Na Pali. But I know I’ll go back hoping to see Na Pali on a crystal clear day.
Back on the south coast of Kauai after our visit to Waimea Canyon, we stopped first at Russian Fort Elizabeth State Park where hundreds of feral chickens greeted us in the parking lot. Sights like these are the most memorable for me –they stand out because they are unusual or unique.
Parking lot at Russian Fort Elizabeth
Named for the czarina of Russia, Fort Elizabeth was one of three forts built by Russia on Kauai between 1813 and 1817. I had no idea Russia had a presence in Hawaii so this historical trivia was intriguing to me. Apparently, we were alone in our interest, however, because we were the only people there. According to the signs on-site, Russia wanted to establish a trade relationship with Hawaii to obtain food for their Alaskan settlements. That seemed odd in view of the fact that it’s only 55 miles across the Bering Strait to Russia (I’ve heard you can see Russia from your porch in Alaska) while it’s over 3000 miles from Hawaii to Alaska. Nevertheless, that was the plan. King Kamehameha wasn’t a fan, however, and expelled the Russians in 1817. Not much remains so it was a brief stop.
Remains of Russian Fort Elizabeth
We drove on to the Kauai Coffee Company, Hawaii’s largest coffee grower. Originally a sugar cane plantation, the first coffee trees were planted here in 1987 and today they have more than 4 million trees. The Visitor Center and Museum had a lot to offer, including unlimited self-serve coffee samples.
Kauai Coffee Company
While we savored amazing coffee, we watched a video about the coffee production process and viewed the historical exhibits.
Admittedly, we were there for the coffee but this visitor was mainly interested in the spilled sugar. The gold dust day gecko is not native to Hawaii but was introduced in the 1970s. Because they help keep insect populations in check, they are usually welcome guests.
Gold dust day gecko
The people at Kauai Coffee Company definitely have a sense of humor. This was the first of a number of signs that caused me to chuckle.
With coffee in hand, we wandered out to the self-guided walking tour. It was a paved trail with lots of explanatory signage along the way about growing, harvesting, and processing coffee.
Signs like this explain coffee growing and processing
Jim along the trail
Our friend, Rick, a true coffee lover, in front of coffee trees
The signs contained interesting coffee facts that I didn’t know previously. For example, did you know that longer roasting reduces the caffeine in coffee? Consequently, a medium roast has more caffeine than a dark roast. There are usually two coffee beans inside the coffee cherry but when just one forms, it’s called a peaberry. The peaberry roasts more evenly and produces a superior cup of coffee which we confirmed in our taste tests. And each coffee tree produces just one pound of roasted coffee per harvest.
Plumeria growing at the coffee estate because this is Hawaii, after all
This was a pleasant stop with lots of interesting information. We purchased some coffee to take home, returned our rental car, and headed back to the ship in time for dinner.
Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, is nicknamed the garden island with good reason. Every rainy, verdant, undeveloped, dramatic landscape looks like an untamed garden. Due to its appeal, over 60 movies have been filmed here, including the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, and The Descendants, just to name a few.
The Pride of America docked at Nawiliwili where we rented a car. For just $50 a day, we had the freedom to explore wherever we liked on the island. Of the many choices to see and do, the top of our list was the Napali coast followed by Waimea Canyon. You can only see the Napali coast by boat or air and, fortunately for us, the Pride of America would cruise along the coast the following day. We chose to drive to Waimea Canyon, once dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific by Mark Twain.
The drive was just 31 miles but it was up a curvy 2 lane road with amazing scenery so we took our time and stopped along the way. At first, it seemed odd that the landscape appeared somewhat arid with red soil and shades of yellow and brown vegetation interspersed with patches of lush, verdant plant life. Then I remembered this was the leeward (drier) side of the island.
The drive to Waimea Canyon
View on the road to Waimea Canyon
View of the Pacific
Our friends and travel companions, Rick and Lori
Red Dirt Waterfall
Laura and Jim at the entrance to Waimea Canyon
Waipoo Falls rising 800 feet above the canyon floor amazed and inspired us.
Waipoo Falls in Waimea Canyon
Overlook at Waimea Canyon
In the parking lot at Waimea Canyon Lookout, vendors sold exotic tropical fruits and other products. We tried the dragon fruit which the sign told us tastes like pear plus kiwi. Yum!
Vendors at Waimea Canyon Lookout
Tropical fruits for sale
I wish I had tried the manapua which is a pork pastry originally introduced to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants. I noticed there was also a sweet variety with cream custard, probably to appeal to today’s sugar addicted consumer.
The vendor where we bought our fruit
We were intrigued by the chickens we saw wandering freely all over the island including this parking lot. The protected feral chickens supposedly have no natural enemies on Kauai so they flourish in larger numbers here than on other islands. My research, however, led me to this article from the Hawaii Invasive Species Council. The mongoose was introduced in 1883 on other islands to control the rat population in the sugar cane fields. An unintended consequence occurred because the mongoose has no natural predators on the islands and it also reduced the population of island birds including feral chickens. The mongoose was never introduced on Kauai but a number of sightings and one capture have occurred. If indeed, the mongoose has gained a foothold, Kauai will need to develop a management plan. (First Live Mongoose Captured on Kauai, May 2012)
Mama and her brood
Come back to read more about our visit to Kauai. Spoiler alert: more chickens, a fort, and good coffee are coming up.
Based on events in November 2015.
Press Release. (2012, May 23). First Live Mongoose Captured on Kauai, May 2012. Hawaii.gov. Retrieved from http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/news/kauaimongoosepr/