I'm a bit sad that we're at the end of our Kauai countdown. We've enjoyed it immensely, both the trip itself and all the evenings sorting through photos and happy memories and recounting them all here on the blog... *sniff sniff*
But then we don't have time to get all sentimental here! Let's wrap up the top 3:
No. 3: Getting slow-roasted on Ke'e Beach
Ke'e is touted as one of the most beautiful beaches on the island of Kauai. Situated at the far north tip of the island as far as one can go by car, overlooking the legendary "Bali Hai" in the Kalalau Valley, with calm waters protected by a coral reef that's filled with an endless supply of fish, we can't imagine a more perfect place for swimming and snorkeling.
And thus on our last day on the island, we had a choice of either going kayaking or bumming around on this beach. We chose beach-bumming, which was a great choice, except...
The day was somewhat overcast in the Hawaii way (the cloud cover comes and goes), so we foolishly think we didn't have to reapply our sunscreen and proceeded to spend 7 hours being slow-roasted on the beach. You guessed what happened (hint: we're still peeling like a pair of flaky croissants).
We had a water-proof camera with us, but most underwater photos turn out blurry and caught about half the intended subject in my expert hands (Jacques' flippers could pass for an abstract shot though, right?)
We found a great spot under this network of pine tree roots to hang out. We love our cozy little nook, especially this great feature of hanging roots that we use as hangers for our food (see that hideous white plastic bag?). That way the ubiquitous scavenging chickens could only stretch their necks and gawk. Ha!
No. 2: Flying over Jurassic Park
Need I say more? Even though it costs an arm and a leg, we knew even though it may mean eating ramen for a couple of weeks when we come back, we can't miss out on a helicopter ride in Kauai.
We did some research and ended up going with Blue Hawaiian. It may not be the most "exciting" tour group, but offers one of the best safety records, and the hugest windows that give you the best view possible (you can even look down beneath your feet, coz part of the "floor" is also see-through, so awesome!).
This spacious EcoStar helicopter seats pilot + 6: 2 in the front and 4 in the back. I realize we may have a problem when the receptionist told us that the "lighter" passengers will get to sit in the front (for balance), where the view is waaay better.
Seeing that it's too late to diet (or even for a laxative), I contemplated under-reporting my weight (against all safety concerns) to get that coveted front seat! But to my dismay, they actually weigh you in before assigning seats (maybe that's why they have such great safety track records!). Just when I gave up hope, this beefy family of 4 walks through the door... what can I say, it was our lucky day! (Here I am in the front seat, right next to the pilot, yay!)
Swooping over ancient valleys and skimming across the crystal blue waters beneath you, it really feels like you're flying through a real life Jurassic Park. Worth every penny! (but do try to get that front seat).
No. 1: Hawaiiana!
I know you're probably expecting something about a white sandy beach or some spectacular hike here in the ultimate No. 1 position, but I think it's time to get out of the cliche, and announce (with a drum roll, please...) that No. 1 is all about...
Books! Books! And more books! Wait, wait, wait, before you boooooo!!! me, let me say that these are not ones that you'll find on amazon.com, but surprise vintage finds that gave us a glimpse of Hawaii as the great Polynesian kingdom it once was, and help us put what we see on this trip in context.
How this whole Hawaiiana fasincation started was at the beginning of our trip, we stumbled upon this neat little vintage book store, where we unexpectedly chatted up with the owner, and a few hours later, emerged with a sackful of great reads that transformed our understanding of the great people and history of this place.
Included in these finds are these vintage National Geographic (that were letterpressed, remember?) from 1936-1959, capturing photos and stories chronicling the days Hawaii ceased to be its own Kingdom and became the playground for millions of Americans. It's truly eye-opening.
I'm so glad we found these books and magazines, coz even though we had to leave, it feels like we were able to take a little piece of the history of Hawaii with us.
And while laying on Ke'e Beach on our last day on the island, poring over this mini volume by Mark Twain about "Roughing It in the Sandwich Isles" (what Captain Cook called Hawaii back then), I came across this passage below that makes everything I wrote these last few days about Kauai trite and unnecessary:
"The date is 1840. Scene the true Isles of the Blest; that is to say, the Sandwich Isles- to this day the peacefullest, restfullest, sunniest, balmiest, dreamiest haven of refuge for a worn and weary spirit the surface of the earth can offer. Away out there in the mid-solitudes of the vast Pacific, and far down to the edge of the tropics, they lie asleep on the waves, perpetually green and beautiful, remote from the work-day world and its frets and worries, a bloomy, fragrant paradise, where the troubled may go find peace, and the sick and tired find strength and rest. There they lie, the divine islands, forever shining in the sun, forever smiling out on the sparkling sea, with its soft mottling of drifting cloud-shadows and vagrant cat's-paws of wind; forever inviting you, never repulsing you; and whosoever looks upon them once will never more get the picture out of his memory till he die."