This is where you’ll soon be able to learn about excellent places to see and things to do in Kauai and other places Frecks has been. Stay tuned! #smelltheroses
Back in 1993, my friends and I used to drive up to the end of the Wailua River where there was a deep pool to swim in and have fun. It’s also where one of the canals for the sugar cane water system starts. This canal diverts water from the river into the canal right there and goes around the corner of the mountain into a cave and comes out the other side back into the canal. It was real scary but we wanted to try to float through the cave and come out the other side. We thought a lot about how we could do it without drowning. So we floated a tennis ball at the mouth of the cave and had our friends look for it on the other side. When it came out on the other side of the mountain, we floated a bigger ball to see if it would make it through. We put a soccer ball and a beach ball through, and they all made it. Once in a while the ball would have some dirt or slime on it, so we knew it was hitting the ceiling or the walls as it floated through the cave. The really scary part? Rain in Kauai would raise the river really quickly as it rushed down the mountains.
Finally, the day came when I put all my scuba gear on and tied a rope around my waist and went for it. I had an underwater light with me. We picked a day when there wasn’t much rain, and luckily I made it to the other side of the mountain and lived to tell the tale! We thought we could get rich selling this ride, but our business plan kept getting shot down. We made it through the cave, but were dead in the water as far as making some money sharing this awesome ride with other people.
We were daredevils back then. They were still growing sugar cane in Kauai and someone still owned those canals. It was too risky!
But since then, they quit growing sugar cane and someone else managed to get the idea approved and that person is making money off of this awesome tubing adventure. Now, you can float in peace with no worries of drowning. It is all kosher and insured as far as I know.
“Witness Kauai’s spectacular engineering feats as you float down the tropical waterway consisting of open ditches, tunnels and flumes all of which were engineered and hand dug around 1870.” See more at this discount ticket site. #traveltips
Okay, more for the hikers: The Grand Canyon of the Pacific – Waimea Canyon is the actual name, but this is a ten-mile long and 3,000 foot deep canyon that sits along the western cost of the island. The name means “reddish water” because of the soil and the way it erodes along the canyon walls. It is the result of the Waimea River that passes through the canyon and which is the result of the presence of Mt. Wai’ale’ale (a bit more on that below). You can enjoy this spot when you visit Waimea Canyon State Park and a drive along the edge. There are a lot of hiking trails and wilderness areas along the way, and at the farthest end is Koke’e State Park.
The road to the canyon has many scenic overlooks, and if you are lucky enough to enjoy a clear day, you can get a wonderful perspective of the canyon on one side and a clear view of the private island of Niihau on the other.
Mt. Wai’ale’ale – The wettest spot on the planet, it is technically a shield volcano. This means that it is the volcano that formed the island but which is missing a large portion, blown away during an eruption and from erosion over time.
This mountain is actually the second highest point of all of the Hawaiian Islands and it receives at least 451″ of rain every year.
If you take the trail to the top of the ridge (which is a “moderate” climb), you get to see the famous sign that indicates you are on the wettest spot on the planet. However, if you want to be sure you are in the truly wettest spot, you may need to hop over to Maui where the “Big Bog” actually received more rain than the mountain.
If you like to hike (I like to hike and camp and all sorts of outdoor stuff, which is a good thing when you’ve got to travel over mountains and through jungles to assess damage after a cyclone—ha!), Hawaii is an amazing place for it. You probably know that much already.
An insider’s secret that I like to share is to take the back roads to the end of the Wailua River. The Wailua River was the subject of my last blog post. There you’ll find hundreds of stone mounds (known as cairns) left by early Hawaiians. You also find heiau—ancient structures—in this area.
But the best-kept secret is the hike that you find past the end of the Wailua River trail. You take this trail and it brings you inside of the crater formed by the volcano that made the island. This is where the river actually begins, formed by the water seeping from the ground and the walls of the crater.
As it sits at the bottom of the mountain, beneath the famous Wall of Tears (which is where some of the waterfalls are found), it is obviously a good source of water and is a trail that you have to try if you like nature and are interested in the ways that fresh water operates in this environment. #Hikekauai just for fun!
Hanalei River Kayaking is a very laid-back adventure. #traveltips Make sure you have some strong arms, because on the way up the river you will be paddling against the current, but it’s smooth kayaking on the way back, when you’re good and tired.
There are no rapids here, but one of the things you’ll see besides a lot of taro farms and birds along the way are dozens of buffalo. The biggest buffalo ranch in all of the islands is along the river here. The owner ships buffalo burger, steaks and jerky around the world from this farm. He is an awesome person! While you are paddling up the river, you will be passing by the buffalo farm and most of the time the buffalo will come down to the river’s edge to check you out just as much as you are checking them out. It’s a great photo opportunity if you have the right kind of water-resistant camera or camera case!
I found out about this ranch when I was in Kauai working and had been the inspector for the owner’s property after Hurricane Iniki (You can read more about my adventures in Iniki in my book). After I did my inspection, he invited me to come back to witness the birth of a buffalo calf. It was an awesome experience.
We were in a jeep only 20 or 30 feet from a mother giving birth to her calf and some of the other buffalo seemed to be guarding her. The rancher wanted to show me how protective the herd is, so he got just a little close and one of the males charged our jeep. Thank goodness the jeep was well outfitted with tubular bumpers all the way around so it didn’t do any damage to the jeep or to us, but the male buffalo let us know we were off limits.
Within minutes, the calf was up and walking around. Shortly after that we were turning to go back to the ranch house, when we startled the herd and damn if that new born calf wasn’t running with the herd. Wow—what a sight! I learned some interesting facts about buffalo, like the fact that a newborn calf must be able to run within only a few minutes of birth or else the wolves in the great plains of America would eat it.
Now, I don’t think you will get to experience something like that while you’re kayaking the Hanalei River, but you never know. Please stop by the HOKUKANO RANCH and buy some buffalo meat or jerky.
PS: Now that I’m figuring out more of this social media stuff, I’ve moved my Travel Tips to Tuesday. #traveltipstuesday
It was really hard for me not to include in my book a whole bunch of stuff about Hawaii that didn’t have anything to do with disasters. Finally though, my editor convinced me that I could still tell my readers about it, but here on my blog! Ha! So welcome to a little slice of my life that I like to call, Stopping to Smell the Roses.Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I have seen quite a few places! The #AlohaSpirit of the place really got to me. I liked Kauai so much that after I was sent there to help with the disaster relief following Hurricane Iniki, I got myself a full time gig as a building inspector (OEP). I lived there only a short time before I became known for my own Aloha Spirit. I figured I arrived with the seed of Aloha Spirit in me, and that the environment of the island really made it bloom.
The post-Iniki marketing campaign to get tourism to return was “Kauai is Back,” and to do my part, I bought “Lailani,” a little island doll, and sent her down to my buddies in the South Pole. They snapped a bunch of photos of this gorgeous island beauty living it up in Antarctica. They then handed her off to someone heading home, and their job was to get the doll back to me. However, the spirit of adventure got the best of Lailani’s escorts, and it took a little over ten months for her to finally get home. When she did, it was clear that she had become a true global traveler and Hawaiian diplomat.
Flight attendants and other travelers took to putting pins and badges on Lailani and then sending her to the next exotic or distant destination. When she got home you could hardly see her for all the evidence of her travels.
If there was any more of an iconic symbol of Hawaii than little Lailani who had traveled the world to spread the word of Kauai’s spirit, it would be hard to beat it.
It wasn’t the last time I would show this spirit, and it never fails to surprise me how people react and respond to it.
Nature is powerful and can be frightening, and I don’t know about you, but in nature I rise to the challenges placed in front of me. Whether I’m having to keep up a strong front/positive face in a huge aftershock (like the one I experienced in LA following Loma Prieta) or stomping through knee deep snake infested mud to get to a house to do an inspection, (read more in my book) I’ve bravely faced things and impressed even myself. But out by Anahola, in Kauai, I faced something I needed a little external motivation to go through with. The Slippery Slides!
Out by #Anahola is a marked trail near the reservoir, but you’ve got to pay attention to see it. You park by the reservoir and walk in to a natural slide that is slicked with water and which is just like a fun park’s slide, only far better because it is entirely the product of nature. There are many small pools and places for you to jump from above. About 100 yards down the trail is the famous pool shown in Jurassic Park—the one that the helicopter descends towards in front of a waterfall. The lowest jump is around 30 feet so it isn’t for the faint of heart.
One of the first times I was out there I was afraid to make the leap. I stood holding the nearest root and thought “Oh man, oh man…” and tried to gauge the depth of the water.
I am not sure if I would have done it if a bunch of teenagers hadn’t come along and bruised my ego. They made a ton of noise as they made their way down the trail, and as I stood there I heard one of them say, “Mister, just get out of the way!” This took me a back a bit, and I waved my arm as if to say, “After you.” These boys didn’t hesitate, and with three abrupt whooshes they were over the edge and out of sight. “Hell,” I said, “If they can do it, I can too.”
For those of you who aren’t much for hiking in the jungle, there are other ways to see the beauty of Hawaii away from the paved roads. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Andy’s Sailing Adventures – Their giant catamaran is fully netted and allows you to enjoy observation above the waters. They also take you snorkeling in some of the best spots. For those of you who have read my book, this is NOT Captain Gary Licatta! Ha ha!
- #Thunderboat – This is a boat that goes around the island of Kauai in about three hours. In other words, you are flying across the water and you have to be strapped in for safety. It is a cigarette boat that skims across the waters and yet lets you see some of the most beautiful spots.
- Ohana Helicopters – This is a gem of a tour company because their pilots are long time residents of the island and they have tremendous respect for the environment. They give you tons of information about the island, and not just the shallow touristy stuff. This is a reliable helicopter firm and one that never seems to get any complaints.
In my book, Dust in the Wind: Real FEMA Disaster Stories, you get insider information about visiting the most beautiful of #Kauaidestinations, The Sleeping Giant. I share a little secret about that mountain… the cave, the small plateau, how to adventure to one of the most impressive views imaginable. Here on my website, I plan to share other adventures with you so that you can go and enjoy them yourselves! It is so important to do these things in life. If you’re going all the way to Kauai, you might as well get insider tips on seeing it all. (If you want to know the secret about The Sleeping Giant, you have to buy my book. Ha!)
Here, I’m going to tell you about two beautiful natural spots— you’ve seen them in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park, and now you get to see them in person yourselves!
Wailua River – The only navigable river in all of the Hawaiian Islands, this exists because of its fortuitous location at the base of a large mountain that happens to be the official wettest spot on earth. It rains on the mist-covered top of this peak every day, and those waters feed what are known as the Seven Sisters. These are the seven waterfalls that tumble down the sheer sides of the ridges and slopes. Several of them culminate in the Wailua. I spent many enjoyable hours waterskiing this pretty stretch of water, and when you take a boat ride up to Fern Grotto, you’ll recognize places captured in movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park among others. It also has a fantastic rope swing just past the Fern Grotto.
Fern Grotto – This is a naturally occurring amphitheater that is covered with a veil of native ferns. Dangling down from the ceiling and enhancing the acoustics of the grotto, this spot is popular with many visitors. Bill Gates got married there and the place is home to many feral cats as well as loads of wild chickens.
And speaking of chickens, here is another insider tidbit: Chickens – I know this sounds like an odd must see item in Kauai, but the island actually has more chickens per square mile than almost anywhere else on the entire planet. In my years of living there, I saw tens of thousands of chickens, and a lot of people are actually quite charmed by the mother hens that walk their cheeping little chicks up to strangers in order to get a handout.