Sunday, September 7 –
Today we woke up excited about our helicopter tour of the island of Kauai. When I was a kid, we toured the Grand Canyon via helicopter, but that was the only time I had ever previously traveled in one. We arrived at the private entrance to Lihue airport. We went through Safari helicopter’s safety checks, watched a safety video and received our portable life vests that we wore on straps around our waists.
The one-hour tour took us counter clockwise around the island. We passed along the coast venturing over the Waimea Canyon, “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Then we traveled up to the towering mountains of Mt. Waialeale and Mt Kawaikini, both around 5,200 feet. Among the lush greenery hugging the mountains, towering waterfalls cascaded like bridal veils to the valley below in the rain forest. The east side of Wai’ale’ale is one of the wettest spots on earth, with an annual average rainfall of 460 inches.
During the flight, narration and music accompanied us through the headsets. The music from movies like “Jurassic Park” played dramatically in the background as we flew over Waimea Canyon, where it was filmed. It was one of several acclaimed movies such as “South Pacific,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Six Days Seven Nights” filmed on the island.
Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and we could easily see why it is the greenest of the isles. Towards the end of our flight we passed over the Na’ Pali coast admiring some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world. Upon return, we had to purchase the video upon return. The best helicopter ride I have ever been on!
Afterwards, we stopped by Snorkel Bob’s to pick up our snorkeling gear. We rented the gear for the entire trip and could take it to the different islands before turning it into another of the shops.
We drove down to Waimea town, located at the convergence of the Waimea River and Waimea Harbor. Waimea, on the island’s southwest side, was once the capital of Kauai. The harbor is significant in Hawaiian history because it was where British explorer Captain James Cook first sailed into Kauai in January 1778. His two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, were the first European vessels anchor in Hawaiian harbors. Cook was also the first European to set foot in the islands, which he named after his patron, the Earl of Sandwich.
Then, we drove to Waimea Canyon to see it from the ground. Mark Twain first referred to Waimea Canyon as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” The massive canyon dives almost 3,000 to the Waimea River below.
After admiring the views from a lookout, we drove up to the Kalalau Lookout – another famous point from movies. We admired this view of one of the most beautiful valleys in the world as a rainbow emerged from the hanging mist. There were roosters everywhere. We learned they were wild and exploded in population after Hurricane Iniki tore the roofs off chicken houses of the island in 1994. It was the most powerful hurricane to strike Hawaii when it stuck as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 145 mph. Iniki made almost a direct hit on Kauai destroying more than 1,400 houses and severely damaged at least 5,000.
That afternoon we went snorkeling first the time if our lives on our hotel’s beach in Poipu. We saw the blowing rock, or spouting horn – a unique natural formation formed by waters hitting a reef near the beach. Then we enjoyed the beautiful outdoor pool.
That evening we went to eat at Dukes, a famous chain of Hawaiian fine dining restaurants in the Islands with a few locations in California. The beachfront restaurants are named for Great Duke Kahanamoku – an Olympic medalist and the father of modern day surfing. They all have neat interiors, bars, verandas and interesting Hawaiian décor. This one was located at the Kauia Marriott Resort in Lihue. We had an amazing crispy coconut shrimp appetizer and I ordered a sumptuous macadamia crusted mahi mahi for dinner. We all had an amazing Hula pie for dinner.
We went to bed that night completely fulfilled.