Kauai: Waimea Canyon and the Kawaikoi Stream Trail

To read my Kauai journal from the beginning, click here.

When I was packing for this trip and eyeing the weather forecast calling for day after day of rain, friends and family kept saying, “It will be a warm rain!” and “You won’t need a rain jacket, you can get wet and still be comfortable,” and “Don’t pack long-sleeved clothes, you won’t need them! Trust me!”

They were all so totally wrong.

Luckily, I ignored their advice about rain jackets and brought my Gortex raingear. Good thing, I’ve been wearing it every single day.

I compromised on the long-sleeved shirts, though, and just brought one. And I’ve been wearing it out. Every morning. Every evening. Sometimes all day, even. It’s pretty much all I wear.

It’s been chilly here.

Still, one shirt all week in public is just not okay.

But I put on that long-sleeved shirt because we were heading up to Waimea Canyon today, around 3400 feet above sea level. If it was cold and windy here at the beach, I predicted it’d be colder and windier up there in the mountains.

Yep. It was.


Waimea Canyon, Kauai

Driving up, we transitioned from lush ferny tropics to temperate forest. The temperature dropped and the wind increased. The Waimea Canyon overlook was, of course, spectacular. It’s hard to believe that this relatively-small island can boast such a big and impressive canyon, with its vibrant striations– rich oranges, greens, browns– and streaming waterfalls and deep side-canyons. We stood there, admiring the sweeping beauty, as an icy wind whipped around us, tugging at our jackets, tangling my hair, buffeting the car. I was relieved to climb back into the Jeep.

At the Koke’e Museum, I bought another long-sleeved shirt. I clearly won’t make it through this tropical vacation with just one. Who knew Hawaii would be so cold?

We eagerly inquired about the Kawaikoi Stream Trail. The ranger’s face turned doubtful. “Oh, the road out there is really iffy right now,” she warned us. “It’s a rough dirt road, and it’s really wet and gloppy from all this rain. Impassable in places, even. I don’t recommend it at all.”

Well shucks.

Martin and I looked at each other, dejected. We’d studied a map, and the trail meandering along the stream looked wonderful. But apparently the road to the trailhead was impassable. Iffy, anyway.

And then Martin’s eyes started twinkling. I looked closer. The hint of a grin tugged the corners of his mouth. I raised my eyebrows. He smiled broadly. I slowly grinned back.

A whole conversation had just transpired.

That’s what happens when you’ve been together for so many years. There’s really no need for words. That old married couple sitting silently across the table from each other in the restaurant, not talking? You think they’re not communicating? They’re probably carrying on a lively conversation with virtually imperceptible facial expressions, subtle shifts in body posture, and the relative position of their wine glasses.

Having fun on the Kawaikoi Stream Trail, Kauai

Martin had reminded me that we had a Jeep. A 4-wheel drive vehicle, built specifically for iffy roads.

Me: You have got to be kidding me.

Martin: We were on a rough road only yesterday, and did fine. Come on, let’s give it a try!

Me: But what if we get stuck? Will we turn back as soon as it gets scary?

Martin: Of course we will! You just say the word, and we turn back.

Me: Okay then! Let’s go, baby!

We piled into the Jeep. And ended up driving the entire way to the trailhead.

The road yesterday, beyond the arboretum to that blue pool, was way worse.

The trail to the enchanting Kawaikoi Stream started in a dark redwood forest (didn’t expect redwoods on a tropical island!), then came out above the chattering stream where it turned incredibly lush (ground ferns, tree ferns, wild ginger, tropical plants galore), and finally dropped down to the exquisite stream itself.

The enchanting Kawaikoi Stream Trail, Kauai

Such a gorgeous perfect little stream! Pretty rocks, lovely pools, gushing rivulets that just begged for a tennis ball to be tossed in and swept down to a dog quivering with excitement below, ready to snatch up the ball and repeat the fun – absolute perfection. Possibly the definition of heaven. For the first time on this trip, I actively missed Holly. She would have loved that stream.

We could have spent days there.

As it was, we became pressed for time. The afternoon grew later as we wandered slowly along the stream, completely captivated. We didn’t want to navigate that narrow bumpy 4-wheel drive road in the dark, but it was next-to-impossible to drag ourselves away from each breathtaking spot. The afternoon light got better, growing warm and orangey, and Martin felt pressure, wanting photos of this bewitching area but knowing we needed to leave. The stream burbled on its way in the soft warm light.

Everything was turning magical. How do you walk away from it? But we had to.

We drove out as it was getting dusky and hurried up to the overlook at the end of the main paved road: the Pu’u o Kila overlook of the stunning Kalalau Valley, part of the famed Na Pali coast.

Sun was bursting through heavy clouds, pouring golden light over the razor-edged and jagged cliffs, the ocean crashing below. Martin literally ran up the trail, frantically set up the tripod, fumbled for his camera– and the sun sank back into the dark clouds, the glowing light disappeared, and the amazing view was enveloped in a white mist.

Bye bye, photos.

The mist cleared once, torn away by the wind, and we got a final glimpse of spectacular dark crags and pounding surf before the thick fog poured back in, obliterating the view.

The wind was cold. We retreated to the Jeep for the long and quiet drive back to the condo, saying everything that needed to be said by holding hands.

1 Comment Kauai: Waimea Canyon and the Kawaikoi Stream Trail

  1. Karen Gake

    I love this! I could “see” the canyon through your writing and I loved the sweet connections between you and Martin. Don’t ever stop writing my friend!


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