Hawaii adventure, kayaking, volcanoes


My sixteen year old grandson, Tristan, and I arrived on Kauai, Hawaii, for a Sierra Club Outing, a Multi Sport Adventure on July 21st. Our group of ten was met by the outings leader, Diana, and cook, Wayne. They drove us in two vans to Hanalei Bay where we camped at the Waipa Foundation campground. Take a look at the their website. Waipa is dedicated to preserving traditional Hawaiian culture.

We brought our own tents and camping gear. While it wasn’t exactly deluxe accommodations, the little tent Tristan and I used for the week kept us and our things dry during the sporadic brief but sometimes torrential rains. Wayne is an excellent cook and man of many talents, and we were well fed, vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

On the very next day we tackled a steep, muddy hike to a beach and beyond to what I’m told was a gorgeous waterfall. I only did the four mile round trip to the beach, but Tristan did the whole thing. The following day we did a river kayak and another muddy, though less steep, hike to another waterfall for a swim in the pool. All very beautiful. Among other things we learned about the hau bush. It grows along the waterways and blooms with new yellow flowers every day. The flowers turn orange in the evening (the signal for Hawaiian kids to go home) and fall off into the water.

On the third day we had a choice of a stand up paddle lesson (me) or a surf lesson (Tristan). We started the SUP on the Hanalei river and then went out into the bay. Lots of fun, especially in warm water where you don’t have to get into a wet suit. That afternoon we shopped at the Waipa farmer’s market – fresh coconuts, macadamia nuts, and much more. If you’re getting the idea that this was an active trip, you’d be right. Up early every day and off for another “adventure.”

Our Waipa liaison, Kailon (not sure of spelling) joined us for dinner and talked about Waipa, taro growing, Hawaiian culture, language, and stories. The next morning we went across the road to walk some of the fields, help weed trees and taro plants, and see the ancient stream diversion still used for irrigation. The morning after, we were back at 5:30 to help with poi making. Many local people volunteer to make over 1000 pounds of poi each week. The previously boiled taro is peeled and scraped, then put through a machine that mashes it, in two stages, to a fine consistency. It’s kind of like potato only purple and a little sweeter.

That same afternoon we went to Tunnels beach for an unscheduled snorkel over the reef. It turned out to be one of our favorite activities. We came face to face with sea turtles and many colorful fish. Did I mention the water is the perfect temperature?

The last day was the killer. A seventeen mile kayak past the Na Pali coast. Tents down and everything packed by 6:30 when our guides picked us up. You can see pictures at Na Pali Kayak. The cliffs are amazing. We went into sea caves and tunnels, and under a waterfall. After the first mile, there’s no turning back. We hauled out on a beach for lunch at mile twelve. The guides said this is the longest one day ocean kayak in the world. The wind was at our back and the swells, which seemed big to us, were called “calm” by our guides. It was definitely an accomplishment, but once was enough for me.

Native birds and other animals, as well as the plants, evolved in isolation on the islands. Birds in particular didn’t have predators on the ground (the only mammal was a bat). So when humans began introducing rats, pigs, mongoose, goats, cats, etc., and disease carrying mosquitoes, many native species became extinct. The birds common on the islands now have been brought from many other parts of the world. We saw myna birds and red crested cardinals everywhere. I did get two brief glimpses of the nene, the native Hawaiian goose and state bird. Common wildlife sightings on our trip included feral chickens and cats. Yes, little striped tabbies.


Tristan and I spent our last two nights on the big island at Volcanoes National Park. We stayed in a cabin at the campground, a luxury with beds, sheets, and comforters, even hot showers (we had cold showers on Kauai – try that at 5:00 a.m.). We rented a car and drove from the airport at Kailua/Kona across the island to Hilo and on to the park. When we returned, we drove along the coast back to the airport, so we saw a lot of the island.

We spent a full day exploring the park, from Kilauea Crater and the Thurston Lava Tube to the lava flows which end at the sea, and petroglyphs found among the lava flows. Although I’d been to Hawaii once before, this was the first time I understood that the Hawaiian Islands are moving along with the Pacific Plate, over the Hawaiian Hot Spot, where magma erupts to build the islands. Kauai, at the northern end of the chain, was formed much earlier and is now in the process of eroding back into the sea. Hawaii, the youngest island, contains active volcanoes and is still growing.

I find the geology fascinating. For example, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are both much taller than Mt. Everest if all are measured from base (the first two on the sea floor) to peak. The cooled lava flows are of two distinctive types: pahoehoe and ‘a ‘a. Pahoehoe cools to a beautiful swirly, shiny surface whereas ‘a ‘a is lumpy and rocky. Here’s a website that explains the difference:

After dark the vapors rising from the Kilauea are lit bright red by a pool of molten lava below. It’s quite a spectacle and we went back to the overlook at the Jaggar Museum to see it.

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