Monthly Archives: August 2016

An Evening Camping in Koke’e State Park, Kauai (Northwest)

After our exciting and action-packed trip from Sacramento to Kauai was over and our Jeep was secured, our first stop was the grocery store to pick up some supplies. We chose to go by Safeway, as we had read it’s a bit cheaper than some of the other stores. Costco was also nearby, but, since we were planning on camping for most of our time, we didn’t want to buy in bulk (especially cold stuff). Safeway is located at 4454 Nuhou Street, Lihue and it is open 24 hours a day. It was a large Safeway and for those of you who have club member cards on the mainland for Safeway, yes, they will work on Hawaii as well. We looked up the circular online before we traveled to get an idea of what was available and we tried to make a plan, but we were hungry and in the end, our eyes and stomaches won out. For lunch we split a cup of chicken noodle soup, a donut, and vegetable sushi (we’re weird, I know). The sushi was probably my least favorite, but only because it had slight fish flavor presumably from being rolled on a counter of fish (!)– I’m not a seafood person at all (weird, I know) so my nose and tastebuds seem to know when they’re being led astray. Andrew thought the sushi was delicious though and the soup, although tasting somewhat different than the Mainland chicken noodle I’ve had, was still good. The donut was awesome. When you go into the grocery store, make sure you spend some time looking around at the items they have because they are different from what you see elsewhere. For instance, the seafood is vast and numerous and ranges from dried to salted to fresh. Anyway, we picked up some hummus, some carrots, some snap peas, chopped pineapple (because we weren’t sure where our knife was at the moment), peanut butter, jelly, and the creme de la creme, 8-pack of guava dinner rolls made on Kauai. They were bright pink!

We then headed on down the road towards our destination for the night: Koke’e State Park. Koke’e State Park is located north of Waimea Canyon (west side of Kauai) and is about 1-1:30 hour drive from Lihue. It is accessed via the southern route only. Koke’e SP is about 4,345 acres in size, all above 3,200 feet above sea level (maximum around 4,200 feet asl). It contains over 45 miles of hiking trails through forests and along ridges, and boasts some phenomenal views of the island. It has a visitor’s center/museum with history of the area and knowledgeable park rangers willing to give advice and it rents out a few cabins that look pretty nice. In addition, you can camp there!

I’ll post more on camping in Kauai in general later, but for now, it’s important to note that Koke’e is a state park and thus, you can reserve spots online through the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The price is $18/campsite for non-Hawaiian residents. A campsite may have up to 6 persons for this cost ($3/person over 6 people). You can set-up camp at 1:00PM (“check-out” is noon) and you are not permitted to stay more than 5 nights in a row. In addition, all sites are first-come, first-served (aka undesignated)… but again, you have to have a permit to stay there so it works out. There are other camping spots in this area, but most require some hiking (medium to long in length) in order to get to them. In addition, it’s important to note that this area gets about 70 inches of precipitation a year, so make sure you are camping in areas suitable for the time of year you’re traveling. To be on the safe side, we decided to camp at the general Koke’s State Park spot (no hiking required). You’ll want to make sure you print a copy of your permit before you leave home and bring it with you to Kauai just in case you get asked for one (we weren’t but it’s in the rules, so may as well be safe). You should also book these sites as soon as you know you’ll be around Koke’e. There are 20 spots available and while we booked about 2 weeks in advance (traveling end of August) we noticed that Labor Day weekend was already booked- so just be aware.

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Don’t worry, the drive to Koke’e State Park isn’t boring!

Once we arrived at Koke’e, we noticed a few tents set-up on the meadow next to the museum/visitor center. Since there wasn’t a great deal of information on where to camp once you go there online, we figured we’d just set our tent up there. To get to the camping parking lot, you drive past the left turn-in for the visitor center and take the next left. You’ll see the meadow, parking areas, picnic tables, and a bathroom building. The meadow in general is rather large and has scattered trees (and picnic tables). There weren’t a lot of other tents there, so we just found a spot and set-up shop. We later realized that when you walk up to the bathroom building, there is what looks like a grass path heading back away from the parking lot and building. When we followed that we saw that the permitted camping areas were actually back in that area and a lot more secluded. Each spot, although not numbered, had a picnic table, and a nice little clearing to put your tent. Tent spots were separated by tall ginger bushes. Since we had already set-up, we stayed where we were and still really enjoyed our spot.

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Meadow just after the Koke’e State Park Visitor Center and Museum.

The camping area does not allow fires and any cooking must be done on a stove. Trash cans are available as are bathrooms with toilet paper, sinks with running water (no paper towels/hand dryers or soap) and showers, although I would really avoid the showers if at all possible- they were pretty grungy. I wish I had taken a picture, but I forgot- sorry! Make sure you have a rain fly for your tent because it will rain (off and on) and don’t be frustrated if it starts raining. Wait about 5-10 minutes and it will probably stop and clear up. The temperature dropped down to about the 60s (again we were there at the end of August) and so we were comfy sleeping with sleeping sacks and an unzipped sleeping bag as a blanket. Sleeping sacks, if you don’t know, are just cotton sheet-weight sleeping bag liners… we use them for when we’re camping in warm weather (as a super lightweight sleeping bag), but others use them as a liner in their more heavy-duty sleeping bag. It’s something like this.

After we set-up camp, we continued up the road to check out the Kalalau Look Out and the Pu’u O Kila Look Out. In the morning we were taking a short hike that started from the latter look out, so we figured we’d check it out to make sure we knew where we were going. The Kalalau Look Out has gorgeous views (again remember the mantra, if it’s raining, wait 5-10 minutes, all will reveal itself). Sure enough, we were lucky to catch the beautiful view of the Northern Na Pali Coast:

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View of Na Pali Coast in Northern Kauai

Na Pali is the most infamous part of the island for hikers, kayakers, and people seeking to view the rugged untouched, almost unaccessible wild of Northern Kauai. There is a trail called the Kalalau Trail that runs from the last accessible road beach on the Northern coast, out towards Western Kauai. It’s a grueling, physically demanding trek that requires an overnight at Kalalau Beach, 11 miles in (everything online says that a hiker in a good condition will take the full day to hike there). Note: In order to camp there (and in order to go beyond the 2 mile mark, or Hanakapai’ai Beach, you will need a permit and they typically go months in advance. Permits (60 available per day) are again booked through the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and cost $20/person for non-residents (5 nights max). If you are thinking of hiking the trail, check out the Kalalau Trail Website– it has an immense amount of information, including a map and permit information.

In addition to viewing Na Pali from Koke’e State Park or hiking Kalalau Trail, other hard core folks kayak in (about 17miles) from Ha’ena Beach (where Kalalau Trail begins) to Milolii Beach (20 permits available per day, 3 night maximum, $20/person) to Polihale Beach (60 permits available per day, 5 night maximum, $18/campsite up to 6). Again, all of these permits are for undesignated sites and are available through the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Website (print your permits before you arrive). The kayak trip enables you to see the entire Na Pali Coast. The final option for those with less physical beastliness is to take a catamaran or sailboat around the coast for the day. Trips go from the South and the North, although the Northern Route will allow you to see more.

But I digress, I fear I’ve gone horribly off-post with that chat about Na Pali, but it really is awesome. Anyway, the picture above of Na Pali from Kalalau Look Out looks generally towards the Kalalau Beach. Many of the ridges of Koke’e State Park have hunting roads (unpaved) that are used by hunters on the weekends. There are some sources that say visitors can obtain permits to drive out on these routes (on weekends and holidays only) but we didn’t dig into that too much… I would contact Koke’e State Park directly. If you continue on up the road, you’ll eventually run into Pu’u O Kila Look Out which is the end of the line for the road. The overlook again gives you an idea of the beauty of Na Pali and from here a few great hikes jump off, including a “short” ~2-2.5 mile roundtrip to Pihea Overlook and the turn to Alakai Swamp. More on that later since we did that the following morning. For dinner, we dined on guava rolls, pineapple, and hummus and snap peas… and then we promptly fell asleep at 7:30PM (to be fair, 10:30PM body time). A long (this was our travel day) and wonderous first partial day on Kauai.

See you next time!

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Categories: Camping, Hawaii | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sacramento, CA –> Lihue, Kauai

Finally, sweet, sweet vacation! It’s been a long year and summer of school and work… getting back on the “school horse” has been a tough uphill climb but worth it. So, now, we vacation… although it’s funny that I say that since I’m writing this post from an awesome coffee shop called, Aloha N Paradise in Waimea on the island of Kauai while Andrew sits next to me finishing up some work. But alas, he’ll be done soon and pure 100% vacation shall begin. More on Aloha N Paradise later in another post… but it’s awesome and that’s the main take-away.

Anyway, the start of the trip. We had originally planned on coming to Kauai for Spring Break this year, but then the pups got in a little tiff and had some cuts and we had to watch them so we postponed. It ended up working out well because I got really sick and Andrew had work to finish up. So, we rescheduled for now… and as an added bonus, my parents, who live in Pennsylvania, decided to come along for a second week on the Big Island. A long story short, my dad unfortunately was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism, had major surgery, and is thankfully doing well. Unfortunately, however, they had to cancel their plans to travel with us… in the end we still get a two week vacation, but the second half is a little bittersweet. The important thing is that he’s doing well :0).

IMG_6417Our flight was at 7:00AM from Sacramento, CA on a Saturday. We left our house around 4:30AM and after searching for a few minutes, found a parking spot in the economy lot (apparently a lot of people are traveling right now because we’ve never seen the parking lot that full)! We took our bags on the shuttle and got them checked (more on that later- we packed too much) and went through security to our gate. We were flying on Hawaiian Airlines. We hung around the gate, holding off on eating since we knew we were getting breakfast on the plane. Hawaiian Airlines is one of the only airlines that still includes a meal in the coach ticket price (sweet!).

Around the time to board, the blue Hawaiian shirt-clad attendant came over the IMG_6419loudspeaker and let us know that while the crew was working on breakfast, they had a short-circuit so they had to call in an engineer to check everything out. Long story short, we were delayed about 2 hours, during which time, the attendant kept us updated and apologized for the delays. Some folks were disgruntled… but we figure, hey, we’re on vacation, who cares!? About an hour in, they brought around cold water and Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion chips which was pretty nice as well- I’m not sure any other airline would have/has done that for us because of a delay before (airlines at Chicago O’Hare TAKE NOTE!).

We boarded and got settled into our seats. There were rows of two seats on either side of the plane and rows of 4 seats in the middle. The flight was really uncrowded and many people had a four-seater to themselves. The two seats in front of us (we were on a side) were open the whole time. Not bad. Once we took off, they asked us to lower the shades so folks could rest if they wanted to and then they brought around breakfast and drinks. The drink options for coach were plentiful- the usual soft drinks and coffee/tea, water, as well as the tropical juices, which is what we were interested in-> namely, pineapple juice and passion-orange-guava juice. The breakfast included a little container of water, a breakfast sandwich with scrambled egg, American cheese, and a red pepper/small diced potato mix, a small cup of fruit (cantaloupe, honeydew, and grape), and a little Hawaiian cookie shaped like a pineapple (I got chocolate chip, Andrew got pineapple). Although the breakfast sandwich (pictured below) doesn’t look that appetizing– it was actually really really good. Two thumbs up to the gratis and bountiful breakfast, Hawaiian Airlines!

We were told to come up and ask if we wanted additional beverages during the flight and they came around with water at least two times… and they offered us more Maui Sweet Onion chips. They did have in-seat radios with a few Hawaiian music channels and you could rent media players for $17. There were three TVs in view (see above picture) that showed Hawaiian musicians and information about Kauai. There were no outlets for plugging in computers and what not, but my battery lasted through a 2.5 hour movie and about an hour of transcribing for work. When we were within 45 minutes of landing, the crew brought around the drink cart once more and included, was a gratis (free) cocktail made with Koloa Rum (Kauai Rum). Not a bad way to say Aloha.

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Free Koloa Rum cocktail before landing… Aloha indeed!

When we landed in Honolulu (no direct flights from Sacramento to Kauai), we were a bit worried about what to do next- we had definitely missed our connecting flight… but they had assured us in Sacramento that Hawaiian Airlines would have it figured out by the time we landed. Umm is this airline for real? Since when do airlines make things easier?! Anyway, as we were standing up to disembark, the crew came on and said that if we were flying to Kauai, we should head to Gate 53. So, we headed there and awkwardly walked up to the desk and said, “umm, we missed our flight”. The response? “Aloha, did you come from Sacramento? What are your names?” We told them and they immediately handed us two new tickets ready to go for the flight about to board. Well that was the easiest and most efficient process ever! We smiled and went to wait when we heard an attendant come on the loud speaker and say that there was a maintenance issue on the plane- what are the odds? About 20mins later, the same attendant came on and told us that our plane was out of commission and we were to go to gate 50… where there was no plane. About 10mins later, another plane did arrive, and about 30mins after that we were airborne.

Because we had to move our flights from Spring Break, we actually found cheaper flights this time around (our money was kept as credit by Hawaiian Airlines linked to our account). Since it was going to expire within a year of our initial trip, we decided to use it all up on this trip since we weren’t sure we’d be back again within a year. As a result, we got to fly from Honolulu to Kauai in first class. Our flight home in two weeks from Honolulu to Sacramento will also be first class (sweet!). Anyway, first class was nice as you might imagine; good leg room, although I’m not sure it was too different from coach otherwise (except free beer and wine). We had pineapple-orange-guava juice and a bag of rice crackers (see above). Side n0te- maybe we were just on “island mind”, but the POG juice tasted fresher and as if it was made with real fruit on the inner-island flight (it did not taste as fresh/real on the flight to Honolulu). After what felt like 10 minutes (45mins really), we landed safely in Lihue. We waited for our luggage (Hawaiian Airlines seems to always be in baggage claim B in Lihue) and then we went outside to look for our rental car shuttle.

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Flying away from Oahu towards Kauai

There were rental car windows onsite but they were all locked- not sure if they moved or because it’s getting to low season they don’t work onsite. Either way, we found the National Rental Car shuttle waiting and we were the only people taking that one (there were a lot of people trying to fit on budget and other shuttles). We hopped on the shuttle and chatted with our driver about how he moved to the island to help his sister with her horse farm a few years ago. He walkie-talkied ahead to National and let them know that we were coming and an Emerald Club member (free to join and I highly suggest it- it’s so easy and fast). We arrived about a 7min drive later and the manager pulled our Jeep Wrangler up. We loaded our stuff, drove to the check-out window, handed her our IDs, we were both signed on as drivers (no additional cost) and we were on our way. More on that later. Aloha!

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Jeep Wrangler Rental: National Car 

***We got the Jeep specifically because we knew we were headed out to the end of the road in the West where there is a dirty, rutty, pothole stricken path to Polihale State Park. Many rental companies won’t let you take their cars out there, so if you get stuck, you are screwed and two trucks may not help you out. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like a jeep is necessary on Kauai (although many people rent them and there were other cars, including mustangs driving on the road to Polihale).

Categories: Hawaii | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unique Overnights: Airbnb in Los Angeles, California

This summer I’ve been traveling a lot to Southern California for my job. I’m working at UC Davis through the Climate Adaptation Program at the Policy Institute of Energy, Economy, and Environment. Anyway, my job has involved speaking with drinking water systems of different sizes and types (wholesale and retailer). More on that in another post– amazing experience and fantastic conversations!

For now though, I’ll focus on the travel side of it all! Recently, I drove down to Los Angeles (about 7 hours from Davis) for an interview. Just one night. I’ve stayed in hotels, campgrounds, VRBOs, and Airbnbs this summer– so I usually do some searching for a place that is decently priced (I’m working within the constraints of a University research grant budget after all) and funky and different if possible. Anyway, as I was scouring the Airbnb website, I stumbled upon a unique gem that I just have to mention: Rare! Guest Quarters near Hollywood.

This place can best be described as an exotic basement bungalow, although not in the strict definition of the word. It is located in the basement portion of a house in a residential area and is accessed down the driveway through a basement porch glass sliding door. The space is full of charm and a unique feeling of being transported into a whole other world. There are two bedrooms, a small kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, stove, and sink, a bathroom with a shower and full set of closets. There are 2-3 living room type areas- one close to one of the bedrooms which has a “night clubish” feeling to it, one with a fireplace and l-shaped couch, and one that is more of glassed-in porch. Coincidentally, this last room is the only room in the place with windows (and therefore, home to the majority of the light/only natural light in the place). There are two air conditioning units in the apartment (one in each bedroom). Perhaps the only thing this little gem of a place could have been improved in is the temperature. We stayed when it was pretty warm out and found the air conditioners to take a while to kick-in, but once they did, everything was pleasant! Another note on the uniqueness of the spot- there’s a sliding wall in one room that cuts off a living room from a bedroom and there’s another sliding bookcase in the first bedroom that will lead you to the kitchen.

As far as the hosts, we had a great experience. We were only there for one night and it was for business, so we didn’t have any specific needs- just wanted a cool place to stay. We received explicit directions from the hosts on contacting them once we parked on the street and they talked us through getting down to the “bungalow” and explained how the air conditioning units worked– one of which needed to be emptied when it turned itself off. Wifi is included and the host texted us the code as soon as we were settled. The area where the house is located is very close to the main area of the Atwater Village commercial district which has some great coffee shops and restaurants.

The last thing I’ll mention here (and reiterate) is that if you are someone who relies on a great deal of light, this is probably not the place for you. But, if you’re looking for a cool and unique spot to relax that really is unlike the majority of other places you’ve stayed- this makes the list! It’s a really funky spot and if you are flexible and not extremely high maintenance, this is a great spot. I tried to take some quick tour video while we were there with my iphone so you could see what it’s like– it’s not fantastic quality, so bear with it. There are also some photos. The better pictures are indeed included on the airbnb site.

 

Categories: Unique Places to Stay, United States | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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