Hawaii

Camping in Polihale State Park (South-West Kauai)

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Sunset pineapples are the best type of pineapple.

We live for the untouched, hidden, secluded, end of the road type of places. Sometimes it’s not possible to find those places. Sometimes it’s too hard to get to them. Sometimes it’s just hard enough that it keeps people away and that’s the sweet spot. Polihale is one of those sweet spots. Located at the end of the road on the South coast, next to Na Pali coast, down a beat up road, Polihale State Park has 17 miles of beach, day use facilities, and camping. The water is typically a bit rougher here, although Queen’s Pond is a protected area that is more “docile” and many people swim there.  Most people visiting Kauai want to be pampered and not deal with camping equipment (rental or other) so Polihale makes a great getaway spot for seclusion and reflection.

We had read and heard a lot of different things about Polihale State Park. For example, we read that it’s accessed down a dirt road that is sometimes maintained by the park service and sometimes left alone and unkempt. We read in some books that 4WD vehicles are a must, while others claim that any car can go. Through these varying recounts of Polihale, the one piece of information that did seem to be consistent was that many car rental companies will basically void insurance if you go out to Polihale and get stuck or need a tow. For this reason, we’re going to say check your rental agreements and if you really want to go out here, rent a 4WD vehicle.

To get there is fairly straightforward (that’s what you get on a small island with one main road)! To get there from Lihue Airport for example, you get onto Highway 50 and drive west. In about 34.5 miles (after you’ve passed Waimea Canyon turn-outs and signs for the Pacific Missile Range Facility) you curve right onto Kao Road which quickly turns into Kiko Road. After 0.2 miles, you’ll see Lower Saki Mana Road on your left (across from a gate with a graffiti sign and a Private Property sign). There’s also a sign a few feet before the road (on the right side) with an arrow just in case you can’t find it.

It’s at this point that the dirt road adventure begins. We drove out in the end of August and it was very dry, but I suspect that’s not always the case, so check your weather forecasts before you go. I’ve heard at times, it can flood over and make it a mucky, muddy, mess. The drive is about 4 miles out to the end of the dirt road… you basically end up on the beach. As an aside, while above we noted that 4WD is helpful, we will also backtrack here and say that there were all sorts of cars out there- jeeps, vans, trucks, mustangs even! Just be careful. After a couple miles of bouncing and trouncing you arrive at a giant Monkey Pod Tree in the middle of the road (picture below). The left “Y” will take you to Queen’s Pond, a supposedly docile and protected area for swimming in the Polihale State Park area. I say ‘supposedly’ because we didn’t really find a “docile” area… more of choppy, but not too choppy, all along the Polihale Coast. That didn’t stop us from swimming at Queen’s Pond, nor at Polihale proper. If you do decide to swim, be very careful, don’t go out too far, and assess before you go in. We went in because it didn’t look too bad. However, if the waves are big don’t risk it. This is a very unpopulated area so you’re on your own.

If you continue to the right of the Monkey Pod Tree, you enter the camping and day use area. Camping permits can be purchased online through the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Permits cost $18 per tent (non-resident) and you may camp for up to 5 nights (nightly capacity is 60). Note that the link to the camping page (hyperlinked above) states $12/person. When you click on the box to be taken to the permit purchashing site, you will note that the actual cost is $18/non-resident tent. Anyway, after the Monkey Pod Tree, you will pass some picnic tables and then as you continue down the sand road, you will notice four “sand driveways” is what I’ll call them. Each one is a “camping area”. They each have a small sign that says “Camping Area XX” (1-4). There also some pull outs that don’t have camping signs. If you continue on to the end of the road, you’ll see a few pavilions and the beach. While we saw one truck drive onto the beach, no one else did. To make life easier, don’t drive on the beach. You’ll need an air pump and a pressure gauge at a minimum and don’t forget that if you get stuck you’re basically screwed.

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Sometimes even small cars can make it out here!

Anyway, if you are camping, you can pull into any of the camping areas. You may be discouraged if you see a car parked and a tent out in front, but don’t be. The camping area is not just the area directly in front of the car parking. It is much larger. We stayed at camping area #3 (picture of parking above) and couldn’t be happier. We parked in the designated area (where there was a tent set up about 10 feet ahead of us). We saw a sort of opening to the left in the trees and walked that way only to wind around and find (in our opinion) the perfect camping spot. We were tucked away from the cars and other campers with our own beach entry point. We could literally see the ocean from our tent and yet we were protected within the trees. Awesome.

We ended up spending two nights in Polihale and in the end, I think we both would have spent 20 more there if we didn’t want to see the rest of the island! It was so relaxing. There was some cell service (in and out), no hustle and bustle… just mandatory relaxation. After the first night we picked up beach chairs so we could spend a few hours out on the beach the next afternoon. When we did, we saw two young friends (the ones with the truck) and some fishing poles… and maybe one other couple. As an aside, it’s important to note the size of the dunes here… easily 100 feet. There’s no easy way down or up– just you and your feet. Going down the dunes is fine, but back up is tiring- just be aware before you embark. Another note is that the sand gets really really hot (especially at mid-day). A few sites and guidebooks we read said that your best bet is to wear hiking sucks (no shoes) to walk on the beach… in fact some people even reported getting blisters from barefooting it. We went later in the day and without shoes and it was hot but manageable… but I’d heed the warnings- always better not to deal with foot blisters and put on some socks! The reason you don’t wear shoes is because you are likely to get sand stuck in your shoes which will be uncomfortable and hot.

We swam for a while in the water, just bobbing along and then eventually sat and dried out… at one point we heard a helicopter and figured it was a tour… Polihale is located at the start of the Na Pali coast, so many tours- boating, kayaking, helicopter, etc. go down this way. However, we noticed the bright red helicopter circling in and out of the same mountain– then it landed somewhere behind Polihale before taking off again, this time with a really long cord with some sort of windsock looking thing tied to the end. After disappearing into a canyon/mountain fold, the helicopter reappeared with a person(!) attached to the end of the long cord! They eventually landed again somewhere behind Polihale before taking off back down the coast the way the helicopter originally came. The verdict- must have been a practice rescue exercise. Still cool and interesting to watch!

Other things to note about Polihale: each camping area is a few feet to restrooms and an outdoor shower. The bathrooms are simple, but they’re bathrooms! Each has two stalls and toilet paper as well as a sink (but no soap). There is also a freshwater faucet by the restrooms to fill up on water. In addition, there is a trash can and recycling bin (the word “recycle” is painted on one of the two cans) by each camping area. Open fires are not allowed, but you can have a grill. We opted to lay out our tent rainfly on the beach and eat pineapple and guava rolls while watching the sunset. Now that’s living!

As another aside for this area, if you take the dirt road back out to the main paved road and turn left (not towards Lihue), you will eventually dead-end (whether you end up weaving left or right) at some giant security gates. What are they?! Oh they’re just gates blocking off mountains that have caves with ammunition and other military weapons hidden and guarded in them. Crazy, right? Seriously though, there are tons of signs and cameras and what not– so don’t go snooping, but you can drive up and turn around if you’re so inclined. You can’t see anything except the signs and gates by the way… unless you run into a raucous herd of goats running all of the place (as we did!).

Two thumbs up and 5-stars to Polihale State Park! If you get a chance to go camping out here, do it! If you don’t want to lug your camping stuff with you on the plane, there are a few rental places around the island such as Kayak Kauai or Kauai Camper Rental or really a whole slew of them… these two I have heard mention in books before for what it’s worth. That’s all for now- we’ll see you next time!

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Short Hike in Koke’e: Pihea Trail

After an evening of camping in Koke’e State Park, we woke up early, along with the roosters crowing around 5:45AM or so. This was partly due to jet-lag, partly due to excitement of vacation, and partly due to wild crowing roosters! Just so you’re aware, there are wild roosters and chickens all over the island, so if you do happen to have a weird fear of them (Alektorophobia… apparently it’s pretty common), then don’t come to Kauai. Or stay on the manicured resort properties… and even then, you still may see them. Apparently, Hurricane Iniki tore through in 1992, destroying (among many other things) chicken coops. The result was a prolific number of wild roosters and chickens which can be found on all parts of the island. Regardless of our early up and at ’em causation, we packed up our tent and dined on guava rolls, peanut butter, and fruit, before heading up the rode from camp towards the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. As mentioned in a previous post, Pu’u O Kila Lookout is the end of the line on this rode.

There were originally plans to connect the highway here so that a road would circle the entirety of Kauai, but those plans fell through for various reasons and as rumors have it, the locals are happy with that failure. While a road connecting the entire island would be easier for tourists to get around, it would also take away some of the beauty of the Na Pali and Koke’e areas that are more wild, scenic, and less accessible areas of the island.

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The Pihea Overlook trail starts at the Pu’u O Kila Lookout, where a sign reads, “One of the wettest spots on earth”. The picture above (and throughout this post) are a testament to that sign- we had overcast and drizzly weather the whole time we hiked (although there did seem to be some efforts by the sun to try and pierce those clouds, albeit, unsuccessfully). To access the trail, park in the lot by the Pu’u O Kila Lookout. It’s hard to miss, as it’s the very end of the road. As everywhere, use common sense, and don’t leave valuables out in the open in your car while you’re hiking. There is a bathroom there, but you’d be wise to fill up on water before you get here. At the end of the lot there is a ramp leading up to the overlook as well as a sign for Pihea Trail. Walk up the ramp and check out the view (if there is one) and that’s where you will see the sign proclaiming how wet it is here. The elevation is around 4000 feet or so. Before you get up to this “vista” (which is gorgeous when there are clear skies– see below as a reminder of what we saw the day before)…

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View from the previous day.

you will see a sign with the distances to Pihea Overlook (about a mile, but we clocked it closer to 1.5, since we ended up turning around a mile in due to trail condition), Alakai Crossing, and Awaikoi Camp. Alakai Swamp Trail is another great trail that is supposed to be fantastic for birding. Anyway, you will see the sign and directly to the left of it is what appears to be a little trail leading off into the ferns. This is a false trail. You will noticed a little arrow has been etched into the sign (circled in our picture) which points left. Skip this “faux” trail and keep going as the arrow indicates to get to the Pihea Trail.

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Take note of the etched in arrow pointing you the right direction.

The trail runs you across the ridge, up and down, through Ohi’a trees, ferns, Koas, and other native plants. There are also a few boardwalk areas. Generally though, the trail, especially after rain, is super muddy and slippery. Make sure you take your time and even if it’s overcast, enjoy the serenity. When we went, there had been some rain the previous night, which I think exacerbated the slippery and hazardous nature of the trail. I have seen plenty of other pictures showing the trail much drier… so just make sure you are aware of your surroundings. If you do happen to have clear skies for this hike, you will be greeted with a huge number of panoramic views of the valley and not so far off Na Pali coast. There are plenty of boulders to climb up on the sides of the trail in different areas to get a better look, but be aware of your feet- you could easily fall to your demise.

Also be aware of spiders as you hike, especially if you’re hiking early in the morning. I read a few articles about crab spiders which were introduced to the island to try and control a bug problem on crops (it failed) and the result is a large number of small and annoying spiders that will apparently bite you and irritate your skin (no lasting harm). We talked to one local who said the best way to avoid them is to hike with a stick that you can just wave in front of you as you hike. While we were fortunate not to have any run-ins with crab spiders, we did find a gorgeous web that was outlined with water droplets… which we wouldn’t have been able to find if we hadn’t taken our time. About a mile on down the trail (there are small metal mile markers on the right-hand side of the trail as you hike towards the overlook), we realized that conditions were just getting worse and worse. On top of that, we ran into a couple that told us they had fallen three times and getting to the overlook was pretty impossible. So, after hiking a few more minutes, we tucked our tails, called it a win, and turned around.

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Water droplet spider web

On the way back to the trailhead, we ran into maybe 2 other people- one hoping to make it to Alakai Swamp (endemic bird species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world) and another who’s husband had ditched her already because of the deteriorating path. She hiked a few minutes more and then we saw her again as she zipped back up the trail. The hike back to the trailhead may have been a bit slower than the way out because it was mostly uphill and there were several ways to ascend the different rocky areas, but it was great to be outside, the temperature was mild, and the feeling was serene after being cooped up on a plane for the day prior and coming from a summer of work! All in all, we had a very enjoyable hike and would definitely do it again. While it would have been perhaps more rewarding if the weather were calmer and clearer, it was still a nice morning exercise bout.

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The overcast weather gave the trail an eery feel 🙂

Insider Tips: Bring water with you; wear hiking boots (sneakers won’t cut it if there’s any mud or it rained recently); you gain about 250 feet on Pihea Trail (about 100 or so going to the Pihea overlook). It might be helpful to bring a long-sleeved shirt with you if you go early because it was chilly. In addition, to avoid the crowds, go early. We starting hiking around 8AM and stopped to meditate in a big clearing on top of the ridge a little ways down the trail. When we returned to the trailhead, maybe 1.5 hours later, the parking lot (which had one other car in it when we arrived) was full of cars, with people getting ready to hike or check out the overlook. Also, don’t forget to look for wildlife in the parking lot. You might see this little guy:

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Red-crested cardinals have bright red heads and crests. They were introduced to Kauai.

That’s all for now. See you next time for a post on camping in Polihale.

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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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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).

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