Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kauai Adventures

Before I share our adventures on this beautiful island of Kauai, I want to say that our goal for this vacation was relaxation. Unlike our typical vacations, after which we need a vacation from our vacation, this one was meant to rejuvenate us. However, we still managed to go on a couple of hikes, do lots of snorkeling and body surfing, explore a beautiful botanical garden (which was basically another hike), get a Lomi Lomi massage in a cabana, and eat a lot of tasty food. Oh yeah, and take tons of pictures!

This was my first time to Kauai and, of course, I fell in love with it. We could have definitely spent more time on Kauai and there are a ton of places to see and activities to do that we didn't get to on this trip. Thankfully, it's such an easy place to get to from the Bay Area, so I know we will be back soon!

We got to the island mid-day on a Saturday and drove to Princeville. After we checked into our place and unpacked our things, we got back in our red Jeep (!) to check out the beach at Hanalei Bay. I think my favorite part about this place, besides the incredible beauty surrounding us, was that most of the people there were locals. This is what they do every Saturday afternoon. Sigh.

My future child. 

Another one. They are already so much cooler than me. 

Paddle Out - Family Time

We had dinner that night at Tahiti Nui. This place just oozed North Shore Kauai. Super relaxed vibe with good food and local music. This definitely wasn't the only night we spent at Tahiti Nui.

Another favorite for dining out in Hanalei was Bar Acuda. This is fancier than Tahiti Nui but definitely still had a casual vibe. But the food! Their menu features tapas and you will seriously want to get everything on it. We didn't have a chance to go here twice, but we should have. We need to go back to Kauai just to try the rest of their menu. Favorites were: Risotto Fritters and Banderillas.

We rented snorkeling gear for the week in Hanalei at Pedal & Paddle. We brought it with us everywhere and snorkeled at as many beaches as we could. I would say Tunnels Beach was my favorite for snorkeling but you have to walk quite a way down the beach from the parking to get to the good snorkeling. We definitely saw a sea turtle there and probably 40 different types of fish.

Tunnels Beach

One morning that was kind of rainy, we decided to check out Limahuli Gardens. This place was magical! Definitely worth a visit. And I think because it was on and off raining, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. 

This little guy blending right in. 

One day that was forecast to be a little clearer (it rains a lot on the North Shore but usually not all day!), we drove around the island to Waimea Canyon. First, we went almost to the end of the road to Kalalau Lookout (Mile Marker 18). This spot is the highest elevation that most people can reach by road on the island (4,000 ft) and also has been in scenes from many movies, so may look familiar. 

Continuing just a bit farther up the road is Wai'Ale'Ale which is one of the wettest spots on earth. It gets somewhere around 460 inches of rain a year! We walked along the trail here for a bit, waiting for the fog to clear out of the valley. The weather changes here really quickly, so if you pull up and don't see any of the view, WAIT! More than likely, within a few minutes, it will clear out!

In the meantime, I got some awesome pictures of the lush ferns along the trail.

Now you see it...

Now you don't...

Now you see it again!

By the time we headed back down the road, the canyon had gotten pretty hazy so it wasn't ideal for pictures. This is the best I could get of Waimea Canyon.

Waipo'o Falls in the distance.

We went for a moderate hike (about 4 miles) to the top of Waipo'o Falls. The coolest part of this hike for me was walking right along the cliff in the middle of the canyons. The views were surrounding us and incredible. I'm not sure I would've taken small children on this hike, because it was definitely a little sketchy. 

We started the hike at the parking lot at Pu'u Hinahina Lookout around Mile Marker 13.5. There is a spur trail that connects to Cliff Trail and then Canyon Trail. If it's been raining, expect to slip and slide down the hills. The red clay gets very slippery. 

The red cliff to the left of the falls is where we were hiking! 

Of course, we couldn't be on Kauai and skip the Na Pali Coast trail. We didn't bring our backpacking gear (remember...this was a relaxing vacation!) and I was a little worried about how treacherous the trail would be after all the rain we had been getting that week, but it was mostly fine! We only hiked along the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi'ai Beach and back, but it was definitely full of breathtaking views and plenty of work. I highly recommend getting started early because man, there were a lot of people on that trail!

Casual girl doing yoga in a cave.

Our hike along the Na Pali Coast definitely lived up to my expectations! I can't wait to go back and do the whole thing one of these days. 

We explored many beaches during our time on the island, including Salt Pond (south shore), Anini, Hanalei Bay, Lumaha'i (see surfer below), Tunnels, and Ke'e. We enjoyed snorkeling most at Tunnels, walking along Anini (from our resort), and body surfing in Hanalei Bay. But there are so many other beaches we left to explore next time! 


 I'll leave you with the sunset at the Hanalei Bay Pier

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cycling on Lopez Island

Bike Ride: Lopez Island Loop
Ride Difficulty: Moderate 
Ride Distance (Round Trip): 22.5 miles biking, plus whatever hiking at each park
Time: We took about 6 hours with lots of time for lunching and swimming and exploring
Elevation Change: 820 feet total gain; same total loss

Every day of the year, I wish I was in the San Juan Islands. Although I don't count down to the next visit, I might as well. It was so great to be back in the islands this summer for a short family reunion and then some solo adventure time on Lopez Island. Lopez Island has a reputation for a) being super bike-friendly and b) just being friendly in general (it's known as "the friendly isle" and you may notice that almost everyone waves at you from their car when driving on the roads). Unlike some of the other islands, Lopez is relatively flat and doesn't have a lot of traffic (at least it didn't on the Monday that we were cycling), making it ideal for cycling.  

We rented bikes from Village Cycles in Lopez Village. We wanted to do a loop that was somewhere between 15-25 miles. The bike shop recommended heading down to Shark Reef Sanctuary and then on to Agate Beach and Iceberg Point, but we were staying down on the south part of the island and had been here already. We decided to first ride out to Fisherman Bay Spit Preserve, then down to Shark Reef Sanctuary, and then over along the east side of the island and up to Spencer Spit State Park. From there, we headed back to the Village via Hummel Lake Road. I will provide road by road directions of our route at the end of this post. 

We really got the most incredible weather for our cycling adventure. I loved the big puffy clouds that made incredible reflections on the water throughout the day. 

We started south on Fisherman Bay Road and then turned right on Bayshore Road towards Fisherman Bay Spit Preserve. We turned left on Peninsula Road to continue out to the Spit. This road turns to gravel towards the end, but was completely reasonable for a hybrid bicycle. 

 Fisherman Bay from Fisherman Bay Road

 Fisherman Bay to our right and the channel between Lopez and San Juan Islands to our left

One of the cool things about Lopez Island is all of the parks have great bike racks at the trail heads. We parked our bikes at the Spit and walked out to the water before continuing on our way. 

We took Bayshore back to Fisherman Bay Road and continued up the hill and south. We missed Airport Road because it isn't marked, so continued to Davis Bay Road and turned right. 

I absolutely loved this little church with a beautiful view and cemetery. They hold both Lutheran and Catholic services at Center Church. 

We continued along Davis Bay Road, turned right on Burt Road and then left on Shark Reef Road. We reached the Shark Reef Sanctuary parking lot (with restrooms) and trailhead shortly after turning left. 

From the parking lot, it is a 10 minute walk to the coast. Once at the coast, there is a lot of coast line to explore and it is easy to find a place for some solitude. We ate an early lunch here and enjoyed watching the kelp dance and listening to the seals on some of the small islands right off the coast. 

 Shark Reef Sanctuary

We probably spent an hour or so at Shark Reef before continuing our ride. We rode back up Burt Road, right on Davis Bay Road, and then up Fisherman Bay to take a left on Center Road. This next part of the ride was challenging for us. I don't cycle regularly, and while I never thought I couldn't make it, I was definitely working hard. 

We turned right on School Road, then continued on Lopez Sound, right on Port Stanley Road, and then right on Bakerview Road all the way to Spencer Spit State Park. We may have seen one car on this entire stretch. It was quiet with stretches of farmland and stretches of woods. It really was delightful.

At Spencer Spit there are bike racks and restrooms and then a short trail down to the spit. I really loved it here. It took me awhile to realize that to the north I was looking out on roughly the same view that I see from the other side when we stay in Olga on Orcas Island. Allyson's great-aunt has painted this view numerous times, so it felt pretty special to see it from the other side.

This was also where I finally got to take a (brief) swim. Supposedly, the water was about 47 degrees, according to our whale watching captain. It was pretty cold but very refreshing! 

Spencer Spit State Park

Frost Island

Looking out towards Orcas Island

Getting back on the bikes was tough, considering how much pain our booties were feeling at this point. Thankfully, we didn't have too much farther to go. We took Bakerview Rd back out of the park, turned left on Port Stanley Rd and right on Hummel Lake Rd. Hummel Lake is a quaint little lake and this road was generally very pleasant to ride on. It was a nice way to finish up our ride. Well, actually, we finished up with ice cream in Lopez Village at Just Heavenly Fudge Shop and THAT was the best way to end our bike ride! 

If you wanted to make this ride longer, I definitely recommend checking out Agate Beach and Iceberg Point; however, I highly recommend checking those spots out around sunset. 

 Barlow Bay

 Barlow Bay

 Agate Beach

 Iceberg Point

Turn by Turn Directions for Bike Ride:
1. Lopez Road and right on Fisherman Bay Road. 
2. Right on Bayshore Road.
3. Left on Peninsula Road. 
4. Continue onto Chestnut Lane. Arrive at Fisherman Bay Spit Preserve.
5. Back on Chestnut and continue on Peninsula. 
6. Right on Bayshore Road. 
7. Right on Fisherman Bay Road. 
8. Right on Davis Bay Road.
9. Right on Burt Road. 
10. Left on Shark Reef Road. Arrive at Shark Reef Sanctuary.
11. Shark Reef Road and right on Burt Road. 
12. Left on Davis Bay Road. 
13. Straight onto Fisherman Bay Road (don't turn left). 
14. Left on Center Road. 
15. Right on School Road. 
16. Continue on Lopez Sound Road. 
17. Right on Port Stanley Road.
18. Right on Bakerview Road. Continue into Spencer Spit State Park. 
19. Bakerview Road and left on Port Stanley Road. 
20. Right on Hummel Lake Road. 
21. Right on Fisherman Bay Road. 
22. Left on Lopez Road. Arrive back at Village Cycles.