Hear about travel to the island of Kauai as the Amateur Traveler talks to Betsy and Pete Wuebker from PassingThru.com about the Garden Island.
Betsy and Pete came as visitors and fell in love with the island. They went back to Minnesota, sold everything they had, and moved to Kauai for about 2 years.
Betsy says, “Kauai is unique. We think, among the main Hawaiian Islands, each island will have its own personality, and Kauai’s really resonated with us for a number of reasons. The first of which is it’s rural. It’s Garden Island green, an intense vivid green. There are not too many people who live here by comparison with the other islands, and there are fewer visitors that come to Kauai. That sort of atmosphere, a little more relaxed, a bit less frantic, less touristy, appealed to us.”
We talk about some of the big sites of the island, like the spectacular Waimea Canyon State Park and the Napali Coast. You can hike the rugged trail of the Napali coast or get a view from the Kalalau Overlook or one of the many boat expeditions. If you think it looks like Jurassic Park or that Kauai looks like Bali Hai from South Pacific, you would not be wrong, as the island has been the backdrop for a number of movies.
Betsy and Pete (and Chris) highly recommend a helicopter ride to see Waipoo falls, the Napoli Coast, and the ancient volcano of Mount Waialeale. You can save some money by taking the helicopter from the north coast. The north coast of the island is the wetter / greener side of the island. Many tourists just hit Poipu Beach in the southern / sunnier part of the island and are missing much.
Recently the Wuebkers went tubing through the irrigation canals from the old sugar cane plantations and wondered why they had not done that sooner.
We talk about our favorite beaches for snorkeling, including Tunnels, Anini, and Ke’e Beach, as well as my favorite for bodysurfing, which is Anahola.
They guide us to some smaller and less touristy luaus and unlikely places: Mediterranean Gourmet and Mario Courtyard in Kapaa.
If you have not seen Kauai, then you may not really understand relaxation, beauty, and the color green.
Kauai Official Site
Waimea Canyon State Park
Tours of Kauai
Kalalau Trail (along the Napali Coast)
Captain James Cook
Russian Fort Elizabeth
Whalers General Store Anahola
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
Kauai, Hawaii – Episode 57
I am a truck driver, so my desire to travel may be diminished a bit. I used to be an accountant, got burnt out, and now drive and listen to podcasts. I live near Orlando, so there is a bit to do here. But, my bucket list would include Disneyland and Italy, which your show has done an excellent job of covering. I used to listen to Rudy Maxa, before his show left Itunes. He used to say his show was for those who traveled and for those who traveled in their minds. I enjoy learning about many things including travel. Your show exposes many parts of the world. Few have gotten rich off of their podcast, but I know many do it just for their passion. Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are excellent at tv travel. Chris Christensen is one of the best at audio. Kudos to you.
Chris: Amateur Traveler, Episode 518. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about beaches and waterfalls, turtles and luaus, as we go to the garden island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.
Welcome to the Amateur Traveler, I’m your host Chris Christensen. Without further ado, let’s talk about Kauai. I’d like to welcome to the show Peter and Betsy Wuebker from passingthru.com who are coming to us from the beautiful island of Kauai and come to talk to us about the garden island. Peter and Betsy, welcome to the show.
Peter and Betsy: Aloha.
Chris: Well, what else would you say? So I say you’re passing through Kauai right now, oddly enough, but you lived there for a while.
Betsy: That’s right.
Peter: We were here for about two years. We started as a visitor, and once we got to Kauai, we just fell in love and went home to Minnesota, and sold everything we had, and a year later, we’re residents of the garden isle.
Chris: Excellent. We don’t necessarily want to encourage people to leave Minnesota, but why should they come and visit Kauai?
Betsy: Kauai is unique, we think, among the main Hawaiian Islands. Each island will have its own personality and Kauai’s really resonated with us for a number of reasons, the first of which is that it’s rural. It’s a garden island, green, just an intense, vivid green. There are not too many people that live here by comparison with the other islands, and there are fewer visitors who come to Kauai every year. So that sort of atmosphere — a little more relaxed, a bit less frantic, less touristy — really appealed to us.
Chris: And you talk about a few less people who live there. Ninety percent of the population of the Hawaiian Islands lives on the island of Oahu. So once you live there, really, you’re going to something less populous, for sure.
Betsy: That’s true, yes. Definitely.
Peter: The little town where we lived in, Hanalei, had 600 people between town and the end of the roads. So it’s a very small town.
Chris: And it’s always amazed me that more people don’t go to Kauai, because I was going to say it’s my favorite island, it’s one of my favorite islands. I really have a fondness for a number of a different islands, but it really doesn’t get, necessarily, that many, especially where up where you were in the north, the rainier part of the island.
Betsy: True, yeah.
Chris: What would you recommend for an itinerary for somebody coming to Kauai for the first time, with maybe a week or less to spend?
Betsy: Well, a week or less to spend isn’t really enough to start with, but we do what we can, right, with the amount of time that we have. So the first thing that came our minds when we thought about this is to remind people that Kauai is about being as much as it is about doing. So you really want to incorporate some unscripted time into your itinerary, so that you can just relax, soak up the atmosphere, commune with the island. Part of the reason that you left the main land U.S. or other places to visit Hawaii is because you want to leave all of that back in the distance and come and rejuvenate, refresh, that type of thing. So with that in mind, then the opportunity during a week to do becomes even less, and so then it’s a matter of prioritization.
Peter: There’s something for everybody on Kauai, if you want to… We’re overlook a golf course here, that’s a beautiful golf course that’s right on the ocean.
Chris: And I certainly try and overlook golf courses whenever possible.
Peter: In thinking about the answer to this question, we kind of went back to where did we take our guests when they came to visit us every time we were living here? And there were several places that we always took them to and one of them is the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it’s Waimea Canyon. It’s along the southern part of Kauai and it is a huge canyon as part of the collapsed volcano that is so much of Kauai. And the colors just are extremely beautiful. It’s a wonderful drive. And it can be combined with another place that we always took everybody, and that is to the top of…
Betsy: It’s the Kalalau Overlook at the top of Koke`e State Park.
Peter: It’s the rainiest place on Earth, but strangely enough, of the many times that we’ve been there, it’s never been raining. So I can’t explain that.
Betsy: Yeah. So just come with us.
Chris: Let’s back up a little bit here. When we talk about the canyon, you say it’s pretty and that it’s colorful, but we’re not talking the same colors as the Grand Canyon, even though it’s called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Betsy: There are similarities to the Grand Canyon because the rock formations are striped, layers of whatever geological era, but there’s also a part of the canyon, a bowl-shaped depression which is actually the center of the collapsed volcano, which initially formed the island of Kauai. And in order to see that, you’re going to want to see it by air. You just can’t get to it on the ground. And so this is possibly where the justification for the expense of a helicopter tour would come in.
Chris: It’s not cheap.
Betsy: No, it’s really not. There are ways to maximize your spend with helicopter tours, you may want to consider taking off from Princeville, which is on the north side of the island where we are, as opposed to down by Lihue which is where the airport is and where a lot of the helicopter services are clustered. It’s probably going to depend on where you choose to stay. But I will say…
Chris: And Lihue is in the eastern edge of the island, the southeast, I would say.
Betsy: Yeah, southeast. You know, I will just plug Princeville for this fact that you can get to the ruggedy interior in the Na Pali Coast a little bit faster from that location. And so your view time, I would say, might be more maximized in terms of the hour or hour and a half you get to go up.
Chris: And we’re going to get to the Na Pali Coast in a minute here, let’s finish off the helicopter tour. So when we take the helicopter tour, you’re recommending Princeville, because then we can do potentially a shorter trip and still see some of the highlights — the highlights being Waimea Canyon, Waipoo Falls, I think, which are in the canyon.
Betsy: Yeah, they are. And Mount Waialeale, which is… I love to say that.
Chris: That’s why I want to hear you say that.
Betsy: You did. Okay, after we Waialeale, but that’s the wettest place on Earth.
Chris: Yeah, I’ve never seen the top of the mountain.
Betsy: We did, a couple of days ago, and it was remarkable, because we had rarely seen it as well. And one thing to keep in mind is that the mountain makes its own weather, much like Denali in Alaska does, and so therefore, the north shore is going to be the wetter side of the island. If you want a drier or sandier experience, then you’ll want to go to the south side — Polihale Beach, Poipu, those kinds of areas.
Peter: Our preference is for the north shore. It’s cooler up here, and it can get quite hot on the south side. And when we say it’s the rainier part, the general weather pattern for each day is we get 10 minutes of rain, and then it’s sunny. So yes, it’s wet, but it’s 10 minutes.
Chris: It’s a warm rain.
Betsy: Yeah, it’s liquid sunshine, we like to call it. And the benefit of all of that, of course, is the rainbows for which Kauai and Hawaii are so famous.
Chris: We talked about the drier part of the island, the leeward part of the island. Poipu, for instance, still has most of the hotel rooms, as I recall, so there’s fewer places to stay, but certainly some people prefer the wetter and some, the drier, and I like both. So I’ll stay neutral on that one.
Excellent. Anything else you want to say about the helicopter tour before we finish that? I did it with my wife way back before they changed the rules, though. They actually were allowed to fly lower at that time. This was years and years ago, but it was stunning, it was amazing.
Betsy: Yeah, I think if time is short, that’s definitely a must. If you got a little more time, you may want to run along the shore of Na Pali Coast, take a boat either out of Hanalei in the north or Port Allen in the south. And again, the time of year is really going to determine which one you go out on because getting out of the bays and everything can be a bit wrinkly, depending on the surf conditions. Winter surf is strong in the north and the summer surf is strong in the south.
So right about now, if you want to take a boat to Na Pali, you’ll be considering, “Maybe I should take that boat out of the north, just for a less bumpy ride.”
Chris: Describe to people what the Na Pali coast looks like.
Betsy: If you’ve seen Jurassic Park, that’s really the reality. That movie was filmed here in the interior and along the coastline. And there’d been a wealth of other adventure movies filmed along its steep, stark, ridged cliffs that rise majestically out of the ocean and they’re covered in a velvety blue, green, brownish, vivid red clay pallet. It’s just amazing. What else can I say about it? The rainbows — you could drop your camera on the floor of the boat and it would take a fabulous picture of the Na Pali Coast. It’s just that breathtaking. The waterfalls, especially after it’s been raining during the wetter season, it’s spectacular. You can take a boat right up under a waterfall, and when we did that, that was so much fun.
Chris: Was that one of the Zodiac tours?
Betsy: There’re Zodiac tours. We were on a catamaran. Depending again on the time of year and your boat captain will be the expert in this regard. You can have a very personalized encounter with the Na Pali coast. You may want to snorkel off the boat, there are trips that do that. Pete mentioned the whale watching earlier during November through March. It’s a must- do. It’s why you came to Kauai is just to interact with that landscape.
Chris: If you are more adventurous, there is a trail that goes along Na Pali coast. I’ve hiked the first, I don’t know, half mile of it maybe, and it is tough.
Betsy: It is tough.
Chris: It is a tough trail that is gonna turn an ankle. You probably don’t want to do it alone and you want to have enough water and enough time because it’s a rugged trail. But for those who are adventurous and in good shape, it is something that it is a spectacular trail, just even if you can hike up to the point of the first turnaround. I did it from… Was it KA beach? The last beach on the…
Betsy: Ke’e. So you didn’t make it to Hanakapiai?
Chris: Nope, no. Didn’t even try.
Betsy: And neither have we, there’s no shame. A lot of people come to Kauai expecting to be able to hike that trail, and I think they might be overestimating themselves when they do. It can be an extremely treacherous trail, especially during wet weather. Some of the streams that you ford are prone to flash flooding, and regularly, people are injured out there, even swept away. And so as you plan your activities, if you’re the adventurous or outdoors sort, you’re gonna want to keep in mind that even though this is paradise on earth, Mother Nature can still pack a nasty punch and we need to be realistic about what our capabilities are and what the conditions are.
Chris: Excellent. Speaking of hiking, you mentioned Waimea Canyon earlier. Have a favorite hike in Waimeia?
Betsy: Well, not particularly. We like hiking up to that Kalalau overlook a lot. Once you’re up there, you’re 5000 feet up, and you’re up so high you can actually look out over the ocean and see a bit of the curve of the earth. And so we always describe that as one of those thin places where the line between heaven and earth is blurred. That would be our favourite. Again, inside the canyon and into that wilderness area, you need to be the rugged sort.
Chris: Right, I would completely agree with that. Excellent.
Peter: We’ve been talking a lot about the south, but there’s some pretty cool stuff on the north side as well that are very inexpensive to do. And one of them is to go on the Kilauea Lighthouse, which is also a wildlife sanctuary. It’s like $5 to get in. The lighthouse has a famous and long history and it’s a good place to see whales from land, in addition to the large number of tropical birds that you can see.
Betsy: Yup. That’s always a good stop to make. One thing that we did this time around, it was one of those things that we were like “We lived here for how long and we never did this before? Why?” But anyway, we had so much fun. We went tubing.
Chris: Okay, in the Wailua river?
Betsy: Well no, actually. It’s in the sugar cane ditch transportation system that was dug out back in the day by hand when it was plantations. Kauai has a long history of agricultural cultivation, and during the sugar cane period, it was divided up into large plantations. Part of that system was getting the cut cane down to the processing, down from the higher areas into the mills where it would be processed, right? So there is this network of ditches and tunnels that transported the cane by water, and it’s the perfect place to go tubing nowadays.
We just had a blast. If you might be a little fainthearted about being tubing through tunnels, we have a little helmet with a light on and that sort of thing. Rest assured that the week before we did it, a 94-year-old woman did it and had a marvelous time, so it definitely is for all ages. And that’s a good way to see the interior of the island as well. There are several vista lookout places where they stop and we can take photos. That’s a really enjoyable and fairly inexpensive day.
Chris: Where was that near? Is that on the east side of the island?
Betsy: It’s an outfit called Kauai Backcountry Adventures and they’re located in Lihue. And then they take you on about a 20-, 25-minute van trip into the island interior to get started.
Chris: Excellent. Before we get to what else you would suggest, what would you skip? Somebody’s gonna come here and they’re gonna hear that they should go to… and you’re just gonna shake your head and you say, “I can’t believe that people still go there.”
Betsy: There’s a couple of things that locals always laugh about, and the first thing is that more heavily-visited south side area is all people ever see. And we actually had people, when we lived in Hanalei, chatting them up at a watering hole or whatever, visiting, say “Of we’ve been coming to Kauai eight to nine years, and we’ve never been on the north side,” and we’d be like, “What? Come one, we don’t bite.” A lot of the guidebooks tend to focus on… I’m not sure how to characterize some of these activities, but you know, more of the amusement kind of activities. “Go get a shaved ice here,” or “Eat a Bubba Burger, go to this craft shop.”
Chris: Now, you’re not recommending against shaved ice.
Betsy: No, I’m not recommending against shaved ice at all. Just seek out the little out-of-the-way places, Maybe spent an afternoon in a small town like Hanapepe or Hanalei or Kilauea or one of those. You can get a shaved ice anywhere and you can kind of soak up some more of that local, old Hawaii culture, which is so fascinating.
Chris: Okay. If we go to Hanapepe, which I just love saying, or Hanalei… I don’t know where Hanapepe is, off the top of my head. What are we gonna see there? Old town?
Betsy: Yeah, Hanapepe is an old rice mill and agriculture town, plantation era architecture. It’s also very close to the place where Captain James Cook landed initially. Kauai was the first place that he landed in what became known as the Sandwich Islands and then Hawaii. There’s the remains of a Russian fort down there, which is kind of fascinating. This whole area, this archipelago was at the crossroads of some interesting empire expansion kind of activities with the world powers, so there’s a Russian presence here, there’s a British presence here and American, obviously. So going down there, you can soak all that up and just wander the main street. It’s an artsy kind of a town that’s a lot of fun.
And Hanalei, on the north shore where we live, has that old Hawaii surfer kind of vibe — very laidback. As Pete mentioned, 600 people, full-time residents are situated on probably the most perfect bay ever, semi-circular in nature. If you’ve watched the old South Pacific movie, you’ll recognize the scenery. The big mountain range that was called Bali Hai in that movie is one of those iconic views. You’ve gotta get a selfie in front of that one. And lots of snorkeling up here on the north shore.
Chris: Have a favorite beach for snorkeling?
Peter: One is Tunnel’s Beach and that’s at the end of the road.
Betsy: Almost the end, yeah.
Peter: On the way to doing the Na Pali Hike.
Chris: When we say the end of the road, we haven’t really told people that unlike a lot of the Hawaii islands, the road doesn’t really go all the way around in Kauai.
Betsy: True. We forgot to even mention that, yeah.
Chris: So it does end.
Betsy: It does end.
Peter: There are two ends, and the reason is that the Na Pali coastline is one of the fastest eroding coastlines in the world, and so they’ve never put in on a road because it would be gone in a short amount of time. But at the end of the road on the north side, you can go to Tunnel’s beach, which is…
Chris: Ke’e is at the end of the road, so Tunnel is a little bit before that.
Betsy: Yeah, Ke’e, yeah, it’s all, yeah.
Peter: In any case, these tunnels, I believe are volcanic in nature, and they’re under the water, and they’re great places to dive.
Chris: A lot of tubes.
Betsy: And snorkel.
Peter: Yeah, and snorkel.
Betsy: Our favorite for snorkeling — again, we’re a little less rugged, maybe — is Anini Beach, and that’s a lovely beach just east of Princeville in the Kalihiwai area. And it’s got a nice, flat, open reef that extends with shallow water for quite a ways out. And so even if you’re a novice snorkeler, you can still have a quality experience.
Peter: Last week, we did have friends visiting Kauai with us, a mother and son, and they’re amateur snorkelers and went to Anini and saw, what was it, 15 turtles and lots of fish and corals and had a wonderful time.
Chris: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen turtles on Kauai. I’ve certainly them in the Hawaii islands. I think our kids learned to snorkel at Ke’e and that’s a great protective beach, so it was great for kids because the water didn’t get that deep before you… You could literally just walk up to the reef there. And of course, then there’s some wild chickens, which they loved.
Betsy: We love our chickens here in Kauai. It’s part of the world charm. There are chickens all over the Hawaiian islands, obviously, but we like to think ours are some of the prettiest.
Chris: Let’s do something else. You talked about downtime. We’re going to go to more than one beach on Kauai, we’re gonna have some downtime. If I just want to lie on the beach or if I want to do some other beach activities, do you have other favorite beaches that we haven’t talked about?
Betsy: We’ve talked about Hanalei Bay. There are actually several beaches on Hanalei Bay, and so depending on what you’re looking for, you’ll go to a certain part of the beach, stand-up paddling, surfing, that sort of thing. We’ve talked about Anini. Moving further eastwards, southeastward towards Kapaa, there is a little beach in between Anini and Kealia Beach and that’s called Secret Beach.
Chris: There’s an article on Amateur Traveler about Secret Beach, so it’s not all that secret.
Betsy: Well, there you go. They should call it “Open Secret Beach.” It’s really lovely, and I’ll just defer to your article, which I’m sure goes into the depth that it deserves. I will say though that we met a couple of people who actually grew up on that beach, the children of hippies who lived there. That was an interesting anecdote. You’re gonna run into all sorts of interesting people on the islands.
Peter: For additional beaches — I don’t know all of the names of them, but as you continue towards the end of the road from Hanalei, you’ll pass a great many beaches that are easily accessible and sometimes you’re the only one that’s there. So if you want a little bit of privacy, there’s some beaches where you might be the only person on that beach for several hours. It’s quite nice.
Chris: Excellent. Well, I think you skipped over one of my favorites for bodysurfing I think. Anahola beach was where we found the best for bodysurfing in Kauai.
Betsy: You know, Anahola is a really interesting area in and of itself. There’s that little general store there that you can stop off before you get to the beach. And then along the river, there’s one of those old Hawaii neighbourhoods that’s just so special with the little two-room houses and the tin roof, really, really charming.
Chris: Other suggestions of ways to pass your time in Kauai?
Betsy: One of the things that we’re interested in and devote a lot of attention to on PassingThru is the history behind a place, and Kauai has a number of interesting historical and archaeological sites that might be of interest on a quieter day. And the first one these that comes to mind for us on the north shore is the Limahuli Botanical Garden.
If you’re not up, let’s say for Kalalau Trail, you can get a similarly spectacular view walking the circuit in that botanical garden. And the interesting feature of these gorgeous and extensive grounds and examples of the botany of Kauai is that there’s also the remnants of a traditional ahupupaa. And I know I mispronounced that, I’m so sorry, A-H-U-P-U- P-A -A, I think. But this is the traditional social structure of the Polynesians. And the land section itself went from ocean to mountain and then the ecosystem in that particular section of land would support the community in a sustainable way. And so there are terraces that they built with volcanic rock for tarro gardens. There’s a replica of a longhouse and there are the foundational remains of some other structures from that time. So it’s really an interesting stop to make, Limahuli.
Betsy: I can’t believe we haven’t mentioned luau. I mean, that’s probably about the most fun thing that you can do, as far as we’re concerned, because there’s eating and drinking involved. If you want the luau experience, you get to decide on Kauai exactly what type of an experience that’s going to be. There are several smaller luaus on the island that provide a more traditional Polynesian dance type experience ranging from Tahitian to Islander like New Zealand to the softer and more languid Hawaiian hula. And then there are the full-scale, epic, entertainment productions at larger restaurants and maybe resort locations. So it really just depends on what you want. What’s guaranteed is that the food is going to be delicious and representative of a lot of the Hawaiian traditions. What’s your favourite? You tell them your favorite.
Peter: Kalua pork is my favorite.
Chris: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Peter: I can’t eat enough of it. And the island, you don’t have to go to a luau to get kalua pork and that’s a good thing.
Chris: Did you have a favorite of the luau experiences? I honestly say we have not ever done a luau, I think. It’s always just seemed too touristy for us.
Betsy: You know, and it can be, and that’s why I would encourage a visitor to seek out some of these smaller ones there.
Chris: Such as?
Betsy: On the north shore, there’s one at the Mediterranean Gourmet, of all places. Don’t let the name sway you. That was excellent. And the interesting thing about that one is there was a sizeable Tahitian dance and drumming component as well as the fire dancing. And this was an entire family who lived across the valley from us and so, on a daily basis, we could hear them practicing their drums, coming through the jungle, and so that was kind of exciting.
But there’s another new luau in the Kapaa area. The name of it escapes me right now, but that is also a small family operation and is headed up by the woman who used to perform as a child at Coco Palms where all the Elvis movies were made. And so now she’s grandmother-age herself, and so she’s got dancers ranging from the age of three all the way up to adult and a different representation of the styles of Polynesian dance. So definitely not too touristy. That one is at the Marriott Courtyard in Kapaa, actually. A more, I think, realistic luau depiction than the over the top Disney-fied luaus.
Chris: Excellent. We’re gonna start to wrap this up. Any other highlights we want to do before we get to my last questions? Or any other warnings you would give before people go to Kauai? I know it’s paradise, but you should remember what?
Betsy: The one thing I think that’s kind of coming to the fore more recently around the world and it certainly occurs around the world and it certainly occurs here in Kauai as well, and that’s the issue of contact with wildlife and wildlife safety. So maybe we might want to touch up on that a little bit.
We’ve mentioned snorkelling and seeing turtles and coral reefs and the like. There have been instances recently of — how do you say this delicately — inappropriate activities with wildlife. It’s not what you’re thinking, maybe, but there’s a legal admonition against getting within 15 feet with a turtle, and yet routinely, as locals, we would see folks approaching the turtles, touching the turtles, and it’s just a big no-no. And you could actually be fined about $25,000 if so prosecuted.
Chris: I’d like to say in my defense, it was the turtle…
Betsy: Did you touch a turtle?
Chris: I did not touch a turtle, but I did have a turtle swim right over me when I was snorkelling, not on Kauai but on Maui. And it really wasn’t my fault. I did know the rules, I was trying to stay away from the turtle, but the turtle hadn’t read the rules.
Betsy: He liked you. And it’s okay if the turtle approaches you or the whale approaches you, but just don’t let it be vice versa. The other heartbreaking thing that we observed is the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and people getting too close to it and interfering with its gestation process. They’re so rare. People are understandably very interested and want to get that selfie, but just exercise some common sense about the wildlife. And don’t pick the coral either. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Chris: Excellent. The last four questions — here’s a tough one. You’re standing in the prettiest spot in all of Kauai. Where are you standing and what are you looking at?
Betsy: It’s the Kalalau lookout in Koke`e. It’s that thin place.
Chris: We talked about the end of the road of the southern part of the island, there’s two ends — one through the Waimea Canyon and the other one over at, what is it, Mullet Beach? [no, it’s Polihale State Park]
Chris: We’re at the one end of the road that is as close as you can drive to and still see the Na Pali Coast.
Betsy: And then I would say running a close second is the lookout over Hanalei Bay from Kuhio Highway. The road takes a sharp bend down to the Hanalei River bridge. But just before that, there’s a place where you can pull off and it is just breathtaking.
Peter: Especially at sundown.
Betsy: Yeah, sunset.
Peter: You could say that it’s really something.
Chris: One thing that makes you laugh and say “Only in Kauai?”
Betsy: The one-lane bridge etiquette. On the north shore, there’s all these one-lane bridges. I mean, between our house and Hanalei, I think they were seven, maybe. And it’s just so hard for people to figure out, for some reason, that if somebody has started on the bridge, then you stop.
Chris: You’d think that would be obvious.
Betsy: Yeah, you think so. There’s all these signs on the larger ones that say, “Local courtesy, five to seven cars at a time.” You know, and there’s always that 8th, 9th, or 10th Mustang Convertible or Jeep Wrangler, and so you know who’s driving it, who kind of wants to push the envelope on those numbers. We always called it an exercise in practicing our Aloha when that happened.
Chris: Excellent. And we should say that if you do rent a car in Kauai — this actually is a great place to do it, because you can’t get lost. It’s just the one road and it really does enable you to see more of the island, because there’s really not a great public transportation options through doing that. And renting the convertible is a good idea, so…
Betsy: Well, I think so, but just be aware that you’ll be known by what you drive. There is an alternative also, because rental cars can be quite expensive here because of the limited numbers or whatever, but there are a number of private Hawaiian companies who are appropriately licensed from whom you can rent maybe an older model vehicle and save several hundred dollars a week.
Chris: And did you have a couple names of those?
Peter: I don’t know if we have the names, but you can find them all on Craigslist, I believe.
Betsy: Yeah, if you look under “vacation rentals” in Craigslist, by island, you’ll have half a dozen listings pop up. We know people who’ve rented from these companies. They’re all required to be licenced and properly insured. So that’s just a little money saving tip.
Chris: Finish this thought: You really know you’re in Kauai when what?
Peter: I was going to say something about chickens but they got chickens on Maui.
Betsy: I would say driving across the Kalihiwai bridge. This is a bridge that is suspended over a really deep gorge and there are Jurassic-sized acacia trees, the big Serengeti-looking trees, I guess, with the huge canopies, and you feel so small on that bridge. It’s just amazing. We always say that time is elastic on Kauai, a moment will last forever and a week will be gone in a blink of an eye, but on that bridge, it feels like not only are you suspended over that lush green valley, but that time stops for a moment. So that would my answer.
Chris: Peter, do you have a different answer?
Peter: No, I kind of like that answer.
Chris: There was poetry in that answer.
Peter: It is an amazing area. And as we bring in our visitors or friends around the island, we always point that out. And later on when we’re coming back or taking them somewhere else, they’ll go “Are we going by that bridge?”
Betsy: Yeah, “Are we crossing that bridge?”
Peter: I would say the somewhat famous road in the south that I’m reminded of — I don’t know the exact name of it but it’s that tunnel road. What’s that one?
Betsy: Oh, the tunnel with trees. It’s the one, you turn off Kuhio highway and you make a left down to 520, is it? I think?
Chris: Oh, yeah. I know what you’re talking about. That’s the one that goes down to Poipu.
Betsy: I think it’s 520.
Chris: Route 520.
Betsy: Yeah, I’m pretty sure.
Chris: I’m not doing that from memory. I’ve been looking at a map while we’re doing this, because one of the things I run to is… This actually goes in the next question – a favorite Hawaiian word because Hawaiian language only has, what is it, four vowels, not four vowels, four consonants. And so they tend to be long and they tend to sound a lot like each other, but favorite place name in Kauai.
Betsy: Hanalei. And the reason is because we studied a little bit of the Hawaiian language and while the translation per se of Hanalei maybe something different, I like to think of it as being comprised of three Hawaiian words — “Ha,” which means “breath,” and then “na” which means many, and then “lei,” of course know, as the floral necklace. You put that all together, it’s “breath of many leis.”
Chris: And of course it’s also in the “Puff the Magic Dragon” song, so you know, what’s not to love?
Betsy: True. I mean, what’s not t like?
Chris: Last question — if you were to summarize Kauai in just three words, what three words would you use?
Betsy: Paradise, home, beautiful.
Chris: Excellent. And I should say that this is the second episode we’ve done on Kauai, but you would have had to be listening for a long, long time to have heard the first episode, because I believe it was 10 years ago, so if you’re interested, you can gonna go back and listen to that. Our guests, again, have been Peter and Betsy Wuebker. Where can people read more about your travels?
Betsy: Well, you can find us on our travel blog, passingthru, T-H-R-U, .com. That’s kind of the hub of all of our online activities, but we’re also…I mean, the usual social media suspects, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
Peter: Instagram, Pinterest.
Betsy: Yeah, Pinterest.
Chris: Excellent. And if you had one post on Kauai that people should read on passingthru.com, what would it be?
Betsy: We’ve got a “Things to Know” post, and I’ll make sure that you have that url for the show notes.
Chris: Can you give us one thing to know that we haven’t talked about? One little teaser here?
Besty: Slow down. Slow down on the road and slow down in your life. You’re on island time.
Chris: Excellent. I had a boss I used to work for who said he could only relax when he went to Hawaii.
Betsy: It’s true.
Chris: It is a great place to do that. Peter and Betsy, thanks so much for coming on the Amateur Traveller and sharing with us your love for Kauai.
Peter: Thank you very much.
Betsy: Thank you, mahalo.
Chris: In news of the community, I heard from Chad this week who said “I’m a truck driver so my desire to travel may be diminished a bit. I used to be an accountant, got burned out and now drive and listen to podcasts. I live near Orlando so there is a bit to do here, but my bucket list would include Disneyland and Italy, which your show has done an excellent job of covering. I used to listen to Rudy Maxa before his show left iTunes. He used to say his show was for those who traveled and for those who traveled in their minds. I enjoy learning about many things including travel. Your show exposes many parts of the world. Few have gotten rich off their podcasts, but I know many do it just for the passion. Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are excellent at TV travel, Chris Christensen is one of the best at audio — kudos to you.
Thanks so much Chad, and I don’t know if you know, but Rudy Maxa was a guest on the show a long time ago, and I say a long time ago. I just met Rudy Maxa in person at the TBEX, the Travel Blog Exchange conference in Minnesota where now lives, and he didn’t remember being in the show. In fact, he didn’t remember it the next day either, so apparently it didn’t make any huge impact on him. I also heard Andrew Zimmern talk as the closing keynote of that conference, who did a very nice job with that.
With that, we’re gonna end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email at host at amateurtraveler.com or better yet, leave a comment on this episode at amateurtraveler.com. The transcript of this episode is hosted by JayWay Travel, experts in Eastern European Travel. And as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.