Friday, March 21, 2014

Hawaiian Anniversary! - Part 1 - Kauai

Last October for my birthday, Ryan surprised me with plane tickets to Hawaii for our 2nd anniversary! So we have been waiting anxiously for this trip for about 5 months. We decided to go to 2 islands during our 7 day stay. First we flew into Kauai and stayed there for 4 nights, then island hopped over to Oahu for 3 nights. It ended up being quite the adventure, to say the least.

First stop: Kauai.  
We had heard amazing things about hiking the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coast.  Anyone who knows Ryan and I, knows that we love a good hike/camp spot! and since this was a trip without Ellie, it was a lot easier for us to be able to hike and camp. So, Ryan convinced me to pack everything that I needed for the week into a hiking backpack, along with our food for 3 nights camping. I always challenge myself to be able to pack light while backpacking, but still be able to pack stylish things. ;) I have a fashion addiction, ok?? Anyways, we packed our packs and flew to Kauai. We had previously booked our first night at the International Hostel in Kapaa.  Just so we are clear... staying in hostels are FAR from glamorous. Definitely not for the resort lover. :) But they are dirt cheap, and Ryan and I will take cheap over glamorous, especially if we are arriving there late and leaving early anyways, and wouldn't even be able to have time to enjoy a nice place to stay.  But I will say that the cool thing about hostels are that a bunch of other young travelers stay there too, so it is easy to exchange travel tips & recommendations with people who are doing the same kind of traveling. - and you meet some cool people too. 

Anyways, I wanted to post this picture of our hostel room first because even though we went to beautiful Hawaii and had some amazing experiences, we definitely had our not-so-glamorous moments :) I laugh when I see this because it reminds myself of when I would lay in the top bunk at the hostel and turn over to see Ryan in the top bunk of the other bed next to me as we say goodnight to each other from a distance. haha Sleeping in separate bunk beds as a married couple isn't the top of my list, but it definitely adds to the fun when looking back on our adventures. 

our 5 star stay ;)

That night, we walked around the corner from the hostel and found a food truck called El Taco Feliz. They had really good tacos!- We arrived at Kauai when it was already dark, so we were super excited to finally see how pretty it was in the morning. 

The next morning, we woke up early and left around 6:30am. The hostel was about 30 miles away from the trailhead to the hike. We thought about taking a cab, but did research and found that most people hitch hike there. We had never hitch hiked before, so it was a funny thing for us at first, but after only about 2 minutes, a girl with a truck pulled over and said she could give us a ride. We totally lucked out because she was on her way to work which was at the botanical gardens that happened to be a few minutes away from the trailhead! We expected to have to take a couple of rides to make it there, or have to walk a ways to get to the trailhead, but she took us really close. Awesome.

I loved the feeling of that morning... there was something about being in the bed of a stranger's truck from hitch hiking, sitting next to handsome Ryan, eating squished-from-my-pack  homemade banana bread for our breakfast, the wind in our hair as the sun was coming was magical. and surreal that we were in Hawaii. 
Our adventure was just getting started.

We arrived to the trailhead, tightened the straps to our Chacos, then made our way up the trail.
A lot of people hike this trail for 2 miles which takes them to Hanakapiai beach. From there, you can take a different trail for another 4 mile round trip to the Hanakapiai falls.  A lot of tourists will do this hike as a day hike, where they don't need to camp. 
But if you decide to, you can continue on the path beyond Hanakapiai beach to make your way to the Hanakoa valley, which is 4 miles beyond Hanakapiai beach. Here, you can camp if you want to, but you need a permit to do so. (about $20/night)  To be honest, it isn't the best camping spot. We didn't camp here, but as we passed it, we saw that it was really buggy and only had a few spots right off the trail, with no beach access or anything.  But it would be good to camp here if you needed to break up the full hike into 2 days. 

From the Hanakoa valley, it is another 5 or so miles to the Kalalau beach. The trail is pretty strenuous and climbs from sea level to over 800 feet in a 1.25  mile distance.  There are also 3 rivers that you cross during the hike, which can be scary if the water is high or if it is raining because it increases the risk of a flash flood. We got lucky on our hike to the valley because it was a beautiful day with no rain.  There were many switchbacks that had rugged terrain, but it is definitely doable for an experienced hiker. Just bring LOTS of water and power snacks, and we would recommend bringing a water filter so that you can fill up at each river. 
So, the total from the trailhead to the Kalalau beach was 11 miles. 22 miles round trip!

This is such a breathtaking hike. The hike winds in and out of canyons, so each time you get out of a canyon, you turn the corner to a stunning view of the coastline-- and each and every corner got even more gorgeous! 
Okay... now I will just let the pictures do the talking :)

 This part at mile 7 was called "Crawler's Ledge". If you have a fear of heights, then this part could be a little scary... I have heard of people having small panic attacks at this point.  Luckily, Ry and I don't have too much of a fear of heights, but it was still kind of sketchy with it having such a long drop off the rocky edge to the ocean!

we met some friends along the way!

At about mile 9, I got really drained and started zoning out. I was exhausted and had to take a long break to get my energy back up. But after about 7 1/2 hours and 11 miles of hiking, We finally made it to the Kalalau valley! 

Turning the corner and seeing this valley literally took my breath away. I had never seen anything quite like this! Isn't it incredible??

 We knew we were close when we could see the beach!

We made it!!! 
The first night we camped under a bunch of trees away from the shore, but had been coveting this certain camp spot that we had seen on our way in. It was right by the shore and had a single tree that was perfect for shade. The people who were camping there left after the first night that we were there, so we hurried and moved our stuff to this spot for the second night. It was insane!! It was one of the only campsites that was right on the shore. It was perfection. I can't tell you how happy we were to finally get to Kalalau beach after such a long hike! It truly was an oasis. The cool thing about this place is that it can only be accessed by hiking the trail. You can pay for a helicopter to take you on a tour to see the valley from up above, but it doesn't compare to the rewarding feeling of hiking all the way there.

And if the ocean view out the front of our tent wasn't enough.... check out the backyard!! 

This area is breathtaking. I wish I could explain the feeling of standing on the beach with my toes in the sand, with the sound of the ocean on one side of me, and these insane mountains on the other side of me. It was like something we had never experienced before. 

There was a small waterfall right off the beach for people to get water which was convenient!

My early morning yoga practice was a bit sandy :)

Loungin'......sigh.....take me back to this moment!

Mountain House meals, oatmeal, and fresh passion fruit for breakfast. yum!
There are a handful of hippies who actually live in the valley. They have their little spaces set up throughout the valley, where they sleep under tarps or in tents. But we had heard that they like to barter fruit that they pick from the valley for- money, food, drugs, or alcohol that hikers might have. I really wanted to try a passion fruit because I had never tried one before, So we talked to some people who lived there and ended up making a trade for a few passion fruits in exchange for some Clif bars. It was so fresh and delicious!

The one day that we were there, we decided that we wanted to do some exploring. We hiked up towards the mountains and came across this beautiful spot! It was gorgeous and peaceful and we ended up staying here for a little while. 

Meditation is good for the heart and soul!

Nothing better than cheesy selfies on the beach. I sure do love this man!

The next morning, the clouds were dark and we knew that it would rain any minute. We couldn't decide if we should hurry and pack up and start hiking back, or if we should wait out the rain to see if it would let up at all before we starting hiking back. We figured that the trail would be wet either way, so we decided to hurry and pack up and start hiking back. We started to get nervous because we had read so many reviews online saying NOT to hike while it is raining, that it is too dangerous. There are chances of flash floods as well as the trail can get super slippery and muddy. We started to hike out fast. About 5 minutes after we started hiking, it just dumped on us. Luckily we had rain jackets and rain covers for our packs because within a matter of seconds, we would have been drenched! We said a prayer, and started making our way across the river. The trails were SUPER muddy which made it SUPER slick. There were steep up hill parts where we were just sliding every where trying to scramble up the mountain! Here is a quick pic of what most of the hike looked like. 


This is me after I totally ate it and slipped on my bum. Thumbs up for muddy bums.

The rain let up and it was just a light shower most of the way back. We were originally planning on hiking to the other campsite and camping through the night, then finishing the rest of the hike the next day. But we were feeling good and just wanted to get outta there to shower! So we made our way back to the trailhead. There were some pretty intense parts on the way back, that honestly made us scared for our lives at some points! Because of the rain, it had made the parts that were once dirt, turn into a mud slide. And there would be parts where it was basically a mudslide down to the water. We had to hug the side while trying to grab a hold of any small roots that were coming out of the side of the mountain, to keep us from sliding off the edge. It was so sketchy! At one point, I kind of freaked out and Ryan had to help push me up the hill so that I wouldn't slide off. It was so intense. I can't even describe some of the parts.  But we made it out alive! What an adventure. My knees are still sore from all the downhill, and as you can see below, my legs met a couple of pesky bugs along the trail. OUCH!

Once we reached the trailhead, I wanted to praise the high heavens above. haha  It was so good to finish that hike!  
We saw a couple of girls who just got off the trail and were packing up to leave in their car, and I asked them if we could hitch a ride with them. They were actually on their way to stay at the other hostel in Kapaa called Kauai Beach House hostel. Perfect! We didn't know where we were going to sleep that night (because we had bought a permit to camp at the halfway mark, but didn't end up wanting to split up the hike) So we went with them to reserve a room there. At that one, they have the option for a queen bed that is in a shared room. So even though it was a shared room, I still got to cuddle with my man instead of being on separate bunk beds! ;)  We ate dinner across the street at Be Food Truck. -Really good burgers there!

In the morning, we walked outside by the beach a little bit, then got some breakfast. Right next door to the Beach House hostel, there is a restaurant called Beachwalk Restaurant & Grill. They have the most amazing Banana+macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup! oohhh so heavenly. Or maybe it just seemed extra heavenly after being on a  strict Mountain House meal diet for the last few nights. ;) Either way, I would recommend eating breakfast there!

Good times, Kauai! We conquered the Kalalau trail, and we definitely want to come back. If not for the hike, I would for sure visit just to devour those pancakes again. ;)

Be sure to check out Part Two of our trip - Oahu

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  1. Ahhh, these pictures are sure a nice break from work this morning. That valley! We spend a lot of time daydreaming about where we'll take our late, late honeymoon. Haha. So glad you had fun! And are so buff. I would die after eleven miles. Lay down and die.

  2. Oh my goodness. I've never been a girl who dreams of going to Hawaii, but the pictures and stories from your trip have now made me into a girl who dreams of hiking in Hawaii. I have always thought of it as too touristy, but now I see there's a gorgeous way around that :)
    Happy belated anniversary!

  3. So fun!! These pictures are amazing.