Friday, August 21, 2015

Kauai vacation recap, Day 3: Awaawapuhi and Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon
Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Today was our first "adventure" day. We got an early start with a hearty breakfast at the Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Company: great coffee, as expected, with French toast and an egg scramble.  The drive up Waimea Canyon Road to the Awaawapuhi trailhead at Mile 17 took a lot longer than expected, because it's very winding and sometimes narrow, but there are plenty of scenic lookouts along the way.  We were the third car in the parking area and started hiking around 9:00am. The first part of the trail is through a forested area and quickly transitions into muddy and slippery downhills. Then it levels off somewhat, and views of the surrounding valley and coast start to emerge.  The last section of the trail is quite dry and sunny.

About 2/3 of the way to the lookout

The destination is the Awaawapuhi lookout, which feels like a lookout on the edge of the world.  On the left (south) side is the lush green valley, with a red dirt cliff edge.  On the right (north) side is a dark, forboding-looking cliff, with its top shrouded in clouds.  Directly in front is the open ocean.

Awaawapuhi lookout
Cliffs on the north side
It's quite a spot for a pineapple break and some bird watching before the mostly-uphill hike back to the trailhead, though the uphill muddy stretch was in some ways easier to maintain safe footing than the downhill.

Total mileage was 6.5.  On the return hike we passed about eight other hiking groups, and the parking lot was full at the trailhead, so getting an early start is a wise idea.

Beautiful tropical plants abound.
On the way back down Waimea Canyon Road, we stopped alongside the road for one view of the canyon, and again at the Waimea Canyon Lookout at Mile 11.  This spot affords a spectacular view of much of the canyon, and it's hard to adequately describe the variety of colors and shadows that saturate the panorama.  Mark Twain christened this canyon the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and it's easy to see why, but at the same time I think the moniker doesn't do this landscape justice.

Wild chickens are everywhere on Kauai.
After returning to Hanapepe town, we stopped for a late lunch at Ishihara Market. Their hot lunch service had already ended, but fortunately the deli was happy to pack up some ahi poke, seaweed salad, and two scoops of rice for us to eat at the picnic tables outside.  Next, we drove to the original Lappert's ice cream shop and tried two of their signature flavors, including the Kauai pie (coffee ice cream with coconut, fudge, macadamia nuts, and a couple other add-ins). It was tasty but actually too sweet for my palate.  Adjacent was a Hawaiian sea salt company and also the Kauai Cookie Company (we liked the macadamia shortbread), and across the street was Wong's Chinese Restaurant, where we picked up a slice of their famous lilikoi (passionfruit) chiffon pie.

Dinner tonight was cooked at home and eaten on our lanai: ravioli with kale pesto and steamed vegetables, Old Fashioneds to drink, and the lilikoi pie for dessert after the sun had set.