When you score a free place to stay in Hanalei for New Years and a solid NW swell, you book the next flight out of Babylon.
The Saksas had to unfortunately jump ship early from their Hanalei holiday. That’s when Erik gave me the call and said they had a little bungalow just off of Pine Trees that was going to be empty for a few days…just sitting there.
So without having to think much about it, Jane and I jumped on an obnoxiously expensive, short, flight to Kauai. But believe me, this trip would be priceless.
If you’ve spent anytime on Kauai you understand what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t, just watch the opening sequence of Jurassic Park when the heli flies in. Kauai is an ancient island, much older than Oahu and the others. It’s had time to be carved and sculpted into: exaggerated mega peaks, towering waterfalls and epic surf. It just so happened that this trip also lined up with a plus size NW swell and we were in walking distance to one of Kauai’s best surf playgrounds; Hanalei Bay.
I scored epic surf all around the bay, from the dark, infamous beach break of Pine Trees to more obscure lefts that snapped my leash and begged for more.
We ate out at some of Hanalei’s favorite spots. Upscale tapas at Baracuda, which was a recommended treat from our traveling foodies Chuck and Julie. We also sampled just about every dive bar in town as per usual and then washed it off with a paddle down the Hanalei River.
It was hard to leave Hanalei but when the ticket was up on our free stay, it was time to go feral. We explored the ridge lines above the famous Napali coast after taking the mandatory, humbling drive through Waimea Canyon, up towards Kokee. But a real treat came after we came down and settled in at Polihale. We strung up our camping hammock on the beach that night, only to wake up to a thunderous chorus of triple overhead, peeling, spitting pacific monsters.
Nobody was out and I took full advantage of my proximity to the empty lineup and paddled right out. Unfortunately there was a reason nobody was out. Punching through Polihale’s beach break is like trying to thread a needle through never ending layers of heavy canvas, Keep in mind this canvas can snap your needle any second and threatens to break your face on every pass, let alone your will to go on.
Conditions aside, the waves were something magical and when I managed to get outside, it was humbling. I caught 3 “real” waves in 3 hours, covered hundreds of yards of beach, stared down hollow, cavernous, liquid mountains and often doubted my intelligence in paddling back out. It was f*cking awesome.
Polihale is a magical place and I hope it stays that way forever. While it’s not a secret, it still remains an “off the beaten path” destination on the Garden Isle due to recommendations from rental car agencies not to chance the roads.
Kapaa Town is another little spot that isn’t a secret but still holds an unpretentious local charm. Java Kai is a mandatory stop for charging up any road trip. There’s a little quaint place to eat that is a must for any person who “enjoys” restaurateuring. Art at Hemingway Cafe is a art gallery and cafe by day but transforms into a date night/ foodie hideaway for dinner. The chef prepares the menu fresh each day, there’s fondue, wild cocktails, good wine and you feel like you’re in some European countryside the entire time. The food and experience were some of the best of the trip and we probably would have hit it twice if we didn’t try it on the day we were flying out.
Kauai is full of hidden gems if you’re keen on diverting from the standard tourist fare. That said, Kauai’s tourist fare is still way more exotic than most of what Oahu has to offer. So if you’re looking for adventure, Kauai over delivers on every level. CHEE!
Hope you enjoy the video.