A November 2002 trip
to Kauai by smmmarti guide
Quote: Is there a heaven on earth? Based on appearances, Kauai is often touted as such. It is also acknowledged as having the potential to offer soulful healing and spiritual insights. This is just one journey into the heart of Kauai. Reading it may encourage you to make your own voyage.
The North Coast has a reputation of being all wet, which is reasonable considering the area rests down-mountain from Mt. Waialeale , the wettest spot on earth. Here, some 500 inches of rainfall annually provide the excessive moisture that handily feeds Kauai’s famous waterfalls and waterways, which are also the only navigable rivers in the state. But the trade-off of this soggy gamble is the exquisite reward of decompressing alongside some the world’s most remarkable scenery and beaches. Although Kauai greeted us initially with moody, misty, eerie vistas, the days that followed offered extraordinarily high surf and brilliant sunshine. Rain or shine, we spent four days exploring every road, beach, attraction and waterfall from Na Pali to Wailua.
For those less hardy, the beaches between Hanalei and Na Pali offer unparalleled splendor. Near Ha’ena State Park are the famous Maniniholo Wet and Dry Caves purported built my Menehune, Hawaii’s mythical little people, during an attempt to capture an evil spirit. Ka Ulu O Laka Heiau is a temple perched up the cliffs to honor the goddess of Hula and Limahuli National Tropical Gardens is a splendid display of native plants and terraced gardens.
Overcome that handicap by booking a trek tour into the jungles and rainforests, or hire an ATV to take you off-road. Consider renting a kayak to paddle the river and don’t forget to bring a surf or boogie board to navigate the often outrageous waves. Certainly take a helicopter to catch a breathtaking glimpse of the emerald green coast, shimmering waterfalls and deep canyons. Sturdy hiking shoes and even sturdier legs are obligatory gear from Sleeping Giant to Barking Sands to the Kalakua Trail. All effort will be rewarded beyond your fantasies. Shangri-la, Fantasy Island, the Lost World; it’s all really Kauai.
Hotel | "Princeville"
A winding two-mile stretch of road from the highway gives guests a chance to adjust to the unworldly realm they are about to enter at Princeville. This broad plateau of rolling greens punctuated with fountains, palms and trails leads to the massive 18,000 square foot lobby that immediately reveals the renowned views. Don’t be surprised if at first it doesn’t seem real.
The hotel is built on a Cliffside terrace, so from the ninth floor lobby, the 252 rooms are accessed through a series of elevators which deliver guests to accommodation floors and the beach and pool area below. Our room on the second floor had a magnificent view of the famed Bali Hai (Mt. Makana) through broad, sliding plantation shutters. Just below was the dramatic beachside pool that is flanked by three discreet but enormous crescent hot tubs and is adjacent to the site of the hotel’s twice weekly luau. On the beach, hammocks anchored by coconut palms sway in the breeze and little canvas hale are the magical shelter used for romantic candlelit private dinner celebrations or seaside spa treatments.
Princeville knows guests are anxious to get settled in after what was surely a long journey, so they whisk visitors to their rooms immediately where details are handled by the bellman. Soon after check-in they will discover a little secret - Princeville’s "magic crystal windows" which change from clear to frosted privacy with the flip of a switch, because the moment you are decent, you‘ll want to return to the view!
But the hotel’s true magic is found in the glorious lobby area. Here, the Living Room lounge, with its towering floor to ceiling glass walls, is furnished with multiple conversation areas and sofas. People tend to feel so comfortable that in spite of the classical European estate décor, they sit feet up, curled up, settled in as if they were home, in the living room! The outdoor patios aglow with blazing torches were also favored spots for watching the sunsets beyond Bali Hai, especially at the floating Hanalei Café restaurant lanai that gives the illusion of dining over the sea.
Various special events and cultural enrichment programs are offered regularly to support Princeville’s dedication to malama `aina, the caring for the land as well as mea o Hawai`I, or "all things Hawai`ian." Additionally, their top-notch concierge service will help you organize any of the dozens of outings this environment inspires.
You don’t have to die to get to this heaven; in fact, you’ll feel more alive than ever.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 7, 2002
St. Regis Princeville Resort
5520 Ka Haku Road
Princeville, Hawaii 96722
Restaurant | "Kilauea Bakery/Pau Hana Pizza"
So is everything in Kauai outside of the hotels. That’s a good thing for the ohana, we recognized, imagining them all snuggled in at home while we spent our Thanksgiving driving in the pouring rain searching for a bit of gruel… I mean, a snack to take the edge off before the big dinner feast at Princeville‘s Hanalei Cafe. We had been driving for an hour, so it was a very sad disappointment and dreadful blow to my blood sugar, which was dropping to desperate levels suddenly, to find the much ballyhooed Kilauea Bakery closed.
When you want something so badly you can taste it, and are then denied, it only makes you crave it all the more. Inevitably, a day or two later we made the lunchtime trek back to Kilauea after a visit to the impressive lighthouse and coastline nearby, and prepared ourselves for the feast that should have been but wasn‘t.
In the Kong Lung Center, a courtyard of charming green wooden structures, sits this little gem, actually more famous for its baked goods than anything else. Here you find Hawaiian sourdough bread made with guava starter, Napali Brown Bread and whole grain Spelt. Word on the street is that people come from all over the island for the famous breadsticks and lavish, and my visit there bore witness to many patrons popping in for nothing more than that. How could they walk away from the danish, the lilikoi bars, carrot cake and cream puffs? Obviously not everyone can, as the selection was nearly depleted by our arrival at 1 p.m.
We didn’t mind. We were here for pizza. Typically two varieties are sold by the slice, but when we arrived only cheese was offered. No matter. We each ordered the individual sized made-to-order versions for $7.25-$10.50. My husband ordered the "Big Meat Combo" made from ham, pepperoni, Italian sausage, onion and cheese. I had the Pomodoro, which was ono (mouth-watering) fresh Hawaiian tomatoes and Kilauea goat cheese, artichokes and black olives. If they’d have thrown in a few fresh sprigs of basil, I might have declared this the most winning combination ever spread on flattened bread dough. As it was, it came close and the dough itself was heavenly.
Pau Hana Pizza also offers soups, salads and calzone, all made painstakingly fresh from scratch using local ingredients - the only way to serve up excellent fare anywhere, in my book. They also offer unique ingredient choices for their made-to-order famous ‘za’s, such as tofurella
Cheese, Pau Hana Smoked game fish, Sugarloaf pineapple, smoked ono, and of course, the choice of whole wheat or regular sourdough crust. Additionally, a full service espresso bar, where the renown Big Train Chai is offered, is reason to stop in even if you aren‘t hungry.
But it would be a crying shame to forgo the delectable treats of Pau Hana. On second thought, I recommend arriving famished. Just hope that it's open!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 7, 2002
Kilauea Bakery / Pau Hana Pizza
Restaurant | "Cafe Hanalei"
It could be the food and the service. Although the dinner hour is the most celebrated time to visit, the restaurant offers service all throughout the day starting with an elaborate and impressive breakfast buffet. Every morning two large center service tables are piled high with fruits, pastries, bagels and lox and all the trimmings while a hot service line includes French toast, hotcakes, meats and made to order omelets.
At lunch, diners may order from the menu or indulge in yet another feast that includes a variety of hot entrées, salads and seafoods. There are daily theme menu changes and specials, including a well-attended seafood buffet on Friday nights and champagne Sunday brunch. We had the good fortune of experiencing Café Hanalei on the feast of all feasts, Thanksgiving. After watching a steady stream of families take their place in the beautiful classic dining room and floating lanai, it became obvious to us that we were in for a special treat.
Who needs turkey and dressing when buffet tables are laden with snap apart crab claws, sushi and sashimi, jumbo shrimp, oysters in the shell and Hawaiian poke? The salad table included such specialties as duck and pohole fern, turkey and mango and classic Caesar with choice of ingredients. Two separate carving tables gave diners choices from every meat imaginable including kalua pig and prime rib of beef. Yes, there was turkey, dressing and Hawaiian purple sweet potatoes, but who noticed?
Outside on the lanai the torches were lit as families lingered and darkness settled over the bay. Although the restaurant had been serving for many hours by then, chafing dishes were continuously and immediately replenished and service was an unhurried affair. As the music from the Living Room continued to soothe and relax us all, even the hard working waitresses seemed in no hurry to leave this pristine setting. Ours refused to let us leave until we’d tried the French press coffee and made room for just a little dessert. We obliged, snipping off a piece of pumpkin custard, ginger crème brulee, and chocolate mousse pie before slumping back into our cushy chairs.
We decided this tradition would be easy to incorporate into future holiday celebrations. What better way to kick off a season that begins with gratitude and exults life’s comfort and joy?
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 11, 2002
5520 Kahuku Road
Princeville, Hawaii 96722
Attraction | "Living Room"
Architects of the Living Room at Princeville obviously tiptoed humbly around mother nature when creating this room. Oriented brilliantly in the direction of Mt. Makana, where the sun tucks itself predictably into this slot in the landscape each and every night, nothing is lost. Clearly, one could sit on the beach or a chunk of lava rock to watch this show and still be dazzled. But taking it one step further, in the Living Room full walls of glass reveal every nuance of nature’s swirling colors and shadows while allowing guests to sit on overstuffed sofas, propping their feet upon pillows, out of the wind, the weather, and the sand, while gracious attendants fetch them favored libations and pupus. Died and gone to heaven? You betcha!
The Living Room is also a full-fledged sushi bar from 5:30 - 9:30 p.m. nightly. On our first evening here we settled in for a little glass of wine and ended up making it our dinner. The "Green Flash" sushi roll, an original creation of the Living Room sushi chef was one of the most delicious we’ve ever tasted. That’s saying a lot, considering we eat sushi everywhere we go and at least weekly at home. The old standards, spicy tuna roll, rainbow roll, rock and roll, all lived up to any previously established expectations as well.
If the view and the sushi weren’t enough incentive to make the Living Room a nightly feature of our stay at the Princeville, the entertainment provided a definite lure. Even from our dining table in the lower level Hanalei Café while in the middle of conversation, my husband and I had halted with chopsticks in mid-air when a particularly melodious rift emanated from the Living Room.
"That guy is great!" my husband had blurted out, reading my mind.
The sax player and piano man had done it again by upstaging the other fabulous features of the hotel, the food, the views, the plush décor. This is the sort of background music that is so enjoyable that you mourn its loss when the musicians take a break.
Twice a week the musicians turn the stage over to Mauliola Cook and John Akana who present authentic island style drumming, chanting, dance and storytelling. This ancient Hawaiian performance art reveals the captivating legends of the islands while offering guests and local alike some powerful and mesmerizing entertainment. The program is part of Princeville’s dedication to preserving the rich heritage of the original ancestral inhabitants of the Hanalei Bay.
In spite of its outward opulence, the earthy respectfulness represented in the phrase, "E ho’okipa mai ko makou Hale," welcome to our home, reflects the real heart of Princeville. No where does it beat more soundly than in the Living Room.
5-3900 Kuhio Highway
Princeville, Hawaii 96722
+1 808 826 5050
Attraction | "Journey by Air"
A visit to Kauai offers compelling incentive to overcome such distrust. No where is the aerial view quite so spectacular and in general there is no better method for witnessing the stunning views than in one of the highly maneuverable high-flying wasps that buzz over Kauai‘s skies like so many seabirds. Yet, the very element that forged Kauai’s deeply gorged cliffs and canyons - the 500 inches of annual rainfall - can likely cause your flight to be washed out and possibly dangerous.
There were a number of "incidents" in recent years when helicopter companies headed out in inclement weather or competed with one another as to which could fly the closest to natural features. Guidelines were put into place and limitations now state that copters must stay clear of mountains by at least 500 feet. As for when to cancel a flight, that remains discretionary.
If we we had paid in advance for a flight, we would fly come rain or come shine. So, I stalled on the idea during those first few rainy and questionable days in Kauai and decided I’d take the tour the day of our departure - providing the weather was conducive and we could grab a flight without committing any cash in advance. We’d be at the airport then, anyway, and wouldn’t loose any island time.
What seemed like plenty of time was cut short when we learned that we needed to check in 40 minutes prior to scheduled flight time. It didn’t seem reasonable as we mainly spent the time getting to know our "flight mates" in the Helicopter office and watching the Chicago-Greenbay game on TV. Maybe this approach helps de-jangle nerves or something.
After a weigh-in to determine who will sit where in the copter and safety briefing that basically said don‘t walk into the rear rotor, we were herded to the landing pad and boarded the craft one by one. It was a tight fit! Luckily I had the rear window or I might have been a bit claustrophobic. Before I had time to think about it, we were lifting off, floating over the broad open valley of Kauai on our flight over the spectacular Waimea Canyon, Na Pali coast cliffs and the North Shore.
Waiting had been wise. We were gifted that day with a perfectly dazzling, rare morning. Even the top of the volcano, almost always shrouded by clouds and rain, gleamed. The canyon, a rainbow of colors, revealed nature’s masterstrokes, and waterfalls materialized from every crevice, pumping from the heavy rains earlier. We gasped, we sighed, and when the music in our earphones played a coordinated crescendo as we flew over the top of Mt. Wai`ale`ale, we silently wept.
Kauai, Hawaii 96766
(808) 972 4666
The Hawaiians believe you cannot know something until you examine its history. It’s easy to find the basic information on Kauai’s development but a bigger question is rarely posed by casual tourist. If the majority of volcanic activity occurs on the borders of plates why are the Hawaiian islands, completely volcanic in origin, situated in the middle of the ocean?
There is much to learn about the geology of the earth and if you want very detailed information, follow the above link and learn for yourself. But if you want a simplified explanation that I hope won’t bore, read on.
The Hawaiian Ridge-Emperor Seamounts Chain of mostly underwater volcanic mountains extends from the Big Island of Hawaii to Alaska. For 70 million years this plate has moved slowly and created 125 volcanoes. Remarkable enough, but
if we take a look further back in time when Kauai was barely a twinkle in Mother Nature’s eye, we learn that the unique locations of the Hawaiian islands is due to an abrupt detour the Pacific Plate took over 43 million years ago. Where it had formerly moved in a northerly direction, it suddenly shifted westward. One explanation is that the collision of the India landmass into the Asian continent caused the seismic shift. In any case, amazingly this detour settled the plate over a "hotspot" which began to form the Hawaiian Islands.
This explanation matches the mythology of Pele, Hawaii’s fire goddess, who is credited with the creation of the islands. Scientist find it rather remarkable that somehow the ancients had a sense of what was bubbling beneath the surface and even gave a name and identity to what was causing the fuss.
It wasn’t until 1963 that a Canadian, J. Tuzo Wilson, suggested that the line-up of the Hawaiian islands was likely to to a plate shift over a stationery hotspot. In other words, all the islands originated from the same source.
Kauai bubbled underwater for some 10 million years before it emerged 5 million years ago. The current highest peaks on the island, Wai'ale'ale (5,148 feet) and Kawaikini (5,243 feet) are already only half of what they were in their heyday. Meanwhile, a new island, Lo’ihi, is being formed off the coast of the Big Island and is rumored to emerge above water in about 7,000 short years. (Realtors are already getting excited.) Although completely submerged and still a youngster, Lo’ihi is already taller than Mt. St. Helens was when it erupted. Measured from the ocean floor, Maui's Haleakala is the most massive mountain on earth.
All this because India bumped into Asia 43 million years ago!
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Attraction | "Historical Sites in Princeville"
During King Kaumualii’s absence from Kauai, European land barons took over the task of actually ruling the island. One of the more prominent plantation owners was Crichton Wylie, a Scotsman, who had turned sail to Hawaii after becoming disenchanted with New Zealand. The stories say he hadn’t planned to stay, but King Kamehameha appointed him minister of foreign affairs for the kingdom of Hawaii. He eventually purchased most of the Hanalei Bay area and raised sugar cane and coffee and built a large sugar mill and a beautiful plantation estate.
Hawai`i’s last true prince and most beloved of all Hawaiian ali`i, Albert, the son of Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, visited Mr. Wylie at his estate when he was two years old. Following his visit, Wylie named the plantation the ‘Barony de Princeville" in honor of the child. Tragically, the child died at the tender age of four, and the grieving king died a year later.
Soon after, Mr. Wylie passed away, leaving a plantation deeply in debt and dream forsaken. In time, Princeville was divided and sold and worked as a sugarcane and cattle ranch until the late sixties when the first group of investors had the idea to develop this stunning plateau into a world class resort.
In 1985, the Sheraton Princeville opened shortly following the completion of the Princeville Resort and Makai golf courses. An ownership change in 1987 included plans to upgrade the hotel to a luxury five-star resort. But another change of ownership in 1990 and the effects of hurricane Iniki in 1992, delayed Princeville’s appearance on the coveted "Gold List" of Best Hotels in the World as selected by readers of Conde Nast magazines. It took over a year to restore the hotel and infuse it with the Hawaiian sensibilities it now reflects.
It’s probably fair to say that the history of this unique and stunning parcel of land called Princeville contributes as much to its value as the glorious natural wonders that surround it. Long recognized as a place of great spiritual power, or mana, it was a place rich with the Hawaiian staff of life, taro, and hala (pandanus), which provided the ancient civilization with essential materials for making everything from floor coverings to sails.
These days, it serves as a unique destination where travelers can restore not only their bodies, but their minds and spirits, while immersing themselves in the brilliant landscapes and the culture, history and heritage of fascinating characters, both historical and mythological, that make Hawaii and Kauai so utterly remarkable.
Princeville Shopping Center
5-4280 Kuhio Highway
Princeville, Hawaii 96722
+1 808 826 3040
Begun as a form of worship, during the days of the great hula halau (school) people from across Hawaii came here to learn the sacred kahiko hula at Ka-ulu-a-Paoa from the high priestess, Kili`oe. After hula was banned under the influence of the missionaries, the instruction took a more "underground" approach and the final exams were less dangerous.
Princeville’s close proximity to the source of origin would not necessarily guarantee that its performers are the most well-versed and authentic in all Hawaii, but it does certainly lend an air of mystery to the proceedings, as does the exquisite location set on the fringe of Hanalei Bay.
Having seen all sorts of luaus; Las Vegas type review luaus at mega-resort complexes, authentic chanting and drumming luaus at local feasts, the famed Old Lahaina Luau and her sister luau at the Feast of Lele, I can attest to a luau’s relative merit. At the Princeville, though highly impressive and satisfying, guests will find generally less theatrics and loads of heart.
On Monday and Thursday evening year round, rain or shine, the conch shell sounds as the the stage area next to the pool is draped with a cloth, reminiscent of the talent show in "South Pacific" when Luther wore the coconuts. This accommodating, low-key arrangement allows guests to linger on the beach with the gorgeous views until show time at 6:00 p.m. The crowd is small and intimate, usually made up exclusively of hotel guests allowing everyone to participate in the imu ceremony, when the smoked pig is unearthed from its fiery pit. Delectable ono foods, salads, pork, chicken and fish are every bit as tempting as are Princeville’s other fabulous dining venues and accordingly reflect the talent of the hotel chef. During the dinner, a trio of very skilled musicians play a broad variety of Hawaiian hits, including numbers from Elvis to Iz.
Meanwhile, guests take advantage of the open bar open where mai tais, beer, wine, and single liquor drinks are available one at a time due to a quirky Hawaiian liquor law. The open bar closes just after the beautiful hula girls exit the stage after having given guests a sample of the various dances from the Pacific Island cultures. Then, the stage goes dark signaling the arrival of the fire dancer. He whirls, he twirls, he dances with fire and runs with knives captivating the entire audience with his ancient displays of prowess.
They may not swim with sharks, but the performers at Princeville definitely know how to win audiences just the same.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 9, 2002
Attraction | "Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge"
How did the amazing albatross come to be known as "gooney?" Like the red-footy "booby," the bird was often disrespected when it happened upon a sailing ship and wasn’t afraid of what it found onboard - humans. Also, because these birds spend the majority of their lives at sea, sometimes as long at eight years at a stretch, when coming ashore for the first time they are probably much like sailors on leave; their behavior is a little off.
The steep cliffs at Kilauea provide the albatross with a natural runway and jumping off point. It is here they come to mate and roost between their lengthy flights. Although takeoff is a challenge to these great birds, once in flight they can soar for days on their nine to twelve foot wingspans, even sleeping while mid-air. Some have flown as far as 10,000 miles without stopping! The nesting and mating rituals of the Laysan Albatross is animated and distinctive enough to draw visitors during mating season to their roosting sites in the Princeville area where these indiscreet birds dance, preen and sing regardless of who is watching!
The telescope at the Kilauea visitors center was trained on one nesting couple tucked into the cliffs on the left side of the point. But on the other side of the lookout, it was easy to see the birds congregate with the naked eye. Here, dotting the landscape are numerous protected species such as, Hawaiian nene geese, brown boobies, red-tailed tropicbirds, wedge-tailed shearwaters, and great frigate birds.
Birds are not the only attraction of Kilauea Point. The picturesque lighthouse was erected in 1913 as a guiding beacon for ships from the Orient, it was dedicated May 1, 1913 "with a luau to which everyone in Kilauea town was invited." The original lens was built in France for $12,000 and was turned by clock-like mechanism operated by a massive weight, cable and pulley that had to be wound every 3.5 hours. In 1930 the oil vapor lamp was replaced by an electric model, and eventually in 1976, the Coast Guard decommissioned the lighthouse and installed an automated electronic beacon. In 1979, the lighthouse was placed on the Register of National Historic Places and on February 15, 1985 it became the 425th Refuge in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
One more gem lying just off the point is a little Mukuae`ae." Crashing waves force a blowhole to spout which brings rainbows in its wake, providing the jewel for the crown at the "top of Hawaii," Kilauea Point.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 9, 2002
Kilauea Point Wildlife Refuge
Kilauea Lighthouse Road, one mile north of Kilauea P. O. Box 1128 (mailing address)
Kauai, Hawaii 96754
And time waits for no one, and it won't wait for me.
And time waits for no one, and it won't wait for me.
My husband trekked to Kauai twenty-seven years ago before Princeville Hotel was built, when Smith’s Fern Grotto was the major tourist attraction. His visit pre-dated the arrival of post-Vietnam vets who managed to parley their combat experience by flying headlong over the islands canyons and craters, creating in their wake the wildly popular helicopter sightseeing adventures now nearly ubiquitous to Hawaii.
Back then he had been content to hang out in an architecturally unappealing, politically incorrect and environmentally unconcerned ramshackle condo on the great plains of Princeville long before it was an ultra-chic symbol of success. He rented next door to a few musicians who were wallowing in their early brushes with phenomenal fame; a couple of blokes named Keith Richards, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts who rocked the lava cliffs and in their attempt to get some satisfaction, while my husband tried to get sleep and make his early tee times.
There was no Jurassic Park, Lost World or even Fantasy Island imagery providing an everyman connection yet to Kauai.
"So, what was here back then?" I asked, sensing a story.
"Golf, luau’s, Smith’s Fern Grotto. Not much!"
"What is Smith’s Fern Grotto?"
My husband recalled torch lighting, dancing girls, beautiful gardens, and a unique fern cave amphitheater approachable only by watercraft.
"It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen," was his comment on its "cool" factor. "I wonder what it‘s like now?" he added somewhat wistfully.
So we headed immediately to the mouth of the Wailua river, the only navigable river in the Hawaiian islands, on a mission to find out.
The Smith family’s venerable institution has dished up visions of paradise to tourists for over fifty years. About now, Smith’s Paradise could use a little touch up. The fleet of flat-bottomed pontoon crafts that ply the river several times daily have clearly seen a few rough seas. The effects of time and hurricane Iniki are visible in both the crafts and the surrounding grounds. Although the complex still hosts one of the island’s most popular luau’s and the adjacent botanical gardens are lovely enough, the visitor’s "terminal" is weather-worn and dated. I envisioned the specter of tourists past; those enthusiastic souls who broke ground on Hawaii’s tourist industry with the advent of commercial flights to the world’s most remote tropical islands, now wandering the grounds amid the peacocks and roosters.
Fern Grotto myths claim other spirits; ghosts of departed Hawaiians that drift over the waters of the Wailua river, making their way up the mountainside where they will return to the world of the dead via a jump from the cliffs. In spite of chilling mythology and the fact that the cave and riverbank approach were formerly exclusive territory to alii, Fern Grotto is an extremely popular wedding site and kayaking outing. We were surprised to see waterskiers and wake boarders join the parade of river rats on our route to the Grotto. Clumsy kayakers hugged the shoreline as the wake from our big boat rattled their plastic floats, while the obviously experienced paddlers stayed well ahead of or behind the boat.
"Look, hon, we could have just rented a kayak to get there," I noted suspecting that approach might have been more our style.
Along the way we passed a forbidden mountain, learned of a secret heiau (temple), Hawaiian lore and the story of the menehune (little people.) We passed the cove that served as the Hollywood version of Africa for the movie, "Outbreak," where kayak rentals are available, and finally arrived at the dock for the State Park.
Walking though the thick rainforest jungle toward the cave we encountered the prolific and colorful roosters which have practically swarmed the island, living happily alongside a few very well tended but wild cats. After taking a seat at a little campfire ring we were informed of Fern Grotto‘s famous wedding couples and let in on a little secret. That long ago tourists complained that the jungle was too dense and dark to allow for good photography, so the state park service chopped out portions of the canopy to appease them. To their surprise, this altered the ecology and now the famous ferns are not so stunning as they once were. But photos turn out fine.
We then hiked up to the grotto via a paved but slippery path equipped with guard rail that followed a Disneyworld-waiting line model, and were serenaded with the "Hawaiian Wedding Song" by the boat crew. A young woman on her honeymoon couldn’t contain her excitement. "I can’t believe I’m actually here!" she gushed tearfully from behind the lens of her video camera, "this is sooooo beaoooootiful!"
My husband and I looked rather blankly at one another, not wanting to comment and being forced to think about this exuberant perspective for a moment.
"It’s not what I remembered," my husband apologized on our way back down the river as the onboard hula instruction began. "But then again, I had never seen such a thing in my life before when I first came here."
"Oh, sweetie, I’m glad we went," I assure him. "I can imagine that the forest was amazing before they poked holes into it, that the boats were inviting when they were fresh and clean, that the dancing was captivating the first time you saw it, and that your expectations were more in line with that bride in the grotto. Did you see how excited she was?"
I could tell he was attempting to sort out his memory from this recent brush with reality, but it wasn’t easy to accept.
It took five million years to form Kauai from the depths of the ocean floor. As soon as the Pacific Plate shifted to begin it’s work on Oahu, the hotspot caldera stopped contributing to Kauai and its now magnificent erosion began instead. Already Kauai’s highest peaks are only half the size they once were but those stunning craggy cliffs are the result of these losses in stature. One day it will be nothing more than a tropical atoll - and then it will disappear back into the sea.
Since my husband‘s first visit to Kauai, Bill Wyman has left the Rolling Stones, Fern Grotto has holes in it and two hurricanes have leveled severe damage. All things change, and I have to believe that overall, that’s a good thing.
Yes, star crossed in pleasure the stream flows on by.
Yes, as we're sated in leisure, we watch it fly.
Political History of Kauai -Kamehameha and Kaumualii
Hawaiian history prior to the arrival of the missionaries was relegated entirely to oral tradition passed down and around in the form of stories and chants, so records can vary greatly. But the stories are fascinating by any account. Ironies abound, and intrigue, drama and universal mythology spring up in almost familiar guises.
King Kamehameha’s Mission
What made Kamehameha such a warrior, so determined to unite the Islands? Was it the shark’s eyeball his mother was slipped during pregnancy when she actually craved the eyeball of a chief? The story of this event struck fear into the hearts of the other ali’I, for the child nurtured on the eye of a shark would surely become a killer of kings. This threatening notion lead the kings of the various islands order the slaughter of all newborns, but Kamehameha’s mother sent him off to be raised by foster parents in a secret location.
Another set of familiar sounding incidences are related in this account events relating to Kamehameha’s birth:
… Kamehameha's mother was "with child" during a visit to Maui, giving rise to speculation that Maui's king, Kahekili, was the father, though a Kohala chief, Keoua Kupuapaikalaninui claimed him as his son. Priests had foretold the birth of this royal child, called Pai'ea, and said that he was destined to challenge the rule of Alapa'inui…Chants say it was the time of 'Ikua, the month of roaring seas, thunderous storms and flashing lightning, and they also relate that a brilliant star with a long tail appeared during the birth, leading historians to surmise the historic event occurred in November 1758, when Halley's comet streaked across the night sky.,
Kamehameha’s determination to unite Hawaii seemed to stem from an awareness that after the arrival of the European explorers and missionaries, that the Hawaiian way of life would be forever altered and that no hope of survival existed without a united front. Indeed, Kauai had been vulnerable in its tenacious quest to retain independence and relatively soon after Captain Cook’s arrival had become a pawn in a power struggle between Russia, Britain and America.
But Kamehameha never actually conquered Kauai. The Channels separating the garden isle from the other kingdoms of Hawaii were too deep and treacherous to mount a surprise attack and even with troops numbering 10,000, divine providence or fate launched a cholera epidemic that wiped out the King’s warriors faster than Kauai‘s armies could have ever hoped. Most historical references state that it was the 1810 agreement between the two kings, a pact that allowed Kaumuali’i to continue to govern Kauai while pledging allegiance to Kamehameha, that united the islands.
The Russian American Fur Company had made certain inroads when a cargo ship of furs headed to the Far East from Alaska was run aground on Kauai. When locals captured and held the booty, the company sent Dr. George Shaffer to discuss the matter with Kamehameha on Oahu. He was technically the supreme ruler of Kauai by then, having reached an accordance with Kauai‘s king in 1810. After being denied any assistance, Shaffer went back to Kaumualii and attempted to negotiate his own deal. He would build forts on Kauai and gather an army to help Kaumualii rise up against Kamehameha. Once they had seized his other islands, half of the island of Oahu would go to Dr. Shaffer. Four Russian forts were built around the island in defense against Kamehameha. Most are now destroyed, but on the bluffs adjacent to the Princeville Hotel a small pavilion and distinct mound of earth bear witness to this historical fact.
According to the Princeville history, false rumors about a war between America and Russia found their way to the king along with notice of Shaffer and Kaumualii’s plan. This, added to other issues of growing mistrust, caused Kauai’s King to suddenly, unsympathetically dismiss Dr. Shaffer from the island.
In spite of his pledge, King Kaumuali’i was eventually tricked and kidnapped by Kamehameha in 1821, and forced to live his remaining days in Oahu. Ironically after Kamehameha died, Kaumuali’i eventually married his widow, Queen Kaahumanu. The couple, after carefully burying the bones of the former chief - for the such powerful mana in the wrong hands would surely be disastrous - went on to produce the heirs of who continued to rule the now united Hawaiian Islands.