I'm not sure what it is about Kauai that steers me further from couch potato syndrome than any other place. We've been snorkeling every time we've visited the island; taken surfing lessons (twice, and didn't have the time on the third trip); and we've scored a zipline adventure, not to mention enjoying a number of trails.
And there are still plenty of things on my to do list for the island, kayaking, longer trails, another zip, more snorkeling and some more serious surfing. That last notation comes as a result of a conversation with the guy at the Keolia Country Store. He politely suggested (almost obliquely suggested) that we hadn't really had much more than a taste of surfing on our previous visits.
Let me tell you about those first lessons. In 2004 we happened on to Mitch and the gang with Hawaiian Surfing Adventures, at they're place of business... essentially a campsite in the park by Hanalei Bay. I confess, I didn't have a great desire to surf. But Mitch offered to drop the price by $5 for each of us, if all four of us participated, so I was basically brow beaten into it. Like I had a choice.
Okay... I had a lot of fun. You can probably find a picture of our instructor, Freddie, if you look up gnarly fifty-something surfer in the dictionary. This was a guy that has been in the sun for that last 40 years, at least. Basically, he gave us 30 minutes of land-based instruction, then led us out to the water. Working with each of us one on one, he'd tell us when to get ready and then push us off at the right time. End result, all four of us got up on our boards at one time or another and had a blast.
In 2006, we followed the recommendation of one of the concierge staff at Kauai Beach Villas and called up her friend Reid, who was just getting started. Reid could not have been further in appearance from Freddie. Whereas Freddie belied every one of his years on the planet (while still moving like a 20 year old), Reid was young, good looking and had the female half of our little quartet practially cooing over him. That's okay, his teaching style was remarkably egalitarian and very similar to Freddie's approach; get you started, push you off and watch you go.
Now it's 2008 and we're driving along the Kuhio Highway, when at Sue's behest, I turn around so she can get a photo of a tree at Keolia Beach. While she's doing that, I notice one of the more prominent local celebrities... Bethany Hamilton. If you don't recognize the name, you should. Bethany is the young lady who lost her left arm to a shark and then less than a year later won a national surfing competition. I couldn't resist approaching her, with the cornball line of "would it be terribly rude of me to ask if I could take your picture?" Her answer surprised me, rather uncomfortably, she said that she'd rather not have me take a picture of just her (as you never know how that picture might be used) however she'd allow us to photograph her with either one or both of us. Even better! Bethany has poise far beyond her years, and as for surfing ability, trust me, she's the real deal. We watched for a while as she surfed and left totally in awe.
We then went across the highway to the Keolia County Store, for some shave ice (yum!). There we discovered that the guy behind the counter also was a surfing instructor who basically posed the question "do you want to learn to surf, or do you just want to dunce around for a few hours?" I have to admit I left a little humbled.
I've yet to be humbled though by snorkeling. One reason for that though, is the knowledge that I have Snorkel Bob in my corner. There are a lot of snorkel rental places around the islands, but Snorkel Bob's is by far the best that I've seen. Whether you need a prescription lens mask or just the basics, they'll get you set up and out to the water in record time, and with minimal costs.
Then there is the zipline, a phenomenon that is growing in popularity after it's introduction in Central America. Again, we did a little research and landed on Princeville Ranch Adventures Zip N' Dip tour. Want to soar across a valley? All you have to do is buckle yourself into a harness, hook it onto a steel cable stretching from 70 to 150 yards long, and then run off the ramp. Make sure you do those steps in that precise order... harness... hook... cable... run, I take no blame for readers that miss any of those steps.
Princeville Ranch offers 8 ziplines, a suspension bridge and a cool picnic by a nice little waterfall. They also make sure that you have all the appropriate safety equipment, along with plenty of conversation and banter as you walk from one zip to the other.
You would think that snapping a picture or two while zipping across the valley would be easy, but nope. It's a little tricky as you quickly discover how easily distracted you can get by the beauty of the valley below.
2008 had more serious walking for us. We walked across the rim of the Kalalau Valley and scrambled across the rocks to Queen’s Bath. But we did take a snorkel cruise to the Na Pali coast and all three of those outings were good enough for their own reviews. So just keep in mind, sunning on the beach is fine, but trying new adventures is even better. Mahalo!