Hiking Category

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 6

We were on the road to Hanakapiai Trail from Ke’e Beach by 5:30am the next morning. The drive takes one to two hours depending on when you leave. It only took us an hour, but we knew that the hike to Hanakapiai Falls would require at least four hours, and an early start meant less people.

The hike begins at the northern entrance to the famous Kalalau trail which is known for its incredible views and the dangers involved in getting to those views. On my helicopter ride, I literally got a birds eye view of this trail. I kid you not, the “trail” is barely that. By the looks of two hikers braving the trail at the time – their stomachs and faces pressed tightly against the red dirt mountain side – it truly seemed the foothold couldn’t have been that much wider than a size 7 foot. Add in a perpetual mist off the teeming ocean directly below, and constant wind erosion, and it’s no wonder hikers die every year from attempting to trek the entire 11 mile trail.

Although it’s possible to hike the Kalalau in a day, it’s highly recommended that hikers take two days. But a nice alternative for those of us not quite ready to fall to our deaths (at least not yet) is to hike to Hanakapiai Falls which is about 8 miles and doesn’t require a meeting with your life insurance agent. The hike starts at Ke’e Beach and goes along the coast, veers inland into a lush canyon, then ends up at one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island. And this hike is no cake walk either, especially if rains have made the trail very slick and extremely muddy, like we experienced.

But it is one of the shorter hikes you can do with incredible scenery along the way, and a major payoff at the end. Take a look.

When we arrived, we spotted a natural rock alcove overlooking the falls, and climbed up to have a simple but perfectly satisfying lunch of cold rosemary roast chicken, apples, trail mix, and more homemade ahi jerky from Living Foods . I also had some excellent lilikoi-lychee Kauai Kombucha. This was one of the most memorable lunches I’ve had in my life.

We made it back to Ke’e Beach just when the trail was getting crowded.

We were filthy and glowing.

+++

On the drive back, we hit up Joe’s Banana Stand and each had an incredible pineapple “frosty” which transforms frozen pieces of the ripest, sweetest pineapple and banana into a creamy delight (no dairy included). Also for the first time, we got to sample some rare poha berries and Sugar Loaf white pineapple.

Poha berries are tropical fruits that originated in South America and were brought to the Islands by early settlers. The berries come from the tomato family, and like tomatillos, have a papery husk. The fruits are a beautiful orangish yellow, and are softly tart and sweetly floral. Sugar Loaf white pineapple is exactly as delectable as it sounds. I love pineapple as it is, but imagine it with a core as tender and sweet as the flesh around it. Sugar Loaf is indeed a beautiful cream-white color, as well.

I felt like I had stopped at the edible candy cottage in Hansel and Gretel, except in place of a witch, there was a charming older hippie couple running the place.

+++

Our next stop was Kilauea where we had a few comforting slices of pizza at the charming Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza.

And we made it just in time for the Kilauea Sunshine Farmer’s Market. It was small, but no trip is complete for me without perusing an open air market. This one happened to have a vendor offering young coconut to drink and eat (with coconut shell “spoon”) too. Bonus!

Funny enough, we also spotted our crazy hiking guide Steve on a bike on his way to the market with who must have been his girlfriend from Tasmania (he had mentioned her several times to us on our hike).

+++

Last stop was a joint that screamed out at us to stop and sample: Chicken in a Barrel. Crazy smoky chicken that’s slow cooked in oil drums on the side of the road, the chicken was rich, hearty and plenty smoky. And one serving could easily feed two.

We also sampled a side of the pulled Hawaiian pork with Hawaiian BBQ sauce, as well. The pork was tasty (I mean, it’s smoked pork!), but if you visit Chicken in a Barrel, you should go there for the chicken. Don’t forget to try the potato salad and condiments they’ve got lined up at the counter too. You’ll definitely get the local vibe eating this chicken while sitting at one of their picnic tables on the side of the road, smoking oil drums going nonstop right next to you.

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 3

Honopu Ridge Trail kicked my butt. But it was the kind of butt-kicking that hurts so good afterwards. There was fear, red dirt, off-key singing, green explosions, and chubby blocks of fresh ahi jerky.

As we piled into a dusty mini-flatbed truck that smelled “natural,” and met our guide Steve – 60ish, unkempt hair, wiry limbs, and deep wrinkled tan – I knew we were in for a visceral adventure.

Although the hike up to what I coined the “Red Dirt Ridge” is only about 5-7 miles total, it requires getting up close and personal with dense greenery, root-ridden uphill trails, and your own body. You’ve also got to be patient because you may do some backtracking. But boy, is it worth all that red dust getting up in those tiny crevices (yeah, you’ll know what I mean after you take a shower).

Although many who visit Kauai opt see the Na Pali Coast by air; nothing beats seeing it off a powder dirt “cliff” carved by time and tropical winds.

When you do this trek, it feels as if your mind moves from one world to the next a la Cloud Atlas. First you’re in Nea So Copros (for me, Chicago), then you go back in time to the greenest of Green (when Nature still perseveres despite humans blowing themselves up), then you’re on Mars, and then you gaze out from the apex to the Blue Yonder where you imagine everyone talks with an overly elaborate, overly romanticized 19th century vocabulary.

I know I sound corny, but this place does inspire such grandiosity and I unapologetically bathed myself in it. It’s the kind of Stuff that helps me get through the languishing of the Everyday, every day.

Fully dirty and fully content, Steve had a nice detour planned for us and I’d recommend it to any visitor. Doesn’t require a pinch of the physical effort as Honopu, but it’s quite a sight. The Pu’u Hinahina Lookout lays out a spectacular view of Waimea Canyon. You can see all the way down to the Pacific whilst your two feet stand firmly planted on a concrete platform.

We had a sleepy, windy ride back as we listened to Steve crooning his heart out to Marvin Gaye. A pit stop at JoJo’s Shave Ice capped off our trek. I had the #12 Fruity Special, a pineapple-orange-lillikoi-macnut ice cream treat. Jordan had the strawberry-mango-coconut-vanilla cream-macnut ice cream flavor blast. We both agreed the macadamia nut ice cream trumped the shaved ice.

Sushi and drinks at the Stevenson Library back at the Hyatt didn’t have a chance of competing against chomping down homemade ahi tuna jerky in the middle of the Kauai jungle. But the cocktails and fresh fish didn’t hurt one bit.

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 2

If only every morning would wake me with seaside breezes tickling my skin! Made all the difference in the world.

Today we freely explore and acclimatize ourselves to Kauai; that is, after a monster breakfast with a slew of skittering Mina birds and leaping koi keeping us company.

Our exploration started with a mini-hike along the sandstone cliffs overlooking Shipwreck Beach. Although we liked to imagine grand pirate ships crashed on the shore, littering their loot across the sand, it’s actually named for a small abandoned boat that made it’s home there for years until Hurricane Iwa took its badly decomposing shell back to the sea. Also just below the water’s surface are jagged volcanic rocks endemic to Kauai which makes for some killer body surfing. Notice that I decidedly use the word “killer” to describe surfing there.

Seeing those big waves whet our appetite to visit one of the best beaches for body surfing, Poipu Beach. We’re talking plump waves converging at odd angles to create ideal conditions for some heady surf!

After a sufficient beating, we indulged in a couples 80-minute sports massage and looked forward to what is considered the most romantic place for dinner in Kauai – The Beachhouse.

Starting off with soft floury ciabatta and plenty of butter, we dove into fresh local fish ceviche served in a coconut shell, tempura-fried Ahi maki stuffed with crab. Our main courses included locally caught Oni, black forbidden rice, a grilled coconut sauce, and fresh green papaya. Jordan had wasabi-crusted Mongchong or local butterfish with lillikoi beurre blanc. Lillikoi or passion fruit – all types of which flourish all over the island – is a beloved and ubiquitous staple on local and restaurant menus alike.

Although the Beachhouse isn’t going to win any Michelin stars, the ingredients were treated simply, allowing them to be delicious just on their own.

Stuffed and intoxicated on a luxury cocktail of sunset and seaside, we caught the finale of a luau, complete with impassioned fire twirling display, from our window and quickly drifted off to sleep.

An EDD-ter’s Tour of Italy – Cinque Terre hike and fresh catch of the day!

We set out bright and early the next morning to begin our hike from Monterosso al Mare to each of the four other fishing villages – Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – along the gorgeous coastline overlooking the Ligurian Sea. The weather was perfect, sunny and sublime. The hike would last all day and cover about 8 miles of uphill, downhill, and everything in between. Needless to say it was difficult not stopping every 2 minutes to take what seemed to be postcard-quality shots no matter where we turned.

Starting in Monterosso meant hiking the second most challenging part of the trip first as the next part from Vernazza to Corniglia is considered the most physically challenging. Then it’s smooth sailing from Manarola to Riomaggiore where we’d take the train all the way back to Monterosso.

By the time we reached Vernazza, we had hiked about 3 miles along a skinny trail mostly uphill. It was invigorating but we definitely wanted to do some exploring in the village and maybe catch a bite before the next part of the hike.

And by “catch a bite” I meant only one thing – seafood!

We landed on a brightly painted Trattoria Sandro a little ways down a shop-lined street, right by the Vernazza train stop. What sold it for us was a chalkboard advertising a seafood risotto which was the “speciale per due,” as well as, the gaggle of local grandfolks setting a lively familial mood a few tables away from us. A little later in the meal, their grandkids would get a flood of kisses as they came home from school for lunch. Made the meal even more special.

The risotto arrived steaming hot with a perfect balance of fresh shellfish – mussels, shrimp, langostines – and creamy al dente rice. The sauce was garlicky and slightly sweet and was flavored with a strong seafood stock with just a touch of silky tomato sauce. Not only would we fill up on carbs and protein for the rest of our hike, the risotto was warm and comforting. We dug in and didn’t leave anything but shell behind.

I frankly could have hung out with the locals until dinner (something told me they’d still be there), but the trail was calling to us. So off we went!

We must have taken hundreds of pictures along the way and even had some of our fellow trail hikers take a few of us, but really the best thing to do is go to Cinque and see for yourself. You won’t regret it!

We arrived back in Monterosso dirty and needing hot showers, but Cinque’s beautiful craggy rocks against myriad shades of green from olive trees, mountain grasses, cacti, and cooling trees, as well as, the hidden fey waterfalls and endless sea of blue, captured our hearts and imprinted the stuff of dreams on our spirits.

After cleaning up, we were still drunk with pleasure as we set out for a very special dinner in Manarola.

Trattoria dal Billy has got to be one of the hardest restaurants to find in Cinque Terre especially when you’re trying to find it in the dark when the village streets are completely empty and you’re delirious from a whole day out in the sun hiking. Just when we had given up walking up the same hill and backtracking yet again, I spotted a hand painted sign on a wall barely readable in the dark – Trattoria dal Billy [insert arrow pointing down].

And boy did they mean down! The restaurant itself is built into the cliffs of Manarola. Entering the restaurant means doing a little steep “hiking” downwards, only this time in heels. After a little futzing about with a hustling bustling waiter, we were given a little table in their indoor dining room that seated about 12 people. The walls were adorned with family pictures of fisherman, local paintings, and silly ocean paraphenalia – netting and all. The waiters all had a no b.s. style that I instantly liked and as I spied the crawling lobster, crab and fresh fish of the day on a tray next to us, I knew we were in for some good eats!



Marinated white anchovies with sweet yellow peppers

We decided to start with a simple marinated white anchovy on crusty Italian bread with sweet roasted yellow peppers – a combination that’ll surprise you.

After our jovial waiter who looked as if he’d lived his entire life on a fisherman’s boat quickly explained the specials, we decided on the fresh crab clicking its claws in the tray. Without another word about how it’d be prepared, he moved on to the secondi. This was my chance to get the whole fish I’d had on my list of to-eats while here. He grabbed the tray and picked up each fish by the tail measuring its size with his eyes. “Ah, this one is good for you. Size is good. Very fresh.” We were delighted.

Whole crab with homemade fettucini

When the dish arrived, I thought “this it the way to eat crab!” Forget using lump crab meat in a sauce and tossing with pasta. Do as Billy does! Just crack up the crab and using its sweet meat and innards, create a sauce and coat generously over beet-dyed fettucini. For crab lovers like us who enjoy sucking the succulent meat directly out of its shell, this was a revelation. The crab pieces, all tangled up in the noodles like in a net, had so much flavor, I almost forgot about the whole fish up next…

Whole grilled branzino with fried potatoes
…well, almost. Really it’s just about fresh fish. There’s nothing like it. Salt, extra virgin olive oil, some fried potatoes. Forget about it!

Stuffed and tipsy from the ocean air and chianti, we successfully ate our way through dinner. How could anything else top this?

But wait…of course, our gregarious waiter decides to top off our incredible feast with some healthy doses of fiery grappa and limoncello. Cincin!

P.S. Later back in the States, I discovered that our joking waiter actually was the Billy. No wonder we got it so good. Ha!

Next up: A stop in Bologna, and then Venezia!