Our next airbnb was in Koloa, on the south shore of Kauai. This area had more resorts, and more people in general. The weather was kind of stormy and cloudy the days we were here, and we had kind of a weird airbnb experience here. Plus, Princeville had been so awesome and beautiful, I think it made seem Koloa seem disappointing (but I mean, you’re still in Hawaii...it’s still really great).
Let’s start with the airbnb. It was a condo in a large complex (like, an apartment complex kind of thing...lots of buildings with 4-5 stories). It was just starting to rain when we got there. We checked in at the main office (like our host told us too) and the man working said that’s not what we were supposed to do and was annoyed with us. He asked us what our plans were and when we told him we were going to go on a boat tour of the Na Pali coast he told us “boat rides this time of year are a total barf-o-rama, the waters too rough.” OK. Great. Thanks, Debbie Downer. (Actually, our boat tour did end up getting canceled because the waters were too rough).
When we went to enter the condo, a voice from inside yelled “hold on I’m still in here!” Apparently the cleaning staff wasn't finished. The woman told us to come back in a hour (this was already about an hour after our scheduled check in). She was wearing one sock. We asked if we could at least put our food in the refrigerator and she said yes, and we noticed she was cooking ramen on the stove.
We drove around for an hour, killing time and checking out the area. When we came back and she was gone, the code to the key box didn’t work, so we couldn’t get the key to get inside. A bunch of neighbors came out and tried to help us. We called our host, who lived in CA, but he didn’t answer. Dennis ended up going into the neighbor’s condo and crawling over their balcony onto the balcony of our condo, and getting in that way.
The cleaning woman had left the electric stovetop on. The kitchen and all the plates and glasses smelled like fish. And I don’t think our bed sheets were clean (body imprints in them, and sand in the sheets. I changed them, obviously). We told our host about all the problems and he gave us a big discount, but, it wasn’t the best experience.
Our first night there we woke up in the middle of the night to catch the lunar eclipse. I’ll attach some photos of the end that Nick took from the balcony of our condo.
Wed Jan 31
As I mentioned, it was stormy most of the days we were staying in Koloa. We had plans to take a helicopter tour over the island, and booked it first thing in the morning because we were told that was our best chance for good weather.
Background on the helicopter: Nick has gone on a few helicopter tours in cities (NYC, New Orleans) and loves them and really wanted to do one in Hawaii. I was not very excited to do this, since I don’t like heights and we went on a sea plane ride a few summers ago and it was pretty scary and shaky. Nick insisted that a helicopter ride felt totally different, was super smooth, not scary at all. So, I got peer pressured into doing it.
We flew with Sunshine Helicopters. We arrived at their office location to check in and waited there for a bit. I was really, really nervous - like, sick to my stomach, sweaty, nervous. Eventually we boarded a shuttle van with about 10 other people and drove to the launch site. Our helicopter had 6 passengers (Nick, Michelle, Dennis, me, and 2 others) and the pilot. I took my Dramamine in preparation.
They seat you by weight (they weigh you at check-in) and the 4 of us were in the back together. I was by the window. During our orientation, they explained that each of us had an “aloha bag” in the pocket in front of us in case we got sick, and we should take it off the helicopter with us if we use it - don’t try to give it to the staff. I was really hoping I wouldn’t need to aloha.
We all wore headsets that played Hawaiian music, which I actually really liked. The music would cut out when the pilot talked about what we were seeing. Otherwise, we couldn’t really talk to each other. Once we were all loaded up, we sat for a few minutes with the engine running, then took off. It’s not like an airplane really, because you can move vertically a lot more without moving forward as much. Taking off wasn’t too scary, but I didn’t know how high we would go.
The flight was across the whole island. I mentioned in previous posts, Kauai has a pretty large canyon and mountains in the middle of it, and lots of jungle, and lots of beaches. It’s really beautiful and it was really cool to see it all from the helicopter. We saw lots of huge waterfalls. Lots of movies have been filmed on Kauai and you can tell why. It was really awesome.
Once we made it to the Na Pali coast, we were about halfway through our 55 minute tour. This is also when I started feeling sick. Being over the ocean made the helicopter move around more, and looking out the window and seeing the ocean waves didn’t help. The helicopter is small and kind of smelled like gasoline too so all those things combined were making me feel like I needed to aloha. It took a lot of mental concentration not to get sick. I found that looking out the front window made things worse, so I just kept looking out the side window.
Going over the mountains and canyons was a strange feeling too. Unlike an airplane, you can get super close and low to things. So when we saw a cool waterfall, we would drop down into the canyon and get really close to it. When we would fly over the top of the mountains, it was a weird sensation -- as the mountain got taller, it rose closer and closer to us. When we crossed the peaks, we were really close to it. But then when we got to the other side of it, and the ground started dropping away, back down the other side of the mountain, we stayed at the same elevation. I expected it to feel like a roller coaster, like we should be going back down with the ground. So that was a really odd feeling, and it happened several times.
The rest of the flight was a mix of me thinking “wow, this is so beautiful, this is so cool, what an experience” and “Don’t get sick. Don’t throw up. It’s almost over. My god this is taking forever.” I’m happy to say I made it the whole flight without needing my aloha bag! Ironically, Nick used his though -- and he was the one telling me how super-easy-piece-of-cake-no-big-deal helicopter rides are, pressuring me to do it. Karma. He said this flight was way more rough than any of the other ones he’s been on. I guess all the canyon and ocean air pockets make you move around a lot more than just flying over a city.
Once we finally landed we went back to the condo for a bit to eat a real breakfast and I needed some time to recover. Later we went to Polihale Beach State Park. To get there we had to drive 5 miles off road - luckily we had the Jeep - but it was pretty bumpy. The beach was really nice though - really long beach with not many people. The water was kind of rough with fairly big waves. Nick and Dennis went boogie boarding. I kind of tried it but never fully committed to it and just ended up with sand in every part of me. It was nice to just sit on the beach and read and wade in the water though.
We decided we were going to try to catch a good sunset. We drove to the town of Kekaha, got shave ice, and walked around. We went to Kekaha Beach Park to hang out and watched a very nice sunset there. We got pizza on the way home.
Thurs Feb 1
Soon after waking up we made a fairly long drive to Waimea Canyon. It’s a long scenic road going up into a canyon, with lots of scenic overlooks. Unfortunately it was extremely foggy and rainy. We stopped at a few overlooks and literally could not see more than 1 foot in front of us. This picture is us posing at a scenic overlook, but you would never know it.
Luckily we had seen the canyon on our helicopter tour the day before, so we didn’t feel like we were missing too much. Once we drove out of the canyon and got back down to sea level, the weather was better. We stopped in the town of Hanapepe for lunch and walked around the shops there.
Afterwards we went to Salt Pond Park and snorkeled and napped on the beach. As we were packing up it started to rain again and we ended up sprinting to a pavilion just as it started to totally downpour.
We had talked about going to a luau while on this trip, but most of them included an all-you-can-eat-buffet and tickets were over $80 per person. None of us wanted to spend that much. But, we happened to find tickets for just the luau - no dinner - for only $15. We went to that (it was called Smith Family Luau) after we ate dinner at home. I thought it might be pretty touristy/cheesy but it was actually really awesome!
The audience was sitting outside, but under a roof. The “stage” was a lagoon outside (no roof over it) with a little “volcano” that fire shot out of and water surrounding the area where people performed. They did SO many songs and dances from different cultures. It was great. It started to downpour in the middle of it, and the performers had no cover -- but they didn’t flinch at all. The outfits were really colorful and fun to look at and all the performers were really good. The last act was a fire dancer and it was really impressive. It was totally, absolutely worth the $15.
Fri Feb 2
It was raining pretty hard when we woke up. We packed up and drove to Lihue, which is where the airport is. Since it was raining there wasn’t much to do. We had lunch at a strip mall kind of place and walked around the stores there. Then we boarded our flight to head over to the Big Island. We upgraded our tickets to first class (it included a free checked bag, so it ended up being the same price as our coach tickets). First time we had been first class! It was nice. The flight was very short, about 50 minutes, so we didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy it, but the seats are big and I can see how it would be beneficial for a really long flight. We also got free drinks (alcoholic ones too if you wanted).
We flew into Kona on the Big Island. I’ll start my next post from there...