Expedition with Heritage Expeditions,To The Sub Antarctic Islands
March 11, 2016
My First One Way Ticket…Auckland-London
March 16, 2016

Backpacking Kauai, Hawaii: Beaches, snorkeling and coconuts!

It’s a long flight from New Zealand to the USA…so there’s no better way to break the flight up than by stopping over in Hawaii for a few days….or why not a month while your at it!  It took Graceie and me about 5 minutes to realize that the novelty of Honolulu wasn’t going to last so we bought a ticket to Kauai, the second last island in the north west of the chain of islands. And off we went with promises of quiet sandy beaches and nothing over 3 storeys on the whole island.CIMG7464

 

Backpacking Kauai

We got to Kauai’s capital, Lehui without any problems and made for the closest ranger’s office to purchase permits for the campgrounds. These were a bit of a hassle throughout our stay as you had to plan ahead which of the 10 or so campgrounds you wanted to use each night and book your campsites. We would book a couple of nights ahead, but then would have to return to the ranger’s office to book the next night. You get away with just turning up and paying at the campground once or twice, but to keep the ranger happy you really need to have reservations. The ranger would come around EVERY morning so there was no getting away with out paying. However, you can’t complain when it costs $5 per person and the campgrounds were in the BEST places of all; right on the beach and away from all the hotels! There is only one road that goes around 3/4 of the island and there are 2 buses. One that starts from Lehui and goes north and one that goes south. When we were there the bus fare was $2 a person per ride; so $4 to go as far around the island as possible.

 

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The views from the campgrounds were stunning.  Usually they would be overlooking a coral reef with incredible snorkeling close to hand.
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In Kauai there are many empty holiday houses that have coconut trees on their property. We would go along in the evening and jump the fences to collect coconuts that would otherwise go to waste. One evening we collected 10, a full load! We got very good at cutting into them and drinking the refreshing coconut water. Then you break them open to eat the flesh on the inside.
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Me attempting to climb a coconut tree to get the coconuts at the top. Its harder than it looks!

Me attempting to climb a coconut tree to get the coconuts at the top. It’s harder than it looks!

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Salt Ponds campground near the beach! This one could be a bit noisy sometimes with the locals having their parties but generally the campers were other backpackers from the USA or different countries.

 

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Polihali State park.

Polihali State Park.

On the 3rd day we went snorkeling. We had found 2 full sets of fins, mask and snorkel at the second-hand shop in Lihue.  Follow this link for a list of the best buyers advice on snorkelling equipment.   The underwater world around the reefs was just incredible with fish of every color and size swimming around us everywhere. This kept us entertained for about an hour before we started to wonder if any of them tasted good. Later that day we found a Hawaiian Spear in a service station. I have one of these at home in New Zealand and had just spent the summer there spearing fish so this looked like a good challenge for me! I jumped back in with the hope of catching some easy dinner and found, to my surprise, that most of the fish disappeared at the sight of the spear! With some practice I found that if you could hide yourself, and especially the bright yellow spear, behind a rock then sometimes you could get a millisecond chance to take a shot at a good-looking fish. Much the same as hunting deer but underwater.
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On my first dive I managed to spear a broom fish. Not sure of the local name for it but it seems that I got lucky as it was one of the best for the BBQ.

 

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These were the most common, the easiest to spear and our favorite to eat too! The locals call them Hawaiian chub.

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We made friends with a French couple who were travelling in much the same direction as us. They also managed to spear a fish for lunch!
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There is no better way to meet the locals than to do some couch-surfing. That’s how we met Johnathan who worked at the shrimp factory. We did a spear-fishing trip to the Haena Reef at the north of the island. This reef was massive and there were fish everywhere!
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When the tinfoil ran out one day we used tea leaves and banana leaves. They gave the fish a great flavour, especially the tea leaves. You just had to be careful not to over-cook them or the leaves would burn away leaving the fish in the sandy coals.
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Hiking

Looking down on Pila’s Beach. The gap in the reef was a channel 10m deep and the deepest blue you will ever see. There were fish of all kinds; small sharks, manta rays and many more.

Our time was coming to an end on Kauai. Our last mission on the island was to do the 6 hour hike to Kalalau Beach on the Na Poli coast. That’s the Northwestern corner of Kauai. It was a grueling 6 hours to get in there and with the heat and heavy backpacks it was hard work. But what stunning scenery along that coast. Millions of years of erosion have cut the sides of the old volcano into deep canyons and ravines with cliffs that drop straight into the blue ocean below.
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We camped at Kahalau Beach for 2 nights before walking back out the way we came in. There’s a scattering of people who live in this area, living off the land and only going to the shop a couple of times a year. Similar to how I grew up in New Zealand although these people were perhaps not anywhere as well organised as we are at home.
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Our camp on the beach with a stunning view. It was just a bit hot when the sun came up so we moved back under the trees for the second night.

Conclusion

After backpacking Kauai for a month we left very happy. A great relaxed place to travel. Good if you like hotels or camping. We gave up on hostels pretty quickly. There are 3 on the island but they are usually booked out. In our 4 weeks on the island we couch-surfed 4 nights, stayed in a hostel once, and camped the rest!

 

To read more of my adventures please click the links:

Working in Antarctica

Working and travelling in China

Backpacking in Thailand

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