First Hike in Koke’e State Park: It’s Only Six Miles

Although we walk almost daily, we only hike about once a month, and I have not enjoyed a strenuous hike since before the pandemic restrictions were invoked. Throughout the previous six years on Kauai, I have only hiked one trail along the Waimea Canyon Road, and that was over two-and-a-half years ago. So a few weeks ago I started researching the trails on the official website Na Ala Hele Trail and Access, the official website for state maintained trails, to verify which trails were open and to find one suitable for an afternoon hike.

Many of the trails are over four miles each way, and some of the shorter trails include an elevation gain of more than one half mile. Awa‘awapuhi (ginger valley) Trail appeared to fit the bill at 3.1 miles each way with an elevation change of 1,180 feet. Our experience however proved that looks may be cruelly deceiving.

Hawaii Forestry & Wildlife Map
Awa’awapuhi Trail

Even so the trailhead is approximately 1,200 feet above the end of the trail, and our hike begins with a gentle half-mile ascent to the highest point at 4,160 feet above sea level. From the summit, a gradual descent leads to a little plateau featuring a plank crossing over the intermittent head of Awa‘awapuhi Stream, and yet another plank crossing lies beyond the next hill. The ocean itself only made a brief appearance through the trees just beyond the 0.5 Mile marker, and then was not seen again for a further mile.

Somewhat steeper and bigger S-curves commence from near trailhead level, approximately 3,600 feet above sea level, marking the beginning of the long descent which is only interrupted by a few narrow ridges that connect the lower peaks of the trail. At one point YaYu remarked, “Mom could probably hike this,” and I recall thinking that this trail wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, in fact, I started running as our turnaround time neared, and only slowed down when we reached the switchbacks.

Toward the end of the trail there’s a great sweeping loop through the dryland vegetation (most of the upper trail is conspicuously wetland) and then we saw the safety railing at the end of the trail—less than two hours from the start and right at our turnaround time. At trail’s end there are two vistas, both guarded by railings, and one of them bears a 3.25 MI marker. We could both see and hear the ocean from here, and it was then I realized that I had not taken a single drink since we started. I quickly opened the first bottle of water and wet my dry, salted lips, and took several photos while we rested and chatted about all that we had seen and not seen.

We only saw two other hikers who reached trail’s end ahead of us, and checking the elevation at trail’s end, 2,560 feet above sea level, before trekking back to the trailhead reaffirmed the warning from the description on website.

DANGER: Do not venture beyond the safety railing at the end of the trail! Footing is extremely unstable, and the drop to the valley floor below is [well] over 2,000 feet.”

Thus, the actual elevation change then is 1,600 feet rather than 1,180 feet (which was derived from the difference between the starting and ending elevations; not peak to end). Granted, that’s only a 420 foot difference, but that is quite significant when translating that from a horizontal line of text to vertical distance. Also significant is the fact that the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) placed a mileage marker at trail’s end indicating that the true roundtrip hike would be 6.5 rather than 6.2 miles. Also, the return is uphill almost the entire way, which tends to slow down one’s pace.

This was a great hike overall, and YaYu and I made such good time on the hike out and down to the vistas that we were astonished when our best efforts on the return to the trailhead took over three hours (5 hours roundtrip), and we missed our self-imposed deadline by more than an hour—

Laura: Will you be back in time for our walk?

Me: Sure, it′s ‘only’ six miles!

Although it happened slightly later than usual, Laura and I did get in our daily walk. That made it over 10 miles for me that day, and over 21,000 steps. It was a very good day!


New Zealand Days: Wellington

It took us a bit longer than expected but Laura and I finally reached Wellington after numerous differences of opinion with Google Maps, which like a spoiled child kept changing our route in fits and spurts—the last faux pas encouraging us to take an exit we had already passed nearly four miles earlier. Some of the highway markings fell short of the mark as well, though admittedly I may have missed one crucial turn because it was blocked by a semi-tanker to my right.

Getting back to Google’s new recommended route took us down the road to the longest  place name in the world, Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu, and that’s the traditional 92-character spelling—according to Wikipedia there is also a 105-character version!

92-character Maori Place Name
Longest Place Name in the World

Laura had one more tussle with Google to get us from the end of the freeway in Wellington to our AirBnB location, and then everything was lovely. Not altogether lovely – I’m blogging because she was more than a bit under the weather yesterday and ended up spending most of the day in bed, and I set out in the morning to see the sights for us both.

I first took care of a personal preference: a hike up to the lookout at the summit of Mt. Victoria, which rose behind and above our lodging’s location. It didn’t look like much of mountain, but its diminutive stature was radically offset by its steepness. My little health app indicated that I had ascended 31 floors on the 1.5 mile trek.

Trail Marking Signs on Mt Victoria
Trail Marking Signs on Mt Victoria

One interesting point about Mt. Victoria is that there is a Lord of the Rings filming location here. Also found here is an abundance of widely recognizable, richly colored plants such as Sweet Pea, Queen Anne’s Lace, Giant Fern, and that thing with nasturtium-like leaves and morning glory-like blossoms.

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The trails are quite well marked, and the things you can see are worth the effort to sort out the occasional unmarked intersections. I enjoyed a stunning view of Oriental Bay along the way, and from the top, the other side of the world as it seemed, including the somewhat busy airport.

Oriental Bay

Wellington Airport and 24-pounder from Mt. Victoria Summit

After a brief stroll around the summit, I headed back down into town by a somewhat different route. To my surprise there was the piece of a set for “Lord of the Rings,” not exactly a hobbit house, but more like a wayfarer’s lodgings.

House of sticks; used in the film Lord of the Rings
Filming location for “Lord of the Rings”

I suspect children from the nearby playground have kept the hutch going all these years.

Te Papa Tongarewa, the National Museum of New Zealand, was the next station on my trek, and looking back along the way I could see Mt. Victoria’s summit, where I had just come from.

Summit of Mt. Victoria
Summit of Mt. Victoria

Although some of China’s terracotta warriors are currently on exhibit, I didn’t have the price of admission on me so I chose instead to look at some of New Zealand’s treasures that have been collected here.

Once inside, I was first captivated by the story of the WWI battle of Gallipoli, vividly writ larger than life with photos, models of trench works, giant life-like statuary, and audio tracks. It was dreadful, knowing the eventual outcome of the battle (New Zealand lost 8,000 men) and also because it reminded me of brief moments during Operation Desert Storm: making every bullet count, eating canned meats, no one wanting to be taken out by a ricochet, and heartbreaking.

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Then it was up to the second floor to see exhibits of the origins of this part of earth that is now called New Zealand. From the beginning, the people were connected to the Earth, whenua (wh is pronounced as /f/ in the Maori language). The placenta was also called whenua so the first people prepared an ipu whenua (afterbirth container), such as the replica on display, to return the placenta to the earth, thus maintaining the connection.

Afterbirth Container
Ipu Whenua

From the beginning, the people used the Earth’s bounty as they pleased. Whenever resources ran low, they banned hunting, fishing, or harvesting to allow the resources to recover. A ban was established by erecting a pou rahui (post denoting restriction) to mark an area off limits, and the people respected the ban.

Pou Rahui

Then came the Europeans, and they began clearing land, and marking their territory with a pou rahui, several actually, and stringing wire between the posts to “enforce a ban” on crossing the area.


Ultimately, the Treaty of Watangi, signed 1840 by representatives of the British Crown and more than 500 Maori Chiefs became the founding document of a nation, a symbol of the unique relationship among people which continues to evolve today.

There was more museum than I could see in an afternoon, so I headed back to our lodgings to check on Laura, who thankfully was feeling much better; good enough, in fact, that we went out for dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant in the evening and enjoyed some very good chicken and sweet corn soup, cashew chicken, and egg fried rice, which also provided enough leftovers for our breakfast this morning before departing Wellington, a city we both agreed we had once again not spent enough time getting to know.

Hiking Waimea Canyon with Friends

At long last, I got to hike in Waimea (reddish-brown water) Canyon, and with friends from the mainland, on the Canyon Trail no less! Two of my former coworkers came for a week’s visit to Kaua’i which happened to span our weekend getaway at Barking Sands, so a hike in the canyon was practically unavoidable. Our inclement weather plan was to enjoy wine on the lanai as we watched storms roll by, but as far as the weather we got lucky.

sharon, brett, christi
Former co-workers Sharon and Christi and me on a windy afternoon at the Waimea Canyon Overlook

We thought about taking the first trail we came to, the Kukui Trail, but after reading a few reviews online we thought better of it. The Illiau Nature Loop, between the eight and nine mile markers leads to the Kukui Trail which consists of 2.5 miles of switchbacks into the canyon—2,700 feet down. Because the trail is so steep and exposed, reviewers recommended continuing down through the canyon toward the ocean rather than hiking back up, and making arrangements for friends or family to pick you up in Waimea.

As we didn’t start out until after 2:00 PM, we proceeded to the Waimea Canyon Overlook (3,120 ft/951 m), just past the 10 mile marker for our first stop. At at the top of the walkway to the viewpoints, I looked to my left and saw two women who had climbed over a protective fence and descended beyond the WARNING sign along a steep slope strewn with loose soil to the edge of a precipice. I mentioned to my friends that I was reminded of Over the Edge, a book about foolish and unfortunate visitors to Grand Canyon National Park.

A little further on one of my friends spotted a beautiful small flower that she wanted a photo of (neither of my friends had remembered to bring their cameras or phones). I’ve searched but cannot determine what this little plant is, so I’ll just show it. Maybe one of you recognize it?

Rock hugging 8-petal white flower with yellow center, and sawtooth leaves on woody stem at Waimea Canyon
White blossoms bursting from rock

While we were at the Overlook, I also captured a panoramic view of the canyon. In the process I spotted what looked like Warner Brothers’ Roadrunner, just left of center, created from the pale green of the new understory as it grew out following April’s torrential flooding.

Panoramic View from Waimea Canyon Overlook
Panoramic view from the Waimea Canyon Overlook

We continued on up the road,  just passed the 11 mile marker and stopped at the Pu‘u Ka Pele overlook (3,662 ft/1,116 m). The Hawaiian name loosely means a large protuberance where lava flowed forth. One of the best views of Waipo‘o Falls (headlong waters, 800 ft/244 m to be precise), as well as another perspective of the canyon, is available from here.

Waipo'o Falls and Waimea Canyon
Waipo’o Falls and Waimea Canyon from Pu’u Ka Pele Overlook

Up the road another two miles, between the 13 and 14 mile markers, lies a more developed overlook, Pu’u Hinahina (3,606 ft/1,099 m), meaning gray or grayish outcrop. Beginning in the overlooks’s parking lot, a relatively new spur trail links up with the Canyon Trail. Halemanu Road, just beyond the 14 mile marker, is strictly for 4-wheel drive vehicles and leads to a dirt parking lot beside the original trailhead of Canyon Trail where the new spur ends.

Trailhead of New Spur to Canyon Trail
Trailhead of the new spur trail to the Canyon Trail

From the onset, the new Spur Trail was deceptively easy looking, until we met mud spattered hikers near the first dip. While many of the flowers with which I’m familiar were well past their prime, and a few were showing early fruit, there was still quite a lot to take in along this undulating path. I say undulating because it did not merely switch back and forth in a steadily toward the falls, but rather rose and fell steeply, crossing two major streambeds. Philippine ground orchids had gone to seed on the slopes while guava were just beginning to blush and yellow ginger along the streambeds still bore fresh blossoms and were heavenly fragrant.

A very short distance beyond the clearing at the intersection of the New Spur and Canyon Trails the Cliff Trail branched off to our right. Since we were already a little behind our turnaround time, we decided to go out that way rather than proceeding a further steep mile to the falls.

Cliff Trail Viewpoint
A Long Way Down from the Cliff Trail Viewpoint

We could barely make out the light feathery red blooms on the Lehua (red ashes), the sensitive trees said in literature to be Pele’s sister.

Friends at Cliff Trail Viewpoint
More proof that everyone enjoyed hiking in Waimea Canyon – Sharon and Christi at the Cliff Trail Viewpoint

Descending from Pu’u Hinahina Overlook we headed back to Barking Sands. Sharon and Christi had brought wine so we enjoyed that and talked story over a lovely Italian sausage dinner that Laura had prepared. I’m grateful I got to make the hike into the canyon, and also that I got to do it with two good friends – it was a memorable day.

Wanna See the Sights?

This is just a jumble of images from our life on Kauai, a glimpse or two of random beauty.

Waterfalls are among our favorite sites to see, and this little gem meets the sea just north of Donkey Beach at ’Āhihi Point. It’s only an intermittent trickle (tickle in Newfoundland), which sometimes runs dry in summer, but the sight and sound is especially soothing on warmer days.

Waterfall, Kauai
Little waterfall

Looking west across Kuhio Highway (56) from the top of the tree-tunnel pathway down to Donkey Beach provides a spectacular view of Kauai’s major water supply: cloud-capped mountains. Wai’ale’ale Ridge, in the background, features the two tallest peaks on Kauai: Kawaikini at 5,243 feet (1,598m); Wai’ale’ale at 5,148 feet (1,569m). Makaleha Ridge, in the foreground, is surrounded by peaks  averaging half that elevation and the highest point visible in this photo is Pōhaku Pili at only 2,477 feet (755m).

Kawaikini, Wai’ale’ale, Makaleha
Cloud-capped mountains

Closer to home, the skies offer spectacular shows like banshees, and dragons, and zephyrs, oh my! Some of the most unbelievable sights really can be found right in your backyard.

Returning to earth we find various expressions of what we are made of—calciferous rock, sand & ash, and Kauai’s infamous red dirt. (See also, Arizona to Georgia)

Striated Cut Bank
Eastside geology

Driftwood abounds at inlets, sometimes appearing as fanciful creatures, at other times simply a cache of “drift kindling.”

After living here for nearly four years, I finally pulled off Kuamo‘o Road to visit the Royal Birthstone, Pōhaku Ho‘ohanau, where all of Kauai’s Ali‘i (Chiefs) were once born. Then again, I had always wondered where those stairs at the back went, and presumed that they led to a viewing platform.

But oh no, they lead to a Japanese cemetery, which is visited often by descendants and loved ones. That is, there were fresh flower arrangements, toys, and food for hungry ghosts throughout.

On Monday, during my morning hike, I took a picture of a treacherous point along the old right-of-way that may be added to the Eastside Trail for completion to Anahola. Suffice it to say “road narrows”, and it’s been doing so quickly the past couple of years. A stream passes through a narrow culvert under what’s left of the fill and empties into Kuna Bay.

Speaking of the Eastside Trail, Ke Ala Hele Makalae (The Path that Goes by the Coast), future development to the south may transit this 165-foot (50m) bridge of the former Ahukini Terminal & Railway Company along the way to Ninini Point and Nawiliwili Bay.

Viaduct Spanning Hanamaulu Steam
Viaduct spanning Hanamā‘ulu Stream

Naturally, the coast speaks up in winter by way of weather advisories and warnings. It’s violence is fascinating when viewed from shore; not so much viewed from a small boat.

Stormy Surf
Storm surge

Thus ends another week in paradise.

#Kauai: Hidden in Plain Sight

After hiking most of the shoreline from Hanamaulu Bay to Anahola Bay it dawned on me that an interesting geologic feature that nearly escapes notice was a constant companion most the way. Though discontinuous in places, and often only visible at low tide, a naturally formed limestone shelf, a barrier between reef and shore, surrounds the island of Kaua‘i.

For commercial reasons, the shelf was obliterated at Hanamaulu Bay, to provide a sheltered harbor and pier at Ahukini Landing. By contrast, the limestone formation appears to extend forever northward from the south end of Nukoli‘i Beach. In reality, it vanishes briefly adjacent to the Wailua Municipal Golf Course, and is only visible intermittently near the mouth of Wailua River.

“Baby” Beach exists because of the tidal trough between an extent of the limestone formation and the seawall along Moanakai Road In Kapa‘a Town. Google Maps calls this Fuji Beach, but everyone in town knows it’s Baby Beach.

Fuji Beach, Moanakai Rd, Kapaa 96746
Low tide at Baby Beach

An appreciable portion of the limestone formation rings the second embayment north of Donkey beach. This beach is popular with monk seals because it’s nicely sheltered and the fishing is good, but if you see them on the beach, just move it along because they absolutely need their rest, AND it is against the law to approach or disturb them. You can see an isolated chunk of limestone submerged in the first photo, and the remainder of the formation at water’s edge in the background.

As the old right of way veers inland beyond Donkey Beach, each of the little bays onward to Anahola  Beach State Park are only accessible via dedicated dirt roads and recent motocross trails, or at low tide by rock-hopping along the shore. The next photos show isolated hunks of the bar overlain with younger volcanic debris or thrust up along the shore nearer to Anahola.

Just south of Anahola Bay lies another little ring, tilted up somewhat like the formation at Baby Beach. Coincidentally, that similarity is what awakened me to the fact that I had “seen this somewhere before.”

While this formation certainly is not all there is to see between Nukoli‘i Beach and Anahola Beach, it’s been more of a companion. Running, hiking, and rock-hopping Kauai‘i’s eastern shore is never boring.





#Kauai: The Powerline Trail

In my previous post, I touched on the state of the Powerline Trail without revealing all that makes it worthwhile. That is, while it may not be possible to hike through, what you can see is breathtaking. Powerline Trail has all the elements of a worthy hike: hills, vistas, minor obstacles, flora & fauna, and even a waterfall (nearby but not directly accessible from the trail). Additionally, some volunteers have established and continue to maintain BMX/Mountain Bike trails parallel to the main route at the north end of the route.

Of course there is the actual powerline to consider—without which there would be no trail.

Every trail has hills, some knee-crawling, and although the straight and level is rare on this trail its hills gently rise and fall. In the first two miles the most significant grade is a 19-minute incline that weaves back and forth slightly, just a wiggly course around the side of a mountain rather than switchbacks. Most run up a little, then down a little through cuts,, while most of the level ground is atop fills.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, much of this hike is through cuts, so the sights to see come up suddenly and change throughout the day. Pictured below, clockwise from upper left: Hanalei Valley; Kekōiki 2,814 feet (858 meters); Wai‘ale‘al 5,148 feet (1,569 meters); and Kawakini, highest point on Kauai at 5,243 feet (1,598 meters).

All of the obstacles on the northern end are water hazards; that is, there is no overgrown brush, no fallen boulders or trees, and no thickets of interlacing hau trees.

Although I did see one Bufo toad (Bufo marinis), and a half-dozen or so birds moving too swiftly to be digitized, the surprise here was tree frogs—two species, hopping about near the waterholes and like the birds, mimicking Monte Python’s “How Not to Be Seen.”

By contrast, flowers and forest were most cooperative as well as lovely to see. These flowers are common to most trails on Kauai, although this is the first time I’ve seen Foxglove outside of someone’s garden. Clockwise, from upper left: Philippine Ground Orchid (Spathoglottis plicata), Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbe), White Ginger (Hedychium coronarium), and Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)—absolutely, positively introduced here.

Similarly, the trees are all varieties one might encounter anywhere on the island. Nevertheless, they are welcome for their beauty and shade. Clockwise, from upper left: Ohia, Guava, someone’s notion of a Christmas tree, assorted jungle, Hala (Pandanus tectorius), and a variety of plants—mosses, ferns, and a young Casuarina—nursing on a Eucalyptus bough.

Many of the same sights glimpsed along the main trail are enhanced, and new perspectives emerge from the cycling trails. These trails are meticulously well maintained on either side of the main trail although they do not extend continuously due to challenging terrain. That is, the cycling trails run along both sides in some places, on one side or the other at times, and simply share the main trail in between the rough spots. One word of caution, keep your ears open and your head on a swivel because cyclists appear quite suddenly in both directions.

As soon as my shins heal, I hope to attempt an assault on this northern end to see how far I can go and what wonders lay ahead.


#Kauai: Changes

“You cannot step into the same river twice,” [Heraclitus according to Plato]. That’s obviously because the flowing waters mix and mingle, and even a second after you step out it has become a different river. After revisiting some of my favorite sights, I found that some have fared better than others, with a few places ravaged by changing weather patterns while others seemed totally immutable.

Just north of Donkey Beach is an unnamed stream that has slowly dried up since the turn of this century. However, it was still making its way to sea when we arrived in 2014, dropping quietly into the ocean at a small inlet, a tidal pool, a little beyond the completed portion of The Path that Goes by the Coast.

Although the photo at left was taken in early May 2017, it is representative of the state of the stream these past three years. The photo at right, taken last week, reveals a completely desiccated sandstone embankment where the little cascade once glimmered. Notice that another Casuarina tree has taken root to the right of the channel, and the shadow of the older seedlings from the earlier photo extends up the left edge of the latter.

Meanwhile, I revisited Ho’opi’i Falls on Kapa’a Stream recently, and found them gloriously rushing on in spite of slightly diminished flow—the little stream-side trail above the upper falls is now fully accessible.

The seldom-used stream-side trail between upper and lower falls was a little more hazardous than I recalled from previous hikes, as well as densely overgrown immediately below the upper falls.

Since I hadn’t visited over the summer, I also headed up Kawaihau Road toward Makaleha Falls. Everything looked familiar from the trailhead, but then I was unable to locate the first stream crossing. Initially it appeared that there might be a new crossing downstream. However, when that didn’t pan out, I returned to the trail and ventured too far upstream to a dead end. Retracing my steps, I found a place that surely must have been it, but I could not find any remnants of the old dam and the long pool that had once been key landmarks.

Looking across the stream I finally recognized the path up into the bamboo forest (but don’t all paths into bamboo forests look the same?). Eventually  some other hikers came along, and I followed them across the stream. Almost immediately after crossing, I was able to return their favor by guiding them to a shortcut along the stream which was even easier than ever because spring flooding had shifted the mainstream channel away from the near bank leaving behind a nice, dry, rock-strewn pathway.

On this hike, I only went about an hour upstream rather than all the way to the falls. Returning to the trailhead I encountered one of my favorite landmarks, this massive boulder, seemingly unchanged by time and floods, though an earthquake might be another story. I cannot imagine being on this island when this boulder moves.

Watchful boulder on Makaleha Stream

Next stop was the Powerline Trail at the end of Kuamo’o Road. When I reached the end of the road, I saw that the county had erected a one-lane bridge across the stream, so I proceeded across and parked in the nice new parking lot. The trailhead is about a twelve-minute trek up the Forest Service Road and the trail rises steeply from there.

Unfortunately, this trail is not maintained and I found that the jungle and downed trees closed it off a little more than half a mile from the trailhead. Still, it was worth a look since I had only read about it.

…But nearly 11 miles farther north, one can start from the other end! So I did, and witnessed the striking contrast between the spartan south trailhead markings—little more than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick—and the north trailhead station, more or less fully appointed, including all that graffiti.

While the news was discouraging at both ends, I was able to trek in a little over two miles, including a 20-minute ascent up a steep grade and over two water hazards. However, my adventure was finally thwarted by the third pond in the trail because it continued to widen any way I went. Being ill-equipped to trudge through with nothing more than lightweight running shoes (one of which had a hole in the toe).

Mean stretch of road

Although it doesn’t look so bad from here, consider that it’s more than twice as wide when it reaches that big tree on the right, and the ground gets softer and softer as it goes. I stuck my hiking pole in to gauge the depth and I hit bottom at about 10 inches depth; then leaned on the stick and it sunk another seven or so inches—that is a lot of mud, and not to be broached with open wounds (from earlier hikes/runs) on the shins and ankles.

So many streams have run dry or radically changed course over time while isolated pools deter hikers in the mountains, and the jungle overtakes disused trails with the passage of time. One truly cannot step in the same river twice simply because it’s no longer there.


#Kauai: Secret Beach

To new arrivals the official name of this beach, Kauapea (“the fair rain”), is certainly more secret than what most call it, Secret Beach. That’s because it’s located at the end of a dirt road, coincidentally named Secret Beach Road, which is to the right off the first Kalihiwai Road (which was split into two parts by a bridge outage back in 1957) just north of Kilauea off Kuhio Highway. One should proceed slowly onto the dirt road as it is usually washboarded at the start (by cars and trucks operated by people afflicted with the hurry sickness), and occasionally deeply rutted toward the end by heavy rains.

Secret Beach Road Parking Lot
Parking lot and trailhead (between the stone gateposts)

Parking may be crowded on any sunny afternoon as it’s only adequate for about a dozen vehicles, and there are several driveways not to be blocked. Between the stone gateposts, by the bamboo, is the trail to the beach, a little over a quarter-mile and mostly STEEP and very slippery when it’s raining.

At the bottom of the trail lies the most beautiful stretch of sand I’ve seen on Kauai, and the sand stretches eastward all the way to Kilauea Point. To the west, alternating expanses of lava rock and sandy beach.

Secret Beach to the west

By the way, that small island off Kilauea Point is called Moku‘ae‘ae, Hawaiian for “small island.”

Obviously, the greatest extent of Secret Beach lies between the bottom of the trail and Kilauea Point. Nevertheless, the expanse of sandy beach beyond the first lava ‘finger’ is difficult to appreciate in the panoramic shot, so here’s a better glimpse of that western extent of Secret Beach, viewed from atop the rocks.

Western expanse of Secret Beach

Perhaps this view is inaccurate in the opposite extreme, appearing more vast than it really is, but suffice it to say, it is not crowded. …and give a listen to the surf on this side of the rocks.

Breakers at Secret Beach

Rumors abound concerning both the location and the activities and sights at this beach, often touted as a nude beach. Admittedly, the location is obscured from view, but easily located via Google Maps, and the only sights I’ve seen are pictured in this post, so evidence that hedonist scofflaws are cavorting anywhere on Kauai is thin. In fact I’ve rarely seen more than a handful of people here—students doing beach cleanup, families large and small hiking up/down the trail, one or two modestly dressed couples, and half a dozen surfers.

Since this post is more about the destination than the journey, I’ll throw up some farewell shots from the beach, along with a few from the climb.

Finally, as a hiker, I rather enjoy the trail more than the beach, so here are a few shots heading out to the car.

As a reminder, if it was raining or had just rained this would be an extremely slippery, if not outright dangerous trek. On the other hand, why go to the beach when it’s raining?






#Kauai: Moalepe Trail (Part 2)

This post covers the hike from Mile 1.0 (approximately where the trail label is pointing on the map) to Mile 2.5 and about 100 steps beyond to “Ende Moalepe Trail.”

Not to scale, regardless of appearance

Beyond the first mile, the trail ascends from pasture through a tunnel of old eucalyptus and albizia trees and into forest. In the pictures below, the view at left is on the portion of the trail that overlays old Kalama Road, which terminates at its intercept with the old Moalepe Road through the first eucalyptus tree tunnel in the photo on the right.

Old Moalepe Road is a meandering assortment of ruts, wider in some places than others, but obviously a roadbed that’s fallen on hard times. Beyond the first summit the eucalyptus gives way to ohia trees, and a different variety of wildflowers from those encountered in the first mile.

In spite of the fact that it hadn’t rained at home for several days, many segments of the trail within the forest reserve were considerably wetter than expected. Nevertheless, these obstacles were easily leaped over, and skirted or filled in with fallen branches close at hand.

Speaking of obstacles, bear in mind that this trail is shared with horseback riders (and their horses). Although I’ve never encountered horses on this trail, it’s evident that they have been here so one must step carefully.

Beyond the muck the trail remains fairly dry and an easy hike. The highest point along the trail is a little over halfway between the 1.0 Mile marker and the footbridge at the end of the trail. Just beyond the 1.75 Mile marker I captured a nice shot of Kamali‘i Ridge and its most significant peak, Kamāhuna, to the right (north) of the trail.

Many plants found upland, in the interior, vary greatly from their lowland neighbors. Such is the case with the little ginger plants beside the trail in moderately wet places. An additional bonus when hiking anywhere on the island is finding the odd lilikoi (passion fruit) because they pop up so unexpectedly.

Past the summit, eucalyptus tree tunnel number two shades half of the remaining hike. On warm days in early Spring, when the bark is popping and curling, the aroma is so soothing and cooling for the better part of a quarter-mile along the old roadbed. On the day I was hiking, the trail was simply calm with scattered direct and indirect light—the cathedral effect.

Moss covered stumps, “moss men,” seemingly keep watch over the east end of the tree tunnel. The steep descent from the far end of this tree tunnel was increasingly mud-slicked, ending in a hog wallow at the bottom, by the 2.5 Mile marker.

Even the bridge across the headwaters of Opaeka’a Stream was covered in a heavy layer of mud. In spite of this, it wasn’t really slick and the bridge still felt strong under foot. Although the signpost indicates that it’s 2.75 miles back to the trailhead at Olohena Road, the actual distance back to the 2.5 mile marker is no more than 250 feet (quite a bit shy of a quarter-mile).

Remarkably, the forests have grown so much in the past three years that it’s difficult to see the ocean from the trail. Near the trail summit (approximately 1,000 feet above sea level), I captured one good shot looking southeast to Wailua Water Gap. Nounou, better known as Sleeping Giant, is on the left, extending north from the confluence of Opaeka’a Stream and Wailua River, and Kalepa Ridge is to the right, extending south to Lihue.

Wailua Water Gap

At a break in the trees near the 1.0 mile marker, I caught a glimpse of blue ocean further east at Kapa’a.

Kapa’a and the Pacific Ocean

Almost home, I stopped to photograph this hala tree, also known as screwpine, at about one quarter-mile from the trailhead. This was a ‘canoe plant’, among the first brought from Polynesia, and the leaves originally woven into mats and used for thatching roofs because it kept out the rain longer than palm leaves.

Hala Tree (Pandanus Tectoris)

Depending upon where you look, the total length of this trail is variously reported between 2.15 miles and 2.75 miles, but based on the trail markings it’s fair to call it about 2.6 one way, and depending on how often one stops to enjoy the scenery, allow 2-3 hours for the entire hike.


#Kauai: The Moalepe Trail (Part 1)


The Moalepe (chicken comb) Trail, located on Kauai’s east side, follows the old Moalepe Road from the continuation of Olohena Road beyond Waipouli (dark water) Road. The trail goes across Moalepe Ridge to a footbridge over the headwaters of Ōpaekaʻa (rolling shrimp) Stream, which serves as the dividing line between Moalepe and Kuilau Trails.

The first half of the trail is more of a road through fields, but eventually transitions to a true trail as it gains elevation. Wildflowers bloom almost year-round along this trail. The six- to eight-foot yellow giants below (which have long defied my limited ability to identify them) stand behind the parking area across from the trailhead.

Unidentified yellow flowers, 6-8 feet tall
Flowers gone wild

Smaller flowers that lie along both sides of the trail, as well as up the center strip, fall into the weed category, but are nonetheless quite pretty in bloom. If anyone can identify these two ankle-high weeds, or the giant yellow flowers above, I and maybe many others would be delighted.


Orchids are chief among the easily identifiable delights in the first mile of this little hike. First, within a quarter-mile of the trailhead is the Bamboo Orchid, Arundina graminifolia.


In late spring/early summer, strawberry guava (psidium cattleianum) blooms, and the first fruits appear in mid to late summer. Strawberry guava are edible, but hikers are asked not to spit seeds on the ground as it’s an invasive species that consumes one-third of the rainfall and upland mists on which Kaua’i depends for drinking water.

Strawberry Guava
Strawberry Guava

At about the half-mile marker, there’s a less problematic, and sweeter fruit growing low to the ground. This little briar was introduced to the island, but is not as invasive as the strawberry guava or Malaysian blackberry, and the fruit is more scarce.


Hikers may also encounter a second orchid variety between half-mile and three-quarter-mile markers, the Philippine ground orchid (Spathoglottis plicata).


On one hike I blundered onto this gorgeous specimen of the hau (hibiscus tiliaceus), The blossoms of the hau tree transition daily from yellow in daylight to crimson by night. This flower below obviously missed the roosters’ call.

Blushing hau blossom

Another of the dazzling, low growing weeds that often fills in between and beneath others is variously called whiteweed or flossflower (Ageratum spp). As shown below, it’s white in the bud and varies from blue to lavender after it opens. Similar to the story of the ugly duckling, what begins as a common weed becomes a flower in maturity.


Owing to a rapid change in the weather, I was only able to complete half a hike on my last trip to Moalepe, but captured the change just beyond the one mile marker. This is approximately where the road truly becomes trail as one leaves pastureland behind and enters the Kealia Forest Reserve.


Stay tuned for Moalepe Trail (Part 2) which will show off the other half of this gentle hike.