Seven Days of Christmas on Kauai

Day One: Finding food to eat on Christmas Day.

We stopped at roadside farm stands for eggs, tangerines picked off the branch for a quarter each, bags of lettuce, papayas, smoothies, grapefruits, and avocados the size of melons. The juice bar was open for business, and a friendly praying mantis wished us happy holidays. When the North Coast’s notorious deluge let up, we stopped at Kealia Beach for a picnic lunch.

Juice and smoothie bar.

The praying mantis climbed up Dad's neck, then turned to face the camera. (Who knew they had swivelly necks?!)

Kealia Beach.

Day Two: Kiluea National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse.

This park has a short paved trail with views of a red-footed booby colony, a flock of nenes (endemic Hawaiian geese) with the unfortunate habit of charging moving cars, soaring white-tailed tropicbirds, the occasional pair of Laysan albatross, and a great frigatebird waiting to pirate the poor boobies’ catch of fish.

Mom and nene. 

Red-footed booby.

Mom and Lisa and, behind them, Kiluea Lighthouse.

Rain clouds came in fast.

Many male house finches on Kauai have amazing orange and yellow coloration instead of red.

Grazing nene.
White-tailed tropicbird.

Day Three: Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley.

The dry west side of Kauai is graced with a magnificent red-dirt canyon, Waimea, that rivals the desert beauty of the Southwest. Lisa and I frolicked on Mars and hiked an hour down the muddy trail to view another deep gouge in the land, Kalalau Valley, coated in ferns and culminating in a remote white-sand beach far below us. Native ohi’a-lehua trees were pollinated by endemic red ‘apapane honeycreepers.

Red dirt.


Alright, we'll stop making goofy faces.

Breath-taking Kalalau Valley.

Fiddlehead fern.

I'm so frond of my family.
Pun credit to Sienna ;)

Day Four: Exploring Hanalei.

“Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanalei…” If any town is populated by magic dragons, this one is it. Surf shops, hippies, vegan organic shave ice, waterfowl in estuarine ponds, ancient sea caves exposed by low sea levels, unswimmable surf, traditional taro ponds, and infamous Puka Dogs can be found here.

Taro fields in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.

Hawaiian subspecies of common moorhen.

Endemic Hawaiian coot.

Mom and Dad and a big old cliff.

Hanalei Beach.

Koloa, the endemic Hawaiian duck.

Hawaiian race of black-necked stilt in taro.

Day Five: Hiking the Na Pali Coast.

OMG this was the best day ever. Mom, Lisa, and I scrambled along the rocky cliff-side trail for two miles to reach Hanakapi’ai beach. A hand-carved wooden sign implored us not to swim with 83 tick marks and the warning: “Unseen currents have killed 83+ here.” Then we turned inland to climb another two miles of pure mud and reach Hanakapi’ai Falls, where cold jungle rainwater drops over 300 feet of volcanic rock. We crossed Hanakapi’ai River eight times, sometimes hopping across boulders, sometimes wading knee deep, sometimes clinging to a rope. We swam with endemic freshwater gobies (their pelvic fins are modified into suckers that let them climb waterfalls!) in a calm pool and finally reached the beach again. To make the last two miles go quickly, I created an interval game of running to Lisa (who was walking faster ahead), then waiting for Mom (who was walking slower behind), then sprinting back to Lisa, then waiting for Mom, again and again. I ended up running the whole trail in spurts and making friends with all the accommodating hikers I passed many times.

The green misty jagged cliffs of Na Pali.

Fearless hikers!

I couldn't fit Mom and Lisa and the top half of Hanakapi'ai Falls in one frame. 

Tree fern!!!!!

We... made... it... WHEW!

Day Six: Scuba Diving at Koloa Landing.

I was lucky to see dozens of new marine fish and invertebrate species today on a two-tank dive off the South Shore. Spinner dolphins and humpack whales poked up their dorsal fins while I suited up, and a couple lazy green sea turtles grazed underwater. My dive master, Elora, found me a bright purple, silky soft Velvet Star (Leiaster leachi) to admire!

Three spinner dolphins surfacing in synchrony.


Day Seven: Stand-Up (and Lie-Down) Paddle Boarding on the Hanalei River.

After five minutes, “stand-up paddle boarding” turned into swimming, pulling Lisa while she laid back and sunbathed, paddling myself along on my belly using my hands, startling red-eared slider turtles, and witnessing a colony of black-crowned night herons angrily clacking at each other. By the end of our float back downriver, I was pulling both Mom and Lisa with our ankle straps connecting us. Nothing beats lazy river exploration at a frog’s-eye level.

White-rumped shama.

Pacific golden plovers winter in Hawaii on their own personal patches of grass. This one had a lovely territory outside our condo. 

This Laysan albatross sat beneath her tree on the Princeville golf course day in and day out. We had to creep very close to even make her turn her head so we knew she wasn't a statue. Maybe she was on a nest!