Start your day with breakfast at a favorite local’s joint, Mango Mama’s Cafe. Its hot pink zebra stripes make it easy to find. Enjoy a fresh smoothie with honey, ginger, yogurt and enough colorful fruits to festoon Carmen Miranda’s hat in style.
Next, pick up sandwiches from the Farmer’s Market Store in Kilauea and head down to Kauapea also called Secret Beach that is accessed via a dirt road off of the Kilauea side of Kalihiwai road. At the end of this dirt road there is a parking area and from there it is a short walk to the beach – about 15 minutes. Perfect. Just long enough to keep the big crowds away. When you get down there, you may be the only ones there.
The sand is golden and clean, the water is promisingly aqua. An intense rip tide commonly runs through the water around here, so after a quick dip in the shallows, head over to explore the area. The beach is actually two beaches, separated by a big rock wall, which can be climbed over. At the top of the rock wall amazingly, there are hundreds of little rivulets of water running about 1" deep to a foot. Inside of these tiny streams live thousands of brightly colored organisms. Tropical tide pools. Who knew? Get lost in a galaxy of sea creatures as the sun kisses your back. Waves thunder into the cove, echoing and spraying when they hit the most inner recess. The effect is hypnotic.
If you walk along the rock wall and drop down to the other side, another beach awaits. The crown jewel of this beach is a fresh water river, which trickles down from the jungle to culminate in a waterfall, perfectly sized for your back to be massaged as you watch the waves come in and out over the rocks in front of you. Who needs fancy massages when there are waterfalls like this in the world?
It’s time to expel yourself from Eden. There are hikes to be done, rainbows to see and sushi to be eaten. First, it’s time to take on the Na Pali Coast (which is on numerous ‘things you’re supposed to see before you die’ lists).
You’ve eaten with the locals and been to a local’s beach so it may feel a little bit strange to be hiking with a bunch of obvious tourists. You hope your lack of rich brown skin doesn’t give you away as one of them. Just in case, make sure to wear your Locals brand flip flops to set you apart from them. The locals call flip flops "slaps".
The Kalalau Trail is 11-miles one-way and follows the Na Pali Coast with its incredible views of five lush valleys, waterfalls, and ancient Hawaiian ruins.
The first mile or so is easy. The trail is a gentle upward slope, but the views distract you from its potential rigours and it is close enough to the trailhead to merit plenty of care from the park officials. In some places there are even steps. The trouble begins around mile three, if you are wearing Locals flip flops during the rainy season.
Apparently the locals in Hawaii have extremely well developed toe and calf muscles because it requires some pretty intense gripping to keep your slaps on. Four miles in and I was done for. It was a pity. The views around every corner are mindblowingly spectacular. Plant life seen up close or from a panoramic perspective is a photographer’s dream. You frame one final coastline shot in tree branches in your viewfinder and turn around. Mental note: next time, bring Tevas.
Another shorter hike, popular with many day hikers is from the trailhead at Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach (a total of two miles) and then another two miles inland to Hanakpiai Falls, and return.
For dinner, head to Kintaro’s Japanese Restaurant. There are many places in Hawaii that don’t serve great sushi, despite the fact that they’re surrounded by sea life. This is not one of those places. When you walk in, you’ll know you’re in the right place from the crowd. Kintaro’s is an establishment for those in the know. If there is a bit of a wait, check out the sake menu and people watching will keep you more than satisfied as you wait your turn for a table.
It is a tough choice whether to go for the sushi bar or the teppanyakki grill, which is turning out tender juicy looking steaks amid great aromatic clouds of smoke. I opted for the sushi instead of watching the drama of steaks being fried before my eyes. The sushi chefs are primadonnas, and rightly so. They build beautiful delicious sushi rolls and we were grateful for their art. They handed our food right to us, which was a good thing, as the service is notoriously lackadaisical according to online review boards populated by nostalgic tourists.
One more purple haze (sake + chambord) and it’s time for the check and bed. Your helicopter tour is tomorrow, bright and early with Blue Hawaiian Helicoptor Tours. You’ll want to be bright eyed and bushy tailed. Tonight, you dream of a window seat.
What & Where:
Mango Mama’s Café (4460 Hookui Rd, Kilauea; 808-828-1020)
Kilauea Farmer’s Market and Deli (2474 Keneke Street, Kilauea; 808-828-1512)
Kintaro’s (4-370 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa; 808-822-3341)