By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/20/2020
Posted: 4/28/2010
Topics/Keywords: #Kauai #Hawaii #NaPali Page Views: 3432
Michael and I visit a botanical garden and ride a catamaran along the Na Pali coast, before ending our vacation.

Today, being the last day of our Kauai vacation, threatened to be very full even before we awoke. Not only did we need to check out of our room, but we had to find "something" to do to fill the time between checkout at 11 am and the departure of our flight at 10 pm. And that something, I hoped, would be a boat tour of the Na Pali coast.

So, while Michael showered, I got on the computer, checked my bank balance, then looked up Na Pali tours on the web. I found one whose price and schedule fit in with our needs. But would they have room? The web page insisted we should book early because they "always" sell out a week or more in advance, and it wouldn't even let us reserve a trip earlier than May. However, when I called them, I found they did have room for just two more…and I made the reservation.

After I, too, had showered, we packed our stuff, loaded the car, and it was time to go.

Since our boat tour wasn't to start until 2:30 pm, Michael and I had some time to kill and just the place to do it. We'd noticed it last night when we visited Spouting Horn: A botanical garden almost across the street from it. It had been closed then, but was open now and was on the way to the tour as well. So we stopped by there.

The National Tropical Botanical Gardens turned out to be five botanical gardens, located in various locations. H owever, the Allerton Garden, where we were, was free and Michael and I strolled through, enjoying the atmosphere and taking photos of the most beautiful blooms.

The Botanical Garden

Michael knows the names of almost all these flowers, and how they can be used medicinally. I, on the other hand, can only sort them as "red flowers"…"yellow flowers"…"blue flowers"…and so on. Still, I think they're pretty. Here are nine of my favorites.

A red flower. A white flower. A light blue flower.
Light purple flowers. Red flowers. Purple flowers.
Sort of crimson flowers. Reddish-orange flower. Aroused flower.

Presently we felt bloomed out and decided to locate the charter boat marina so as to be certain of not being late. The ship was departing from Port Allen, just a few minutes from the gardens. (Kauai is such a small island that nothing on it is very far from anything else.) We made it to Port Allen but still had an hour to kill, so we went back to our favorite ice cream shop in Waimea for some more coffee (for Michael) and coconut (for me) ice cream, then turned back toward Port Allen.

Speed Limit 45. Speed Limit 35.

Along the way I spotted a phenomenon I'd been meaning to document. Kauai has the strangest speed limits I've ever seen. In addition to being slower than you think they should be, they also vary from 50 to 25 within the space of a few feet for no obvious reason.

And for a small island, there seem to be a lot of traffic cops.

I spent more time checking my speedometer than I did the road, which I assume every other tourist has to do, too. I don't think that can be good in the long run.

If you want to make the speed limit 40 or 35, do it! A 200-foot stretch at 50 doesn't really help when it's bookended by two 25 mph zones.

Captain Ian of the Holo-Holo.

So, Michael and I returned to Port Allen for our cruise with Holo-Holo Charters, on the Holo-Holo itself, a 65-foot catamaran made of the same material that is used for surfboards. As Captain Ian explained, "Even if I break the boat so badly that it falls apart, each piece will continue to float."

Michael was a bit disconcerted that we had to remove our shoes before getting on the boat. The captain explained that the deck would get wet, and shoes would prove to be far more slippery than bare feet. We all had to put our shoes into a big metal rack that stay behind while we boarded.

"Holo-Holo" is Hawaiian for "joyride", a boat trip with no particular destination in mind. However, we did have a destination in mind: Kauai's Na Pali coast, considered to be one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world.

Because conditions can change unexpectedly at sea, even near the shore as we would be, Captain Ian explained that we would rush to the Na Pali coast, a trip that would take about an hour; then we would return in a leisurely manner and take photographs.

Michael and I sat in front (without the cameras) and were thoroughly soaked by the sea spray. The ocean had a light chop, nothing too severe. As we approached and then rode alongside Na Pali, our jaws dropped at the beauty of this place. The people who said it was so amazing, were right.

The Na Pali coast of Kauai.

"Pali" is Hawaiian for "cliffs". All the Hawaiian islands have pali, some more beautiful than others. They were all formed the same way: By a collapse of part of the volcano that formed the island into the sea. Each of the Hawaiian islands is the very tiptop of a great undersea volcano (or, in the case of Maui, two of them). Kauai is the oldest of the main islands, and 7 million years ago, these cliffs were 11,000 feet above sea level. They have since worn down to about 5,000 feet; and the vagaries of that erosion are what make the pali so interesting looking.

Na Pali coast.

The colors are the result of mixing the palettes of basalt, the rock of which the island is made, and the various forms of plant life that have made a home here.

A valley in the Na Pali coast. The Na Pali coast.

Yesterday, Michael and I had driven to Koke'e State Park, and looked down on the sea past crenulated hills. I didn't realize at the time that we were looking down part of the Na Pali coast. Now, we could see the same 4,000-foot hills from the sea.

The Na Pali coast.

The pounding against the cliffs by millions of years' worth of waves has carved natural bridges. This one was used in the film, Seven Days And Six Nights.

Arch in the Na Pali coast.

There are also many sea caves, including this one whose roof has collapsed, allowing its interior to be lit from a skylight.

Eye of God sea cave at Na Pali coast.

The Na Pali coast has been made into a state park, even though there are no roads to it. You can only get there by boat (including kayak), helicopter, or hiking. Yet there are a number of campgrounds in it, some with cabins, to reward the hardy.

Campground in Na Pali State Park.

I'd love to camp there sometime, but I must admit that hiking to one of these campgrounds would be quite a challenge!

Na Pali coast.

About the time we had reached the end (or the beginning!) of the Na Pali coast, Captain Ian announced he had spotted a couple of whales and would be heading in their direction. He is allowed by law to approach only to a certain distance; but if the whales want to come closer, they may. (It's hard to issue a citation to a whale, anyway.) These whales turned out to be a mother and her baby. They didn't sidle right up to the boat, but they weren't too far; and we watched them "blow" and dive.

A mother whale's flukes show as she dives.

Michael had really wanted to see whales on this trip, which I didn't think was likely because it was so late in the season. We were lucky to have encountered these slowpokes.

The crew, Drew and Kyle, then served dinner: Rice pilaf, stir-fried chicken and vegetables, salad, and veggie wraps. It was pretty good as expedition food goes. (Could've used a little real butter in the rice pilaf, I thought.) Desert was homemade chocolate chip cookies. I don't really like chocolate chip cookies. I had three.

On the return trip, which was executed at speed since we'd spent so much time with the whales, the sea got a lot more choppy, with three and even four-foot swells that shook the boat vigorously. Michael and I had a great time but four of the passengers, hiding inside the cabin all the way forward, got seasick and had to run for the back railing. Well, three of them did. One didn't make it, and Drew and Kyle wound up with cleanup duty.

As we reached the harbor at Port Allen, Captain Ian once again slowed the boat so we could enjoy the sunset.

Sunset from Port Allen.

The moment the boat docked, Michael and I hurried off the boat—Captain Ian had pointed out that the first ones off would have the best choice of shoes—but we settled for our own shoes, and got into the car to race to the airport car rental return.

We pulled our stuff out of the car and got into the shuttle and rode to the airport—then had to go back to Alamo, because Michael couldn't find his license. At Alamo, I ran to search the car while he continued to burrow into his bags. I didn't find his license, but I did find his cell phone charger. And then he showed up, having found his license, and we returned to the airport.

Getting our boarding passes was easy. It took awhile to get through security, though. And when we got to our gate and sat down, I discovered I couldn't find my flash drive and could only imagine I had somehow lost it in security. I was almost back there when Michael called my cell phone to say he'd found the drive in my bag.

The flight left on time, at 10 pm, and is supposed to arrive at 7:30 am though the captain did announced he expected an "early" arrival. For all I know he means 7:30, which is early enough for anyone, I'd say. In any case, the theory is that I will sleep through the flight and go right to work in the morning. I do have a row of seats to myself, and if I can relax enough I might actually be able to pull this off.

Time for another Mai Tai!