Aaron and I had done the seventeen mile kayak trip along the Napali Coast in 2012, a trip my dad has always wanted to do, so this year, with Aaron already having returned to California, the Elder Holliday and I signed up to do it together. It turned out our trip was the last one of the season since the waters get too rough in the winter, and we set out in the morning after a night of high swells that were supposed to decrease during the day. After a pre-dawn van trip around the island we reached the launching point in the north, and it was clear from the first moments that the swells had not subsided and that this was going to be a very different experience than 2012. After watching the first kayak in the water capsize in the waves my dad and I were the second boat to launch, and we then sat just offshore watching boat after boat get wiped out and washed back to the beach as the others tried to launch. And this was just the beginning of the trip.
After paddling along the high cliffs for a couple of miles we saw another group of kayakers turning around, finding out later that their guides had decided not to continue and eventually had to radio a boat for pickup. Despite the waves we seemed to be doing well, then out of nowhere our kayak was upside-down, and sadly my GoPro chose that moment to make an escape – apparently I had not tied it down well, so now it is off on an adventure across the Pacific (hence the lack of scuba videos from this trip). After righting our ship and continuing on we reached the first of several sea caves along the route, but while it had been a placid affair in 2012, this time the cave was being battered with waves that were tossing kayaks all over the place; after making it out safely the guides didn’t attempt to enter any of the remaining caves along the route.
Under even the worst conditions the Napali Coast is a beautiful route, and seeing green cliffs shooting thousands of feet up from the water, or watching waterfalls descend from the heights, was an impressive experience. I did my best to stop and enjoy the scenery as much as possible, but the swells hitting us from different directions meant a significant amount of mental effort went into steering, balance, and trying to stay out of the way of other kayakers – we capsized once more during the day on a water break, again catching us totally by surprise. Luckily after we made it eleven miles down the coast and stopped for lunch the route turned a corner, and after that the swells were big but generally moving in one direction, making for a much smoother trip.
…Until the landing site. The large swells that were pushing us along broke directly onto our landing beach, and with massive waves crashing onto the shore it was clear that the guides didn’t quite know what to do. The first guide took her boat in to meet a staff member on shore, but was wiped out on the way and then had to rescue her boat in the surf. Eventually word came out that we’d be going in one at a time, with the original guide treading water 100 feet offshore to offer assistance, while people on shore waited to deal with the inevitable shipwrecks.
As we watched, some boats wiped out spectacularly while others made it nearly the entire way before flipping. After what seemed like about 30 minutes, just two boats remained to go in – the second guide, and our boat. The guide told us to shadow her as we went in, so we aligned our boat with the direction of the waves and started into shore.
And then something unexpected happened. We paddled like crazy over the tops of large waves, with the staff member on shore yelling for us to stop or go depending on the size of the waves behind us. As a huge wave rolled past the staff member signalled us to paddle, and through sheer luck we caught the wave perfectly. To our right the guide’s boat capsized, but Poseidon God of the Sea lifted us up and hurled us perhaps fifty feet forward, directly onto the sand. We jumped out of the boat, pulled it up the beach, and thus ended the day in once piece and with a great story to share.
The day after the oceans unleashed their fury was spent on land. I took Audrey up to see Waimea Canyon, and we visited the Kauai Coffee Plantation on our return before heading into town to see two of her high school friends who had relocated to the island. Afterwards Ma & Pa came over to the Hyatt to join us for drinks at sunset, followed by a twilight walk that featured fat and apparently invasive toads hopping slowly away as the Skipper chased them with his camera flash.
And thus the great Kauai Adventure of 2016 came to an end. We enjoyed one last buffet breakfast, fed the koi for a final time, took a last trip down the resort’s lazy river (the water slide wasn’t open yet, sadly), and then headed to the airport where Audrey’s fear of babies and confined spaces collided on a completely full flight in a tight coach seat with a mother and child in the middle seat – the kid was just young enough to be a lap child, but old enough to be a strong kicker with big lungs. For my part, the inflight entertainment options included the new X-Men movie, so I had a mostly-awful film featuring superheroes and Olivia Munn’s cleavage to distract from the baby drama on my left for the six hours until we arrived safely home in Los Angeles.
Posted from Culver City, California at 6:27 pm, Sunday, October 2nd, 2016
Two weeks ago Audrey and the Holliday clan gathered in Kauai for snorkeling, beaches, sunsets, tropical beverages, and a really great waterslide. Here’s part one of the recap:
My mom is a night owl, going to bed after midnight, while my dad is a morning person, waking up around 5AM. Thus after flying across the Pacific and arriving in Hawaii, it was no surprise when I entered their timeshare at 10:30 PM Hawaii time (1:30 AM Los Angeles) that my mom met me energetically at the door while everyone else was sleeping. She was clearly disappointed and unsuprised when I declined her offers of dinner and conversation and instead crawled into bed. The next morning at 5AM my dad attempted to sneak out the door, only to have his two sons pounce on him before he could get away, but he didn’t seem too disappointed to be taking his boys along to see the sunrise. When we got to the beach a dark shape was silhouetted against the barely-brightening sky, and it is to my dad’s everlasting shame that he insisted it was a monk seal even after we said it looked like a sea turtle. Several more of the large turtles were resting on the sand further down the beach, making for a pleasant welcome to the island as the sun turned the sky pink while an army of roosters announced their presence to the world.
The day’s other activities included multiple rounds of snorkeling, massive fish burritos from Da Crack, a cat on a surfboard, and drinks at sunset. All in all not a bad way to start the trip.
Day two again started with an early wakeup and another trip down to the beach to see the sea turtles. There was more snorkeling, more tropical drinks, etc, but other days had more journal-worthy moments so let’s move on to Day 3.
The previous day I had moved from Ma & Pa’s timeshare to the Hyatt next door, picking up Audrey from the airport in the evening, while Aaron and Helen relocated to an Air B&B rental on the north side of the island. Audrey has the amazing ability to defy jet lag, so she was having none of my arguments that getting up at 5AM was the same as getting up at 8AM in Los Angeles, thus I roamed around the hotel grounds at sunrise before dragging her out of bed at 6:30 and heading off to our fancy hotel breakfast buffet next to the koi pond. From there we were off to do some snorkeling, then we meandered our way around the island to see Aaron, stopping to photograph the Autumn mist in Hanalei enroute. With the full Holliday clan present we attempted a bit of snorkeling off of the beach near the beginning of the Napali Coast, but choppy waters had reduced visibility to only about ten feet, and in an underwater landscape filled with lava cracks that looked like they might descend hundreds of feet it was hugely disconcerting to wonder what might be hiding down below. When Aaron called me out for saying that it was an uncomfortable place to swim I told him to follow me out into the murky water – hundreds of feet offshore and notoriously afraid of sharks, the sound he made as we swam over rocky ledges that descended to unseen depths was something between a whining puppy and a bawling child; we turned back fairly quickly.
Audrey’s one request prior to starting the trip was that she wanted at least one “lounge day”, knowing that otherwise I’d do my best to ensure that each day would end with us collapsing from exhaustion after non-stop activities. Thus, Tuesday saw us hanging out at the resort pools, where Audrey read a book while I set the Hyatt master’s record for most rides on their water slide in a 24-hour period – all of the five year olds seemed slightly peeved at the bald guy who made their wait in the line a bit longer by going down the slide again and again.
Wednesday was our scuba diving day. Sadly, because someone is sued in America every 0.2 seconds, they wouldn’t let my dad join us once he checked one of the “do any of the following apply to you” boxes on the release forms, so Audrey and I were the only family representatives underwater this year. After many scuba trips to Mexico with rental equipment that inevitably leaks Audrey and I have become reasonably good on air, so as the other divers in our group ran out of air and had to surface we ended up getting a lot of underwater time to ourselves. We saw sea turtles, fish, corals, and lava caves, but the highlight of the two dives was a giant moray hiding in a crack in the rock – the thing was so massive that as I was swimming over I first wondered what a seal was doing in the rocks, before realizing we were seeing an eel that would be bigger than most sharks if it chose to come out and play.
The recap for the rest of the trip, including the story of how Poseidon God of the Sea sent a magical wave to assist my dad and I in returning our kayak to shore amidst raging seas, will follow shortly in the next journal entry.
Monk seal Sea turtle resting on the beach in Kauai.
Nene (rhymes with nay-nay), the state bird of Hawaii.
Posted from Honolulu, Hawaii at 11:03 pm, Friday, August 31st, 2012
Aaron and I got up for sunrise this morning, enjoyed a fine Mexican breakfast, then joined Ma and Pa for some biking on the coast. After a leisurely ride along a rocky shoreline the Holliday boys unsurprisingly found a way to make the return trip into a game, and spent the next thirty minutes playing beach cruiser tag. The game ranged along the bike path, next to cliff edges, around surprised picnickers, and generally anywhere where escape seemed plausible and death seemed at least somewhat unlikely. After much sweat and some laughter from onlookers Aaron emerged victorious at the bike rental shop, but next time the tables will be turned.
Following the bike ride, and after drinks, sunset, and failed chicken catching, Aaron and I took off for the airport, where Aaron managed to get bumped off of his flight in exchange for a travel voucher, a nice hotel room, and another full day in Kauai. Meanwhile my ticket takes me to Honolulu for a layover of doom and despair (from 11PM to 7AM) – sleeping on a bench in the ticketing area seems probable.
The six day vacation was a good one, with a nice mix of relaxation and adventure. The Napali kayak was obviously the biggest of those adventures, and the following snippet from a local travel magazine seems a fitting, albeit overly dramatic, view of the trip from another perspective:
Known as the “Mount Everest” of ocean kayaking, arms of steel are necessary to embark down the famed Napali Coast. This adrenaline pumping, action packed journey traverses the breathtaking northwest coast of Kaua’i, navigating the open ocean at the base of 4,000-ft cliffs. There’s nothing more physically demanding than this 17-mile voyage over the unpredictable ocean that will challenge your strength, endurance and agility. But the sights along the way are equally rewarding and worthwhile.
The Holliday family in Kauai. Beach cruisers were a solid plan from Ma and Pa.
Posted from Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii at 9:13 pm, Thursday, August 30th, 2012
Scuba diving in Kauai was definitely not a bad idea. All of my previous 27 dives were outside of the US, and the difference in a domestic dive appears to be higher costs, more paperwork, bigger boats, and much better equipment. The first dive site was OK, and a good refresher lesson on how to scuba dive. The surface interval included a visit from some bottlenose dolphins, and then it was off to Sheraton Caverns, aka sea turtle wonderland. We had a turtle in the water on entry, and then a turtle under every ledge once on the bottom – I was six inches away from a human-sized giant near the end of the dive. Overall the dive was great – underwater lava tubes, a white tip reef shark, turtles that didn’t care about divers swimming by, and a ton of brightly colored fish including a cleaner wrasse who was working on two much larger reef fish. To close things out in style a sea turtle followed us to the surface, and while it was probably just a coincidence, she paused her ascent at our safety stop, floating with me fifteen feet below the surface for a minute or so. Once back on the boat, a pod of spinner dolphins came in to visit us, including one tiny baby – maybe a foot long – who was leaping along with the adults.
The afternoon was less eventful – Aaron and I made a rush checkout from the Hyatt (so nice there!), grabbed lunch, then moved in with Ma and Pa for a night. It’s been a mighty good week.
Posted from Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii at 9:21 pm, Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
Life is definitely going good when you can look back at your day and be surprised by a thought like “I only went swimming once today”. After yesterday’s kayaking extravaganza today ended up being a rest day, with a fair amount of floating, a few more trips down the hotel’s water slide, multiple servings of fish tacos, and drinks at sunset with the parental units. Tomorrow morning is a scuba adventure for me and some eclectic yoga for Aaron, followed by a checkout from the Hyatt and a night at Ma & Pa’s timeshare before this quick adventure sadly comes to a close.
Posted from Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii at 10:31 am, Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
After a full day spent kayaking in the Hawaii sun, Aaron and I were both asleep within sixty seconds of hitting the beds once we got back to our hotel room last night, hence the lack of a journal entry. The Napali Coast kayak was pretty epic – it started at 5:45 AM at the kayak shop with everyone but the guides still half asleep. The guy driving the van (nicknamed the “Hawaiian Sasquatch”, because that’s exactly what he looked like) was jamming to reggae on the drive up and at one point failed to notice a lane shift, and after jerking out of the way of oncoming traffic the guide riding in the passenger seat nonchalantly commented “Yeah ‘squatch, they moved that lane”.
Within two minutes of setting out in the kayaks we were in the midst of dolphins, and had a second pod doing 720° corkscrews out of the water about an hour later. The seventeen mile kayak led along the base of three thousand foot cliffs, occasionally broken up by ridiculously awesome sea caves (see video below). One of the caves ended in a huge shaft that was open to the sky, creating the opportunity for a quick snorkel in water that was crystal clear for at least sixty feet down to the bottom.
Other highlights included kayak surfing whenever we could manage to catch a wave properly, one of the guides breaking out the “sail-brella” and coasting past us without use of paddle, the many light showers and high clouds that kept temperatures comfortable, a few monk seals, and many tropic birds, sooty terns, boobies, and frigate birds. Surprisingly the seventeen mile slog wasn’t deathly exhausting, and while I’m not excited about possibly having to use my upper body in any way today, aside from some soreness and a bright red zebra pattern sunburn (spray-on suncreen: bad idea) neither Aaron nor I are that much worse for wear.
Kayaking through a cave with a friggin’ waterfall coming through the roof. Most Tuesdays are not this exciting.
After plunking down deposits for tomorrow’s eight hour death march we did a snorkel in murky, turbulent waters and followed that up with three trips down the hotel’s water slide – surprisingly a request from two grown men for the wristbands that allow repeat trips down the slide did not elicit even a raised eyebrow from the hotel staff, so they’re either really well trained or we weren’t the only ones who appreciated the mad g-forces on the turns. After the watersports Ma and Pa joined us for sunset and a few chases of the local chickens before we headed to bed at the late hour of 8PM.
Posted from Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii at 9:05 pm, Sunday, August 26th, 2012
Day one of the Hawaii vacation involved much legroom and warm cookies during the first-class ride over (note to American Airlines: if the first class ticket is somehow fewer award miles, don’t even both to offer the economy tickets). Post-arrival activities included some snorkeling with the Skipper and a handful of pretty fishes, followed by a tropical beverage on the beach at sunset. The conversation that led to the tropical beverage being procured was one that gets rarer with each passing year:
Ryan: "Can I have a piña colada?"
Bartender: "You’re twenty-one, right?
Ryan: "Do you want to see my ID (reaching for ID)?"
Bartender: "Are you twenty-one?"
Ryan: "I’m thirty-six."
Bartender: "That was a piña colada, right?
Aaron arrives tomorrow, and we’re staying at a separate hotel from the elder Hollidays in an effort to promote family harmony, and also because the stock market is up 1000 points so a fancy hotel became an option. We booked the super-snazzy resort down the road, and aside from some sticker shock there don’t seem to be any downsides – when you don’t get that much vacation, going big seems like a winning strategy. Scuba appears to be on the schedule for Tuesday (yes, we are for scuba), and undoubtedly many shenanigans will unfold over the coming week.