Today I want to talk about my favourite tour on Maui. You can split this tour in two for more enjoyment. After all you’ll explore one of the most spectacular coastal drives of the world. I liked the Road to Hana that much that I drove it three times. But before you go on this trip you should keep in mind that on this tour the road is the destination. Sure it can’t hurt when you check out what there is to see and make a first plan where you want to stop. 600 hairpin turns, single lane bridges, bamboo and rainforest, waterfalls and black lava beaches. Just float along.
This tour isn’t too exhausting, but you will need to be able to walk in uneven terrain and be free from giddiness. You will be rewarded with beautiful views and with a bit of luck you will encounter an ibex. And don’t forget to save some energy for the descent. It is not very steep and follows good walkable paths, but it is a rather long one.
Today we will explore the south and the west of Kauai. You can look forward to a bunch of different highlights. So make yourself comfortable and enjoy reading.
Wailua River and surroundings
The Wailua River is the only river on the Hawaiian Islands, where ships can be used. If you are more of an active person you can book a guided canoe tour. For all of you that think this is too strenuous there are boat rides that go upstream to the Fern Grotto. During this ride you will have comments about the river and it’s surroundings.
The Fern Grotto is remarkable because of the Ferns that grow on the ceiling and which are due to gravity hanging from it. What you won’t see and what you even can’t reach with your canoe are the Wailua Falls. Therefore I would suggest to spend a day hiking in Wailua State Park. Apart from a tropical rainforest you can explore quite a few sacred places of the ancient Hawaiians. The Kamokila Hawaiian Village is a good starting point to explore this natural preserve. Beginning with a temple and ending with huts where the Polynesian people lived before the Europeans came, there is a whole village to explore and you will get a good impression of life in the old days. There is a nature trail that explains everything. Once you have visited the village you can go on a tour with an Outrigger Canoe, hiking or swimming. As mentioned before Kauai is called the Garden Isle and most attractions have a nature theme.
Lihue, the capital of Kauai
Leaving Wailua you will soon arrive in Lihue. The town itself is not very interesting. Hanamaulu Bay offers a swimmable beach, but the airport is rather close here. Kalapaki Beach is also a swimmable beach and apart from a few shops and bars you will find the Kauai Beach Marriott here. The hotel is not very inviting seen from the outside, but the interior is just beautiful. The most remarkable part of the hotel is the large pool in form of a hibiscus flower.
An excursion into the world of legends
From the Nawiliwili Harbor, where you can sometimes see cruise ships, you will access the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge. Part of this Park is the Alekoko Fish Pond. The old Polynesians have a legend concerning this pond. Long before the Polynesians there were people living on the islands: the Menehune. These small people grew only to be 2,5ft. high, but possessed supernatural strenghts. They are very shy and so there aren’t many people that have actually seen them. When the chief of the Polynesians decided to built this new pond he went to the Menehune and asked them for help. They agreed to bulit it in one night, but insisted that no one would watch them doing it. The chief gladly accepted and so on the next full moon the Menehune started their task. A Hawaiian prince and his princess had a date the very same night and when they heard the noise of the construction going on they decided to sneak to the site and watch. Of course they were found and the Menehune ended their work instantly. The pond was only finished many years later by Asian plantation workers. As for the two lovers, they were punished by being transformed into rocks which can still be seen in the hills next to the pond.
When we continue we will reach Kilohana Plantation. The name of it translates to „Place not to be missed“. The plantation home can be visited and offers a good sight into the life of the rich that were living here in the old days. A part of the house is nowadays the home of one of the best restaurants on Kauai. Gaylords at Kilohana offers fine dining at its best with ingredients from Hawaii. If you are lucky enough to get a table in the courtyard you will certainly pass a memorable meal. On the grounds you can also explore a few stores, especially the Koloa Rum Company Store is not to be missed. This the only distillery on the islands that produces rum which actually tastes very good. But the highlight of the plantation is the historical train that runs around the grounds. During the ride you will get more interesting information about the work life on a plantation. If you want to go to a luau I can recommend Kalamaku. Every tuesday and friday night you can experience a great show. Not as authentic as others, but very professionell.
To reach our next stop it takes only a short drive. Koloa is a small historic village where the plantation workers used to live. You can see one of the oldest sugar mills in Hawaii. The houses are home to a few souvenir shops and galleries. It’s worth a short stroll.
Kauai’s southern coast, Poipu
Poipu on the southern coast is a resort town with a broad selection of mostly luxurious hotels and beautiful beaches. A bit inland there are two small shopping malls. On Mondays and Thursdays afternoon your shopping spree at the Poipu Shopping Village will be accompangied by a free live Hula show. On Wednesdays the Shops at Kukui’ula offer a Culinary Market with live-cooking and tasting. On Friday nights you can listen to Hawaiian musicians playing here. I want to point one shop at Kukui’ula: Lappert’s Hawaii sells very tasty ice cream made of Hawaiian ingredients. Delicious…….
Poipu has pristine beaches, where you can at least most of the time take a swim. But on certain days the currents are too strong for doing it. You have the choice between several bays. Baby Beach is suitable for kids, while Brennecke’s Beach is best for body surfing. The most popular are Poipu Beach and Shipwreck Beach. But only Poipu Beach has a lifeguard on duty. On this beach I had an encounter with a Hawaiian Monk Seal, although I first realized that a bunch of people were tying ropes and therefore cutting off a part of the beach. The conservation of flora and fauna is very important to Hawaiians and a lot of them engage in volunteering. Oh, and I found the seal most impressive.
A bit further west you will find another spouting horn. As I have told you before you will find these along the coast of the islands. When the tide is high the water is pressed through them and builds fountains.
An impressive natural sight: the Napali Coast
From Poipu we continue to Ele’ele and Hanapepe. The drive leads us through coffee plantations that have replaced the pineapple and sugar cane fields. Hawaiian coffee tastes, due to the volcanic soil, different as any other coffees. It has less acidity, but a very intense taste. My favorite is still the Kona coffee, but I will tell you more about it, when I am writing about the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island.
Hanapepe is the starting point for excursions to one of the most beautiful regions of Kauai, the Napali Coast. This stretch of the coast can only be reached by water or from the air but is for me one of the most stunning coast lines on this planet. I recommend that you book a snorkeling tour to explore it. You’ll have to get up rather early in the morning, but you will be part of an awesome tour. When leaving Hanapepe your catamaran will be guided by dolphins. Apparently the best time to watch those highly intelligent animals is early morning. I am always enraptured by their games. Aboard the ship you will be served breakfast which you can relish in peace, since it’ll take some time before you reach the northern coast. At the turning point you will get a climpse of Ni’ihau, the forbidden island, which can be visited by invitation only. It used to be a plantation, but today it is protected by the owners and they aim to preserve the original Hawaiian culture. On your way back you should have your camera ready. You will have the sun in your back and the perfect light for some great shots of the colorful cliffs. At different locations you can see waterfalls tumbling over high cliffs into the ocean, while on other stretches you will see romantic beaches inviting you for a swim. In my first part of the Kauai excursion I wrote about the Kalalau Trail that runs along this coast. At some point the captain will anchor and you’ll be snorkeling. I never was a big friend of this sport, since all my attempts ended with a feeling that I drank half the ocean. But after the instruction by the crew aboard this catamaran, I was able to snorkel and was delighted. The underwater world off the Hawaiian coast is colorful and offers a broad variety. And if you are lucky you might even swim with a honu (turtle). The best to describe all this is to show you pictures. So here you go:
From Hanapepe we continue a bit further west to Waimea. There is not much to be told about this small town unless you are lookign for a romantic hideaway. The Waimea Plantation Cottages used to be a plantation and the small houses for the employees were turned into vacation homes. On the grounds you will also find a small black beach without lifeguard and in it’s natural state. Something else wouldn’t fit here.
THE highlight of Kauai: Waimea Canyon
One more reason why you should go to Waimea. This is the starting point for our grande finale of our tour around the island. The road is climbing the mountains and will lead you to the rim of Waimea Canyon. It is the second largest in the US and is also called the Grand Caynon of the Pacific. It is about 10 miles long and up to 3000 feet deep. In contrast to it’s big brother you will see apart from colorful stones a lot of green, since due to the precipitation there are plants growing in niches and on ledges.
Hiking in Waimea Canyon
There are two different trails you can take to explore the canyon. The short Ililau Trail is a nature path with lots of information about the formation of the canyon plus the flora and fauna of this area. If you hike the Kukui Trail you will descend along the western side about 2000 feet towards the ground. There you can camp overnight, but you will have to get a permission in the park. Since it can get very hot in the canyon you should start your tour early in the morning. And please keep in mind that you will have to climb those 2000 feet again. You will be rewarded with pure nature and fantastic views. And don’t forget to take enough water. There are no possibilities to buy anything on your way.
If you don’t want to make the descend, there are more trails to be found that’ll bring you to the top of the cliffs of the Napali Coast. And in this part of Kauai you will realize why this island is called the Garden Island.
Before I close my post for today, one more tip. If you like helicopter flights this is the place to treat you to one. This way you will see all this beauty from above. A truly unforgettable event.
Did I give you enough reasons to go to Kauai? Have you been there before and have more recommendations for first timers? I am looking forward to your comments.
Mahalo nui loa for your attention.
Today we are going to explore another island.
Kauai’s nickname ist the Garden Isle and there is a reason for it. Since the mountains on Kauai aren’t as high as on the other islands, the rain is more widely spread. Plus it rains a bit more than on the other islands. But don’t worry, long lasting downpours are rather seldom. On the other hand the region around Mount Wai’ale’ale is one of the wettest on this planet. Weiterlesen
We finally had a great summer again. Well, at least here in Bavaria. And I actually picked the perfect time for my vacation at home. So I decided to make the best out of it and enjoy the somewhat cooler days (when the temperature dropped to the mid 70’s) and drive again to the mountains and go on a hike.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, bavarian small town with international flair
This time I drove to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This town is known for it’s great skiing slopes in winter, but there is a lot to do and see in summer, too. This tour begins with a disappointment. The plan was to make a quick stop in the town center and buy a Bretzel for the hike. But there was no bakery to be found. Which is very unusual for a Bavarian small town. Apparently the exclusive shops and boutiques made the rent too high for a small bakery to survive here. At least we were able to take some nice pictures.
Restaurant Almhütte with a big parking lot for hikers
A short drive brings us to a restaurant called Almhütte. Not really easy to be found, especially since our old car doesn’t have a GPS. Finally we found it. The parking lot is one of the starting points of a popular hiking path called „Kramerplateauweg“. It is a rather even path on a plateau above the town and gives you not only great views of Garmisch, but also of Germany’s highest peak: the „Zugspitze“. You don’t need much experience to walk this path and so it can be done as an easy Sunday afternoon stroll. Close to the restaurant we come across a small pond with these beautiful water lilies.
My guide book tells me to start the ascent to the restaurant St. Martin auf dem Grasberg at the first crossing. But we didn’t want to start with lunch and decide to take the tour in the opposite direction.
A walk for everybody: The Kramerplateau
The next sight was this church that was being billed after WWII to commemorate the soldiers that have died during war. High above town with the impressive mountain scenery as a back drop.
The plateau is actually a alpine heathland with pine trees and heather. As the day moves towards noon, the temperature rises to the 80’s and we would love to walk in the shade, but this path is very sunny. It was a wise decision to opt for an easy hike on such a hot day.
The next stop on our hike was the lake „Pflegersee“. This artificial lake was originally being used as a fish pond for the aristocrats residing in the close by Werdenfels Castle. These days you find a public beach and a restaurant with a large terrace overlooking the lake on it’s shores. The restaurant looks very tempting, but we have other plans. So we keep on walking.
Our path starts to ascent towards a mountain called the grassy mountain. It still is not too steep and every once in a while we stop to enjoy the scenery.
St.Martin on the Grasberg (grassy mountain)
About an hour later we reach the cabin where we want to have lunch. A typical Bavarian house with a nice terrace and absolutely breath taking views.
Above to the left you can see the view towards Alp- and Zugspitze which you can enjoy from the terrace. Unfortunately the Zugspitze is covered with clouds today. But the view is still amazing. And since we’ve been walking for 2,5 hours it is time to enjoy lunch. I opt for a salad made of sausage and cheese. A typical Bavarian dish and it is just delicious.
Since it is still rather early I decide to climb a bit further up the mountain towards the „Königsstand“. My guide book tells me that there is a sort of a skywalk with a even more spectacular view. The path is narrow and very steep, but it leads through a shady forest.
The view becomes even more breath taking after every turn. The whole town of Garmisch-Partenkichen at your feet. I can’t find a word that describes this view.
A few steps before I reach this recess the path becomes a bit of an adventure. From the cabin where I started up to this point I had to climb another 650 feet. So I did already burn off some of those calories from my lunch.
On my way back I find some Gentian next to the path.
What a cute surprise
Behind the next turn I come across a very rare sight. A young chamois got lost and descended to an elevation where you usually wouldn’t see them. And most certainly not that close. This guy jumped on my path not even 15 feet away.
It’s hard to tell who is more curious. Luckily enough it waits long enough to be taken on photograph before fleeing out of my sight. Isn’t it nice? This is a very special moment, since they usually are seen in high elevations and in very rocky terrain.
And then one last glimpse of the town and the surrounding scenery.
Back at the cabin, I feel like having something sweet. In my guide they mention that this cabin has a specialty that is not to be missed. So I order a serving of their Blueberry Pancake. The waitress looks a bit confused, since she knows that I just had lunch about 1 hour ago. I expect to get pancakes like I know them from the states, actually more of a desert serving. Along with the pancakes I order a glass of fresh buttermilk.
When my order finally finds its way to my table I am dumbstruck. The pancake has a tremendous size and could easily feed 2. On top the glass contains 16oz of fresh buttermilk. Usually they serve half of it in one glass.
But the guys from my guide book were right. This is by far the best blueberry pancake I ever had. A thick pancake filled with tons of fresh blue- and raspberries with warm cream. I must be in heaven. I just have to enjoy every bite of it. Delicious is an understatement.
After feeding myself with such an amount of calories, I am happy that we still have an hour to walk before we get to our car to drive home. The descent is rather steep at some points and we are happy that we decided to walk it the opposite way.
So we had chosen the perfect tour for a hot summer day. And this chamois sighting and this pancake……….
What else can you ask for?
Yes we are a bit spoiled here when it comes to public holidays and this time they even announced great weather. But what to do on such a day? Taking the car was not really an option, since on such a day half of Munich is traveling south to enjoy the day in the mountains.
We choose to take a bike ride and visit a small town some 22 miles northeast of Munich. We started early in the morning and planned to have lunch in a nice beer garden, once we would be there.
To get to the river we have to take a short ride along one of the busiest streets in Munich which is part of a ring that goes around the Center of Munich. Parts of that ring have been tunneled and on the particular stretch where we had to pass, they have created in 2002 a new park (Petuelpark) which has won a lot of prices for being one of the best new urban gardens with lots of green and modern art. This where you will find the fellow below.
The northern part of the Englische Garten
We continue through the northern part of the Englische Garten, which is actually the biggest city park in the world, even bigger than New York’s Central Park. This part of the park is not so populated and it is easy to forget that you still are in the middle of a 1,5 million city. I just love this quiet and green place, crossed with small creeks. We have to cross a very nice neighborhood where there are a lot of small houses with lush gardens. How I would love to have one of those. Instead I live in a block from the early 1970’s. I probably shouldn’t be complaining, since we do have a rooftop terrace overlooking the BMW plant and the Olympic Stadion behind it.
Pure nature along the Isar
From the Englische Garten you’ll cross into the wetlands of the Isar without ever noticing it. Lush forest and singing birds bring you ever farther away from the city’s hustle. This is pure regeneration and I start to respire. We continue in a slow pace and enjoy the nature. I’m not a speeder, but usually I do ride the bike in a sportive way. Not today. The path is well prepared and there are no real mountains to climb. No need for a mountain bike here.
There used to be quite some barrages along the river. A couple of years ago they started to restore the rivers original state and they just placed huge stones in the river instead of blocking it totally. With the time they will eventually become small islands. But you will also come over passages where the river flows slowly and almost looks like a lake. We see quite a few man in the river practicing fly fishing. in other areas we pass people in kayaks.
It’s been a while since I last heard a cuckoo and so I am surprised to hear one today. I am not very superstitious, but there is this saying here in Germany that when you hear the first cuckoo in spring you’re supposed to shake your purse. This means that during the rest of the year you will always have enough money. Who doesn’t want that to happen? So I take out my purse and shake it. You never know…..