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Text by Brad Doane
Born of fire, Kauai has thrust herself from the sea and touched the heavens above. The island is a place of such extreme and sublime natural beauty that the harshness of everyday reality is forgotten and replaced with lush mountain tops and blue waterfalls.
Under the magic spell of falling water-Wailua Falls, Kauai.
There is often no better way to spend time with the one you love than to immerse yourselves into the silent bliss of the sea. Outlined by prolific Pacific whitecaps, Kauai offers awe-inspiring forests, colored in deep greens and sprinkled with sparkling waterfalls. From the moment you arrive, their constant whisper begins to soothe you.
There’s something healing about the waters of and off Kauai. From the caverns and tunnels of the south shore to the sheer vertical walls of Ni’ihau, the undersea topography is as appealing as the marine life that gathers there. Turtles are by far the most common animals and are encountered even before leaving the dive boat. Their heads strain skyward, as if sunbathing their chins while they swim. They pose for photos before submerging in search of food and naps.
Kauai has incredible snorkeling on shallow reefs, which are easily accessed from shore. Some of these reefs are off secluded beaches, perfect for an afternoon with your loved one. Colorful, endemic reef fish, sharks, Mantas, Monk Seals and seasonal Humpback Whales may also be encountered. With only a guidebook and snorkeling gear in hand, there are myriad secluded beaches and reefs to explore. Almost all of Kauai can be circumnavigated (except the Na Pali Coast) by car in just a couple of hours. A series of adjoining roads wrap around the waist of the island and lead explorers through breathtaking hillsides and postcard views. Take the main road (the only road that circles the island) to the Wailua River. From its mouth, you can kayak up the river until you reach a trail that leads to a hidden waterfall. Many couples pack lunches and picnic at the basin of this fall (but watch out for the hungry chickens that inexplicably prowl nearby).
But, to see what truly sets Kauai apart, you must visit the fabled Na Pali Coast. The Na Pali Coast is 16 miles of jaw-dropping, rugged beauty, and, with the exception of a precarious 11-mile hike from Ke’e beach, the only way to experience Na Pali is by sea or by air.
Boats range from kayaks and inflatables to large, comfortable catamarans with buffet lunches and bars. Topside waterfalls cascade onto deserted beaches and massive sea caves pierce the great green volcanic cliffs. From a boat you will be able to look up into the many steep valleys that slice inward from the sea and view the island’s towering interior. To see beyond that you will have to take to the sky. Due to the impassable landscape and private land ownership rights, a helicopter is the only way to see the island’s jutting mountain tops. From Mount Wai’ale’ale (the wettest place on earth-it rains every day) begins a proliferation of waterfalls and rivers that stretch in every direction. The magnitude and splendor of this aquatic procession and what it has created cannot be put into words. In fact, much of what Kauai offers in natural beauty and romantic allure cannot properly be imparted in print or even in images. The only thing better is to experience its power with the one you love.
The author would like to thank the following for their support with this article: Kalaheo Plantation, Blue Dolphin Charters, Inter-Island Air Helicopters, Shalynn Flavell and Mark Rogel.
Maui and Kona
Text by Astrid Witte and Casey Mahaney
Over the last couple of decades we have explored everything from the most remote reefs on Earth to some of the most popular, world-renowned dive sites and vacation destinations, so it is not surprising that our friends often turn to us for dive travel-related advice. Since each person tends to have different preferences and priorities it’s not always easy to point everyone in the right direction, but for couples seeking a romantic vacation we have a magic formula: Hawaii.
Offering an exceptional diversity and a richness that reaches from the archipelago’s mist-shrouded mountain tops to its ocean floor, the Hawaiian Islands offer everything from bustling night life to soothing tranquility. And while there is something to do and explore for everyone, the Hawaiian Islands are enveloped in an aura of romance few visitors can escape. Here are some of our favorite getaways on Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii:
Known as the Honeymooner’s Island, Maui holds a special charm that partially stems from the former whaling village of Lahaina. Although many of the historic buildings have been converted into live-music bars, art galleries and waterfront restaurants, Lahaina has managed to retain a quaint and idyllic feel.
Molokini Crater – In the middle of the channel between Maui and Kaho’olawe, Molokini is our favorite snorkeling spot in Maui. From the air, the ancient volcanic cinder cone resembles a crescent moon, just fallen out of the sky. In reality it’s just the tip of a crater that was breached by the sea eons ago and now forms a protective cove, perfect for diving and snorkeling. The inside of the crater offers shelter for tropical fish of all colors and species along with octopus, turtles and moray eels. For more advanced divers the backside of the crater makes for a stunning wall dive.
The sheer submarine cliff is lavishly embellished with colorful sponges, and we have seen everything form Eagle Rays to Mantas, sharks and huge schools of butterflyfish feeding in the deep blue water column. For serious divers this is the way to go if weather conditions allow, but if your partner is a snorkeler or just starting out with scuba diving, the inside of the crater makes for an excellent spot to get acquainted with the underwater world. Many cruise operators offer snorkeling, diving and snuba all on the same trip, so you can share the experience, even if you and your significant other do not have the same comfort level in the water.
Heavenly Hana – The long road to Hana may be the most romantic, beautiful and enjoyable drive you’ll ever take, particularly if you slow down and relish the sites. From Kahului, along Maui’s windward side, the narrow highway turns and twists through more than 600 hairpin turns, over 54 bridges and past countless waterfalls and streams, magnificent coastal views and natural tropical gardens, before you reach the small and sedate village of Hana. Nestled beneath the green slopes of Haleakala, Hana is often considered a “state of mind” rather than a place on the map. Here is where most visitors make their mistake-they drive up and back in one day, perhaps briefly stopping to admire the views and smell the tropical flowers, but missing the secret of Hana: It’s all about getting away from everyday life, and finding peacefulness and romance and adventure. Visit the seven pools of Hana or the Red Sand Beach and take a walk in the bamboo forests that mysteriously whistle when the wind blows. Or simply enjoy the timeless rural character of “Old Hawaii,” an art of living that has been replaced with the fast pace of tourism development elsewhere in the islands.
Haleakala Sunrise – In ancient times, Mount Haleakala, Hawaiian for “House of the Sun,” was the religious center of the Hawaiian kahunas, and still today many consider the summit of the world’s largest dormant volcano a spiritual place where magnetic and cosmic forces unite. No matter what your belief, you won’t be able to help feeling the sense of the omnipresent natural power that engulfs those who venture to the rim of the crater to witness the sunrise. There are a variety of ways to enjoy this magical experience.
One of the most romantic options is to stay at one of the walk-in cabins that are maintained by the Park Service. There are only three and all are in great demand with honeymooners, so some advance planning is required. (Write to Haleakala National Park, P.O.Box 369, Makawao, Hawaii 96768.) When preparing for a visit to The House of the Sun, keep in mind it can get quite cold, especially during the winter months, so be sure to take precautions.
The Big Island
Comprised of five large shield volcanoes, the Big Island is not only the largest of the Hawaiian Islands but also the youngest. In fact, Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano, is still growing the island today. With plenty of space and a population of only 140,000, the Big Island is the perfect place for adventurers, individualists and romantics. There are lots of remote, deserted beaches, true wilderness and bizarre, moon-like lavascape. The best diving and most reliable weather conditions are found along the sunny and wind-protected Kona Coast.
Waipio Valley – Breathtakingly beautiful, Waipio is the largest of seven spectacular amphitheater valleys along the windward side of the Big Island. Known as the “Valley of the Kings,” Waipio is a tranquil hideaway in a remote, yet stunning place. Rimmed by a long beach, the lush valley derives its magical atmosphere from its many tropical fragrances, cascading waterfalls and ancient legends. Diving is not possible here, and even snorkeling is not recommended due to frequent rip currents and heavy swells, but you can explore the valley by foot, on horseback or by four-wheel drive. This is another favorite with honeymooners, so be sure to plan ahead.
Kealakelua Bay – Blessed with the dramatic backdrop of 300-foot sheer cliffs which once served as ancient Hawaiian burial grounds, Kealakekua Bay is where we go for snorkeling and fun in the sun. Protected from the elements, the water is calm, clear and alive with an array of tropicals year-round. There are a couple of operators who offer snorkeling, snuba diving, as well as introductory and advanced scuba diving, making it an ideal spot for a diver to take a loved one who is not yet certified. The bay is not accessible by car, but guided horseback rides are offered upon request (Kings Trail Rides) that wind down a steep trail. At Napoopoo, the beach across the bay (which is an easy 30 minute drive from Kailua Kona), you can rent kayaks and explore all of Kealakekua Bay. You are likely to encounter the resident school of Spinner Dolphins that are known to accompany kayakers while performing their shows of pirouetting, spinning, back-flipping and jumping. Kealakekua Bay is one of the most beautiful and enjoyable places you’ll find in Hawaii, both above and below the surface.