Hawaii: Kauai and the Big Island, May 2003

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As fate would have it, I was invited to be on the program committee for HotOS IX, which was going to be held on Kauai. I talked Tracy into going along for the workshop and a two-week vacation afterward. I also proposed marriage to her and she said yes. Now it's time to start reading up on marriage. But, we thankfully first had two weeks of vacation in Hawaii: one week on Kauai and one week on the Big Island.

On our way to Kauai


The conference hotel, the Lihue Marriott, was spectacularly beautiful, although nobody ever told us that Kauai has a robust population of wild chickens (a.k.a. jungle fowl). When the roosters start announcing themselves to the world at 5am, you know you're in for a special vacation.


Our first serious adventure after the conference ended was a hike along the Na Pali coast (on the north side of the island). We stopped in the morning at a supermarket, bought some sandwiches, then drove until the road ended at the beautiful Ke'e beach. Then, we started hiking the Kalalau Trail.

Yeah, I'll believe they filmed Jurassic Park and Fantasy Island on this island.

The full trail is 11 miles long and is generally an overnight hike. We only went in two miles. In about two hours, we showed up at the beautiful Hanakapi'ai beach for lunch.

And would you believe the beach had feral kittens on it?


We also checked out the Kilauea Lighthouse / Bird Sanctuary. All the little white dots on the hill are birds.


After the conference was over, we spent the rest of our vacation staying in bed-and-breakfasts, using Hawaii's Best Bed & Breakfasts to help us find places to stay. Our favorite, of the whole vacation, was Hale Nuu in Poipu, on the southern coast of Kauai. Kauai is small enough that you can drive anywhere from anywhere else without taking too long. When we come back, this is the only place we're staying on Kauai. Nothing beats this view, whether you're inside or out on the lanai.

The beach is a short walk down the hill. See the tall white house on the hill? That's where we were.

Even the view away from the beach is marvelous.

And the sunsets speak for themselves.

As does Poipu's amazing beach. (I rented a boogie board and it took me an hour to finally catch my first wave.)

Poking around in the tide pools, there are all kinds of curious critters.


Our final Kauai adventure was to Waimea Canyon and a hike through the Koke'e State Park.
Our hike was only occasionally interrupted by the buzzing helicopters. (Not worth the risks to me, but others seem to enjoy the view.)

And, did I mention the chickens?


While Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, and has thus had the most time for lava to erode into soil, the Big Island is the newest, and tends to make you think you're on another planet. We dove right in, spending a couple days in Volcano and visiting Volcanoes National Park. We started off by hiking into the Kilauea Caldera.

Stuff actually grows here!

Cool rocks.

Sulphur crystals (stinky, but beautiful).


A big part of the attraction was seeing hot, flowing lava. We decided to go out at twilight to see the lava glowing in the dark. It was a scrappy two mile hike to get out to where the lava hit the ocean. If we'd been there only two months earlier, it would have only been a couple hundred meters.
The next day, we were able to get on a limited attendance tour of the Wild Lava Tube. It's not mentioned on the park's home page, but our guide book (Big Island Revealed) clued us in. All it costs you is 4 AA batteries for the helmet light. Unlike the more accessible Thurston Lava Tube, for this one you start by climbing down a 15 foot metal ladder. Inside you get to see some wonderful features that have all been broken off and cleaned out of the Thurston tube. Highly recommended!

A "skylight" in the tube.


Blistered and bruised up (but alive!) from the lava hiking, we decided to take it easy and visited Akaka Falls on the northeast side of the island. It's a short, paved walk from the parking lot to the view.
Incidentally, if you want to get the best aloha shirts, forget the guidebook and go to Akaka Falls Aloha Fashion (in Honomu, on the way to Akaka Falls). The proprietor, Mieko Maetake, does her own prints and they're spectacular. The URLs on her business card, however, don't work yet (if ever).


For our final adventure, we wanted to go to the top of Mauna Kea, where the Keck Observatory, among other expensive telescopes, is perched at 14,000 feet above sea level. Our little rental car wasn't going to make it up that high, although you could do it yourself if you had four-wheel drive. Instead, we shelled out for a tour company. Included was a box dinner at a former ranch that the tour company rents to let us eat dinner and acclimate to the altitude (roughly 7,000 feet).

Telescope workers' base camp (at 9,000 feet), with Mauna Loa in the background.

After sunset, you leave the below-freezing summit and return to the much warmer 9,000-foot elevation visitor's center. The tour folks set up a telescope for us, let us look at stars, and taught us a bit about the constellations. (Turns out, the visitor's center has a fancier telescope than the tour guide, but they don't give out free hot chocolate and cookies.)


We had an evening flight out of Kona, so we spent the morning hanging around our bed & breakfast (Nancy's Hideaway), with one of their many cats. Then, we went off to one of the mega-resorts in Waikoloa for an over-priced lunch with a great view.

This place has gone to the birds.

Or, maybe the turtles.

Golfing with lava hazards?

Mmm... lizards.

Farewell Hawaii!


Dan Wallach, CS Department, Rice University
Last modified: Thu 18-Dec-2003 18:12