Our final stop this vacation is the gorgeous island of flowers: Kaua’i.

Our friends, Natalie and Patrick, surprised us with fantastic accommodations at the Kauai Shores Hotel. Hugging the Pacific coastline, this colorful locale boasts two hundred rooms, a large grassy play area, two pools, a hot tub, and laundry rooms. An added bonus is the Lava Lava Beach Club restaurant, serving libations and delicious snacks and meals on-site every day!

We explored the coast a bit our first afternoon, in search of a perfect snorkeling spot for upcoming days. Our group will begin dispersing starting tomorrow, with the departure of our youngest daughter’s boyfriend. He has proven to be a great vacation accomplice–flexible, polite, and willing to go exploring! We’re going to miss him. As manager of a major automotive parts store, though, he is needed back at work in Austin.

Kukui Heiau, an ancient terrace of a worshipping spot, can be found just down the beach from Kauai Shores Hotel. Many heiau can be found throughout the Hawaiian islands.

“heiau (/ˈheɪ.aʊ/) is a Hawaiian temple. Made in different architectural styles depending upon purpose and location, they range from simple earth terraces, to elaborately constructed stone platforms. There are heiau to treat the sick (heiau hōʻola), offer first fruits, offer first catch, start rain, stop rain, increase the population, ensure the health of the nation, achieve success in distant voyaging, reach peace, and achieve success in war (luakini). Only the luakini was dedicated through human sacrifice.” (Wikipedia, accessed 1.7.19)

Red hibiscus, the state flower of Hawaii

Lawa’i Beach, about a half hour’s drive from our hotel turned out to be a fantastic snorkel spot. Somewhat protected from crashing waves and without strong currents to carry one away, it is home to a huge variety of tropical fish, even up close to shore! With restrooms just across the street and a simple outdoor freshwater shower, the spot couldn’t be more perfect! Well, maybe with fewer snorkelers it could be, but it’s obvious why the schools and dive shops like this spot too!

Later in the evening, we celebrated our youngest daughter’s 25th birthday on the beach. Adrian, a Kauai native, and two of his friends gathered around a campfire to sing, play the ukulele, and share local history. My son surprised everyone with a tiramisu cake, complete with 26 candles–always one for good luck, according to Grandma L! Everyone happily shared the cake. Ten o’clock rolled around too quickly though; we doused the fire, and slowly retreated into the shadows.

Before we left, my daughter was presented with a hand made flower by one of the local young men–made beautifully and simply from the leaf of a nearby plant. A perfect ending to an unforgettable birthday.

Hiking NouNou Trail East toward Sleeping Giant Peak turned out to be a hiker’s dream. Because it had rained early that morning, several spots along the trail were muddy and slick. A few tricky rock climbing ascensions had to be overcome, especially towards the top of the trail, in order to be rewarded with incredible scenery that included the Pacific, a local village, and our rain forest-like surroundings. Ironwood trees, orchids, ferns, berries, and Pacific breezes all contributed to an unforgettable morning hike!

Ke Ala Hele Makale trail provided an incredible view of the eastern coast of Kauai. Using cruiser style bicycles from the Kauai Shores Hotel, we rode the entire length, stopping to read local info on whale watching, coconut and pineapple plantations, sacred burial sites, and seals that occasionally make landing there. Although the trail makes its way to the top of the island, it is easy riding on a wide trail with shade in a few places, and plenty of spots to hike down to the water. Be sure to use sunscreen, carry water, and maybe a snack bar or two. If you are so inclined, carry a small bag in a backpack to load any plastic trash that you find along the beautiful shore.

Downtown Ka’paa is loaded with local art spots, shopping spaces, coffee and sandwich shops. I wandered into Paradise Beauty Salon and Spa to get a little waxing done. The young ladies were friendly, knowledgeable of the local area, and seemed intent to meet their customers’ needs!

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