Linda Ballou Visits Po‘ipū and is Sunny Side UP on Kaua‘i
By Linda Ballou, NABBW’s Adventure Travel Associate
Po‘ipū is the favored spot by visitors to the Island because it guarantees full blown sunny beach days. In 1978 Po‘ipū Beach was a deep azure plunge where I floated in ecstasy. But in 1992 Hurricane Iniki carved out a new coastline. Today the crescent shaped white sand beach is still a favorite of sun worshippers, but the water is shallow with a bottom littered with coral rocks. It is popular with snorkelers and small children but is no longer the best swimming beach on the South Shore.
Numerous resorts and condo complexes now line the shore, but there are access points and a strolling path lining the coast. Nestled between the Hyatt Regency and a golf course on Po‘ipū Road you will find public parking and access to Shipwreck Beach and the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. This path takes you along a rugged coast with giant waves crashing in white fury against black lava rock walls. The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail is as breathtaking as the more famous Kalalau Trail along the Nāpali Coast of the North Shore but is much more easily accessed and has no permit restrictions. It was a wonderful new addition to the Po‘ipū area for me to explore.
My lodging at the Kōloa Landing Resort in the center of the activities on the South Shore served as a luxurious home base. It sports an extensive set of pools and waterfalls adjacent to the Holoholo Grill. There you can enjoy Hawaiian favorite dishes and some imaginative flavor fusions for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Balmy breezes and swaying palms beneath a bright moon and Hawaiian music are on tap every night. My spacious suite with every amenity enjoyed a view of the sea and a patio overlooking the tranquility pool below. Each morning I had this pool and spa set aside for adult use to myself! It was a perfect way to begin my touring day. I could feel my muscles softening in the spa and awakening in the cool pool with a stint under the waterfall to release tense shoulders. My kind of therapy.
Most travelers go to Spouting Horn Blow Hole at the end of Lawa’i Road, but just across the street is the lesser-known National Botanical Garden aka Allerton/McBride Garden that opened to the public in the 1990’s.
Robert Allerton and his partner John Gregg, an architect, purchased the Lawa’i Valley in 1938 for $50,000. Robert had inherited millions that he and John spent gathering tropical trees and plants from around the globe that would flourish in the nurturing climate of Kaua‘i. They gathered statuary from Florence and Rome to decorate the garden rooms John designed. Graceful paths through the garden lead through orchards of fruit trees, cascading water features, and towering trees along the banks of the Lawa’i stream. The docent-led tour through what must be one of the most magnificent gardens in the world was a highlight of my visit to Kaua‘i. Steven Spielberg must have agreed because he rented the park for three months to film Jurassic Park.
An aside is that Robert and John were partners in life when gay marriage was not an option. The answer? Robert adopted John, making him his heir. John outlived Robert and when he died, he bequeathed the Allerton/McBride Garden to the state for all of us to enjoy.
On the way back to the Kōloa Landing I noticed a beach park where locals were having picnics and toddlers were swimming in the calm waters of a small marina. I stopped for a dip. As I relaxed on the warm sand of what is known as the “Baby Beach” a large seal galumphed its way onto shore about 15 feet from me. I didn’t have snorkel gear with me, so I don’t know what other creatures were lurking in the tranquil, soothing waters, but I heard there were turtles nosing around.
Nearby Kōloa Landing is historic Old Kōloa Town. Gussied up wooden storefronts bring to mind the old Hawai’i I knew. There are art galleries with the work of local artisans and fun shops to explore. But the best thing there is the Sueoka Market with a good selection of wines and a snack bar where you can get plates of kalua pork, teriyaki chicken, and more to take out. They also have a good selection of tropical fruits. Next door is the creamiest ice cream I have ever tasted; best enjoyed beneath the towering Monkey Pod tree shading the stream that runs through town.
The spectacular Waimea Canyon, and Kalalau lookout on the southwest side of the Island are an easy day trip from the Kōloa Landing Resort. Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, is a large canyon, approximately ten miles long and up to 3,000 feet deep. The narrow roller coaster road to Waimea Canyon Lookout is a bit daunting but worth the butterflies. There are numerous pull-outs along the way to view the variegated gorge; however, it is worth the price of admission to carry on to the two viewpoints created by the state. There are trails leading out of the highest viewpoint that travel across the ridge of the canyon. (The All Trails App is a handy guide with details to the 91 trails on the island of Kaua‘i.)
Continue up the mountain to the Koke’e Lodge where you can have a cool drink and lunch in scintillating mountain air. Be sure to check out the Koke’e Museum with a great collection of books on Hawaiian history. Once refreshed, go even higher to Kalalau Lookout where on a clear day you can gaze down upon the stunning Nāpali coast and the deep blue sea spreading to eternity. There was a brilliant blue sky overhead, but a cloud mist cloaking the top of the mountain blocked the view the day I visited. Since this is the wettest spot in the world it should be no surprise to run into weather. I was thrilled with the clear day I enjoyed in the park even though the Nāpali Coast was illusive.
A helicopter circled over the canyon then jetted off to the North Shore. It is arguably the best way to see the canyon and Nāpali wilderness if you are fearless and can afford the price tag. From the air, you will have the best views of the Waimea Canyon and the many waterfalls carving tracks in the pleated pali (mountains) sheathed in shaggy, impenetrable foliage.
The easy roll back down Waimea Canyon Road affords stunning views of the southwest coastline. If you are inspired to get out on the water stop at Port Allen across from the historic village of Hanapēpē. Tour companies offering everything from sunset cruises with dinner along the Nāpali Coast to deep sea fishing and scuba diving depart from Port Allen. A host of tour operators have offices there where you can make reservations, or you can go online and search the various offerings.
Time for me to say goodbye to my luxe accommodations on the South Shore and head to the North Shore for the finale of my meander down memory lane
Nature can be our salvation, and the secret to youth is to fill our mind with beauty. These guiding principles have taken me around the globe in a quest to know Earth’s most breathtaking treasures. Nowhere I have ventured has been more soothing, nurturing, and calming for me than Kaua‘i where I found my center. Kaua‘i will always hold a sacred place in my heart.
With Warm Aloha,
Editor’s Note: This is Part Two of a three-part series exploring the many facets of Kaua‘i, the Garden Isle of Hawai’i, written by NABBW’s Adventure Travel Associate Linda Ballou, who was fortunate to visit the island just weeks before the series of wildfires which broke out on Maui and the northwest part of the Big Island, in early August, 2023. As most people have now heard, the wind-driven fires prompted evacuations, caused widespread damage and killed over 100 people on Maui’s town of Lahaina.
Lahaina will remain fully closed to the public until further notice out of respect to the town’s residents. County, state, and federal emergency responders continue with efforts to identify victims and the missing, and conduct clean-up efforts of debris and hazardous materials resulting from the wildfires. However, beginning October 8th, other areas of West Maui (including Nāpili, Kāʻanapali, Honokōwai and Kapalua) will be open to visitors again. The islands of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Lāna‘i, and Hawai‘i Island remain unaffected. Should you choose to travel to these open areas we urge visitors to be especially mindful and respectful in our island home as our community continues working through this tragedy.
Adventure travel writer, Linda Ballou, is the author of three novels and numerous travel articles appearing in national publications. Linda’s Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales is the first installment in her Lost Angel Adventure trilogy. It is an armchair traveler’s delight filled with adventure to whet your wanderlust. Linda loves living on the coast of California and has created a collection of her favorite day trips for you in Lost Angel in Paradise. Lost Angel Unleashed, the third book in her travel series, is travel memoir that takes you on her most meaningful journeys and some destinations to die for… Learn more at www.LostAngelAdventures.com