Hiking the Napali Coast
By Paul Morrone, CFP ®, CPA, MSA
Hawaii is one of those places that I never thought I would go on vacation.
It’s not because I didn’t have a desire to go there, but I always felt that if I was going to travel 12 hours from the East Coast that I might as well just keep going to Australia, New Zealand or Thailand. However, through some creative booking with points and miles, timing that worked with both of our schedules and the fact that Zika had not spread to the Hawaiian Islands, we had booked our trip to Maui and Kauai just after Christmas. Fast forward to May and ‘pleasantly surprised’ doesn’t begin to describe how much we enjoyed our trip to the middle of the pacific. Before we left, one of our clients said it best, “You’re going to love Maui, but you’re really going to love Kauai.”
Maui’s southwest shore of Wailea was magical in its own right, with high end hotels, top-quality restaurants, pristine beaches and sunsets to die for, it was a great place to get acclimated to the new time zone and relax for a few days upon arriving in Hawaii. While we saw a substantial amount of rain our first two days (per the locals the worst rain in nearly a decade!), we made the most of it by squeezing in a hike through Maui’s lava fields (getting absolutely soaked in the process) and exploring the area by car. As the weather broke, we quickly found out the get-up-early and get-to-bed-early lifestyle worked perfectly with the active vacation style in Hawaii and we often had finished a walk, run or hike by 10am. Of course we reserved plenty of time to relax and take in the ocean views, enjoy some Mai Tais at the swim-up bar and drive the famous Road to Hana.
I couldn’t have imagined a place being any greener than Maui until we started driving away from the airport in Kauai. Plants grew on top of other plans and even seemed to spout right out of solid rock, a product of the fertile volcanic soil and heavy rainfall that is essentially a steroid treatment for the vegetation on the island. It’s not hard to see why its nickname is the Garden Isle. Our first day in Kauai, we found that the best way to get a complete picture of the island is to view it from above, in a helicopter, with the doors off. Here we were able to truly appreciate the dramatic topography of the land that was made famous by the nearly 75 movies and TV shows that were filmed there, including Jurassic Park, Tropic Thunder and Pirates of the Caribbean. Fun fact: Mount Wai’ale’ale, the second highest peak on the island at over 5,000 feet, is the wettest place on earth with average annual rainfall over 400 inches. This rainfall feeds many of the majestic waterfalls that Kauai is known for and has helped shape the landscape that has made the island so naturally beautiful.
While in Kauai, we met up with a couple of our friends from LA. Knowing that we could sit on a beach and drink cocktails in Florida (and spend 10 hours less on a plane), we decided to use our time in Kauai to work off all of the Ahi Tuna we had been eating and get up close and personal with the spectacular beaches, waterfalls and cliffs of the Na Pali coast. Over the course of an 8 mile hike, we traversed up switchbacks, down into ravines and finally arrived at a spectacular 300 foot waterfall called Hanakapai’ai falls. The water at the base of the falls was freezing cold (as it had descended nearly 5000 feet in only a matter of hours) but provided a much needed opportunity to cool down after our hike into the Na Pali Coast State Park. While this may have been the highlight of our trip, we also went tubing through a former sugar plantation, kayaked up the Wailua river, explored the Makauawahi Cave, and hiked to the Wailua falls. As with any vacation, it went by too quickly but we both feel like we made the most of our time away. I now understand the allure of Hawaii and why it is such a magical place.