Nualolo Aina Valley is remarkable for its remains of taro growing terraces, reminders that for hundreds of years people lived their lives in this remote valley, even into the early 20th century. Adjoining it, and once connected by a primitive ladder over the separating cliff, is the abbreviated Nualolo Kai beach and valley, which also has multiple and elaborate lava rock terraces visible afar from the ocean. Taro, or kalo, grows in water and is considered a perfect food plant. Its heart-shaped green leaves and starchy root, similar to a potato, are rich in nutrients. Poi, that gray paste most visiting tourists have reluctantly tasted as proper fare at a Hawaian luau, is made from the taro root. Though most say it must be an acquired taste, it was only several decades ago that poi was a staple for Kauai’s children, promoted by our local public health departments. No doubt a substantial amount of taro could be grown in Nu‘alolo ‘Aina, but was there enough for everyone? And all the time? With frequent devastations from landslides and flash floods, how many could this and the bordering valleys feed? We don’t know, but consider this: Kauai’s population in Captain Cook times may have been close to 100,000, though only a hundred or so lived in Nualolo Aina Valley is remarkable for its remains of taro growing terraces, reminders that for hundreds of years people lived their lives in this remote valley, even into the early 20th century. itself. Today, Kauai’s resident population is only about 55,000, even with a relentless stream of imported food and commerce by barges every day. Taro in olden Hawaii had to be a most productive crop. It was everything, overshadowing even what could be harvested from the sea. I’m sure the youngsters then were saying something like, “Oh Mom, poi for dinner again!”
Nualolo Aina Valley is remarkable for its remains of taro growing terraces, reminders that for hundreds of years people lived their lives in this remote valley, even into the early 20th century.
A big part of the Bali Hai ridge is here at Hanakoa Valley, comprised of two incredible lava dyke ridges protruding up like sentries guarding each side of this lush, tropical rain forest valley. In the middle of Kauai's Hanakoa Valley, you can see a waterfall cascading gracefully into the sea. To the right of that, along the near coastline, the shouting color of red iron ore makes it look like you took a wrong turn and somehow ended up on Mars. The bright orange rust of the coast stands out like a stop sign in the midst of the Mars-like soil with the dark green Hala trees creating a surreal contrast looking like some alien plant form, or perhaps something from Dr. Suess’s children’s book, Horton Hear’s A Who. Further back on the ridge, the sisal plant thrives looking like a twenty foot tall asparagus for giants. But then again, everything here looks big. There is a Jurassic Park feeling here, like you expect a Pterodactyl or other ancient flying dinosaur to swoop down from a nest on the cliffs, trying desperately to pluck you from the raft. WHAT TO EXPECT...
A big part of the Bali Hai ridge is here at Hanakoa Valley, comprised of two incredible lava dyke ridges protruding up like sentries guarding each side of this lush, tropical rain forest valley.
Kauai's Awaawapuhi Valley is the narrowest and deepest of Na Pali’s remote, isolated valleys. Some say the name refers to the valley’s sinuous curves and twists that wind between its three thousand foot walls, like a slithering eel, or puhi. But the more accurate translation is more romantic, for ‘awapuhi is the native word for the wild ginger that grows in its shady depths. Revered for its decorative and fragrant flowers, it also had many practical uses— for food and fiber, and especially for the natural shampoo that oozes from its flowering stalk. Nowadays this valley (Awa) of the wild ginger looks much less lush than it must have been in ancient times, for the irrigated terraces for cultivating the life-giving taro have long since fallen away. By sea, the valley itself is hidden from view except for its towering cliffs, for it hangs above a low sea cliff, with the valley’s stream ending in a waterfall to the sea. At the base there is now a tall natural screen of dark green hau, a native Hawaiian bush of the hibiscus family, whose bark was once used for rope-making. But there can still be seen a multitude of half-washed- away rock dams that at one time went completely through the stream to create perfect terraces for growing taro. Imagine those terraced gardens in their heyday, like those of Bali except for growing taro, not rice. Farming must have been challenging then because the dark shadows of the sheer cliffs limited the sunlight, and a combination of red, clay-like rocky debris from the cliffs and the rocky valley soil meant much work to hand separate out the soil to fill into the terraces. There were also episodic heavy rains and powerful flash flooding, the valley stream becoming a swollen red river that washed away everything in
Kauai’s Awaawapuhi Valley is the narrowest and deepest of Na Pali’s remote, isolated valleys.
Remote, deep and hushed is Kalalau Valley, grandest of Na Pali’s near inaccessible valleys. Bowl-shaped within sheer walls of rainforest green, it’s 3 miles back and 3 miles across. Her mystic spell pervades, broken only momentarily by tour helicopters that appear like tiny, hovering mosquitoes. The valley’s great west wall ends toward the sea in cascading cathedrals of stone, with lava dikes upthrusting like their namesake, together forming three towering, knife-edged pyramids. Known as the Three Guardsmen, they take command, steadfast and true, of the second highest sea cliffs in the world. To truly describe Kalalau I must recall my own personal and perfect experience in this Garden of Eden: the hidden waterfalls I showered beneath; the slippery-slides of water-sliced rocks to play on; the sweet perennial stream, fairy-tale like as from one’s lost childhood, flowing gently, searching through this mystic hobbit-like valley, finally to reach the love and comfort of Mother Ocean. To some, Kalalau Stream is a natural spa. Its boulders form a series of natural jacuzzis to relax one’s tired muscles, and for any masseuse, the rocks become perfect massage tables to perfect the craft. For others the sun-warmed rocks are like beach mats without the issues of sand, naturally made for those who want that no tan-line tan. Imagine basking in the warmth of the sun, your eyes relaxed and shut, your ears tuned to the music of the running waters, and to the birds whose songs blend with the trance-like rhythmic beat of ocean waves crashing beyond onto seashore rocks. You breathe in the perfume of wild gingers whose flowers scent the stream-side air. When finally you open your eyes, and if the hypnotizing multi-blue Pacific catches your gaze, you might find your beach mat of rounded stone magically turned into a front row seat to one
Remote, deep and hushed is Kalalau Valley, grandest of Na Pali’s near inaccessible valleys.
Hands down, the Double Door Cave at Waiahuakua Valley is the best sea cave on the Na Pali coast, maybe one of the best in the world. The Double Door Cave at Waiahuakua Valley has it all: the big cathedral room and ceiling, the bright pinkish-red death rock that looks like a submerged hippo, the white-lighted tunnel hallway; but that’s not all, just as your eyes fully adjust, the sound and sight of a cascading waterfall coming through the hole in the ceiling appears. Wow! Let me say that again WOW! This is the kind of waterfall you expect to see mermaids combing their hair in. But there’s more, and I am just getting started. At a certain time of the day in summer, something extraordinary happens: Through the hole in the ceiling, where the waterfall comes through, a beam of light shines down lighting up the waterfall like a bolt of lighting. It may remind you of Star Trek's, "Beam me up, Scotty" scenes, or maybe the the tunnel of light to heaven. Whatever your choice, it lights up an electric green cathedral glass circle that closely resembles a green spinning galaxy in the water. Further examination of the Double Door Cave reveals calcium deposits coming up from the mixing of ocean and freshwater waterfall that look like ghostly apparitions silently rising up to meet the beam. Call it what you want, to me, this is the most mystic event on the Na Pali Coast. To see it, conditions must be just right – one stubborn cloud and no spotlight no matter what time you get there – meaning that even if you get there at the right time there is no guarantee you will see it. If you do get the chance to appreciate this stunning show, count yourself one
Hands down, the Double Door Cave at Waiahuakua Valley is the best sea cave on the Na Pali coast, maybe one of the best in the world.
Hoolulu means protected bay or waters. These are the cove caves, home of the noddy terns that nest along the cliffs and in the sea caves. The water off the coast of Hoolulu Valley turns electric kool aid blue, especially in the sea caves when the summer sun shines down on it – the brilliant light reflecting off the white sand below. Look up above at the towering overhang of the cliffs and space rock and you can become naturally dizzy. But, the surreal thing is the natural springs coming off the bowl shaped cliffs – they reflect the light of sunbeams that mimic a winter's snowflake gently falling onto your head.
Hoolulu means protected bay or waters. These are the cove caves, home of the noddy terns that nest along the cliffs and in the sea caves.