The Rambling Writer Visits the Island of Kauai

To celebrate Thor’s retirement, we spent a week on the beautifully lush, oldest Hawaiian island.

Thor wanted to see a new place, so off we went to the “Garden Isle,” which fully deserves its name. Appropriate to his retirement after 40 years as Professor of Paleontology and Geology at Western Washington University, he picked an island with dramatic geology and a long list of film credits, including the home of dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park” movies.

(The site insists on stretching that photo vertically. Thor’s arms aren’t That long.)

Thor also wanted to challenge his fear of heights by going zip-lining, and we both had a blast. He also got to identify for everyone the “Jurassic” dino skeletons along the route. Here I am launching into the jungle, which really does feel primeval:

Kauai is the oldest major island of the Hawaiian chain, which geologist Thor explained. There’s a “hot spot” there in the Pacific where the earth’s crust allows magma to escape, and the Pacific tectonic plate is slowly passing over it, creating shield volcanoes that mound to form the islands. Kauai was created first, and has had the most time for the raw volcanic rocks to weather and be covered with its lush vegetation. The big island of Hawaii is the youngest, now over the “hot spot” and currently in the news with the dramatic eruptions still reforming the island and causing havoc with human constructions. We must remember the power of goddess Pele!

We hiked down into the stunning Waimea Canyon, just one of the dramatic geological features, like the sheer green cliffs of the Napali Coast in the top photo. Then the clouds burst in a torrential tropic downpour, and we got to hike back up through a muddy stream that took over the trail.

A gardener friend urged us to visit one of the national botanical gardens on the island, so we took a tour of the lovely Allerton Gardens and learned the difference between the few truly native island plants brought by waves, birds, or wind; “canoe plants” brought by the early Polynesian settlers; and the later “colonial plants” introduced after more modern development.

These are not the roots of a banyan like we’ve seen in Mexico, but rather a giant Australian fig tree:

Of course we scouted out beaches where we could swim and snorkel. The sea was still stirred up after the disastrous storm and flooding in April, with storm fronts still lingering, but we managed to find places where the waves weren’t too wild. We were amazed that we could find secluded beaches during the tourism “high season,” several good ones requiring just a short hike.

Endangered Monk seals are protected here, so feel perfectly safe napping on a busy beach near Poipu:

Spouting Horn on the south shore shoots spray and bellows. We were told a traditional story about an angry dragon trapped beneath the lava rocks, trying to get out. Which seems completely fitting for these volcanic islands.

I’ll return with more photos and stories of the island, alternating with more “Reflections on Greece” as Thor and I gear up for a return trip to Greece this fall. Thanks for joining our rambles!


You will now find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at




The Rambling Writer Visits the Island of Kauai — 5 Comments

  1. Those are all wildly beautiful, but that fig tree is simply stunning!

  2. They are all lovely and enticing, Sara, but I agree that the fig tree is arresting. Here if a gardener goofs and razes your eight foot brown turkey fig tree to the ground, it will be four feet tall by fall and back to eight feet by midsummer the next year. (Low fruit for the year, of course.)

    This very much reminds me of the rainforests of St. Kitts, and that banyan feeling.

    • Yes, from my time in the Caribbean, I assumed this tree was a banyan! Those flares! My feeling is that on Kauai, all you’d have to do is drop a seed or leaf, and foliage instantly would erupt (ahem) all around you.

  3. Besides being beautiful the pace is more relaxed on Kauai. Can’t wait to zip line again. And hike in the canyons.