The Rambling Writer Visits Kaua’i, Part 5: Beautiful Beaches! With Dolphins!

As rainy autumn creeps up on us (or smashes, in the case of the East Coast hurricane), Thor and I revisit our June trip to this beautiful Hawai’ian island, which was recovering from its own historic storm.

For those following my blog posts, you might notice that Thor and I always try to include beaches in our travels. We love to swim and snorkel, and just being in the sea nourishes my spirit like nothing else. I’m convinced I’m part otter or dolphin, and highlights of my life have been swimming with wild dolphins. Though I didn’t get to swim with them on this trip, we did enjoy watching a large pod of spinner dolphins leaping– and yes, spinning in the air– just beyond the wave break at Secret Beach above.

Later, on a Napali Coast cruise, we got close and personal with these beautiful creatures, so stay tuned for an upcoming post about that Kaua’i excursion. Meanwhile, a preview:

But first things first. We had booked our trip to celebrate Professor Thor’s retirement the day before the historic storm hit Kaua’i in April, with 50 inches of rain in 24 hours. There were disastrous floods, and some north shore roads were still closed when we got there in June. The weather was still rainy and unsettled, with a lot of wave surge, so we reset our expectations for snorkeling, and decided to “go with the flow.” In addition to hiking, ziplining, and other activities, of course we visited as many beaches as possible, even if the waves were still rough. Here’s the beach in front of our east shore condo on arrival:

After talking with a helpful dive shop owner at  Kapa’a Beach Shop, we learned that the island’s geography also dictates different diving and snorkeling conditions from what we’re used to on the island of Maui. Kaua’i is older and has shallower dropoffs, so there is more runoff of nutrients to make the sea less clear. And the shallow reefs present more obstacles, such as dangerous volcanic rocks, that can really pound you if you’re not careful, and if there’s a lot of wave action:

We’re experienced snorkelers and strong swimmers, but we definitely exercised caution while exploring new beaches, also staying alert for rip currents. After the first couple days, and a terrific hike into Waimea Canyon despite another tropic deluge (see Kaua’i post #2 here), the weather started improving. A short hike with our gear brought us to a lovely secluded cove at Aliomanu Beach on the east shore.

Here, as in many spots, there was a lot of shallow volcanic reef, but we managed to thread our way through a labyrinth of watery passages, and enjoyed the relatively clear sea and fish life. It was an idyllic spot for a picnic, complete with a gracious shade tree.

Just around a point of lava rocks, the waves surged and crashed.

The south shore waves were calmer, but the beaches more crowded, like Poipu Beach. But these endangered Monk Seals are protected here and obviously at ease as they nap among the swimmers and sunbathers.

We took a detour to see Spouting Horn, where the waves crash and shoot up through a hole in the lava, making a hooting noise. A native story holds that a ferocious dragon is trapped beneath the lava, bellowing to get free, which makes sense in this land of volcanoes.


A tree stump at the site was decorated with offerings, either to placate the dragon or memorialize people who have been sucked into the sea when they got too close to the hole.

To get to the more secluded beaches, you usually need to hike 5-20 minutes, but the quiet serenity is worth it.

Conditions on the north shore were still dangerous, with a lot of surge and rip tides, but we wanted to check out Secret Beach, which would usually be calmer in the summer. It involves a hike down a ravine and then along the sand as far as you want to go.

We headed into the shallows, but Thor discovered, as he got past the first set of breaking waves, that a strong current was trying to pull him out to join the spinner dolphins offshore. Since we can’t match their strength, we decided to forgo swimming and just enjoy wading.

I did manage finally to snap a shot of one of the beautiful white tropicbirds swooping around the cliffs. We had seen them also in Waimea Canyon, a magical sight.

Next week, we’ll take a little tour of other features of the island. We love its lush tropic beauty and the mellow, laid-back vibe, so we plan to return this winter and compare seasons.



You will 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 Kaua’i, Part 5: Beautiful Beaches! With Dolphins! — 6 Comments

  1. All those shades of blue! So gorgeous. (Though I have to laugh at the notion of a rainy autumn. Down here autumn means intense heat and desert winds and fire season.)

    • Yes, go ahead and laugh! Usually our Pacific Northwest Septembers are glorious — fresh, clear air and new energy for hiking. Now all the weather patterns are turned around, and we had a long drought from spring through summer, with a lot of wildfire smoke that might still return as the fires continue to rage around us. But we’ve gotten a welcome couple weeks of rain this month, and the firefighters were dancing. We try to go with the flow…. Best wishes to you!