HAWAII: A Solo Trip to Kauai
This wound up mom needed a break. My husband was practically pushing me out the door in the hopes that he would get his formerly sane wife back. I needed time to finish pending thoughts and contemplate the new ones that were forcing their way in. Where to go for a week of luscious solitude??? I was overwhelmed by this choice until the moment when a long buried memory surfaced and I knew I was meant to go on a solo trip to Kauai.
It had been many years since I at lunch with my husband and two kids in the Old Hanalei schoolhouse. I remember chewing on my sandwich and having a “knowing” overcome me—that, one day, I would return there by myself. For some strange reason, the North Shore of Kauai literally beckoned me.
On this trip, I would be a solitary woman—not a mommy, not a wife, not a friend. I wanted only to answer to myself. As the trip got closer, my long buried wild inner self that I had suppressed her entire life, started pushing her way out. It was her idea to get a henna tattoo around my ankle, dust off my cute bikinis, and unbury some spicy books from the back of my bookshelf. She also made me promise:
- No bras. (Wild women don’t wear bras.)
- No exploring every sight to be seen. (My focus would be on unwinding, contemplating and rejuvenating.)
- Limited camera time. (I wanted to be fully present and engaged in the moment.)
Hanalei Colony Resort
There are far more one lane bridges than hotels in the last section of the Kuhio Highway. Perfect. I had zero desire to be in the tourist zone. I needed maximum peace and quiet and, more than other wanders, I wanted to be amongst the locals. That pretty much narrowed it down to a single hotel—the Hanalei Colony Resort. Oh, but what a magical choice it was.
The resort sits far past the quaint town of Hanalei, the tiny communities of Ha’ena and Wainiha, and the famous Tunnels Beach. It is surprisingly reasonably priced considering it’s adjacent to a quiet stretch of sand and within walking of Ke’e Beach and the Kalalau Trailhead. Look one way and you’re gazing at the Hawaiian sea…look the other way and your breath is stolen by Kauai’s rugged mountains. Hanalei Colony is definitely conducive to unplugging.
My one-bedroom-ish unit was a few steps from the beach. I didn’t even have to leave my back patio to gaze at the ocean. It was small, but had everything that I needed—a semi-enclosed bedroom (with adjustable wood shutters), a functional living room, an open dining area, a decently stocked kitchen, and a tiny bathroom. Being that I was literally at the end of the road, I was thrilled to find an onsite bar and restaurant. The Universe confirmed I was exactly where I was supposed to be with a sign announcing the next evening’s belly dance entertainment.
I exhaled and started nesting. Six glorious days in this haven??? It was almost too much to fathom. What would I do with all the unstructured time I ordered for myself???
My first morning, jet lag had me wide awake before the sun. My gift was a sunrise viewing from my front row seat on a deserted beach.
Even though I could have just plopped my towel down on my own semi-private beach, I decided to walk along the shore to Ke’e Beach. It was further than I realized, but worth every sandy step. Surrounded by bright turquoise water, crashing waves, lush mountains and a crisp blue cloud-filled sky, I could have happily walked until I collapsed.
I found my quiet spot and made a nest where I read and napped for some unknown length of time…until a lifeguard truck brought me out of my stupor. When the sweat started trickling, I decided to check out the signs they had pounded into the sand.
Really??? The ocean was closed. For tourists anyways.
I decided to head back to my temporary home. I hadn’t walked too far when I spotted a young couple pretty far out in the water. The young woman seemed frantic. When I saw that the guy was pretty animated, I wondered if they were going to be the next tourists shamed on the evening news for costing the county needless rescue costs. I started devising a plan to initiate their rescue. But, as I kept studying them, I realized they weren’t frantic. They were excited and pointing down into the water. Damn, I kind of wished my husband were here right now so I could see something cool. But, it didn’t really matter, because he was a rule follower like me and the signs were clear. Actually…what is it about me? Why am I such an incessant rule follower? Because I play it safe – to avoid getting embarrassed or hurt. As a result, I had missed many moments like this couple was having and I was drowning in boredom. And, then I knew…this was one of those forks in my life road. On the right was the predictable route back to the resort where I remained out of harm’s way…on the left was a treasure in dangerous waters. The former would have me stewing in regret…the latter, possibly mortified on the local news. Or, worse. I was frozen. But, the knowing came back. It was time for me to turn left. And, so I did.
I tossed my beach bag behind me, stripped down to my bikini, and started walking into the sea. I wasn’t going to be a total idiot. My plan was to keep my feet clenched to the ocean floor, while I hunted for treasure. Ankles, shins, knees, thighs…I stopped and recalled the lesson learned in the rain forest. Be still and wait. Nothing. Butt, waist, stomach, chest…more stillness, more waiting. And, there…it…was. My treasure. My reward for being brave and turning left. A family of honu. Maybe eight, parents, babies, probably grandparents, coming to check me out. There is something wise and knowing about the sea turtle. I felt it and I totally soaked it up all by myself. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Holy shit. And, then they were gone. As corny as it may sound, this seemingly simple experience had dramatically changed me. I could feel it. I was not the same woman who had just wished for a husband to protect her.
I spent the rest of the day on my semi-private beach, absorbing the Kauai sun in various states of consciousness and finding myself on the pages of the first book of the trip. During one of my more conscious moments, I pondered the Kalalau Trail.
I had read that the train is pretty treacherous…usually slippery as it winds above steep sea cliffs for 11 miles. It starts at Ke’e Beach, goes through the Kalalau Valley, and ends at Kalalau Beach on the rugged and breathtaking Na Pali Coast. You can’t get there by foot any other way – and any sane person wouldn’t plan on going there and back in one day. There are no hotels on Kalalau Beach. You camp in your very own tent that you carry in on your very own back. Despite feeling quite empowered at this moment, it was clear that this adventure wasn’t going to happen on this trip. It is, however, now an official item on my growing Wander List.
That night, I walked into the resort bar without one bit of awkwardness, ordered my new favorite cocktail—a decadent Lava Flow—at the bar, and had a serious case of tattoo envy as I watched the belly dancer do her thing.
A Leisurely Drive
It pays to befriend locals. I spent my second day driving to some of the North Shore’s less crowded spots—a taro field, Queen’s Bath, Anini Beach, Kalihiwai Beach, Secret Beach, Kilauea Point, Moloaa Beach—and a few “secret” ones that I swore I would never divulge. As this six sentence paragraph will attest, I was left a bit speechless by everything I saw. And, I didn’t break my promise and experience everything from behind the camera. It was spectacular. As I pulled into the resort later that afternoon, I noticed that despite never having been to any of these places before, I had a strange feeling that I had come home.
I walked into the buzzing Tahiti Nui—possibly looking a bit like a deer blinded by headlights. Within seconds, the server approached me with an inquisitive look.
“Are you here for drinks or dinner?”
“Just drinks…and hopefully some good music,” I said with a smile.
After a short pause, she asked another question. “Are you alone?”
“Yes, I am,” I smiled again.
Another unsure pause—then a reciprocated smile. “Well, in that case, I have just the seat for you.”
She walked me to the back side of the bar and said, “Meet Uncle Art. He’ll protect you.”
I spent the next couple hours soaking up the company of a 70+ year old local who started off our conversation informing me that I had just missed George Clooney and the cast of The Descendants by just a few months. He then went on to share the fascinating history of this tiny iconic North Shore hangout (the original owner being a character in South Pacific) and life on this tiny island for the past several decades. What a privilege and an honor. I almost had as many goosebumps as I did when I was surrounded by those honu.
Time to Go Home
Coming here alone truly was one of my better decisions in this lifetime (so far). The time flew by. I will never be the same. In fact, I feel like a new woman. Mission accomplished.
If you’re debating about taking your own solo trip to Kauai, stop and DO IT.