Wagonwheel Wednesdays: Guest Blog Edition / by laurel

Taro fields near Hanalei, the north side of Kauai

For those of you familiar with Alex's blog over at Mad Rasputin, you'll note his topical features align with the days of the week. Wednesdays at Alex's place are for wagonwheels, the day wherein he gives us all a grand overview of our glorious 50 states. He's been to every one of them...except Alaska and Hawaii. Last week he covered Idaho, sadly skipping over the Aloha State, prompting me to make a proposal: Let me guest blog Hawaii. I've been three times and I have pictures. He seemed to think this was a good idea, so without further ado, 

Wagonwheel Wednesdays: Hawaii, Aloha Laurel Edition

Don't mess with Texa--er, Hawaii?

The Aloha State truly does have something for everyone. Like shopping, laying on the beach, soaking up the 'vibe' and drinking too many mai tais? Try Honolulu (Hawaii's capital) and neighboring Waikiki, both cities are packed with all of the above. They're also packed with tourists (mostly from Japan), which make elevator rides both interesting and terrifying. How many humans can jam themselves into a bullet moving through the barrel of an elevator shaft? More than you'd guess, actually.

While the island of Oahu is fun (especially the North Shore, where you really can find empty beaches and thundering surf), and historical (I suppose Pearl Harbor counts for something), the sleepy, green isle of Kauai is more my speed. Like lush jungle foliage, miles of pristine white sand beaches, and scenery in spades? Then Kauai will definitely satisfy. 

The highest point in Kauai receives more rainfall annually than any other place in the U.S., even more than Oregon. Even more than Seattle. I know. That is, in the words of Dylan, buckets of rain. Because of this, trees grow thick and lush and vines grow over trees, and you'd be hard-pressed to find more beautiful natural scenery than in Kauai. It's a tourist island, to be sure, but the tourists coexist peacefully here, instead of choking strands of man-made beaches (Yeah, the beaches in Waikiki are trucked in. Sad, right?). 

There's a surprising amount of things to do in Kauai for an island whose natural habitat seems to gobble up everything in sight. If you like activity, try a jet boat or catamaran tour with Captain Andy's. On those tours (I've done both; one is relaxing, the other is hanging on for dear life. I'll let you guess which one I enjoyed more), you'll see views of the famed Napali coastline (most notably passed off as Costa Rica in the seminal favorite Jurassic Park) amidst schools (gangs? groups? cliques?) of dolphins, and if fishes are your thing, you'll be able to snorkel with the best of them. If land mammals pique your interest, give horseback riding a try.

A view from the catamaran

The Napali coastline; accessible only by boat or helicopter 

If leisure is more your speed, then check out Hanalei Bay, a temperate 4-ft-deep turquoise bay where tourists are surprisingly minimal. Hungry? Eat at Bubba's Burgers in the town of Hanalei and wash it down with a Hawaiian shaved ice (my personal favorite is rainbow flavor with macadamia nut ice cream). And by God, do not leave Kauai without trying a puka dog. If natural wonders are something you're into, be sure to check out Waimea Canyon State Park, the Grand Canyon of the South Pacific. Drive all the way to the end of the road for views like this:

Unless it's foggy, in which case you'll get views like this:

Same location, different vantage point, one year apart

I could wax poetic about Kauai all day long, so if you really want all the details you can email me. But in the interest of saving time, I'll move on. Maui rides the fence between the big city of Honolulu and the quaint hillsides of Kauai. There's a bit more people, but also a bit more to do. Be sure to check out the giant banyan tree and take the road to Hana. There's also a vineyard, and the pineapple wine is puh-retty tasty. 

In short, Hawaii has something for everyone. And the weather simply cannot be beat: It's 80 degrees, sunny, and breezy 24 hours a day. So order another mai tai and relax in the Aloha State.