Na Pali Coast: West End of the United States

The Na Pali Coast viewed from Wai'ale'ale.

The road ends past Hanalei Bay, where the ocean endlessly whooshes and sucks at the volcanic rock defiantly rising from thousands of feet beneath the surface. Oldest of the larger Hawaiian Islands, Kauai has had time under the sun and rain to develop fertile soils. Soils that support lush tropical forests, cultivated lands, native birds and interlopers from every part of the globe, East and West.

At the top of Waimea Canyon a sign boasts that it's one of the wettest place on earth*, with an average of 450 inches of rain per year. The Tradewinds bring clouds across the sea that meet the mountain, rise up Mount Wai'ale'ale and send rain down the slopes. Between this rainy point overlooking the western Pacific and the end of the road past Hanalei Bay, there is no through-road. You can only access the area by hiking trail, boat, kayak, or a few access roads for locals. They filmed Jurassic Park here. I'm glad this beautiful section of coast hasn't been graded and opened for everyone. Areas so rugged should be left for seabirds to nest and nature to dominate.
Red-footed Booby collecting nest materials takes flight at Kilauea Wildlife Refuge.
I was reading in the Kauai History Museum in Lihue that the native people never knew poverty until the Western concept of land ownership came to the islands. Prior to that, the land was for everyone's support and benefit with "aina" or the concept of land being entwined with each person's wellbeing and sense of identity. Respecting the land and taking care of it were of utmost importance and ownership by a single person a foreign concept.

So on a drizzly day, we drove our rental car from the southern end of the island in Poipu, up and around to the end of the road on the northwestern tip. We explored small towns, passed fields and farms. We stopped at a local market where they sold fresh cacao pods grown on the island and chocolate bars. I saved the pod for my family to taste when we met up in Maui for my Mom's memorial service. The chocolate bars came home with me, to use in my tasting seminars back in Northern California.
A fine selection of Hawaiian-made chocolate bars from local cacao.
The windy, two-lane road with one-lane bridges led through beautiful Hanalei Bay, deeper into the jungle with black lava rock walls lining the roadside. Homegrown fruit was offered at roadside stands on the honor system. The road ended past rocky grottos of pools lush with ferns. I later heard that locals access underground channels to swim from cave to cave. The sun was setting behind the clouds and people gathered to watch the show at Ke'e Beach. Low tide revealed a reef on this point that softened the pounding waves. The Na Pali Coast glowed in the last rays of the day.
Sunset on the Na Pali Coast. 
* It's actually the second or third wettest spot on earth with both Mawsynram and Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, India having higher rainfall according to the Guinness Book of World Records.


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