On Super Bowl Sunday, February 2, we left Minnesota for Kauai. Up before dawn and inappropriately dressed for all 6 degrees of Fahrenheit Minneapolis could muster, before we left our hotel room I had gleefully stuffed my worn-out UGG boots in the wastebasket. Our flip flops echoed down the deserted hallway on the way down to the lobby. Another couple, Caribbean-bound, was already waiting for the shuttle and we laughed at each other’s attire. Thankfully, it was a short ride to the airport, where we would officially start a long day.
Finally landing in Kauai, Lihue was all baggage claim and rental car retrieval but soon we were on our way out towards the North Shore. Home base was going to be Princeville, where we’d been fortunate to score a couple of very inexpensive weeks at The Cliffs Resort. It was heavenly to hear the ocean crashing below and sleep with the breezes wafting through.
Our first few days on Kauai were a blur. We bought a used SUV, obtained a P. O. Box, opened a bank account and began the hunt for more permanent digs. The first place we looked at, in Princeville, had a million dollar ocean view. Unfortunately, it was “of a certain age” and needed tons of work – even the furniture was depressing. The second place, in Kapa’a, was outside our target location, brand spankin’ new and unfurnished. Didn’t we just spend a year getting rid of most of our stuff? The third place, in Kekaha, was all the way on the west side of the island. A former sugar plantation manager’s home, the vintage “Old Hawai’i” vibe was wonderful, but the neighborhood didn’t feel right.
We got a callback from a woman named Kay who had a furnished house for rent in Wainiha, beyond Hanalei. She warned us the neighborhood was in the jungle about a half mile up the mountain from Wainiha Bay, not like Princeville at all. The directions were interesting: take a left at the “Last Chance” store in Wainiha and look for the house number painted on a surfboard stuck at the end of the driveway. What could it hurt to look?
Kauai has one main perimeter road, the Kuhio Highway. Along the North Shore west of Hanalei toward Wainiha it narrows significantly, and finally ends at Haena’s Ke’e Beach. Beyond road’s end is the fabled NaPali coast, accessible only by foot, boat or helicopter. Following the shoreline in a series of hairpin turns and one-lane bridges, ascending from Hanalei Bay into cliffs that plunge into the sea and descending back again, views are spectacular. One final hairpin turn (with only a partial guardrail) and one last one-lane bridge and we hung a quick left at the store. The road to the house is more like a one-lane driveway.
Whenever I’ve chosen a house, I know it’s “the one” the minute I walk through the door. This was no exception. With typical details such as fixed louvered walls, jalousie windows, gleaming tile and wood, Pete and I both wanted to take it on the spot. Kay urged us to give it some thought, reminding us that “this isn’t Princeville” once again. No, it wasn’t Princeville at all, and we loved it. We signed the agreement the next day on easy terms.
In the interim before we could move in, there were other details to look after: a second Post Office Box in Hanalei, visits to the drivers license bureau in Lihue, tracking down the shipments we’d mailed ourselves prior to leaving Minnesota, and drinking in the magnificent view of Hanalei Bay from the resort where we’d moved for the last few days remaining.
We’ve been in the house, Hale Nahele (Hawaiian for House Forest), a week today, although it’s such a good fit, it seems like much longer. Days are spent “in the moment,” punctuated with breezes, birdsong, and trips “into town.” The life is reminiscent of being at the cabin in Northern Minnesota, much simpler with few complications. We wash dishes by hand and hang clothes on the line. In the midst of all the beauty is the spirit of “aloha,” the welcoming friendliness we’ve experienced and the insider tips to secret places relatively undisturbed, all combined to melt mainland stress away. We fall asleep to the sound of the river, which is fed from rainfall further up the mountain and rushes into Wainiha Bay below us, and the wind in the trees.
A dear friend wrote to me as we began our journey: “My wishes for you include awakening to brilliant sunrises with sun kissed breezes touching your face to daily adventures where you will never fail to discover more beauty and ending with a calming, most gorgeous sunset each evening before closing your eyes only to begin again with the next sunrise. Of everyone I know, you deserve this next chapter, and my heart bursts with happiness for you.” Her wishes for us, and ours, have come true. Aloha!