Kauai – Hawaii, USA

When a company goes into administration in the UK, creditors and customers (assuming your contact details are known) are generally contacted to let them know where they stand. For example, if an airline gets into trouble, people with flights booked will be informed.

In late December 2017 I was enjoying a bit of time on the Big Island in Hawaii, packing my bag and ready to check in to my morning Island Air flight to Kauai, where I’d be meeting my other half (more on that later). I couldn’t find the Island Air online check-in. I had flown with them once before, just over a year earlier, and couldn’t remember if they even had online check-in, so I kept digging but with no success. Why might that be?

Well, Island Air went out of business a few months earlier. I had made the booking well before that and hadn’t heard a peep from any administrators or from the company about the booking. So here I am, on the Big Island, with a flight booking for an airline that doesn’t exist, needing to get to Kauai tomorrow morning to meet my other half who was on a 42-hour journey to meet me (more on that later).

The next hour was a bit frantic. I checked with the hotel reception, who called the airport, who gave a number for someone else, who gave a number for a useless automated message. In the end I had little option but to book new flights with Hawaiian, getting the last available seat which would take me to Kauai via Maui and getting stung on the price. Not a good start.

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Eventually arriving in Lihue on Kauai (leaving from Kona airport, which is an awesome, outdoors airport), checked in to the hotel, had a wander to explore what’s round about, I make my way back to the airport a few hours later.

Eva had been travelling from Victoria Falls to meet me in Hawaii, and it’s not the most straightforward journey: Victoria Falls to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Lihue. It was a 43-hour journey (including a 19-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to LA) which I had been following periodically on flightradar24 for the past couple of days, including providing an update on the Island Air drama. A delay in Los Angeles made it 46 hours altogether. The delay had me relaxing/pacing outside arrivals in Lihue in the warm evening until her flight arrived but it was a successful four-leg journey in the end.

As an island to spend time on, Kauai is incredible. It has the laid-back feel of Maui but with even more epic scenery. The NaPali Coast is breathtaking – not only because of how it looks, the shadows cast as the sun moves around, the colours changing depending on where the sun hits, but because so much of it is totally inaccessible and just left alone.

The Kalalau trail which cuts along this part of the island is popular and provides another way to see the coast, albeit one which simply cannot compete with seeing it from distance. But it is a great trip, and one which took us to Hanakapi’ai Beach where enormous waves were rolling in – something I could sit watching for hours. We haven’t (yet) taken the trail any further along to Kalalau Beach.

Not far from the NaPali Coast (as the crow flies – driving will take a while) is Waimea Canyon – also utterly stunning. It seems amazing that such a small island has the spectacular coastline and a chasm like this so close together.

We drove the length of the canyon on the only road along that route, taking a full day with plenty of stop offs for walks and views, including the excellent cliff trail lookout. It’s inevitably a busy route, with tourists, tour buses, people selling food and coffees, but with the canyon itself being a protected area and as inaccessible as the coast, it’s one of the only ways to see it. I say one of the only ways because there is another…

Around Waimea Canyon and the coast, there are helicopters buzzing around from time to time. They leave from Lihue, and they provide insanely good views of the island: waterfalls, the canyon, up close to parts of the coastline. Our driver (he said driver, rather than pilot) had a chat with us first to plan out a rough route for the hour-long flight and it still stands out as one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

Towns around Kauai tend to vary quite a bit. In the north, Hanalei looks to be pretty geared towards tourists and has a busy village centre where people gathered. Kapaa was excellent – for breakfast, drinks and dinner, plenty of places to visit and a less-touristy atmosphere. Waimea seemed to take this a stage further (including a little village nearby where there was very much an “outsiders not welcome” feeling to it) with very few people, and it seems to be a place to stop through rather than stay at. That in itself made the town quite interesting.

I can’t write about Kauai without mentioning the chickens. Even around the hotel and the beach front, they were everywhere – wild chickens. And it’s a ‘thing’ on Kauai. One of the reasons Hawaii doesn’t have inter-island travel by boat is to avoid introducing new species to the islands. For example, the ground predators like mongooses found on other islands aren’t found on Kauai, so wild chickens can thrive. And they are everywhere. And they can be noisy.

We had five nights in Kauai and it felt like plenty of time to switch off and see what we wanted to see. It stands out as one of my favourite trips, and that amount of time felt about right to see plenty before moving on. But it has left both of us wanting to return… so we’re planning to, and we’ll be going back later in 2019.

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