I had less than 48 hours. At 3am I was off work and on an airport shuttle by four. I lived on Oahu and was meeting a friend on Kauai. She had two weeks off and, a few days in, had decided that the beauty of the Garden Isle was meant to be shared. I had never been before. “If I spot your plane ticket, can you come meet me?” A quick switch of shifts put me on a 5:15am plane out to Lihue with one full overnight on the island, then back to HNL at 11:30pm. I boarded my shuttle through the same door but with a different itinerary than the other passengers; Instead of leaving paradise, I was headed there.
She met me at the gate and we squealed and hugged as commonly observed at airports. We climbed into a minivan with a surfboard nose resting between us. “Where to?” she asked. “Wherever!” We quickly made an essential stop for coffee. Driving down the highway we spotted barreling waves in the distance. “Those waves look sooo good! How do we get there?” We tried various side streets, but “DO NOT ENTER” signs constantly obstructed the road. In the distance the symmetrical breaks taunted us and it seemed the residents were keeping the gems for themselves. As we were deciding to give up, we saw two men packing surfboards into a parked car. We had found the treasure without a map. They directed us onto a trail to an almost-secluded beach. She went to challenge the sea while I did what I do best- nothing.
I swam around blackened reef before opening my book. I peered over the pages to watch my friend in the lineup, blond ponytail and blue surfboard. “Excuse me,” an elderly woman said. “ I fly back to Arizona tomorrow and have not stepped in the ocean because I have bad balance. Could you possibly help me? I just haven’t been in the whole time I have been here…” A reasonable request, so I held her arm and walked her into the water, cautioning her of the reef. “Oh thank you… That feels amazing. It would have been such a shame to come here and not feel the ocean.”
Next was Polihale State Park. We hesitated when the pavement turned to sand. I couldn’t remember if you drive fast or slow over sand, but the sedan ahead of us was going pretty slow… Twenty feet later we were stuck. Six willing volunteers and four floor mats got us back on solid ground. We later learned that the sedan had met the same fate. The beach was ivory white and endless between our toes as we gazed at sailboats. We stopped by a coffee farm. We stopped by another coffee farm.
We decided to camp on the other side of the island… Till we got lost. As we were scanning the map with a flashlight, a couple of local boys pulled up in a truck next to us. “You girls need help?” “Do you know where Anahola Beach Park is?” They gave us directions and we found our way in the dark. Minutes after we set up our tent the same truck came up the road. “Just checking you made it!” We waved and said thanks before debating if we should have asked them to stay for poke and beer because they were so considerate and, quite frankly, very attractive. “Too late now,” as I watched the red taillights vanish. In the morning we met our neighbors, a South African family with a collapsible sailboat.
We drank coffee at an art gallery and drove to the Kalalau trailhead before deeming it “too touristy”. We stopped by Hanelei Bay for coffee and headed to the Kamokila Hawaiian Village for the last kayak rental of the day. We paddled too far upstream, where the water was murky and smelled of cattle. “I guess we missed the grotto.” We anchored our feet in each other’s kayaks and passed a bottle of cheap champagne. Downstream, we drifted past the South Africans. We hiked to the Fern Grotto in bikinis, surrounded by visitors in bermuda shorts and commemorative T shirts. “Do you think we have enough time to hike to the waterfall?” By the time we returned our kayaks to the rental dock, dusk was setting and the Hawaiian Village was empty. Thankfully, they hadn’t locked the gate on us.
We had burgers and beer for dinner and by midnight I was back on my own island. Somehow I had lived a lifetime during those two days. When time is of the essence, coffee is of the necessity.
About the author: Melissa Rae was raised on the California coast and moved to Hawaii on a whim. Her favorite hobbies are napping and SCUBA diving. She currently resides in Central Oregon.
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