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Kauai with Your Rain Boots On

A rainout opens up another side of the isle.


One of the few rain-free days, spent at the beach on Hanalei Bay.

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Relaxing with a restorative drink.

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A view of Kauai’s northern coast.

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A bowl of that ubiquitous Hawaiian dish, poke.

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Pat’s Taqueria, a favorite beachfront Mexican food truck.

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On the deck of the St. Regis Hotel on the north shore for sunset views.

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When photographer Alanna Hale and her boyfriend set out for a weeklong Presidents’ Day trip to Kauai, she had a singular vision in mind of relaxing on white-sand beaches. What she got was something a little more rugged—and a lesson in Hawaii’s startling contrasts.

Kauai does indeed boast some of the most spectacular beaches on earth, but during Hale’s stay, it was also host to near-constant rainstorms. So the couple improvised. They used Hale’s uncle’s home, near Kilauea, as a base camp and, on days when the beach was a no-go, took his pickup to virtually every part of the tiny island. (A drive from the north shore to the sunnier Poipu resort district on the south shore takes only an hour.)

They hiked through lush valleys on the famed Kalalau Trail, an 11-mile jaunt along the jagged Na Pali Coast on the island’s less developed western edge, and on the shorter but mountainous Okolehao Trail on the north shore, ending with views of Hanalei Bay. They also went snorkeling off the west coast of the island, but even that proved to be more than they’d planned for. “Nearly everyone on the boat got seasick,” Hale says. “And then most of us ended up with sunburns on our backs from looking in the water.”

Mostly, though, they followed their noses. (Stateside, Hale is an accomplished food photographer.) “It was so nice to drive around and stop anywhere that seemed appealing,” Hale says. 

One culinary highlight was Pat’s Taqueria, a beachside Mexican food truck near Hanalei Bay recommended by Bruce Cole, publisher of Edible San Francisco. “I think we ended up trying nearly every taco,” Hale says. Other times, the couple followed signs along the road advertising huli-huli chicken, the Hawaiian grilled teriyaki specialty sold almost exclusively at roadside grills. And of course there was the poke, found in fish markets and delis as well as more upscale joints, proving that even in a rainstorm, life in Kauai is one big day at the beach.  


Where: Kauai, Hawaii
Prime route: A 75-mile drive from the north shore down the eastern coast to the Poipu district in the south.
What to bring: Sandals, bathing suit, towels, etc.—plus an umbrella, hiking boots, an anorak, mosquito spray, and a good book.
Accommodations: If you don’t have an uncle to crash with and want to go upscale, try the St. Regis Hotel (from $680 a night) in Princeville, or grab one of Airbnb’s 300-plus rentals.


Originally published in the April issue of San Francisco

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