Kauai - the Garden Isle

(June 11, 2009)

In May this year I was given a wonderful opportunity. My friends Bob and Evelyn Apte invited me to stay with them in their house at Princeville on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i. Bob is an accomplished photographer and world traveler: you can enjoy the amazing collection of photographs on his site: Robert Apte's Eye Vue the World. Bob has been encouraging me in my photographic projects for several years now, and inspiring me by his example, both as a photographic artist, and as a person who knows how to live well. Bob is a bit camera-shy, but can be seen in the first of the panoramas at Queen's Bath.

I would like to dedicate the updated guidebook Kaua'i - the Garden Isle to Robert and Evelyn Apte, in gratitude for their friendship and support, and especially their generous hospitality at Princeville, which made this new edition possible. I spent an idyllic two weeks with them, shooting the glorious landscapes of Kaua'i each day, returning "home" each night to their companionhip (and Evelyn's home cooking).

By the way, if you are interested in visiting Kauai, the Apte's house is available for rent. It is located on the clifftops at Ali'i Kai in Princeville, on the beautiful north coast, and can be seen in three of my panoramas on the Princeville page. It is a very private single-story two bedroom unit, right on the clifftop, at the end of the road so there is no traffic. It has high speed internet, there is a swimming pool adjacent, and Princeville has everything you might need - library, post office, groceries, shopping and restaurants. For rental information check the listing at VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner).

I first visited Kauai in 1988, a ten day trip spent camping and hiking, including three memorable days on the Na Pali coast trail to Kalalau. I was shooting Kodachrome slides then (VR panoramas had not been invented) and got some great shots - I should digitize some and get them on the web. I returned to Kauai in March 1999 with my wife Nora and shot about 70 panoramas on negative film. Unfortunately, the time needed to scan all those negatives was more than I could manage, and only a dozen ever made it to my site.

This second edition of the Virtual Guidebook to Kauai - the Garden Isle consists entirely of new work, shot the first two weeks of May, 2009. I have replicated almost all the panos from my earlier trip and filled in most of the gaps in my geographic coverage. The weather was not ideal, many days were hazy or cloudy, but Hawaii is stunning in any light and I am very pleased with the 210 panoramas I obtained.

I have organized the panos in a clockwise series, starting at the end of the road at Ke'e on the north coast and wrapping around the east coast, south coast, west coast, and ending in the Alaka'i Swamp near the center of the island. There is a gap between the ends - the roadless Na Pali coast, which I did not have time to hike.

A few locations and subjects eluded me - I'll get them next time. The big one of course is the spectacular Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali coast cliffs, including the valleys at Hankapi'ai, Hanakoa, and Kalalau. I had planned to hike out onto the knife-edge ridges above the dry end of Na Pali, at Miloli'i and Awa'awapuhi, but after my nine-mile hike in Alaka'i Swamp the day before I just didn't have the energy. I also hoped to hike the east side and bottom of Waimea Canyon, but didn't have the time (or 4-wheel drive). If I could be reasonably sure of a clear day I would like to hike all the way across the Alaka'i Swamp to Kilohana, which overlooks the northeast coast.

Kapa'a has some nice narrow beaches and fine hotels I would like to document. I never got around to shooting the Kilohana Plantation house (Gaylord's Restaurant) or the Grove Farm Homestead historic site (which requires special permission). The St Regis Hotel in Princeville was closed during remodeling.

There are more beautiful beaches, coves, and coastal cliffs than I could cover on one trip, but I tried to get a reasonable selection. The ones I would like to add are Tunnels Beach (the premier snorkeling spot on the north coast), Secret Beach and Larsen's Beach in the north, the rest of the Maha'alepu beaches near Poipu, and Barking Sands between Kekaha and Polihale (which now requires security clearance because you must cross military land).

There are a few subjects I feel I did not do justice to. Wailua Falls is hard to see from behind the wall, so I should have hiked to the bottom (despite all the warning signs). I took a few panos in shallow water on various beaches, but next time I would like to get further out, perhaps in a kayak, and also try some underwater panos. There was almost no rain during this trip (very unusual for Kaua'i) so I missed the dramatic clouds, mist, and rainbows that are so much a part of the Hawai'ian scene.

Next - the Big Island. I don't know when, or how I can afford it, but I would love to re-photograph the Big Island of Hawai'i. My wife and I spent two full weeks there in January, 2000, making a strenuous effort to obtain comprehensive coverage - 164 panoramas. It was the last big project I shot on film, and very little of it ever got scanned (just 32 panos). I would go a little slower now, probably take three weeks, and replicate every single pano - but this time digital and spherical.

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