Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beachcombing on Kauai

Beachcombing is a popular past-time for visitors and locals alike. Wind, waves, and nearby environments can cause different kinds of trash and treasures to end up on Kauai’s beaches. Popular finds include shells, fishing floats, beach glass, driftwood and stones. Different beaches bring different finds, but regardless of what you pick up, a relaxing walk on the beach is always worthwhile.

The east side of Kauai is constantly exposed to strong trade winds. These winds can blow an abundance of interesting debris onto the shorelines. You may find old fishing floats, fishing nets, driftwood, bottles and bits of plastic. Upon further inspection of the debris, you may discover its origin in distant lands such as Japan. However, most of this debris is from fishing vessels. The stretch of beach that begins at the south end of Lydgate Park and continues past the Wailua Golf Course is the best place for beachcombing if you are looking for fishing debris.

Driftwood is also a popular find for beachcombers but sometimes a nuisance to beachgoers when it is present in large quantities after a storm. Driftwood can be found at any beach with a river, which includes most of the beaches on Kauai. As may be expected, bigger rivers bring bigger quantities of wood. As a result, you may expect to find some great pieces of driftwood at the mouth of the Wailua River (see my Travel Advisory post about Lydgate Beach Park).

If you are looking for shells, the North Shore beaches like Tunnels and Anini offer hours of entertainment. West side Beachcombers find bits of pottery, beach glass and rolled metal at Glass Beach near Port Allen. Glass beach defines the phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Once a dumping site, it is now beachcomber’s paradise.

Don’t forget that the tide and surf can influence your finds. If the tide is low after a very high tide couples with strong surf, all the shells or glass may have been removed. The same beach may yield different treasures on different days.
Avid beachcombers know that treasure hunting takes persistence. Most finds however are often incidental. So instead of focusing on beachcombing, make a day at the beach with your family, enjoy the ocean and occasional look down. The more days you spend, the more fun you have, and the more likely you are to find a treasure.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What fish you will see when snorkeling on Kauai

You’ve got the whole family suited up with snorkel gear, floaties and fins and you’re ready to hit the reef. Perhaps you just got out of the water and are feeling that sense of awe that accompanies your first family snorkel trip. Your seven year old asks, “Daddy, what was that black one with the yellow stripes? Did you see that fluorescent pink one with the blue fins?” You will want to know what you saw or what to expect. There are a number of fish that are impossible to miss if you snorkel in Hawaii. Several of these species are described below.

Most likely the first fish you will encounter while snorkeling is the Saddle Wrasse. The Saddle Wrasse is endemic to Hawaii, meaning that you won’t find it anywhere else in the world. Wrasses are a diverse group of colorful fish and are usually the dominant family on the coral reef. The Saddle Wrasse can be identified by the orange band or “saddle” that is present behind its blue-green head. This fish sports an elongated purplish-green body and males may display a white band behind the orange saddle.

It is nearly impossible to snorkel in Hawaii and not run across the Manini or Convict Surgeonfish. The body of the Convict Surgeonfish is ovate with a greenish or silvery cast and displays six vertical black stripes like the prison inmate uniforms seen in the old movies, thus the name. This fish has a small puckering mouth that it uses to feed on algae and a pair of sharp weapons near the tail.

Moorish Idols are very common on the reef. They are often found in pairs or groups and are very easy to spot. Called “Angelfish” by many newcomers for the long filament that trails from the dorsal fin, they are actually more closely related to Surgeonfish than true Angelfish. Moorish Idols display two wide black bars on the body and one the tail. The center of the body is a sunny yellow color and the face is black with a yellow drop that adorns the top of a pointed snout.

Now that you recognize some of these fish, you might be interested in identifying more. Pick up one of those cheap Hawaii Fish ID cards that can be found at all the snorkel rental locations for use at the beach. Then get yourself a field guide like John Randall’s Shore Fishes of Hawaii or John Hoover’s Hawaii’s Fishes. For the kids, pick up a copy of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book, which includes over 80 species of fish that the kids can color in while also learning about their coloration, body shapes, feeding habits and the importance of conservation.

Don’t forget that the reef is a delicate place. Avoid touching the reef and apply your ecofriendly sunscreen 15 minutes before entering the water. For more information about how to protect Hawaii’s coral reefs, please visit Kauai based conservation organization, Save our Seas.

Pictures courtesy of John Coney, UHH MOP

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

East Side Bike Ride

If you live on Kauai, you have no doubt heard the catchy jingle, “Take the Leap” by local artist Michael Ruff. The jingle encourages folks to get out, get active and stay healthy and I just can’t get it out of my head. “East Side, take a little bike ride, West Side drop a little fishin’ line, so many things that you can do underneath the rainbow.” So true! What a great theme for Kauai!

So today I packed up the car with my son’s bike and headed over to the East Side to take a little bike ride. But first, I had to stop in over at the Kapaa Beach Shop next to Otsukas to rent a bike for myself. Mike and Janie are friendly and helpful, their shop sits nearly right on the bike path, and the bike rental rates are reasonable. They also rent boogie boards, beach gear and dive equipment, which is convenient.

Check out the photos above. I think you might agree with me when I say, the Kauai Path has got to be one of the most beautiful bike paths in the world! We like to go slow and make frequent stops to check out the beaches, enjoy the vistas, have a little snack in the shade pavilions, and maybe even hunt for driftwood. I love to see that both visitors and locals are making good use of it, running, walking and of course, biking. I enjoy it every time I go. And with that song constantly playing on the radio, I now have the motivation.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ke'e Beach no longer a secluded paradise

On a recent trip to Kee Beach, I was literally shocked to see the number of people visiting the area. I expect to see large numbers of visitors at Poipu Beach, Kalapaki or even Hanalei. At these locations there are resorts fronting the beach, large parking lots, beachside restaurants and shopping centers. This is not what I expect at the end of the road at Kee Beach. I have had the good fortune in my life to repeatedly visit this area and even get paid to survey the streams here on the Na Pali Coast, but this time was truly different.

The parking situation actually brought my son to tears as we had to pass up the dry cave at Haena Beach Park because there was nowhere to park. At the end of the road, cars swarmed the area parking anywhere, even if they blocked someone in. I waited patiently in a lot down the road and was able to score a spot after about 15 minutes, but if I hadn’t put my foot down, another tourist would have taken it from me.

Arriving at the beach, I could see erosion had really taken its toll. A whole section of the beach was missing, which left a very interesting configuration of tree roots exposed. After driving so far and waiting for parking, I had to use the restroom and was intrigued by the constructed wetland that was in place to take care of the waste as I remember the bathrooms being closed some years back. However, when I went inside the bathroom, it was clear that something wasn’t working. Literally ten pounds of toilet paper was over-flowing from the toilets. It was totally disgusting!

The reason I came to Kee, was that I was looking for a place to take my son snorkeling that would be somewhat protected. We have our regular spots, but Lydgate is having some water quality issues, and I thought that we would go on an adventure. An adventure it was. The snorkeling was poor to mediocre and the reef is definitely feeling the impact from the sheer number of people making physical contact with it. I am sure that all the chemical sunscreen isn’t helping either.

Haena is still a beautiful place, but the delicate environment just can’t handle the sheer number of visitors. Overall, I was disappointed with the trip. Maybe a better description of how I felt was disheartened. I hope that Kee can withstand the environmental pressures placed on it so that our children, my son included, can enjoy this place.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Free Marine Environment Lecture Series at the Hanapepe Library

On the first Thursday of the month from 6-7:30pm, the Hanapepe Library presents a lecture on the marine environment. Last week on August 4th, research biologist, Dr. Robert Baird gave a talk entitled, “False Killer Whales—Hawaii’s Next Endangered Species?” He discussed their behavior, movement, and ecology. He also explained the threats to their existence here in Hawaii and how the resident population of these top predators has significantly declined.

The lecture series will resume on Thursday Seprtember 1, 2011with a talk about the origin of Hawaii’s coralgal reefs and associated beaches. Dr. Chuck Blay, coauthor of Kauai’s Geologic History: A Simplified Guide, will be discussing the different types and composition of nearshore reefs found in Hawaii. This is an interesting topic considering that the dominant portion of many nearshore Hawaiian reefs is comprised of coralline algae as opposed to coral.

On Thursday October 6, 2011, Yumi Yasutake, an Outreach Program Coordinator for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, will be giving an Overview of Reef Fish Abundance and Diversity in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. She will also be explaining how reef fish assemblages differ from nearshore reef communities in the main Hawaiian Islands.

The lecture series is sponsored by Friends of the Hanapepe Public Library and is free and open to the public. For more information, or to request special accommodations, you may call the library staff at (808)335-8418.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Walking tour of Hanapepe Town and the Swinging Bridge

Hanapepe is filled with historic buildings, many of which have been restored and turned into art galleries and bookstores. However, if you are traveling with small children, shops and galleries will be of little interest to them. The following walking tour of Hanapepe was put together specifically to delight small children.

The first stop on the walking tour is the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. If your kids love the swinging bridges on the playground, they will be really excited about the Hanapepe swinging bridge. This suspension bridge is the real deal, even better than Disneyland. In fact, you may even find your brave children suddenly need to be held as the bridge starts to rock and sway over the water. The bridge leads to a neighborhood on the other side of the river, so please be courteous to the residents that live there.

The next stop is the Children’s Peace Garden located behind the Storybook Theatre. According to the Storybook Theatre website, the garden was built to celebrate inspirational leader, Spark Matsunaga and his message of international harmony and inclusion. The garden is quite a sanctuary. Children will see a life-sized Bronze statue of senator Matsunaga nestled amongst both native and exotic plants. A koi pond hosts a variety of unique aquatic plants that attract dragonflies and other wildlife including toads and green anoles. The lizards and frogs tend to be the highlight for children.

Across the street just west of the Storybook Theatre is the Talk Story Bookstore. This store has an unbelievable selection of used books, children’s books and unique hard to find Hawaiiana Books. The draw for the kids is the cats that laze around in the store. Make sure to ask the very helpful owners which of the cats are friendly. Also check out the section devoted to local authors where you will find several children’s books by Kauai authors.

Your final stop should include Hanapepe Park. There’s nothing like a county park and playground to make the kids happy. Hanapepe Park is also a great stop to refresh toddlers and preschoolers that have gotten fussy from a long car ride. A huge monkey pod tree provides shade for moms and dads watching the kids play on the slides, swings and monkey bars. The park is also home to a flock of wild chickens. Children often enjoy feeding the chickens, and they nearly always love to chase them.

If you are coming from Lihue, you can pull off the main highway when you see sign that reads, “Hanapepe, Kauai’s Biggest Little Town”. Shortly after the road curves to the left you will see a beautifully restored green building known as Banana Patch Studios. There is a gravel parking area just past this. Start your walking tour here, by following the path to the swinging bridge.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Five reasons your family will love Poipu Beach Park on Kauai

Poipu Beach has more to offer than just surf sand for families with kids. In fact Poipu Beach offers a number of activities that will keep children busy all day long.

1.) The beach itself is especially designed for families with infants and toddlers. On the East side of the park is a great wading area that is ankle deep on a low tide and waist deep at high tide. The wading pond is protected from waves by the strategic placement of rocks, which keep the pond calm. Bring a bucket and shovel and you can build castles or just let the kids frolic in the water.

2.) When the little ones tire from playing in the sand, there is a large grassy area with a playground. The playground has several slides, a playhouse and monkey bars, which are sure to please. Several benches surround the area so parents can relax while watching the kids.

3.) Once your kids have worked up an appetite from all the playing, you can run across the street to the conveniently located Brennecke’s Deli. Pick up a sandwich and chips, or maybe a shave ice and then pick out a shaded pavilion to sit down and eat on the picnic benches.

4.) After lunch, you can take the little ones to watch wildlife. Nearly all summer, endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals haul themselves out on the beach for a nap. Monk Seals are only found in Hawaii, so seeing them is a unique opportunity. The lifeguards will place stakes and yellow ribbon around the seals for safety. The monk seals are protected and it is therefore unlawful to harass them, but be sure to bring a camera, as they are quite photogenic. You can learn more about Hawaiian Monk Seals on the posted placards in the park.

Then you can take a stroll over to Brennecke’s Beach, which is just to the east (left facing the ocean) of the grassy area. If you stand at the edge of the grass where it meets the rocks and look just off shore, you are sure to see a number of turtles feeding in the surf. Look for their heads to pop up every few minutes. If you are lucky, you may see a turtle over by the lifeguard stand near the wading pool. Turtles are also protected, so please watch from a distance.

5.) Older kids and parents can enjoy snorkeling or body boarding in this area as well. Ask the lifeguards for the best location to snorkel or surf and don’t forget to ask about safety precautions and surf conditions. Just to the west (to the right, facing the ocean) of the “island” is a great place to see lots of fish. Wrasses are prevalent here, a very colorful group that is sure to please.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hanalei Sand Castle Competition

I had the pleasure of taking my son to the Hanalei Sand Castle Sculpture Contest over the weekend. I have to say this is a must-see family friendly event! Usually, we would hit the Koloa Plantation Days Parade and festivities, but we decided to head North and try something we new. Rain had threatened all morning, but after one brief blessing the sky opened up to reveal that the mountains had become heavily laden with waterfalls, and the sun began to shine through the clouds. Another perfect day in Hanalei.

The morning began with some heavy showers, but that did not deter the teams from arriving and as luck would have it, the skies cleared just in time for the competition. The rain also left the surrounding mountains heavily laden with cascading waterfalls. It also gave the sand a good dose of moisture, something that is especially important for building sand castles.

World-renowned sand sculptor Jeff Peterson was on hand to give a sand sculpture class and encourage everyone, especially children, to register and participate. He also reminded folks to have a plan, work as team and use lots and lots of water. After the pep talk, teams gathered and went to work digging and building. It was amazing to see the creativity that abounds on this small island.

By noon, the beach was absolutely packed with both artisans and onlookers, most of which seemed to hang around all day to see the sculptures progress. From mermaids to dolphins, traditional castles to the medieval, octopuses and shave ice, and dragons to shaka signs, there was something for everyone. I highly recommend this event. In fact, I am considering entering the contest next year!