Note – This article is the third of a five part series by Leavenworth Washington photographer Dominic Urbano on vacationing and photography on Kauai.
Day 3 – Secret Beach | Marriott Koi | Hanapepe | Kauai Sea Tour
By Bellingham photographer Dominic Urbano
Kauai Day 3 – A return to Secret Beach for sunrise photography, the Koi feeding at the Mariot in Lahui, shopping in Hanapepe, and a Napali Coast boat trip were on our agenda for day three of our short Kauai vacation. Secret Beach at dawn was an incredible experience, the Koi feeding was literally a burst of color, and the boat trip with Kauai Sea Tours was terrible.
Dawn at Secret Beach –
I left Lahui early and hiked down to Secret beach using my flashlight. I was there well before dawn on what turned out to be a windy morning. The wind had been blowing that night and the waves coming in to the beach were huge. The roar of the surf in the dark early morning hours was incredible. At first I could make out only the white crest of the waves as the surf pounded the shore. The morning light began to reveal a most impressive sight.
At Secret beach the waves break pretty close to shore. So with the stormy weather pushing up large waves I was literally looking out and up at a wall of water. It seemed as if the waves would push well past where I was standing on the beach, but the rush of water returning from the previous waves pushed them back. The result was a view straight into the face of these massive waves. I did not get the glorious sunrise that I was anticipating, but instead was treated to the soft light of a more gentile dawn with light that was muted with the mist of seawater blowing off the top of each wave.
I had visited Secret beach for the first time the previous day (click here to see images and read about that first visit to Secret beach) and had enjoyed the fact that this beautiful beach had only a few other people on it at that time. Now, in the early morning hours, I was completely alone with a raging surf, yellow sands, and only the blinking light of Kilauea lighthouse providing evidence that the area was populated at all. With my tripod and camera slung over my shoulder I wandered the beach for an hour or so happily composing shots in the dim light while I wondered if the next massive wave might just be the one that would break right down onto me.
Koi Feeding at the Marriott –
Sloan and I were staying at the Marriott Beach Club in Lahui. In the central garden area is a huge Koi pond that is literally wall to wall Koi. They spend their day doing what Koi do… slowly swimming around looking colorful. Each morning at 9AM, however, the Koi get fed. Sloan had stayed at the hotel to see the Koi feeding while I made my “absurdly early” trip to Secret beach.
At 9AM a hotel employee will toss a bucket of fish food out into the middle of the pond. As soon as the food hits the water the surface explodes as the Koi scramble for the pellets. The feeding continues as small cups of fish food are given to the crowd so they can feed the fish too. It is especially fun for the kids. The koi push themselves almost completely out of the water right at the feet of whoever is offering up the food.
You don’t have to be a hotel guest to see this ‘Koi Show’. You can park in Lahui and walk along the waterfront to the Marriott or just come through the front entrance to get to the central garden and Koi pond.
I made it back from Secret beach just in time to see this spectacle.
It was just a way for us to ‘kill’ a little time before our scheduled sea tour of the Napali coast but our ‘discovery’ of Hanapepe was a worthwhile one. The attraction is an old main street in a historic Hawaiian town. Hanapepe is lined with art, craft, and souvenir shops. We are not much for shopping but enjoyed the eclectic mix that the shops presented and the old main street had a nice nostalgic feel. A suspension walk bridge spans the river just off the main street. It doesn’t really go anywhere (other than the other side of the river of course) but it is unique and the view is nice.
Kauai Sea Tour –
Six hours stuck on a floating party barge that did not go to the Napali coast was not what we had signed up for. Literally, we did not sign up for the ‘Napali Coast Dinner/Sunset cruise’. It was awful. We had, with the help of our hotel Concierge, signed up for a Ziodiac open boat 3-4 hour tour of the Napali Coast. Zipping along close to the surface of the water with a small group of people versus a diesel powered catamaran mega platform with all you can drink Mai Thai’s and a stereo blasting party tunes. No contest. We would take the spray in your face, alchohol free, music free, up close and personal experience every day.
So, how did we end up on the ‘wrong’ cruse? We arrived on time at the Kauai Sea Tour office in Eleele with our printed tickets in hand only to be told that were no Napali coast raft tours offered on this day. The black and white ink of our printed tickets and the fact that the tour had been booked directly with their staff just two days before did not convince them to ready a boat and guide for us. We were offered a refund or a spot on the party barge that was getting ready to leave at the same time we were scheduled for our raft trip.
We had no interest in Mai Thai’s or the large group that would be on the ship but we really wanted to see the Napali Coast from the water. We had scheduled our afternoon to do that, had not made other plans, had traveled all the way out to Eleele to meet up with our now non-existent raft and so, against our better judgment, we stepped aboard.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that we were booked onto a trip that did not exist, what happened next was, in my mind, almost criminal. With the catamaran just about 100 feet away from the dock the captain stopped the boat to give a safety talk. OK, nothing wrong with that, but he concluded the talk with an announcement that the boat would not be going to the Napali coast! High seas, he said, would be too dangerous for a trip in that direction for the catamaran so they would instead travel the opposite direction where the sea was calmer.
I have worked in the safety industry. I am an EMT. My experience with these things has taught me to make and also accept decisions that are made in the name of safety. Not going to the Napali coast due to high seas was a decision that I could accept. That they made this announcement only after they had left the dock… that was terrible. This was an announcement that should have been made while still at the dock.
Sloan and I looked at each other… stunned. In hindsight we should have jumped overboard. Maybe faked a heart attack. Anything to get off that boat. But instead, we were treated to six hours of scenery that is better seen from the highway that follows the same route in the opposite direction from the Napali Coast.
Now, I understand that some people might not care what direction their sea tour travels and that unlimited quantities of Mai Thai’s may be their primary motivation, but this is not what we had signed up for. My advice if you are scheduled for a sea tour of the Napali coast… before you leave dry land make sure that that is where you are actually going. I would bet that somewhere in the fine print the Kauai Sea Tour company reserves the right to change their planned route. To make the announcement of such a change only after they had a captive group of paying customers away from the dock was pretty poor customer relations.