Poipu is located on the south end of Kauai, about a 15 minute drive from Lihue. There are several resorts there all situated around some nice beaches. We left Kalapaki Beach Friday afternoon, picked up some groceries and then checked into our condo at the Kiahuna Plantation Resort which would be our home for the next 7 nights.

Kiahuna Plantation Resort in Poipu
Kiahuna Plantation Resort in Poipu

The trip to Poipu takes you through the tunnel of trees and Koloa, the oldest plantation town in Hawaii. The tunnel of trees is very cool and I really wanted to stop and take a few photos. However, this is the only road leading to Poipu from the main road that circles Kauai. As a result, the road was always filled with cars each time we drove by. There is no place to safely pull over and wait for traffic to clear in order to get a photo, so I’ll link to this image on 500px taken by a photographer that obviously found the right place and time to snap a quick photo.

Koloa is a neat little town just a couple of miles north of Poipu. There isn’t much to it, but it has an eclectic feel to it and has some local shops and restaurants that are worth a visit. Faith loves to stop at the soap and candle factory there and pick up a few items to bring home. This area used to be the home to several sugar plantations. Sugar is no longer grown on Kauai, replaced now with golf courses, condos and tourism.

Welcome to Koloa - Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
Welcome to Koloa – Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii

We had stayed at the Kiahuna Planatation Resort in Poipu 5 years ago and just loved it. The condos are individually owned, but the rentals are managed by both Outrigger Resorts and Castle Resorts. We booked through Outrigger both times we stayed there and the units were well maintained and clean. 5 years ago we stayed in an “ocean view” condo. While we certainly could see the ocean from the condo, we couldn’t hear the surf and it was a 3 minute walk to get to the water. This time we decided to stay in an ocean front condo and we could not have been more pleased with our accommodations. When they say “ocean front”, they literally mean “right on the ocean”. From the back of our condo it was about 12 steps to a hedge which separated the grassy common areas of the building from the beach sand. On the other side of the hedge it was 5 short steps until your feet were in the surf. Nice!!

Our beach view.  iPhone panorama.
Our beach view. iPhone panorama.

Not only was the water close, but there was nothing blocking the cool ocean breezes and the sounds of the pounding surf. We loved it! In Hawaii, most buildings are not air conditioned or heated. Why would they be? With year-round temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees, you either close up some windows and throw a blanket on to stay warm, or you open some windows and wear shorts to cool off. This was definitely our kind of place! They have a large common green space where there are grills for cooking out and plenty of lawn for outdoor activities. In the evening, many residents come out to the common area with a glass of wine to sit and watch the sun set. This next photo is an iPhone panorama of the common area with the beach behind me. Now that I’m processing the image, I see that I could have made some great images with the palm trees and the broken clouds. I didn’t have my Canon with me as it was setup over by the condo awaiting some color for sunset. I’ll have to pay more attention to this next time.

Kiahuna Plantation Resort common area - iPhone panorama.
Kiahuna Plantation Resort common area – iPhone panorama.

One morning Faith and I decided to take a walk around the complex, the beach and the surrounding resorts. When we walked out to the beach, we found that a Hawaiian monk seal had hauled itself out of the water to bask in the sun and take a nap. Within minutes, local volunteers had roped off the area and only allowed people to take a quick iPhone photo as they walked behind the seal. The sun angle was all wrong for any decent photos as the seal was facing north and that portion of the beach was blocked off. So the best I could do was a quick iPhone shot as we walked between the seal and the surf. I spoke for a while with one of the volunteers and learned that this was a 6 month old male pup and they were waiting for a local veterinarian to arrive so that they could attempt to tag the seal. The Hawaiian monk seals are endangered, so the researchers are very interested in keeping track of the population. Hawaiian monk seals are endemic to Hawaii and are one of only two species of monk seals left. Being a strong supporter of conservation efforts such as this, I was more than happy to take a quick photo and stand off to the side. We decided not to wait around for the seal to be tagged. We walked on and when we returned, the seal was gone and the rope had been taken down. I don’t know if they were successful in tagging the seal or if the seal loped back into the sea before the veterinarian arrived.

Hawaiian monk seal - iPhone photo.
Hawaiian monk seal – iPhone photo.

A few days later I was down the road and shooting sunrise at Shipwreck Beach on the east end of Poipu when an adult Hawaiian monk seal hauled itself out of the water for a morning bask. I had seen him pop his head up out of the surf right next to me as I was shooting the sunrise, but then I lost sight of him. I turned around 10 minutes later and spotted him working his way up the sand. I grabbed my gear and rushed over there and stood next to another photographer who was a respectable distance from the seal. He had been out shooting sunrise as well and when I walked up we just looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. Neither of us had a long lens with us. We both had come out with short lenses for sunrise so we knew we weren’t going to get any great photos given the distance we were from the seal and that our lenses didn’t have the reach. We had a laugh about that and the rest of the week as we ran into each other, we both carried with us at 400mm just in case we saw another seal. Unfortunately we didn’t see any other seals the rest of the trip, so I had to settle for this photo with a very healthy crop.

Hawaiian monk seal - Shipwreck Beach.
Hawaiian monk seal – Shipwreck Beach.

I’ll talk more about my sunrises on Shipwreck Beach in a future post. For now I’ll leave you with one additional image from our condo on Poipu. On one particular day, we had sustained winds of 30mph from the south with gusts up to 50mph. Being right on the beach, we had nothing to limit the amount of salt spray coming off the water and into our condo. As a result, everything in the condo, including all my photo gear, had a nice coating of sea salt on it. I spent a lot of time keeping my gear clean after that day and on subsequent windy days. But besides the salt spray, the high winds brought a brave wind surfer right into the little lagoon area outside our condo. He would start his run just to the right of our condo and speed out into the middle of the lagoon where he would turn around and take full advantage of the high winds. His speed increased dramatically on the way back and as he was about 20-30 yards from the shore, he would use a wave to lift himself off the surf and fly through the air. He did this over and over again for about 45 minutes before he finally tired and came in. It looked like a lot of fun, but it also looked like a lot of work. Our next door neighbor and I both agreed that we were in better shape to watch than to actually try wind surfing.

Wind surfer - Poipu
Wind surfer – Poipu

You might notice the brown color to the sand and the deep footprints. The sand is mostly volcanic pebbles. It’s very grainy and clumpy, not like the finer sand we have here on the Atlantic or the Gulf. The sand is also extremely soft. Walking in the sand is difficult as you generally sink up to your ankles with each step. There is no hard packed sand like we get on the Atlantic. The coastal areas that support beaches generally have very little wave action, so the sand never gets packed down. The beaches with the heavy surf that would pack the sand are generally all volcanic rock and there is literally no beach at all.

There are more posts to come as I still have some sunrises and sunsets to share as well as perhaps a couple of bird stories to tell.

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