Summer 2017 would probably go down as one of the most memorable summers of my life.
Firstly, I think people need to understand that my life is not all about traveling, taking pictures, and making videos. I am a pretty normal college student that studies marketing and information systems at a decent university in the city of Chicago. My life can get pretty boring during the semesters besides the occasional traveling I try to do on short breaks. This is why I really look forward to the long winter and summer vacations. I guess I kind of lied when I said I’m a pretty normal kid because I am blessed to be able to tell people that I am from Honolulu, Hawai’i.
Growing up in Hawai’i really made me take the beauty of the islands for granted. The ocean, weather, and mountains would kind of become an everyday thing you experienced and at times, even got old. It was not until I left home to go to school in the Midwest did I realize how special of a place Hawai’i was. This brings me back to my story about Summer 2017.
I had just finished off my Sophomore year of college with pretty decent grades and could not be more excited to go back home to the island of ‘Oahu. I had worked up a very cool internship opportunity with a digital media and marketing company where I could practice pitching ideas to clients, and filming and editing videos for them. With this internship, I worked with a local airline company, Island Air Hawai’i, which is now unfortunately bankrupt, to create videos by traveling to other islands using their airline. I got to take amazing trips to the islands of Maui and Kaua’i all free of charge.
I got to visit Kaua’i for the first time in a decade. This place was truly magical, and after filming and driving around the island for only two days, I knew I had to come back to the island to discover the rest of what it had to offer, so I made a vow to visit Kaua’i one more time before flying back up to Chicago. With my three friends, Ace, Austin, and Chase, we were able to make this second trip a reality. We planned a four-day trip to explore Kaua’i further with no agenda in mind.
We landed on Kaua’i in the morning, checked into our Airbnb. Let me tell you, I am absolutely in love with Airbnb. It is an amazing application/website and is a traveler’s best friend. Not only can you book a night at a nice home, but it is extremely cheap compared to hotels. For less than $100 a night, we stayed at a beautiful villa through Airbnb in Princeville, Kauai which is a town purely for hotels.
Without wasting our first day, we decided to hike the infamous Kalalau Trail (or at least a part of it). The entire trail there and back is about 22 miles, but we were only going up to the first beach access into the hike which is about 4 miles in. I can’t stress this enough but the weather was just magical. The afternoon sun was beating down on our faces as we started the coastline hike along the Na Pali Coast. The trail was nice and empty. The hike was not too bad, there were a lot of ups and downs throughout the trail. The beach was something else. The golden sunlight illuminated the whitewash from the waves coming onto the shore. It was like we were on our own private beach. I flew my drone here and captured one of my favorite images of the green and luscious Na Pali coast.
I could go on and on about what we did each and every day but it would honestly take forever to explain everything (not that I don’t enjoy talking about everything) so I will go over in detail one last highlight from the trip. Now, this highlight will go down as my favorite hike in the entire world for many reasons. I will not discuss the name of the hike because I believe it is important to keep some places a secret to maintain its beauty, exclusivity, and reward when you stumble across it. This hike is a ridge trail that overlooks the beautiful Kalalau Valley and the rest of the Na Pali Coast. From the start, the view is unreal, and it just gets better and better as you reach the end of the trail. I do not have any words to describe what I saw, so I will let the pictures do the talking. Hiking this trail made me realize how amazing our planet is, and how important it is to protect it. From the aqua blue ocean to the cathedral mountains, nothing in the world can compare to the beauty of this coastline. To top it off, with a little rain, we were also rewarded with a massive rainbow on one side, and a gorgeous sunset on the other.
Kaua’i is one of the oldest islands within the Hawaiian Islands, so it is also the most overgrown with vegetation. I mean, it is called the Garden Isle for a reason. But I would recommend visitors to check out Wailua Falls, Kalalau Trail, Waimea Canyon, and Kalalau Lookout to name a few. If you want to relax, Hanalei Bay is perfect for that. Don’t forget to stop by Hamura’s Saimin if you’re hungry. If you want to spend a little money to get an even more spectacular experience, I recommend Go Blue Ocean Adventures. They will take you on a boat to show you the entire Na Pali Coast from the ocean. I did this on my first trip to Kaua’i over the summer and I believe everyone should experience this at least once in their lives. (Make sure to request Captain J-Sea!)
My advice to people visiting Kaua’i: make sure to have a reliable car. There is no way to drive through the island and to get from Hanalei to Waimea Canyon, you need to drive around the entire island. Other than that, I would recommend staying on the East and North East side of the island for Airbnb and hotels.
To all the younger readers, while you guys are in school, take advantage of your breaks because after you graduate, life will no longer have semesters, and when you are stuck working every day, it will be much harder to travel. As for financing my trips, I always work my ass off during the semesters just to be able to have a little more financial freedom with traveling during my breaks.
My name is Sho Niimura. I am from Honolulu, Hawai’i and currently based in Chicago, Illinois. I love to travel and I love to capture my life through photographs and videos. Yeah, it sounds pretty cliche but these are my passions. See more on my Instagram.