Colorful Kauai…By Air and By Sea

Much like Thursday, on Friday we were blessed with (mostly) cooperative weather for some flight-seeing and some cruise-seeing!

We chose a flight with Wings Over Kauai for a Friday morning excursion. Wings Over Kauai was another tour provider we had been booked with several times in the years it took for us to finally get to go on this cruise. I found them exceptionally easy to work with, understanding about cancellations, and committed to keeping prices reasonable. The only change from our first booking in April of 2020 to our flight on October 7, 2022 was that Wings Over Kauai wasn’t able to provide transportation to and from the airport as they had in the past. That wasn’t a problem, and the added expense was minimal in the whole scheme of things. We took a taxi from the port in the morning, and used Uber to get back to the ship. Easy!

If you’re even thinking about a flight tour, I highly recommend Kauai and this company. The sights are simply breathtaking, and Wings Over Kauai provided an excellent flight. The experience is a little different than a helicopter tour in that the plane does fly a bit higher, but I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything in the plane (I’ve done a helicopter tour before). The tour we chose (Air Van) has the advantage of being considerably less expensive than a helicopter, and everyone gets a window in the Air Van! Wings Over Kauai makes a recording of each flight using a GoPro strapped to the wing strut. The video is narrated and set to music — well worth the extra $50 we paid for a copy.

Ready to go! The white tube you see is the plane’s “air conditioning” system!😂

Words can’t do this excursion justice! I’m not sure pictures can either, but I’m going to let them do the talking. Most of the pictures are mine, but I did include a few screenshots from the video where my pictures had too much reflection from the window.

One of the first things we saw after we took off was our ship.

The colors were absolutely stunning…the bluest blues and the greenest greens. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.

Do you remember Wailua Falls from yesterday? I thought they were much more impressive from the air!

Almost back to the airport…you can see the beach in front of Duke’s on the right and our ship on the left.

We were back at the ship in time for a relaxing lunch followed by plenty of time for me to pack😢 as we cruised to the NaPali coast. When we left the weather was still decent, but we could see rain in the mountains and I began mentally preparing myself for a rainy sail-by of the Napali coast.

Leaving Nawiliwili Harbor, Lihue, Kauai

Sure enough, it got foggy and started misting not long after we left port. On the bright side, that meant packing was faster because I wasn’t distracted by what I was missing on the balcony.

We rounded the northeast point of the island about 5:00, and at first it didn’t look too promising.

There were patches of blue, but mostly low clouds.

We decided to go downstairs and get our picture taken with the rugged coast in the background. We had waited three years for this, and I was determined to get a Christmas card picture for my persistence!

Merry Christmas from the Rouses!🌺

There was more and more sun peeking through so we went back up to our balcony to enjoy the show! The views just got better and better — sun and clouds, interesting shadows, the setting sun glowing orange-yellow on the rocks, and finally an intense, magnificent sunset.

The sun was setting quickly, and just as we turned to head back to Honolulu Mother Nature put on a display.

Good night, Kauai.♥️

Mauka Makai — Kauai Day 1

Sunrise near Kauai

Kauai was the island that most intrigued me when I was planning our trip. I knew the least about it, and the pictures I saw were stunning. Kauai seemed to have it all — cliffs, beaches, mountains, a canyon, and a blowhole!

I booked with Noah’s Ark Kauai——for our cancelled trip in 2020, and never wavered from my plan to spend our first day in Kauai touring with Noah. We anticipated a fun day going to the mountains (mauka) and towards the sea (makai).

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a couple days. On Monday afternoon when we got back to the ship from our excursion to Haleakala, I had an urgent e-mail from Noah. He had just tested positive for Covid and had to cancel our tour on Thursday.😢

This was bad news for many reasons! Most importantly, I hated that Noah had gotten sick. I hated that Covid was impacting a trip that had been cancelled and postponed so many times. I hated that my “best laid plans” had to be scrapped. Finally, I was worried because I felt responsible for salvaging not just our plans…we had several others from our Facebook group joining us on the tour.

Thankfully when I got the e-mail I had most of the afternoon to spare before we sailed. I called every recommendation Noah had made in his e-mail, and of course nobody had availability on such short notice. I asked everyone I called for recommendations and then called those people. None of them had availability either. I was starting to panic when I reached out to the ship concierge and got a name and number. Several phone calls back and forth with Casey and we had a reservation to tour Kauai on Thursday. Phew!

Do I think our day was the same experience we would have had with Noah? Unfortunately, the answer is definitely not. Noah is a guide, and we anticipated a day filled with stories, planned stops/activities, a lunch break, and being entertained by Noah on his ukulele. What we got was a driver who was very nice and knowledgeable about the island. Casey took us everywhere we wanted to go, but lacked the polish and professionalism of a true guide. That said, we had a pleasant day and we saw a lot. Casey threw in some nice touches and put his personal stamp on our day.

For the most part I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. We were very lucky, and our weather was picture perfect as you will see.

Driving away from Lihue on our first day in Kauai.

Menehune Fish Pond

Menehune Fish Pond

Menehune Fish Pond

Poipu Bay Golf Course at the Grand Hyatt Kauai

We went searching for turtles in Poipu. They were out there, but it was virtually impossible to get a picture at our first stop.

I finally saw Hawaiian Sea Turtles soaking up the sun at Poipu Beach Park!

After we saw the turtles I thought it would be a good idea to get a picture of me and Jim in our beach attire!😂😂😂

When we left Poipu Beach we went to Spouting Horn, a fabulous blowhole. It was mesmerizing…I could have watched it for hours!

Spouting Horn in Action

On the way to Waimea Canyon we stopped in a small town — I think it was Hanapepe — and walked around for a while. This was where I think it would have been helpful to have a guide to plan a place to stop for lunch, make suggestions, and set some times to keep us on track. We got to see a lot of things, but I didn’t feel like there was any real plan or itinerary for the day.

Waimea Canyon lived up to its reputation! One nice thing Casey did was take us off the beaten path to see the canyon instead of going to the very crowded visitor’s center.

It was a pretty long drive back to Lihue from Waimea Canyon, and we made two more stops before we went back to the ship.

The first was at the Koa Store in Lihue.

They carry a great assortment of handcrafted Koa wood products made by local artisans. We are in the habit of bringing home one nice souvenir from each trip and we look for something that represents the local culture. I rule out things that are mass-produced, stamped “Made in China,” or that I could pick up on Amazon. I know those criteria don’t always guarantee authenticity, but I think they improve my chances!

We chose this hand carved Koa wood bowl as our Hawaii souvenir.

After our stop at the Koa Store we went over to Wailua Falls. I’m only going to share one picture of the falls now, because I got MUCH better pictures on Friday.

Wailua Falls

At Wailua Falls

I loved these trees. I think they are called Albizia trees.

We were tired when we returned to the ship, but our day wasn’t over! We walked to Duke’s for dinner. It was delicious and a nice change of pace.

Duke’s is an easy walk from the ship. This was taken outside Duke’s and you can see the Pride of America in the background.

I can’t remember what we had for dinner, but our drinks were fantastic! I had a Lava Flow…

Lava Flow

…and Jim had a Mai Tai!

Mai Tai

Of course, no meal at Duke’s is complete without a “slice” of Hula Pie! The dessert was delicious and enormous! We were both pretty full by the time we left.

Hula Pie

We had seen about as much of Kauai as we could pack into a single day and were excited about seeing it from two different perspectives on Friday!

They Can Make Beer Out of Anything — Hilo Day 2

Since we overnighted in Hilo, we needed a short excursion to fill the short day. We didn’t want to cut our return too close to the all-aboard time, but we didn’t necessarily want to have to get up and leave the ship in the wee hours either. We chose a farm-to-table tour — my thought was how bad can something that involves food and beverages be? It ended up being a fantastic day!

Most of our morning was spent at OK Farms, located in the hills above Hilo. They grow an incredible variety of fruit, nuts, coffee, and spices on their property, and they also supply fruit to Ola Brew for their craft beers, ciders, and hard seltzers.

We started our tour with freshly brewed coffee, and then drove around the property sampling fruits and spices right off the trees!

OK Farms

Longan Fruit — Also known as Slimy Eyeballs!

The inside of a Longan (Internet picture)

Rambutans (Internet picture)

Nutmeg and Mace


We were also treated to some relaxing food and beverage stops with views of Kaiemukama Falls and Rainbow Falls.

No visit to a working farm would be complete without a stop in the gift shop! Since everything we tasted was so good we took the opportunity to stock up on gifts for friends and neighbors and bought some gifts for us too! I’m still hoarding the delicious Macadamia nuts we brought home, and I only allow myself 2 or 3 at a time!😂

Even though our farm visit was over, the tour was not! We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Ola Brew where we were able to sample the beers and hard seltzers made with produce from OK Farms,

I chose hard seltzers.

So good!

If you’re looking for something different to do in Hilo, I highly recommend both OK Farms and Ola Brew. If you don’t have time in Hilo, don’t worry, there’s an Ola Brew in Kona!

We got back to the ship about 1:00 and actually had some time to relax, sit outside for sailaway, and enjoy a few hours of not having to be anyplace! I took advantage of the downtime in the afternoon to go through e-mail, download pictures, and do a load of sink laundry.

Sunset was just before dinner. It was too pretty to miss…they all were!

Dinner was at Teppanyaki and it was fabulous! Our chef/performer Mario was great and really helped make the meal entertaining and memorable.

After dinner I was done! It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other to walk to our cabin so I could have a close encounter with my bed! We had three more fully packed days ahead and I wanted to be able to take advantage of every minute!

Fire and Ice — Hilo Day 1

Our cruise had an itinerary change. Several months before we sailed we were notified that we wouldn’t be able to go to Kona because of the Ironman World Championship. At first I was upset — I mean, what else could possibly happen with this trip?!? In the end, the change was actually a good thing, because it allowed us to see things we never would have otherwise, like lava at night!

Mauna Kea from the Ship

We arrived in Hilo on a beautiful, picture perfect morning, with hardly a cloud in the sky and a stunning view of Mauna Kea (which many never see).

Arriving in Hilo

We had decided to do a small group excursion called “Land of Frozen Fire” to the Puna District of the Big Island. This tour took us to the area most heavily impacted by the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

The Puna District

The Big Island’s Volcanoes. This map is now inaccurate since Mauna Loa erupted just a couple months after our cruise.

The most fascinating thing about the tour was how arbitrary the lava was. We drove past (but not through) the Leilani Estates neighborhood, made famous in 2018 when fissures erupted and lava flowed through the neighborhood. Here’s a link to a Wiki article about what happened in the neighborhood during the eruption:,_Hawaii

Internet picture of Leilani Estates during the eruption.

Driving through lush rainforest with the coast on one side, we suddenly came upon a desolate, craggy landscape with a road built right over the top. This “Frozen Fire” is what was left behind when the lava flow cooled and hardened. It’s uneven, sharp, and almost impossible to walk on (for the most part we didn’t even try!).

Lava Field

Jagged and very sharp!

Lava field with one of the small cones (fissures) in the background.

We also went to the Black Sand Beach at Punalu’u Park. The beach is huge and waves crash dramatically on the nearby lava cliffs.

Punalu’u Park Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Park Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Park

Punalu’u Park

One of the most interesting sights at the park is the road that dead ends into a wall of hardened lava. Adjacent to the wall are untouched picnic tables! I wondered why the road hasn’t been rebuilt over the lava, and learned it’s still too hot! I can’t even imagine something that wouldn’t be cool enough to build on after 5 years.

Punalu’u Park

Punalu’u Park

Punalu’u Park

On our way back to Hilo we stopped at the famous Star of the Sea Painted Church. The history of this small church is very interesting, including a move by trailer to save it from a 1990 lava flow! Here’s an article with more information about the church:

Star of the Sea

Star of the Sea

Star of the Sea

After we left the church we headed back to Hilo, and stopped for a few minutes at the Grand Naniloa Doubletree Hotel. No surprise that the tour company just happened to have a gift shop there! Luckily the other thing they had was a wonderful view of the ship across the harbor.

Pride of America in Hilo on October 4, 2022

Most of the couples on our tour opted to stay at the resort for the rest of the day, but Jim and I went back to the ship for lunch (at Cagney’s) and to rest a little before Day 1, Part 2!


Since we were overnighting in Hilo, the local HOHO company, Keikana Tours, had added an evening tour of Volcanoes National Park for lava viewing. Remember when I said the itinerary change ended up being a good thing? That’s why! We never would have gotten to see lava during the day…just smoke and steam.

We took a small bus with 12 people to the park. Our first stop was at the Thurston Lava Tube, which we walked through and I thought was kind of creepy.

Entrance to Thurston Lava Tube — Photo by National Park Service

Thurston Lava Tube — Photo by National Park Service

Here’s some information about lava tubes:

The lava viewing was both an amazement and a disappointment. While we didn’t see giant rivers of lava, we saw flows within Kilauea’s Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. Occasionally we saw a flare up from a fissure, and the sky had an orange glow reflecting off the clouds. That was the amazement part. The disappointment part was the selfish people who had gotten there early, set up tripods and chairs along the rope, and refused any and every request to share space, even when asked by the park ranger. The darker it got the better the viewing got, and the more immovable the squatters at the rope became. Thus, most of my pictures were taken by crouching and shooting between peoples’ legs or holding my camera in the air and shooting over peoples’ heads.






Nevertheless, we saw lava and also stopped to experience a steam vent on the way home. The steam vent was interesting…cold on one side, and hot enough to give yourself a facial on the other!

Photo by National Park Service

Dinner wasn’t much. Remember the banana, mango, and guava breads from Maui? They found their way onto the bus and were enjoyed by everybody on the way back to Hilo. We had a quick snack in the buffet when we got back to the ship, but for the most part we were just tired and we knew we needed to get up early to be tourists again!

It was a great day and if I had it to do over I would make the same decisions!