Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
~Peter, Paul, and Mary
“Look, you can see his eye,” said our guide Amos (“Famous Amos” or “Amos of the pink tee-shirt”), pointing to the bare brown spot on the side of a green mountain looming in the distance on the north side of Hanalei Bay (Han-a-lay, rather than Han-a-lee as in the song). “And those ridges are his back.”
I squinted, peering across the waves. Sure enough, there he was—Puff—the mythical magic dragon, rising majestically from the ocean surf, unfurling his tail towards towards the mountain peaks of Hihimanu, Namolokama and Mamalahoa, stretching his powerful jaws into the blue-green ocean beyond.
Amos, quintessential surfer boy—slim and toned, bronzed skin, hair bleached blonde by the sun, Hawaii transplant by way of California—was our guide for a five-hour tour up, and then back down, the Hanalei River. Our adventure companions, another couple, call Wyoming home, but hail from central Pennsylvania (he) and Rochester, N.Y. (she). What are the odds we’d find ourselves paddling in the shadow of Puff with two people who grew up a stone’s throw away from where we grew up?
We chose Kayak Kauai, the oldest kayak tour company on Kauai (and the first to offer kayak tours of Kauai’s Napali coast) for our trip, the Kayak Kauai Hanalei Blue Lagoon X-tra, which began at the mouth of the river with Amos covering the basics of paddling and kayak safety before we hopped in and headed up river. The sky was slate gray in spots, threatening rain and blue in others, a glimmer of hope. I focused on the bits of blue sky. Much of our vacation—up to this point—had been decidedly gray and rain-soaked.
Amos told us we would paddle up the river (and against the current) for about two miles before turning around and paddling back to Hanalei Bay, where we’d have the opportunity (surf and weather permitting) to try our hand, er paddle, at ocean kayaking. The river was calm and the current mild (though there was a noticeable difference in the amount of exertion required when we headed back down the river with the current pushing us along).
We passed other kayakers and saw several stand up paddle boarders (SUP) as we lazed our way along the river (Kayak Kauai also rents equipment and offers stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and surfing lessons). Amos pointed out plants and birds while telling us a bit about the history of the river. We each nibbled on a yellow hibiscus plucked from the abundance of hibiscus plants lining the banks of the river (hibiscus tastes like a milder version of the nasturtiums I pick from our garden), chatted and laughed. Big Papa and I, along with our traveling companions, expressed gratitude that we found someone to watch our kids (grandmother for them and a babysitter for us), making it possible for us to venture out sans children.
When we decided to turn around and head back toward Hanalei Bay for our ocean kayak lesson, lunch and snorkeling, one of our traveling companions asked, “Do you ever encounter sharks in the bay?”
Amos replied, “You’re more likely to be hit by a coconut in the U.S., than be attacked by sharks, bears and lightening combined.
” But do you ever see sharks?”
We all hoped out loud that we wouldn’t.
I know I forgot all about it, at least for the ten minutes it took for us to paddle through the choppy waters of Hanalei Bay to a small slice of beach where Amos set out a delicious picnic lunch. Extra (gluten-free!) brownie points for the option to enjoy a gluten-free sandwich (we submitted our lunch request pre-trip). This was a huge bonus for Big Papa who usually finds himself munching on sport bars or removing the insides of the sandwich from the bread. As for me, admittedly not a “chips person,” I could have easily eaten the entire bag of locally made taro chips all by myself. And then there was the fresh pineapple. We each received a generous piece of mouth-watering fruit that Amos cut straight from the source.
After lunch, we did a bit of snorkeling. Not much to see—a few fish here and there—with somewhat murky water from all the recent rain, though it’s always fun to spot—if not say—Humahumanukanukaapua’a (otherwise known as the Reef Triggerfish, and the official state fish of Hawaii).
My muscles felt sore, in a good way, as we paddled across the southern-most edge of Hanalei Bay, with Amos offering pointers on how to ride a few waves back to our starting point. We had smiles on our faces, and even a bit of a tan on our shoulders as we pulled our kayaks onto the beach.
Mahalo to Kauai for for a few (much needed) hours of warmth and sunshine. Mahalo to Kayak Kauai and our guide Amos for a fun afternoon paddling in the waters of Hanalei. And Mahalo to Puff, for keeping an eye on us during our magical adventure.
For more information about Kayak Kaui’s
adventure trips, check out their website: http://kayakkauai.com/
Take the road (or the river) less traveled, Beth
Our trip was provided free for review purposes, but all opinions expressed in this article are my honest opinion.