‘The Descendants’ movie prompts Hawaii trip memories

 

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Secret Beach on Kauai's north shore. Not every day can be sunny.

 

 

Last weekend we watched the movie, “The Descendants” starring George Clooney. It’s from Alexander Payne, the same director whose film “Sideways,” received an Oscar for Writing, Adapted Screenplay. Shortly after “Sideways” was released, a surge of “movie tourism” brought fans and wine lovers to the Santa Barbara, California vineyards. And just since “The Descendants” was released last fall, there have been numerous websites, blogs and travel news pages, dedicated to describing these movie locations to Hawaii visitors. Having traveled to some of the destinations seen in “The Descendants,” it prompted memories from past Hawaii vacations.

Anyone who has seen “The Descendants” (released on DVD last week), and has also been to any of these places in the film, will probably understand how easy it is to feel a close connection to Kauai, its beauty, history, culture and mystique.

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St. Regis Resort Beach, Princeville - on Kauai's north shore

 

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Princeville Resort in 2007, before major renovations

In the movie, the King family stays at the St. Regis Princeville Resort while visiting on Kauai for a few days. Even if you’re staying at another hotel on Kauai’s north shore, I recommend stopping by the St. Regis, even just to take a tour of the lobby area and surrounding grounds. Have some lunch or do a spa day there. It’s luxurious! If it’s too steep for your wallet, consider stay in the Westin Princeville Resort Ocean Villas, which were also featured in the movie, then you can take the shuttle to the St. Regis.

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Sunset scene from St. Regis

 

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St. Regis beach front view of Hanalei Bay

 

In “The Descendants,” much of the time Matt King and his daughters spend on Kauai is in either Princeville or Hanalei. While visiting Hanalei, you could walk out on the pier, stroll along the beach, browse through the quaint shops, cafes and restaurants, such as Tahiti Nui, where George Clooney  has a drink with his cousin Hugh, played by Beau Bridges. Incidentally, Beau Bridges is a part-time Kauai resident, and word has it that he spends time at “da Nui.”  Find information about those Hanalei cottage rentals on the Hanalei Land website.

Waikiki Beach, taken from the Sheraton

 

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Waikiki from Diamond Head

 

In the final scene from the movie, Matt King and his daughters, Alex and Scottie are floating in an outrigger canoe with the tall Waikiki hotels on the Oahu horizon. The ocean in the movie looks extremely calm — almost too calm, but it was definitely not filmed in a tank assures Shailene Woodley, who plays Alex.  While on Oahu, other movie sites include the hospital, private school and exclusive neighborhood where the King family resides. These are not places I’d want to spend my valuable Hawaiian time exploring, but more information about these and other locations from the movie can be found on these websites and blogs:

Garrett on the Road

USA Today Travel Destinations

Readers: Just from gathering research for this blog, I was really surprised how popular “movie tourism” is. I’d like to know — how many of you have seen a movie, then wanted to travel to its filming locations. If so, what was the outcome?

 

 

 

Hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach shows Kauai’s beauty

The formidable and intimidating Kalalau Trail. Just the thought of considering a hike along this very challenging trail on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast was overwhelming. On a recent trip to Kauai, we had thought about making the long hike, but without overnight permits, camping equipment or the ‘moxie,’ we decided to hike only the first two miles of the 11-mile Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach.

View of Na Pali Coast from Kalalau Trail

Most hikers in fairly good physical condition will find the first, short piece of this 11-mile hike is an easy to moderate hike. It may be muddy, with some rocky creeks to plow through, and crowded, with the occasional traffic jam while some hiker ahead lingers to gaze out over Ke’e Beach or snap some photos of the coastline. Oh, wait — that was me. However, all the slippery mud, knee-skinning boulders, high density traffic conditions are far surpassed by the spectacular coastline and majestic mountains of Na Pali Coast, and beautiful Hanakapi’ai Beach and Valley.

Spectacular views along the trail

Before our party of four started out, we packed up our gear. Although hikers will travel this short piece of Kalalau in about 3-4 hours round-trip, we thought we’d spend more time at the beach. So we packed some fruit and sandwiches and filled up our 100-ounce Camelbak MULE packs. (This isn’t really an endorsement, but we’ve had these well-used packs for about 14 years now and they’re still in very good shape.) We were also equipped with our Keen sandals, which we found gripped the mud-slippery boulders well, and one walking pole each, to add that “third leg” of stability and balance.

Hanakapi'ai Beach

Ke'e Beach seen from first half mile of Kalalau Trail

We arrived at the trailhead early in the morning before the Ke’e Beach parking lot overflowing. If we had waited until late morning, we would have been driving around in circles until someone left. Hikers may find additional spaces in the overflow parking by the caves, which is just a five-minute walk from the trailhead.

Sand, surf, sky at Hanakapi'ai Beach

After the first half mile on the trail, we stopped and looked back to see we were far above the coast. We could almost see the full-length sandy expanse of Ke’e Beach, until it curves around to the northeast. We then marched onward, following the trail and the single rank and file of hikers up and down through stream beds, over ridge lines and around hillsides. On the final descent to Hanakapi’ai Beach we could hear the crowd who had already arrived, plus the crash of breaking waves.

Spend some time at Hanakapi'ai Beach relaxing in the shallow pools

Hanakapi’ai Beach is a small spread of white sand with the creek from the mountains spilling in to the Pacific. Upon arrival, we immediately kicked off our sandals to soothe our feet and ankles in the fine sand and warm pools. (We visited during June.) We staked out several large boulders to set up lunch and watch the skilled surfers in the waves. It’s safer to stay out of the open ocean here, since the rip currents can be treacherous. Hikers have been reminded many times, online, at the trailhead and with signs along the trail. We decided not to add a few more hours to our trip by venturing upstream to Hanakapi’ai Falls. That side trip, plus the next nine miles of the Kalalau Trail will have to be added to a future Kauai vacation itinerary.

Hawaii State Parks’ website has the official information plus a detailed, downloadable brochure.

2012 vacation goals: Ring in the new and old — destinations

2012 arrives at AZGetawayTravel with annual resolutions, new household budget, new business prospects and new travel plans. Each January, my husband and I reassess our vacation plans. This year, we’d like to set our sights on Europe, Central America or the Caribbean. And as we have learned, there are always a few leftover items from the ‘to-do’ list of past travels. So we’d also like to return to a few of our favorite places and complete the itinerary. Here’s a sampling:

1. San Carlos, Sonora

We once dreamed of having the means to explore the small coves and inlets, around Guaymas and San Carlos in our own 42′ foot sailboat. Now, it’s more realistic for us to buy a couple of seats on a tour boat, or brush up on our kayaking skills. We still imagine ourselves in those isolated coves, only the method of access is changed. Maybe this year, we return to San Carlos — for gunkholing the Sea of Cortez.

View of Playa Piedras Pintas from Zorro Cove trail

Southern tip of Playa Algodones near Marina Real

Tetakawi Mountain and Zorro Cove near San Carlos

2. Kauai

We love the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and its numerous small, tucked-away beaches. These may be hidden, but they’re certainly not secret. Yet some of the access trails are a bit challenging, so they help to prevent overcrowding by most tourists. We’ve visited several of these seemingly obscure beaches, but there’s a few we missed and someday, we hope to return.

Queen's Bath on Kauai's north coast, is a pool carved into the island's lava shelf

A catamaran takes visitors to Nualolo Kai on Kauai's Napali Coast

Our doorless helicopter ride was a thrill. Maybe this year we'll get a closer look at Kauai's beaches.

3. Cancun and Riviera Maya

We spent one week in Cancun in 2006. One week was not nearly enough. Our stay was filled with sight-seeing, beach time, snorkeling, boating, but several side trips had to be postponed. Maybe this year we can return to explore the Rivieria Maya, or visit nearby islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.

Chichen Itza is one of several Mayan ruin sites on the Yucatan

Cancun beaches are fantastic -- remember to save time for side trips

Folk dancer entertains tourists near Chichen Itza, Yucatan