OK, travel bugs, time for you geography lesson on Kauai:
Geologically, the island of Kauai is the fourth largest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. At approximately six million years old, it is the oldest of the main islands. Volcanic in origin, it is known as the "Garden Isle" due to its extreme lushness.
Kauai holds the record for average yearly precipitation as well as hourly precipitation. During a storm on January 24–25, 1956, a rain gauge at Kauai’s former Kilauea Sugar Plantation recorded a record 12 inches (30.5 cm) of precipitation in just 60 minutes. How’s that for a downpour! It’s high annual rainfall has eroded deep valleys in the central mountains, carving out canyons with many scenic waterfalls. Due to its permanent garden paradise state, the island of Kauai has been featured in more than seventy Hollywood movies and television shows.
Our first full day in Kauai had the unpleasant residues of jetlag hanging around Peter and I like a bad smell. In desperate need of some grounding, today would be a perfect day to connect with nature. There was no better place for us to achieve this than at the Allerton Garden, a 15 minute drive away from the Sheraton Kauai.
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the McBryde Garden in the Lawai Valley, Allerton Garden sits on the south shore of Kauai. Managed by the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) for the Allerton Gardens Trust, it is a garden paradise transformed through time by the hands of a Hawaiian Queen, by a sugar plantation magnate, and most significantly by an artist and an architect. The site where parts of Hollywood blockbusters Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed, we looked forward to our two and a half hour tour of this masterpiece of nature.
Checking in at NTBG's Southshore Visitors Center a half hour before the start of the tour, we met tour guide Bob, who briefed our 20-strong tour group about our transportation into and out of the Valley, along a spectacular scenic route. And spectacular it was. Once a retreat of Hawaii's Queen Emma, the cliffs of the Lawai Valley still cascade with her favorite deep-purple bougainvillea.
A brief ride to the bottom of the valley by tour bus rewarded us with a series of exquisite garden rooms between the Lawai Stream and the cliffs of the Valley. The sound of water in pools, miniature waterfalls, and fountains, towering rainforest trees with tall curving roots, a grove of swaying golden bamboo, a cut-flower garden, and tropical fruit trees added to the magic and serenity. The highlight of the tour for me were the seemingly ancient Jurassic trees, which transported me back to a scene of the Hollywood film that used this exact spot for one of the scenes.
In keeping with the paradise theme, dinner was at Keoki’s Paradise, which was within walking distance from our hotel. Famous for its fresh seafood, Peter and I relished every mouthful of the local island cuisine served in a jungle-like setting. Divine!