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A Day in Sunny Poipu

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Nov 13, 2013

makauwahi cave reserve along mahaulepuOn an unusual day in “Sunny Poipu” over the weekend, the weather alternated between the area’s moniker and drizzling rain. That made photographing on Kauai’s South Shore a bit of a challenge. But the thing I like about photographers is that they are always seeking the shot, much the same way a golfer may also seek their shot, albeit both parties have completely different definitions of “the shot.” 

For a golfer, it may be the elusive hole-in-one. For a photographer, it’s the moment when light and subject and composition and a little magic combine to create the one shot that you might just print and frame and hang on your wall. 

In my case, while tramping around with my Big Girl Camera, my iPhone, and fellow photographer Anne, the periodic rain showers that darkened the skies—seemingly out of nowhere and, then, disappeared with equal ease—conspired to keep us moving from one end of Kauai’s South Shore to the other, as we resorted to photographic techniques to make the best of each situation—panning to blur a less-than-ideal background, for example; switching to a camera dedicated to capturing infrared images to heighten the drama of billowing clouds; and snapping on a macro lens to zoom in on a flower. Because that’s the other thing I like about photographers: They are adept at making lemonade out of lemons. Photographers, in my estimation, are eternal optimists.

Here’s the day’s itinerary that resulted in the effort at getting the shot this past Sunday. Camera or no, this would make for a nice way to spend a day on Kauai’s South Shore.

1. Makauwahi Cave A treasure trove of archaeological riches has been unearthed in this limestone cave system over the past 20 years, including strange birds not known to science before—like a giant, flightless duck with a turtle-like bill. Evidence of on-going work can be seen in the orange buckets and wheelbarrows decorating the site. What makes this place so unusual—and allowed for plant and animal matter to be preserved—is the limestone. This is not a lava tube. Nor a sea cave. Waves did not carve out the underground tunnels and rooms where plant and animal matter and human artifacts have been found. Rainwater did. But I don’t want to give too much away. Docents will tell you more. Makauwahi Cave is open to the public on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. For directions, visit the Makauwahi Cave website.

kii in poipu2. Kahua O Kaneiolouma Kauai is like a lotus flower: the place keeps opening up to new experiences, explorations and treasures. Take Kahua O Kaneiolouma. This cultural site seemingly popped up out of nowhere in the midst of Poipu, but the 13-acre remains of an ancient Hawaiian village is comprised of structures dating back to the mid-1400s. Experts point to home sites, religious shrines, fish ponds, taro fields, and, perhaps, the most intact sporting arena known to exist in Hawaii today. But unless you’re an archaeologist, you might not see these structures. You will not, however, miss the four, new kii on the corner of Poipu and Hoowili Roads—the intersection leading to Poipu Beach Park. The 16-foot-tall wooden ceremonial statues went up mid-summer and feature the Hawaiian gods Kane (god of sky and creation), Ku (god of war and male pursuits), Lono (god of peace, rain and fertility), and Kanaloa (god of the ocean). According to the organization behind the restoration of the complex, the four kii represent the four corners of Honua, pillars in ancient Hawaiian astronomy. Drive by. You won’t miss them.

3. Spouting Horn: This thin lava shelf at the ocean edge provides a sensual feast, as well as, a scintillating Hawaiian tale of old. Both Oahu and Maui have similar “blowholes,” offering geyser like displays when surf pushes through the narrow opening in the rock. However, this blowhole also generates an eerie sound that some liken to a horn but others say is a moo, or giant lizard, that got stuck while chasing a boy. With every pulse of surf, she blasts her protest forevermore. This is a great place for sunset and, in winter, for whale watching. And for safety’s sake, please stay behind the guardrail at the overlook.

4. National Tropical Botanical Garden: Across the street from Spouting Horn is the visitor center for the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Here, guests check in for tours to both Allerton and McBryde Gardens—reservations required. However, for those looking for “the shot,” or a stroll, or a meditation spot, the garden surrounding the visitor center—a converted sugar plantation home—is open to the public—no admission fee required. Here you may train you camera on blooming torch ginger, purple trumpet flowers, leggy bamboo, the geometric shape of breadfruit leaves, jade ginger, and more. I also allow a few minutes to browse the gift shop, which has some of the best botanical books on Hawaii on the island.

old koloa sugar mill5. Old Sugar Mill of Koloa: Known as the very first commercial sugar mill in the state of Hawaii, the Old Sugar Mill of Koloa today is a hodge-podge of corroding, colorful, metal buildings. Clanging sounds emerge from the buildings in high wind. In the afternoon sun, the few remaining window panes of glass glare. And inside the gated complex, goats roam, serving as living weed-whackers. With a backdrop of the Haupu mountains, it’s a lovely spot for photographing and for a glimpse into the sugar past of Hawaii. The plantation got its started in 1835 and shut down in 1996.


If you go: Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation is located minutes from each of these destinations in Sunny Poipu.

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