Kaweonui Beach

Our intention this morning was to head out early to Pali Ke Kua (Hideaways) Beach, which had been recommended to us by a number of people. However, a leisurely breakfast resulted in us arriving at its teeny (and overfull) parking lot by 10:30. Fortunately there is no shortage of great beaches on the northern shore of Kauai, and we backtracked two miles through Princeville to check out Kaweonui Beach, also known as “Sealodge Beach” due to the access trail’s proximity to Sealodge Resort. After skirting the edge of the resort near Buliding A, we were able to found our way courtesy of some imposing signage.

Caution sign 

DSC_0758
View of the beach from the access trail

The trail was beautiful, with lots of shade and great views of the coast. We were also blessed with dry, sunny weather, so the trail was easy to navigate – much simpler than the path to Queen’s Bath.

When we arrived, we had the beach almost to ourselves. We set up shop under the ample shade, enjoyed a few games of Scrabble, and sunned ourselves on the large volcanic rocks. The sand was coarse and thick; the water was clear though the surf was too rough for snorkeling (which is supposedly “outstanding” during calm seas). We had read about numerous turtle sightings in the water, but to my dismay there were none to be found today. 

Overall I found Kaweonui Beach to be a peaceful, secluded, relaxing beach that feels worlds away from civilization, yet is easily accessible.

DSC_0781
About 2/3 of the petite beach

DSC_0804
View of the massive reef from the access trail

Self-portrait
Self-portrait

Queen’s Bath

While not technically a “beach,” Queen’s Bath is one of the most interesting aquatic sites we’ve checked out so far on this island. After a tricky hike down a narrow, muddy trail, we scampered over lava rocks for what felt like a long time (although it was likely a relatively short distance) until we arrived at the Bath – a calm, natural pool with lava rock walls and water that is constantly refilled by the wild tide just beyond its edge. The tides also wash in numerous sea creatures, making the pool an excellent spot for snorkeling – mask and snorkel only, no fins needed.

The trail to Queen's Bath
Ocean view from the Queen’s Bath trail

Waterfall on the trail
A nice water feature on the hike down

Shortly after we arrived at Queen’s Bath, some menacing rainclouds started moving our way, and a gentle shower began. We decided that there was no point in leaving, as the water inside the pool was still calm, visibility was good, and the fish were plentiful. Kenny moved a few of our belongings into a little cubby in the rocks for better cover, and we continued our snorkeling. It was fun to watch the ocean outside the pool get more turbulent as the rain picked up, and occasionally a big wave came over the edge of the pool, splashing us and carrying in sea creatures as unwitting passengers.

The Bath, with ominous rainclouds in the background
Ominous rainclouds overhead

Kenny lounging on the rocks
Kenny lounging on the rocks after the rain let up

Taking a bath
Kenny enjoying the bath

Queen’s Bath is a unique place, and should certainly make anyone’s list of spots to check out on a trip to Kauai. The trail, while a bit narrow, should not be a deterrent – if I can do it at 25 weeks pregnant, I can’t imagine it would pose a challenge for most.

Kauapea Beach

Our second stop of the morning was Kauapea Beach, also known as Secret Beach. While I heard that the secret is out and that this secluded beach can get quite crowded, we couldn’t pass up the “long, golden sand beach…worth the trip year-round just to see its exceptionally scenic beauty.”

We followed the unmarked road to a small parking lot which still had multiple free spots available (I guess those who know the secret also sleep in past 10:30AM). With our snorkeling gear and beach chairs in tow, we set off on a hike through the forest and down to the beach.

Hiking to the beach 

10 minutes later, a pristine secluded beach with soft, fine-grained sand welcomed us. The waves were too rough for snorkeling today, but we had a relaxing morning reading under the false kamani trees, enjoying the views, and splashing around. We also enjoyed free entertainment in the form of aspiring surfer kings; I got to practice my sports photography, a pastime I quite enjoy when the opportunity presents itself. Secret Beach fully lived up to the hype, and we only left the beautiful scenery when we succumbed to the lunchtime call of our growling tummies.

Facing west on Secret Beach
Soft sand, and heavy waves breaking on the west side of Secret Beach

Facing east on Secret Beach
Views of the Kilauea Point Lighthouse to the east

Kenny on the beach
Chilling on the beach

Surfing Surfer crash
Tricksy waves

Self portrait
Self-portrait

Aloha Kauai

While Kenny and I were in Oslo last December, a confluence of events led us to purchasing a couple of airline tickets to Kauai for the first week of May:

  • We had a companion ticket we needed to use before its mid-December expiration
  • We figured we’d want to spend a week somewhere nice for our last real vacation before there were more of us
  • We were in Oslo, and hence cold

So here we are, in sunny, beautiful, humid island paradise. We arrived around lunch time today, and spent the remainder of the day making our way slowly up the coast to get settled into the apartment we’ve rented for the week in Ha’ena, on the North Shore. While here, we plan to do some hiking, snorkeling, gorging on tropical fruit, serious beach lounging, perhaps a helicopter ride, and a lot of chilling out. Perhaps one of the most valuable things our sabbatical taught us was how to be beach bums, and we certainly don’t want to let those skills atrophy just because we’ve reentered the real world and reassumed responsible adulthood status.

First view of Kauai
Our first view of the island

Belly
25-week belly with a view

Rooster
There are feral chickens and roosters all over this island

50% off Passover Products
Picking up some essentials at Foodland in Kapa’a. We couldn’t resist 50% off all Passover products, so decided we’d be making whole wheat matzoh meal pancakes for breakfast.

Lauren on beachKenny on beach
Frolicking on the driftwood-strewn beach across the street from our rental apartment

DSelf portrait
Self-portrait

Top 10 Beaches of Our Sabbatical

We wrote this list while lounging around on the beach in Zanzibar, just to make you hate us. The criteria are totally subjective and not documented anywhere, but involve some combination of most beautiful setting, best food, best amenities, and best overall vibe.

In order from most to least amazing:

  1. Mandrem, Goa, India – we spent a week on Mandrem being beach bums at the end of our stay in India.
  2. Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand – Nai Yang was so beautiful we had to go twice, first at the beginning of our Southeast Asia jaunt in January, and then for a long weekend trip with Seema and Mark in April.
  3. Galu Beach, Mombasa, Kenya – an extremely laid-back spot to kite surf – or not – and enjoy beautiful water and endless soft sand.
  4. Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam – we spent four nights on Long Beach in February, before we started our volunteer assignments in Thailand, and we ate chili lemongrass shrimp every day.
  5. Khlong Nin, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we spent four nights at Khlong Nin beach on Ko Lanta in January, directly after our stay in Phuket. It was a beautiful setting, but not quite as amazing an overall package as Nai Yang.
  6. Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania – it wasn’t easy to get there on foot from Nungwi, but it was worth the trek, as it offered a beautiful stretch of relatively-secluded beach.
  7. Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania – we spent four nights on Nungwi, in a hotel room with an incredible ocean view. Unfortunately there isn’t much beach to speak of at low tide, but Kendwa and East Nungwi, nearby, offer good swimming opportunities.
  8. Khlong Dao, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we finished up our January visit to Ko Lanta with two nights at Khlong Dao, which was nice but not as secluded or as pretty as Khlong Nin. We did find one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the world at Khlong Dao – Thai Is-San.
  9. Nha Trang, Vietnam – the beach was not as nice as we remembered it from our first visit in 2007, but the tropical fruits are still the best I’ve ever tasted.
  10. Matemwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania – fascinating tidal flat landscape at low tide, pretty (but skinny) stretch of beach at high tide. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a place to stay, but it’s certainly worth a day trip.

If it makes you hate us any less, our tans will most certainly have faded by the time we arrive back in Seattle on September 22, and we do not have any more beach time scheduled between now and then.

Little Vid Goes to the Beach

Little Vid enjoyed our 10-day beach holiday almost as much as Kenny and I did, especially because we got to celebrate her namesake’s birthday in Kenya.

Little Vid at Kenyaways
Little Vid enjoying the beach at Kenyaways

Camel transport
A little French girl on the beach tried to steal Little Vid when she saw her perched on the camel’s head

House red
Enjoying a glass of the house red for Vidya’s birthday

Stone Town
Lounging on our rooftop deck in Stone Town

Thali
Enjoying a vegetarian lunch thali in Stone Town

Rainbow
Somewhere over the rainbow is Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Matemwe
Checking out the strange environs at Matemwe Beach, Zanzibar

As always, you can follow Little Vid’s adventures here.

Day Trip to Matemwe

For our final day in Zanzibar, we struck a deal with Langi Langi’s driver to combine a morning outing to Matemwe Beach, on the east coast, with our airport transfer. The LP had described Matemwe as a peaceful, secluded stretch of sand with beautiful water. Based on our Zanzibar experience thus far, we also assumed that the beach itself would change drastically with the tides, and we were not mistaken. We arrived at low tide, when a vast stretch of tidal flat was exposed and the water was between knee and waist deep. Behind the tidal flat, about 500m away from the beach, was a long skinny sandbar, where the waves were breaking at low tide.

We decided to wade out to the sandbar, which looked like a nice spot to sit and have a game of Scrabble. It turned out to be a slightly difficult slog, as the ocean floor was littered with obstacles such as rocks and sea urchins, but it was also surprisingly rewarding. Along the way, we observed women harvesting seaweed and tending their seaweed farms, and saw a beautiful red starfish below the water’s surface. The locals seemed impressed that we expended the effort to cross, and on a few occasions attempted to communicate with us, albeit with very limited success. Unfortunately my Kiswahili is a bit rusty.

On the other side, we saw locals collecting sea creatures, and experienced a dramatic other-worldly landscape, with exposed rocks, coral, and spongy seaweed growing on the surface. We shot a few photos, relaxed, and played Scrabble until we feared that the rising tide might strand us. Besides, our stomachs were starting to rumble in anticipation of lunch. So we commenced our trudge back across the shallow water to the main part of the beach, where we sat down for lunch at the posh Sunshine Hotel, as recommended by our driver. While we lunched, the tide came in quickly, and the entire tidal flat, seaweed farms and all, was completely submerged before we finished.

After lunch, it was onward to the airport, and goodbye to Zanzibar. But we’ll be back in Tanzania in exactly one month.

Harvesting seaweed
Harvesting seaweed

Wading at low tide
Wading out to the sand bar at low tide

The sand bar at low tide
The sand bar at low tide

The sand bar at low tide
The sand bar at low tide

Red starfish
Pretty red starfish

Dhow
Typical Zanzibari wooden dhow, seen from lunch at high tide

White Sands Beach Hotel

Rating:

While we ate quite well in Stone Town, most of our meals on Zanzibar’s beaches were somewhat mediocre. The one major exception was a beachfront restaurant in Kendwa, at the White Sands Beach Hotel. The atmosphere at the restaurant is pretty basic, but the location is excellent, with nice views of the Indian Ocean from the outermost tables (where we were sitting).

On the waitress’s recommendation we ordered the prawn coconut curry, which was stupendous. The prawns were by far the largest we had in Zanzibar, and the tomato-based coconut curry was spicy and reminiscent of south India.

We also had the catch of the day, red snapper, which was seasoned with local spices and grilled. The fish was tender (not overcooked like much of the fish we had this week), and served with rice and tomato chutney.

If you’re on Kendwa beach (or at nearby Nungwi and sick of the same-old, same-old), definitely stop by the White Sands Beach Hotel and sample the coconut curry. Your tummy will thank you.

Prawn coconut curry
Amazing prawn coconut curry

Grilled snapper
Grilled red snapper

White Sands Beach Hotel
Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania
+255 (0)777-411326

Nungwi

For the final segment of our East African beach vacation, we’re camped out at Langi Langi Beach Resort, at Nungwi, on the northern tip of Zanzibar. Langi Langi came highly recommended by our good friends Brian and Kara, who spent a few days here during honeymoon #2.

There isn’t much “beach” to speak of around our hotel, except for a small stretch that disappears after low tide. However, at high tide, the ocean is like a vast swimming pool, accessible from our hotel’s deck. If only we had a diving board. And the views from our hotel, especially the balcony of our sea-view room – apparently the best room in the house – are absolutely stunning.

For more traditional beach lounging, we’ve been taking walks to nearby beaches, like Kendwa to the south, and East Nungwi, around the island’s northernmost point from here. Kendwa is a long, beautiful stretch of sand (Kenny wrote a few thoughts about it here). East Nungwi is a bit easier to reach, although the beach itself all but disappears at high tide. We had a nice walk there yesterday, a wonderful swim in the jewel blue water, and a delicious lunch at the Tanzanite Beach Resort.

Dining options here at Nungwi are a bit limited and service seems to be universally slow. However, the food at our hotel’s restaurant is good, and we had one good meal at the Armaan Bungalows restaurant next door (although our repeat visit was a disappointment). The village of Nungwi is a stark contrast to the posh resorts on the beach, with a small school house, and a cluster of tiny shops and residences along a muddy road. We’ve taken a few strolls through the village to purchase water and bread, and use the internet cafe, and we enjoyed watching the local kids play football at dusk.

Tomorrow is our last day on Zanzibar, and we are hoping to check out Matemwe Beach in the morning before we begin our journey back to Kampala.

Rainbow
Morning rainbow, viewed from the breakfast area at our hotel

View from our room
The view from our balcony

Sunset
Sunset from our balcony

Fish trap
Catching fish in a trap

Low tide
Nungwi Beach at low tide, before it disappeared completely

Journey to Kendwa

We took a walk today down to Kendwa Beach, one of the “gems” of the Nungwi area according to the Lonely Planet. Kendwa is only two kilometers south of our hotel, but the journey is much longer than it should be due to a few obstacles.

The first obstacle is the tides. Most of Zanzibar has very “tide-dependent” beaches. While Kendwa is renowned for being the only beach on Zanzibar unaffected by tidal shifts, the same cannot be said for the northern waterfront approach, which would require a full-on swim at high tide. We headed to Kendwa during low tide, which was a pleasant walk along the beach until we reached an outcropping whose beach is only accessible during the lowest of tides.

Obstacle number two: the “Royal Zanzibar” hotel, which blocks your path and is built on top of the aforementioned rock outcropping. The @$$holes who run the Royal Zanzibar do not let non-guests walk across their property, even though they completely block the north-south coastal path. To enforce their policy, the beachfront entrance to the hotel is manned by Maasai warriors who don’t speak a word of English. They simply shake their sticks at you and yell at you in Kiswahili until you go away. It’s an extra two kilometer detour around the hotel that involves walking inland to the main road and then down a sketchy dirt path through the bush that is infamous for muggings.

On the plus side, you are amply rewarded when you arrive. Kendwa has a beautiful, long stretch of white sand with calm, very swimmable (though not particularly warm) water. The area is sparsely developed and has minimal touts. We spent most of the morning on the more remote southern end of the beach, which we had completely to ourselves. The weather today was variable, with on and off showers, but that also made for some very dramatic landscapes.

After a delicious lunch at White Sands Beach Hotel and more swimming, it was time for us to head back to Nungwi. At this point it was high tide, and when we reached the Plan Hotel at the northern end of Kendwa, one of the security guards flagged us down and told us that three men would escort us along the path back to Nungwi. We were completely sketched out by this. One of the men showed us his police officer badge, but we were still skeptical. We had no choice but to follow along, keeping a little distance and hoping that we would simply have to pay a bribe and wouldn’t get mugged, maimed, or worse. As we entered the main road and civilization, we got more comfortable and the man who had flashed his badge engaged us in conversation. Turns out that the men were all special investigators who were in the area specifically to address recent concerns about tourist muggings (whew).

Overall Kendwa is a beautiful and relaxing beach, though quite a challenge to visit on foot.

Lauren chilling at Kendwa
Our sunny morning was very enjoyable and picturesque

The brewing storm
…then the clouds came in

Self-portrait under our rain shelter
…we took shelter from one of the storms under a straw umbrella

Mzungo getting braided
…where mzungos were getting braided

Dhow
Dhow ferrying snorklers around the bay