Category Archives: Wildlife

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve
Location: Alamosa, Colorado
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Tallest dunes in North America, scenic views
Strenuosity: 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free in winter
Additional considerations: High elevation, strenuous climbing
Description: We saved our favorite National Park for last in 2016. Tiff came here as a child from nearby Pueblo, Colorado and we first climbed 750-foot tall Star Dune together in 2007.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Location: Mariposa, California
Length of visit: half day to multiple days
Major draws: Iconic granite, scenic views, wildlife
Strenuosity: 0 to 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $30 per vehicle or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: High elevation, steep trails
Description: Giant sequoia trees, massive waterfalls, and miles of hiking trails make this one of the most heavily-visited National Parks in the world, but it was fairly quiet the week before Thanksgiving.

Atlantis Submarine

Atlantis Submarine
Location: Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Submarine ride, shipwrecks, fish, sea turtles
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: About $100 per person
Additional considerations: Ferry boat to access offshore submarine
Description: Tiff was nervous about diving 100 feet in a submarine, but she enjoyed the spacious interior and large portholes. We saw a white reef shark, green sea turtles, numerous bluefin trevally, and many other interesting fish that were not their usual colorful selves due to color absorption in deep water.

Shark’s Cove

Shark’s Cove
Location: North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii
Length of visit: 1 hour
Major draws: Snorkeling, diversity of fish species, showers
Strenuosity: 2 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Strong current at times in deeper section
Description: Most visitors wade in this shallow, protected cove but you can see the fish much better while snorkeling. We went twice to see the copious marine life here and found the water clearer in the morning.

Malaekahana Beach Campground

Malaekahana Beach Campground
Location: North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Length of visit: multiple nights
Major draws: Beachside camping, surfing
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: about $20 per night to camp
Additional considerations: Chickens provide free wakeup service, showers without hot water, campfires allowed
Description: We enjoyed 7 nights at this quiet (other than the chickens) campground where we fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves and witnessed some incredible sunsets.

Anini Beach County Park

Anini Beach County Park
Location: northern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day to overnight
Major draws: Cheap camping, snorkeling, chickens
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free day use, $3 per person per night camping
Additional considerations: Must purchase camping permit in Lihue prior to stay, feral chickens provide wakeup call every morning before sunrise (and sometimes around midnight just for fun)
Description: One of the best spots in Kauai to see sea turtles (including the very rare and endangered hawksbill), the offshore reef here protects a large snorkeling area from the large north shore waves. We moved our tent from underneath the beachfront trees the second night due to large numbers of roosting chickens.

Kalalau Valley

Kalalau Valley
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: multiple nights
Major draws: Uninhabited beach, scenic views, birding
Strenuosity: 10 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $20 per person per night
Additional considerations: Permits limited to 60 people per night and they sell out months in advance, feral goats but no chickens
Description: The trail to Kalalau is hell, but the place itself is paradise—the most beautiful place in all the Hawaiian Islands. Two nights is the minimum amount of time we would recommend staying.

Napali Coast State Wilderness Park

Kalalau Trail—Napali Coast State Wilderness Park
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: multiple days
Major draws: Scenic views, uninhabited coastline
Strenuosity: 10 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Sheer cliffs, trail slippery when wet (all the time)
Description: The only access to the idyllic Kalalau Valley is via this 11-mile one-way treacherous trail along the stunningly beautiful Napali Coast. Several deep stream crossings and deep mud require shoes or sandals that can get wet and not destroy your feet as you ascend and descend each of the numerous valleys.

Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park
Location: western Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Scenic views, waterfalls, hiking, birding
Strenuosity: 5 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Feral goats on trail, trail slippery when wet (which is all the time)
Description: The “Grand Canyon of Hawaii” is 3,600-feet deep and very colorful. Many trails crisscross these two state parks, including the one we took to the top of 800-foot Waipo’o Falls.

 

Salt Pond County Park

Salt Pond County Park
Location: southern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day to overnight
Major draws: Cheap camping, snorkeling, sunset views
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free day use, $3 per person per night camping
Additional considerations: Must purchase camping permit in Lihue prior to stay, rip currents, feral chickens provide wakeup call every morning before sunrise
Description: We have spent 7 nights camping at Salt Pond, which has a beautiful beach protected by a reef which many varieties of fish inhabit (including humahumanukanukaapua’a). Hundreds of feral chickens call this park home and don’t like it when people try to sleep in.