Photo of the day: Kauai sky

kauai sky

This Kauai sky is awfully pretty. It doesn’t even need the surrounding habitat, which is likely amazingly beautiful, to compel viewers. Vast elongated cotton-candy clouds are location-independent, after all.

Captured by Flickr user matt coats earlier this month, this is a dreamy image, a reminder that the sky, like the ocean, inspires journeys through its very enormity.

Upload your images of skies to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr, and be sure to let us know where you took them. We choose our favorite images from the pool to be Photos of the Day. And while you’re at it, make sure you’ve enabled downloading of your photos.

Photo of the day – Kauai morning

kauai morning

Flickr user Eric Bloemers (EricBloemersPhotography) snapped this breathtaking image of a Kauai morning just last week. The star of the image may well be the raincloud on the horizon, but the dramatic red sand and apparently relaxed surf also cast a spell. Quick, answer this: is there anywhere you’d rather be than in Kauai, even with a storm advancing?

Got an image you’d like to share with the world? Upload it to the Gadling group pool on Flickr. If we like it we might just select it to be a future Photo of the Day.

5 incredible, adventurous things to do in Kauai, Hawaii

kauai

Kauai. Just the mere mention of the word brings a million amazing memories rushing back, and immediately makes those who have been wish they were kicked back on Poipu beach without a care in the world. It’s one of America’s wonders, and while the Garden Isle is far from being the biggest, most populated or easiest of the Hawaiian islands to get to, it’s unquestionably worth the trip. Particularly so if you’re the adventurous type. If there’s any island in the Hawaiian chain that begs for you to plop down in one spot for the week, Kauai most certainly isn’t it. This place abounds with things to do, and those who aren’t afraid to climb, jump, sweat and dive right into the wild will have no shortage of fun. I’ve compiled five of my favorite Kauai adventures here in hopes that you too will find certain thrills while visiting, so grab your untouched itinerary and read on!

%Gallery-116010%

This is unquestionably my favorite thrill on Kauai. Kipu Falls are conveniently located near the popular eastern side of the island, around 20 minutes or so from downtown Lihue. Ask any of the locals about Kipu, and chances are they’ll be able to guide you right to it. It’s actually fairly easy to locate via GPS (it’s off of Kipu Road), and you’ll probably see a dozen or so cars parked along the side of a road beside a massive field. Park, hike along the stream’s edge (the beaten path is private property, but the stream itself isn’t), and ten minutes later, you’ll be in paradise. A huge, freshwater pool to leap into, a massive tree swing to reenact Tarzan on, and plenty of opportunities to meet fellow tourists and locals from all over the world. If you pick the right day, you may even see locals running out of the edge of tree limbs and backflipping 70 feet into the water below. Astounding. Have a look at my experience above.

Fair warning: cliff jumping is risky. Be smart, and stay safe! If you’re in doubt, don’t jump! It’s plenty entertaining to just watch the pros who are experienced.

Tunnels Beach has grown into a real spectacle in recent years, making the parking situation somewhat of a nightmare. Not a ton of tourists flock here, but enough have come for the neighbors to turn their yard into a pay-for-parking lot. Bummer. Your best bet is to show up early and park along the sections of the road where it’s allowed — even if you have to walk half a mile, it’s worth it. Rent some snorkel gear down in Lihue or Princeville before heading out, and bring along your waterproof camera if you have one. You’ll find loads of fish here, crystal clear water, gorgeous stretches of sand, and — if you’re lucky — a giant sea turtle. I was able to swim with one for a couple of minutes on my last trip, shown above. Talk about Hawaiian hospitality!

kauai

Similar to Tunnels Beach, the only catch with this outing is the parking situation. The Queen’s Bath is a magnificent rock formation along the ocean’s coast, but it’s actually hidden behind an upscale housing community / golf course in Princeville. You’ll need to drive back into the neighborhood (found two to three miles within St. Regis Princeville) and park at the handful of public spots. If those are full, you’ll need to park wherever it’s legal nearby and hike. There’s a well-beaten path through the woods and to the ocean, and chances are, you’ll be able to follow the other tourists and locals down. The pool is formed with lava rock, and it blocks crashing waves as you sit and soak. There are also plenty of cliff jumping opportunities here for the daredevils in attendance.

kauai

The grueling, gorgeous Kalalau Trail (reached by driving as far north as you can along Highway 560) is likely Kauai’s most famous, but few people know that it takes days to complete, and to proceed beyond Hanakapiai Beach at the ~2.5 mile marker, you actually need an overnight camping permit from the state. The full ~11 mile hike has managed an incredible 9.0 out of 10 on Sierra Club’s difficulty scale, making it the most difficult trail that doesn’t require vertical scaling of a mountain. Thankfully, the first bit — which wraps around the north of the island and provides astonishing views of the Na Pali coast — isn’t so tough. You’ll need great hiking shoes, a few liters of water, a bathing suit and a towel. After you’ve hiked down, you’re treated to a waterfall that nearly runs directly into the ocean. Take a dip in the Pacific, bask on the sand, and then rinse in the waterfall before heading right back where you came from. Take a camera — the views are unmatched.

kauai

You’ve got only a few options to actually see the Na Pali Coast, and while a helicopter ride (or a ride from the highly recommended Wings Over Kauai) is just fine for some, I prefer a little more adventure. Taking Captain Joe’s zodiac tour is a great excuse to visit the vastly under-appreciated western swath of Kauai, and moreover, an amazing way to see parts of Kauai that you could never see but by boat. You’ll get a personal view of the island’s Barking Sands Pacific Missile Range Facility, schools of dolphins, and of course, the Na Pali coast. Joe also provides lunch as well as an opportunity to snorkel for an hour or so while out at sea. On the ride in, you’ll get a great view of Niihau, and feel free to ask Captain Joe anything you want — he’s a wealth of information, and the vibe on zodiac is one that’ll make you want to relocate rather than fly back home.

%Gallery-116008%

Any other amazing sights to see or activities to engage in while on the Garden Isle? Speak up in comments below! Aloha!

Take a women’s only winter adventure with Call of the Wild

Take a women's only adventure with Call of the WildWomen’s only adventure travel is one of the fastest growing segments in the entire industry and U.S. based Call of the Wild is a company that specializes in delivering fantastic ladies only options. The company has been in business for more than 30 years, and during that time it has pioneered this style of travel, offering trips to far flung places, both domestically and abroad.

This winter, Call of the Wild is offering some great trips that are sure to appeal to the active traveler looking for a little adventure. For instance, their Snowshoes and Sequoias Weekend is a three day expedition to Sequoia National Park during which time the ladies will have the opportunity to learn how to snowshoe in a breathtaking mountain setting. And at the end of a busy day, they’ll return to their rustic lodge for a fantastic meal and a glass of wine around the fireplace. This trip is scheduled to take place from February 11-13 and costs just $650.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more tropical this winter, than perhaps the Hawaii Explorer will be more to your liking. This seven day vacation sends travelers to Kauai, otherwise known as the Garden Isle, for a little fun in the sun. Visitors will take day hikes to visit some of the islands most breathtaking vistas and stunning beaches, while humpback whales play off shore and the island blooms with life. This trip runs from March 6-12 and can be booked for $2195.

New to Call of the Wild’s 2011 winter catalog is their Discovering Death Valley option. This trip sends a small group of adventurous women to Death Valley National Park, where they’ll soak up the natural beauty of the place while exploring the sand dunes and rocky canyons located there. And when they’ve had enough excitement for one day, they’ll return to a comfortable hotel and enjoy fine meals at local restaurants. The Discovering Death Valley trip is $1315 and will take place February 26 – March 2, when temperatures in the park are comfortable and moderate.

If you haven’t planned your winter escape for 2011 yet, then perhaps its time you gathered up a few girlfriends, picked an adventure, and heeded the call of the wild. After all, we can all use a little more adventure in our lives.

Beach-bound? Head to these best beaches on the west coast

Hanging 10 in Hawaii? Settling along the California coast? If the West is your destination this summer, don’t miss a day at one of these fabulous west coast beaches. Not only are they free, they offer plenty to do if a day in the sand gets dull (although, we can’t imagine it would)!

Kaanapali Beach – Maui – West Maui’s Ka’anapali Beach is undoubtedly is easily accessible by a concrete path. Here you’ll find Black Rock, along with some of the best snorkeling on the island. Entering right from the wide stretch of golden sand, you will be transported into an underwater world teeming with tropical fishes, a turtle or two, and if you are lucky you’ll spot a few eagle rays. At sunset, you are treated to a free torch lighting and cliff diving ceremony right off Black Rock.

Makena Beach (Big Beach) – Maui – South Maui‘s Makena Beach is a State Park, meaning there is no man-made development. Visitors concentrate on body surfing, snorkeling, or enjoying a picnic with the views of islet, Molokini, in the distance. There are no resorts nearby so there is often ample parking.

Poipu Beach – Kauai – Unlike most beaches in Maui which can get quite rough for timid swimmers, Poipu Beach’s protected area is a great option for beginner swimmers and snorkelers. With lifeguards on duty everyday and a relatively calm environment, it is considered one of the safest beaches in Hawaii.

Lanikai Beach – Oahu – Bypass the more famous Waikiki Beach for the more secluded and postcard-perfect Lanikai Beach. Divers and snorkelers alike will find delight in the reefs. As the sun sets, you could almost swear that Don Ho is strumming his ukulele in the distance. Carmel Beach – Monterey Coast, California – Anyone who has ever been to quaint Carmel-By-The–Sea along the Monterey Coast would have experienced firsthand the beauty of Carmel Beach. The best part? This beach is perfectly pet friendly! Owners and their canine companions can frolic freely on the white sandy beach, play in the water, or throw around a Frisbee.

Huntington Beach, California – Located in sunny Southern California, Huntington Beach has some of the best and most consistent surf in the U.S., making it the ideal site of the annual world surfing championships. Those hesitant to try the surfs firsthand can channel their Karch Kiraly and practice their beach volleyball skills at one of the famous stops on the renowned AVP Beach Volleyball tour.

Coronado Beach, California – Fronting the famed Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Beach has something for everyone. With the widest stretch of sand in San Diego County, it offers plenty of space to fly a kite, fish, or explore the tide pools. It is an excellent location to swim or body board or bike along the path south of Hotel Coronado.

Pismo Beach, California – Located in California’s Central Coast, visitors can walk down the 1,200-foot Pismo Pier to try their hand at catching their dinner or just catch a beautiful sunset. Beach wheelchairs from Wheel Fun Rentals are even available free of charge to visitors.

Half Moon Bay, California – Northern California’s Half Moon Bay offers dozens of beaches along the Pacific Ocean. With its spectacular sea cliffs and beautiful shoreline, Half Moon Bay has some of the best vista points for spotting the annual gray whale migration and elephant seals, and its sandy shores are perfect for horseback riding right on the beach.

Joyce Zee is a Seed.com writer.