We were greeted the following morning by another sunny, warm day. We ate quickly then walked to Lydgate Park, the park just off the boundary of our hotel, and discussed one more snorkelling excursion. The wind had picked up over night and, even though Lydgate Park had a fortified shore break, the waves in the swimming area swirled violently. At 9:00 am, I just didn’t feel like getting wet, so we returned the snorkelling gear, stopped for gas and bought some hearty subs, determined to find the legendary Secret Beach.
I was driving and Julia turned to Lenore for advice.
“Okay, it’s easy,” she said. “Just turn at Kalihiwai Road then look for a reddish dirt road, turn right and follow it to the end.”
We had already been down Kalihiwai Road several times but had never noticed a dirt road until we saw one that seemed oddly unobtrusive. We turned, hoping it was right, and drove through pasture land until we arrived at a treed oasis where the road ceased. There was one other car parked beside an unmarked trail that led into the woods. We were reasonably certain we had found the spot.
According to Lenore, the hike was virtually straight down and she was right, but there were many footholds formed from bare roots and strategically placed boards so it felt more like descending a steep staircase than a trail. To our left, fences and other paths joined with the main trail. Some people lived on Secret Beach and every so often we were awarded a glimpse of their spectacular abodes. For the most part, they were single floored ‘California Style’ bungalows, walled by windows that, one can safely assume, overlooked the ocean beyond the shore at Secret Beach.
Finally, after about fifteen minutes of an awkward downhill climb (we wore our flip-flops) we emerged from under a canopy of trees and onto the white sand of Secret Beach. Immediately we saw a beach that was probably 200 metres wide and completely surrounded by sheer lava cliffs. Looking east, we noticed the rock cliffs jutting out towards the ocean and wondered if there was something on the other side?
We started walking towards the rock outcrop and were greeted by a man and his black Labrador Retriever returning from an invigorating game of you throw the ball in the water and I’ll go get it.’ The only other person we saw on this long stretch of beach was a deeply tanned man with long blond hair walking near the water towards the same rock edifice. As we got closer to him, I thought, “hmm, his bathing suit must be skin toned… wait a minute… he is not wearing a bathing suit.”
“Hey Paul,” Julia said abruptly, “that guy’s not wearing a bathing suit. He looks like Fabio.”
That he did: Fabio in his birthday suit.
Fabio lay down on the flat rocks at the edge of the outcrop and a metre from where the waves spayed up onto the shore. Thank goodness there were no flagpoles in sight. We kept our distance, choosing to hug the near side of the cliff where the sand was cooler, and where cold water seeped from a rock overhang and dripped lightly onto the sand. A small green plant displaying a large red flower sat precariously on one of the tiny rock ledges within the seepage. We had our picture taken by a passing park warden who warned us not to drink the seemingly innocuous spring water, then proceeded to fill a jar of his own.
“The water’s not good for you, but I have developed a tolerance,” he said, sauntering away.
As we passed the corner of the outcrop, the rest of Secret Beach emerged into view. It stretched for several more kilometres and was surrounded by steep cliffs and lush vegetation. At the far end, the cliff continued out to sea where, at its furthest point, stood Kilauea lighthouse which we had seen on our first day. The beach was two hundred metres wide of soft taupe sand with tiny, brightly coloured seashells rolled into shallow dunes. The coiling waves dispensed a faint haze that softened the harsh, angular shapes of the rocks. At the far end, like colourful specks against the broad canvass of sand, were three other people. Had we found paradise?
“Let’s go find a spot a lie down,” Julia said. “Somewhere near the cliff and out of the breeze.”
I agreed and we continued around the outcrop to a spot about one tenth the length of the beach. I dug Julia a sand chair, but opted to seek refuge under some overhanging trees. I found the remnants of a shattered boogie board and propped myself against some driftwood to read and admire the scenery.
“What if I were to take off my top?” Julia asked rhetorically.
“Ahhh-haa, yeah, sure whatever you want. Is there anybody around?”
“What does it matter? Fabio doesn’t care.”
In a rare and sudden fit of bravery, Julia insisted on tanning topless. In a sudden fit of moral conservatism, I squirmed, but who was I to argue, she went topless and I realized then the power of Secret Beach.
It was not easy reading because my eyes were drawn up every few minutes towards the splendour before me. Frustrated with starring blankly at pages, I got up and walked around, relishing the thunder of waves and crackle of leaves in the wind. The beach sparkled in the sunshine and I felt as though I was walking upon a sea of diamonds. I noticed a small stream cut into the sand from where spring water trickled from the rocks. The stream struggled in vain to reach the ocean, falling victim to absorption and evaporation after a mere 5 metres. I decided to help it along by altering the stream’s path, then realized that I was viewing soil erosion on a riverbank occur in a matter of moments, rather than the usual thousands of years. It was totally engrossing, I was…
“Paul, are you playing in the sand again?” called Julia.
“No dear, I… ah… am just looking at something.”
We stayed at Secret Beach for several hours, but had tickets to a luau and wanted to be there early to guarantee ourselves a good seat. We walked slowly back to the path but first hunted for seashells near the waterline. At the trailhead we turned and admired Secret Beach one more time. It is so hard to rate the beaches on Kauai because each is unique and intrinsically beautiful; Secret Beach, though, had both scenery and seclusion, which, for us, made it almost a “perfect” beach. The only downfall was that due to rip currents, swimming was strongly discouraged.
We arrived back at the hotel, showered and changed for the Coconut Plantation luau. The luau was the most expensive thing we had done the whole trip, but an all you can eat buffet and all you can drink bar spurred me to consume my money’s worth. We arrived at the luau and stood in line then were told that each person had to register, so Julia left and joined another line. My line moved past some young girls selling beautiful natural flowered leis. I read the sign:
FIVE DOLLARS FOR FRESH LEIS TO SUPPORT OUR LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL
“Ah shucks,” I said, “I’ll support the local high school.”
Julia returned and I presented her with the effervescent lei.
“Here Julia, I bought this for you. It’s for a good cause; it’s going to support the local high school.”
Julia glanced towards the stand, then looked at me:
“You dummy, it’s not going to the local High School, it’s going to support the local ‘Hula School’.”
Several people in line chuckled out loud, but it was a nice lei and the Hula School still seemed like a good cause.
We were finally ushered in and sat at the end of a long table with a bunch of American tourists from various mainland States. Unlike other Americans we had met on Kauai, these were hardcore tourists, some coming to Kauai for the sole purpose of experiencing this luau before returning to their safe confines in Oahu. They talked business and other vacation spots, so I told one couple that I would never go back to Cancun after being to Hawaii. Moments later, the couple beside them said they owned a time share in Cancun. They all seemed to agree that Kauai was just too dull.
Me and my big mouth, but I would need a big mouth after witnessing the unearthing of the pig. It was huge, golden brown with glistening skin, carried from its earthen oven by two large Hawaiian men. I made sure not to blurt out any ‘pig’ comments. “Look at that fat pig!” would have been totally inappropriate, but the temptation was strong. We went back to the table and awaited the feast. I consumed numerous Mai Tais and, by the time the meal was prepared, had quite a glow. Given our proximity to the rear, we were one of the first tables chosen then filled our plates with fresh salads, fruits and tender, smokey pork. With my plate a veritable Mt. Waileale of food, I came to the bowls of purple paste at the end of the table.
“This must be poi,” I said as I scooped a dollop onto my plate.
Jason had told us that poi was made from boiling and mashing taro root and that while it used to be a mainstay of the Hawaiian diet, it was now often used as a condiment, like ketchup.
I got back to the table and flashed everyone my poi.
Nobody else had taken any.
“C’mon people,” I pleaded, “You’re in Hawaii, you gotta’ try poi. Look, I’m taking a big scoop of it, putting it in my mouth and… bleh, eeyiw that’s disgusting. How can anybody eat that?”
That is the only thing that describes both the taste and texture of poi, and after my display, everyone at the table was glad they passed on the ominous purple goo. Check that off the non-bucket list.
Following the meal, the hula show told the history of Hawaiian people on the island. Every hula motion denotes some form of activity in daily life, such as fishing, hunting, carrying a baby, you name it, and it was all entertaining until the ‘Elvis in Blue Hawaii’ bit. It seemed out of place and tacky, but of course all the tourists just loved it.
With the hula show over, we returned to the hotel and promptly ventured back to the hot tub for our final night. Within moments of our entering the water, Jason appeared, weary from another 14 hour day on the movie set. We told him of our excursion to Secret Beach and Julia’s topless tanning adventure.
“I’m all for that,” Jason said, “I can assure you I will not be offended if you decide to go topless here.”
It was a good effort, but unsuccessful. Jason did have another naked story worth repeating:
“There was this one time I was surfing off a nudist beach and I saw this guy jogging along the beach wearing nothing but white sneakers and a white cap. If that didn’t look stupid enough, he jogged right up to this lady sitting on the beach and as they chatted he continued jogging on the spot. There he was, bouncing up and down, right in front of her face.”
We discussed Canadianisms and Americanisms and he definitely knew of our Canadian penchant for saying “eh.” We talked about pronunciations for words such as “about” but what really caught him by surprise was our use of ZED.
“What? You say ZED instead of ZEE,” he asked quizzically. “ZED, as in X, Y… ZED. That sounds ridiculous!”
We sat and talked until after midnight then bid him farewell and gave him our e-mail address.
“I will write when I get back to Oahu and let you know how the shooting went, I promise.”
We didn’t know if we would ever hear from him again, but we enjoyed his company and our daily “debriefs” in the tub. (Actual briefs stayed on). We returned to the room and lay in bed; thoughts of Kauai flooded our minds, but we were melancholy about leaving.