Friday, July 29, 2011

Baby Beach in Poipu is a great beach for the little ones

Baby Beach is a small, secluded and generally protected beach that is great for families traveling with infants and toddlers. The water is fairly shallow and usually calm due to the rocks that naturally absorb the energy from the breaking surf just outside on the reef. There are also opportunities for snorkeling and on a low tide, there are a number of curious creatures to entertain the little ones.

There are no facilities here, so make sure to bring your own lunch and pack your trash. Several private homes and vacation rentals front the beach, so please be courteous and stay off their lawns. The beauty of this beach is that it is usually less crowded than nearby Poipu and the calm waters are perfect for babies, thus the name Baby Beach. A single beach heliotrope tree can provide shade if you are lucky enough to claim that spot.

The water always seems to be crystal clear here. In fact, you may be able to see a number of different species of fish just standing on the beach. The water is kind of rocky, so tobbies or reef walkers are recommended not just for comfort, but also to aid in viewing the tide pool creatures. For example, you may be able to find sea cucumbers, sea hares, hermit crabs, spaghetti worms, collector urchins and cowries here, just to name a few.

Finding the beach is a little tricky. When you go through the round-a-bout in Poipu, choose the spoke heading towards Spouting Horn. Make your first left on Ho’ona Road. If you miss the turn, make your second left on Ho’ona Road; it is a short loop. To find the beach access, park near the rock wall on the makai side (ocean side) of the street and look for the stairs just east of the wall.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Travel Advisory: The new and not so improved Lydgate Ponds

The ponds at Lydgate Beach Park have been touted as the best and safest place for families with young children to snorkel on Kauai. Over time however, silt and sand have filled the once deep ponds and the rock wall fell into disrepair. Recently, the ponds were closed for dredging and improvements and the surrounding beaches were fortified with the sand that was removed from the ponds.

Over a month has passed since the ponds reopened, but neither the visibility nor the fish have returned. The engineers have stated that this is the normal course, but no one is certain when the turbid waters will clear. As a result, vacationers looking for family snorkeling should steer clear of Lydgate this summer and head to other spots like Poipu Beach, Salt Pond or Anini.

This does not mean that families should skip Lydgate all together. The playground is still one of the places for kids on the island and is near guaranteed to wear them out. Heavy rains this year have also brought an abundance of driftwood onto the nearby beaches. While this excess debris makes for unsafe swimming, it can also bring hours of family fun. Looking down the beach you will find countless creations constructed by visiting families.

Additionally, after years of anticipation, Lydgate should finally be open for camping before the end of summer. According to the County Director of Parks and Recreation, there will be a small fee, but it will provide another area for locals and visitors to camp on the East side of the Island. The new camping sites should also alleviate some of the difficulty in getting a camping permit during the busy season.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Kee Beach is no longer a secluded paradise

On a recent trip to Kee Beach, I was literally shocked to see the number of people visiting this area. I expect to see large numbers of visitors at Poipu Beach, Kalapaki or even Hanalei. At these locations there are resorts fronting the beach, large parking lots, beachside restaurants and shopping centers. But here, I was stunned by what I saw. I have had the good fortune in my life to get paid to survey the streams on the Na Pali Coast and have been here numerous times, but this time was truly different.

The parking situation actually brought my son to tears as we had to pass up the dry cave at Haena Beach Park because there was nowhere to park. At the end of the road, cars swarmed the area parking anywhere, even if they blocked someone in. I waited patiently in a lot down the road and was able to score a spot after about 15 minutes, but if I hadn’t put my foot down, another tourist would have taken it from me.

Arriving at the beach, I could see erosion had really taken its toll. A whole section of the beach was missing, which left a very interesting configuration of tree roots exposed. After driving so far and waiting for parking, I had to use the restroom and was intrigued by the constructed wetland that was in place to take care of the waste as I remember the bathrooms being closed some years back. However, when I went inside the bathroom, it was clear that something wasn’t working and ten pounds of toilet paper over flowed from the toilets. It was totally disgusting!

The reason I came to Kee, was that I was looking for a place to take my son snorkeling that would be somewhat protected. We have our regular spots, but Lydgate is having some water quality issues, and I thought that we would go on an adventure. An adventure it was. The snorkeling was poor to mediocre and the reef is definitely feeling the impact from the sheer number of people making physical contact with it. I am sure that all the chemical sunscreen isn’t helping either. Haena is still a beautiful place, not to be missed, but it just can’t handle the sheer number of visitors. Overall, I was disappointed with the trip.