By Virginia Beck
Ah, winters on Kaua‘i are spectacular. The dawn-lit mountains are draped in misty cloud leis, drenching the uplands, and resting quietly in the valleys and green pasturelands. Sunrise brings the vision of the island of O‘ahu, silhouetted against the sun and amber and gold radiance.
The seasonal changes on our remote island are distinct but subtle. Visitors are thrilled to escape deep snow, bitter cold blizzards and icy roads. They laugh at us, such babies, whimpering about the cold, and wearing Hawaiian “boots;” thick, fuzzy socks with our rubber slippers and sandals.
We moan about the cold fronts and north winds, while tourists chuckle to see us clutching sweaters, fleece and hoodies. For us, it is cold. The mid-to-low 50s feels cold when you live in a single-wall house with no insulation, and we have windows that keep out rain, but do nothing to block the winds. Our houses have many windows, acres of glass that don’t keep heat inside, until long after the sun gets up. We get dramatic and pathetic at 54, texting each other pictures of the thermometer.
The early months of the year bring different weather patterns to the island. If you travel to work early, you will see landscapes straight from oriental watercolors. Misty damp clouds cling to the earth dropping closer in the chill nights. Low-hanging valleys hold these cloud quilts longer than the hills exposed to winds and sunlight.
The shadowed valleys take longer to receive the warming sun, but eventually the mist will rise and evaporate on the breezes, or higher warmer air.
Our seasons are marked by oceanic changes, powerful storm-driven surf that rages 10 or 20 feet to crash against the shoreline on the Westside and the North Shore. Those beaches that in summer are a sweet retreat and a blissful place to swim, now entertain waves and currents that pound them. Waves 20-to-30-feet high crashing against the cliffs are not uncommon. Fun to watch from designated safe places. However, don’t go out on the rocks where a rogue wave can snatch you away.
Treacherous currents, sudden undertows, and shifting sand banks rampaging over the reefs can change a vacation in Paradise into a death trap.
Locals know their beaches and the oceans temperament better than any website or Facebook page. If they aren’t in the water — don’t go. Especially, pay attention to and honor the red flag warnings on our many beaches, and listen to lifeguards.
But here is another winter gift, because the North and South Shore ocean conditions trade places with the turn of the season. The South Shore beaches are often perfect and safe when the North and West shores are dangerous. Protected from the north surge, places like Kalapaki and Po‘ipu can be wonderfully sunny and perfect for a taste of our mighty ocean, without risking yourself or a loved one.
The other winter treasure is the expanding populations of whales that come to have their babies in our warm waters. They cruise the coast along with pods of dolphins and large green turtles offshore. Sometimes you can even spot them from the beaches in Kealia or Po‘ipu.
Better views can be had from one of the many boat tour companies that offer whale-watching adventures. Their day tours are safe. Some offer snorkeling or other charter fishing adventures.
Spinner dolphins play around the island. While frequent on the South and West shores, they are also abundant in the bay around Kilauea Lighthouse and bird sanctuary. This is a must-see adventure, especially for kids. You may see pods of dolphins hunting schools of fish herded toward them by scout dolphins.
And if you should get a cloudy day, do not despair. Visit our many museums around the island, as well as art galleries, craft stores, brewpubs, farmers markets, agricultural tours and our incredible National Tropical Botanical Garden. You can never see it all. It takes a lifetime, and I’m still trying.
Aloha, and really enjoy our winter treats, and stay out of the water if you have any doubts. Be safe.
- Virginia Beck, NP and Certified Trager® Practitioner, offers Wellness Consultation, Trager Psychophysical Integration and teaches Malama Birth Training classes. She can be reached at 635-5618.