The Other North Shore

The benefit of driving around Kaua’i is being able to look outside your window and see thriving vegetation everywhere. Then, there are the mountains blanketed in even more greenery. On O’ahu, it’s easy to get distracted by the developed cities and high-rise buildings. But, on the GARDEN island, there are trees, vines, and flowers no matter where you look. Kaua’i has a lot of small towns with wooden houses painted in marine blues, teal greens, and earthy reds. White window panes and white porch banisters only add to the charm. (Unfortunately, some of my iPhone-quality photos really don’t do Kaua’i justice.) On the North Shore of Kaua’i, we stopped at another fruit stand, shopped in peaceful Hanalei, and watched a misty sunset from the taro fields.

Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand is right off Kuhio Highway in Kilauea and owned by farmers Joe and Cynthia Halasey. The banana-yellow shop sells only Hawaiian products, from fruits and vegetables, to honey and bread, and has been in business since 1986. I saw a couple of people walk out with pineapple "frosties" and chocolate-dipped bananas, and they both looked yum-my. My mom and Uncle Alex, though, were more interested in the surrounding banana trees and jack fruit trees. If only they could have, they would’ve hopped the fence and picked the fruits themselves…

After Kilauea, we passed Princeville and went straight to Hanalei. There are plenty of shops and restaurants here, but it manages to maintain a rural-community feel. A one-lane bridge that was built in 1912 must be crossed just to reach Hanalei! (100 years old!) There's also an old school house that was converted into boutiques, and the Java Kai coffee shop even used to be a taro farmer's building. In addition to all of that, there's the Ching Young Village Shopping Center, whose namesake emigrated from China and settled in Hanalei in the early 1900's. There was a particular store with a bunch of beach-oriented signs and trinkets. I definitely had one of those I-want-to-buy-everything-I-see moments!

Shave Ice Paradise is next to Bubba’s Burgers and Java Kai. I will start off by saying that, while I’m not terribly picky about my shave ice, I still think there are better places on the island. Jo Jo’s in Waimea and Ono Ono in Kapa’a are two that never disappoint. They both serve the Filipino classic Halo-Halo, and Ono Ono even has Li Hing Mui shakers for you to sprinkle the salty plum powder onto your shave ice. Shave Ice Paradise has neither of these, and in fact, only does snow-caps (a drizzling of sweetened condensed milk) as an extra topping. But, there are times that, when it's close to the end of the day and your legs are getting tired, any cool refreshment is a good refreshment.

My mom ordered their coconut-pineapple ice cream, my dad & I each had their macadamia nut milkshake, and my Uncle Alex & Auntie Jocelyn shared a "Bali Hai Sunset" (mango, passion fruit, and li hing mui with a snow cap and macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom). Their macadamia nut milkshake is made with four scoops of ice cream, and it was very rich with that signature, buttery macadamia nut flavor. Although, those four scoops of ice cream were pretty pricey. $7.50 for a milkshake that's not even very big...questionable.

Before heading back to Koloa, we stopped to look at the taro fields. We were able to watch the sun retreat behind the mountains as a misty glow overtook Hanalei Valley. At the heart of this dramatic vista is W.T. Haraguchi Farm, a 6th-generation family farm. In ancient times, the wetland (or "lo'i") was planted with taro. Later, the main crop was rice, and it was still rice when the Haraguchi family bought the farm in 1924. Competition from California's rice industry, however, caused yet another switch and everything came full circle...taro once again filled the valley floor.

The Haraguchi farm is the largest taro farm in the state of Hawai'i. 80% of Hawai'i taro is grown on the island of Kaua'i, and more than half of that comes from Hanalei. Shoots are submerged and planted in banked, flooded plots, tended by hand, and harvested by hand...all while farmers are standing in the water and mud. It's an ancient practice that Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama and her family proudly conserve and teach others about. In 1984, Lyndsey's mother began offering tours for schools. Lyndsey herself, by arrangement only, started guiding tours for adults in 2005. The family also owns solar-powered lunch wagons, Hanalei Taro & Juice Co., that serve "authentic Hawaiian food and unique taro products".

Standing on a small dirt road, looking out at the lo'i as the sun set, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the land, but I also made sure to remember its amazing history. Yes, luxurious resorts and multicolored cocktails can easily sweep a visitor off of his or her feet, but sometimes, the simple and natural things are the best part.