Mai ka’i Kauai hemolele i ka malie : So beautiful is Kauai, so perfect in the calm.
I repeated the Hawaiian phrase to myself as we drove away from Lihue airport. The paved road turned into red dirt and jagged green mountains sliced across the horizon in front of us but all I could see were the foreign words at the bottom of the black-and-white photo of Polynesian men dancing in front of a lush landscape of cascading waterfalls joining the mountains to the sea.
So beautiful is Kauai, so perfect in the calm.
Moments later, words still echoing in my mind, I found myself standing at the top of a waterfall in an empty parking lot. On one side, my traveling companion, James, and my other side, our industrious little rental car, already dusted with the rust-red dirt covering Kauai’s garden island floor. The crashing cascade captured my attention and I ran to get a closer look.
“It’s beautiful,” I gasped as I leaned over the outlook railing, trying to take in the entirety of Wailua Falls’ powerful 113-foot drop over the canyon and into the large pool below. “It’s too bad there isn’t a way dow–”
But James was two steps ahead of me, already making his way toward a low break in the fence on the far right end of the lot.
I chased after him as he clamored over the rail–I hesitated a brief moment, and followed suit. My feet landed on the damp dirt, the canyon’s edge a few feet away. I looked back–the early morning sun was beginning to stretch its rays toward Earth and cars began to file into the small enclosure of asphalt, crowds collecting at the rail. I ducked into the trees, unnoticed, and continued on.
My bare feet slid on the dead leaves and mossy rocks, catching on twisting tree roots that found their way out of the damp dirt and onto the small footpath worn down by what I assumed was years of adventurers with the same idea in mind: find a way to the bottom of the waterfall.
The descent was short, steep and breathtaking. I was wandering into a painting, a scene out of a film, vibrant Earthy colors, nature so pure. Our car and a growing group of tourists were just above us, but the noise of society muted against the louder-growing roar of the falls guiding and beckoning us farther down the canyon. We scrambled over the last few fallen logs to the bottom of the canyon and I leaned on a mossy boulder, mesmerized by the sight in front of me.
The pool was chilly and refreshing against the humid Kauai air and I carefully waded away from the boulder and closer to the falls. The mist of the powerful tumbling spray of water cooled my sticky-hot skin. Beautiful white birds with long tails soared around us, singing melodies against the falls’ roar and gliding effortlessly behind the waterfall in such a display that made me wonder if I might’ve climbed down the canyon and into a fairy tale.
The world felt still, and the bustling life above the canyon dissipated from existence in this secret, sacred sanctuary we found at the foot of Wailua Falls.
James stretched out in the icy water and gazed up at the sky.
“It really is beautiful, isn’t it?”
So perfect in the calm.