Fortunately for us, the monastery isn’t easy to find and only open to visitors from 9 to noon every day. That cuts down almost entirely on the tourist flow. You’ve got to really be determined to find this spot. So we had it nearly all to ourselves, if you don’t count the three thousand mosquitoes. Remember to bring bug repellant to the monastery. Slapping the back of your own neck every five seconds will not help you achieve inner tranquility.
The monastery was founded in 1970 and lives at the foot of an ancient volcano. Every structure on the 376 acres is built entirely out of hand-carved stones from India. Just outside the temple itself sits a 16 ton Black granite Nandi Bull who worships the Hindu deity, Shiva. Morning prayers are in the temple from 9am to 10:30. No pictures in the temple allowed.
Visitors are welcome to enter the temple and join the morning communal worship (don’t be deterred by the sign at the gate), or wander about until 10:30 at which point it’s open to anyone who wants to spend time in there so that later their significant other can say, “I never thought the day would come I’d see you meditating in a Hawaiian Hindu temple!”
If you’re hovering around the age of forty and you’re looking at Wailua Falls, you’ll probably start humming the theme from Fantasy Island and hearing a little French man screaming “Da plane!” inside your head. These are indeed the falls used in the opening sequence of the show, and if you didn’t know it before you got here, don’t worry. Everyone mentions it.
The steep, sticky, overgrown trails that lead adventure-seekers down to the pool below the falls have been bound up in so much fencing and “Danger of Death” warnings (with that poor little stick guy losing his footing), that the thought of making our way to it quickly lost its thrill. Hawaiians may be laid-back, but it turns out they’re just as afraid of the word “liability” as we are back on the mainland.
HOW TO GET TO THE HO’OPI’I FALLS:
This is important, because if you come to Kauai you’ll want to make time for this adventure.
In Kapa’a, south of Anahola, head east on Kawaihau Road and then turn right on Kapahi Road. You’ll be in the middle of a small residential area. Keep a sharp lookout on your left for a nearly invisible guard rail between houses blocking off a gravel path. Park your car and start down that path. Let Michael stay ten feet ahead of you to make sure there are no patches of slippery mud, exposed tree roots, spiders, wild boars or giant killer clowns ahead.
Here are Falls #1. We decided not to frame in the thirteen dudes sitting on the rocks and smoking pot behind me. They wouldn’t share, so screw ’em. If I lived near Ho’opi’i Falls I might be inclined to get buzzed up and hang out here every day too. Peaceful, lush, enough space in the trees above for the sun to supply warmth, and the only sound you hear is the rushing water. Truly hypnotic. The drop to the pool was about thirteen feet, but we didn’t feel the need because we knew the “Money Falls” were still ahead of us.
Here’s where the fun really starts. Ho’opi’i Falls #2. There’s no easy way down to the pool, but there are plenty of sturdy tree branches to keep you upright, and lots of wet hikers on their way back to civilization who’ll show you the easiest way. Once you’ve snagged your spot on the rocks, time to dive in! Needless to say, it’s wet and slippery, so move with caution.
Swim across the pool to the rope swing awaiting you on the other side, and forget everything the nuns told you in school about fools rushing in. The water is about seven feet deep, so diving probably isn’t your best bet. But there were some young locals performing aerial moves worthy of Louganis. I wasn’t quite in their league. I’d place myself about a step above Goofy and a step below former U.S. President Gerald Ford. Here it is again, in case you missed it up top.