We made a reservation for Sunday at Kalalau and asked about rescheduling. If the water is too rough to go there Sunday, can we re- schedule for the next available slot on the following Thursday? Yes, but we have to bring the unused permit at least one day before it is valid to trade it in on a later date. (You are not allowed to camp twice in the Na Pali coast in a single month. Unless the days are consecutive... more Byzantine regulations). It was days later when we realized the "day before" meant Friday, since the office would be closed for the weekend. So we had to be able to predict the waves two or three days in advance in order to reschedule our trip. A feat of meteorology that even the NOAA ocean weather experts will not try to do.
When I talked to my local informant Mike Malone on Wednesday morning, he told me that the reason the Milolii Beach campground was closed was because the entire Na Pali Coast was closed to boat landings of any kind. The bureaucrat at the State office should never have issued us a permit at all! We figured on playing innocent if a ranger challenged us on this. We told the woman at the office we were going by kayak and neither her nor the permit nor any other document mentioned that we could not do this. The reason the coast is closed is because the normal spring weather patterns make landings dangerous. Of course this week the weather was unusually calm and landing anywhere was perfectly safe. But regulations are regulations and you can't apply common sense to them. Milolii Beach was actually the safest place to land because it was not a dumping beach like Kalalau, had a protective reef, and channel markers to help you find the safe channel through the reef. So the bureaucratic rules designed "for the public safety" were forcing us to land on a more dangerous beach and take our chances on more dangerous weather rising up before we were even allowed to land.
Mike Malone told me to call him the morning before we launched and he would apply his local weather sense to a prediction. When I called him Sunday morning, he missed the marine weather report and had to wing it. "If the swells at buoy number one  have not risen by a few feet, you are probably OK". When I got out of the house and found a place to listen, the combined seas and swells were seven feet, two feet higher than the previous five days. Not OK. The marine forecast was predicting that the swell component of the waves was going to rise from two feet to six feet, suggesting combined swells as high as eight feet. Both Jamie and I have both been out in fourteen foot swells, so we decide to go for it anyway.
We had to stop at the Hanelai Bay office of Kayak Kauai to swap our leaky kayaks for better ones. When we got there, we found a message from Mike Malone. He had finally heard the weather report and was a little concerned about us. He recommended that we NOT land at Kalalau because we would not be able to launch in the morning. He recommended going to Milolii Beach and camping there. He recommended paddling back north to Kee Beach the next morning instead of continuing on to Polihale Beach. Polihale is reputed to have murderous surf this time of year, even on a mild day. These recommendations were the safe thing to do, the prudent thing to do, the conservative thing to do. They also violated the regulations and our permit.
We launched from Kee Beach and had no problems getting through the surf and heading south. The waves did not look any higher than the other day when I was here by myself. Jamie said that the waves were just high enough to make the caves interesting but not too dangerous. He skipped most of the same caves that I skipped on my trip. We both went into the cave in the west end of the big dent. We both went into the "Worlds Second Largest Sea Cave" together but saw no tour boats in there this day. Jamie went in the Front Door of the Double Door Cave and continued down the long tunnel towards the back. I followed him so this time I ended up going front to back instead of the other way around as when I went through here twice by myself.
When we got to the double point with the two caves and the rock jumble between them, the water was a lot rougher here than my trip. Jamie passed both caves by without backing into them. I sat there for a while and tried to find a window in the waves to make a seal landing by the creek. I failed to see any possibilities so we continued on. By now it was lunch time and we had the leftovers from a wonderful fish and rice dish that Jamie had cooked for dinner the night before. It was stored in a zip lock bag next to a frozen bottle of water to keep it fresh for lunch. It was a wonderful treat to eat while traveling on the open sea. We paddled out about a kilometer from shore to make sure we would not be interrupted by any rouge waves while we passed the food back and forth. While we ate we drifted a little bit farther south.
I described to Jamie the triangle of exposed dike that I had avoided going behind, and we paddled back close to shore to look at it. Jamie sat in the rough water just south of this and decided that timing it correctly was the only way to get through. He waited for a calm set of waves and paddled in. I looked out to sea and figured he was correct and that the waves would stay reasonable for a bit longer. I headed in. A few medium sized waves came in after I was half way through, but they were easy to climb over.
From this point on, we were traveling territory that I had not seen yet. We soon got to Kalalau Beach and looked it over from the water. The waves were rough and we figured that we could land here but might get dumped in the process. We had a few choices here: 1) We could land and explore the nearby trails until dusk then camp legally using our permit. The next morning we could paddle southwest and look into the rest of the caves on our way to visit Milolii. 2) We could paddle down the coast now and explore the caves, paddle back to Kalalau to legally camp for the evening. 3) Or, we could paddle down the coast exploring the caves and camp at Milolii like my local informant recommended. Jamie's argument was that we should go look for more caves while the weather was still good for it, so we headed south. This turned out to be a great suggestion, since we ended up going through five more caves and had a great time. The weather the next day would have prevented us from doing this.
One cave had a long jagged sloped roof that started high on the right side but continued on under water on the left.. On the high side it looked like you could paddle way back to an almost calm rocky beach with the cave turning and continuing to the right. Neither of us was comfortable enough in there to try this out. While I was sitting in there a large wave came in. It surfed me deeper into the cave but let go of me and let me turn towards the opening. Then the wave reflected 90 degrees off the steep wall on the high side and threatened to surf me directly under the sloping roof . I was broadside to this wave but managed to slip over the top of the breaking water by rocking the edge of the kayak up over the wave and back down on the far side. Then I paddled out to safety.
I had heard that Kauai had outlawed all Jet Skis and similar craft, and only the rangers or lifeguards had them. So when we saw a jet ski go by I figured that this was how the rangers enforced the no landing regulations. But the guy in the jet ski ignored us. Then another jet ski came by with two people on it and a third person water skiing behind it. When we landed the next day we found a jet ski on a trailer parked sideways, blocking access to six parking spaces on a popular beach with inadequate parking. These jet ski owners seem to always be annoying, on the water or off! I hope that the rumor I heard about jet skis being outlawed turns out to be correct.
About the time we saw the jet skis, we came to a place where the chart showed a knob of rock sticking out between two points, called Honopu Valley. What the chart failed to mention was that there was a beautiful sandy beach on both sides of the knob, with an arch in the knob that looked like it created a walking trail between the beaches. Each beach had a large sand dune in the back covered with greenery and even trees making me think these beaches had been here for a while. To our surprise, there were three people surfing off of one of these beaches. We wondered if they paddled their surf boards all the way down here until we saw a zodiac anchored off the southern point. Apparently some surfers will go to great lengths to find a good place to surf when the swells at sea are mild like they had been for the last week.
Just past this Jamie turned into a little cave ahead of me. He went farther and farther out of view and then disappeared entirely. When I came around to see into the cave, I saw light coming back out and still did not see Jamie. It turns out this cave leads to a HUGE sinkhole and is called the "Open Ceiling Cave" by my local informant who did mention this place to me but warned that it might be too rough to paddle through. It was very mild for us. The bottom of the sinkhole was full of deep water but for one rock near the north wall. We paddled completely around the sinkhole, behind this rock, and back out again.
After a few more caves we paddled past a very short valley that I heard contained some ancient Hawaiian ruins. Camping is not allowed here, but there were channel markers to guide you through the coral reef. The very next beach is Milolii. Before landing we paddled past this beach and then a kilometer or so out to sea to get a view of the rest of the west shore. After another six kilometers the cliffs ended and the rest of the western (and southern) shore of the island was a flat lowland. My local informant had not called out any good caves on the next six kilometers so we concluded that we had seen the best of the Na Pali coast already. We turned back to Milolii Beach.
Jamie wanted to go back and land at Kalalau where our permit was valid, but I was getting concerned about the weather for the launch the next morning. I stopped and listened to the buoy report which was now reporting 11 foot swells at buoy number one, 193 miles north northwest of us. I figured we might need a calm protected channel to launch from in the morning. Our local informant had recommended Milolii Beach, so we landed here and camped illegally. We hid the kayaks behind a wind screen and didn't put up the tent until after sunset.