Nearly five years since my last trip home, June brought me back to Kaua’i for the anticipated (or dreaded for some…most?) high school reunion. My friends and I took our short visit to return to some of our favorite spots. Here, the first in a three-part series on my Garden Island’s must dos.

Wide open spaces at Polihale beach, Kauai.

Wide open spaces at Polihale beach, Kauai.

Polihale, West side

Polihale feels like you’re at the edge of nature. Facing North, the sand runs from the ridgeline of the Na Pali Coast and stretches for several miles. The open ocean reaches out in every direction, the waves washing up to shore a welcome soundtrack to while away the afternoon. Sunset is particularly popular with the locals, but even with the surge of people at this time the vibe remains mellow with plenty of space for everyone.

Visitors to the secluded beach are for those willing to rumble through an extended stretch of unpaved road, through the old sugar cane fields and a long patch of sand (don’t get stuck!) before opening up into the “parking” area. The bumpy anticipation is part of the experience and well worth the trek.

Back in June, I remember the brief exchange while paying for our brews at Living Foods in the Kuku’iula Shopping Center in Po’ipu before we headed West from the South side. The cashier glanced at our six-packs, bag of ice, and, noticing our swimwear peeking out from our casual dress made an accurate guess.

“Headed to Polihale?” she asked.

“You nailed it.” said Paris, a good friend whom was also in town for our reunion.

We all shared a quick laugh before we stepped out to chase the sunset, provisions in hand.

Lychee keep the day sweet.

Lychee keep the day sweet.

Editor’s note: The best part about returning to this slice of serenity over the last ten years is that the beach remains unchanged. No having to fork over cash to enjoy a public space, no fighting for a coveted parking spot, no feeling of subdued defeat as you set up shop just inches from other beach-going patrons.