Tunnels Beach, from Helicopter
One of the things I was most looking forward to was taking a helicopter tour of the island. I had heard amazing things about this and we spent a while trying to figure out the best company to go with. In the end we went with Jack Harter Helicopters (the guys that started it on Kauai) and we had a fabulous experience. When I got off the 'copter someone mentioned "that is the biggest smile I've ever seen" when they looked at me!
Below is the Tunnels Beach area. You can see the outer reef, in the area where the awes are crashing in the bottom center. Tunnels Beach is directly above the "w" shape of the coral reef. Off to the right of Tunnels Beach is the Ha'ena Beach Park. To the left of Tunnels is Kepuhi Beach, and further left, in the very corner, is Wainiha Beach Park (looks like a small bay).
Above the beaches you may see a couple homes, some of which are built on stilts due to the fact that hurricanes can cause the water level to rise quite considerably!
Even further above you'll notice the Kauai mountains, most specifically Mt. Wai'ale'ale, which is shrouded in clouds. This is the wettest spot on earth! The summit averages more than 426 inches of rain per year (in 1982 it got a record 683 inches of rain!). Due to the geography of the island, the steep cliffs cause the moisture-laden air to rise rapidly (3,000+ ft in less than ½ a mile) which causes the clouds to drop a large portion of its rain in one spot.
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