My precautions were probably unnecessary because changes have occurred in this state park over the past year. Neat boulders line the parking lot and beginning of the trail, prominent signs forbid littering and motor vehicle riding, and the area looked cleaner than I had seen it.
Most important, the new Kaena Point ambassador, Reuben Mateo, was an obvious presence. When I met him, he was sitting near the entrance of the park greeting visitors in his state pickup.
I complimented him on the improvements. "I haven't done much," he said. "I've only been here two months."
Still, the attendance of this friendly man with the big smile made all the difference. The message is that this jewel of a park is worth spending some money and effort to protect.
Mateo agreed that the number of vehicles in the park is still a problem. A future permit system may fix that.
But my family and I didn't dwell on the noise and dust of the trucks and vans. We hiked past them in a brisk two-mile walk, then entered the nature park. There we enjoyed one of the best whale shows I've ever seen from shore.
Several groups of humpback whales were as active as they get. Two whales held their pectoral fins high out of the water as if "sailing" in the strong winds. Several others began tail-slapping. Others occasionally leaped from the water in spectacular breaches.
What a show it was, made even better by our having viewed the new IMAX film "Whales" the night before in Waikiki. "I'm so glad we saw that movie," my sister said as we watched one whale slap its tail on the surface over and over. "Now I know what's going on under the water too."
The film, produced and partly written by former Waikiki Aquarium director Leighton Taylor, is well worth seeing. The footage of Hawaii's humpbacks, both here and in their summer Alaska feeding grounds, is superb. The exciting coverage of right whales reminded me that there are other whales in the world to visit. Argentina's Peninsula Valdez is now on my list of must-see places.
Kaena Point is a must-see place too, and not only for humpbacks. When we could finally tear our eyes from the sea, we discovered that other marine animals were practically sitting at our feet.
A group of Laysan albatrosses stood on a hill singing and dancing up a storm. We lowered our voices and kept our distance so as not to disturb them. Then along came a family with a big dog on the loose. We cringed, hoping it would not find and kill the albatross sitting on an egg near the path.
Such deaths will continue until people stop bringing unleashed dogs into the park.
I wished there was some way to shoo the courting albatrosses to the other side of the island. There, off Sea Life Park, private and public agencies have set up a little seabird paradise at Kaohikaipu Island.
On our way home, goat-like braying echoed from the cliffs above. These are the unusual calls of white-tailed tropic birds nesting on the mountainside. Despite years of looking, I have never seen one of these seabirds here.
This day was different. When I looked up, I spotted one of these lovely white birds flying toward the ocean.
"Now I understand why you like to hike so much," my sister said when we returned to my untouched car. "With places like this around, walking is really fun."
Walking to Kaena Point is fun. And with increased protection, it's getting better all the time.