A Travellerspoint blog

April 2011

Kauai, Paradise on Earth: Day 3

Cliff hiking, puka dogs, and a rooster stampede.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157626482751039/with/5668090410/

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With a little time left at the Hyatt, we decided to start the day with a BANG. We threw on our sneakers and headed to the Maha’ulepu Hertitage Trail, which carried us 4 miles (roundtrip) along ancient sand dunes that have been hardened and compacted into spectacular limestone ledges and cliffs that run beside the pounding ocean.

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The trail started at Shipwrecks Beach, right beside the Hyatt, so it seemed like the best time to do it. As we headed along the trail, every view seemed more spectacular than the last. The view was so huge, it was hard to take it in.

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A photo can never do it justice. You have to be there, standing at the cliff’s edge, feeling the wind whipping through your hair, feeling the salt spray on your cheeks, and hearing the waves crashing against the rocks below, only then can you fathom the enormity of it.

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The trail ends at a beautiful and secluded beach where we lay in the shade and listened to the crashing waves for a bit before heading back.

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It was time to say “good bye” the Hyatt, and while I would miss the decadent spa and the cool blue pools, I would not miss the $14 cocktails or the fact that no matter where I turned, there were people everywhere. This is why I don’t do resorts. The lack of seclusion is hard for me to take. However, for 2 days, it had been fantastic.

But I was ready to go!

We went a short distance down the road and stopped at Puka Dog in Poipu for lunch. Literally a hole in the wall inside a small shopping center, this hot dog counter had a perpetual line streaming in front of it, a testament to just how good a hot dog can be.

What’s a puka dog, you ask? First, “puka” means “hole” in Hawaiian. To make a puka dog, they bake a large fresh roll (about twice the size of an average hot dog bun) and poke a hole in it. They toast the inside of the bread and stuff in a giant, perfectly grilled polish sausage. They then squirt in any number of unique toppings that you request.

I had spicy jalepeno garlic lemon sauce, mango relish, and lilikoi mustard and a fresh lemonade, just like grandma used to make (the lemonade, not the lilikoi mustard...I'm not sure grandma knew what lilikoi was). Delish.

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Wanting to see the south side sights before heading north, we drove toward Spouting Horn where we were stopped in our tracks by the amazing smell of garlic wafting through the air. We slammed on the brakes, made what I am certain was a very sketchy and illegal u-turn and pulled in at the Savage Shrimp truck to sample a plate of garlic shrimp. Smelling amazing and wrapped in foil, we carried our prize to a picnic table at Spouting Horn and sat down to eat what may be the best shrimp I have ever had.

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Yes, the best shrimp I have ever had was on a paper plate purchased from the back of a truck on the side of the road.

They marinate the shrimp in olive oil, garlic, and spices for something like 24 hours and serve it with the peel on. We sat there peeling and licking our fingers as a few chickens wandered over by our table.

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“Don’t feed the chickens,” I said to Matt.

“Why not?” he asked. “Maybe if I give them some, they’ll stop touching my feet.”

“The sign says, DO NOT FEED THE CHICKENS.” I replied.

Rules. I am all about rules.

“It’s the rule” I said smartly as I licked a big drip of garlic flavored oil as it ran down my hand.

That’s when Matt ignored me and made another mistake. He threw a handful of rice away from the table.

Remember the spoon and the koi? Well, it was a lot like that, but with chickens.

Within SECONDS, what were 3 or 4 chickens became about 40 chickens. They came running out of the woods. They came running from the parking lot. They came running from the restrooms. Chickens everywhere. Cackling and running straight for us in a frenzy.

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There were wings flapping, feathers flying, roosters crowing, and hens pecking. It was like Black Friday at Wal-Mart as they climbed all over each other fighting for the rice. I felt like I was in the Old MacDonald version of a bad Alfred Hitchcock movie.

I was mortified.

Oh my goodness. We fed the chickens. The sign said don’t feed the chickens and we fed the chickens.

I just knew we were going to be the first people thrown out of Spouting Horn Beach Park as I waited for some park official to show up with handcuffs for my garlic-greasy hands.

Thankfully, no one showed up to chastise us and no chickens were hurt. When the food was gone, everyone returned to their normally scheduled business and I left the table quickly.

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We got our look at the giant blow hole that is Spouting Horn, perused the vendors that were lined up selling shell necklaces and sea glass earrings, and headed back down toward Hanapepe with Lappert’s on the brain.

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Lappert’s Ice Cream is some amazing Hawaiian goodness. With a cupful of Kauai Pie (kona coffee ice cream swirled with chocolate fudge, coconut flakes, macadamia nuts, and vanilla cake crunch) we stopped to check out the sights and made our way back north.

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Aloha bliss, indeed.

It was time for a pit stop at Salt Pond Beach Park where we licked dripping ice cream from our hands and watched the kids play in the waves.

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We stopped in old Koloa town on the way, browsing the cute shops and eyeballing the giant monkeypod tree before continuing north. We passed through the tree tunnel, drove through Lihue, Wailua, Kapaa, grabbed some groceries and found ourselves in Anahola in the late afternoon.

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We checked into Secret Cove Villa which absolutely WOWED us upon entry. It exceeded our every expectation, with sweeping views of the most beautiful beach from every room, gorgeous décor and amenities, wonderfully cool a/c, and a welcome basket of chilled champagne and goodies upon our arrival.

This would be our home base for the next week and we couldn’t have been happier.

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As the sun settled lower and lower in the sky and we snuggled deeper and deeper into the super cushy sofa of Secret Cove watching the waves crash below and sipping chilled champagne, we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.

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We threw our dinner plans out the window and made a snack tray of cheese toasts, salami, fruit, chips and hummus, and garlic mac nuts followed by Roselani coconut ice cream; popped in a dvd; and called it a day.

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Posted by vicki_h 08:37 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical hawaii kauai Comments (1)

Kauai, Paradise on Earth: Day 2

A day at the spaaaaaahhhhh.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157626482748323/

We woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5:45 a.m. This would be a trend that would continue EVERY SINGLE DAY of the trip. Why is it that waking up at 6:45 in the morning on a work day is agony, yet I wake up at 5:45, not a bit sleepy, during the one week that I can actually sleep late? I don’t get it.

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We had booked a couples retreat at the Hyatt’s Anara Spa for 9 a.m. so we hopped over to the Ilima Terrace for breakfast.

I hate resort restaurants.

I do.

I really do.

While fine restaurants like Tidepools have great food and something special to offer for the high price, the “standard” restaurants have average food and ridiculous prices. How ridiculous? $7 for a glass of orange juice, $5 for a cup of coffee, $19 for pancakes ridiculous. Matt went for the $28 buffet figuring by the time he got eggs and juice it was going to be that much anyway. I opted for a $9 yogurt, fruit and granola parfait. Sure, it was delivered with a view of the ocean and very friendly swan, but come on.

This was a reminder of why I don’t like resorts.

Reminding myself the room was FREE, we headed over to the spa for 4 hours of bliss. When I stepped into the tranquil oasis that is the Anara Spa, I forgot all about $14 bagels. It was heavenly.

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We were checked in and each taken to the male and female locker rooms where we were given a robe and slippers, a locker, and a tour of the wonderful facilities that included rock grotto showers with luxuriant coco mango products, hot tub, steam room sauna, cushy sitting areas, and refreshments like iced pineapple infused water and tropical tea. We were guided to the garden waiting room which was like an open air living room filled with comfy seats inside a lush tropical garden. As I arrived in the waiting room, I kicked off my slippers and curled up in a big, soft chair with a chilled glass of pineapple water. Just then, the rain began, strumming down all around me like music in this tropical jungle. It was peaceful.

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The rain stopped and we were taken back to a private grotto in the garden next to a little hale with seats where we left our robes and headed to an open rock shower and a tray of tropical salt scrubs and a bowl of Kauai mud. We were left alone to scrub, smear, and rub a dub in the mud to our hearts’ content. The scrub left my skin tingly and invigorated and the mud was luxuriant. Hard to imagine mud being luxuriant but it felt like soft whipped butter and left my skin smooth and silky. We showered off next to blooming ginger in the tropical garden, feeling like we were lost on some deserted island, and dressed in our robes just as the “chime” sounded, warning us that our host would soon return to take us to our orchid bubble bath.

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The bubble bath was divine. Also privately hidden in the garden, the tub was made to look like a natural lava pool and was filled with bubbles and orchids, surrounded by tropical plants and flowers. A tray sat nearby with coco mango bath salts and body wash. We soaked and relaxed until we heard the chime and had to drag our now lethargic bodies out of the warm water. We donned our robes and were escorted to a private open air garden hale where we would receive side-by-side massages. Just as our massages began, the rain began again. I can’t even describe what it was like being so relaxed, so pampered, and now getting a wonderful massage while listening to the rain patter on the roof as we sat in what felt like a tropical jungle.

Delightful.

After our massages, we had the choice of a pedicure or a facial. Knowing Matt wouldn’t be a big fan of either, I went for the pedicure. When that was over, we each returned to our locker area and spent a little time enjoying the steam room, sauna, and hot tub before grabbing a shower and heading out.

What a way to start a vacation. Wow.

Whales, first. Now this. I really didn’t know how 9 more days could top the first 12 hours.

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The rain had stopped and the sun was shining, so we headed over to The Dock for a quick lunch. A Panini that I had to fight a very pushy egret for and a Tai Chi (think of it as a killer mai tai….) later, we were ready to hit the pool for a while.

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While I don’t love resorts, I do love resort pools. I especially love adult only resort pools. The Hyatt has the most amazing pools I have seen. From the lagoon style saltwater pool complete with a sand beach and kayaks to the fresh water pools made to look like lava ponds with rocks and waterfalls, each pool is a work of art. We parked it at the adult pool, enjoying the silence and close proximity to the bar, and chilled for the rest of the day.

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It was a Friday night, and at the Grand Hyatt that means a torch lighting ceremony, so we headed down to the Seaview Terrace to see what it was all about. It was pretty remarkable. It began with a narrator and a chanter and lasted about 20 minutes as a hula dancer was escorted through the gardens by a conch shell blower and torch bearers, ending up on a platform overlooking the ocean as the sun began its slow descent.

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When it was over, we had time to kill so we drove to Hanapepe for the Friday Night Art Walk. Sure it had art, but I had heard there was a pie cart, and you know how I am about pie. Old downtown Hanapepe was lit up brightly, the galleries with their doors wide open, food vendors grilling up savory smelling food, and several musicians performing everything from ukulele music to something that sounded a whole lot like it was from TN complete with a guy playing a bass made out of a cardboard box. The Talk Story bookstore was lined with people out front listening to music and Westside Smitty played energetically across the street.

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I quickly found the Right Slice pie table and spent a good 15 minutes trying to decide between banana pie, coconut chocolate pie, and blueberry pina colada pie.

There is nothing wrong with eating dessert before dinner.

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For dinner, we headed over to Keoki’s Paradise. A favorite from our first visit to Kauai, this restaurant is like the Hawaii you see in the movies. Thatched roofs, tiki torches, and waterfalls surround you as you drink big, colorful umbrella drinks and eat great food like barbecue ribs or grilled fish. Sure, it’s hokey, but that’s why I love it. It’s a fun little place. Full of pie, I opted for a hui platter with Koloa pork ribs, beef satay and kalua pork spring rolls. Yum.

We turned in pretty early, which also became a theme. This might have had something to do with why we kept waking up just before 6 a.m., but when you spend the day in the sun, are so relaxed you forget what day of the week it is, and are full of good food and cocktails at the end of the day….you can’t help but go to bed by 9:30.

Zzzzzz…….

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Posted by vicki_h 08:05 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical hawaii kauai Comments (0)

Kauai, Paradise on Earth: Day 1

We have arrived.

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42427255@N00/sets/72157626607322990/

After a long 12 hours of flying, we finally saw the Garden Isle before us. There was Kauai, peeking out of the sea like a green goddess, a crown of fluffy white clouds upon her head. Although it was 8 p.m. to us, it was 2 p.m. Hawaii time, so we still had half a day before us.

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We breezed through the tiny airport and in no time had our rental car and were on our way. We made our way to the Grand Hyatt in Poipu on the sunny south side, appropriately “oooooing” and “aaaaahing” all the way. This was our second trip to Kauai, but it had been 5 ½ years and the beauty of it still took our breath away.

We are not typically resort people, but I had scored 2 free nights at the Grand Hyatt, so here we were. I will say that our arrival at the Hyatt was everything you expect your arrival in Hawaii to be. We pulled up to a staggeringly beautiful entry that soared several stories in height, yet was open to the sea and filled with tropical trees and plants, parrots, and lush furnishings. Chilled orchid leis were placed around our necks as we were warmly greeted and sent to the reservation desk and our bags were taken for us to be whisked up to our room. We were taken up to a beautiful ocean view room that felt even more luxurious knowing that what was costing us $0 would have cost us about $1100.00 for 2 nights.

Why is it that luxury feels so much more decadent when it’s free?

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Tired, but not wanting to fall asleep at 3:00 in the afternoon and end up waking up at midnight wondering what to do next, we stepped out to check out the Hyatt grounds and beach. We had barely dipped our toes in the sand of Shipwrecks Beach when a massive whale broke the surface of the water just off shore. We stood there, frozen, speechless.

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“Did you see that?” I asked, never taking my eyes off the ocean.

“Yeah. Was that real?” Matt said.

“I’m not sure. We’ve been awake for 18 hours now. Maybe it’s an exhaustion induced hallucination.” I replied, still staring at the ocean.

It was about that time that we saw another whale breach. Beautiful. Magnificent. The whales proceeded to put on a show for about half an hour as we stood there, mute, stupid, mouths hanging open in awe.

As the whales began to move out to sea, we looked at each other, mouths still hanging open.

“Well,” I shrugged my shoulders, “I can go home now. That was awesome.”

Was it a sign of the vacation to come? Where can a trip that begins so magnificently go from here? The magic of Kauai had already begun.
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We rested, cleaned up, and headed for an early dinner at Tidepools restaurant at the Hyatt. With tables in open-air thatched huts perched over a koi pond facing the magnificent ocean and sunset, how better to end our first day and begin our vacation adventure? The restaurant was incredibly beautiful and romantic, tiki torches flickering in the evening light, a couple of koi splashing at our feet, tiny birds flitting around on the edges of our seats.

That’s when Matt made a mistake.

He knocked his spoon off the table and into the koi pond.

That doesn’t sound so bad, I know, but have you ever dropped anything in a koi pond? Within seconds, about 50 koi were churning the water about 12 inches from our feet. Certain that food had been dropped in the water and that one evil and selfish koi had taken it all, all of the koi worked themselves into a frenzy. They jumped. They splashed. They writhed. They came to the top with their eyes bulging at us and their mouths gaping open and closed, open and closed. This must have gone on for 20 minutes until someone else obviously made the mistake of dropping something in the water and in a FLASH they zoomed away en masse.

It was HILARIOUS.

We apologized to the waiter for the spoon, as I dried off my shins, who told us they actually have someone who cleans out the pond every day. “You wouldn’t believe what all gets dropped in there,” he said.

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We had a delicious dinner. I had a smoked duck salad with granny smith apples and crusted goat cheese, the fresh catch en fata (cooked in a pouch with Portuguese sausage, potatoes, fennel, tomatoes, and saffron) with a spicy manchego cheese baguette, followed by a shared molten chocolate cake with ganache and vanilla bean ice cream.

(Matt managed to keep his spoon this time).

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Posted by vicki_h 07:41 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical hawaii kauai Comments (0)

Kauai, Paradise on Earth

The Garden Isle

Kauai, aptly named the “Garden Isle,” is a small circle of land so ridiculously beautiful that your brain fails to believe what your eyes are seeing. From the soaring emerald peaks of the NaPali coastline to the colorful chasm of the Waimea Canyon to the brilliant hillsides covered in plumeria, bougainvillea, and hibiscus, this is a magical place, where Puff the Magic Dragon lives by the sea and legends of the Menehune abound. The only thing more beautiful than it’s jagged green mountains and vibrant blue seas is the spirit of Aloha found in its people.

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It’s sometimes said that Kauai is the closest one can get to “the old Hawaii” or “the real Hawaii” in a tourist destination, because, while it still has its fair share of commercialism, it has remained small, quaint, and low rise. It’s a place where more natural wonders are found than all inclusive resorts, a place where you are more likely to see pick-up trucks than sports cars, and a place where an ahi tuna wrap eaten at a wooden table beachside with a rooster nearby can be a most excellent meal.

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About 33 miles by 25 miles, Kauai is encircled by highway that stretches along about ¾ of the island and runs through a dozen or so quaint, small towns. The rugged NaPali coastline and much of the interior of the island are inaccessible by car.

If you are willing to get outside the hotel grounds, you can experience a land that is abundant with natural beauty, dotted with volcanic wonderlands, draped by dense jungle, fringed by beautiful beaches, dusted with dirt so deep and red that it stains your skin and clothes, dripping with delicious tropical fruit and vibrant flowers, and littered with an abundance of beautiful (yet rather stupid and annoying) wild chickens. You may not find “old Hawaii” in the sense of spontaneous ukulele concerts in the park or locals sitting on the beach sipping Mai Tais and eating meat off a pit-grilled pig while scooping three-finger poi with their bare hands, and unless you pay for it in advance, no one is going to show up at the airport with a flower lei to greet you, but you will find yourself surrounded by the Aloha spirit, drawn to a slower pace, and wrapped in the warm sunshine and soft sands of a place that seems other-worldly.

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Aloha. Welcome to Kauai.

Posted by vicki_h 07:06 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical hawaii kauai Comments (0)

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