Growing up on O’ahu , I visited Kaua’i many many times as a kid and through the years; however, my wife had never been, so I was excited to show her the island. We had 5 days on Kaua’i and 5 back on O’ahu. Kaua’i was the island we took our vacation on when I was growing up, so I know the island fairly well; however, I got a lot of great info from the forum...particularly restaurant ideas. Sorry this is so long. It’s my first attempt at a trip report!
Day 1: Arrived around 2pm, got the car and headed north. I love that feeling you get when you get back to the islands after a year or so. For me, it’s that feeling of “I’m home and in my comfort zone”. This portion of the trip was our delayed honeymoon that coincided with our 1 year anniversary, so we had booked the St Regis with some points. Our room was a spectacular one on the 3rd floor and the service at check in and throughout the stay was fabulous. I had read on the forum that the food was good but pricey, so we elected to eat ALL of our meals off site. We tend to like the small local places and none of them disappointed. Around 7 we headed for Hanalei and decided on Tahiti Nui for dinner. I had been there before, but just for the bar. My wife wasn’t that hungry so she had a slice of the Tiki Man pizza. She said it tasted good but wasn’t very hot. I chose the ahi with a wasabi/shoyu sauce and it was awesome! Rare and fork tender. Onolicious! After a couple of mai tais and listening to some Hawaiian music, we headed back, as we had a trip to the Na Pali coast the next day.
Day 2: Got up early and headed back down to Hanalei for our trip down the coast. Based on some forum discussions and other research, we chose Na Pali Tours and their “UFO” boat, as it was small enough to get into the caves without the wild ride of the zodiacs (wife’s back was not going to be able to take the pounding). We grabbed a bite to eat at the Wake Up Café (right next to the Na Pali Tours meeting place) and had omelets that were busting at the seams. I felt right at home with my rice for breakfast! The UFO holds 13 and there were 12 booked for this trip (us and a party of 10 with 5 boys under the age of 12). When they saw the size of the boat, they decided to back out, so we got a private charter for 2 down the coast! The looks we got from people on other boats thinking we were somebody famous were priceless. Don and Dale were our crew and they were great. Don was really informative, while Dale was the standup comic. He was pretty cheesy, but entertaining in his own goofy way (terrible photographer, though). Snorkeling at the turn around point was average, as everybody on the forum had mentioned, but it was good to get in the water. We were able to get into all of the caves, which is super cool.
After getting back, we headed right to Pat’s Taqueria (recommended by many on the forum) for fish tacos. Once again, my forum friends didn’t steer us wrong...yum! We headed back to the St Regis and hung at the pool until 5pm with every intention of heading back out to the Tavern for dinner. Unfortunately, we both fell asleep and woke up around midnight! Oh well, guess we needed the rest.
Day 3: Up early again, as we were headed to Hanakapi’ai Falls. We stopped at Foodland for some spam musubi for breakfast on the go. We got to Ke’e around 7:30 and found plenty of parking. I had taken the hike to the falls many times and knew that the trail was going to be pretty muddy. My wife’s balance can sometimes be shaky due to an ear problem, so I decided to get trekking poles. Although, I really didn’t need one, I had to admit it made the hike much easier. For my wife, it was essential. The falls trail was a mess (trail to the beach was fine), but we slogged our way through the mud and got there 90 minutes after making it to Hanakapi’ai beach. As those who have been there will tell you, it’s all worth it. There are few places in this country where you can see such a spectacular site up close. I immediately got in the water for about a 10 minute swim. The hike back was even muddier and we ditched our shoes at the end of the trail. We purposely took old sneakers knowing we were going to toss them. Good thing, too, as the soles on both pairs were coming off. I guess I should add that we are both in pretty good shape (I referee high school and junior college soccer), but we saw others who were in so so shape attempting the hike, as well. My wife was pretty beat, but happy she did it.
My old high school water polo coach lives close by in Ha’ena, so we dove in the ocean at Ke’e, showered off, threw on clean clothes and headed over to his place. After a few beers, we headed to Kalypso in Hanalei for dinner. Once again, the forum readers were right on, as our food was fantastic (also happened to be my coach’s choice, so it worked out well). I had fish tacos and there were tasty! After dinner, we headed back to the St Regis and watched Old School on DVD. The St Regis has a decent selection of free DVDs, and I have an immature sense of humor, much to my wife’s dismay...though I busted her laughing a number of times.
Day 4: Today was the day I was going to show her the rest of the island, so we headed south around 9am. Once again, we took the forum’s advice and stopped at the Ono Family Restaurant in Kapa’a. I had eggs and ono. Wow was that fish good! After breakfast we headed to Waimea Canyon with a planned stop in Hanapepe. My wife was “jonesing” for some taro chips and I knew just the place. The Taro Ko chip factory looks like a small house built in the early 1900’s that is about to fall down. It’s on the left side of the road about 100 yards after the Hanapepe turnoff. We bought 2 bags and finished the first one before we even made the canyon. It was right after we bought our chips that we had our first let down...Da Imu Hut was closed for 3 days while the owners were out at a family reunion. Bummer. I was really looking forward to the teri fried chicken. Oh well...next time. We continued up the canyon, where my wife said that no pictures can ever do justice to seeing the canyon in person. It was particularly colorful, as the summer as been wetter than usual. Onward to the lookout at Koke’e for more spectacular views (it never gets old). From there, we headed to Polihale. The dirt road to Polihale was in great shape compared to the last time I was there (about 3 years ago) and I really didn’t need the jeep I got. We sat on the beach for about an hour just relaxing with no one within 200 yards of us. We were now starving and didn’t want to break into the other bag of chips, so we headed back toward the Koloa area. But right outside Hanapepe, I spotted a church selling huli huli chicken! The smells of my youth came rushing back and I slammed on the breaks and pulled to the side (terrifying my wife in the process). What possessed me to buy 2 full chickens for just the 2 of us, I can’t answer; but I do know that eating huli huli chicken while driving is quite a challenge and a real mess. My apologies to the St Regis for destroying the towels with huli huli sauce! After devouring a chicken, we swung by Kaua’i Coffee and picked up a few bags for friends and ourselves and then headed for a quick tour of Poipu, Koloa, and the Spouting Horn.
It was a long and busy day and we ended up doing a late sushi dinner at the Hanalei Dolphin. The sushi was excellent...very fresh. Even though it was late, I was able to score the last hamachi kama (yellow tail collar). If it’s offered, don’t hesitate to get it. Sounds weird, tastes great! I’m tired even thinking about how much we did that day. Goodnight.
Day 5: Last full day on Kaua’i...sniff. We got up late (9am) and headed to Hanalei to the Wake Up Café again...good, but not great like our first visit. From there, we drove to Kauapea beach...also known as “Secret” beach (although, it’s not so secret based on the number of cars parked there when we left...at least 30). This is one of my favorite beaches. The waves were breaking about 3-4’ and I went in to body surf. I should put in a warning that if you are not in REALLY good shape and did not grow up surfing/body surfing, you should think twice about going in here when the surf is up. The current is strong and you need fins and experience. As I mentioned earlier, I grew up on O’ahu and did a lot of surfing on the north shore; however, it was a tiring 30 minutes in the water. Being as tired as I was what could be better for lunch than Hanalei Pizza? My wife thought it was one of the best pies she’s had, while I thought it was just good...we ate all but 2 pieces of the large (my wife is insisting I add that I ate most of it).
It was going back to the hotel that we experienced a great gesture of the aloha spirit. It lives, folks! Being the space cadet I am, I left both my iPhone AND wallet on the roof of the car as we drove out of Hanalei. I heard a thump as we left (wallet hitting the back bumper) but thought nothing of it. As we got over the bridge, I realized what I had done and immediately turned around. When we got back to Hanalei (max 5 minutes), I looked around on the street (where I heard the thump occur) and saw nothing. Got out of the car to look...nothing. As I was getting back into the car thoroughly depressed, I noticed my iPhone was still on the roof!! Ok...one less thing to worry about, but I’d rather have the wallet. Just then, I got a call from an unknown “808” number. “Mr. ***”, are you on Kaua’i? I found your wallet in the street and am at the Hanalei police sub-station with it.” A local mom with 3 kids in the car had seen it in the street, stopped traffic, chased down money that was blowing around, found my business card and called me. What a great example to her children. I even tried to give her a reward, but she wouldn’t think of it.
Being stuffed with pizza, we took it easy the rest of the night and got ready to say goodbye Kaua’i and hello O’ahu. I won’t bore you with day 6...it was just packing, coffee and quick stop at the Koloa Rum Factory for tasting and a bottle for home.
Wow...that was long! My apologies to those who are falling asleep reading this and my thanks to all the TA posters who gave me such great advice on everything...particularly the food!! I love this site.