Kauai Travel Details January 7-10, 2008
Route, Lodging, Shopping, and Dining Information
Waimea Canyon has a variety of hiking trails. Trail descriptions are available at the Visitor’s Center at Kokee State Park, in the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, and on the web
at Hawaiian Style Travel.The National Botanical Garden has a number of gardens under it’s care, including the McBride and Allerton in the south of Kauai and Limahuli in the north. There is a fee to visit these gardens and several are open only as part of a guided tour. Information on all of the gardens can be found on the National Botanical Garden’s website. Additional information on Limahui can be found in the Honolulu Advertiser.
Helicopter tours are common on Kauai. It makes sense because so much of the island is inaccessible to those of us not up to a very long trek on treacherous trails. There are a number of tour operators, none of which are cheap. We went with Jack Harter because they fly smaller four-passenger copters with the doors removed. The advantage to this is that it provides an unobstructed view, everyone has a “window” (in a six-passenger ‘copter there may be four people in the back, leaving those in the middle with a more limited view), there is no glare from the glass when taking pictures out the sides (a problem in most helicopters), and it stays cool inside (which helps ward off the nausea I’m prone to). Ignore the section of the web site about the “thrills” of exploring Kauai in an open copter – they are so careful that there is absolutely no extra thrill involved unless you have a fear of heights, but it is a great way to see the island and worth the extra cost. None of the Harter flights use a canned soundtrack either, which I saw as a plus.
Ke’e Beach is the start of the Na Pali Coast and the trailhead for hiking into the mountains. It’s a beautiful spot with potentially lethal currents.
The Poipu Plantation Inn B & B is a block from the beach (we could hear the ocean from our room). Although the area is almost entirely rental properties, it has the feel of a neighborhood, which was nice. Besides a variety of beaches, there were lots of great places just to walk.
The B&B rooms (there are also condo units) are a little faded, but clean, large, and pleasant enough with plenty of storage space and lovely bouquets of fresh flowers (which I turn out to be allergic to, but it was a nice touch). Breakfast is served on the large front porch, which is also a great place just to hang out and relax. Internet access is available most of the time (for whatever reason, I couldn’t always connect to it). Beach towels, chairs, and snorkel equipment is also provided for guests.
The full breakfasts are varied and so good I wished we could stay a full week just so I could try them all – although it is hard to believe that anything would be better than the macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup!
The knowledgeable staff is friendly and helpful and eager to help you make the most of your vacation.
The big surprise at the Resort Quest Islander on the Beach (just outside Kappa) was that our garden view room would be called a partial ocean view anywhere else. Maybe we were upgraded. I don’t know, but it was great to be able to see the ocean from our room – especially since I wasn’t expecting it.
Our room was very large, but a little worn – with a little updating this would be a much more expensive property. We had a small, but usable lanai, however, our room was west-facing so the afternoon sun made it pretty much unusable then. (It was wonderful in the morning though.) We were on the second floor and there are no elevators. (Another factor that keeps it from being a luxury property.)
The hotel is located on a sandy beach, so beach access is excellent. There seemed to be chairs available for beach use, but we were out running around the island, so only used the beach to watch the sun rise or set.
The hotel is actually BEHIND the Coconut Shopping Center and is accessible only through the entrance to the shopping center, making it initially hard to find. I’m not much of a shopping center person, but we did find the mix of stores provided good window shopping in the evening and stayed open late enough that we could duck in to make a few small purchases.
Unfortunately most of the more interesting restaurants in the Kappa area are located in the semi-cute downtown strip. This requires either driving the short distance to dinner or walking along an unlit narrow road that lacks a complete sidewalk. It’s not a very pedestrian-friendly area.
Jo Jo’s in Waimea has good shave ice and the service was prompt. I had the Halo Halo special, which had a bunch of ingredients (including adzuki beans) and was wonderful.
Casa Blanca [now closed] at the Kiahuna Swim and Tennis Club in Poipu tries hard, but there are too many things are going on in each dish. Dishes were perfectly cooked, but the flavorings in these ambitious offerings just didn’t quite work. All were close, but not quite there. . . maybe given a little more time to perfect the seasonings. The open-air atmosphere was nice though and service was pretty good (and very friendly) even on a busy night.
The Beach House outside Poipu provides fine dining with a gorgeous location and attentive, if rushed, service. The preparations are ambitious, but generally successful. (Not perfect though and even some of the signature dishes were less successful than they could be.) The ocean views are fabulous. It’s very good, but not fabulous and, for the price, it should be fabulous.
Kintaro was so good and reasonably priced that we ate here both nights. My favorites were the Hanalei roll, which is best served tempura-style (the outside and the rice are warm, the fish inside still cold) and the crab/scallop hand roll. Heavenly. The place was incredibly busy, but space always seemed to be available for couples. (They only take reservations for groups of 6 or more.)
The shave ice at Paradise seems to be the treat to stop for in Hanalei. I had the sunset mix. No adzuki beans, but macademia nuts and three flavors of syrup for a yummy treat.
Hanapepe is an artsy little enclave with a variety of fun shops.
Waimea is the home of Aunty Lilikoi’s Passion Fruit Products, with samples available in the retail shop.
Just outside Lihue, Kapaia Stitchery is more than just a quilt shop. It has a fabulous collection of fabrics, including many from Asia. There is also clothing, quilt patterns, and more.
In Kilauea, the Kong Lung Co. has an elegant selection of Asian and Asian-inspired merchandise. Good thing none of it is cheap or I would have just turned over my credit card and tried to bring it all home!
Both Kappa and Hanalei town have a wide variety of shops with fun and funky items, we just didn’t have time to shop while we were there. There are lots of great shopping opportunities all along the North Shore.