Kauai Trip Report, Part 3

[If you need to catch up, Part 2 is here].

I’ll try to wrap up the rest of the trip, which consisted of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We had a late flight out on Saturday night (10 PM), but we were still able to enjoy the day.

On Thursday we woke up, ran and had breakfast again at the hotel. I made the mistake of ordering the breakfast buffet. I say “mistake” because when food is unlimited, I tend to eat unlimited amounts. This wasn’t an exception. I had an omelette, an eggs Benedict concoction with crab, a small kale salad, a mini carrot muffin, part of a piece of toast with lilikoi (passionfruit) jam, and some fried rice (!). Oh, and then pumpkin bread pudding for dessert and some token fruit. Ugh. I can easily say that I got my $39 worth of breakfast, not that this should be a point of pride.

After such a decadent breakfast, I needed a nap. The weather was overcast, so I also checked in with the spa to see if they had any openings. Bingo! They did. I had an excellent massage and a facial, both with Michelle, who is the spa’s trainer. Hotel spa treatments can be hit or miss, but this was all hit. Michelle was the bomb. I liked the skin care products they used, too. The brand is Osea. Michelle told me that she calls their Red Algae mask the “hangover mask” because of its complexion reviving capability. I made a mental note of the product.

By this time it was the afternoon and we decided to head to Hanalei for dinner. The valet recommended driving to the end of the road as long as we were heading that way. It’s true: the road deadends at Ke’e Beach, which is also the start of trails to hike the Napali Coast.

The drive to the beach was quite interesting since we had to cross about seven one lane bridges to get there.

When we arrived the parking area had about a dozen cars but the beach never felt crowded. The surf was pretty strong but a few people were swimming, despite signs advising against this posted at the (empty) lifeguard station.

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I’m the worst at selfies. 

We had dinner at the Dolphin Restaurant in Hanalei, which had some of the best sashimi I’ve ever tasted. This was the second – but not last – time we had sushi on the trip.

Friday was a rinse and repeat for the A.M. routine: wake, run, breakfast. I wisely avoided the buffet. We were nervously watching the weather because we had a helicopter tour scheduled at 11 A.M. and were praying that the sunshine would hold. It did.

I decided not to take any pictures during the helicopter tour and just experience it. I’m glad I did it that way. I am actually quite scared of heights and was also a teensy bit worried about becoming airsick in a helicopter, but once we took off, neither of those problems emerged. It was really cool!

I was seated next to our pilot, Steve, who made corny jokes but reassured me when he said that he had over 25,000 hours of flying time. I decided right then and there that we probably wouldn’t crash. Spoiler alert: we didn’t.

This was my first time in a helicopter, and it felt like we were floating. I loved it. The views were incredible. There would be an amazing waterfall and then bam! A better waterfall. Rinse and repeat for 45 minutes. 

Friday afternoon was beach time. I ordered tacos and a beer from my chair and had to fight off this chicken for my lunch.

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We decided to eat dinner at the less fancy restaurant at the hotel. We had sushi and fresh (cooked) mahi mahi. It rained but we were still able to sit outside under an overhang. It was lovely.

We started watching “Dateline” at 8 P.M., but both of us were snoring before we even found out Who Did It. I did not regret falling asleep at approximately 8:20 P.M. for a second.

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Saturday was a sad day since we knew we had to leave. We ran, breakfasted, and then (reluctantly) packed up our belongings and parked them at the bell stand.

We spent the entire day at the beach, probably eight hours total. It was mostly sunny. I swam. I read. I visited my jumping crab friends one more time.

At 6 P.M. we started to get ready to go. Pro tip: since many flights depart Hawaii at night, many (nicer) hotels will have a courtesy suite where you can shower, change and prepare for your (sad) return to reality. The St. Regis kindly gave us a key to an unused room and we were able to do exactly that.

Intercession: some of the Christmas decor at the hotel.

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We left the St. Regis around 7 P.M. and were prepared for an hour drive to the airport, leaving enough time to gas up and return the rental car. The valet told us a startling piece of news: there was an accident on the lone highway and a fallen telephone pole was blocking all traffic in both directions. He told us to be prepared for a three hour trip.

We set off and – for the win! – did not encounter any problems. The accident had cleared by the time we reached it and were able to get to the airport in our anticipated time of 45 minutes. We had planned to eat dinner there but the options were Slim and None. We went to Starbucks and Spouse had a sandwich; I had a bag of sweet potato chips and a Clif bar that I found in my bag. What a sad letdown from the gourmet food of the prior days.

Our first flight was slightly delayed. We left around 11:30 P.M. when the estimated departure had been 10:28 P.M. I wasn’t worried because I knew on the flip side that we had nearly three hours to kill at LAX before our final flight.

I was still pretty hungry when we boarded and sad to discover that even in First, there was not a meal service. I would have gladly eaten an airline meal at that point. The flight attendant was awesome and gave me a snack box, which I basically inhaled and then regretted because it was all junk food and salt. I felt really gross when we touched down at LAX nearly six hours later.

I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but our final flight was delayed nearly seven hours and I spent most of the day in the Delta lounge, eating more salt, reading my iPad and people watching. Once we landed in Minneapolis, we were met with single digits temps. Ugh. I asked myself for the millionth time why I live here. 

Final thoughts:

  • This was an exceptional trip.
  • If you love low crowds, traveling between Thanksgiving and mid-December is something you should strongly consider.
  • Nightlife on Kauai, especially Princeville, is – from our experience – limited. If you want to party, go to Vegas. If you want to chill, Kauai is your ticket.
  • Unpack half of your stuff, particularly anything fancy. This is the jewelry I brought that went unused:

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I brought this new bag but felt ridiculous carrying it during the one night that I wore a dress:

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  • The grocery store is your best bet for souvenirs, unless you have something special in mind. We didn’t.

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You may notice that I stole 10 swizzle sticks from the St. Regis. I have a collection. It’s a Thing. 

  • You need to rent a car if you plan to go anywhere. I mean anywhere. Be prepared for low to no radio options and bring cords to connect to your phone if you want music.
  • Plan a picnic. I wish I would have done this. There were so many excellent beaches in Kauai and I saw several people hanging out, eating sandwiches and drinking beer. While we were staying at a really nice resort, the beach was still public and the view was free. Anyone could bring down provisions and basically enjoy the same thing with much less expense.
  • Consider bringing your kids. I hesitate to write this, since Spouse and I remarked several times that we were having a wonderful time sans kids. However, I saw many children at the St. Regis, and there seemed to be even more staying at the neighboring condo properties. The beaches and slow vibe of Kauai are ultimately kid friendly. The time difference for most people also means a naturally early bedtime and wakeup, which is right up Kid Alley. Even without kids, I don’t think we made it past 10:30 P.M. on any given night. Kauai accommodates toddler schedules quite well.
  • Spring for the helicopter tour, even if you are scared of crashing (Me!) or heights (also Me!).

 

 

 

Kauai Trip Report, Part 1

I struggled with a few ways to start this post:

  • Kauai is ahhhh-mazing!
  • Kauai is paradise.
  • Go to Kauai! Stop reading now and go to Kauai!

None of them seemed to capture the awesomeness of the trip, so I hope the extended report does it better justice.

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Image via Lonely Planet

One thing you may notice about the above map is that there are not many roads in Kauai. Specifically, there are two slow moving highways (50 and 56, respectively) with speed limits ranging between 25 and 50 MPH that circle most – but not all – of the island.

That “most but not all” part became quite relevant on our second day, but I’ll get to that. If you think of Kauai as a clock, the roads basically go from 11 PM to 9 PM and do not connect in between. 

We arrived Monday night at Lihue airport, which is about five o’clock on the map. We picked up our rental (Jeep Wrangler with soft top, which is an extremely popular rental choice in Kauai; we liked it because we currently have two Wranglers and are comfortable driving them and getting the top off) and headed to Princeville, which is at twelve.

As I mentioned above, the speed limit changed a lot – mostly from slow to slower – and the ~35 mile drive took nearly an hour. When we arrived at the St. Regis Princeville, the place was nearly deserted. A lone agent greeted us and checked us in. We went to our room and started unpacking. I tried to look outside but it was so dark that I couldn’t see anything. I was wiped out from the long travel day and decided to go to bed (it was 10:30 PM Kauai time but four hours later for us due to the time change). Spouse decided to get a drink and snack at the bar. Five minutes later, he was back: the bar was closed. 

Let me stop here and make a key observation: the first two weeks of December are possibly the best travel weeks of the year, IMHO. For the past four years I’ve taken a trip this week, and each time I’ve always found low, low crowds. If partying and crowds are your thing, then you may not enjoy the off-off-off season of early December, but I love the sweet spot between Thanksgiving and the Christmas rush and hope to Get Out of Dodge during this time every year, if possible. We later found out that the reason the bar was closed was because these two weeks were traditionally the slowest of the year at the hotel. This played out over and over for the rest of the week.

On Tuesday morning we woke early due to the time difference. I knew this would happen from prior trips to Hawaii. I opened the windows and was greeted to this pre-sunrise view:

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It later became this:

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The rooms at the St. Regis Princeville are designed so that you can open the windows all the way (screens, too). The pleasantness of having the windows open directly to see the mountains and hear the ocean cannot be overstated. I was totally awed and spent hours watching the waves during our stay.

If you are curious about the room, I took some photos. The first shows how the windows open to the water:

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There was a sitting area to the right and a desk to the left:

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There was a king bed that was extremely comfortable:

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Reviews on TripAdvisor had mentioned the green marble bathrooms, so I was prepared:
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The St. Regis Princeville gets mixed reviews on TripAdvisor. I know because I read many ahead of time, although nothing would have convinced me NOT to stay there since I was cashing in Starwood points and basically stayed for free.

Some reviewers complain that the hotel is old and dated, and in some aspects, they’re correct. The woodwork in our room, for example, had seen better days. The green marble bathroom had to be seen to be believed. Other guests – and I will firmly put myself in this category – are huge fans of the hotel, mostly based on the unimaginably gorgeous setting on Hanalei Bay and top-notch service.

Since we were up early we decided to go running, a pattern that would repeat every single day. Running while on vacation is absolutely one of my favorite things to do, so this was a huge part of the trip for me. We ran 3-4 miles every day. It was perfect.

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Breakfast was outdoors and I decided that this view should go with a mimosa.

The sun was out at this point and we decided to take the top off the Jeep and head back towards the airport and see the Wailua Falls, which are featured in the opening credits of “Fantasy Island.”

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Spouse and I were both raised on 80s TV, so this was something we were both into seeing. Here they are:

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This. Was. Awesome!

Even with just an iPhone, Spouse captured the falls and the rainbow. No filter needed.

We kept driving on the lone highway and ended up in Poipu, which is at the southern end of the island and is more populated with hotels. We shopped a bit and had lunch, then decided to keep going to Waimea Canyon, which is at the end of the road.

Unfortunately, the weather started to turn rainy as we winded our way up the road to the canyon. There are switchbacks and the driving is not for the faint of heart. The view wasn’t terrific once we got there, so we only stayed at the lookout about five minutes.

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We next began the arduous trip back to Princeville. If you’re keeping track, we’d traveled from midnight to nine o’clock – right up to where the roads stopped – and had to reverse our course. This was about an 85 mile trek, but with slow traffic it took nearly two hours. Another tip: we discovered that Kauai radio is spotty at best, and the stations weren’t all that good, anyway. Our rental did not have satellite radio so for during our long day of driving around the island, we were basically stuck with radio static or no music at all. Later in the week we bought an adapter and cord to connect our phones to the radio and play music, and this significantly improved our time in the car. I will remember this in the future and strongly recommend this strategy to anyone else traveling to the island.

We finally arrived back at the hotel around 6:30 PM and found a nearly deserted bar and closed restaurant. We ordered a drink and two sushi rolls and chatted with the bartender, then went to sleep around 9 PM. Not exactly wild and crazy, but in all honesty, I was wiped out and happy to snooze in my soft bed with the sounds of the ocean.

Next up: I fulfill a very surprising dream. 

 

Home From Hawaii

Quick post: we safely returned from Kauai last night, although it was seven hours later than we expected due to a delay in the second leg of our trip.

We unexpectedly spent the day in the Delta lounge at LAX, where I felt extremely gross after flying a red-eye from Kauai to Los Angeles that morning. What we thought was a two hour layover turned into most of the day, but we made it back to darkness, snow and single digit temps. On the plus side: Delta sent me a message saying they were going to give me 17,500 bonus miles for the inconvenience.

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Bored in the lounge

Given my current unemployment, my schedule today is pretty open so in the end, I was ok with it all. But today I’m tired.

Back to the trip: it was fantastic! I will post many reports about our adventures, but in summary, it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Spouse agreed. 

I dubbed this trip my Unemployment World Tour:img_1111

As promised, I also drank champagne:

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This was a guava and champagne mimosa that I had for breakfast on our first morning. Yum.

One more teaser pic before I get some of the trip report ready:

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More forthcoming. Soon.