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 2

[If you’re late to the party, Part 1 is here].

Our Wednesday routine started the same as the day before: wake up before dawn, throw open the windows to hear the ocean, head out for a run.

A quick search on our phones showed a local breakfast spot called Lei Petite Bakery that was a few miles away. I got a breakfast sandwich and a chocolate macadamia nut latte, which was a big treat since I rarely get sugary coffee drinks. It was delicious.

We also browsed the nearby shops and picked up several souvenirs at the grocery store, Foodland. Tip: grocery and drug stores are reasonable places to pick up Hawaiian souvenir staples like chocolate covered macadamia nuts, coffee, salts, etc. They have a decent selection and the prices were a lot lower than the hotel’s store, which sold mostly the same stuff. They gave us a membership card to their savings club on the spot, too, so that knocked a few more dollars off the tab.

I struck up a conversation with a woman working at one of the boutiques in the shopping center and she suggested driving to the Kilauea Lighthouse, which was only about 20 minutes away. She also told me that if I stayed until 1:30 PM, she’d be leading a free tour of the lighthouse. We were intrigued enough to head over. This area is a national wildlife refuge and in addition to the amazing views of the waves crashing against cliffs, there was some interesting birdwatching. It was overcast that day, which is why this picture looks more like New England than Kauai:

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I wish I could give a better scale to the size of the cliffs and the waves. It was mesmerizing to watch them crash over and over. I was watching for the beautiful flash of blue that can be seen when a wave crests. I kept thinking “just one more wave,” and soon we’d been watching them for more than a half hour.

The weather cleared up a bit and we headed back to the resort and the beach. img_1159 img_1171

I should have taken better ground level photos of the beach and pool, but instead I took some aerial ones from our room to try and show how uncrowded everything was, especially the pool. I went in it twice and once was the only person swimming. The St. Regis also has a really nice set-up where they will outfit your chairs with towels. Most beaches in Hawaii don’t allow alcohol, but there is bar service here. One thing to note: this is still a public beach – like all beaches in Hawaii – so there were people not staying at the hotel using it, too. Even with that, it was never crowded.

If you look carefully at the pictures above, you may see small dots in the water: surfers! It was so much fun to watch them. Most of the surfers were in Hanalei Bay, and we were able to walk along the beach to the pier. We were surprised to see jumping crabs on the rocks and many sand crabs along the beach. It became a game to spot them before they scurried back into their dens. We spotted countless holes like these on the beach:

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We were planning not to miss dinner that night and had a reservation at the Kauai Grill, which is a Jean Georges venture that easily wins the “Fanciest Restaurant in Princeville” award.

But before dinner, I had one thing on my mind: sabrage.

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Sabrage is the art of opening champagne with a saber, and the St. Regis is known for it. 

In Kauai, they do it every night at sunset, and it’s basically the It Thing for Princeville nightlife. But for me, it’s always something I’ve wanted to see and secretly do. This has been a long-held dream, right up there with playing the drums in a super cool all-girl band. (I do not have any musical talent, sadly, but as someone who regularly performs surgery, this seemed like a better bet).

We arrived about five minutes before the sabrage was to start. I started talking to a friendly hotel employee named David, and he laughed when I told him that this trip was to celebrate my Unemployment World Tour. I also confided that I was supremely excited to see the bottle opening. David said that he was, in fact, going to be doing the sabrage and would teach me how to do it.

David then got up in front of the crowd and explained a bit about the hotel, the history of sabrage and then he sabered open a cold bottle of champagne and poured some for the guests, including us. I was thrilled.

What happened next was totally unexpected: David came back with another bottle of champagne and handed me the saber. When he said that he would teach me how to do it, I thought he meant that he was going to demonstrate to the crowd, but no – this bottle was mine to open.

After some instruction, it was my turn:

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Victory! The crowd went nuts! I went nuts!

This is exactly the kind of magical moment that turns a good trip into a spectacular one. I will never forget the second when the bottle top cleanly sliced off.

And then I immediately realized that the thing I need most in the world is my own champagne saber. It’s Item Number One on my Christmas list.

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[Sidenote: I never went back to see the sabrage again on the trip. I couldn’t. The first time was too magical. I also heard a rumor from another employee that she had never heard of a guest being allowed to open a bottle, and I am still harboring the fantasy that I was the first and only person to be able to do so. I couldn’t bear to go back and see that thought ruined if it is not true].

We *did* have dinner at the Kauai Grill and it was really good, but I was so jazzed about the sabrage that I could barely focus on the food. We both got the tasting menu ($145) with wine pairing ($95), so this was a splurge-y meal. I loved the dessert, which was a butterscotch pudding confection with macadamia nuts. They served it with port AND champagne. It was nuts. Spouse wasn’t crazy about it and passed his plate to me. I obliged and ate his, too.

And then I crashed into bed. I think it was about 7:30 PM. I slept like a baby. Heaven.