Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kauai 2013

At the end of May we spent a week in paradise on the island of Kauai.  This was our fourth visit to the island, but it had also been just over four years since we'd been to Kauai and we were starting to miss it.  We made sure to schedule our trip before Luke's birthday - so he got one last free flight in before he turned two.

As usual, we used Charlie's airline miles to book our flights.  We were excited to be on an early morning flight because with the six hour time difference, it was only 11:00 am when we arrived on the island.  It was a little too early to check-in at the hotel so after grabbing some lunch we changed into swim suits in the car and headed straight to the beach.

Poipu Beach is a great family beach because there is a nice shallow area protected by a rock wall, so it's easy for kids to swim and play.  There were two Hawaiin monk seals at the beach that day.  The seals are endangered and protected by state law, so the beach patrol follows them around and puts up ropes and signs to keep people from getting too close.

We were all having plenty of fun until Luke stepped on a bee.  Poor thing!  He got stung right on the bottom of his foot.  By that evening he had a big 1/2 inch red swollen stripe across the bottom of his foot and could barely walk.  By the next morning the swelling had gone down and Luke didn't seem to be in pain, but the redness lasted the entire week.

The bee sting pretty much put an end to our beach visit for the day and it was time to check into our hotel anyway.  We stayed at a new Wyndham property called Koloa Landing in Poipu.  We loved it because we stayed in a condo that was actually bigger square footage wise than our own home back in Irvine!  We had a fully loaded kitchen, living room, dining area, two bathrooms, walk-in closet, etc.  It was perfect.  We especially loved having the kitchen and being able to eat most of our meals in.  

I was really bad at taking pictures on this trip.  I mostly used my iphone to take quick snapshots, so I apologize the quality is not that great.  I'm kind of kicking myself over that now.

We woke up the next morning to a full rainbow across the sky and a bunch of wild roosters crowing outside our window.  Charlie took the boys on a walk around the grounds and down to the ocean while I went out for a run.  We took turns running every morning and it was really a treat to run along the coast with such a gorgeous view.  I got caught it a pretty crazy downpour one day but then it cleared up and was sunny again a few minutes later.    

We kept our first day pretty low key.  We spent the morning at the hotel pool.  It was overcast and we had the whole place to ourselves.  

We made trips to Costco and the grocery store to stock up on food for the week and then headed to Kiahuna Beach at the Sheraton.  We spent our honeymoon at the Sheraton and so it always brings back happy memories.  Luke was tired and grumpy so I sat with him on my lap near the rocks and we watched the ocean splash over our legs and ran our fingers through the wet sand.  It was perfect.  

Another great feature of our resort was that they had a huge open grass area with all kinds of sports equipment and courts open for playing.  The boys loved running around and playing here every evening.  

On day two we decided to make the drive out to Polihale, or "Barking Sands" beach.  This is probably my favorite beach on the island.  You have to drive on a long and bumpy dirt road to get there and so the beach is usually pretty empty.  Isaac enjoyed making long annoying noises and listening to his voice bounce the whole time we were driving.  "AaaaahhhhhaaaAAAHHHaaaaAHaaaaaAHAHaaaa AHaaaaaAAAHHHAaaa..."  You get the picture.  

I love this beach because it is the last stretch of sandy shore before the landscape switches to the dramatic cliffs of the Napali coast, which make a stunning backdrop to the beach.  

The waves here are usually pretty mild and the ocean has a gentle slope which makes it easy to wade out with the kids.  Isaac was having a blast in the waves here.  For years he was terrified of the ocean but ever since his experience body surfing at Crane Beach in Barbados last fall, he is suddenly in love with the ocean.  

The beach was practically empty and we spent the whole morning relaxing and playing.  When it was time to leave we suddenly remembered one of the big downsides to this beach.  The sand where we were sitting was slightly damp and not too hot, but walking back to the car was torture!  The "Barking Sands" are coarse pieces of sand that make a sort of crunching/barking sand as you walk across it and it also becomes incredibly hot the moment the sun touches it.  Then when the clouds come, it is instantly cool again.  Anyway, we only had our flip flops with us and the sand was burning hot.  Charlie and I could barely walk and had to carry the boys and all of our stuff.  Then every few yards we would throw down a towel and jump on it to let our feet cool off for a moment before carrying on.  

We drove through Waimea on the way back to our hotel and stopped for lunch at The Shrimp Station for coconut shrimp and fries.  

We had also planned to stop at JoJo's for shave ice but in the same minute that we walked inside, we turned around and walked out.  It was packed and also smelled like something we didn't want our boys inhaling.  It was a totally different vibe than what we remembered from our previous visits.  Luckily there were several other shave ice options along the road.  

We stopped for awhile at our pool before heading back up to the room.  We always spent a couple hours in the late afternoon showering and relaxing before either making dinner or going out.  And every night we'd go out on the grass to let the boys play for awhile.  On this night they chose golf.  My dad would be proud.  

Day three was our big driving day because we were headed up to the northern part of the island.  The main road going in and out of Poipu is called the Tree Tunnel because it is lined with tall trees on either side that really do make you feel like you are driving through a tunnel.  It is gorgeous and one of the things that I simply love about the island.  

Our first stop was the Kilauea Lighthouse.  Of all our trips to the island, this was our first time visiting the lighthouse.  The views of the coastline below us were really beautiful and we could also see tons of birds.  

The whole area is a Wildlife Refuge and there were several volunteers walking around wanting to tell us all about the dozens of seabirds that we could see flying over the ocean and around the rocks.  Isaac was more interested in "shooting" the Red Footed Boobies with his binoculars, than in actually hearing what the volunteers had to say about them, but I tried to help him be polite anyway.  Luke just wanted to run so we didn't stay too long. 

After driving through the town of Hanalei, our final destination was Tunnel's beach.  Charlie and I discovered this cool snorkeling spot on our honeymoon and make sure to go back every time we visit Kauai.  It's not a good swimming beach but it is perfect for snorkeling because the water is calm, shallow, and filled with rocks and coral right along the beach.  I always get nervous swimming in the ocean, so I was happy to stay back with the boys while Charlie swam out a ways checking out the fish.  But even right at the water's edge, we saw a dozen or so colorful little fish swimming in and out of the rocks and it was fun to show them to the boys.  

It was overcast but warm and relaxing.  We ate lunch up on the sand and enjoyed being in a gorgeous paradise.  The northern part of Kauai is definitely more green and lush than sunny Poipu where we stay, but the weather is not quite as nice because it rains more often. 

As we were driving back we stopped at a few of the scenic overlooks to take in the views of the valley.  The mountains here are one of the wettest spots on earth and every time we've seen them they've been capped with misty rain clouds.  This is where a lot of scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed.  

On our way back towards Poipu we stopped at Lydgate State Park for a little bit more swimming.  It's not the most picturesque beach, but there is a pool sectioned off by big boulders that makes for a nice calm swimming spot.  Isaac made friends with a local boy and they were playing some game where they kept popping their heads in and out of the water.  

That night we had dinner at Pizzetta in Old Koloa Town.  The service is always slow, but the food is good and it's the only restaurant we've continued to eat at on every visit.  

After dinner we walked up and down the row of shops in Koloa Town looking at all of the souvenirs and trinkets for sale.  Luke was really loving this statue of a Hawaiin man holding a little dog, so of course we had to take a photo of them together.  

Day four was pretty low key.  Charlie and I took turns going out for a run, while the boys played out on the balcony and threw Fruit Loops (the vacation cereal of choice) over the railing for the roosters and chickens that were hanging out on the grass below.  Luke thought this was hilarious and talked about it for weeks afterwards.

We headed down to the pool for a few hours.  The pool at our resort was really great because there was a pretty big portion of it that was only a foot or so deep for Luke to play in.  There was rarely anyone else at the pool so we usually had the whole place to ourselves.

 We spent the afternoon at Poipu Beach.  I didn't bring my phone or a camera because it is a busy beach and I knew we'd be leaving our belongings unattended on the sand.  We had such a fun afternoon there!  We walked out on the sandbar to check out the tide pool area for awhile.  There was also another seal that day lounging on the beach.  My favorite was when we went to the south side of the beach to swim.  Charlie went out to snorkel and I walked out about chest deep with the boys.  There was a woman there swimming with her elderly parents and she had brought some kind of fish food to attract the fish for her parents to see.  Wow!  There were so many fish!  They were all beautiful rainbow colors and swimming in swarms all around us.  I was standing out there holding Luke and Isaac was swimming around and we got to see so many fish.  It was so exciting and fun and Isaac was especially excited to see the Humuhumunukunukuapua fish (Hawaii's state fish - Isaac has a little stuffed one that we bought as a souvenir a few years ago).  That was probably one of my favorite memories of the whole trip.

Back at the room we hooked up our portable DVD player to the big TV in the living room so that the boys could watch movies while we were showering and getting cleaned up.

We headed out to the big lawn for some softball before dinner.

Day six we were back on the road again driving around the island.  Our first stop was at a big souvenir shop called The Hawaiin Trading Post.  It is really not close to anything, but we have stopped there on every trip to take a picture on their fake surf board outside.  It is hard to beat this one from 2008 with baby Isaac "waving" on the wave, but we still have to try.

We looked around inside the shop for awhile too.  Isaac and Luke were in love with this cat that they met just inside the front doors.  This was quite possibly the world's most patient cat.

Our next stop was to see Wailua Falls.  I believe you can hike down to the bottom of these falls somehow, but that wasn't on the agenda for the day.  Especially since Isaac was in kind of a "mood" after Charlie lifted him up to get a better view and Isaac freaked out because he developed a sudden fear of heights.

The boys were quickly growing impatient of time in the car so we headed to a big park to eat our picnic lunch and let them run and play.  There was an enormous wooden playground there and the boys were eager to take off and play.

It was hot that day and I was getting worn out chasing Luke through all of the many tunnels and up stairs and what not in this big wooden maze, so we convinced the boys that it was time for the beach.  We went across the street to Lydgate Beach Park where we had been a few days earlier.

Once we were back in Poipu we did some more driving around, and even a little bit of off roading, searching for a beach that we had read about in our guide book, but we discovered that it wasn't so easy to access after all.  Next we drove out to the end of the main road in Poipu at the point of the island.  This was the road that I ran on in the mornings and the view and scenery from up there was gorgeous.  We also stopped at the Spouting Horn, but only watched from the gated overlook.  Luke would get super excited every time the ocean would spray up out of the rocks.  I wish I would have gotten his reaction on video.

On day seven we spent the morning at our hotel pool.  A family that was leaving the island that day came and gave Isaac & Luke a boogie board and some sand toys that they weren't going to take home with them.  Our boys were delighted.  Isaac took off paddling around with the boogie board and Luke sat scooping and pouring water in the baby pool.  

Isaac also wanted to make sure I photographed the treasure that he discovered at the bottom of the pool.  

After lunch we headed back out to Polihale beach.  The long bumpy dirt road is both a blessing and a curse I guess.  It keeps all of the other tourists away, but it makes for a rather uncomfortable drive.  Isaac treated us to his soundtrack of noise again.  Luke somehow slept through all of this.  This time we came prepared with shoes instead of flip flops to weather the scorching sands on the way too and from the car.  This beach is totally worth the slightly difficult journey.  If there was ever a perfect beach day, this was it.  

Isaac played in the waves with his boogie board and a local boy that he met there. 

Charlie helped Luke dig a giant hole in the sand and watched as the waves slowly creeped closer and eventually washed over it.  

We relaxed on the sand, ate snacks, waded in the ocean, and enjoyed every second of being in paradise.  I feel very blessed that we are able to take such fantastic family vacations together every year.  I hope that our boys will remember them as fondly as I do.  

On the drive back home we passed through a light rainstorm and as it cleared we saw a gorgeous rainbow arching all the way across the sky.  I couldn't quite capture it with my phone, but it was seriously amazing because it was so huge and bright with a faint double rainbow right along side.  

That evening we stayed at the hotel and made dinner.  We had a frozen pizza, macaroni & cheese, a salad, and mango smoothies.  So much easier than going out and everyone was happy.  

Day 8, our last day.  Boo hoo.  We stopped by Whaler's Village to pick up a picnic lunch and then went back to Kiahuna Beach at the Sheraton and spent the morning there.  The waves were a little rougher than they had been earlier in the week but that wasn't stopping Isaac from running in and out of them.  He couldn't really get past where they were breaking though so he kept getting knocked down.  Luke loved playing in the waves too.  He would hold both of my hands and run in and out of the water over and over again waiting for the waves to wash his feet out from under him and then laugh hysterically.

We snuck in a little pool time in the afternoon but there was some light rain and we ended up back indoors.  That night we had dinner at the burger place in Whaler's Village.  The boys were super restless and we ended the night letting them run through the courtyard chasing the wild chickens.

All good things must come to an end and we eventually had to pack up to go home.  We had told Isaac all week to look for what souvenir he wanted and that we would buy it at the end of the trip.  (Otherwise, like Barbados, we end up buying stuff all week long!)  He had decided on a little painted clay sea turtle.  So on our way to the airport we stopped once more in Old Koloa Town to get a turtle.  And then of course Luke had to have a turtle too.  They were both enamored by their new little turtle friends.

I was hoping to capture a perfect photo of the tree tunnel that I love so much.  I had Charlie pull over to the side of the road and I wanted to run to the middle and get a photo, but there was too much traffic and we had to get going.  This was the best I got.  It's a place that everyone should go and visit in person anyway!

And then American Airlines took us home.  We love Kauai.  It is the perfect spot for an easy and relaxing family vacation.  I'm sure we'll be back again and again.  Aloha, until then!

And just in case there weren't enough photos in this post, here is a little video I put together with some clips from our trip.