If you ask my family which of the Hawaiian islands is their favorite, their answer will undoubtedly be Kauai, also known as the garden island. Nic and I were lucky enough to tag along with my parents and siblings on a retirement celebration trip to this island over Christmas and New Years. It was a perfect vacation.
On December 23rd we began our long day of travel… almost 24 hours by the time we finally walked through our villa doors, but it was worth the jet lag. After a great night of sleep, we all awoke on Christmas Eve morning and paradise at our feet. We did not plan much for this day, other than some grocery shopping, beaching, and Christmas Eve service going. Each night also included a round of Bumps, the one and only card game played by my family, where we also chatted about our favorite part of the day. Aren’t we cute? The church service we went to was the favorite by many of us that first night. It is just incredible how many people travel, from all over the world, over the holidays, but we all end up united, worshiping and celebrating the birth of Christ. It doesn’t matter where everyone came from, when they arrived or is leaving, where they are staying, or why they came to this island; all that matters is that we are together and our voices are singing “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night.”
The next morning, the boys went golfing and the girls decided swimsuits and sun were the best options. It was another relaxing day, finished at a great restaurant called Brennecke’s Beach Broiler. A very casual spot with a great view of the ocean and awesome food. I had the Mahi and it literally melted in my mouth. Everyone’s food was very tasty and a great end to Christmas day.
Nic and I had a early start the next morning. The sound of my alarm at 4am was not exactly my favorite part of the day, but we had a flight to catch; we booked a trip over to Oahu. Seeing Pearl Harbor was at the top of my husband’s to-do list, so doing that, along with a tour of the island, was part of our agenda. We booked the whole trip through Discover Hawaii and everything was taken care of for us, from the flight to Oahu all the way to the flight back to Kauai. We started at Pearl Harbor, where we had a little bit of time to walk around and then we watched a short film before going to see the USS Arizona Memorial. It is a beautiful memorial – chilling.
After Pearl Harbor we loaded the bus and began our trek around the island. We visited the Dole Plantation, many beaches (I’m not even going to try and name them), Kualoa Ranch, Historic , and the Macadamia Nut Farm. At the Dole Plantation, we tried the Pineapple Whip which was very tasty and had lunch at Kualoa Ranch. Kualoa Ranch is pretty much where a variety of shows and movies have been filmed. We were able to try every flavor of macadamia nut imaginable at the Macadamia Nut Farm and we were almost blown away at the Historic Lookout. What made the trip even better were the four Canadians we spent the day with. They were full of awesome stories and it was a blast to tour with them. It was an overwhelming day and we were exhausted by the time we got home at 9pm. Needless to say, there was no round of bumps with the family that night, as Nic and I went straight to bed.
Tuesday, we woke up to rain. This is pretty standard in Kauai during the winter months. Nic and I decided to use this day to hike a bit of Waimea Canyon. We first went out the lookout, where there is an incredible view of the canyon. From there we drove to the end of the road that goes through all of Kokee State Park (where the canyon is located) and stopped at various pullouts to take in all the scenery. We finally began our hike on the Waimea Canyon Trail. This took us near a waterfall and was a couple miles long. It was a relatively easy hike although there were some steep cliffs and if it had been raining, it would be very slick (the weather on the island really can vary from hour to hour and it also changes depending on which part of the island you are on). Our final destination was quite beautiful. Nic was much braver than I was; the steep drop off by the waterfall made my stomach churn a little bit and I was ready to head back after only a short couple minutes.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped and met the rest of the family at the Kaua’i Coffee Plantation. This is the sweetest place – there is coffee tasting, a self-guided tour you can take and learn about the coffee making process, and a small gift shop. There is also the giant coffee cup out front that is begging you to take a picture with it. That evening we had dinner at one of our favorite joints, Keoki’s Paradise. They have a casual bar area to eat in, as well as a fancier restaurant, but you have access to both menus regardless of where you choose to dine. Every item on the menu is awesome – but if I had to recommend one plate, it would be the fish and chips.
Ahhhhh… Wednesday. Before our trip, Nic booked an excursion for the family to go on. We had all agreed we wanted to do some kayaking, and Kayak Kaua’i offered just that, along with, what we thought would be, a nice and easy mile hike to a waterfall.
The kayaking itself was very nice. It was pretty and it was fairly easy; on the way to the waterfall, we were moving with the current. There were flowers and beautiful plants everywhere, and the group we were with appeared to be moving at a similar pace. It was two miles to the place where we would begin our hike…. our nice and easy hike.
As I stated earlier, it can be quite rainy in Kaua’i in the winter months, so the trail turned out to be very wet, and therefore, very slick. Very. Slick. Our nice and easy hike turned treacherous within the first 20 feet. Nic and I thoroughly enjoying hiking… my family? Not so much. I mean, I think they kind of like it, but I don’t think hiking will ever really be their first choice of activity. Our guide, went barefoot for the entire trip, something that we all probably should have done if we were smart. In order to stay vertical we had to step directly into the muddiest spots – trying to avoid them would only result in a fall. There was a fine line between moving too slowly and too quickly. Out of the six of us, only one took a fall and walked away with a battle wound and an unforgettable story.
When we did make it to the waterfall, it was quite pretty. We had lunch, went for a cold swim, and gathered up our courage for the trek back. Honestly, this was one of my favorite days of the trip. Although it wasn’t quite what my family imagined, it meant so much to me that they spent some time with Nic and I doing what we enjoy, something out of their comfort zone. For dinner, the family ate at a Mexican place called Tortilla Republic.
Thursday was a day of relaxation. Nic and I took a car and drove to Spouting Horn. This was only two miles from our resort, but we knew we were going to do some other driving that day, so we took the car. We walked past some of the vendors and then we headed toward Old Koloa Town. This place has a lot of shops and some places to eat. We meandered through all the stores and decided to grab some lunch at the Kaua’i Food Truck. I had some tacos and Nic got something else – my goodness I wish I could remember what it was called. It was so good, and very filling. It was rice with gravy and pulled pork and over easy eggs and oh so good. We couldn’t eat it all which is something because my stomach is usually a bottomless pit. The rest of the afternoon, we went to the beach and had a few drinks. It started raining at some point, of course, and we went back to the hotel.
Friday was another relaxing day. We spent time at the beach. Made some food at the condo, and played another round of intense bumps. It sounds really uneventful, but these days are necessary while on vacation – sometimes we all need a little vacation from our vacation.
The following day, Nic and I had prepared to hike Hanakapi’ai on the Na Pali coast. We got up quite early to drive around the island to where the trail head was. You can work this hike two different ways: to the Hanakapi’ai Beach (4 miles round trip) or to a waterfall (8 miles round trip). Because Nic and I never do anything halfway, we had committed to journeying all the way to the waterfall. This isn’t exactly an easy trail, but we figured after our summer adventures: hiking La Luz, through Arches, Zion, and other National Parks, we could do it. The first two miles to the beach were relatively easy, but definitely slick. Similar to when we hiked on Wednesday, this trail became tricky with just a little rain. There was a lot of up and down, but the trail was easy to follow and the beach at the end was beautiful.
After a short rest and a snack, we made our way to the rest of the trail. The second part of our hike was not as easily marked as the rest of it and on a couple occasions, Nic and I found ourselves turning around because of a wrong turn. Luckily, there was another family that was relatively close to us, and we were able to hang with them a bit. We had to cross a river about four different times, each time a little more difficult than the previous. The final crossing before the waterfall required us to hang onto a rope so we could move steadily across instead of slipping or getting swept up in the current. I definitely recommend wearing hiking sandals and clothes that you don’t mind wearing wet. We were easily waist deep at some points and the weather is always unpredictable. We we finally did make it to the waterfall, it was spectacular. Nic climbed up along one side, I mostly stayed at the valley below. It was a large waterfall, and We did not take a dip in the pool at the end of this hike, but we took many pictures and had a quick lunch. The mist from the falls gathered around us and it was quite chilly, so we didn’t stay longer than a half hour before making our way back. It was a quicker trip back; as it usually is and we finally made it home in time for Bubba’s Burgers and fireworks on the beach. It was the absolute perfect day to end 2016.
Sunday was our second to last day on the Garden Island. We had been wanting to snorkel since we got to Kaua’i and we were running out of time, so we rented some gear from a place nearby and found a little cove to explore. There were fish everywhere and plenty of people around enjoying the warm water and creatures of the sea. We were disappointed not to have seen any turtles, but it was still fun to be in the ocean. Nic was obviously out longer than I was. We spent the rest of the day on the beach with my family and ended our evening at Keoki’s… again.
On Monday, our final day, the saddest day, we just took in as much as we could of Hawaii. We spent time at the pool, took a nice walk, and had a couple Mai Tai’s before heading to Lihue. Our flight didn’t leave until 10pm, so we went to the local theater and watched Rogue One, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then made our way to the airport. It is always so hard to say goodbye… and we are always already planning our next trip back. Maybe Christmas again? Too soon? I guess we will have to wait and see.