Sarah did a great job of covering a lot of the ground on her last entry, so for this (possibly final) entry for our Kauai trip, I figured I'd try to blow through a lot of what we've seen and done these last couple of days. Here goes!
On Thursday, having already spent a lot of time in the (sexy, sexy) mini-van, driving around Kauai; we decided it would be a good time to... drive to the southern tip of Kauai, to Poipu! In actuality, it was the weather that sent us south. The North Shore was still expecting possible rain, and high seas as a lingering result of hurricane Ignacio; but weather reports showed that the south was supposed to be clear and that the seas were also supposed to be mellower.
So, piling the crew into the (sexy, sexy) mini-van, we drove south, passing through the Tunnel of Trees on our way to our first destination: Keiki Cove. Keiki Cove could safely described as a "pocket beach," a tiny patch of sand, wedged between two large houses and hidden by a stone wall. The cove itself was partially protected by a natural rock barrier, but the surf still proved a little too rough for swimming. So, instead, while Stella collected sand for her old pre-school teacher, Otto perfects a game called "have dad lift me over passing waves, as they break." I'm pretty sure the main goal of the game was to see whose arms came out of their sockets first.
While it was a pleasant distraction, we decided -after a short time- to head on to our next destination: Spouting Horn. Spouting Horn, as I may have described when we visited it three years ago, is a blow hole where ocean waves are pumped through it tube and erupt skyward like a geyser. Though it's a little hit or miss, when it does go off, it's pretty amazing, and -as an added bonus- we spotted several sea turtles braving the crashing waves.
Next up was Puka Dogs for lunch, which Sarah described in detail in her entry. So, I won't say more, except to suggest that -if you buy one- make sure to get the "hot" or "lava" sauce, "spicy" was too mild.
Then it was on to Poipu Beach Park. Poipu Beach Park is actually two coves, separated from each other by sand spit. The Western cove was closed, owing to high seas and an endangered Hawaiian monk sea; but the Eastern cove was open and provided a great place for the kids to frolic... though my own personal frolicking was hindered by my lobster pink back, a salt water rash on my hips and the fact that I felt obligated to wear a shirt to protect said sunburn (which, in turn, weird wounded my pride)... really, my Northern genes suffer in the tropic sometimes. Imagine an under-fed Viking, red-faced in a kiddie pool. Wearing a T-shirt. Yup, me.
Anyhow, as the kids rounded the corner from "having fun" to "over-tired," we decided it was time to head back home. But, not without a stop at our favorite Shaved Ice stand in Kapa'a!
Back home, Sarah swam with the kids in the pool, while I grilled up some steak and onions on the community grill.
The next day was Friday, and we knew we had the big Luau scheduled for that evening, so we decided to stay close to home. Luckily, overnight, the weather report had gone from "thunderstorms" to "sunny," so we decided to try Hideaways Beach, just a short drive from our place in Princeville. To get to Hideaways, you park your car in the smallest parking lot ever (if you can get a spot), follow a muddy path between some tennis courts and a private resort, take in a stunning Cliffside view, and then fall of the cliffs to the beach... several hundred feet below. Well, not exactly. The view is stunning, but to actually get down to the beach, you clamber down a narrow, muddy set of steps and root-balls, grasping futilely at rusted railing and a jury-rigged network for ropes, before emerging on a small stretch of golden sand.
The waves were still on the rough side, and I think that Sarah and I were initially concerned that the kids would feel overwhelmed by them. But, after a short period of hand-holding, it was pretty amazing how quickly they got into the swing of thing, either letting Sarah and I take them out to bob with us in the swells, or happily letting the waves crash against and over them on the shore. It was easily one of the best beach experiences we had, and we were sad when we had to make our way back to the condo for lunch.
Luckily for us though, no sooner had we pulled out of the parking lot, that the skies opened up and dumped sheets of rain down on the roof of the (sexy, sexy) min-van. Initially, our plan had been to eat quickly and then take the kids down to the pool for a bit. But, the rain kept coming, along with some distant rumbled of thunder, so -instead- most of the afternoon was spent with the kids resting in front of the iPad ("resting" sounds much more forgiving than "zoning out"), while Sarah and I enjoyed an afternoon beer and some book reading on the Lanai.
Before it was time for the Luau to start, we did manage to squeeze in a quick pool session, but then we were rushing off to brave the oddly dense traffic of Kapa'a to go the Smith's Tropical Paradise. Sarah, a half-year-old Stella and I actually did a Luau during our trip to Oahu, years ago, but since the kids were older now, we figured it was time to go again, so they could experience the spectacle of the whole thing.
To be honest, beyond a few fun touches and a nice sunset, I hadn't been overly impressed with the Luau on Oahu. It was, overall, a sort of crowded, long-in-the-tooth affair, where it felt like most of the people (and the food) were just going through the motions. Happily the Luau at Smith's was better in nearly every way (though we missed the sunset, which was replaced by dark clouds and ominous rolls of thunder). The Luau itself was held on a well manicure garden, filled with regional plants and a surprising number of peacocks. The food, while not exactly amazing, we decent enough. And the show, had the right mix of kitsch (oh, the lounge-music odes to Hawaii!) and spectacle (Otto, leaning over to me while the Samoan fire dancer did his thing: "Daddy, that's dangerous!"). Honestly, the broad cultural stereotypes on display at times fell into that awkward level of cultural tourism that leaves you thinking "Is this racist? It might be racist." But, it's hard not to enjoy the costumes, dancing and, well, spinning flames.
The kids enjoyed it, and promptly crashed on the drive home.
Today, our penultimate day, we -again- decided to keep things closer to home. We know that tomorrow will be filled with driving, flying and queue-waiting (we leave our unit at 9am, but won't be home until, like 11pm), so we didn't want to overly tax the kids.
First up was the Hanalei Family Market, which Sarah talked about a bit. The market was fun, but one thing that struck me a bit was just being in Hanalei itself. During our last visit the town center of Hanalei was our main stomping grounds but -during this trip- aside from one or two detours, we hadn't spent much time there. Walking from the market to the nearby Big Save, to get some money, I was struck by the weird sense of deja vu that comes from visiting a place you've been to before. Its not often that Sarah and I return to the same area on a vacation, so it's always neat experiencing a place for a second time.
After the market, we headed back to Hideaway Beach. At the risk of tainting our previous days memories, we had all decided we'd enjoyed it so much that it was worth revisiting. Unfortunately, while it was a fun time -with Stella and I playing in the waves, while Sarah and Otto built sand forts- ominous clouds hung to the south of us, and a cool breeze was in from across the ocean, making it feel slightly less idyllic. So, when Stella's blue, quivering lips became noticeable, we decided to call it and head home. Again, though, our timing was perfect, and we crested the bluff and made our way back to the car as the first raindrops fell.
The afternoon was, again, largely dominated by rain, books and the kids watching Peg + Cat on the iPad. But, as the skies cleared, we made our way out to the pool again. The pool was notably more crowded today, and it was interesting watching the dynamics between our kids and the other kids. As we've previously mentioned, most of the other kids we've come across on this trip have been able to swim and, while Otto is happy to putter around in the lifejacket, you can tell that Stella is taking note of other girls here age and younger, who are swimming around her. But, to Stella's credit, instead of letting her inability get her down, she's risen to the occasion and -combined with Sarah's instructions- it's amazing how far she's come in this one week. While she still can't swimming, per se, today featured her "gliding," jumping on the edge of the pool by herself and letting me "toss" her through the air. For a little girl who would barely let the water touch her face just a couple days ago, it's impressive. And, hopefully, Sarah and I will be able to make sure she cares what she's learned forward.
Dinner tonight was Hawaiian food and L&L BBQ in Hanalei. Effectively Hawaiian fast food, but with a wide enough variety that everyone could find something they liked. I, for my part, tried a saimin burger, which was a beef patty effectively sandwiched between to "patties" of deep-fried ramen-style noodles. Healthy. After that, disappointingly, we had to "settle" for ice-cream shakes, since all the shaved ices stands were closed between of the rainstorms earlier today.
Anyhow, we are now back at the condo. Everyone else is asleep, most of the bags are packed and we'll be headed out early tomorrow. As we mentioned before, this entire trip came about on a lark and, in a way, that was nice. Having been here before freed us of a lot of the pressure to "go, go, go," "do, do, do" and "see, see, see" and -instead- allowed us the luxury of actually just enjoying our time. I don't see Sarah and I ever becoming the types of travelers who just go back to the same place year after year but, this time, it was nice.