Friday, September 14, 2012

In a land called Hanalei

Well, the trip to Kauai was a rousing success! I can say that without qualifications. Well, maybe one qualification: Flying for roughly 6 hours with a 13-month-old who is eager to walk and reluctant to sleep is a bit on the rough side. But, beyond that, the complaints about our trip to Kauai are few and far between.

The early idea behind this trip was one that Sarah and I have been musing over along with two other families with kids. Knowing that it can sometimes be difficult to travel with young children, and knowing that you inevitably end up hanging out at your rental house or hotel room more than you'd like; the idea was to go on vacation with a small group of friends and rent a large house for all of us to stay in together. That way, there would be other kids for Otto and Stella to play with, other parents to help with watching the kids and, if we did end up just bumming at the rental, at least we'd have friend to hang out with there.

So, after quite a bit of hunting, I eventually managed to find the Taro Plantation on Kauai's North Shore, just outside of the town of Hanalei. (Incidentally, the town in Puff the Magic Dragon is actually "Honah Lee," so I can only presume it's coincidence.) The Taro Plantation was a large, four bedroom, three bath house, with an enormous living space, large deck and a pool. Definitely a suitable place to spend our time...

Sarah and Otto in the living room. Definitely enough room for the kids to run around.
Stella and a couple other kids on the deck. You can see the amazing view of waterfall striped hill (literally, we counted, like, 6 or 7 waterfalls after a rain one day), and the pool below. The pool was nice, because it was on-hand when we wanted it, but remote enough that we didn't have to worry about the kids jumping in while we weren't around.

Overall, it went amazingly, I thought. As predicted (read: hoped) the kids all really enjoyed hanging out together, and it was nice to have people to talk to while lounging around the house. This later point was especially important since we had several days where it would rain heavily for long periods of time, limiting our travels. (Hanalei is located more or less North of the wettest place on Earth, Kauai's Mt. Waialeale.) Also, luckily, all the families seemed to have the same expectations: When we all wanted to do something, we would. But, if only one family wanted to do something, they didn't hesitate to go do it. It made for a nice flexible day. It also ended up allowing us to do things we wouldn't otherwise have been able to do, like take a boat tour of the Na Pali Coast (more on that later).

Since most of the trip was a cycle of eat-sleep-sit-beach, I won't bore you all with a day by day account. But, instead, just hit on some of the high points. And, one low -or at least humorous- point...
Luckily, that isn't one of our cars.

On (I think) our second day there, another group of tourists attempted to drive down the road leading to our house, and managed to drive their car off the edge of the road, getting it stuck. They ended up needing to call a tow truck from the far side of the island to pull them out. Ouch. The down side was that it left us having to walk into and out of our house for half the day. The upside? This was our view during that walk...

On our third day, we took a road trip around the island, to see some of the sites there, including Waimea Canyon. The Canyon was actually socked in with clouds when we got there (I think that the other two families, who were on a slightly staggered schedule, might have had better luck), but we did get to see the amazing Kalalau Valley.

The Kalahau Valley. Sarah and I had to take turns going to look, since Otto was sleeping in the car. Sadly, for Sarah, I think I got a clearer view than she did.

Stella at the Valley. Overall, it was really warm in Kauai, but at the elevation, someone got cold.

Also, on the way to Waimea, we hit our first beach, the "Baby Beach," thus called because it lava rock pools provided a calm, shallow place for the kids to frolic.

The whole motley crew at the Baby Beach.

Stella and I also got to check out the Sounding Horn (a famous blow hole), frolic on some rolling red-dirt hills and -on the way home- Sarah and I got to sample some Saimin.

Saimin. A Ramen-esque dish. I think that the local lore says that Chinese immigrants say it's Japanese, while Japanese immigrants say it's Chinese. Either way, it's tasty!

The next day, we went to the other "end of the road" to check out Ke'e beach.

Ke'e Beach, caught as a quick rain shower passes through. In the hill behind the beach is the start of the famous Hanakapi'ai Hike down the Na Pali Coast. Obviously, with three infants and three pre-schoolers, that hike will have to be a pass this time.

Now's probably a good chance to talk about the kids and swimming. Stella has been taking swim lessons at the YMCA recently, but -despite that- she's notoriously cautiously around water. In past trips to places like Oahu and Mexico, she wouldn't even approach the water, claiming the waves were "too loud." That said, on this trip, she definitely rounded a new corner. Starting with Ke'e Beach, she started slowly adventuring into waves. By weeks end, at both the pool at the house, and Tunnels Beach, she was a full on water spaniel, jumping and playing in the water with (not-quite) reckless abandon. It was really great to see her make that transformation, and probably especially fulfilling for Sarah, since she spent several years working as a life guard and swim instructor.

Stella, cautiously, tries out some waves.

Otto, on the other hand....
...seemed to have little reluctance getting in the water or -more notably- playing with the sand at waters edge. Surprisingly, he was actually a little more cautious around the pool (not a bad thing), but he enjoyed splashing and playing in both.

One of the biggest advantages of traveling with the other families was that we got to take turns doing boat tours of the Na Pali Coast. Since we couldn't hike it, the boat tour seemed like the best alternative (well, short of dropping thousands of dollars on helicopter rides, I suppose). First the dads all went on the tour, while the moms stayed home with the kids. The following day, it was the moms' turn.

A Panorama of Hanalei Bay, where the tour departed. We didn't spend much time on this bay... but, wow! Stunning!

The Na Pali Coast. The beach in the lower half of the picture is actually the campgrounds where the hike terminates, but it's hard to even notice them with the stunning mountains looming overhead.

Our tour boat going into a cave that had collapsed. You passed through a cave opening into a large, round, open-air pool surrounded by sheer cliffs stretching up on all sides.

While there were definitely nicer boats doing similar tours, I'm not sure if there were better boats. The small six passenger boats we were on were able to speed and bounce over waves as well as slip into and out of small coastal caves, giving the whole thing a distinct sense of adventure.

Unfortunately, in preparation for the choppy, open water, we all popped Dramamine. Luckily, no one got sick, but on both days, the people who had spent the morning on the tour spent the afternoon sleeping off the effects. Speaking of sleeping...

Stella sleeping at Anini Beach. Anini Beach was supposed to be another great beach for kids, but ended up being a bit of a bust, owning to several of the kids just sleeping through it, but it not being a good place for adults to swim (shallow, oddly slimy conditions). Still, cute pic.

Tunnels/Haena Beach, our last, beach. Stunning, though a bit of a hike to get there.

The final day was spent at Tunnels/Haena Beach. Here, like on our tour and Ha'a Beach, we got to do some snorkeling. I'd actually never snorkeled before this trip, but after these experiences, I've definitely a convert. The Na Pali Tour's snorkel stop was probably my favorite of the three I explored, but might be trumped by the fact that I got to swim next to a sea turtle at Tunnels Beach.

But, sadly, soon enough, our vacation was over. I know I'm forgetting a ton of stories and events (the dad's taking the kids to brunch at the Commune, shaved ice, group dinners, that amazing Banana smoothie thing at Banana Joe's... and on and on). But, I'll end this with one or two more pictures, and call it good....

Stella, Otto and I in front of our rental car. The continuation of odd tradition of rental car photos.

Sarah and Otto at the Hanalei Bay Pier. It's been years since our RTW trip that started this blog, but it's wonderful to still be traveling with my best friend in this new context.

Chicken in a Barrel! ...just because. Actually, quite tasty. Worth the stop on your drive through Kapa'a.

So, to summarize, a wonderful, successful vacations. A few minor hiccups here and there, but a great time, and traveling with the other two families add a great new dimension to things. Sarah and I have spent so much time traveling together, that it was a great change of pace to share the experience not just with Stella and Otto, but with our friends.

(For more pictures, check out our Flickr set.)