Travel Day & Background

September 24, 2013

After almost 2 1/2 years since our last trip, we finally headed off on our 6th trip to Kauai in 9 years. We invited my step-sister Chelsea and her boyfriend Lance (both mid-20s) to join me, husband Sam, 4.75 year-old Ryan and 3 year-old Jack.

We had enough United miles to book five of the tickets, and then I used US Airways miles to book on a United flight - but a different flight than the rest of my family, which was nerve-racking but also AWESOME! I had to be up before dawn to catch my 6 am flight out of Denver but I was on-island by noon.

While it would have been great to just park myself on a beach or get a lavish spa treatment, I used the five hours before the rest of my family arrived to run errands - to Costco, Foodland, Walmart, the fruit stand in Kapa'a, the Humane Society thrift store - and to head to the rental house and unpack.

The rental house was perfect - a spacious, modern three bedroom plantation-style house just a block from Hanalei town center and a few blocks from the beach (see the A in the photo).

It had plenty of room for us all to spread out, a washer and dryer that got lots of use, and a great covered lanai we made good use of on a couple of rainy afternoons.

Once I had stocked the fridge it was time to head back to Lihue to meet Sam and the boys. As with my flight, the luggage took forever to arrive so the boys had plenty of time to get the wiggles out.

It had been cloudy and humid all afternoon; the skies finally opened up while we were collecting bags, making installing carseats a little tricky!

We decided to eat dinner at Hamura Saimin - the boys loved the noodles, but were obviously getting tired. I got a slice of their lilikoi pie, which was divine.

It was dark and rainy as we drove up to the North Shore so Chelsea and Lance didn't get to appreciate the views, but everyone agreed that the house was great.

It was 1 am our time (2 am for the young'uns from Missouri) so we all headed off to bed. Ryan and Jack don't normally share a room - or a bed - so they struggled a bit to settle down, but gradually exhaustion took over and they sacked out. 

Day 1: A Land Called Hanalei

September 25, 2013

As we expected, the boys were bouncing off the walls at 3 am. We tried to settle them down, but eventually I gave in and got up to make breakfast at 4:45 am. Chelsea and Lance joined us and we decided to walk down to Hanalei Bay to watch the sunrise, leaving Sam to sleep in.

For some reason, I didn't anticipate that the kids would want to go in the water so didn't bring swimsuits or towels... so they did what little boys do best - get naked! Oh, they had so much fun splashing in the water and fortunately there weren't too many people around to offend.

I texted Sam a picture of the bare backsides and said "Come join us - bring swimsuits!" He said he'll never forget the look on Ryan's face as he barreled down the beach - was he just that excited to finally be in Hawaii? Or was it being naked that thrilled him? Or was he just glad to see his dad? We'll never know.

We splashed around for a bit longer until the rain really started to come down (it had been misting for a while) then strolled back to the house for more coffee.

We sat out on the lanai and chatted as the rain stopped, but a cement mixer arrived at the construction site across the street - not exactly a relaxing tropical soundtrack! So we packed up the rest of the beach gear and swimsuits, grabbed the beach chairs (really nice Tommy Bahama backpack-style) and boogie boards provided by the house, and the bucket-o-sand-toys I picked up at Costco and walked back to Hanalei Bay to enjoy the water properly.

None of us had ever boogie boarded before so it was quite comical at first, but the waves were pretty tame so eventually we all figured it out.

The waves broke just far enough off shore that I wasn't too worried about the boys getting pounded by the surf. I had picked up two kickboards for them at the thrift store and they had great fun alternating between that and building sand castles. Ryan really started to understand the idea behind boogie boarding, though he didn't go out very far.

Lance and Chelsea were having a great time playing with them in the waves and the sand, so Sam and I decided to walk down to the pier to get lunch at Pat's Taqueria.

We got a carne asada, fish and kalua pork taco and a cheese quesadilla for the kids. We had also brought the two boxes of pokes I picked up at Costco yesterday - kajiki (blue marlin) and ahi - so we had quite the beach picnic.

The boys were starting to get pink so we moved our mats up into the shady lawn in front of the pavilion to eat. The kalua pork taco was too salty (even for kalua pork) and the carne asade was crazy spicy, but the fish taco was just right.

Then we took the sandy, tired kiddos back to the house and hosed them off in the outdoor shower (such a great idea!). Jack fell asleep almost immediately but Ryan resisted taking a nap, even though he probably would have fallen asleep on the beach if we had left him there!

We spent the first of many afternoons out on the lanai, reading or surfing on our phones. Chelsea and Lance strolled into town to get some groceries and to poke into the little shops.

Once Jack woke up, the four of us walked down Aku and Weke roads to the western end of Hanalei Bay to find a geocache hidden in an ironwood tree, which the boys thought was really neat.

The geocache was tucked inside a hollowed out coconut shell, which inspired the boys to ask to drink "water out of a coconut!" when we spotted the Aloha Juice Bar next to the Big Save.

She was closing up but was happy to present the boys with a chilled coconut (with two umbrella picks) and talk story about our shared love of gardening.

It had been at least twenty minutes since the boys last ate, so of course they claimed they were now starving. We crossed the street to Bubba's and ordered some burgers (they still don't hold a candle to the Princeville Chevron burgers, but it did in a pinch).

I texted Chelsea and invited them to join us, but she replied that they were engaged in a heated ping-pong bout at the house. After eating we wandered back to the house and hung out for a bit, but quickly started to feel the effects of the early morning wake-up and headed to bed.

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Day 2: Let's Go, Beaches!

September 26, 2013

Another day dawned awfully early at Papio Place, thanks to our little monsters - not to mention the
neighborhood roosters. This time Sam was up and ready to hit the beach at dawn with us after a quick breakfast; we left Chelsea and Lance sleeping. We also dressed the boys in their swimsuits (but didn't put ours on - how long will it take us to figure out this island lifestyle?!).

The beach was again fairly deserted - the boys played in the surf with Sam while I did a few sun salutations up on shore.

The sky couldn't seem to make up its mind - light rain one minute followed by parting clouds, then we received the best reward for getting up so early: a double rainbow!

Finally the sky darkened for real and we walked back to the house in a downpour. Chelsea and Lance were up so I informed them that it was malasada time and we walked over to the Village Snack Shop and Bakery. The doughnuts were not fresh from the fryer but were still delicious - I think Jack was pretty pleased!

Next up - snorkeling! Ryan taught himself how to snorkel in our hot tub this summer, so I was really looking forward to seeing how he did in the actual ocean with real fishies (as opposed to the "friendly sharks" who supposedly reside in our little four person spa). We picked up snorkel sets at Pedal N Paddle, packed a lunch and beach gear, and headed west.

Since everyone else had arrived on island so late, this was the first opportunity Chelsea and Lance had to see the North Shore of Kauai in the daylight and the first time Ryan and Jack had been that far (north) west. The drive out to Ke'e beach (the "end of the road" on the North Shore) was beautiful - all the recent rain made for gorgeous waterfalls and everything was so green and lush.

Our idyll was shattered when confronted with the reality of parking at Ke'e. I drove down to the beach to drop off Sam and the boys and all our gear, then wasted (what felt like) a few hours in paradise trying to find a parking space. Finally I made it back to the beach where the boys were splashing in the little waves and Chelsea was getting really nervous about the idea of snorkeling.

Fortunately she had a great teacher.

I put on my gear and swam out to the reef, but the waves were surging and the partly cloudy conditions made for crummy visibility.

Ryan didn't snorkel too much as he and Jack were having too much fun playing "canoe" with the pool noodles from the house. Honestly, those kids could have fun with a bag of flour and a ball of aluminum foil... and what a mess THAT would be!

The clouds followed us to this beach too, as it started drizzling on us while we ate lunch.  The ever-optimistic Jack (and ever-naked Ryan, who asked me to take off his wet swimsuit at lunch and then refused to put it back on) kept digging in the sand and splashing in the waves, but it soon became clear that the rain was here to stay.

Lance and I made the long soggy trek back to get the cars and loaded everyone up, at which point Sam mentioned the lifeguard told him we needed to get a move on to make it back to Hanalei as the river threatened to overflow the bridges, so we did.

Chelsea would like to point out that she had been reading a real book
and only picked up her phone moments before I took this picture.
Jack fell asleep in the car and took a long, sandy nap at the house while the rest of us grabbed our various books and devices and headed out to the lanai to relax to the sound of the rain (and it meant the construction stopped!).

Sam and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary earlier this month, so we decided to make reservations at Kauai Ono for a date night. It's a new "pop-up" restaurant in Hanalei that only serves dinner on Wednesday and Thursday nights for a maximum of 20 people - out of a food truck, no less.

We picked up a bottle of wine at Big Save and then walked purposefully in the wrong direction (damn you, Apple maps!). Once we finally arrived the hostess seated us at a picnic table with seven other folks (the rest of the spaces were reserved for a private local party) and we all started chatting. We had so much fun! It turns out every single person at the table except my husband had been on the SFO-LIH flight Tuesday morning - what are the odds?

It was really an incredible experience - and that's not even mentioning the food, which was divine. No, sitting on a wooden bench for two hours is not exactly luxurious, but the setting was otherwise perfect (oh, yeah, the 20 enormous welts that developed from mosquito bites I got were less-than-welcome mementos, too).

Of course Ryan and Jack were perfect little angels for Chelsea and Lance, taking a bath and going to bed without a peep (I do believe they may have conned Aunt Chelsea into reading 8-10 bedtime stories, some of them twice). We raved about our meal and made a mental note to pick up anti-itch cream the next day, and then went to bed.

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Day 3: Sunny Day, Chasing the Clouds Away

September 27, 2013

Chelsea and Lance were up early to head south for their reservation with Kauai ATV in Koloa while we had a leisurely breakfast and mulled over our options for the day. The weather couldn't decide what it wanted to do - one minute the sun burst through the clouds while the next it was raining buckets.

We knew that it was more likely to be consistently sunny on the south shore, so we decided to drive down to Poipu beach.

We couldn't go anywhere without the canoes, obviously, or the sand toys, or the kickboards - but at least our kids are now big enough to carry some of their own stuff (just prepping them for ski season!).

The boys had an absolute blast at the keiki lagoon at Poipu beach - the waves were pounding the rocks surrounding the lagoon, but inside was pretty mellow. We had brought some snacks but eventually it was time to get out of the sun and find lunch.  

Sam and I unanimously agreed on Puka Dog - my kids actually don't like hot dogs, but I knew the lemonade would be a hit. We remembered too late how the sauce tends to slide down to the bottom of the bun, leaving the last two bites soggy and soupy - and the spicy sauce is simply not (another argument to return to Kauai more frequently than every 2 1/2 years!).

We had tentatively planned to meet up with Chelsea and Lance after their dirty adventure, but the boys were fading fast so we loaded up the car and headed north. Jack was sacked out before we left the parking lot but Ryan kept chattering about everything he saw up until about Kealia, when both backseat occupants were sound asleep.

Upon returning to Hanalei we were able to move Ryan into our bed for a long nap; Jack perked up and was happy to entertain himself while Sam and I read on the lanai. Chelsea and Lance returned full of smiles and stories fro, the ATV tour. They agreed to keep an eye on Jack while Sam and I wandered around Hanalei. We browsed a few shops, including Havaiki, and I made a mental note to return to Java Kai in the morning. We strolled back to the house and I suggested we go to Hanalei Dolphin for dinner. 

We walked the four blocks down the road (a little iffy considering there's no sidewalk) and were seated out on the lanai, which was perfect because it meant we could sit and drink talk while the boys ran around the grounds. They headed straight for the giant anchor and probably would have stayed there all night if we had let them.

The food was great, though quite pricey. Sam and I both ordered fish dishes (monchong and teriyaki ahi), which were perfectly cooked. I was super excited when I saw the kids' menu - they offered tekka maki -sushi rolls with raw tuna, rice and nori (seaweed). My kids love sushi, but had never had this kind of roll before. I just ordered one meal for them to split (see above: pricey!) figuring four rolls each would be plenty - Jack practically inhaled his and started scrounging off Chelsea's spider roll. 

The boys were also excited about the little plastic chopstick keepers the restaurant provided - they've attempted to eat with chopsticks before, but those little doodads made it possible for them to successfully move the food from their plates into their mouths.

The service was a little slow, but it was Friday night and the restaurant started filling up soon after we arrived.

It was a really nice setting, though as usual the mosquitoes gravitated right to me! While I was herding the boys off the anchor so we could leave we passed a family of little girls - the mom was just absolutely beside herself at the thought that they would climb on the anchor... she wouldn't last ten minutes with my little daredevils!

As we walked back to the house we noticed that the two Hanalei "nightspots" - Kalypso's and Tahiti Nui - were getting going for the night, with live local music. Alas, it was time to tuck in the monsters. There was also a small wedding reception taking place at a house across the cul-de-sac from our rental, so the boys fell asleep to the sounds of ukulele and slack-key guitar.

I would have liked to sit out on the lanai and enjoy the music but I was afraid of becoming one giant mosquito bite, so I settled for reading in bed and straining to hear it from the bedroom window. 

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Day 4: Under the Rainbow and in Heaven

September 28, 2013

Today was the only day we actually checked something off my two-years-in-the-making carefully crafted itinerary (which I actually forgot to print out and bring with me). On the last Saturday of each month, Na Aina Kai botanical garden has a keiki day with discounted access to their "Under the Rainbow" children's garden. 

I didn't know what to expect but I have really enjoyed the other Kauai botanic gardens we've toured. All I really knew was this garden has a big splash pool, which is something Ryan and Jack love in any context.

We walked under the rainbow and into the garden and the boys made a beeline for the train - not any kind of real, moving vehicle, just a wooden engine, passenger car and caboose. I think they would have stayed there all day if we hadn't forced them to have fun in another part of the garden (we are TERRIBLE parents).

There was a puppet show, which Ryan was most interested in watching from above (my little stage manager); a giant tree house with a swinging bridge, which Jack ran back and forth across for what felt like an hour; a couple different kinds of playhouses with slides, and an airplane made out of a giant barrel. 

It was such a fun time - there was a good mix of visitors and local families (who brought picnics and blankets) with most of the kids age 6 and under. The boys would have stayed for hours if we had only brought more snacks. There was plenty of shade and room for everyone to spread out on the grass in front of the puppet show.

Tummies growling, we drove up to Kilauea Fish Market to pick up their famed ahi tuna wraps - but I decided to get ono and Sam ordered the Andy Irons burrito. The boys split a kids' burrito which was the perfect size (for two). $34 was a little steep for lunch, but we ate them at Anini Beach which helped lessen the pain in my wallet.

Oh, Anini Beach - my sandy piece of heaven. Sam bought me a necklace for Christmas last year with the GPS coordinates of Anini Beach engraved on it, so I can keep it close to my heart all the time.

Once again we loaded the kids up with towels, noodles and kickboards and hit the beach. As it was Saturday, there were a lot of tents from locals camping out under the ironwood trees. There was also a festival going on at the pavilion, but we never figured out exactly what it was.

Building sand castles, riding "canoes," cruising around with the kickboards - our beach agenda didn't vary from previous days. While Sam played with the boys I decided to walk as far along the beach as I could, which was a really good workout!
After a few hours of fun we loaded everything back into the car and drove back to Hanalei. Jack fell asleep and transferred to his bed for a good long nap, but Ryan resisted mightily and ended up watching Dinosaur Train episodes on the LeapPad in a giant nest of pillows in our room.

Earlier in the day, Chelsea and Lance had offered to make dinner for us, so they went to the Hanalei Farmer's Market and Big Save while we were out having fun; when we arrived the charcoal grill was heating and the steaks were marinating. It was a delicious meal, made even better because I didn't have to cook it! 

We had finally adjusted to the time change and everyone was still bright-eyed at 7:00, so I suggested we walk down to the bay in the dark. We grabbed two flashlights and a headlamp I found in the pantry and we went for a stroll. I got a little nervous when we walked past the semi-permanent residents of the Hanalei Pavilion, but as Sam pointed out, they were probably far too inebriated to do anything ill-intentioned.

It was a partly cloudy night so the only illumination came from a really bright (double?) star, the Milky Way and our flashlights, though there was a giant tent erected on the lawn of a house halfway between the pavilion and the pier - it was either a wedding reception or a prom because there was a lot of late-90s dance music playing.

We walked towards the pier, where we could see a bonfire and tiki torches on the beach. The boys were thrilled to discover ghost crabs flitting around the sand. Actually, I thought they were a little terrifying as you only saw them out of the corner of your eye, scuttling out of the circle of light. It felt very Blair Witch Project, but we enjoyed it and it kept the boys away from the surf line, which help me not have so many mini heart attacks. You'd think four adults could keep track of two little boys easily, but those dudes are fast and fearless!

Finally we realized that if we gave the flashlights to Ryan and Jack then we could always tell where THEY were, which made so much more sense. We walked all the way down to the pier and then out onto the pier, which was a neat view (as it were). The locals enjoying the start of the weekend on the beach paid us no mind; we decided to walk back through the neighborhood along Weke Rd. 

By that time the boys' legs were tired so Lance and Sam earned their keep toting them back to the house, and we all turned in. It was our last night in the house and we had to be out by 10 a.m., so I was mentally trying to organize and pack up everything while simultaneously digging in my heels against leaving. The house is on the market, so let me just dig $1.9M out of my couch cushions!

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Day 5: Movin' on Up, Er... Down

September 29, 2013

Today was our last morning in Hanalei - time to pack up all our crap and head south for two nights at the Grand Hyatt in Poipu. While I was wildly excited to stay at the Hyatt (for free, no less - more on that later!), I knew that going from a spacious three bedroom house to two hotel rooms was going to be a challenge. I also knew that the boys take at least one night to adapt to a new sleeping arrangement, so we probably weren't going to get much sleep that night!

Carrying the malasadas - and his
My Little Mermaid cell phone, natch
Jack woke up early without disturbing his brother, so he and I strolled over to get coffee from Java Kai and another batch of malasadas from Village Snack Shop. By the time we got back, everyone was groggily making their way to the great room and they perked up at the sight of the doughnuts.

There was a lot to pack up (and it's easier to do without little "helpers") so the rest of the family went to Hanalei Bay for one last boogie boarding session.

I love having access to a washer and dryer on vacation because it means we can pack fewer clothes, so I did two more loads while cleaning out the fridge and checking under beds and in drawers for misplaced items.

Finally everything was boxed and bagged and piled up, ready to be loaded into cars. Now that our chaos was cleared out, I could take pictures of the house.

Apparently everyone was having a lot of fun at the beach because it was well past our check out time when they returned. The housekeeper pulled up so we hustled out of her way and hit the road.

Our first stop was the recycling substation before Princeville - we are dedicated recyclers and composters at home so it was no big deal for me to separate out recyclables, but I shudder to think how many people don't make the effort (even if they have curbside recycling at home).

Lance had mentioned he needed a snack before driving south, so we headed to the North Shore General Store (aka North Shore Grindz) for the best burgers on the island. It was only 11 a.m. but I couldn't leave the North Shore without a Braddah's BBQ burger and a Kona Wailua Wheat.

Our original plan was to drive down to Lydgate for a picnic and to play on the playground, but I realized the boys would conk out as soon as we hit the road so we ate at the roadside tables.

Ryan and Jack had a blast watching the chickens and donning raw-onion bracelets while the adults all made various 'mmm-mmm' noises and used up a lot of napkins wiping our faces and hands.

Finally it was time to bid a sad adieu to the North Shore. The boys were pretty chatty but finally sacked out just north of Kapa'a. We discovered the Kapa'a bypass on our last visit, so to extend the nap opportunity we turned onto Hwy 581 and headed inland. Sam was trying to navigate for me (damn you Apple maps!) and we missed the turn to 580, which comes out at 'Opaeka'a Falls - but I just kept on driving through some very green, very gorgeous countryside and local neighborhoods. 

We ran into a few dead ends but finally navigated back to the main road. We stopped at the falls so Chelsea and Lance (who had been faithfully following us this whole time, entirely unsure where we were headed!) could snap a few obligatory photos and then rejoined the main highway at Wailua. The boys were still sound asleep so we passed Lydgate and the Kamalani playground and continued south.

Eventually we pulled into the porte-cochere at the Grand Hyatt Kauai. We've visited the Hyatt on previous trips when we stayed next door at the Point at Poipu but we've never stayed at the hotel. At nearly $400/night for a standard hotel room with no kitchen facilities, it's a bit out of our price range (not to mention totally impractical with little kids) for a weeklong vacation.

However, I was able to use two different credit card sign-up bonuses to swing two free rooms for two nights here - one of which came with Platinum Gold Passport status. The $25/night resort fee was waived on award night bookings which left us more money for poolside mai tais!

Thanks to my platinum status, we did get upgraded from pool view to partial ocean view on the ground level. Our rooms (see red arrow below) were just a short walk from the pool if we went out the lanai (through the hotel was a long maze of hallways), but a million miles from the lobby or other sections of the hotel. It was good for walking off liquid calories, though!

We dumped our bags, threw on our swimsuits, and headed straight for the saltwater lagoon. It was amazing - warm and mellow, shallow for a long ways out, and not crowded at all. We lounged, we splashed, we drank, and otherwise just lazed away the afternoon. I really can't imagine staying at the Hyatt for the duration of a Kauai vacation - I wouldn't ever leave the pool!

Finally we did manage to drag ourselves away from the pool in search of dinner. We drove over to Tortilla Republic at Kukui'ula Marketplace. I didn't realize there was a separate upstairs and downstairs, but I'm really glad we were seated downstairs. The boys enjoyed watching the tiki torch lighters and I enjoyed paying bar prices vs. restaurant prices. Everyone was pleased with their meals, the drinks were inventive and potent, and the servers were friendly and attentive.

We strolled back through the lobby of the Hyatt, where we could see the luau going on and would have liked to watch a few minutes of the show, but bedtime was looming. Of course, once we got back to the room the boys turned into sleepless acrobats bouncing from bed to bed, but eventually the day's adventures caught up to them (and us).

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Day 6: Geocaching, Baby Beach, Pool Pool Pool

September 30, 2013

Once again, my day started extremely early.  Ryan and Jack were wide awake before the sun came up, so I threw on some clothes and we headed out the lanai door with a plan to walk along the beach. It was cloudy and started to rain on us, so we only made it as far as the lagoon and sheltered in one of the covered poolside chairs. They normally rent for $70/day but at 6:30 am there wasn't a big demand for them!

Not a day begins without Jack greeting me with a plaintive "I'm huuuuuunnnnnngry!" and today was no exception, so we made our way up to Seaview Terrace.

After getting muffins and enduring the windstorm blowing through the lobby (and the incredibly brave - and annoying - birds charging in for crumbs) we started back to the room. We ran into Sam coming to find us - amazingly, he hadn't heard us leave and was surprised to wake up to an empty room.

We had brought some food from the rental house and Sam made oatmeal with hot water from the coffee maker; the boys enjoyed breakfast #2 on the lanai while I showered and changed. On every previous visit to Kauai we have stayed on the South Shore, so I didn't have a huge list of things we just had to see or do. As much as the pool was calling to us again, I realized there was a geocache less than a 1/2 mile from our hotel on the Maha'ulepu coastline, so we herded the kids out the door (Chelsea and Lance went out for breakfast before going ziplining with Kauai ATV).

We hike often in Colorado, but you would have thought I was forcing my children to walk barefoot across hot coals the way they were whining and carrying on. I have a geocaching app with a compass on my phone that counts down the distance to the cache's coordinates so they perked up once I told them we were close to the "treasure."

The app only gets us within 16 feet, so once we got to the general area we had to poke around a bit. Usually Sam has the "geo sense" to home in on the find right away, but this one required a little more exploration and I nabbed it. We let the boys select a treasure (future rockstar Ryan was over the moon to find a guitar pick and Jack chose a plastic seahorse) and then left some trinkets for the next treasure hunters.

It was still only a little after 9 am but it was getting hot so we went back to the hotel. We walked past the pool to get to our room and I had a brief thought that we should just stay put by the pool, but we had already talked up going to Baby Beach to the boys - as the name suggests, it's supposed to be great for kids. We packed up the beach paraphernalia and set out on another hike through the hotel to the parking lot. 

Baby Beach was indeed a great place for kids - and it was practically deserted. Of course it clouded up and started raining as soon as we had unloaded the car - but that didn't stop the boys from charging into the water with their kickboards. 

Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out. Let's just take a moment and enjoy this idyllic scene, shall we? 

We hadn't brought enough snacks, so eventually we had to pack up and seek out lunch. We drove into Koloa with a plan to get a plate lunch at Sueoka's, but the snack shop is closed on Mondays, so we just picked up some poke, cheese sticks and a tuna sandwich and walked over to the park for a quick picnic. After that we browsed some shops, but the boys were getting tired after our big morning activities.

Of course they both fell asleep as soon as we got in the car, but I wanted to give them a good long nap so headed west toward Waimea. Unfortunately, the drive was also making ME (the driver) tired, so we turned back toward the hotel. They played possum as we carried them back to the room (quite the heavy load - oof!) but were wide awake as soon as we attempted to lay them down. That left us with no other choice but to go back to the pool!

We repeated yesterday's pattern of splashing, lounging, soaking, drinking and snacking (I ordered the hummus plate from the poolside restaurant - YUM). Ryan had gradually been getting more confident in the water without his snorkel mask, and today he asked Sam to throw him up and into the water repeatedly. 

This is my favorite photo of the entire trip:

Yes, he landed flat on his back, which made us cringe, but he came up smiling and clamoring for more. 

After a while the children realized it had been at least 20 minutes since they last ate, so of course they were starving. We had originally planned to attend Smith's luau, but the thought of getting cleaned up and driving to Wailua made it a less-desirable option at that point. 

Chelsea and Lance stopped at Kalapaki Joe's in Poipu on their way back from ziplining, so we decided to just go up to Seaview Terrace. I was very impressed with the kids' menu and my slider trio was amazing, but Sam was underwhelmed by his chicken caesar salad. 

Ryan was enthralled when the guitarist started playing - he was incredibly talented and we moved over to the stage-front seating to enjoy more of his performance after we finished eating. 

Finally it was time to head back to the room, bringing our last full day on the island to an end. 

Day 7: I Don't Wanna Leave You Now

October 1, 2013

After a restless night (how did I end up in one bed with both boys while Sam had the other all to himself?!) I was wide awake bright and early - but everyone else was still sleeping soundly. I would have liked to run out for coffee, but I didn't want to bang around finding shoes, etc. so I just slipped out the lanai door to do some sunrise yoga.

Before long, little faces were pressed up against the glass and I had company for my downward dog. There was little doubt where we were going to spend our final morning so we finished up the last of the oatmeal and fruit to build energy for the pool.

I called down to the front desk to request a late check out and, "Due to your Platinum status, Mrs. Fleming," we were allowed to stay until 2 pm. We could have stayed in our room until our 7 pm interisland flight for "just" $150 or used a free hospitality room to freshen up before heading to the airport, but we had other plans for the afternoon.

The Hyatt has free washers and dryers for the guests to use which were right down the hall from our room, so what the hey, I threw in some laundry (a shocking turn of events, I know) before going out to the lagoon. 

There weren't many people at the lagoon at 8 am so we had it all to ourselves. I sat poolside for a while admiring my new iKoa phone case that Sam had bought from the Martin & MacArthur shop in the hotel. It's a beautiful piece of koa wood shaped into an iPhone case - slippery as heck and will do nothing to protect the phone if you drop it, but just gorgeous, and a far more useful Hawaii souvenir than jewelry or a T-shirt.

At 9 am we went over to the koi pool so the boys could feed the fish - it was pretty wild watching the fish practically climb out of the water to get the food. The boys really liked watching the swan, too.

Then it was time for more swimming! Chelsea and Lance had gone out for breakfast (they ended up at Poipu Tropical Burgers of all places!) but they returned bearing Starbucks coffee and scones and we repeated the two previous days' poolside activities. At one point Jack wanted to go to the beach, so he and Sam and Ryan took the sand toys out to Shipwreck. When I joined them a half hour later, they had dug an enormous hole in the VERY hot sand and were starting to get sunburned. 

Even with the late checkout our goal was to get on the road by 1 pm so the boys could nap in the car. I really don't mind driving around during naptime - Jack is pretty good at settling down to sleep but I'd rather be out and about than stuck in a hotel room, and Ryan won't nap unless he just happens to fall asleep in the car. Since our Honolulu-Denver flight didn't leave until 10 pm, it was important to make sure we didn't have overly tired, cranky kids on our hands.

At noon Sam and I left the boys with Chelsea and Lance at the pool and went back to the room to shower and pack up. Finally we had everything stashed, sorted, tucked in and zipped up. A quick shower for the boys and we were on our way out.

My second favorite photo of the trip, even though it's fuzzy:
 Great travelers aren't born, they're made. No reason a 3 year old can't pull his own luggage (yes, one of us ended up carrying the backpack through the airports, but he insisted on pulling his suitcase by himself!). 
Sam and the boys loaded up the car while I trekked to the lobby to check out and settle the bill. I was a little worried about the final tab as I had gotten awfully fond of saying "charge it to the room!" to the poolside servers and bartenders, but it really wasn't too bad. The rest of the family joined me and we loitered in the lobby savoring our last few moments.

At long last we climbed into the car and headed north. We didn't have to be at the airport until 6 to check into our inter-island flight, so we had a few hours to kill. There was a geocache at Kamalani playground I had been trying to get to all week, so we set our course for Kapa'a. I left Sam and the sleeping boys in the car while I hunted down the cache (I say I do this for the boys but really they could care less - I'm just geeked about my app).

We had picked up a travel bug while visiting South Dakota in August and I was trying to find the perfect cache to drop it in. This one was not perfect, so I returned to the car.

I knew there was a "travel bug exchange" at the Kapa'a Public Library so we headed there. It felt a little like cheating - there was no real "hunting" involved, but at least I was able to drop the bug and swap it for another one to take back to Colorado.

Finally it was time to head towards the airport, though we still had time to stop at Costco to fuel up the car and find a place to eat dinner. We texted Chelsea to say we were headed to the Feral Pig and did they want to meet us; she replied that they were upstairs at Kalapaki Joe's for the happy hour. We met them there and ordered a variety of appetizers to tide us over (the boys loved the coconut shrimp and edamame).

Sadly, our 2013 Kauai vacation drew to a close. Our LIH airport experience was not too bad (leaving on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday made a big difference!) and we made it to HNL just a short while before boarding the red-eye to Denver. That flight was not very enjoyable - Ryan and I both had a hard time getting comfortable enough to sleep (even though our row, supposedly the first in the coach section, was actually an Economy Plus seat with extra leg room that I did not have to pay extra for - woohoo!).

We landed in Denver at 8:30 Wednesday morning; we hugged Chelsea and Lance and sent them on to their flight to Kansas City (with a two hour drive after that to central MO!).

Brutal red-eye notwithstanding, Sam and I both agreed that this was our best trip yet and are looking forward to #7. I definitely do not want to wait another 2 1/2 years so I'm lobbying hard for October or early December 2014 (for at least 10 days - a week-long vacation is distinctly unsatisfying!).

See all photos from today.

Background &Travel Day

April 27, 2011
This was our fifth trip to the island, second for Ryan (2.5 years) and first for Baby Jack (7.5 months) and my in-laws Bill and Nancy. We own a timeshare at the Point at Poipu and we love it, but my dad gave us an RCI week to use so we decided to see what makes the North Shore so special to many people.

I booked a Friday-Friday week at Wyndham Bali Hai Villas (Bill and Nancy used RCI points to book a separate unit), but as I was researching airfares I realized the only way we’d be able to use United miles one way (the HNL-DEN direct is a MUCH easier flight than connecting in LAX at 5:30 a.m.) and also find reasonable airfare for DEN-LAX-LIH would be to travel midweek.

I also realized we had enough points to book a couple of days at the Point (which would expire if we didn’t use them this year), so I added two nights to the beginning of the trip and booked our tickets Wednesday April 27 - Thursday May 5.

I booked DEN-LAX-LIH because I figured it would be easier on Ryan if he had the opportunity to get out and run around midway through the day, getting back on the plane right around naptime. It would have worked perfectly if United hadn’t kept changing our flight times after I booked, and then we arrived in LAX to find that our flight was delayed ANOTHER hour due to mechanical issues. We spent more time in the LA airport than I initially anticipated, but it worked out okay in the end.

I packed way too many toys and not quite enough snacks – Ryan was content to watch “Happy Feet” on my netbook and play with a bag of fuzzy pom poms, but he ate his way through all the food I brought and then a United Tapas Snackbox (marinated olives and all) and still wanted more (and this was after eating a full lunch in LA!).
Baby Jack did okay, taking a couple of catnaps throughout both flights and in LA. I had not purchased a seat for him on either flight, and the DEN-LAX flight was packed so he sat on my lap. The LAX-LIH was not full (another reason to book mid-week) so we were able to bring on his car seat. However, there was so much to look at that he had a hard time settling down for a good long nap.

We landed in LIH at 6 pm (10 pm Denver time!), claimed the Kelty backpack carrier and the stroller from the baggage carousel, and headed to Alamo. An 8 day compact rental was $179 including taxes and fees (reserved through Costco Travel). We got a Nissan Versa, which was JUST big enough (one more suitcase or bigger kids and it would have been too small). 

After wrestling to install the carseats, we headed south. Since our initial flight plans had us arriving at 5:15, I originally thought we could stop at Wal-mart for a few toiletries and baby essentials, but given the additional delay in LAX we decided to head straight to the resort to get the kids to bed and avoid any public meltdowns (mine or theirs).

Bill and Nancy stayed in the second bedroom at the Point; while we knew the kids would both ultimately end up in bed with us, we wanted to start Ryan in his own bed so we pulled the sofa cushions off and made him a bed in the walk-in closet – he loved it! The resort provided a crib for Jack, but it was rickety and I was not impressed.

You can read my comparison of the two resorts by clicking on the Timeshare Reviews tab at the top of the page. I think my two favorite things about the Point are the pool and the beds. We didn’t use the pool this time, so the beds were #1. I’m pretty sure they’re the Westin Heavenly Beds, and if they’re not, they’re pretty similar. As anticipated, both kids ended up in bed with us, but since it was a king, there was plenty of room!

In an effort to pack light (we did carry-on only) and because I had planned a quick stop at Wal-mart, I had not packed toothbrushes, contact solution, sunscreen, or razors and shaving cream. We also had not made plans for dinner that night, so Nancy and I drove up to Koloa to the Big Save. Even though I knew groceries were pricey from previous visits, I still had that initial “They want HOW MUCH for eggs?” reaction. We spent $57 on eggs, milk, oatmeal, bananas, bread, PB&J and a few toiletries. I forgot to get contact solution and I didn’t like the sunscreen choices, so I didn’t get any.

We ate a Red Baron frozen pizza for dinner and were asleep by nine (Bill said he was going to stay up to watch the royal wedding, but I don’t think he made it to midnight).