Destination Feature: Kauai, The Garden Isle
The view of the Na Pali Coast from our 7 seater plane was breathtaking. I am not one to use too many clichés or superlatives to describe things and rarely does something impress me so much that I constantly re-live the memory in my head. But seeing the Kauai from the air is one unforgettable moment.
Hawaii is family favorite - it is a relatively short flight from our home in San Francisco and it is always beautiful and always relaxing. We have always been blessed with perfect weather whenever we are in Hawaii (usually the end of May and early June). After several trips to Oahu and Maui, we decided it was time to visit a different island, and we chose Kauai. It is now our favorite of the Hawaiian Islands.
San Jose Mineta and Oakland Airport had the best airfares to Kauai, as convenient as it was for us to fly in and out of SFO, the $300 fare difference per person was enough to sway us to driving to the Bay Area’s other airports. The Marriott Kauai Beach Club was our home away from home for our 6 day trip. The resort was beautiful, the grounds, consistent with what you would expect from the Marriott. The rooms looked a little older but roomy and comfortable. The swimming pool, the largest single level pool in Hawaii, was beautiful. There was no shortage of lounge chairs to relax in while the kids played in the pool. The Kalapaki Beach was just a few feet away where activities such as surfing and stand up paddle boarding are available.
I was there to see the Na Pali Coast either from the air or from the water, whichever will make the most economic sense and whichever would be practical since we were 4 adults traveling with an 8 year old and a 1 ½ year old. After researching about helicopter tours and catamaran tours, I stumble upon Air Ventures, which had a 7-seater plane and a bi-plane that would take you around the island. It was also about half the price of a helicopter tour. We decided to do the tour on our second day so we get a good overview of the island. It was a perfect day to fly, just a few clouds and little wind. I was a little weary about flying in a small plane (the smallest we’ve all flown in so far) but our pilot, Bryan, was experienced and very knowledgeable.
About 20 minutes into the flight I did feel a bit queasy, while my daughter Michelle, was constantly chatting up the pilot and asking questions. The adrenaline rush and the excitement of seeing Kauai from above overpowered the uneasiness that I felt in my stomach and I was able to enjoy the sights. While in the air, I repeated over and over again, ‘Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to see this beautiful place you’ve created!’ It was truly beautiful. The Na Pali Coast, the Waimea Canyon, the beaches, the hundreds of water falls. It was all jaw-dropping. Our littlest traveler, Zach, was quickly knocked out even before the plane took off while Michelle began to feel tired half way thru the 1 hour flight around the island. It is still worth it to bring the kids because it will definitely be an experience they will never forget. That’s the reason why we all take vacations right? To make memories that last a lifetime.
By taking the air tour early on, we felt that we maximized our 6 day stay in Kauai. The rest of our days there were spent in the pool or by the beach or looking for the best food to eat. Our hotel room had a kitchenette so we were able to prepare most of our breakfasts from the room which saved us a little bit of time and money. There are barbecue grills around the property as well so we had our own little bbq with local ingredients from the farmers market. It's a good experience for the kids to see what the local fruits and vegetables look like and talk to the farmers that grow them. Ask your hotel concierge for a farmers market schedule and which one is closest to your area.
Always ask the locals where they like to go out to eat, they are your best source of information for local restaurants to try. Here is a list of our favorite restaurants around Kauai that were recommended by locals:
Hamura Saimin - go for the special saimin but make sure you leave room for the lilikoi (passion fruit) pie
Tip Top Cafe - the oxtail soup was delicious. We also enjoyed their cookies (large chocolate chip cookies!)
Eggbert's - No trip to the islands is complete without getting your fill of macadamia pancakes! The eggs benedict was a plus!
The Fish Market - of course there has to be poke on this list, right? Well, The Fish Market was a pleasant surprise because they not only have outstanding Poke Salad but they have one of the best fried chicken I've ever had! All these sell out quickly so go before the lunch rush!
Smith's Family Garden Luau - this is a beautiful garden luau right by the Wailua River. Before the luau, you can take a tram that goes around the garden where you can see native plants and some brought over by the many different ethnic groups that have called Kuaui home. The food is very good (especially the kalua pig and teriyaki beef!), and there are performances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, Philippines, New Zealand, China and Japan.
If you're looking for a little bit of adventure, you can try surfing or stand up paddle boarding at Kalapaki beach. It was fun and exciting, especially when you get to ride a wave, much like you would when surfing. The lessons were $75 per person for about 2 hours.
If you want to relax, get way from the hustle and bustle of city life, I would highly recommend Kauai. A beautiful place I wouldn’t mind visiting over and over again.