A November 2003 trip
to Kauai by jenandfrank
Quote: Calming, beautiful, lush - a must "stop" when visiting Hawaii.
If you are semiathletic, I would suggest doing at least part of the Na'Pali Coast hike. To the first beach, it is 2 miles one way. The views are incredible and the hike was fantastic. Grab a walking stick from the pile of wood before you begin--it really helped us out. Pack water and maybe even a snack for the beach at the end. You will definitely want to walk around or just sit on the rocks and relax-- it is a tough hike. We were told that there is a waterfall 2 miles further, but that the hike was extremely difficult. Needless to say, we didn't venture further than the 2 miles. While hiking it got so hot that we could actually see steam coming up from the dirt. We are not golfers, but have heard (and saw) that the Princeville offers quite a course (and an expensive one at that).
The helicopter ride was incredible, and so worth the money. The pictures we got were incredible. It affords you the opportunity of getting amazing pictures and gives you the chance to see areas of the island that are not reachable otherwise. We found that buying a higher-speed film alleviated any bumps we had while in flight. I think that 90% of the pictures we took that day look like postcards. It is expensive though, but if I had to pick one paid-excursion while there, this would be it. This is definitely an island where you can get in the car and get lost. The mountains are in large supply and are all lush and beautiful. Make sure to stop for shave ice at the Wishing Well truck--it's famous! This island is about relaxing and being in nature. If you are looking for tall buildings, look somewhere else.
You must rent a car if you plan to leave the resort. Everything here is very spread out, and taxis are sparse. Walking really isn't an option either, considering you are basically surrounded by mountains. As with the rest of Hawaii, the car companies make you pay a fee per driver--so if you don't plan to drive, don't put your name on the rental contract. One downfall to staying on the north side of the island is the drive to the airport--it's long and the flights back to the mainland (like N.Y.) leave late at night, so you are driving on unfamiliar territory with a time line. Keep in mind that since Kauai is the most lush--it rains a lot here. Plan for it; and if you have specific things you want to do while there, take advantage of the nice-weather days. Especially since you never know what the next day will bring.
Hanalei Dolphin--Hanalei Dolphin Center, Kauai, 808/826-6113
This is the kind of place you come to after skipping lunch. We, however, didn't know that. They serve you so much food--it's insane. Down to the salad, you just can't finish anything--they might as well call it family-style. Reservations are not taken here; they instead have a strict first-come, first-serve policy, and the dress is very casual/come as you are. Frank had the NY strip, and I had the Haole chicken. Both were delicious, but we could barely touch anything after the calamari appetizer and the huge salad we packed down. The atmosphere is fun and loud, and we got the feeling it was a major local hangout. I like that because I always know how good the food is. It is a great place to hang out for a few drinks or even to bring the kids, because the price is right. Highly Recommended.
Lighthouse Bistro--Kilauea Road, Kilauea, 808/828-0480
Although the website will call it fine dining, we walked into this restaurant and almost walked out because it looked a little bit too casual for what we expected. The service was asleep, as far as I was concerned, but the food was surprisingly good. I had the fusion chicken, and Frank had the stuffed pork. They also offer an all-you-can-eat pasta bar for $14. We got that and split it as an appetizer. Overall, we enjoyed our experience. I would say that although there are better choices on the north shore, this is definitely worth a visit. No reservations necessary. Recommended.
La Cascata--Princeville Hotel, Kauai (north side of the island), 808/826-9644
This is located in the Princeville Hotel and boasts incredible views of Bali Hai (prior to sunset). Many of the dishes are made with local treats in a Sicilian style. They have a huge wine list for even the pickiest of people (my husband). I had the roasted tomato soup--incredible--and the penne pomodoro. Frank had the beet tartar and the duck. Our meals were fantastic, and the service was excellent. It had a very romantic setting, with no children, and was a bit pricey, but the meal was worth it. If you book in advance, you can secure a seat by the window, which is extraspecial. Dressy-casual, and you must have reservations (even if you are a guest of the hotel). Highly Recommended.
Wishing Well--Shave Ice Stand, north side of the Island--Hanalei
Although this really isn't a restaurant, I wasn't sure where else to list it, and I feel it would be a shame if I didn't share this place with you. Shave ice is considered a must-try while in Kauai. It has by far the best shave ice (not shaved ice) on the island (and we tried quite a few). The difference between what we know as a snow cone and a shave ice cone is how the ice is chopped. Shave ice is lighter and fluffy (I know this sounds ridiculous)--I guess the best way to describe it would be by saying you won’t be chomping on any ice chunks. Serving since 1983, the truck offers at least 50 ice flavors and a whole slew of the ice cream/ice flavors. The picture below says it all--beat up truck, questionable awning, and handwritten signs everywhere (almost childlike). The owners (who work in the truck) are older and slow, keeping with the relaxed Hawaiian theme. It is known for its "rainbow" flavor, which of course my husband had to try. I had the passion fruit, which was better than anything even remotely similar that I’ve had in the past. Frank actually considered going back for another right after the first was finished--need I say more? This is a must-try while on Kauai. Don't be turned off by the old truck, the shave ice is delicious. Plenty of parking and close to some shopping if you want to make an afternoon out of it. Highly Recommended.
You are boarded in groups of two, and the next group is not allowed on the tarmac until the previous couple has gotten in and been buckled. We chose the 30-minute flight because we are both chickens and didn't think we could last much longer. Thanks to our concierge, we were given the front two seats (next to the pilot). That was a surprise and very nerve-wracking when we were walking to the helicopter, getting in, putting on our headsets, etc. I mean, I was sitting next to the pilot. I could have fed him—that’s how close we were. It was insane. We had never flown in a helicopter before, so everything was exciting for us, right down to the take-off and landing. We got some incredible shots and had such an unbelievable experience. Of course, my roll of film ran out mid-flight, so it was quite a sight watching me change the roll. At one point, the pilot was consumed with me and how long it was taking me to load my film. It was nice to know that he was focused on flying! In retrospect, the people in the back were probably getting quite a laugh at us.
The sights that were included on the 30-minute trip were the Hanalei Valley, Mt. Wai’ale’ale, Hanapepe Valley (where Jurassic Park was filmed), Waimea Canyon, Waimea Bay (where Captain Cook first landed), and the Na Pali Coast. This is definitely a must-do when visiting Kauai. We paid just over $100 per person. After the flight, some people felt nauseous, and the staff had ice pops and juice for them. Surprisingly, Frank and I were fine—meanwhile, we were the most scared at first. They offered a video (to buy), and it included the sights that we saw (pre-recorded), with us edited into the beginning, boarding, and take-off. We bought it because we knew no one else would believe we took the flight and because it's something we'll have forever. Highly Recommended.
From the minute you walk into the huge and very overwhelming lobby (15,000-plus square feet), you are overtaken by the incredible views. The lobby has floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase the crystal-clear water and surrounding mountains. Huge chandeliers, European-style furniture, huge plants, and gorgeous local flowers are all included in this unbelievable area. You think to yourself that the entire hotel cannot be this beautiful… and you’re right – it’s not.
The concierge was knowledgeable and very helpful (she even snagged us front seats on our helicopter tour). The rooms were a decent size (we had a standard room), although slightly dated (teal and brass bathrooms). There was a large window that separated the bathroom from the bedroom area. It has a special coating/light on it that made it dark. That being said, if you forgot to turn it on, you were on display for anyone in the bedroom. That was done so you could shower and look at the view. That seems pointless to me - Why waste time in shower looking at the view when the real thing is right outside. Regardless, housekeeping was excellent and the room was spacious.
The Princeville is located on the north side of the island and is a decent drive from just about everything. Many say that's why it's a star hangout, due to its secluded style (I literally walked into Jodie Foster at the pool.) When turning into the Princeville area, it's a good 5- to 10-minute drive (2 miles) through developments and past fountains and the like before you even get to the hotel, which is at the very end. It offers great sunrises and sunsets, and if you are lucky enough to grab one of the three hammocks on the beach, you can just sit under a palm tree, take in the water, and read the day away.
The rooms did not have Internet access on the TV, but they do have a "computer room" off the lobby by the concierge desk. They charge per 15 minutes, but the exact times are written by the guest and done by the honor system. There was a nightly hula/music show in the lobby lounge (called the living room). It was nice to be able to get a drink before dinner and relax in an adult atmosphere. The living room had several sofas and small seating areas that were created to look like several little living rooms with a European decor. There were a few children at this hotel, but all were well-behaved (I'm sure that is in part due to the nightly cost of the hotel).
This was the first hotel we have ever been to that refused to empty our minibar without charging us a fee. We emptied it ourselves anyway, but I thought that was odd and sort of stupid. The distance to and from everything in this hotel was far and sort of annoying. Just to get to the pool we had to take two elevators down and walk a small maze. The lobby was located on the ninth floor and just about everything else was down from there.
There is a gym that is off the pool (which means you actually have to walk out of the hotel to get to it). It was a decent size, and the equipment was okay. If you really needed to get a workout in, it was possible.
The service was good. I am mostly indifferent about it, though. On our check-out day, I needed a plastic bag to carry some things and the hotel had run out of bags. That to me was odd - How does a high-end hotel run out of bags? At that point, though, why argue. Overall, I would recommended this hotel but seriously consider the Hyatt. It is newer and closer to more places, with views that are just as nice. I think the Princeville has been resting on its reputation for way too long, and areas like the rooms, the pool, and the gym have been neglected and are in need of renovation.
The lighthouse was built in 1913 by 26 men as a navigational aid for commercial shipping between Hawaii and Asia. The total cost of construction was $77,982, $12,000 of which was used to pay for the giant clamshell lens. The lighthouse tender would anchor offshore and then dispatch small boats filled with supplies to the point. The boats would anchor to cleats cemented into the lava rocks at the point, and a pulley platform (90 feet above the water) would pluck the supplies from the boats and place them on a loading platform (110 feet above the water). The lighthouse’s beam could reach 90 miles out to sea, and its lens was the largest of its type ever made – credited with saving the first transpacific flight from being disastrous. The Coast Guard assumed responsibility for the lighthouse in 1939, which was lit each night until World War II, when the light was deactivated so as not to aid the enemy. The lens was replaced in the ‘70s with an automatic beacon.
The views are incredible (see pictures), and due to the refuge's rocky cliffs, it is one of the foremost nesting and roosting habitats for seven native Hawaiian birds. Birds include red-footed boobies, the albatross, the laysan, and the great frigate bird with an 8-foot wingspan. The lighthouse itself is understated and small, but the cliffs, the water, and just the views in general make it worth the visit. This is one of the few wildlife refuges open to the public that includes more then 200 acres of protected land, established in 1985.
I think you’ll find that there are more bird-watchers than actual lighthouse visitors at the point. There are volunteers there that answer questions and point out must-see things. We found them to be very knowledgeable, energetic, and friendly. There is a visitor center with exhibits that show the various birds, native plants, and marine mammals that exist on all of the islands in the Pacific. Views from the point allow you to see whales and dolphins swimming and playing in the Pacific and sea turtles closer to the bluff. The point is actually the remnant of a former volcanic vent that erupted about 500,000 years ago and has leftover a 500-foot ocean bluff.
Crater Hill is part of an extinct volcano that is open to hikers. Moku'ae'ae Islet is just offshore from the peninsula. It is another bird sanctuary and home to the Hawaiian monk. The islet also has a blowhole that spouts when waves crash into it. That is a great area to watch for rainbows. Hint: Bring binoculars – you will enjoy this visit more. Although the signs and website says that there is a $2 fee per person, it is actually a requested donation to enter the area, and it is done on the honor system with a big wooden box at the entrance – not a person.
Hawaii’s state bird is the Nene, and almost at extinction, there are about 200 that call this refuge home. Many incredible sights and breathtaking views make this a very enjoyable stop.
It is open daily from 10am to 4pm. About 300,000 people visit the refuge each year, with the revenue benefiting environmental programs. Note: There is also an extensive gift shop with statues, calendars, postcards, and tons of books. Picnicking is not allowed. Take Highway 56 north and then turn right onto Kiauea Road. If you follow the road to the end, there is parking and a viewing platform with beautiful and semi-different views than what you will see at the lighthouse. The lighthouse is a short hike up a small hill. This is recommended.
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