The last day of vacation on Kauai always presents something of a challenge. You have to check out of your condo or hotel room well before noon, but then your flight home is often not scheduled to board until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. What to do… what to do?
A lot of places will offer the use of a hospitality room for that pre-flight shower and change of clothes (at Kauai Beach Villas for example, that's a free perk, although I've heard that some places will tack on an nominal fee). So that takes care of the basics, but what do you do with your time? Give the island one more whirlwind tour and maybe you'll find something that will give you ideas for your next visit!
Of course, it helps if you have transportation. If you didn't rent a car, this might just be the best time to rent one for the day (or bicycles, or motorcycles or motor scooters). Our first last day, pre-flight road tour included our first visit to Kilauea Lighthouse, a diversion that ironically enough was independently taken by our guests on our second visit (honest guys, we saw it first!). From there we just drove along the highway stopping anywhere the beach looked attractive. We made a lot of stops! Then we finished with dinner at Keoki's Paradise in Poipu Beach, less than 40 minutes from the airport. Keoki's is the kind of place that if you found it on the mainland, you'd probably say "what a lovely island feel it has!" In Poipu, with "island feel" all around you, it might seem just a little over the top. But the food is good, and if you don't have a reservation you can still get a good meal in the bar area. One Lava Flow or Mango Margarita later and, you'll find yourselves holding hands and mentally reviewing the costs of extending your vacation by another day or three.
Two years later, we prowled the galleries of Kapaa, Koloa, and Poipu and gathered enough memorable images that a month or two later translated into a couple art purchases. Here's a suggestion for novice art collectors (like us). Never buy a piece on the same day that you fall in love with it. Let the memory simmer a little. A reputable art dealer will happily jot down all the information that you need to know, and be willing to have you contact them later. Then, a week… a month… whenever you feel sufficiently moved to make a purchase (perhaps after you've won that extra little lottery jackpot) you can call or email the dealer and finalize things from afar. You don't want to carry something home in your luggage, so it's going to be shipped anyway. Chances are, the purchase you make will be even more special once you're reunited with it. The two paintings that we bought through Aloha Images certainly qualify in that regard.
This last trip was equally special. We had been to the north "end of the road" at Ke'e beach a number of times, but somehow never managed to make it all the way to the "other" end past Waimea. That can be a little intimidating for two reasons, depending upon which fork of the road you happen to take. Follow the blacktop road and you'll end up at a locked gate to an ammunition depot for the Pacific Missile Range Facility. Move along, there is nothing to see here, and I suspect that if you did see anything worthy of note, you'd have to explain yourself to some very stern young men in uniforms.
So, if you take the other fork down the dirt road, and 4.5 miles later you'll end up at Polihale State Park. Now, four and a half miles might take only less than ten minutes to traverse anywhere else on the island, but on this particular stretch of road it will take longer. Be aware, some (all?) rental car companies are less than enthusiastic about their vehicles travelling this way. So much so that if you get careless and blow a tire or break something, the costs of getting you towed out may make a serious dent in your child's college fund (I'm not kidding). But, if you're not easily scared (or just clueless like me), and are willing to be patient (like me) you can navigate down this washboard that masquerades as a road at the stately speed of say, ten or fifteen miles an hour and be treated to one of the longest stretches of beach on the island!
You don't believe me when I say washboard-like road? Consider that at one point I got bold enough to boost my speed up to thirty miles an hour. We watched as the hood of the car bounced around like nothing I've ever seen before. Thirty seconds of that were enough to slow me down for good!
But for me, Polihale is a serious destination beach! No, you shouldn't swim or surf here, that's dangerous. But the scenery is unforgetable; over seven miles of sand that will take you up to the edge of the Na Pali coast. And best of all, few people! If you don't want to be bothered by someone else's choice of boom box music, this is the place. Just make sure you don't try to hide too low as the occasional four wheel drive vehicle might not see you as they careen up and down the sand.
The beauty of these last day adventures is that we always seem to find something unexpected, the discovery that a certain beach is far more attractive than the guidebooks hinted at, or that some other attraction near the one you veered off to see was even more compelling. Or maybe, you'll just find yourselves in conversation with a stranger, one might possibly be added to your list of friends! In any case, it's far, far more interesting than gluing yourself to an airport bar stool prior to an 8 hour flight.