Monday, July 29, 2019

Kauai Day #7 - Tubing & Homeward Bound

Day 7... our final day in Kauai!  Our flight to LAX didn't depart until later that evening, so we had most of the day to spend on the island before we had to head over to the airport.

My body never quite adjusted to Hawaiian time and I had been waking up early all week, so I decided I might as well catch our last sunrise on the final day.  I snuck out onto our lanai and walked a few yards down to the beach and took in the beautiful view.

I swung by the Starbucks in the lobby on the way back to the room and used some coffee and a breakfast sandwich to bribe Nick into coming to the pool with me for a few hours.  
10am = Time for a cocktail
We also managed to find the golf course, Poupi Bay, at the hotel and explored the club shop for  a few souvenirs to bring home with us.

No time for golf on this trip!
A few guys named Tiger and Phil seemed to have won a few rounds here!
We also made our way down to Shipwreck's beach in front of the resort and made our way toward the start of the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail.  Unfortunately, we didn't have time to hike the entire trail, but we loved checking out the awesome views of the Grand Hyatt and the coast from the start of the trail.

Shipwreck's Beach
Shipwreck's Beach looking back towards the Grand Hyatt
Looking for sea turtles from up on the Maha'ulepu Trail
Although no one was cliff jumping while we were up there that morning, we had seen people jumping into the water from up top on previous days and were shocked.  It looked like an insane jump!  No jumping for us today.

We loved our time at the Grand Hyatt.  It's such an impressive resort in terms of both size and amenities.  We felt like we only scratched the surface of what was available at the hotel.  Nick and I both agreed that if we ever wanted to come back to Kauai with the kids, we would park ourselves here for the week and just enjoy the pools, beach, restaurants, etc.

Although we were supposed to check out of our room at 11am, we had previously inquired about a day rate since our flight didn't leave until 9pm.  The resort made it possible for us to stay in our room until 12:30pm, but someone else was checking in and had requested our specific room (apparently it was one of only a handful of connecting rooms available in the hotel).  So, they moved us to a neighboring room for the remainder of the day.  We quickly packed up our room at noon and dragged our suitcases down the hall to the new room.  We had another adventure planned for the afternoon off the hotel grounds, so we really just needed a place to keep our bags and a locale to grab a shower that afternoon before our flight (I did threaten to shower by the pool before they managed to find us another room!).

That afternoon we had booked a mountain tubing adventure with Kauai Backcountry Adventures.  The tubing took place in the former irrigation canals at the Lihue Plantation, which closed in 2000.  On our drive down to the canals, we were able to get a quick tour of the interior of the island, including where "Jurassic Park" and "Tropic Thunder" were filmed.

Overlooking the rainiest place on Earth - over 1000 inches last year!

We had to hand over our phones for the tubing, so no pictures from the actual adventure.  It was a super chill ride down the canals and in/out of four long tunnels (some of them in the pitch black!).  Nick used the GoPro to document our ride since we didn't have our phones.  We were in the water for about an hour just cruising down the canals.  We followed up our tubing with a picnic lunch and then we jetted back to the Hyatt to shower and prep for our long flight back to the mainland.  

And with that, our Kauai adventure came to an end.  We left Lihue Airport and flew to LAX before catching our connecting flight to Dulles.  Just under 24 hours later (and 6 time zones) and we were home with the kids!

Happy 10th anniversary to us!  As usual, Nick made an amazing video documenting our travels...

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Kauai Day #6 - Diving & Luau

Just like the previous 5 days, we were up bright and early again on day #6, our final full day in Kauai.  Today, we were off with Seasport Divers for a few morning dives. 

Since it had been five years since Nick and I had gone scuba diving, we both did refresher pool work in Maryland before heading to Hawaii.

As soon as we got to the dive shop, we were warned that the conditions that morning were really rough and that we'd most likely be doing two deep dives due to reduced visibility and the currents/tides/swell.  We were also offered to use nitrox, instead of regular oxygen, to help increase our dive times.  Although we had never dived with nitrox previously, we agreed to the intro since most of the other divers on the boat were also using it.

We took a quick van ride out to the dock/boat and got settled for our short ride out to our first site.  At one point, a group of bottlenose dolphins were surfing and jumping in our wake, but I wasn't quick enough to take a picture or video, but I kept looking out to see if they rejoined us.  

Upon arrival at the dive site, our guides let us know that it was going to have to be a drift dive due to the tides and swell.  The boat dropped us off as quick as possible since being on the boat was tough for everyone - it was a rocking and a rolling!  Usually the boat ride is one of my favorite parts of the dive, but not today.

Frankly, the whole dive was a blur.  We saw a ton of fish, turtles, octopus, etc.  The largest turtle that I have ever seen was sitting on the bottom as we came over some rocks and I would have loved to have taken a closer look at him, but we were flying at that point.  He was easily the size of a VW bug!  Coming up from the drift was ROUGH.  The swells and current were insane and I was worried we were going to end up in the middle of the Pacific before the boat could come get us.  I even managed to lose a fin in the swell from kicking so hard, but the boat swung over and retrieved it for me before they picked Nick and I up from the water.  Getting back on the boat in that type of swell was a complete adventure too.  I took the boat ladder directly to my shin while trying to climb aboard (better my shin than my face!).  

Our boat captain tried his best to find a second dive site for us, but the visibility and currents weren't helping the situation.  We tried a few different places, but nothing panned out.  So, we ended up back at the original dive site again for dive #2.  

At that point, we had been out of the water for a really long surface interval and I decided I was done for the day as I really didn't need to repeat the same dive again.  So, Nick went down for the second dive of the day and I stayed on the boat watching the sea turtles and helping spot divers as they popped up all around us from the drift dive.

Nick getting bounced around in the swell after the second dive
It was definitely not ideal diving conditions and I really wished that we had gotten a better day to explore the south shore of Kauai, but we got to see a bunch of stuff and you get what you get with Mother Nature.  When Nick got our dive log books stamped, we found out that due to the current, we ended up seeing three different dive sites during the drift, which is crazy!  Typically you'd spend 30-40 minutes checking out just one dive site!  I was happy with my choice to stay aboard the boat for the second dive as the currents had gotten even stronger and the visibility had decreased from earlier in the morning.  Nick got bounced around so much that he got seasick after the second dive once back on the boat.

After returning to the hotel, we grabbed lunch by the pool and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
You don't mind icing down your shin with that view!
One thing that majorly impressed us at the Grand Hyatt was the availability of free water.  When we initially checked into our room, we were given two reusable water bottles and water refill stations were positioned all over the resort.  We loved the concept for so many reasons and refilled our water bottles countless times during our stay.

Water stations by the pool
That evening, we attended the luau held on the property.  If we had known there was going to be a professional photographer at check-in, we may have spent more than 5 minutes showering and throwing clothes on as we hustled back from the pool that afternoon!

Dinner was great and we got to try lots of different things, including poi, pork, fish, chicken and lots of other dishes on the buffet.  It was also an open bar, so we had our share of mai tais (as well as lots of fruit punch - diving always seems to dehydrate us!).  I also tried a few different local beers.

Enjoying my Big Wave Golden Ale from the Kona Brewing Company, but not so much my poi (the purple mush in the bowl)
The entertainment during and after dinner was great.  The "host"/narrator told the history of the islands and the dancers shared their culture and traditions through dance and song.  At one point, they invited any honeymooners or anniversary celebrants up to the stage area, so Nick and I got up and joined about 20-30 other couples in front of the stage for a slow dance.

We capped off our night by souvenir shopping at the hotel stores and then sitting out in a cabana on the beach listening to the waves crash along the shore.  Unfortunately, our last night in Kauai had arrived and we'd be heading back to the mainland the following evening!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Kauai Day #5 - Waimea Canyon

On day #5 of our Kauai adventure, we were purposefully up bright and early so that we could drive out to Waimea Canyon.  All recommendations were to be there as early as possible before any clouds or weather moved into the area to block the views.  

We took the top off the Jeep and headed out.  We loved our Jeep that week and we quickly learned the tricks to getting the top on/off fairly quickly (thanks to the valets at the Princeville Resort for helping us out those first few days!).  

It took us about an hour to drive to Waimea and then climb the twisty and hilly roads up to the top of the canyon and to Waimea Canyon State Park and Kokee State Park.  I kept thinking to myself that my mother would need a dramamine IV drip to survive the drive.  We didn't have any set plans or hikes mapped out, so we slowly explored and stopped at all the different look-outs after paying our $5 parking fee (new as of summer 2019).

Our first look at the canyon

The temperature difference up at the top of the canyon vs. at the hotel when we left that morning was crazy.  It was easily 10-20 degrees cooler up at the canyon rim.

The state parks were easy to navigate and we just kept driving up the canyon road and pulling off periodically to enter the marked look-out spots.

By the time we made it to the final look-out along the road, the Kalalau Lookout, the misty clouds were starting to roll in (we made it up there around 9:30am).  For Nick and I, we had come full circle from our first 2 days on the island.  Below us was the trail that we hiked on day #2 and the coast line that we explored by boat on day #1.  As the clouds moved around, we caught glimpses of the NaPali Coast below us.

The view changed every minute as the clouds, mist and fog drifted over the mountain tops.  

And then the view was completely gone.  By 9:50am, we couldn't see anything below us.  

I had read about the nearby Pihea Trail in Koke'e State Park with various lookouts along the route, so we decided to give it a try and see if the fog/mist lifted while we explored a bit.  Unfortunately, it never did, but the trail ended up being a ton of fun and quite challenging in places.  Nick and I both were in our sneakers, but probably should have switched into our hiking shoes, which were sitting in the car.  The trail had a ton of mud, roots, and varied terrain all leading to a magnificent look-out one mile down the trail at the Pihea Vista.  Unfortunately, we were socked in and didn't get to see that particular view or any view - just clouds and fog.  The Pihea Trail was completely different from the Kalalau Trail in terms of vegetation.  We loved being surrounded by all the ferns and trees and the cool mist would blow in/out as we walked the trail.

Nick lost in the clouds

Our 2 mile hike took just over an hour to complete and we were starting to get hungry, so we slowly made our way back down to the town of Waimea.  We made pit stops to check out other sites along the road and for Nick to fly his drone once we left the state park.  We experienced our only rain of the ENTIRE week as we drove down and it was a 60 second drizzle that didn't even require us to put the top on the Jeep.  Within two minutes, the sun was back out and shining.  We had the best weather during our stay.

Kauai's famous red dirt

We grabbed a quick and delicious lunch at Island Taco and then started making our way back to the resort.  At least, that was the plan until we saw the sign for Kauai Coffee Company on the side of the road.  Tours of the property were on the pricey side, but the coffee samples were free!  A side of cream cost us 25 cents and I put it to good use trying a bunch of their different flavored coffees.  They also had a huge gift store and a coffee bar with lots of drinks and snacks involving their coffees.

Freshly caffeinated, we hit the road again and stopped by Spouting Horn to check out the blowhole, which was very close to where we had eaten the previous evening.

Of course, Nick spotted the surfers by The Beach House again and I knew he was dying to fly his drone to check them out, so we pulled over and he flew for a bit. I was promised a shave ice if I kept my complaining to a minimum.

I ordered the special of the day, which involved pineapple, coconut, honey, coconut cream and pure heaven!
Best shave ice on Kauai?  I would say it's a tie between Wailua Shave Ice, which we had right after we landed on the island and this one from Waikomo Shave Ice.  We passed tons of other shave ice places and there was even a stand at the hotel, but none looked like these with fresh ingredients, fruit and all natural flavors.  

We made it back to the hotel around 4pm and made an executive decision to cancel our sunset dinner plans for that evening  and just be pool bums for the rest of the day!  Best decision ever!!

Testing out the saltwater lagoon at the Hyatt

We swam.  We drank frozen cocktails.  We lounged in the lazy river.  We went down the water slide.  We even found the adults only pool.  It was the perfect afternoon after spending the past few days going full throttle.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Kauai Day #4 - Travel to Poipu

After 3 incredible days and 4 wonderful nights exploring the north shore during our stay at the Princeville Resort, we were up early on day 4 to pack up and head out.  But, not before enjoying the pool one last time!  We grabbed some lattes and pastries from the lobby coffee shop and planted ourselves poolside for a few hours before they kicked us out. 

Quiet morning by the pool enjoying my coffee
That view will never leave me
Our weather couldn't have been better on the north shore - not a rain drop in 72+ hours
The Princeville/Hanalei area was absolutely incredible and we loved every minute there.  But, we were also excited to explore new areas of Kauai.  

Our first stop of the day... Kilauea Point.

Over 100 years old, the Kilauea Lighthouse was commissioned in 1913.  The lighthouse provided an important role for both ships and planes.  It was the first landfall for ships arriving from the west and the beam could be spotted by airplanes from as far away as 90 miles and helped guide flights from the mainland to the islands.

The area is also home to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and a variety of birds nest here, including albatross, nene (Hawaiian goose), red-footed boobies, wedge-tailed shearwaters, and red and white-tailed tropicbirds.  We spotted many flying overhead and nesting on the cliffs during our quick visit.

We spotted this pair of nenes resting by the lighthouse entrance
After grabbing a quick lunch in Kilauea, we continued to head south and made a quick stop at Opaekaa Falls, since it was on our route.

On the other side of Wailua River State Park, we stopped to take a look at Wailua Falls.  The waterfall is famous for being in the opening credits of "Fantasy Island."

After that, it was time to check into our next hotel... Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Poipu along the southern shore.  Upon checking in, we knew this was going to be a very different experience from our north shore stay.  The Princeville Resort had 250 rooms whereas the Hyatt had 600+ rooms. 

View of the ocean from the main lobby
During check-in, we lucked out once again and were upgraded to a nicer room category.  The size and scope of the hotel was insane.  We clocked the walk from the main lobby to our room at just shy of a quarter of a mile.

Checked into our new home for the next few days
The south shore beaches were a completely different experience from the north shore.  Whereas the north shore was calm with almost no surf, the south facing beaches had red flag warnings up during our entire stay because of the crazy waves, swell and current/tides.  Apparently during the winter months, it swaps and the north shore becomes the surfers paradise while the southern waters remain calm.

The sound of the waves was deafening at times and we could hear it clearly from our room, even with the glass slider closed.

The Hyatt grounds were amazing.  We walked and walked and walked and you always seemed to find a new path, a new pool, a new water feature, etc.  The property seemed to extend the entire length of the bay.  We spent an hour or so just wandering around the hotel and the grounds experiencing it all and taking it all in as we waited for our bags to be brought to our room.

Relaxing on a swing overlooking the ocean
View of the lobby from the beach/pools
Beautiful grounds looking towards the ocean (and the giant waves)

As much as we wanted to dive right into one of the many pools that we spotted along our walk, we had sunset dinner reservations at The Beach House down the street, so we did a quick shower/change and were off again.  On our drive to the restaurant, we realized just how much more built up this area was vs the north shore.  On our short 5-7 minute drive, we passed lots of hotels, condos, restaurants, stores, etc.

The Beach House was another incredible experience.  We were seated, but told that we were free to roam the property.  There was so much going on - a wedding was taking place on the front lawn, surfers were putting on a show in the water, the sun was setting and dozens of people were on the lawn taking pictures and hanging out enjoying the food and drinks.

Surfers catching some waves
Nick spotted a drone and almost died of envy since he didn't think to bring his to dinner.

We ran back inside to grab our drinks and headed right back outside.

My monkeypod mai tai was delicious... and strong!!  The honey lilokoi foam on top was awesome.  

The craziest thing happened at sunset.... thousands upon thousands of green parakeets came out and starting flying around the coast.  According to our waitress, it happens nightly.  Of course, Nick and I started googling in between courses and read all sorts of stories about the invasive birds and how they're decimating the crops on the island.  Almost as quick as they appeared, they were gone.  It was so creepy!

Our meal was amazing and the best that we ate on the south shore.  We shared lobster deviled eggs and potstickers and then each ordered a fish plate as a main meal and topped it off with coconut cream pie.  We rolled back to the hotel completely stuffed, but managed to rally for a late night swim since the pool were open 24/7 at the Hyatt.  Nick even managed to join the kids at the laser light water slide event while I floated around the lazy river.

Although the south shore was a completely different vibe from the north shore, we loved both experiences!