Kauai – Days 1-3January 11, 2007 at 9:00 pm | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment
Our timeshare trade for the Marriott Ko Olina Resort on Oahu hadn’t come through as early as before so this year I decided to expand our trade criteria and include the other Islands and maybe try something different for a change. We ended up getting a trade for the Embassy Poipu Point Resort on Kauai (now called the Sunterra Poipu Point Resort – wish we knew that driving around the first night.) I realized this resort was going to be a step down from the Marriott but no big deal.
The travel to get here was uneventful, which I guess is good. We flew Hawaiian which we have come to greatly prefer over the other airlines. Not only do they have more direct flights from Seattle to Honolulu (and Maui), they have better service, better food, and I could swear a little better legroom on their planes. The downside, this time, was that I had a bunch of Hawaiian Miles to use. Actually I had a bunch of American Express points – my last ones. The American Express Member Rewards program has gone downhill. It used to be you could tranfer one point for one mile on a selection of Airlines. I came to find out they changed it so it takes two points to equal one mile – what rip off. On the old program I would have had enough points for all 4 of our tickets! In addition, whenever you have to book using Airline miles (as opposed to those credit card programs with no restrictions), you usually get screwed on the itinerary — having to make a plane change or fly at inconvenient times. In our case it was the lay-over in Honolulu which was over 3 hours. At first I didn’t think this would be so bad as we could take the time to have a leisurely lunch and watch NFL playoffs. The problem is the Honolulu Airport stinks as far as restaurant selection. There is only one real sit-down restaurant and it is sort of a lame Red Robin. Oh well, it is just one meal and the kids were in good spirits and didn’t mind the lay over at all. If you ever have to eat there, go eat at the Stingray restaurant in the Inter-Island terminal, not the main terminal. We spent time at both and in the main terminal, the TVs are all on rabbit ears and the place is kind of seedy. At least the Inter-Island terminal the TVs were on cable and the service was much better – go figure? How can Denver airport have Sushi and Honolulu not? The Japanese will pay big bucks for sushi (as we will later find out) so someone is really missing an opportunity at the Honolulu airport.
We arrived at our unit in Poipu at close to 7 PM. In driving here I had totally forgotten about the cool ‘tree tunnel’ you drive through when coming into Koloa. I remember this island being lush, but I had forgotten just how lush it is. It truly lives up to its name as the Garden Isle. Our unit was about exactly what I expected. It is a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo with a good layout and decent amenities. Everything looks about 10 years older than the Marriott (which it probably is) and it doesn’t have near the caliber of finish work and hardware/appliances as the Marriott but it still rates above the average as far as all the condos that I’ve seen. Clean, fairly new looking (obviously well maintained.) But a definite step down from the Marriott timeshares. Marriott’s newest timeshare which is suppose to be equal to or better than the Ko Olina is actually right down the street (too bad we didn’t get a trade for that one.) The pool here is shallow with a gradual drop to a max of about 3-1/2 feet, but enormous! It is ringed with very coarse sand which I had read some people said it was uncomfortable to walk on. It depends how sensitive your feet are. The hot tub is enormous too, but not quite hot enough (about 100 degree) but that works well for the kids. The grounds are nice. Beds are comfortable. Very quiet here and not crowded in the least (probably because this is just after Winter Break for most.) The best attribute is the location. Poipu is by far the best location to be on the entire island in my opinion and there are not a ton of upscale accomodations here that are truly oceanfront, either right on a beach or within easy walking distance. This place is except for one building in the back. We have a partial ocean view which is a conservative description compared to other places I’ve seen as we are ocean front and have an excellent ocean view from our decent size lanai. I’d put this place in the top 5 places to stay in Poipu along with the Kiahuna Plantation, the new Marriott, and the Hyatt or Sheraton of course (if you can afford it.) The last (furthest out) building and the Poipu Sands is also a superb location.
Lisa has always been somewhat down on Kauai due to the rain. It rained off and on when we came here last time for my sister’s wedding six years ago so she wasn’t really enthused about coming here but was up for a change nevertheless. As luck would have it, it appears they are having what they call Kona winds. This is when the weather patterns are reversed. Instead of the weather rolling in from the NE it is coming in from the SW. As a result, we are waking up to cloudy, overcast skies every morning with off and on rain showers.
One thing I should note about this trip is that I decided we would spend a lot less money on eating out in nice restaurants. So our first night’s experience is actually a bit hilarious in a depressing sort of way. It was close to 8 PM I believe when Lisa decided we needed to go out and get something to eat. I had already made a quick stop at the grocery store for some basics to get us through the morning but nothing to make a real dinner. I was tired and had not had any time to even buy one of those infamous blue guidebooks for Kauai. So I challenged Lisa to find a place to eat. She thought sushi would be quick and easy. So did I. She called the front desk and they recommended a place at the Sheraton. We sat down, opened the menu, and I gazed upon the most expensive sushi menu I have ever seen in my life. $13 for a California Roll. All the two-piece sushi was $11-$13. Everything was essentially about 3 times the normal price. In any normal circumstance I would have left immediately (no wonder they didn’t have their menus displayed on the wall anywhere.) But it was late (close to 9 by now) and we were very tired and didn’t want to end up driving around all night. (There isn’t a huge selection of restaurants here in Poipu – no fast food at all.) So all I ordered was a beer ($9) and some edamame. Lisa ordered a small amount of sushi for her and the kids. They didn’t even eat the California roll because it was made with real crab and tasted fishy. The bill came to twice what it would have cost us to eat twice as much food back home, so essentially 3-4 times what we are use to payng for. I think these prices are essentially equivalent to what the prices for sushi are in Japan. So much for avoiding the high-priced dinners (at least the first night.) We were both in a pretty bad mood after that experience but then laughed about it the next day.
After being here for 4 nights now, I actually prefer the cloudy and breezy weather. For one, you don’t have to worry about sun screen. For two, it keeps the temperature perfect in my opinion, in the low to mid 70’s with a nice breeze (it would be warmer in the summer.) And the Island is just lush and beautiful. You feel like you are really away from it all here which is not a feeling I have gotten as much from the other Islands. Actually, ideal weather to me is a mix of clouds and sun with periodic sunbreaks as it is nice to have some sun. But it quickly gets hot when the some comes out and the temperature quickly approaches what feels like the low 80’s sitting in the sun. That is for the most part the weather we have gotten with some exceptions.
The first day was REALLY rainy. I can’t remember seeing it rain so hard anywhere. We decided to drive to the ‘dry’ West side of the Island – that’s when I realized the weather pattern was reversed. We did stumble upon (while allowing Jordan some shut-eye in the car) the Western-most shopping mall in the United States in a small town just west of Waimea. Didn’t even get out of the car, see pictures below. The kids really enjoyed the shopping though (as they always do.) Jordan bought a shark tooth necklace and a red bow tie which he would later insist on wearing everywhere! Nolan buys pretty much anything in sight until his money runs out, which doesn’t take long. We also went shopping in ‘Old Koloa Town’ later. I’d say the shopping overall in both towns was so-so. Worth spending some time doing but no incredible finds.
We had a good lunch at the Hanapepe Cafe, a very small little town with a nice assortment of shops, and walked across the swinging bridge over the river. The restaurant was primarily vegetarian. A lot of restaurants on this Island appear to cater to the Healthy/Vegetarian Cuisine Enthusiasts. What these restaurants don’t cater to is Low Carb as my headache from my blood sugar crash proved later that day (my veggie burger was made with rice, the side was pasta salad, they didn’t have diet Coke, only regular, and the pineapple upside down cake was awesome.) Hanapepe is one of those seen it, done it, don’t need to return kind of places though. It use to be the rough and tumble town on the Island until the early 80’s. There’s really not much there.
We didn’t even bother driving up to the Waimea Canyon – wouldn’t be worth the drive as we have already seen it and its not the type of place the kids would just love to spend time at. Another seen it, done it place.
Needless to say we ended up cooking dinner in the unit that night. Grilled Teriyaki Chicken. Entire dinner cost us the same price as one California roll from the night before.
Prior to dinner we walked down to Shipwreck beach and around the Hyatt. Again, I forgot how amazing and incredible that resort really is. The upper pool with its canals and the water slide made me wish we were millionaires and could afford to spend the $1,000 a night for a 1 bedroom suite. (A normal hotel room is I think at least $400/night – are there that many people that can afford that to keep the place full? The place is HUGE!) The Hyatt actually has an excellent selection of shops in its own right. The main gift shop actually had great prices – I was completely surprised.
The next day the weather was much better and after morning showers it was mostly sunny during the afternoon. So by popular demand, we spent most of the time at the pool that afternoon letting our little fish thoroughly wear themselves out. The bar and grill at the pool at this place is pretty minimal, almost a joke, but if you want something to eat or drink, it’s there for you. But the unit is only 50 yards away and a couple flights of stairs (or elevator ride up.)
Since I’ve been dealing with work a lot, I didn’t have the time to make a plan for dinner. I had a short list of restaurants but Lisa and the kids ate snacks at 4:30 so I wasn’t in a hurry to go eat dinner or worry about making a reservation. This turned out to be the subject of a tired and hungry ‘discussion’ later between Lisa and I when the kids were tired and the places we called had a wait. We ended up eating at the place we could get in the soonest which was Breneckes across the street from Poipu Beach. The best thing about this place was that they had those blue guide books for sale in the gift shop, hurray! I was mining information off the Internet until then. Turns out the author of those blue books lives on Kauai so the version for this island should prove to be excellent. Our dinner was decent, prices were reasonable for the area, service was good, view (although it was dark) was great (dining is upstairs), but overall the restaurant was nothing that special (salad bar was crappy.) When we got back it did not have a high rating in the guide book (and I would agree with their assessment.) Oh well. The kids were perfectly behaved gentleman throughout the entire dinner despite us thinking they may be too tired to go out. We even got comments from the couple sitting next to us as they left.