Kauai – Days 3 & 4

January 12, 2007 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment

I neglected to mention in my previous entry that Tuesday night we cooked dinner in the unit again.  This time fresh fish, two kinds – Opakapaka and Walu (Escolar).  I had Opakapaka and Ono at Brenecke’s the night before and like the Opakapaka a little bit better.  The Walu is a very delicate fish, like a very delicate Halibut.  Very good.  I recommend all three.  Except for the Ahi Poke I bought for lunch from the grocery store the first day (along with some octopus poke and smoked salmon poke), we have avoided eating much Ahi tuna due to high mercury content.  It’s not that big a deal, but here the Ahi is so plentiful you could easy end up eating a lot of it and the mercury problem is not overblown if you do a little research on it.  For anyone who doesn’t know what poke is, it is a mixture of cubed, marinated raw fish with different seasonings usually soy sauce, sesame seeds/oil, and sometimes chili pepper flakes and/or some seaweed.  I love the stuff and can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  One of the things I really look forward to when visiting the islands.  The kids enjoy me making them a “Hawaii Breakfast” which consists of rice, coconut milk with some soy and a little sugar or catsup, sausage or fish leftover from dinner and egg.  Yum.

Wednesday was the day we would explore the North and East part of the Island.  We would drive all the way up to Hanalei, the last town before the road ends, a few miles past Princeville. 

First stop was Wailua Falls billed as “Not To Be Missed” in the guidebook.  If you’ve seen Snoqualmie Falls, then it is okay to miss it in my opinion.  It is very similar is size, just imagine Snoqualmie falls in a tropical setting.  The viewpoint for these falls isn’t as good as Snoqualmie though.  The drive is just a few miles off the main highway and at points there is barely enough room for two cars.  Combined with sharp twisty turns, I would not be surprised if there is an occasional incident with a careless tourist in their rental car here.  (Most likely a Chicago driver.)  The important point about the falls is the highlight for kids here was not the falls, it was the roosters!  They had been intrigued by the roosters for the entire trip so far, probably because we told them the story of the rooster that kept waking us up the last time we were here.  The small parking lot at the falls had a bunch of roosters walking around so this was the kids first up close experience with the roosters.  Jordan started imitating them and they cockadoodledooed back at him!  We drove out of the parking lot with both kids laughing hysterically at the roosters. 

Further up just before Kapaa we stopped at the Lydgate State Park which had two awesome children’s playgrounds and two protected pools on the beach, somewhat similar to Ko Olina, but even more protected with one smaller pool inside a larger pool – excellent place for children to swim and for beginner snorkelers.  Outside the pools the surf was VERY ROUGH. It was getting close to lunch so we opted to return at some later point.  One thing of note was that the East Shore of the island appeared to be the only sunny place on the island that day.

It was not sunny up in Hanalei but it was not raining.  We had planed to eat at Zelos and drove up and down the street reading in the guidebook “you can’t miss it” and then come to find out it closed a month ago.  Having left the guidebook in the car we took the advice of the local tour salesman and ate at a funky little open-air, counter-service place called the Polynesian Cafe.  The food was okay, but fairly expensive for what you get.  The baked their own haburger buns (along with other baked goods) — too bad the overcooked Jordan’s hamburger as the quality of beef looked very good.  They had fish and mexican dishes on the menu. I had a local favorite – Kalua Pork and Cabbage over rice.  It was bland. When we got back to the car I looked the restaurant up in the book and it said it had gone downhill and was overpriced.  I agree.  0 for 2 now on the dining choices, but neither choice was planned out beforehand.  Oh well.  Funny thing was, my second pick had also closed recently (the book is pretty new.)  Looks like times are tough for restaurants in Hanalei.  Maybe not enough people venture that far up the road?  There was a sushi restaurant there (we immediately thought ‘no way.’)  I went and glanced at the menu and the California Rolls were $12.95 – Japanese prices – no thanks.  We should have eaten at Bubba Burger.

I had read in the guidebook that the town of Hanalei has been a magnet for the hippy crowd in the past.  Lisa said she got a bit of that feel strolling through the shops.  It did have a decent assortment of shops so if you are a shopaholic, it would be worth the trip, otherwise there’s not much there.  The surroundings in that area of the island are truly remarkable with the mountains shooting up and all the tropical plants everywhere.  It’s reputation as a hippy town was confirmed when we were leaving and turned on the radio to find Cat Stevens playing and then I looked in my rear view mirror to see an old Volkswagen Bus following us.  No lie.

Next stop was the Princeville Shopping Center.  Nothing really that worthwhile there.  The main reason we shopped was because at the outset of the trip I told the kids we would be visiting the Magic Dragon Toy Store.  Nolan couldn’t stop asking me when we were going to go to the toy store the entire drive.  After what seemed like an eternity of deliberation, they both picked up one toy each.  Pretty good choices.  Nolan got a puppet which is a Racoon that is in a shiny metallic fabric garbage can (who has provided lots of entertainment at bedtime) and Jordan got this Nerf-like bow and arrow set. 

We stopped briefly at the Princeville Hotel.  Boy did it seem dead there.  Took in the view, which was so-so that day because it was so overcast and misty but still impressive.  The small collection of shops pales in comparison with what the Hyatt has to offer.  I don’t even know where the pool is for this place. 

Next stop, the Kiluea Lighthouse.  We got there at 4:05 and it is only open until 4:00.  Oops.  But the highlight here was that we initially missed the turn and ended up in a residential neighborhood were we found three kids playing in the mud.  It was hilarious so I stopped to take a picture of them and they started throwing mud clumps at our rental car!  The kids got a kick out of that (both ours and the ones throwing the mud.)  So now we are driving around the island with a few mud clumps stuck to the side of the car.

Next leg of the journey was more shopping, specifically the open air market and the Coconut Plaza shopping center in the Kapaa area.  The open air market isn’t worth stopping at — everything is selling the same junk.  The Coconut Plaza was the biggest shopping area we visited yet.  A good selection of shops there, worth a stop.  By this time it was getting close to dinner.

We headed into Lihue and decided to take our chances at Tokyo Lobby for dinner and see if we could finally get some reasonably priced sushi.  $4 California Rolls – hurray!  The place was a little seedy though and the bathroom was probably one of the grossest I’ve seen in recent memory (we probably wouldn’t have sat down if I saw the bathroom first.)  Of course Nolan had to take a dump so I had the pleasure of standing in this small hot (felt like about 90 degrees) and humid, dingy and filthy bathroom with virtually no ventilation while Nolan took care of business.  Really gets your appetite up.  The sushi selection was pretty basic but it ended up being okay, edible at least.  We could live with cheap and edible at that point.  The cooked food looked excellent – basic authentic Japanese cuisine.  So I’d recommend this place for cheap (cooked) Japanese food but not for the sushi or the atmosphere.

A note about traffic on the island.  It isn’t too bad, especially if you avoid going into or out of Lihue during the typical commute periods.  The island is a nice size to which makes getting places quicker and easier than any of the other three major islands.  This is a big plus in my book.  (Traffic on the Big Island is not a problem but getting places takes time because it is so big.)

On Thursday we hung out at the unit for most of the morning.  It was of course overcast all day here.  We left right after lunch and drove the 20 minutes back up to the Lydgate State Park.  Unfortunately it wasn’t sunny there (no surprise though.)  But Jordan and Nolan still had their first ocean snorkeling experience in the small ocean pool.  (Well Nolan didn’t technically swim as the pool was only about 3 to 3-1/2 feet deep at it’s deepest point so he just walked out and stuck his head in the water as he doesn’t quite trust the snorkel yet.)  We brought some crackers and bread to feed the finish.  This was a good idea as we had swarms of fish all around us.  I snorkeled in the larger pool but couldn’t get Jordan to come with me as he was shiverring because it was fairly windy.  The water temperature wasn’t that bad though.  Probably borderline a tad too cold for most people but I didn’t get cold (while in the water.)  The snorkeling was so so compared to other places I’ve been.  The larger pool was a bit cloudy because it was a really high surf that day and waves occasionally crashed over the barrier.  At one point a wave crashed over and I started feeling this pricking on my back!  Boy was that scary.  It turned out to be a medium-sized crab that had been washed off the rocks in front of me and was scrambling to get back down.  However due to the current of the water it was as if it was attacking me and I couldn’t get away from it! ( This would have been a very traumatic experience for Jordan.)  I should note we briefly took a look at Poipu Beach Park before making the drive to Lydgate.  They have a small protected area for kids there but it was not as big or deep as the one at Lydgate and the beach was fairly crowded.  Lydgate was practically empty and it has the awesome playgrounds, worth the drive.  Only thing it is missing is some nearby cheap restaurants although there appears to be one or two resorts within walking distance of the beach.

Since we ate breakfast and lunch in the unit we decided to splurge and make Thursday night our one night to have a really good meal at a good restaurant.  We went to the Beach House which we recalled eating there before six years ago.  It is right on the water and billed as the best restaurant on the island.  I would agree with the hype.  The food, service, location, atmosphere and view were all superb.  All this costs you a pretty penny though (ouch!), but for that special night out, I’d say it is worth it (barely.)  To give you an idea, the kids chicken tender meal is $13!

Me and the boys had a blast swimming in the pool at night after dinner.  We had the entire pool to ourselves.

Overall the weather wasn’t bad the past couple days.  No major rain to prevent us from doing what we wanted to do, but only a very seldom, brief glimpse of the sunshine. Which as I pointed out is fine by me as the temperature is perfect that way.  It’s quite breezy though and that makes things a little on the chilly side after exiting the pool or ocean so the sun is missed at those times.

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