Travel always stresses me out so I wake up before the sunrise this morning.
We have no concerns about our luggage making the weight requirements as my bag will more than likely be 20 lbs lighter than when we flew out since I had lots of food stuffs in them that we have long since eaten.
We have our final Apple-banana macadamia nut pancake breakfast before starting our packing for the trip home. We have a 1:30 flight to HNL so we figure on leaving the house around 11:00am.
After we pack up and give the house the old triple check for anything remaining we head down to the cove to say farewell to the turtles that have given us so much enjoyment on this trip.
We load up the car and head to the airport. Car drop-off is uneventful except that the guy from Budget tells me that there may be a cleaning fee because I had a dog in the car. I was amazed by this considering the red dirt and mud they have to deal with everyday dog fur seems like a simple vacuum away. I make a mental note to cut up my budget card if they charge a cleaning fee and we push on.
Bags checked, security line completed we hit the souvenir shop to pick up those last minute regret items. This time is different because they actually have a pullover that Cori has wanted since she first saw it but the shop did not have her size. This is a good score as they have both her size and desired color. It's the small victories!
We wait in the Hawaiian Air lounge until it's time to board our flight and we see the flight is delayed. Shortly they call our names and inform us that they need to put us on the flight that is currently boarding so that we will make our connection to JFK. No seats together but I'm sure by now Cori probably wants a break from me so we take our seats and say goodbye to Kauai. What is kind of a bummer is that our original seats would have provided a nice Pearl Harbor view on approach but the current seats don't. Oh well at least we make our connection.
We are only waiting about 10 minutes in HNL before our flight begins to board for the long flight home.
As we pass by the big island it's mostly shrouded in cloud cover.
This is our last glimpse of paradise as we wing our way back to our working lives. The end of a vacation is always bittersweet. I never want the fun of the vacation to end but I do miss my pets and I am anxious to see them again.
Our flight lands in NY at 6:51am the next morning and to our surprise our bags have actually made the flight. We had thought with our last minute flight change that these might not have made it but there they are sliding by on the belt. Our good luck continues as our driver is within sight as we walk to be curb. Two hours later and we are walking into the house and the reunion with the kitties begins.
We are both exhausted so we take a nap until about 1:00pm and then we head up to Cori's house for the second pet re-union of the day.
This has been a fantastic trip. The trip wasn't perfect but it was as close to a perfect trip as I've ever experienced.
This was my seventh trip to Kauai and my prior experience actually helped and hurt. It helped in knowing a little more about which activities are worthwhile and which are not. It hurt in that my prior trips were all based out of Kapa'a which is the perfect place for an active traveler as the entire island is in play everyday.
I know lots of folks don't like the east shore. I am not saying it's the perfect place to stay but if you are using your room as a sleep place only Kapa'a is a great option.
Staying in Poipu changes this equation a bit. Points west are easy access, Ke'e beach is a haul. Not as the crow flies but in real drive time with the speed limits on Kauai you are talking 1.5 hours best case. I didn't take this extra time into account and as a result we spent minimal time on the north shore. On my prior trips the condo was a place to sleep and maybe take a morning/evening beach walk but other than that I spent very little time in residence.
This house was fabulous, the view from the balcony, and the turtles in the cove made you want to linger at home and forget about the world. I didn't expect or account for this "home time" in my trip planning. Now believe me I wouldn't trade our turtle time for anything it just meant that we didn't go on as many hiking trips as I had originally planned to.
For those of you that are planners like me, the lesson here is to be flexible. We didn't hike the Hanakapiai trail on this trip, I planned it for our first morning but life sort of got in the way. Part of the magical nature of a trip to Kauai is the unplanned discovery. Watching turtles and Roosters & Chickens with babies cannot be planned but it is so satisfying and relaxing when you just sit back and observe nature.
We went on a lot of excursions and some organizations were great to deal with and I would use them again and recommend them. I have posted reviews on Trip Advisor for most already but vendors I would use again or recommend in no particular order are;
Outfitters Kauai - The staff energetic, helpful and fun. They offer the widest range of physical activity of any tour vendor on the island and a small discount for booking multiple tours. We did four excursions with them. I would do the ocean kayak and the standup paddle again. I would pass on the "secret falls kayak" because it's too crowded and the zip line because we have been on much better zip lines.
Capt. Andy's - We did the lowest cost Napali tour they offer but you wouldn't know it. Treated all the passengers very well and showed us all a good time.
Kipu Ranch Adventures - The ATV's are in excellent shape. The guides were very personable and it's a nice change of pace. It's too bad they don't offer some sort of hike option down to Kipu Kai.
Kauai Eco Clays - Probably the most unusual activity we did. Given 100 guesses about what I would be doing in Kauai shooting clay pigeons would not have been among them. Ben is an excellent teacher and even if you have never handled a gun before he will have you knocking those targets out of the sky. This is great fun and a very good value.
Hike Kauai with Me - I would use Eric again as a guide in a heartbeat. The only thing I would change is to pick a more challenging hike.
Mauna Loa Private Helicopter tour - We did doors off flight and loved it. Sure you get a little wet when it rains but so what. The price is only a little higher than the companies that put six people in a chopper but the difference is you are guaranteed to have a great view
Each of these vendors were friendly, professional, and most of all they made the activity fun.
We had most of our breakfasts at home but we did eat a lot of dinners out and I can happily say we didn't have a bad meal anywhere. For us the Halelani dinner at the Sheraton was the best overall experience but that was a special meal so it's not fair to compare that to the other restaurant meals we had. I would do that again even though it was pricey. The overall experience of the private outdoor table and waiter was outstanding as was all the food.
Unlike the excursion vendors, I am going to list the restaurants in descending order from best overall. They are all good if they are on this list though.
The Beachouse - This was our most expensive meal after the Sheraton dinner but the combination of well prepared food, professional wait staff, sunset views and atmosphere make this a winner.
Tidepools - Excellent food in a gorgeous setting. You really can't go wrong here. Great dinner and then a stroll around the beautifully manicured Hyatt grounds is good stuff.
Kauai Ono 560 - A 5 course tasting menu cooked in food trailer, served at a picnic table under a tent in Hanalei sitting with new friends you just met. This is an experience not to be missed. Go, eat, meet new people and enjoy.
Keoki's Paradise - Keoki's serves pretty good food and the service is very professional. It's a fun place it seems for both the patrons and staff. If you order the hula pie you have to finish it.
Dukes - Same restaurant group as Keoki's. Great views of Kalapaki bay. Very good food while service can be a little spotty it doesn't detract from the experience. The Mango bacon BBQ Burger was the clear winner for us in the best burger we had during the trip contest!
Josselin's - They make great pork belly, on our first visit Sam Choy came in and that's what he ordered! Tapas are a fun a way to dine. The food here is expertly prepared and people rave about the sangria cart.
Right slice pies - While not a restaurant this lady sure knows how to make a pie. Sweet or savory she hits them out of the park every time.
Puka Dog - Yes I am recommending that you try the full on Puka Dog experience. Load it up with the flavors or mustard and tropical relish you want, get a lemonade, don't forget to push the dog down into the bun so you don't end up with just bread at the bottom. It's yummy and so different.
That's pretty much what I can remember. Our trip to Kauai is now just memories which I hope to replay in my mind countless times.
I owe much gratitude to the regular contributors and destination experts on the Trip Advisor Kauai forum. They all provide valuable insight that potential travellers can use to help plan and have a better vacation experience.
Until I return I will continue to eat dessert first and grin like a dog...