When I returned from my summer holiday in Kauai (Hawaii) I was greeted with mixed comments. Some asked how long I was gone, what I did, how I liked it, but most looked at me as if I were about 32 degrees south of normal. "You went to Hawaii in the summer? Why?" to which I answered: "Why not?"
There appears to be a sort of taboo about leaving somewhere warm to go somewhere warm. That being said, I was quite happy to be relaxing in humid mid 20s C weather instead of baking in the Okanagan at 40C.
Enough of that. Let me tell you about Kauai. But first… let's talk chickens. Yes, I said chickens. It is impossible to go anywhere in Kauai and not see feral chickens. Some say it was because of hurricane Iniki that destroyed all the chicken coops (among other things) in 1992. Others say it was a more gradual increase in wild chickens due to plantation workers bringing them for food back in the late 1800s and over the years, some got away and well, chickens, like rabbits, multiply quickly. No one really knows how many hens and roosters are on the island, but locals estimate it to be 10 to one. Yes, 10 chickens for every person. I noticed quite a few wild cats as well on Kauai and wondered why they didn't attack the chickens. The answer, joked one tour guide, is simple. The chickens outnumber cats and gang up on them so the cats leave them alone. Enough about chickens for now.
The best place to stay on Kauai is mid-island, in an area called the Coconut Coast. It is closest to everything including shopping and restaurants, and walking is a viable option. Anywhere else requires a car unless you plan on never leaving your resort/hotel compound. The bus system is fairly regular and will get you within walking distance of most attractions. Other attractions will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.
We stayed at the Pono Kai resort in the town of Kapaa and had a beautiful view of the ocean from our lanai. The first full day was spent getting acclimatized to the humidity and the salt air, and generally lazing around on the beach. Then curiosity grabbed me and things to do suddenly became very important.
First up was a helicopter ride around the island. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. Kauai is stunning in it's beauty and has an incredibly rich history of movies that were filmed there. From Jurassic Park to Raiders of the Lost Ark to South Pacific and King Kong, over 60 feature films have been made here. The view from above is breath taking (as are the varying air currents that bounce you around).
We took a dinner sunset cruise the next day and saw much of what we saw from a bird's eye view at a dolphin's eye view. The colours of ocean, rock walls and sandy beaches are enough to make you want to stay forever. We followed that with a day of snorkeling and I fell in love with the sport. The fish, the reefs, the entire world of under the ocean was so beautiful I sometimes forgot to breathe, which really is not a good idea when you are snorkeling. I survived though, and will do it again in a heart beat.
There are tours by rail, tours by bus, tours by plane, tours by foot. There are plantation tours, park tours, river tours, rum tours, and pretty much any attraction type tour you can think of doing. Kauai has several tourist magazines with coupons and they will save you money in the long run. Make sure you shop around and get the best deal. One of my favourite tours was a $20 boat ride up to a grotto where we were serenaded on the boat and at the grotto, by a Hawaiian band complete with hula instructor. You really haven't been to Hawaii until someone sings Tiny Bubbles to you.
I particulary loved the town of Kapaa, especially the Ono Family Restaurant. It is one of those places where locals and tourist alike love to eat. From the Ono burger to Portuguese style pork to shaved ice, you've got to stop here at least once.
As with most touristy places, prices on souvenirs and trinkets vary depending on the location. My favourite store was the Hee Fat General Store in Kapaa. It's a throw back to old-fashioned general stores with a Hawaiian flavour. The clothing section has pretty much everything you need to stock up on holiday wear, including tacky tourist t-shirts. They also have a minimal, but beautiful, selection of jewelry. The other half of the store has foodstuffs and things to make your aches go away after a day of surfing and of course, shaved ice. The people who work here are so friendly; I went back three times just to say hi.
Another must for me was the Hemmingway Café and art gallery. I must regress to acronyms and say OMG! Their goat cheese quiche is the best I've ever tasted (yes I have fallen back to writing about food.) You can sit indoors and stroll through the art gallery in the back, or sit out front and watch the world go by as the ocean calls to you in the distance.
Now after all that eating, walking, snorkeling, and swimming, you need to relax, because vacations can be very stressful. We found this great little place, just off the main highway (there is really only one highway) call the Dolphin Touch Wellness Center They are very reasonably priced, and if you want to book a 'group' massage, just let them know in advance and they'll bring in extra people to give the massages. It's a very laid back environment with funky jewelry in their gift shop, as well as cards and assorted spiritual goodies.
I'd be remiss if I left out the restaurant with the best view ever. (Can you tell I love to write about food?) The Bull Shed is located in Waipouli just off the highway. The food here is, well… delicious, for lack of a better word. The view is something else. Almost every seat has a 180-degree view of the Pacific Ocean. The layout of the place takes some getting used to, it's a cross between a cafeteria and a four star restaurant with a salad bar located in a hallway beside the kitchen that joins one section of the restaurant to another. Several locals told us this was the place they went to eat out. We could see why. The seafood is fresh and cooked to perfection. The beef dishes are equally as good, if not better. There are several cattle raised on Kauai and most are 100% grass fed, and why not… It rains so much here the grass is plentiful!
My advice, don't even think of counting calories while you are on this island. From the fresh pineapple and mangos to the seafood, pork and beef, this island is as delicious as it is beautiful.
And one final recommendation… chicken in a barrel. No, it's not the wild chickens that roam the streets (Rumour has it some have formed gangs and hang out at the KFC drive thru to taunt the customers). This chicken is literally cooked in barrels. Chicken in a Barrel is a little roadside stand located in Kapaa with a similar location in Lihue. There's even a small sink where you can wash your hands before and after, as it is definitely finger food. From ribs to chicken to pork - it's all here - and it's all slathered in their secret sauce. (Did I mention to forget about any type of diet while you are here?)
One final word on the chickens of Kauai. I asked one of the locals why they didn't eat the chickens and here is the recipe they gave me: Place a wild chicken in a pot of boiling water with a red lava rock. Boil for four hours. After four hours, remove the chicken and the rock, throw away the chicken, and eat the rock.
Art, music, luaus, waterfalls, scenery, miles and miles and miles of sandy beaches, surfing, snorkeling, dinner cruises, and some of the best food in the world. It was all right there, on a tiny little island called Kauai. I think I have to go back soon.