Thursday, May 26, 2016

Our Weekend in Kauai

We recently took a weekend trip to Kauai and had a great time.  If you sign up for Hawaiian Airlines miles, you will receive emails when they have sales.  I found a weekend package for two nights hotel, air, and rental car for about $700.  We had such a great time, we're planning a longer stay next year (still less than a week, though).

I had never been to Kauai and Larry hadn't been since he was a little kid -- one of his sister's used to live in Lihue -- so it really was new to both of us.

I had a couple of bucket list items I was able to check off -- not huge things, but still.

Here's my list:

Hamura Saimin.  Check.
Lappert's Ice Cream.  Check.
Kilauea Lighthouse.  Double Check (you'll see why soon).
Waimea Canyon.  Still on the bucket list.

We flew over Friday afterwork.  Amazingly, our flights went all the way to Lihue with stops on the way (Maui going and Honolulu returning).  So we got to sit on the bus plane direct.  Haven't done that on a plane in years.  With stops, the flight took a couple of hours, but the view from the window was great.  The north shore of west Maui, Molokai up close, then Kauai.  On the way home, I got to see the whole west side of Oahu from the air.

I generally don't like to rant too much, but I have to say my experience with National rental car was very off-putting.  Veiled threats from the counter person.    Upon declining the additional coverage, she demanded I provide my insurance company name and details and then told me, "Yes, but if you damage the car, you will still have to pay your insurance $500 and your rates will go up for three years".  She also implied I would be responsible for any scratches on the car.  After speaking with the manager, it turns out they are only interested in dents that are "fist size or larger".  I refrained from demonstrating to the clerk the size of my fists and the dents they can leave.  I can understand the up-sell, but this was beyond anything I had ever experienced.  We proudly took possession of a Chevy Spark.  We spent the weekend referring to it as the "clown car".  Or half car really.  It was gutless, but I appreciated it's very narrow turning radius, which I demonstrated regularly all weekend.

First stop:  Hamura Saimin.  Everything I hoped for and more.  If you like your noodles more al dente, order them half cooked.  Yum.  I also recommend the tempura shrimp as a side dish.  The counters are old school style that continuously wind in several "U" shapes throughout the room.  Here's a shot:

We waited in line for about half an hour before being seated.  Be aware of where you are in the queue as seating is strictly self service.  You sit on little stubby stools instead of chairs and the counter is low.  Here's my saimin.  I failed to take a photo until halfway through the bowl.  It's served with hot mustard and soy sauce, which you mix together, similar to what do when eating sushi.  You dip your chinese-style spoon to grab just a bit of the sauce, then you fill the remainder of your spoon with noodles using your chopsticks.  Takes practice.  The flavor is sublime.  I want more.

When we left, it was dark and rainy so we headed to our hotel, which was an old style 1960's number that had been refurbished.  Simple, cheap, and we'd stay there again.  It was just south of Kapaa, so a good location.  Here are some shots of the hotel.  The restaurant, while not great food-wise, is the only one that sits directly on the beach and is somehow related to Huggos in Kona.

That bloody mary, while looking great, tasted awful.  Ah well, the view was nice.

One of my favorite stops of the next day was Kilauea Lighthouse.  Turns out it was having its 103rd anniversary and was free to the public that day.  I also met a lady working in the gift shop that knows my step brother, who lives in Cazadero.  We spent five minutes trying to remember his second daughter's name.  All three of us failed.

We hid the lighthouse in the prime of nesting season and caught an amazing number of birds:  red footed boobies, shearwaters, and frigate birds.  Apparently also albatross, though I don't think we saw any.  Also nene geese.
Here's the lighthouse: 

To celebrate the anniversary, they lit it up at night, which we observed from Annini Beach:

Unfortunately, you couldn't tell it was lit with the naked eye.  Fortunately Larry brought his obscenely large binoculars and we could see the dim lighting.  Sweet.  They were also good to use for viewing the nesting red footed boobies across the inlet.  Those tiny white things in the picture are nesting birds.  They have a three foot wingspan:

And here's a video of a nene goose eating lantana (who knew?).  The boobies are across the water and up the cliff, shown at the end of the video.

It was very exciting to see so many birds.  The wedge-tailed shearwaters were mating and it was hilarious to hear their sounds as you walked past thick bushes.  I didn't capture any audio, but this is what they sound like:

We also drove up to the north shore all the way to the end of the road.  Unusually, I didn't prepare much for this trip and my knowledge of Kauai was limited.  I think that worked to my advantage for the short weekend as I had no expectations.  So when we drove around a bend in the road, we were quite shocked to see this:

As I walked into the cave, I thought, "oh good, there's some guy way in there.  That'll make for a good reference shot.  Hmm.  I wonder where Larry went.  Oh shit.  That is Larry".  After 30 years (yeah, it was our anniversary weekend), I still need to buy a leash for that guy.  He wanders off.

The area is called Tunnels and the beach looks great.  There's camping and you can find the tiny shells that Niihau necklaces are made of (technically, they're Kauai shells, but, you know).  One family was using a colander to separate the tiny shells from the sand.  I made Larry take a class on how to make the necklaces once, so I'd like to go back and collect enough for a bracelet.  Collecting shells is somewhat controversial.  Some are okay with it as they are renewable and would only breakdown into sand anyway.  Others say leave them be.  You decide.

Dinner was going to be Korean BBQ in Kapaa, but we found a street faire instead and ate grilled pizza and filipino food instead.

The next day, we headed south and checked out the Poipu area.  Oh my God, so much sun!  Too much for me.  I prefer the cloudiness of the north and east shores, for sure.  We did stumble across this amazing shave ice place called, The Fresh Shave.  They have unusual flavors, which they make all themselves.  I had lime and coconut with chia seeds.  Your straw comes with a little paper mustache attached.  Seriously good.

After that, it was back to Hamura's for a final bowl of saimin before heading off to the airport.  I think we got home around 9.  All in all a great weekend.

We stayed at the Aqua Kauai Shores Hotel.  Cheap but good.  Only one cockroach.  So there's that. 

Next time, I'd like to spend three or four nights.  Kauai is small, so if you want to do a lot of sightseeing, it might not be for you.   I'd like to go hang out and eat.  If you like that, go to Kauai.  Nice beaches, too.

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