Sunday, November 2, 2008
Tom has been talking vacation for some time now...since before L-girl was born, in fact. He has tossed out ideas ranging from 2 weeks in New Zealand or China to a road trip to visit our Grandmas in celebration of their 90th birthdays. Since L-girl's birth, he has asked me several times about the trip to China, and each time I emphatically said NO! Even before we had a newborn in the house, I knew that when she reached 3 months of age, we would just be starting to reap the benefits of sleep training. There is no way I would mess with her schedule so much as to take her to a time zone with a 12 hour difference. Hawaii was also casually tossed around and I agreed that it was about the biggest time zone I'd be willing to attempt. Tom's vacation time was quickly approaching and we had no plans but lots of ideas. Finally, a few weeks prior, Tom called from the hospital where he was working a 24 hour shift, to inform me that he booked our family on an 8 day trip to Kauai. I was both excited and hesitant. Instead of renting a jeep for off-roading adventures, we were signing up for 8 days in a minivan with grandma riding along. What does an island vacation look like with a 29 month old, an almost 4 month old, and a grandma?? We were soon to find out...
We already shared our plane experiences so I'll jump to the good stuff...We arrived on Kauai in the early evening of October 15th and made our way to our condo. Tom's travel plans were that we would spend the first half of the trip on the southern end of the island (Poipu) and the second half of the trip in the north (Haena, which is past Hanalei). This is our 4th trip to Kauai and for all of the past 3 trips, we stayed at the same place (Kiahuna Plantation Gardens). However, this time Tom branched out and we tried new accommodations. This turned out to be a huge blessing as our first condo at The Point at Poipu had air conditioned bedrooms and an in-suite washer/dryer. This was quite an upgrade for us from past trips to Kauai as we never had A/C nor a washer/dryer at the Kiahuna - quite a luxury with 2 little ones in tow. It also had a nice layout with the two bedrooms being separated by the living area, which gave his mom her privacy.
I must admit that after the first 24 hours in Kauai I was feeling like we had been transported to a torture chamber rather than an island paradise. The kids slept horribly the first night and were awake and ready to go by about 4 am Hawaii time (which, in their defense, was 9 am home time). We kept them at bay until about 6:30 and then decided to walk around the grounds of the resort and try to get a look at the beach. Within the first 5 minutes of our walk, Caedmon had at least 3 melt downs - he didn't want to walk, slipped on wet concrete and hit his head, he wanted to stay by the pool and play in the pool-side sand, etc. As you can imagine, a two-year old tantrum, while never desired, is even less so at 6:30 am in the middle of a resort where many people may be sleeping with open windows. Are we having fun yet? We quickly realized that an empty stomach was just adding to the sleep deprivation and made a bee line for the 7 am hotel buffet breakfast. At which point, Libby decided she had been awake plenty long enough and began to wail. Fortunately, Tom was able to settle her to sleep while carrying her in the Ergo. The rest of our day consisted of a shopping trip to get supplies (Walmart, Costco, the local Star Market grocery store), temper tantrum, playing by the hotel pool, temper tantrum, watching the free weekly hula show at the Poipu shopping center, temper tantrum. By evening, Caedmon and Libby weren't the only one in tears. I was seriously doubting whether we had been struck by a bit of insanity when we made these vacation plans. We all went to bed nice and early and a prayer for a good night of sleep and much brighter days ahead was on my lips as I drifted off to sleep. (Libby slept in a crib provided by the condo. Caedmon slept in our Phil&Ted's travel tent, along with Curious George and Elmo.)
Being our fourth trip to the small island of Kauai, Tom and I have seen most of the major attractions. However, we enjoyed them through new eyes this time since we had Tom's mom and Caedmon with us. We also ventured to a few new places spurred on by having a toddler with us. Before heading to the island this time, I tried to research activities that would be fun for a toddler. One thing that was mentioned several times was a community playground designed by the kids of Kauai. It is located next to a beach that has a kid-friendly swimming area (Lydgate Beach and Kamalani Playground).
Based on our experiences from the day before, we realized that our best strategy would be to start the day early. We fed the kids and got on the road about the time the sun rose. The weather was perfect. It was warm but with a good breeze and there was just enough cloud cover to give us a little extra protection from the sun. Caedmon was awed by the beach! He looked like he hit the jackpot as he LOVES sandboxes and this was the biggest one he had ever seen. I think he would have dug all day if we let him. Once we were able to pry him away from his sandcastle, he realized that the water was fun too. Still, the sand was his favorite. Libby was content to hang out in her stroller or be held by one of us. She felt the water too, and she is definitely a water baby!
After quite a while at the beach, we spent some time at the Kamalani playground. It is a really nice playground with lots of interesting things to climb, swing and slide. I was definitely feeling like there was hope for our trip. After naps, we took everyone to see Spouting Horn and then walked to Brennecke's Beach Broiler for an early dinner. We had a dinner of fish and chips, mussels, calamari and shrimp. And, Tom's mom even shared a pitcher of Mango Margarita with us. We were quite surprised that Caedmon was willing to try eating mussels and even moreso, that he seemed to like them. Better than the food, was the great view of the ocean. The walk to Brennecke's was longer than we anticipated and we were a bit wary of the return trip. However, somehow the return seemed a lot shorter! Day 2 was definitely an encouragement to this weary mama.
After a successful day 2, we decided to brave another big day on day 3. No matter what the day held, an early morning pit stop for coffee to-go from Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Company would help us get through it. (Tom's one disappointment that they didn't have a t-shirt in his size. He has wanted one for the last few trips and this time decided to go for it, only to find that the only color they had in his size was neon green). We headed west to Waimea and planned several stops along the way. First, we stopped in Hanapepe. We always read about the great artist town that Hanapepe is but we never stop there when things are actually open. Our only agenda there is to walk on the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. Caedmon thought it was really cool to walk on such a long "bouncy" bridge.
Next, we went to Salt Pond Beach. Again, C-boy's highlight was the sand but he also spotted some coconut trees and waded in the ocean. (I often missed out on some minutes of fun since I am nursing Libby and had to spend a bit of the trip sitting in the back of the mini-van nursing her).
Kauai Coffee Plantation. By this point, both kids were fading so we only stayed long enough to take a quick look and buy some coffee. After naps, we began some party planning. It was Tom's mom 68th birthday so we decided we should have some cake to celebrate. Actually, Caedmon decided on the cake. When he hears the word birthday, he automatically asks when he gets to eat cake. We had planned to get an ice cream cake but happened across a bakery and decided maybe we could find something more appropriate for Hawaii. We were rewarded in finding an asian-style white cake with guava icing and the bakery even went all out decorating it for "Nai Nai." Although it was late afternoon, the turkey and cheese sandwich must have worn off for Tom because he was suddenly craving saimin, a Hawaiian noodle soup. We made a stop at one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants, Hamura's Saimin Stand. I think it may be the most hole in the wall place I've ever been to. It's usually at least 80% locals and a few brave tourists. You sit at lunch counters on low stools and give your order to one of the ladies that passes by. The ladies take the order by memory and bring you whatever they remember (at least once, they've missed part of our order). The food is good and relatively inexpensive. I am pretty sure it is cash only. It's one of those experiences that makes you feel like you're a part of the Kauaian community. We've even enjoyed an occasional conversation with a local there. Later that evening, Tom made a nice salmon dinner at our condo and we enjoyed singing and eating cake for Nai Nai's birthday. She even donned her new Hawaiian shirt for the celebration.
The next day we packed up to head north to our next destination - Hanalei Colony Resort in Haena. We had realized early in our trip that eating out could be a hazardous adventure (the risk of ruining other fellow travelers on their dream Hawaiian vacations with a crying infant or tantruming 2 year old was too great) so we loaded up with lots of lunch meat, bread and cereal and ate in as much as we could tolerate. We also stocked up on a fair amount of fresh fruit. Before we left for Hawaii, we told Caedmon that we would eat lots of fish and fruit there (two of his favorite foods). In fact, when our neighbor asked him what he was going to do in Hawaii, Caedmon answered, "Eat fish." I know there is always a stigma about "big box" stores moving into quaint little towns but the Costco in Kauai has been a blessing to us. We were able to get lots of fresh Hawaiian pineapple and papaya pre-cut and reasonably priced. We even purchased a big cooler so that we could take our food with us when need be. On the morning of our departure from the first condo, we packed everything but the perishables and then headed out for a quick look at Old Koloa Town. We had asked the hotel about their check out policy and they told us to give the front desk a call when we were ready to leave. Koloa was fairly quiet at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning but we enjoyed walking through the town and looking at some of the tourist sites.
By 9 am some of the stores started to open so we browsed a little and returned to our condo before 9:30. Tom and I ran up to get the food while everyone else waited in the car. As we rounded the corner to our room, a mild fear filled me. The cleaning staff was already there and I could see most of our food outside our condo in the garbage bags, our cooler and unopened wine bottles and unopened food bagged up and set aside by her cleaning cart (her find for the day, so she thought), our bag of ice for the road trip already hot watered down in the sink. UGH! Fortunately, we got there in time to rescue a good bit of our belongings. However, by jumping the gun, the cleaning lady forfeited her tip...unless she dug the peanut butter and jelly from her garbage bag, which we wouldn't have wanted at that point.
After averting near disaster at our condo, we checked out and began our travels north. If you've ever been to Kauai, you know that those travels are not really all that long...maybe 90 minutes of straight travel tops. However, we had hours to wile away so we decided to check out some of the island's beautiful waterfalls. I'm sure that the best ones are seen only after hiking hours on narrow switchbacks, but fortunately for us, there are a few to be seen by driving up to a lookout point. Maybe someday we'll attempt to hike to the Edenic spots in the mountains, but life with kids under 3, dictates a more comfy existence.
After our waterfall viewings, we went to lunch at a restaurant that overlooks Nawiliwili Harbor. There was beautiful breeze so we were able to sit on a shady patio and watch the people surfing and boating. After begrudgingly restocking a few food supplies, we began our trip north and the kids settled in to much needed naps. Driving on Kauai is a treat. You almost can't get lost because there's really only one main road, but interesting enough Tom is always asking me how I know which way to go?!? The road winds up the coast so the views are spectacular and the speed limit ranges from 25 to 50 so it's always just like you're out for a Sunday drive. Perhaps it would feel different if you lived there, but Tom even commented that he might enjoy being a Fed Ex driver on the island so he could drive around all day - what a gig, he thought! In Kilauea, we stopped briefly to look at the lighthouse but the kiddos were asleep so we decided to come back another day. After frittering away a few extra minutes, we were finally able to check in at the Hanalei Colony Resort (HCR) and settle into our beautiful lodgings by the sea. The HCR is a laid back resort right on the beach. There's no telephone or tv in any of the units and internet access is only available at their restaurant. Our first floor condo had ocean views on two sides and we could walk right out onto the beach. The only sound to be heard was the constant crash of the waves against the shore - which was totally relaxing and actually turned out to be a great muffler for the sounds of a feisty crying infant and a very busy running/jumping toddler from the rest of the guests. We were all excited to spend the next few days there!