Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blossoming Lotus is Closing!

It is with great sadness that I announce that Blossoming Lotus, one of Kauai's greatest restaurants, is closing its doors. This vegan organic eatery will be missed.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why We Love Rain

It is a popular saying on Kauai that we wouldn't have rainbows without the rain. There's a reason that Hawaii's lisence plate has a rainbow on it; why "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" has become sort of a Hawaiian anthem; and why the islands are so green. Rain happens. Often at the most undesireable moment: just when you arrive at the beach or right before you set out to hike the Hanalau Trail.

Coming from the mainland in winter, it is tough to accept the rain. We want sun, beach and to wear a skimpy dress at night. But the rain is part of the allure. Over the years, I have come to accept and even love rainy days on Kauai. What better excuse to curl up with a book on my lanai (it's not like it gets cold), play games with the family, and just relax. Often when we go on vacation, we feel the need to fill our calendars up with constant events and it is nice to have a reason to stop, slow down and just be. Try watching the rain land on a banana leaf; hearing the birds sing just before a storm; hunting for rainbows over the sea; smelling the wetness as it feeds the trees and even taking a little walk in a downpour. What better way to experience nature.

And my little packing tip: make sure to take a good book, a deck of cards and an affable attitude towards the rain. Kauai wouldn't be as beautiful without it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Specials Abound

So a quick look at the Kauai Visitor Bureau website and I found some deals that should be illegal. See for yourself: http://www.kauaidiscovery.com/winterspecials/.

Here are some that you should surely take advantage of...

Whalers Cove (http://www.whalers-cove.com/resort.php/WHALERS_COVE/SPECIALS) offers your fifth night free. This is one of the finest condo resorts on the island, perched over the cliffs, you can watch whales migrate from your balcony.

Outrigger's Kiahuna Plantation (OutriggerKiahunaPlantation.com.) has oceanfront condos at $219 a night. Though the property stretches over acres and acres, if you are on the water, you won't feel like you are in a condo complex in Orange County.

Waimea Plantation Cottages (www.WaimeaCottages.com) has 1-bedroom garden view cottages for less than $200. This is one of the better properties on the island; you stay in a renovated plantation cottage, with views of some of the largest banyan trees I have ever seen.

Hanalei Colony Resort (www.hcr.com) is offering 15% off rooms, spa treatments and the Mediterranean Gourmet restaurant in the winter. Want to get away from it all? This is the spot. Your own condo on a beach, yet away from the bustle of any town. This is my choice for a romantic or family getaway.

Grand Hyatt Kauai (www.grandhyattkauai.com.) is offering your fifth night free, a complimentary buffet breakfast and a free room upgrade. This is the granddaddy of Kauai luxury. Get in while you can.

Plus you'll find a slew of activities and other accommodations at a seriously slashed price. If you can get to Kauai, you can stay for less than you've stayed in over a decade.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Perfect Day in Hanalei

7am: Have a latte at Java Kai.

8am: Surf Hanalei Bay.

10am: Eat loco moco, eggs and nori or banana pancakes at Bali Hai in Princeville.

11:30am: Hike Limahuli Gardens.

2pm: Have a snack and cocktail at Mediterranean Gourmet.

3:30pm: Go for a snorkel at Kee Beach or Tunnels.

5:30pm: Watch the sunset, while listening to slack key guitar on the Hanalei Pier.

7pm: Dine at Bar Acuda or Postcards.

9:30pm: Have a nightcap at Hanalei Gourmet.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Update on Hale Puka Ana B&B

I just heard from Patrick and Jules, the owners of Hale Puka Ana B&B (www.westkauaisunset.com.; info@kekahakauaisunset.com; 808-652-6852; 8240 Elepaio, Kekaha) that they have made ome changes to their lovely B&B
in Kekaha. Patrick says, "We’re starting to limit the access to the upstairs and it’s resources. In response to this, we have made the suites more self sufficient and added many amenities.  We still plan to have the guests upstairs for breakfast and our world class concierge service!!!"

Patrick and Jules still offer guests the only bed and breakfast located oceanfront in sunny Kekaka (one of the most private white sand beaches, with some of the best sunset views). With Hawaiian framed pictures accenting simple white (600 threadcount) bedding and hardwood floors, guests find rooms comfortable, yet decorated with high-end touches. The suites each have a TV, refrigerator, fresh flowers, and a private bathroom (with lovely lotions and soaps). Patrick and Jules built a communal outdoor grill/kitchen area with views of the ocean. There is also an outdoor shower surrounded by fruit trees. When guests arrive, they are greeted with leis, a smoothie, and lots of assistance from the kind owners (who are great resources about where to surf). Each morning guests sit on the large lanai, staring across the Pacific at Ni‘ihau, to eat a continental breakfast.

The B&B is only two miles from Waimea town, yet it feels like you have found a remote paradise, far from the tourists in Poipu, yet with better weather and surf. I can't recommend this romantic B&B enough.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lights on Rice Parade Tomorrow

Aloha friends,

Just a reminder that the annual Lights on Rice Parade takes place in Lihue on Dec 5 at 6pm. Traffic might be tough, so get there early.

Mele Kalikimaka.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Caretakers of the Earth

Last night I had a dream that my son Kai, looking over the wreckage of the planet, asked why I brought him into the world. Upon waking, I read a quote that appears in most holy books about humans being caretakers of the earth, not masters. And both made me think about Kauai--about those epic sunsets and waves, the reefs (that friends say are bleaching quicker than you can eat a plate lunch), those peaks of mountains, sleeping giant and the Kalalau Valley that has both shielded humans from harm and brought about countless deaths. I imagined the view from the top of Kokee, a hike in the redwood forest, dipping my toes in Kee Beach. Then I envisioned the alii royalty canoeing up the Wailua River from Heiau to Heiau, ignorantly killing off bird and plant species and I realized that it is our time to evolve.

As lovers of Kauai, whether it be inhabitants or visitors, it is up to us to care for this land. And there are so many easy ways to do so. Here are some ways we can all help keep Kauai beautiful:

1. Recycle. OK, so it is a bummer that Kauai places don't automatically recycle, especially since their landfills are filling rapidly. But it is not hard to actually recycle yourself. Here's how to make it worth it. There is a recycle center across the street from Poipu Beach Park--make a day of it: go for a swim, have a drink or a shave ice, go surfing and help save the planet.

2. Even better than recycling: bring your own water bottle and refill it; unwrap your packaged toiletries at home.

3. Limit your driving as much as possible. Rather than staying on the North Shore and driving to the South and West shores a bunch of times, split your trip in half. Even better: Take the Kauai Bus. Talk about a cultural education.

4. Before hiking anywhere, clean the bottom of your shoes. Invasive plants hurt the endemic plants of the island. And since Kauai has one of the highest rates of native plants and animals, it is our job to help sustain them.

5. Buy local. The Kauai farmers markets rock. You'll find head-sized avocados, homemade banana bread and super sweet bananas. And supporting local farmers helps keep locals in business.

As caretakers of this land, we need to govern ourselves, making sure we don't take too much without giving a little back. It's not that hard and using these simple tips, we can experience a side of the island many tourists don't see.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Grand Hyatt Resort Offers Steep Discounts

Just wanted to let you know that you can stay at Kauai's finest resort for a steal. Check the Grand Hyatt resort's website for details, but I have see deals as low as 25% off.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Destinations Kauai Hits the Shelves

The first Kauai guidebook to offer readers the chance to be responsible tourists has officially hit the shelves of your local bookstore. When I first started writing this book, I researched all the other Kauai guides on the market. A common theme I found was this idea of showing travelers all the "secret spots" without taking into account the effect of hordes of tourists trampling the land. This trend has upset locals enough to resent tourists. This, of course, is a catch 22, because the main economy on the island is tourism.

So how do locals and tourists negotiate this love hate relationship when guidebooks are constantly telling tourists to go to spots that are privately owned and downright dangerous (I won't even go into the numerous deaths that have occured when a certain colorful guidebook told tourists to visit a very treacherous, unkempt path)? Now, I understand wanting to visit a place and know it like a local, but Kauai is a fragile environment with only 5 percent of the island accesible by car. On this island you can find plants and animals that are not found anywhere else on the planet. And since the people who have lived there lives on the island need the land to continue to thrive, it is imperative that visitors respect their wishes. This is why I took a different route with GREAT DESTINATIONS KAUAI.

Because I love Kauai, because I want my son to experience this island in all its glory, I wrote a book urging tourists to understand the impact of their footprints on the island. So what does that mean? Well, Kauai needs tourists to keep its economy strong. So we mainlanders need to keep returning. But we also need to visit in a responsible way.

Knowing how to be responsible the the first step. In GREAT DESTINATIONS KAUAI I have highlighted locally owned businesses (including hotels and inns, restaurants, and activities), recycle centers (yes you have to drive your bottles and cans to a bin, but most are right near a beach), organic and sustainable restaurants, and hikes that are safe (and legal). I have also explained a bit about the ecology of the island so you understand why you might want to clean off your hiking shoes before and after a trip to Kokee and why you should never attempt a hike at Kalalau during rainy season.

All in all, I want you to have a safe journey and I want you to love Kauai as much as I do. I hope using this book, my love letter to America's last tropical haven, will help you accomplish this.

Please let me know what you think.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why Kipu Falls is Not For You

Another mainlander has critically injured herself at Kipu Falls, reinforcing once more why tourists should not attempt to go to this waterfall. Sure, every guidebook tells you how to get there, making it sound so wonderful that it is impossible not to put it on your itinerary. However, so many tourists have been injured at this locally favored swimming hole that I decided not to include the falls in my book. Well, sort of. Rather, I included a zip line tour that takes you to the falls with a local who understands the water flow and moods of the falls. If you want to come here, sign on with the zip line adventure tour at Outfitters Kaua‘i (808-742-9667; www.outfitterkauai.com).
Here’s the issue: locals have been trekking on private property to get to the falls for years and it turned up in a particular blue covered guidebook (one that has locals reeling) and suddenly heaps of mainland tourists followed the worn path to the waterfall. Now, locals are mad because this was one of their favorite secret spots to escape the masses. But more than that, imagine if you were chilling at a waterfall with your family, drinking beer and lazing in the shade and suddenly some silly tourist jumped into the water below at the wrong spot, hitting his back on a jagged rock and totally wrecking your buzz. That happens about once a month at Kipu Falls.
Ultimately it is for your safety that no one, not locals, not the folks who own the property, and surely not little ole me, wants you to find this waterfall. There are so many great spots to swim on Kauai—Lydgate Park, Salt Pond Beach, Kee Beach, Hanalei Beach—and much lovelier waterfalls, so why chance a trip to the hospital?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Release Party

Great Destinations Kauai comes out December 1, 2008--just in time to take advantage of all those killer flight and hotel deals on Kauai.

To celebrate the release of the book, I am having a party at Red Hill Books (401 Cortland Ave, San Francisco) on Friday December 5 at 7pm. Wine and refreshments will be provided. And no, you won't have to eat poi.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Whales Have Arrived!!!

Kauai is one of my favorite places to see humpback whales. Besides being surrounding by the most astounding natural beauty in the US, you can spot these massive beasts at a number of locations around the island for free.

Here are my top 5 places to whale watch without getting sea sick...

1. Limahuli Garden.
2. Kalalau Trail.
3. Princeville Hotel.
4. Sheraton Bar.
5. Poipu Beach Park.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kauai Coffee

In the tropics, coffee is a serious subject. You might be thinking, "It is pretty serious around my house come 7am." But us lucky mainlanders get to press a button and have that black gold percolated in minutes, rarely do we consider where those beans come from and how they get from the plant to cup. A visit to Kauai offers visitors the chance to learn about coffee in detail with visits to two working coffee plantations.

Just south of Poipu, in Kalaheo, is the Kauai Coffee Estate. Besides being the best place to taste a number of freshly roasted local blends for free, you can also tour the estate and see how the coffee bean is processed (also for free). Afterwards, with views of the coffee trees and the ocean beyond, you'll sip vanilla mac nut flavored coffee and probably buy some beans to take home. Visit kauaicoffee.com for more details.

For people who want to explore a working organic coffee plantation, Blair Estate, offers guided tours of their farm and processing plant. You'll need to make reservations in advance through their website: blairestatecoffee.com.

Finally, for the best espresso on the island, visit Small Town Coffee in Old Town Kapaa. The owner consistently wins barista awards--and they use Barefoot Coffee Roasters--a NorCal favorite. Visit smalltowncoffee.com.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Perfect Day in Kilauea

7am--Get a coffee and bagel at Mango Mama's.

8am--Take a stroll down Moloaa Beach.

9:30--Explore the Kilauea Lighthouse, making sure to ask a ranger about the nexting albatross's.

12pm--Have an ahi or tofu wrap at Kilauea Fish Market.

1:30--Hike down to Secret Beach.

4pm--Have a coffee at Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza, then wander through the shops nearby.

6:30--Dine on pasta at Lighthouse Cafe, then head to the bar for a cocktail and some local music.

9pm--Stargaze from your lanai.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Moonlight Zipline Tours

Besides being the island choice for folks training to trek Mt Everest, Kauai offers a number of adventures for the mere mortal outdoor-lover. The newest attraction is a full moon zipline tour for $125. For four hours you get to experience the innards of a Kauai pine forest, zipping over the tree lines. Contact justlive.org for more information.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Inexpensive Dining Fit For Alii

Ancient Kauai royalty (alii) dined on fresh caught ahi and taro. Today most dining establishments want you to think that regal dining in Kauai means forking over 40 dollars for toenail sized serving of fish more reminiscent of a Kandinsky painting than a meal. However, if you know where to look, you can enjoy the freshest seafood in the state without having to take out a second mortgage.
Often when people imagine breakfast on the island, their reveries feature melting ice sculptures surrounded by crab, heaps of pineapple and plates of banana pancakes, accompanied by a $30 a person tab. Instead, follow the locals. In Kapaa, you won’t find a better banana pancake, smothered in homemade piping hot coconut syrup than at Ono Family Restaurant (808-822-1710; 4-1292 Kuhio Highway). Or if you want a real treat, on weekends, brunch at Blossoming Lotus (808-822-7678; 4504 Kukui Street)
can’t be beat; here you can dine on vegan delicacies like dal or buckwheat pancakes and a smoothie for half the price of big hotel brunches. Up on the North Shore, surfers head to Hanalei Wake Up CafĂ© (808-826-5551; 5-5140 Kuhio Highway) for a mouth-watering mac-nut cinnamon roll or breakfast quesadilla. Finally if you are staying on the South Shore, you are in luck. Here you’ll find the best traditional breakfast on the island at Joe’s on the Green (808-742-9696; 2545 Kiahuna Place). On Sundays locals crowd the patio along the golf course to eat the most authentic loco moco around.
For lunch, it’s hard to avoid a trip (or three) to Hamura’s Saimin Stand (808-245-3271; 2956 Kress St, Lihue) for huge bowls of noodle soup, lilikoi pie and grilled meat for well under ten bucks. However, if you look a little farther, you’ll find many local favorites. In a little shack on the ocean side of Highway 56 in Anahola, locals line up at Duane’s Ono Charburgers (808-822-9181) for tetherball-sized burgers, addictive fries and marionberry milkshakes. When you are on the South Shore, don’t miss the hole-in-the-wall Koloa Fish Market (808-742-6199; 5482 Koloa Road). They serve up the best poke on the island, fantastic seaweed and macaroni salads, and massive plate lunches to go.
A trip to Kauai is not complete without a visit to Kilauea Fish Market (808-828-6244; 4270 Kilauea Lighthouse Road, Kilauea). Locals line up out the door for lunch or an early dinner. Serving up the freshest sustainable fish on the island, you can’t go wrong with an ahi or tofu wrap enjoyed on picnic tables overlooking a meadow.
For dinner, most tourists head to those candlelit seafood restaurants around the hotels. And while many of them are worth the hefty price tag, you can eat just as well for a quarter of what they will pay. Locals and surfers testify that pizza and burritos are the best ways to fill a hungry belly after a long beach day. On the North Shore locals favor the fresh (and huge) slices at Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza (808-828-2020, Kong Lung Center, Kilauea). While South Shore folks head to Brick Oven Pizza (808-332-8561; 2-2555 Kaumuali‘i Highway, Kalaheo) for huge garlic-crusted pies in a lively setting, smothered with fresh veggies. Around Kapaa, Monico’s Taqueria (808-822-4300: 4-356D Kuhio Highway, Kapaa) does the trick, dishing up authentic Mexican delights in a strip mall in Wailua. While in the know locals and tourists head to Kauai Pasta (808-245-2227; 3142 Kuhio Highway, Lihu‘e) for pasta that will make you want to continue eating well past your finish line.
Dining like alii shouldn’t break the bank and with a little know how, you’ll find that food at inexpensive restaurants often outshines the pricy offerings of traditional sit down places, leaving you plenty of cash to take that helicopter tour, and return to Kauai next year.

Stay at Aston Islander on the Beach.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Perfect Day in Poipu

Watch the sunrise at Mahaulepu Beach.

Enjoy loco moco and banana pancakes at Joe's on the Green.

Tour the Allerton Gardens.

Lunch on Greek salad and tapas at Casablanca Restaurant.

Take a dip in Poipu Beach Park.

Watch the sunset with a cocktail at the Sheraton.

Dine on traditional Hawaiian seafood like laulau at Plantation Gardens.

Have a nightcap at Stevenson Library at the Grand Hyatt.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The First Research Trip

We were used to the fast paced life of our California cities, so getting comfortable with slow internet connections, spotty cell phone service and waiters chatting up the table next to ours, while we sat with empty water glasses and growling stomachs, took a couple days.

By day three papaya and banana yogurt breakfasts on the lanai of our condo wasn't a rushed affair, especially as we got to know the various birds hanging out in the garden. Our day usually consisted of me visiting hotels in the morning while mom worked, meeting for lunch and then having some sort of an afternoon adventure--a walk to a waterfall, a trip to Waimea Canyon, a visit to the botanical gardens. So when I asked my mom if she wanted to join me on a trip out to Polihale Beach, a little known tourist destination, yet one of the most stunning beaches in the state, she readily agreed.

Let me preface that with our rental car, we probably shouldn't have considered a trip to Kauai's outback. But we were troopers (and ignorant Californians--one pregnant and the other just happy to be in Hawaii again). We decided to pull over near a beach before making the trek to Polihale so I could take a picture. So mom drove our Cutlass into the sand where a number of 4 wheel drive trucks were parked. When I indicated that I wanted to go in another direction, she tried to reverse the car but the wheels were stuck in the sand.

At this point, the local dudes drinking beer by their trucks had started paying attention (read: pointing and laughing). I got out of the car, red faced and shamed, not sure what to do. With every attempt to get the tires free, my mother was getting the car stuck deeper in the sand.

I couldn't bear walking up to the locals to ask for help, since I know many locals disapprove of haoles (white folks) over-visiting their land. But my mom stuck her acrylic nailed hand with the giant diamond on it our the window and said, "Excuse me, can you help a poor LA lady?"

No less than ten bare-chested tan Hawaiian men strolled slowly over to the car. Split into equal camps--of supportive, "Well done ladies" and annoyed "Stupid haoles"--the guys started to plot how they could help. At first a couple started pushing the car while my mom reversed. After getting mouthfuls of sand, a guy grabbed a chain from his truck and strapped it on the wheel, pulled his truck over and clipped it on the back and swiftly towed the car our of the sand.

Mom and I cheered like knock-kneed school girls. Effusive in our praise, we promised cases of beer (which we later brought) and good karma to come their way. Of course as we drove away, we could still hear them laughing at us silly gals. But one thing is for sure, I have been in trouble in major US cities, waiting for someone to pull over and help and no one ever did. Yet Hawaiians get a bad wrap for being territorial (wouldn't you be?), but these dudes didn't think twice about getting sand up their noses, grease on their hands and a sore back to help tow two women they had never met before.

You'll be hard pressed not to find kinder, more giving people than those on Kauai--even if at first glance they aren't doing cartwheels when they first meet you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This just in...

At 8am it was 70 degrees in Kauai this morning.

The winter deals have arrived. You can actually fly to Hawaii for less than $500 RT from the west coast! HAWAIIAN AIR (hawaiianair.com) has a decent sale going on. Just make sure you are traveling mid-week, over a weekend and returning on a Tue or Wed. and you are not trying to go over the holidays. Because of the economy, major hotels are offering some sweet deals.

If you don't mind an air/hotel package, the Hawaii Visitors Bureau (gohawaii.com) directs you to deals at orbitz.com, Hawaiian Connection, travelocity.com, and expedia.com. Hotels included in the packages include Outrigger (which is one of the best condotels in Kapaa), the Grand Hyatt (the nicest hotel on Kauai), Marriott (great for kids), and Resortquest (if you can score a deal at Waimea Plantation Cottages you're in luck!).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Who am I and Why You Should Read This

The week I was offered the gig of writing Great Destinations Kauai (Countryman Press, Dec 08), I found out I was pregnant. So as all about-to-be rotund women do, I freaked. I started calculating how I could possibly write a book and be a spaced out breeder at the same time. 

I should clarify with this aside, I do not live in Kauai nor in Hawaii. Rather I abide in San Francisco. But I have traveled to over 30 countries and spent a ridiculous amount of time on the Hawaiian islands. It is fair to say that a good writer can capture the essence of a place, without living there. In fact, some of the best guidebooks I have read come from folks who travel to a place more than they have lived there. 

That being said, I assure you that I researched the heck out of Kauai--and aside from a couple guidebook writers who I won't mention, I know more about Kauai than my little brain can handle. Which is why I am imparting my knowledge to you. 

I also want to clarify that my book is not one of those how to reap the benefits of the culture books and see every secret beach. Instead, because I love Kauai, I wrote a book that actually guides people to understand the impact of their footprints on the island. Without preaching, I want to encourage visitors to respect this fragile environment, so that my son can enjoy it as much as I do. This means you won't read about secret beaches or waterfalls in my book. Rather you are led to the best safe locations around the island. 

Next post: The First Research Trip.