Friday, December 11, 2009

United Slashes Winter Flights to Kauai

Get it while it's hot. I just heard that United has slashed winter fares to Kauai (and all islands) to hover at just around $500 round trip from San Francisco. The past couple of years found winter fares to be closer to $600-$700.

For more information click here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wintertime Deals to Kauai

OK friends, time to start surfing the web to score some of the insane flight deals to Kauai. At last glance on both www.travelzoo.com and www.beatofhawaii.com, I saw round trip flights to Hawaii hovering around $300.

Get your flights now! They'll go fast.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kokee blaze mostly contained

A brush fire torched 10 acres of Kokee forest in the Waimea Canyon State Park this weekend. As of Sunday morning, the blaze was 75 percent contained, with a few hot spots still burning. The fire started along Makaha Ridge Road and has burned over 2 miles of pine forest. Though it threatened a few cabins, no one had to be evacuated.

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Great Destinations Kauai review

Just wanted to share my recent interview and book review. To read it, click here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kauai Inns Offer the True Spirit of Aloha

For those of you interested in finding an authentic Kauai lodging experience, click here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Shameless Plug for a New Book

OK, so I know I am supposed to be writing about Kauai here, but I couldn't help letting you know about my new book.

Looking for summer road trip ideas? Romantic getaways? Family friendly getaways? Campsites, gourmet taco trucks, hikes and hidden mountain towns? My new guidebook Northern California: An Explorer's Guide addresses the need for honest coverage of California's most beautiful landscape from a local perspective. The book covers the region from Big Sur to Yosemite, all the way up to the Oregon border, including hidden gems like Dunsmuir, Gualala, Shelter Cove and Twain Harte, not to mention Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, Wine Country and the redwoods.

For more information, click here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Polihale State Park--Why Locals Love It


Imagine a bumpy potholed road, 5 miles long that breaks rental cars that merely think about the trip. Throw in 15 miles of white sand that stretches to the western edge of the Na Pali Coast, free camping, intense surf, and even a mellow sheltered reef for keikis. Oh, and did I mention that it is almost always sunny and is Kauai's best place to watch the sunset?

Now you know why locals are volunteering to help rebuild a washed out bridge that leads to this magnificent beach. Wouldn't you?

Polihale may open up again sooner than you know it, thanks to the Kauai community.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If I only had one day on Kauai I would...

People ask me this all the time. Often they are cruise ship visitors with only 8-24 hours to "see" the island. And though I can easily prove that a day is not enough to see the island, it is enough to be become smitten with it.

Here's how.

Kauai is different than every other island in that it is lush and looks like that a tropical island is supposed to look like--if you know where to go. Save sunny beaches for Maui ahd Oahu. In Kauai you get to experience the garden isle in all its splendor.

Start by renting a car through your cruise ship or at the Lihue airport (you can take a cab from the harbor). Every major car rental agency is located at the airport.

After you have your car, drive north to Princeville (if you are starving, pitstop at Mango Mama's for a fruit smoothie). Head to the Hanalei Bay Resort's Bali Hai restaurant to have breakfast. Though not the best service, the views remind you why South Pacific was filmed on the island.

Keep traveling north, through the town of Hanalei (you'll be back) to the Limahuli Garden for a tour of native plants. Then drive north until the road ends to stop at the picturesque Kee Beach.

Venture back through Hanalei, stopping at the surf shops and art galleries.

When your belly rumbles, head straight to the Kilauea Fish Company for fresh fish wraps and veggie offerings. Even better take your food to the Kilauea Lighthouse for a picnic with views of the albatross sailing over the sea.

If you want a little beach break, drive back to Wailua to enjoy the kid-friendly Lydgate Park.

Or head ot old town Kapaa for some souvenir shopping and a cocktail.

For dinner, I love Hukilau Lanai for fresh (and super sweet) seafood and decadent cocktails.

By that point, you should be tuckered out and ready to return to Kauai for a month.

Pick up a copy of GREAT DESTINATIONS KAUAI (Countryman Press) for more information.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fish are biting

Anglers are in for a treat.

I have been informed that there are some great catches floating around the island. Contact
http://www.deepseafishingkauai..com for more details.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Little Sprouts Playhouse Opens

A new indoor playground opening in Kapaa gives parents another activity on a rainy day. Check out this link.

http://www.kauaiworld.com/articles/2009/03/28/news/kauai_news//doc49cdd2ec2722d745944912.txt

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Perfect Day in Poipu

This morning I woke up thinking about Kauai's south shore--the sun, the waves, the roosters. I wanted to share with you the ideal day in this region.

6am: Roosters wake you up, just in time for an oceanfront sunrise stroll.

8am: Get a coffee and pastry at the Grand Hyatt Resort.

9:30am: Head to Joe's on the Green for loco moco.

11am: Venture to the National Tropical Botanical Gardens for a tour of the Allerton Gardens.

1pm: Grab a picnic lunch at the Koloa Fish Market and take it to Poipu Beach.

4pm: Schedule a massage at the Grand Hyatt Resort Spa: ANARA.

6:30: Enjoy sunset cocktails at the Sheraton Resort.

8pm: Trek to Plantation Gardens for gigantic plates of local food in a plantation style house.

10pm: Head back to your lodging and relax. You'll have another big day tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Civil Unions Bill Fails in State Senate

Though the Hawaii state senate denied LGBT couples the right to civil unions (a bill that is rumored to be revisited soon), gay and lesbian travelers should not despair. Aside from California, New York and Massachusetts, Hawaii is one of the most welcoming vacation destinations for same sex couples.

There are a number of gay-owned inns, restaurants, and shops on the island. For more detailed information on this, pick up a copy of GREAT DESTINATIONS KAUAI (Countryman Press, 2008).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Adios Superferry

And so the story ends. Superferry, once a way to travel between the Hawaiian islands without getting on an airplane, has met its demise.

After protesters on Kauai camped out in front of the vessel on surfboards, halting its passage, this ship has not been running between Oahu and Kauai. Now the State Supreme Court stopped service between Oahu and Maui, siding with environmentalists.

Locals are rejoicing. Tourists and airplane-ophobes are bummed. But flights are still cheap.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

VISITING A HEIAU

A heiau is a temple built of rectangular lava rock, fit together so adeptly that many walls still stand today. They used to be filled with palm leaves, wood, grasses, and sacred objects. Though they may look like a pile of rocks to you, often overgrown by brush or seemingly forgotten, remember that these are religious sites, sacred to Hawaiians. They are fragile and cannot be replaced. So please honor the suggestions listed below.

▪ View the heiau from the exterior. Do not climb on or over the rock walls, they may collapse.

▪ Do not excavate, destroy, or alter any historic site on state land or you will be fined $10,000.

▪ Do not leave offerings or trash at a heiau structure. Coins, candles, incense and similar items cause long-term damage.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Great Destinations Kauai LA Reading and Slideshow


Aloha!

Just in time to take advantage of those springtime deals to Kauai (have you seen the $400 round trip from the west coast to Lihue on United???), I will be sharing photos and talking story about my favorite Hawaiian island.

Please join me this Saturday March 21 at 6pm at Traveler's Bookcase 8375 West Third Street Los Angeles, CA 90048. 323-655-0575. Refreshments will be served.

Bring the keikis, your friends and Hawaii-lovers.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Niihau--Can We Appreciate the Isolation?

Nothing creates intrigue like hearing a place is off limits. Ni‘ihau, 17 miles away from Kaua‘i, is an illusive and forbidden land. This privately owned island houses over 200 Hawaiians.

The majority of the population lives in the community of Pu‘uwai. This is the only island where Hawaiian is the primary language (though children learn English in grade school). Rumor has it this is the only place where some full-blooded Hawaiians still exist. Though a notable irony since the people who own the island are non-Hawaiian.

Unlike the rest of the archipelago, there is no electricity (but people use power generators for their televisions and refrigerators); no cable TV, phone service, indoor plumbing, wireless, or paved roads.

For work, the residents farm and create shell necklaces and craftwork that sells for big bucks on Kaua‘i. Unfortunately, the economy is suffering from draughts, hurricanes, and a lessening of ranch activities. There is talk of a bigger military presence on the island to subsidize the economy, and maybe a high-end resort. But as of now, the land and its people are a pristine example of life without outside influence.

As a tourist, the only way to visit is by invitation from a local. Otherwise, you have to settle with diving off shore or taking a helicopter tour over the uninhabited edge of the island.

It seems to this traveler that there is something special about the isolation of Niihau. No other Hawaiian island has been able to retain its soul in quite the same way--and for that we might be able to appreciate the fact that we are not quite wanted there. Don't some places have to stay sacred?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Negotiating the Condo Conundrum

The majority of lodging opportunities in Kauai are condos. Spread throughout the east, south, and north shores, you’ll find a condominium option for nearly every price range. However, finding the right unit for you, might take a little research.

There is no central booking agency for any one particular condominium complex and d├ęcor is all over the map. For the most part, each condo unit is individually owned and operated, which means two condos right next to each other will be entirely different.

Another consideration is that some condo complexes are “resort condos” which means that they are a condo with resort benefits (often this means that the company will charge a resort fee; this will be noted if it is the case), like maid service, wireless, etc.

An easy way to negotiate the condo conundrum is to contact a rental agency, tell them exactly what you are looking for, and then ask to see specific pictures of the units they suggest.

Below are the vacation rental companies that I like most:

Castle
(808-822-7700 or 800-367-5004; fax 808-822-7456. www.castleresorts.com).

Rosewood
(808-822-5216; fax 808-822-5478. www.rosewoodkauai.com. rosewood@aloha.net.)


Parrish Collection
(808-742-2000 or 800-325-5701; fax 808-742-9093; www.grantham-resorts.com, stay@grantham-resorts.com).

Poipu Connection:
(808-742-2233 or 800-742-2260; fax 808-742-7382; www.poipuconnection.com, poipu@hawaiilink.net).

Suite Paradise:
(808-742-7400 or 800-367-8020; fax 808-742-9121; www.suite-paradise.com, mail@suiteparadise.com).

Hanalei North Shore Properties:
(www.vacation-rental-kauai; 808-826-9622 or 800-488-3336; fax 808-826-1188)

Oceanfront Realty:
(www.oceanfrontrealty.com; 808-826-6585 or 800-222-5541; fax 808-826-6478).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Living Aloha

To help inspire Bay Area folks to travel to Hawaii, the Hawaii Visitors Bureau has funded a number of free Hawaiian concerts throughout March in San Francisco. Last Friday, I attended Brother Noland's show (because my friend Verge was playing) and was reminded of why Hawaii is such a unique place.

Prior to the show, we were all sitting upstairs nursing our drinks, when Brother Noland commented that in the end music will bring us all together--it has in the past and will carry us through the current cloud hanging over us all.

And it dawned on me that we all need to offer ourselves a dash of goodness, especially now, when the newspapers are filled with doom and gloom.

So when I looked around Gordon Biersch, I noticed that most of the people in the lofty restaurant were smiling--something you don't often see on the Muni or BART. And my Hawaiian friend Verge said, maybe we need to give people leis more often, reminding them that the Aloha Spirit can exist, even when we are not in Hawaii.

So here's my little call to you all: After reading the Sunday paper, or after not sleeping enough, or losing your job, or, heck, after a crappy day at the office, even if you can't afford a trip to the islands, allow yourself to honor the aloha spirit for a few minutes each day. Basically--be nice to yourself, listen to Hawaiian music, and treat yourself to a lei from a local flower shop. Your psyche will thank you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kauai Country Inn--Last Minute Specials

OK, Beatles fans, here's your chance to visit the only Beatles Museum in Hawaii for a steal.

After working in the film advertising industry for 17 years, Mike and Martina Hough moved to Kauai, and created their own work of art, the Kauai Country Inn (808-821-0207; www.kauaicountryinn.com; 6440 Olohena Road, Wailua). The five suites and cottage are decorated with exotic tiles, Hawaiian motif furniture, hardwood floors, murals, and have big windows overlooking the valley, plus kitchenettes. Soaking in the hot tub, surrounded by guava and starfruit trees, will enable you to embrace the solace of these undulating hills just a few minutes drive from Kapaa town. A major perk here is access to Mike’s private Beatles Museum, which showcases Brian Epstein’s Mini Cooper. Suites run $129-$169; 3-bedroom cottage is $249.

Check last minute specials for some pretty good deals.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kauai Air Deal

I had to share this deal with you all--United Airlines has a $265 (all-inclusive) deal from SF to Lihue, Kauai through the beginning of April. Now is the time to book those flight deals. Nothing takes the edge off the winter like the tropics.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Waimea Brewing Company

Looking for a place for a brew and pupus? Head over to Kauai's only brewery for a dash of tropics with your hops. Though the food isn't the best on the island, and to be frank, the beers won't trump most of California's microbrews, the experience of sitting on a wooden deck, surrounded by banyan trees, hearing the call of native birds and feeling the warmth of a sunny afternoon can't be beat. Add to that some live music on weekends and you'll probably try and figure out how to stay overnight at the lovely Waimea Plantation Cottages.

Waimea Brewing Company
808-338-9733
Waimea Plantation Cottages
9400 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea

Thursday, February 19, 2009

San Francisco Chronicle Review of Great Destinations Kauai

Here's the link to Jeanne Cooper's review of GREAT DESTINATIONS KAUAI.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/hawaii/detail?blogid=53&entry_id=35690

Weddings on Kauai


Dream of exchanging vows on a white sand beach, with the golden sun setting over the crystal blue sea, and the palms gently swaying in the distance? You can be like many others before you and get married on Kaua‘i. Though most locals head over the Las Vegas to exchange vows, heaps of mainlanders have made Kaua‘i the wedding destination of choice. Since this is an already paved road, there is a big business set up to help with wedding plans—from coordinators to florists, DJs to luau organizers, folks who will marry you in the sky, underwater, as well as sunrise weddings along the Coconut Coast. Basically anything you can imagine has been done. For a price. Like with any other popular destination wedding locations, when people hear weddings, the dollar signs pop up in their eyes.

For a traditional wedding package, organized through any of the major resorts, expect to pay a lot, but not have to do much work. Each resort has a variety of packages, including intimate affairs of candlelit dinners on the sand to blow out parties for every person you know. The resorts that specialize in weddings are the Waimea Plantation Cottages, Grand Hyatt Resort, Princeville Hotel, Hanalei Bay Resort, Hanalei Colony Resort, Sheraton Kaua‘i, and the Lihu‘e Marriott.

Many of my friends have chosen to stitch together an affair on their own. Unless you are local (or plan to live on the island until your wedding), most people recommend getting a wedding coordinator. The Kaua‘i Visitor’s Bureau (808-245-3971; www.kauaidiscovery.com) has a comprehensive listing of wedding service providers both online and in their travel planner. Some coordinators popular with tourists are:

A Vow Exchange: (800-460-3434; www.vowexchange.com).

Island Weddings and Blessings: (808-828-1548; www.weddings-kauai.com).

Rainbow Weddings and Celebrations: (808-822-0944; www.rainbowweddings.com). They also perform commitment ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

If you choose to skip the whole coordinator thing, you might want to explore the Kaua‘i Wedding Professionals Association (www.kauaiwedpro.com) website for information about locations, caterers, florists, photographers, carriages, tent rentals, etc. The Yellow Pages offers comprehensive listings of wedding services, including the above-mentioned information, officiates, churches, rehearsal dinner locations, musicians, and more. It is important to note that if you want a friend or family member from the mainland to perform your ceremony, you must also hire a locally certified officiate to preside over the event (and make it legal).

So what happens if you arrive here and are swept away by the romance of the isle and decide at the last minute to get hitched? Plan to stay a few extra weeks because Hawai‘i has some strict licensing requirements. Though no blood tests are required, both parties need to be present (with cash in hand and valid ID) before the date of the wedding at the Kaua‘i Governor Liason’s Office (808-274-3100; www.hawaii.gov/health). You must make an appointment (and often they only accept them two weeks prior to the event) with an agent to sign the appropriate papers. Note that licenses only last for 30 days.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Polihale State Park--Closed for months

Because of storm damage, this beach park has closed for renovation--for months! Other alternatives for a mellow place to watch the sunset include Kekaha Beach and Salt Pond Beach Park.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kalalau Trail: The Trek of a Lifetime


There is a reason that people training to trek Everest head to the north shore's Kalalau Trail. It's tough. It's ridiculously beautiful. And did I mention that it is tough?

Yesterday I read that a tourist, who was attempting to hike the whole way, got seriously hurt 3 miles in and had to be airlifted out. Now, you might read this and call it a fluke, but there is a reason that lepers hid out here; why locals rarely trek this treacherous path; and why the visitor's bureau is struggling with what to do about this major tourist destination. People keep getting hurt here and yet people keep flocking to the trail.

Connecting Kee Beach and Kalalau Beach, passing epic waterfalls, and winding above the Pacific along the Na Pali Coast sounds like the perfect dreamy hiking adventure. But throw in rain (and there is a lot on the north shore) and an unkempt trailhead and you have the recipe for a lot of haoles heading to the hospital.

Why only haoles? Because we don't seem to understand (and often we don't respect) the moody weather and land of Kauai. Rather, we pack our vacation chock full of adventures with only one day scheduled for the Kalalau Trail and end up going on a hike regardless of weather, timing, or your health.

Now, I have never completed the entire 11 mile (each way) trail. The last time I attempted, I was 6 months pregnant, made it 2 miles in, and decided to head back. I recommend this shorter length for day use hikers. But if you insist on going the whole way, here are a few tips that will save you an unlucky hiking experience:

1. Plan to arrive at the trailhead no later than 6am. If you get there later than 8am, you will be hiking in the full sun and have a higher chance of meeting rain. Plus, the masses arrive around 9am and any essence of privacy will be lost.

2. If it rained the day before (or if there is any chance of rain in that day's forecast) DO NOT HIKE.

3. Bring plenty of water and food. There is no snack stand at the end of the trail. And it is 11 miles back too.

4. Pack out all of your trash.

5. Wear sunscreen and mosquito repellent.

6. Go with a hiking buddy.

7. Wear good hiking shoes--this is not the spot for flip flops.

8. Go slow. The views are spectacular and worth the extra time of negotiating those unstable tree roots.

9. Be ok with turning back earlier than you would on a hike at home. Most of us are not used to the tropics and might push ourselves past the point of safety. As I am told, it is just as beautiful at mile 1 as mile 11.

10. Pat your self on the back for whatever part of the trail you accomplished. It is a tough one that most locals won't even do anymore.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Beach House Restaurant

One of Kauai's finest restaurants, both in location and cuisine, makes the ideal stop for that romantic meal. For folks on a budget, head to the bar to watch the sunset over the south shore, with a glass of fine wine and a collection of divine pupus.

If you can swing it, this is the spot for dinner with your sweetheart. Enjoy creative seafood followed by desserts so enchanting you won't be able to say no.

Both casual and classic, the beach house restaurants deserves its recent Hale Aina award for being the finest restaurant on Kauai.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Limahuli Garden


Even if wandering through greenery isn't your idea of a relaxing vacation, a trip to the one-of-a-kind Limahuli Garden should be on your radar for a Kauai vacation. Not only is it located on an ancient heiau (sacred space), but they also specialize in native plants to Kauai--a rarity on the islands. On a recent trip through this collection, I learned more about nature than I ever have on a trip to the islands. Consider this: if a plant flowers, it is not native to Kauai. I told you it was informative!

Plus, there is no better place to whale watch and space out on the ocean that spread below this dramatic landscape.

Though the cost can be steep ($15 for a self guided tour and $30 for a guided tour--which I highly recommend). It is worth every penny.

Just make sure to bring mosquito repellant and good walking shoes.

Limahuli Garden: www.ntbg.org.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Deals and Sun: What More Do You Want?

I just returned from a trip to the islands and I have to say that there is nothing that cures the winter blues more than some sun, a pina colada and the sound of the breeze through the palms. If you are aching for some tan lines and warm water, make a plan to head to the South or West shores of Kauai to laze the day away on Polihale or Poipu Beach. Then head out for cocktails and pupus at the Beach House restaurant, which recently earned the Hale Aina Award for best restaurant on Kauai.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Kauai Deals

Happy New Year!!!
Now is the time to book your trip to Kauai; with some serious deals in the works. Not only do most major airlines have direct flights for under 400 bucks, you can find slashed hotel prices at the Princeville, Grand Hyatt and more.