Monday, August 31, 2009

Chasing Waterfalls

Before you read this, you may want to take a quick bathroom break - there's going to be lots of running water ahead.

We decided to spend a whole day visiting some of Kauai's waterfalls. Now, usually, the problem with traveling in August is that it's the dry season and the waterfalls aren't running at full throttle. But you remember me mentioning how wet and rainy it had been? Well the waterfalls were as full as they ever could get. Fuller than ma ny of the pictures I had seen in my research and guide book! Unfortunately, the rain also meant that the path to some of the waterfalls was a little muddier and slipperier than some members of our party would have liked.

As we hiked down to Ho'opi'i Falls, Thatmom continued to repeat her mantra - "I am not an outdoorsy girl." She didn't love the fact that we were hiking through the muddy woods, but the trooper that she is, she came along anyway. She was overjoyed when we reached our first stop and there was a rock bench for her to sit on while the rest of us scrambled around the top of the waterfall and across the river.

There is a second falls along this trail, but as a compromise to Thatmom, we headed back after this first falls. After all, there would be plenty more waterfalls to see throughout the day and we didn't want Ms. Notoutdoorsy to burn out too early.

Before we hit the next falls, which I knew would have another hike Thatmom wouldn't like, we decided to stop and bribe her with food. Thatmom could have noodle soup every day, and I had heard fantastic things about Hamura's Saimin - a bowl of broth, noodles, and all sorts of other add-ons. UDubb backed me up with her description of saimin and avowal we wouldn't get anything like it outside of Hawaii.

Hamura's has counter seating only and quite a line when we entered, so Thatboy decided we should take this show on the road! Saimin picnic anyone?

Thatbrother and UDubb had the regular saimin, which just had the broth, ham, fishcakes, and noodles. Thatmom and Thatboy added pork wontons to theirs. I had the special which had all that and pieces of bbq pork. It was salty, warm, and delicious. Even Thatmom LOVED it - which is a big step since she's not very adventurous when it comes to food.
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Thatboy and I also split a piece of Lilioki Chiffon Pie. I'm great to split desserts with since I don't want more that a bite or two. The pie was so light and perfect! Good way to end the meal if you like salty and sweet!

Our next stop was really for Thatbrother, UDubb, and Thatboy. We were off to Kipu Falls. To get to Kipu, we had to go through another trail that weaved it's way through sugar cane fields. Thatmom decided a movie should be made about the "children of the sugar cane" starring her as the victim killed by someone jumping out of the sugar cane. She didn't do much better when the sugar cane cleared and we got to cross the rocks to get to the waterfall.

For the rest of us, this site was worth the trip.

Kipu might not be the tallest waterfall on the island, but it was definitely tall enough. Especially because to get into the pool below, you had to jump from the top of the falls. (See why this wasn't for me?) Thatmom and I sat and watched the others jump off and swim in the pool below. Kipu had one other attribute that Thatboy fell in love with.

The rope swing. Thatboy spent almost the entire time at the falls swinging and jumping. He loved it.

By the time we hiked back to the car, Thatmom was definitely done with hiking for the day. Good thing our next waterfalls didn't require walking!

Our next waterfall was Wailua which was putting on its best show for us. Wailua Falls is taller than Niagra Falls and I've decided it's the coolest waterfall I've ever seen. Tall, full, and surrounded by gorgeous greenery. Apparently in ancient times, men would jump off the top. As we stood and looked at it, we couldn't figure out who could be that stupid.

We ended our waterfall tour at 'Opaeka'a Falls. Not as full as Wailua, it was still beautiful to see the twin falls and the rain made 'Opaeka'a fuller than it usually is.

Across from 'Opeaka'a Falls was a gorgeous view of Waileau River. We were able to watch a kayaking party wind its way down the river. Thatboy and I vowed to do that next time. Thatboy decided we'd have to share a kayak, because left on my own, I would surely get left behind or run aground.

We were a little early for our dinner at Kintaro - a sushi and teppanyaki restaurant. We parked our car in the lot, and went to check out some neighboring stores, when a woman in front of the restaurant waved us over. She was a local, and told us that we should get in line to eat now, because as soon as the restaurant opened, the line would stretch into the parking lot - this was apparently a VERY popular restaurant. So we took our seats in line, and moments later it seemed like the rest of the island joined us.

Thanks to our new friend, we were quickly sat when the restaurant opened, leaving us to peruse the menu and figure out what we were going to eat.

Thatmom and I began with salads. Mine had crab, shrimp, cucumber, lettuce, and tomato. Thatmom had the same without the shrimp and crab.

Thatbrother and UDubb ordered several sushi rolls and nigiri. They thought the sushi here was FAR better than at Hanalei Dolphin and both were really impressed with the selection and the taste.

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Thatboy and I each had a miso soup - which is when I started realizing today was quickly becoming the "Thatgirl eats soup all day" day.

Since Thatmom doesn't eat sushi, she was thrilled to see choices on the menu like the teppanyaki filet mignon with veggies.

Thatboy doesn't mess around with rice, so he had a plate of sashmi yellowtail. Always contrary, he actually liked the sashimi better at the Hanalei Dolphin.

Continuing on with the soup theme, I had the beef sukiyaki for dinner. OMG was this good. The broth itself was so sweet, the meat was sweet and tender, and there were more noodles! I loved the flavor the broth gave to the tofu and veggies.

After all his sashimi, Thatboy decided we needed another order of the sushi eaters' favorite roll. I can't remember what it was called, but it had tuna, avocado, and salmon in it and everyone (other than Thatmom and me) loved it.

Poor Thatmom was exhausted by the end of dinner. Those kids of hers had run her ragged. Luckily, her fantastic kids knew the quickest way to her heart is ice cream, so we made sure we ended the day with another trip to Lapperts before crashing for the night.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

sleeps in the canyons

There really is not trip to Kauai without including a trip to Waimea Canyon. The "grand canyon of the pacific" is a gorgeous deep gorge full of blues, greens, and reds.

We arose early to catch the best light, and to grab a bite to eat. Thatmom had been begging to go to a specific coffee shop during our trip, and it was quite a ways away. It was, however, on the way to Waimea, so we grabbed breakfast at the Kaleheo Cafe.

Thatmom and Thatdad loved the Kaleheo cafe, and we were quick to join the bandwagon. Thatboy thought it was the best coffee he's ever had. The food wasn't so bad either!

I had the Bonzo burrito, stuffed with ham, peppers, mushrooms, onions olives, scrambled eggs, cheddar and Monterey jack. I didn't come near to finishing it and was full for the entire day!

Thatmom had her typical breakfast out - scrambled egg whites and fruit.

Thatbrother (and his finger) made his own omelet with Portuguese sausage, mushrooms, and red peppers.

UDubb had the Farmer's Omelet.

Thatboy has been won over by me ordering eggs benedict, so he did it on his own this time - the twist? It's a bagel benny! Bagel topped with ham, egg, and hollandaise.

Then we headed up the road to Waimea. There's not much to say about it, except it is SO BEAUTIFULLY AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS.

The west shore of Kauai (where Waimea is) is notoriously dry. Or at least it's supposed to be dry. This was definitely the rainiest day of our trip, so much so that it actually rained at dry Waimea.

The rain and the clouds made certain lookouts obscured, but in other places, the clouds lifted and parted like a curtain giving us what felt like a magical view.

The canyon is deep and red, not surprising since Kauai is know as the red dirt capital of the road. Most of it must be here in Waimea.

After our early morning, and long day on the road, in the car, we decided to just take it easy and have dinner at the hotel. Lucky for us, we had a pretty fantastic restaurant at the hotel - Nanea.

Thatmom and I split a green salad to start - and yes, there is goat cheese in there!

For dinner, Thatmom had a seafood pasta - shrimp, scallops, and fish.

I was tempted to get the duck, but Thatboy thought I should branch out and try something I hadn't had this week. Thatbrother had the duck instead. I thought the duck was better at the Beachhouse, but Thatbrother was very impressed with this.

I went with the greek pasta - which was declared the winner of the table with Thatmom and Thatboy. Filled with peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, and feta - salty but fantastic.

UDubb had the tofu which she raved about. It was a suggestion of the server she was glad to have taken.

Thatboy had bland bland bland chicken puttanesca. I know from experience that puttanesca sauce is brilliantly salty due to the olives, anchovies, and capers. We couldn't find even the hintiest hint of olives or capers in this.

Waimea is a definite "not to be missed" portion of Kauai. I just wish the weather was better and we could have spent more time hiking around. Although it was very cool to see some interesting waterfalls. It whetted our appetite for the next day - our tour of Kauai's waterfalls!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A day of highlights

Thatboy and I awoke one morning and headed out on our own. The rest of Thatfamily isn't as curious or adventurous as us, so we made some plans to split up so we could do what we wanted and leave them other suckers by the pool.

Right down the street from our hotel was Queens Bath and Thatboy and I had been dying to check it out since seeing and hearing about it months ago. Queens Bath is a pool surrounded by a lava rock beach. Because of it's location, it's protected from the ocean, but offers a fantastic view. Kind of like the first tropical infinity pool.

We parked at the top of the trail and slid down the trail to the bottom. Summer is usually a drier time in Kauai, but because there was a hurricane right before we arrived we were greeted every day by rain throughout the day. All this rain made the island VERY muddy. We didn't actually slide down the trail, but we did have mud all over our calves by the time we reached the bottom. On our way back up, we encountered a couple who was not so sure footed and probably would never be able to wear those clothes again.

Aside from being treacherously muddy, the trail down to the beach was gorgeous, meandering beside a river, complete with waterfall. At one point, Thatboy got annoyed that I kept stopping to take pictures, but he was afraid to run ahead in case I came tumbling after.

Finally we reached the bottom. Does this make you nervous? It made me a little nervous. I made Thatboy promise to to let me get swept out to sea.

This is what we saw just past the sign. The beach made of lava rock. Not a great place for sunbathing, but a really unique sight nonetheless. It was absolutely deserted along the rocks, so we just had to trust we were going the right way, and we were! Before too long we came to Queen's Bath.

From up here you can see how the pool is sheltered from the ocean by the lava rock. The waves crash against the rocks, which is actually a pretty neat view when you don't have to worry about being pulled under or crashed over. What you can't see from up here is a way to get down...because there isn't really one. Just a matter of climbing down the rocks and into the water. Or you can take Thatboy's route, which involved jumping right off the rocks and into the pool.

Because Queen's Bath is sheltered from the ocean, it's a fantastic place for snorkeling.

I call these guys mackerels as in "holy mackerel - there are fish ALL around me." They were super friendly and curious, literally swarming around me anytime I stood still. I named one of the more adventurous ones "Harold" and Thatboy thinks Harold snacked on his leg hairs. Anytime I'd put my camera under the water they'd all swim up to me like "take my picture! take my picture!" SUCH attention whores.

Do you see how one of the mackerels snuck into this picture?

This beautiful guy on the other hand wanted NOTHING to do with me. I spent a good amount of time following him around Queen's Bath trying to get a good picture while he tried to avoid me. "GEEZ lady, if you want pictures, speak to my agent!"

As I mentioned, Queen's Bath is no place for sunbathing, so when we had our fill of swimming and jumping and fish stalking, we headed back up the trail and on to a destination that would afford more sand. For both Thatboy and I, Queen's Bath was the highlight of our time in Kauai.

Our first stop was Ha'ena Beach. I employed my panorama so you could get a full view of what there is to offer. The middle section is Ha'ena Beach proper. The left hand side is the home of Cannons, a popular surf spot, but the waves were breaking too far out for lazy Thatboy. The right hand side is Tunnels, an excellent snorkeling spot, but since we had just come from snorkeling we didn't bother fighting the crowds trying to get a peak at fishies.

Across from the beach is Manini-holo dry cave. According to the legend, Manini-holo, chief fisherman of the Menehune dug this cave in search of the supernatural beast he thought had been stealing their fish. We didn't see any supernatural beasts or Menehune, but Thatboy thought it would be fun to take a picture of us in a cave....a dark cave....just in case you wanted to know what we looked like in the dark. To recreate this shot at home, go into your basement and turn off the light.

Because Thatboy didn't get to go surfing at Cannons, he wanted to hit up one more beach on the way home to catch a wave or two. We had seen the waves breaking on Waikoko beach on our way to Ha'ena, so we stopped there on the way back and NO JOKE climbed down a tree to get to the beach. With a surfboard. I'm such a soldier. It was absolutely deserted on the beach, I was the only one there. Thatboy grabbed his board and headed towards the surf to join up with a couple other surfers who were already enjoying the waves. His first wave was just as fun as he thought it would be, until his leash snapped and his board went up up and away. After he caught up with it that was the end of surfing at Waikoko. We picked him up a new leash on our way back to meet with the others.

UDubb is half Hawaiian and has spent a fair amount of time on the islands. Because of that, she had a huge request that we do plate lunch one day. Always one to accommodate, we headed down to Pono Market.

Pono Market is supposed to have a good plate lunch, but what keeps people coming back is the warm and welcoming attitude of the people who work there. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the men behind the counter - especially since one of them shares and Alma Mater with Thatbrother.

A typical plate lunch consists of a meat, two scoops of rice, and a scoop of macaroni salad. Which is what I got with lau lau (pork wrapped in ti leaves and steamed). Everyone else skipped the macaroni salad and went for variations of a poke salad that was offered. Thatboy thinks the original poke salad was the best of the bunch.

After lunch we did some more pool time before heading back to Hanelai for shopping and dinner. This restaurant was Thatmom's pick. She had read that Bar Acuda served tapas and was intrigued. She had never had tapas before and loved the idea of sharing several small plates, which is her perfect size anyway.

The menu at Bar Acuda changes every Tuesday, and capitalizes on local and seasonal foods. Everything looked so good on the menu, we decided to just order one of almost everything.

We began with the roasted tomato bruschetta - which was quickly declaimed the best bruschetta Thatmom had ever eaten. She would have ordered two or three orders of this for herself if we'd let her. Salty and sweet thanks to both the tomato and balsamic vinegar. UDubb and I dissected it to determine how to make our own version at home.

Next came the Kilauea salad - Kilauea greens topped with Kilauea goat cheese. I don't think I've talked about this goat cheese yet, so let me drool here for a bit. Thatmom and I had heard something about goat cheese on Kauai, but we didn't pay much attention until we happened upon it in the supermarket and brought it back to the hotel to try it out. Now, I'm a big fan of goat cheese to begin with, but even if you're not into the slightly sour goodness this is definitely the cheese for you. I have never sampled a milder, more mellow cheese than the Kilauea goat cheese. Thatmom doesn't love goat cheese as much as I do and she thinks this is the best she's ever had. We began looking for it on menus and anytime we saw it as an ingredient, that item was ordered.

Another specialty of Kauai is their honey. So we had to get a plate of the honeycomb. In most places, the cheese takes the main point of honor on a plate, here it was most certainly the honey - with the cheese added as an accompaniment.

Because it came with goat cheese, we had to order the roasted beets. It was a new experience for UDubb who had never had golden beets before and Thatbrother who had never had fresh beets before. Both loved the taste of these roasted beets and as for me, I seem to have gone from "never eating beets" to finding them on my plate on a weekly basis. By the way - know what's better than goat cheese? Warm, melty goat cheese.

Shrimp salad with frisee, radichio, green beans, and hard boiled eggs. Not necessarily a combination I would have thought of, but pretty good nonetheless. Thatmom thought the shrimp were excellent.

The Banderillas were a table favorite - grilled flank steak with honey and a chipotle chili oil. There might have been fights over the last stick.....

I didn't have any of the scallop over mashed potato, but those who did seemed to enjoy it. Remember, scallops are as close as you can get to steak.

I also skipped the Mahi Mahi, but if you believe Thatmom it might have been the best fish she ate so far on the trip.

Another all-around winner was the pizetta with roasted red pepper and corn. We were all a little surprised by how much we liked it given the corn - which Thatboy informed me he doesn't usually like on pizza. (Usually? How often does he get corn on pizza?)

My favorite, along with a couple of other table members was the housemade chorizo with a grilled apple. It was UDubb's pick and I'm so glad she picked it since I am definitely in a chorizo phase right now. Thatbrother was disappointed in the apple, mainly because he thought it was a pineapple, but when he bit into it, it didn't taste anything like pineapple at all.

We ended the night with rice pudding, topped with blueberries, cherries, and coconut. Thatboy has been putting coconut on just about everything he eats in Kauai.

The dinner was fantastic, and the food lived up to the reputation. Thatmom thought it was the most fun she's had at a dinner. She wants to do Tapas all the time - she loved the sharing, the small portion sizes, and the ability to order practically the whole menu. The meal might have been the highlight of the entire trip for her.