The 2nd half of 2014 was busy for us as we did quite a bit of traveling!
Our last trip that I wrote about on here was our Providence/Cape Cod/Boston trip back in August. Since then, we did a 3-day trip to Carlsbad for Legoland in early November (coincided this with a termite fumigation of our home), a 4-day trip to Las Vegas for a wedding in November (Thanksgiving weekend), and 7-day trip to Kauaʻi trip during Christmas/New Years vacation.
We have done more traveling these last few months than we have in the last 3 years since Caitlin is FINALLY fit to travel and not a complete terror. She is a great flier and overall, a great traveler. And of course, we are great parents at continuing to stick to her sleep/nap schedule while on vacation so she doesn't turn into a complete monster! =D
Sadly, I won't have time to talk about our Legoland and Las Vegas trip, other than, they were both fun and such a whirlwind.
No lying, I actually had Legoland withdrawal the week after returning from Legoland.
For Hawaii, the idea was first thrown out this summer when I said I missed Hawaii and I wanted to go for my birthday. Jeff's answer? "Ok. Let's do it".
My birthday is in November but we eventually decided that it was best to take advantage of Jeff's 2 weeks of holiday vacation at work by moving the Hawaii trip to December. In early November, we finally sat down and decided which island we wanted to visit and which resort. Last time we went to Hawaii, we cheaped out and stayed at a privately owned condo that we found on vrbo.com. The furniture smelled, the carpets were old and stained, and there was no central air (crucial for Hawaii in the summer time!). Windows and doors weren't completely sealed and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes. We also cheaped out by grocery shopping and cooking majority of our meals at the condo. While I was glad we did the vacation-on-a-budget experience that time, I know I didn't want to do it again. After watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I knew that I wanted the Hawaii resort experience.
After deciding that we either wanted to stay on Kauaʻi or Oʻahu, we looked at resort pricing.
Hmm, apparently booking a resort almost 2 months in advance was way too late during the holidays, as most places were completely booked! Argh! All that was left on Oahu were resorts that were $1000+ per night. I'm sorry, I'm not rich like Sarah Marshall, so no fancy all-inclusive resort for me. On Kauaʻi, we found a resort that seemed like the best bang for our buck. Plenty of amenities (including free breakfast if you book through Orbitz) for $200-something per night. (or maybe it was high $100s per night? I forgot). We booked 7 nights at Aqua Kauai Beach Resort in the city of Līhuʻe.
Christmas time rolls around and I still haven't had a chance to look at what activities we will do while in Kauaʻi. With Legoland and Vegas and the holidays and the pregnancy, and Caitlin's preschool preparation, and the release of DragonAge 3, we just had zero time left!
Wednesday - Dec 24, 2014
We boarded our direct flight to Kauaʻi on Christmas Eve. We upgraded our seats to first class the day before (at $250 additional per person. not bad!), and first class was spectacular. We were well fed, kept hydrated, and our every needs were tended to. Caitlin had fun and she did the impossible: she actually took a nap during the flight! omg!
First class truly works miracles! Could I fly first class every time?
6 hours later, we landed in Līhuʻe and we picked up our rental car. We reserved a modest compact car but were given a Mustang convertible. I can't complain. Our drive from the airport to our resort was about 10 minutes. I love not staying too far from the airport so I could crash on the bed immediately!
But no. No crashing for me.
Upon entering the resort for check-in, Caitlin immediately saw the pools at the resort and begged begged begged to go swimming. Jeff checked-in as fast as he could and hired the help of a bellhop to move our luggage to our room so we could quickly unpack our bathing suits and take Caitlin into the pool for a dip.
After swimming and showering, we were hungry and realized we all hadn't eaten since breakfast on the plane. I once had a bad experience with resort food so I desperately wanted to avoid eating at the resort. I don't know about you but I'm not a fan of overpriced yucky food.
I called the first 10 search results on Yelp -- all closed for Christmas Eve!
Argh! What's the matter with this small town?!
We finally found a mom ahd pop saimin restaurant (it's similar to ramen, but it's hawaiian) that was open so we ate there. I don't know what all the raves reviews on Yelp and all the travel brochures were all about. It wasn't that great. A step up from the saimin I ate at a Hawaii McDonalds back in 2010, but that's about it. Perhaps it's because I'm accustomed to the super rich broths of Japanese ramen back home in Los Angeles, that I've been spoiled. Jeff also agreed that the saimin was not that great. (Jeff is turning into quite the critic, like me!!)
After dinner, we all retired to our beds and were asleep by 8pm. Hey, in LA time, it's 10pm!).
Aqua Kauai Beach Resort 331 Kauai Beach Drive, Lihue, HI 96766
Thursday - Dec 25, 2014
The resort has koi fish that gets fed at 8am every day and they let kids come and help feed the fish. We were the first group to arrive that day (since Caitlin started her day at 5am... 7am LA time) to feed the koi. C loved it !
After our free breakfast buffet, we stopped by the nearby Safeway (a 15 min drive! what the hell! I'm not used to the closest grocery store being 15 mins away). Caitlin requested blueberries (omg I spent $5 on a teeny box. Why must my daughther have expensive taste) so I had the wonderful idea to buy sandwiches, chips, nuts and fruit from Safeway and do a picnic at the beach!
We went to the nearby Kalapaki Beach. It was a perfect beach day. The water wasn't too cold, it was very sunny, and the beach had a decent amount of people! Caitlin had a blast jumping the waves. I enjoyed our picnic food and got a tan. Jeff was on toddler duty =)
After the beach, we all took our afternoon nap (hey, we are all on toddler schedule. hehe), watched the movie Nut Job (YES! Our resort has free movie rentals!! I love resort life!), and when out for Chinese food for dinner (It's a tradition! Going out for Chinese food for Thanksgiving and Christmas since they are the only places that are open ^_^).
Shoreline Access, Lihue, HI 96766, USA, Off Highway 56, Lihue, Kauai, HI
Friday - Dec 26, 2014
The big item on our todo list for that day was to visit Wailua Falls. It's a very well known water fall that is featured in movies and TV shows and has great reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp. But first things first, we got our free breakfast buffet and did our koi feeding before we left the resort.
We drove up to Wailua Falls to find that you park at the dead-end of a road, walk to the side of a wall, and look over at the waterfall from a distance. You can't even hike to the dang thing! I had a mental image of me flinging myself into the crystal waters of Wailua Falls. After taking a few photos, we were done within 5 minutes.
Gee. Now what?
I don't know what came over me but I declared that I wanted to go to Walmart! (It's my thing to always visit a Walmart when we travel because I don't have a Walmart where I live in Los Angeles).
At Walmart, I bought some odds and ends (snacks, toys, serving tongs for my home..) and then we decided to grab some lunch to-go so we could eat it back at the hotel while we watched a rented movie.
One of the restaurants on my eating list was a mom and pop pokē shop (pokē is a hawaiian appetizer, made of raw ahi tuna), that is closed on holidays, weekends, and dinnertime. The place is called "Fish Express". This was my only opportunity to get some pokē!
I pulled up the address of the pokē shop and found that it was literally across the street from the Walmart. It's like all the stars had aligned!
After shopping, I strapped Caitlin to my back (using my ErgoBaby), walked across the ginormous Walmart parking lot, crossed the street, and entered the Fish Express while Jeff drove the car over. I ordered a half pound of pokē, the chicken katsu bento box, a spam musubi and a grilled opakapaka.
Back at the hotel, we happily ate our Hawaiian meal, watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (so good! Ben Stiller never disappoints), and took our afternoon nap afterwards.
Post nap, we took Caitlin to the sand pool that is at our resort. I never even heard of a sand pool before! It's basically a man made lagoon (I have no idea if they use sea water or chlorinated water, or both?), where its a shallow pool (maybe 1.5 feet deep?) with sand on the bottom, and the perimeter of the pool is all sand as well. So kids have fun bringing sand in and our of the pool and you don't have to worry about them drowning. After the sand pool, we walked along the beach that the resort is on. There were a lot of rocks and waves! Definitely not swimming material, but it was still a great view. I saw a random coconut floating in the ocean. I called him "Wilson".
We had leftover Fish Express for dinner and we called it night at 7:45pm. I guess we were still on LA time.
Maalo Rd, off Hwy 580, Lihue, Kauai, HI
3343 Kuhio Hwy Ste 10 Lihue, HI 96766
Saturday - December 27, 2014
Back when we visited The Big Island in 2010, I bought some rambutans from some farmers off the side of the road. They were life changing.
They were sweet, delicious, juicy little fruits, encased in a funny furry little red shell. I came back to Hawaii to get my hands on some more rambutans.
No one get in the way between me and my rambutans unless you want to lose an arm.
I reviewed the list of all farmer markets on the island and found the closest farmers market to us: the Kauaʻi Community Farmers Market, open from 9:30am-1pm every Saturday.
After our daily routine of free breakfast buffet and koi fishing at the resort, we arrived at the farmers market in Lihue at 10am. It was bustling!
We did a once-over first, seeing the selection, price shopping, and eating samples... And then it was time to buy. I don't know what compelled Caitlin to point and insist on eating a starfruit (she's never seen or had one before), but I bought her one. The kind lady manning the stand heard me telling Caitlin that it was too dirty to eat right then and there and washed the starfruit for us. Caitlin chowed down and loved her star fruit! I bought 2 more (at 50 cents per piece, what a steal).
I also ended up buying 3 bags of rambutans (totaling $12). Right before leaving, I saw these odd short bananas called "apple-bananas" being sold at most stands. I grabbed a small bunch out of curiosity. Eating it, it tastes like a firmer banana, almost reminiscent of a banana-celery hybrid. I'll stick with my regular bananas, thank you.
I scored a free reusable shopping bag using a coupon I found in the Kauaʻi coupon book (grab these when you travel! Doesn't hurt to save a couple of bucks here and there).
After the farmers market, we continued on south, towards the south side of the island. I read about this secret glass sand beach online. After reading a few blog posts about it, I went in with very low expectations, since the blogs said that very little glass were to be found (since people have taken the glass over the years). After using directions described in the blog post, we found the location of the glass and beach (I'll put directions below). And I was impressed!
There was a ton of glass on the beach!! Brown glass, clear glass, blue and green glass, it was great. And underneath the glass pieces was black sand (I love black sand!). The beach itself wasn't swimmable (too rough) and pretty rocky. I took a little bit of glass and there were a couple of others also collecting glass.
After we were done picking up glass and taking photos, we headed over to the nearby Salt Pond Beach. Salt Pond Beach is a great place for toddlers since there is a shallow area with virtually no waves. We splashed, ate rambutans, and headed home after an hour.
We needed to rush home for Caitlin's afternoon nap but we still haven't had lunch, so we hit up the mcD drive through. We purchased a Happy Meal for the very first time and we were sooo confused on how to order one! We also ordered the haupua pie -- a Hawaiian specific McD dessert.
Caitlin didn't nap. =( We left the beach early and ate mcD for lunch for nothing!
The movie we watched on Saturday was How To Train Your Dragon 2. It was meh.. The first movie was really good but this one was just plain bad. Don't bother.
For dinner, we went to "The Eastside" for dinner. It had good reviews on yelp and the photos looked drool worthy.
That place was awful.
Such a dud.
Even if you haven't eaten in a week. Don't go.
The live music (some solo dude singing) was way too loud for such a tiny building and the servers were nonexistent. They took forever to tend to us and we had to ask for things (like water refills or the check) 2-3 times before they finally brought it over. The food itself was delicious but terribly overpriced. Caitlin was also in a pissed mood because she was tired from not napping and the music was too loud, so I couldn't enjoy my meal. In the end, I did not tip at all. There was no excuse for their awful service.
Glass Sand Beach
To get here, on Google Maps, route directions to "Glass Beach Cemetery, Aka Ula Street, Eleele, HI". The cemetery is at the end of the street "Aka Ula Street". Park where the paved road turns into the dirt road, then walk towards the ocean on foot. You will reach the glass beach before you reach the cemetery.
Salt Pond Beach Park
Lokokai Road, Hwy 50, Hanapepe, Kauai, HI Take lokokai rd westbound (toward the ocean), until the road ends
Sunday - December 28, 2014
This day was such a slow day.
We spent the morning at the Kilohana Plantation, mainly to ride their train ride (Caitlin loves trains). We got to see all the animals, veggies, and fruits at the plantation and the train also stopped midway for us to get off and feed bread to the pigs and goats. Caitlin talked about the pigs and goats for several days after the train ride! She said that the goat didn't want to eat bread (the goats rejected our bread) and that the pigs were still hungry (the pigs happily ate our bread and wanted more).
I'd say, skip Kilohana Plantation if you or your kids aren't a fan of train rides. Caitlin thoroughly enjoyed it though. We also used a 15% off coupon from the Kauaʻi coupon book.
Afterwards, we went across the street to the Kihue Shopping Center, which is the largest shopping center on the island. The verdict? It was tiny and lame. I guess I have been spoiled on the mainland.
We ate leftovers for lunch and dinner on Sunday, and watched Guardians of the Galaxy. Great movie! Very funny. But nothing can top Walter Mitty.
Kauai Plantation Railway at Kilohana
3-2087 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI 96766 They take reservations, but I don't think they are necessary. We walked right in.
Monday - December 29, 2014
We spent the morning in old town Koloa, a quaint town that dates back to the mid 1800s, visiting old shops. I also got my Hawaiian shaved ice fix here as well.
We spent the remainder of the day at nearby Poʻipū Beach Park, once named America's Best Beach by the "Travel Channel". I gotta admit, it probably was my favorite beach during my trip: calm, warm, crystal clear water, perfect for my toddler to play with minimal supervision.
I needed to get my Hawaiian lunch plate fix so I sent Jeff back to old town Koloa to pick up some lunch to-go (at Koloa Fish Market) . We munched on laulau pig, roast port, kālua pig, and poke on the beach. So good! It was such a relaxing day and the 3 of us returned back to our hotel looking much more brown and crispier.
Back at the hotel, we watched Days of Future Past and ordered room service pizza for dinner.
Old Town Koloa
5424 Koloa Road, Koloa, HI 96756
Poʻipū Beach Park
Hoona Rd, Poipu, Kauai, HI 96756
Koloa Fish Market 5482 Koloa Road, Koloa, HI 96756
Tuesday - December 30, 2014
The day before our last day in Hawaii. I felt so much pressure to do something good on this day. Unfortunately, rain and 65-70 degree weather was on the forecast so I was uneasy about doing a hiking or beach day.
After much back and forth, we decided to go on a hike anyways and we will simply turn around if the rain gets too hard. After reading up on local hiking trails, we decided on the Ho’opi’i Falls hike because it is a easy-moderate hike with little elevation. We wanted to make sure it was a hike that Caitlin (and pregnant me!) could handle. Ho’opi’i Falls was used as a filming location in Jurassic Park for the fictional site of the "Mano de Dios Amber Mine" in the Dominican Republic
We parked right outside the trail head (ample residential parking), wore Caitlin on my back using the ErgoBaby, and embarked on the hike. We had such a wonderful time chatting, singing, and taking our time. The trail followed along the Kapaʻa Stream the entire time. And the trail actually leads to 2 waterfalls: an upper waterfall that is perfect for photo opts, and a lower waterfall that is perfect for swimming and swinging on rope like Tarzan (yes, there is an actual rope).
Read detailed information about the hike here: http://www.hikerly.com/hoopii-falls-hike2-2-miles-563-feet/
I wore Caitlin on my back for most of the walking but she did come down to walk around at each waterfall, and she also walked a bit of the hiking trail herself (she even did this one very steep section! I'm so proud of her).
The rain started during our trek from the upper waterfall to the lower waterfall. By the time we reached the lookout point for the lower waterfall, the rain was pounding so hard!! The ground was incredibly muddy and slippery so we decided not to hike down to the base of the falls since it wasn't safe and we had no plans to swim (too cold!) anyways.
the view of the lower waterfall
I wore Caitlin on my back, covered her with the hood of the ErgoBaby, and walked back to the car as fast as my 2 little legs could take me. We are all utterly drenched when we got to the car.
Overall, I really enjoyed the hike and it was one of my favorite parts of our Kauaʻi trip.
We grabbed lunch at a Filipino Hawaiian hole in the wall (Kauai Family Cafe). I loved it because I love filipino food and filipino food is absolutely impossible to find in LA.
We had leftovers for dinner and didn't watch a movie on our last night. We tried to watch Wolf On Wall Street but turns out, that movie is 3 hours long! No way we would have finished that movie that night. I spent a good chunk of our evening drying our wet wet clothing on the ground using a hotel iron! I didn't want to pack wet muddy clothes home!
Ho’opi’i Falls hike
Address: GPS Coordinates 22.103024, - 159.343316
Its a muddy hike and bring bug spray!
Kauai Family Cafe
4-361 Kuhio Hwy Kapaa, HI 96746
Wednesday - December 31, 2014
Happy New Years Eve!
We flew back home on this day so we wanted to do one last good hurrah before we go.
After deciding whether to visit Waimea Canyon or Princeville, we decided Princeville was better because we didn't want to risk being late for our flight (psst. we were still late).
After breakfast and our last koi fish feeding, we checked out of the hotel and drove northbound to the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge.
There actually isn't' much going on at the lighthouse and refuge, other than the fact that it's situated on a peninsula so you get great views and photos. I guess you can also feel good about yourself that the admission costs goes towards a bird refuge (save the birds... yay).
After the refuge, we drove to Hanalei Valley Lookout, one of the most photographed lookouts in all of Hawaii. Here, we saw the Hanalei River and taro fields flanked by the mountains and waterfalls. We took less than 5 minutes here, then we drove across the street to the Princeville Shopping Center for a quick lunch at some bar. Then we hightailed it to the gas station in Kapaʻan to top off our car rental then moved as fast as we could to the Lihue airport! We were running late!
We checked in our baggage late, ran to the gate (and of course, we had to scan our luggage and carry ons a gajillion times because Hawaii is super strict about taking fruit out of the state, and TSA also slowed me down 15 minutes because they thought my sand samples were actually bombs. Seriously, TSA?).
Alas, we make it to our gate, boarded the plane, and the plane door shut behind us. The 3 of us sighed a huge sigh of relief.
After a 5 hour flight, we made it back to LAX at 10pm local time. After waiting nearly an hour for our luggage in baggage claim while trying to keep Caitlin content (she was on the verge of a meltdown for being utterly exhausted. Travel days are so hard on babies), we waited in 35 degree weather outside of LAX for taxi (YOU try going from beautiful 70-80 degree weather to 35 degrees! It's hard!). Caitlin complained that she was cold so I did my best to wrap her in a blanket -- it was all that I had, and I held her close to my body.
A taxi ride later and $45 poorer, Home Sweet Home! We had some snacks in lieu of dinner and all collapsed in bed, way past midnight.
And that's how we rang in 2015! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Kilauea Lighthouse and Refuge
Kilauea Light Station , Kilauea, HI 96754
Hanalei Valley Lookout
Kuhio Highway, Princeville, HI 96722
Overall, I was very happy with our trip. And I was very happy with the resort we chose. I got no mosquito bites, the furniture didn't smell, we had central air, the free on-site breakfast was so convenient (since, when Caitlin wants breakfast, she needs breakfast NOW), the on-site pools were also very convenient and the activities like koi feedings and free movies were great. But at the same time, our resort wasn't so over-whelming where we felt like we didn't have time to leave the resort to explore the island on our own. It was the perfect balance.
Kauaʻi is great. It is the island for those who don't like to do all the touristy stuff and just want to enjoy nature. We didn't get to snorkel since we had a 2-year-old to take care of, but I hear it's a great place to snorkel. The beaches were clean and beautiful, and there are a ton of waterfalls, canyons, and hiking trails to explore.
I will try and get photos up on Picasa soon. I will post an update on this blog when I do.