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Trip Report Kauai: Songdoc's Latest Up-to-the-Minute-in-Person Status Report

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Here's the report:

Kauai's still as frikkin' gorgeous as I remembered!!! hehehe

I could feel my stress melting away as I boarded the AA flight in Nashville at 9AM. I’d be gone for almost six blissful weeks in Kauai. DP would stay for 3 weeks—then my sister would join me—and we’d end the trip at the Kauai Music Festival (July 11 – 14).

We were scheduled to change planes in Dallas and Honolulu, and arrive in paradise (aka Kauai) after 11PM Nashville time. We’d have to pick up our rental car, stop at a market, and drive almost an hour to the condo in Princeville. Knowing we’d be exhausted, I’d booked a hotel room at the Kauai Beach Resort near the airport for that first night. I’ve stayed there many times for the Kauai Music Festival. I’d booked it through Hotwire as a “mystery,” but thanks to “better bidding” had been able to figure out that it would be the KBR.

The plan was to have a relaxing evening; wake early the next morning; enjoy a walk in the surf (with Sleeping Giant in the distance) and then go to Costco, Walmart, and Safeway before heading to the condo.

We landed in Dallas to learn that the flight to Honolulu had been seriously overbooked. They were looking for seven people to volunteer to be bumped—in exchange for a hotel for the night; dinner & breakfast vouchers—and a $500 travel voucher. I was the first to get in line. $1,000 worth of travel (for the two of us) was tempting—especially when I learned they could get us to Kauai the next day at 5:12PM. Ohh, but then I realized I’d lose the prepaid reservation at the Kauai Beach Resort.

When I hesitated, the gate agent upped the offer to $700 per person. She was desperate. For $1400 in transferable travel vouchers (good for one year) I could arrive one day later and lose the $139 I’d prepaid for the hotel. We had only carry-on luggage, so it was easy to make the switch. Those who had checked their luggage before opting to be bumped would have to do without their bags until they met up with them again in Hawaii.

A side note: DP and I take great pride in being consummate “carry-on-only travelers.” After having my luggage never show up in the Cayman Islands many years ago, I learned how little I really needed. Our crowning glory was our ten-year anniversary trip to Rome—followed by an 11-day Mediterranean cruise—with only carry-on.

This time, we both did carry-on and our bags included (22) books and (40) CDs for the music conference; two laptops; assorted electronics; five boxes of All-Bran (because I’d had trouble finding it last time—and when I finally found one box, it was more than double what I’d pay in Nashville); and assorted favorite teas. I’ve got a washer & dryer—and all I need is a bathing suit, a few T-shirts and a pair of shorts in paradise.

Ohh, back to the adventure …
It was a sweltering, humid 94 degrees in Dallas when we checked into the Hawthorne Suites near the airport. I had my laptop and a good book. My understanding is that Hotwire bookings are non-refundable, and not changeable. But I thought I’d give it a shot. The hotel reservation staff at the Kauai Beach Resort couldn’t have been nicer. They said they’d be glad to let me change my reservation to the following night—but it would have to go through Hotwire, since they’d made the booking. They asked me to have Hotwire call them--which I did. I assumed I’d get a resounding, flat “NO.” But was wonderfully surprised to have the booking easily and painlessly changed with no additional fee.

Then the rain started; torrential and violent enough to have all fights in and out of DFW grounded. So we were trapped in our pleasant little hotel room, smugly counting the $1400 we’d save on our upcoming trip to Europe.

We woke early and enjoyed a free, full, hot breakfast at the hotel. Then I had an “adventure.” After breakfast I had an hour before needing to catch the shuttle to the Dallas airport. It was barely drizzling and I decided to go for a 45-minute walk—my morning ritual. I made a right out of the hotel and walked for 20 minutes through a nondescript industrial area—then turned back. But nothing looked familiar. I’d have sworn I’d stayed on a sidewalk and made no turns—but now there was no sidewalk!

Had I been abducted by aliens? Fallen into the Twilight Zone? I never turned off the street—at least I don’t recall ever turning off the street—so I must just be forgetting the landmarks … My hotel must be right up ahead.

But my hotel was not up ahead. Luckily, I had told DP to turn on his cell phone before I left for my walk. (He never has it on.) The airport shuttle was scheduled to leave in ten minutes—and I have no idea where I am. There are no street signs or addresses anywhere. There’s a street up ahead – far up ahead – and I’m able to find an address. I look at my watch; now, we’ve missed the shuttle. AGGHHH!

DP calls a taxi. The taxi driver is new and can’t find the address I’ve provided. His GPS says that I’m 23 miles away. I have NOT walked 23 miles in less than an hour! Now it’s raining harder. Wait … is that a taxi? YES!!! Whew. $35 later we arrive at the airport and learn that our flight is 40 minutes late. (Of course, it had been listed as on-time when I’d checked before my walk.) But that’s fine. We have a three-hour layover in Honolulu, anyway—and we’re on our way to Hawaii!

Since we’d had a free breakfast at the hotel we used our breakfast vouchers to buy delicious sandwiches from Au Bon Pain to bring on board for lunch. The 8 hours to HNL were boring, but uneventful. I had already seen one of the movies—and had no interest in the other.

My car rental is an interesting story …
The last time I flew back from Kauai, a local couple sat beside me. We had a wonderful, long conversation, and I’d mentioned that I was spending almost four months a year there—and wished I could find a reasonable way to rent a car. They gave me the number of a Paradise Rentals—local agency that rented older cars—at much lower rates; sort of a local version of Rent-a-Wreck.

I booked a 2000 Ford Focus for a total of $780 (everything included) for 40 days—including airport pick up. That was $700 lower than the best rate I’d been able to find at Hotwire. DP drives a 2002 Focus—so that seemed fine to us. The only negative was that I’d have to pay cash—and wouldn’t have the backing of a “name” corporation if something went wrong. But the local I was renting from was a mechanic and said the car was in good shape—and that he’d replace it if anything went wrong. I had a bit of trepidation … but if I could save $700 each of the three times a year that I visit Kauai … I had to give it a shot.

The guy who rents the cars was on time to meet us and drove us to his office—a serious “man cave” – in Kapa’a where we filled out some paperwork. The car seemed fine and I was pleased and relieved, although it had a cassette player—and I’d brought along my fave CDs.

After a pleasant walk on the beach we slept like rocks at the Kauai Beach Resort. The next morning we had our favorite breakfasts at Kountry Kitchen in Kapa’a. Their banana pancakes with macadamia nuts (for an extra $1.00) have seriously got to be the best thing I have ever tasted. DP gorged himself on a luau omelet—stuffed with pulled pork, spinach & cheese, with a side of steaming cornbread.

Spent over $300 on groceries at Costco and Walmart--stocking up on all the same boring foods I'd eat at home. They somehow taste better on the lanai overlooking the ocean ;-) Since we were only a few minutes away, and it was a beautiful, clear day, we stopped for a look at the Menehune fish pond. So beautiful—and so Kauai.

Then on to Princeville. We unloaded our bags at the condo: Sealodge H2—$125/nt (but I got a discounted monthly rate)—booked through Hestara. I’d stayed at this unit in January/February and chose it again, primarily for its exceptional breezes.

We had a nice long walk in the surf at Hanalei Bay. I was relieved to find that it was as incredibly beautiful as I’d remembered. The ocean was calm as a swimming pool—much to the disappointment of the surfers ;-). Ate dinner on the patio of the condo as the sun set. Then sipped tea while watching through the palm trees as a cruise ship sailed by, lit up bright as a Christmas tree.

Now, it’s a perfect morning. The sun is bright and a gentle breeze, and the sound of the waves are a tranquilizer as I gaze out toward the Anini reef with the lighthouse in the distance. I’m writing from my lanai, and two beautiful nenes are expectantly perched beside me—hoping for breakfast. Speaking of breakfast …. it’s time to make mine, so that’s all until the next installment from paradise.

Life is good ... :-)

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