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Trip Report Revisiting Kauai: Heartbreak and Happiness

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My last visits to Kauai were in 2002 and 2004 with my beloved husband of 46 years. It has always remained fondly in my memories as being the most idyllic, romantic vacation spot. At his memorial service last year we showed a slideshow (which my grandson put together) made up mainly of pics of him on the island and underscored by Iz singing "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World". When I sold his car I felt strongly to use the proceeds to treat my son, daughter-in-law and 12 year old grandson to a trip back to Kauai.

The trip was filled with memories of him, hiking Waimea Canyon, eating Jo-Jo's shave ice, eating at Keoki's Paradise, driving to the north shore. My grandson retraced his steps and my daughter-in-law took a photo of him standing at the very edge of the canyon my husband did and she stitched the two photos together to look as though they were standing there together. Our last day, which happened to be my husband's birthday, we tossed a lei off the balcony into the ocean. Needless to say there tears almost every day, remembering him.

I will use this opportunity to write a brief trip report for those who are considering visiting Kauai.

I got there two days earlier and stayed at the Aston Islander on the Beach. My groundfloor room led directly across the lawn and onto a lawn chair overlooking the ocean. I spent most of my time there reflecting and reading. There is a nice pool/hot tub area and the hotel is within walking distance of the Coconut Marketplace and two restaurants: The Sleeping Giant Grill and Trees. Both were good choices to eat. Trees has good nighttime entertainment. The only drawback was the parking lot is shared with the restaurants and is being renovated, so finding a parking space is very challenging, especially for someone who has a back pain issue like myself at the present.

When my son and family arrived we checked into our VRBO rental for the week: Hale Awapuhi 2F. It was everything it showed online and more. It was way more expensive than any of my previous rentals, but you would be hard pressed to find another 3 bedroom condo, each with their own private bathroom. You would also be hard pressed to find ANY other accomodations with the view we had. There were only 7 units in this condo complex, directly on the ocean and an oceanfront pool. We had the pool area all to ourselves almost all the time. The whole wall had pocket sliding glass doors which opened up onto the balcony the full width of the unit. It was so nice, it was almost too nice. We had a hard time tearing ourselves away.

This was meant to be a relaxing trip, so I won't be reporting on surfing, tubing or four-wheel tours. I did do a Blue Dolphin catamaran whale watching trip (the last one of the spring season). It was wonderful being out on the water and I didn't mind that we were up and down, although some people didn't enjoy the jostling. We saw some spouts and one brief whale emerging, but mostly it was about enjoying the water the beautiful coastal views. My grandson and his mom did several hikes. It was his first time and whetted his appetite for more.

I did treat my grandson to his first helicopter ride. I love seeing the earth from the sky and there is no better place than Kauai to do this, since much of the island is inaccessible and it is incredibly beautiful. We used Sunshine Helicopters, booked for us by our rental company and was approximately $200 per person for about an hour in the air. We flew over the canyon and the NaPali coastline.

The location of the condo was ideal. Centrally located and just 20 minutes from the airport, five minutes to a 24 hour Safeway grocery store, Longs Drugs and anything else you might need. In fact, I should mention that Kauai has certainly gotten much more populated and busy since our last visit in 2004. The area is awash with any number of restaurants. In fact, the condo was a 2 minute walk to Haole Girl Island Sweets, an authentic Parisian patisserie which makes all kinds of fresh croissants and other delectibles starting at 5am every morning. The new Street Burger is a 5 minute walk, as is Monico's Tacqueria. The best meal I had was a Kauai Pasta, and it wasn't pasta. It was the best, huge, melt-in-your mouth tender beef shortribs with mashed potatoes. I'm still dreaming about them. The rest of the vacation I was chasing that high. A runner-up for favorites was the Olympic Cafe in Kapa'a, where I was served the most massive burrito along with my Bloody Mary for breakfast one morning. We also ate at Roy's (now called Eating House 1849) in Poipu and at Keoki's Paradise, both memorable more for atmosphere than the food.

We had one night in a different rental before heading home, so we opted for one of the oceanfront condos in the Kauai Marriott resort. Dinner that night was a no-brainer: the historic Dukes, right next to the Marriott. It reminded me of the old-time Hawaiian restaurants everyone was opening in the 50's and 60's, complete with waterfalls and lit tiki torches. It was filled with locals who looked to be celebrating special occasions at hugs long family tables. It may have been graduation time, because I saw a few in caps and gowns on the hotel grounds.

My family stayed on a bit longer, so I flew home alone the next day. Which brings me to a not-so-funny story worth relating. I planned this trip a year ago, when I was feeling better than now and I had optimistically decided I would use miles on two different airlines so I could fly free from Michigan. It didn't look so bad when I booked it (it must have been with a glass of wine in my hand), but in actuality I had to take four different flights to get to Kauai and four to get back. Jet Blue to Boston (nothing direct from Detroit) to LAX, spend the night and Hawaiian Airlines LAX to Oahu to Kauai the next morning. The reverse was true on the way back, except I only had 4-1/2 hours before checkin at LAX, so I decided to sit and wait at the Jet Blue counter, instead of a hotel, thinking that at least I would be first in line at 4:30am to drop my luggage and crash at the gate. I waited patiently, looking at the clock every 15 minutes, while the minutes dragged like hours. I was the only one in that area of the terminal. At 3:45 a huge group of people, luggage, kids and dogs in carriers arrive and completely fill the line queue right in front of me. I now had 60 people ahead of me, waiting to check in and drop their bags. I felt like Mr. Bean, sitting there, incredulously staring at what just happened. There is a happy ending however. I approached the person, who was evidently the leader of this tour group and explained my situation to her, upon which she assured me that I could check in before her flock.

In all, I was on the road and in the air from 9am on Sunday morning until I arrived home at midnight on Monday night. Was it worth it? You're damn right! I have pics to prove it, if anyone is interested. These are just a few: https://goo.gl/photos/zwZfBSET5hgJxLmPA

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