Kauai Trip Report, 9/24/06 - 10/8/06

Old Oct 13th, 2006, 07:17 PM
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Kauai Trip Report, 9/24/06 - 10/8/06

Wow--this is turning out to be a really long report, so I'll have to do it in parts. I want to send out a big thanks to all the Fodorites who were such a help with our planning. Hopefully all these details will be equally helpful to some other Kauai first-timers .

Getting there
Bright and early on Sunday morning, we flew out of Washington Dulles to Denver and then transferred to United’s non-stop from Denver to Honolulu. We’d originally hoped to fly directly into Lihue, but availability for frequent flier tickets was better in and out of Honolulu, so we opted to do an interisland flight on Aloha instead. This was a looong day and a lot of flying. We ended up being very glad we’d used the extra miles for first class. If anyone else is considering this, be advised that it’s best to book right at 331 days out, when United first releases their frequent flier inventory. Coach seats usually easier to get, but Hawaii is a popular place so I’d still call early!

We finally arrived in Honolulu around 2:45. The interisland terminal is at the total opposite end of the airport from the terminal where flights arrive from the continental US, so be sure to schedule plenty of time between connections. We were sick of sitting so we decided to walk (you can also take the Wiki Wiki bus). It’s a nice stroll since Honolulu’s airport is completely open air, and you actually get to see mountains–and palm trees!! Our first taste of paradise! Since we made it to the Aloha gate with more than an hour to spare, we talked to the agent about catching the 4pm flight instead of the 5. No problem, he said, but our luggage may not make it with us. Turns out he was right. Oh well–it’s vacation, right? No stress. So we headed to the Alamo counter to pick up our rental. Had reserved a mid-size for 2 weeks at $268 but when the agent offered us a convertible instead for only $400 we couldn’t turn it down. We headed back to the main terminal and parked next to some roosters in short term parking while we waited for our luggage. Luckily it showed up on the next flight (the one we’d originally been booked on) and, after a curiously long wait to get out of the parking lot, we were on our way. I was a little worried about renting from Alamo since I’d recalled reading some negative comments about them, but overall we had no problems.

After months of researching and agonizing, we’d finally decided to rent a condo in Princeville. For a 2-week stay we definitely wanted something larger than a hotel room, and we’ve found that condos are generally cheaper than big hotels anyway. Princeville is an upscale, planned community on Kauai’s north shore, filled with expensive private homes, golf courses and condos. At the end of the road, is the Princeville Resort. Princeville doesn’t have the funkiness and “old Hawaii” charm of Hanalei, a few miles further down the road, but it does offer a good selection of reasonably-priced condos with great mountain and/or ocean bluff views. Princeville is also a bit closer to the island’s Eastern and Southern shores.

Our #1 priority for condos was a fabulous ocean view and, for the money, we found nothing that could beat the bluff-front units at Pali Ke Kua. We ended up paying roughly $160/nt for unit #204 through ReMax Kauai. For those who aren’t familiar with PKK, most units are individually owned and the decor/upkeep can vary widely from one unit to the next. A smaller percentage are owned and operated by Marc Resorts. From what we could tell, the Marc units tended to be a lot more expensive and not any nicer. In addition, I don’t think Marc allows you to specify which unit you want. This is important since some of the PKK units have views to die for and others have essentially no view at all. Numbers 101-126 (first floor) and 201-226 (2nd floor) are on the bluff facing Bali Hai and should be the best in this regard. Some agencies that make individual PKK units available to rent include ReMax Kauai, Regency Pacific and Makana Vacations. I believe there are some available through VRBO, as well. We were very happy with the service provided by ReMax.

#204 is an upper level, 2 bedroom unit (all upper units at PKK have 2 bedrooms and all lower units have 1 bedroom). We’d seen some comments about the lower units getting noise from above, which is why we opted for the larger unit even though there were only two of us. It ended up being a very quiet spot and we were quite pleased. #204 isn’t a luxurious unit but we found it to be comfortable and clean. The kitchen also appeared to be well-stocked, although we didn’t use it much. The only thing that seemed to be missing was some good tupperware for leftovers. There is no air conditioning, but we thought the combination of ocean breezes and ceiling fans throughout did a pretty good job of keeping things comfortable, even with the direct afternoon sun. Our only complaint was that it got a bit damp in the overnight hours. Be prepared for some fabulous bali-hai sunsets if you stay here! People tended to congregate along the bluff outside our unit and in the small park-area down the street just to watch the show each evening, but we were lucky enough to have a perfect view right from our living room. For more info and pictures of this unit, you can see here:


I’m glad we stayed on the beautiful north shore, but it was our first visit and we really wanted to explore so that meant *a lot* of time in the car. We also like to hike, and it seems like many of the best hikes start in Koke’e, which is a 2 hour drive from Princeville in midday traffic. If I had it to do over again, I’d probably split our time with one week in the north and one week in Poipu. The East would be a nice compromise location, but it’s such a busy area with so much traffic, I just don’t think it would be conducive to a relaxing vacation.

more to come....
Julie304 is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2006, 07:28 PM
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Can't wait to hear more!! I've just returned from the BI (trip report forthcoming) but we had seriously considered Kauai. We LOVED the BI and would go there again, but on our next visit to Hawaii we hope to spend some time in Kauai also.
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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Great report so far! Keep it up!

We are leaving Saturday (10/21), and doing a similar itinerary - United (First Class) IAD-DEN-HNL (using miles) - then Aloha to our island. But, we are going to the Big Island. Our hotel's website says they are in full operation and accepting guests, so as long as we can get to the BI, we are in good shape.

Since we are doing the same morning DEN-HNL flight, do you remember what the "halfway to Hawaii" solution was?
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 07:34 AM
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A convertible on Kauai where it rains all the time? :-" .

Good call on the stroll to the IntIsl Terminal especially after the flight you had.
We've been going over for a long time and we took the Wiki Wiki the 1st two times until we figured out walking there is do-able and a good way top strech your legs.

More please! ><
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 09:32 AM
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Uh-oh, Bill you're really testing my memory now. I think it was 11:13 and 2 seconds? Or somewhere right around there. We didn't win but I was excited to only be off by about 45 seconds . FYI, here's the formula we used (courtesy of flyertalk):

Divide the calculated speed into half of the actual distance being flown (in nautical miles)to arrive at the number of hours, minutes and seconds you will reach the midpoint after takeoff. This number will be in decimal hours (i.e., 2.408). In this example 2.408 equals 2 hours 24 minutes and 29 seconds - remember you are calculating minutes and seconds so multiply the decimal fraction (the number to the right of the decimal) by 60 not 100. You then add the time to the midpoint to the actual time of takeoff and you have the magic number.

Will try to post the next installment soon. Am currently working on sorting through the *bazillion* pictures we took!
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 11:05 AM
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Julie, GREAT first installment . Thank you for taking time to detail the PKK condos, which have great views, etc. That will help future visitors a lot.

Excellent description of Princeville area's pros and cons: a pre-planned golf-course community with knock-out views! Good to advise people that's what they should expect. It's beautifully laid out, neat, clean, and manicured, but lacks, as you say, the funkiness and "old Hawaii" charm.

Also thanks for "validating" what many suggest--if you have two weeks, it's good to split it between No Shore and So Shore.-- two sides of Paradise.
Looking forward to future report, and some of those photos.
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Old Oct 16th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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Thanks for a great start. Yep, I agree. North shore for two weeks is heaven. Next time you won't want to drive as much and the north shore is the ultimate lounging location. Our first two trip we stayed in Poipu and after experiencing the north shore last summer, we have no desire to stay in Poipu again. We were in Hanalei for two weeks and for a whole week we never made it south of the Hanalei Dolphin. It felt so much like home (I could only wish) we never even thought about leaving.

Looking forward to more.

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Old Oct 17th, 2006, 07:34 PM
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Thanks, Julie.
We're considering a trip to Kauai next summer, and are considering staying on the north shore. I'm eager to hear about the rest of your stay!

i'm especially curious about the beach and pool access you had from your condo. The beach links on the website you posted don't seem to work. But the condo seems lovely.
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Old Oct 17th, 2006, 09:18 PM
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Hi dina--the PKK beach is narrow and really rocky. It would probably be an OK entry point for snorkeling if you have reef shoes but it's really not for swimming. I took some pictures of it, which I'll try to post tomorrow.

Luckily, Hideaways is just on the other side of a rocky point at PKK beach. Hideaways is small but still a great beach. You could swim there from PKK if the surf is calm enough or you could take the path from Pu'u Poa, which is the complex next door (the equivalent of maybe 2 blocks away?). You could walk to the Hideaways beach path from PKK but it would be a pain to do that and carry all your stuff, so we drove down the street and parked. Hideaways has excellent snorkeling. Be aware the both the PKK and Hideaways trails are very steep.

As far as the pool is concerned, we aren't pool people so we never used it. In fact, I never even saw it but here's a link to a picture I found:


Hope this is helpful. Will try to post more of my report this weekend--have been really busy since we got back.
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Old Oct 18th, 2006, 02:17 PM
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FYI, Kauai pics are up as promised. Enjoy!

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Old Oct 18th, 2006, 06:10 PM
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ok Julie - I am sold! Those pictures are positively gorgeous. Thanks for sharing. I am having such a tough time deciding between the north and south shores!
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 07:23 PM
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Thanks for sharing the photos! Really wonderful -- you are an adorable couple - and it looks like you had a wonderful trip. I'm eager for the next installment of your trip report -- I'm particularly interested in hearing about your boat excursions. Also -- curious what kind of camera you have -- we're in the market for something new.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 08:11 PM
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I enjoyed reading your report. Your beginnings sounds like our trip although we went to Maui after HNL.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 08:15 PM
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Thanks alot for the great photos we are planning a trip for the spring.
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Old Oct 20th, 2006, 08:34 PM
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FABULOUS pics! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like a great trip
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 01:02 PM
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Food in Kaua’i is expensive, as many others have pointed out. On most days we ate out only for lunch or dinner. While cooking at your condo will save some money, groceries are expensive too so don’t expect to save a lot. We paid $5 for a loaf of bread at the Foodland in Princeville and $8 for a package of bakery cookies. Buying sale items will save you some money at the grocery stores but you have to have apply for a Makai card at Foodland or a Safeway card at Safeway. The stores on the east side seemed a little bit cheaper to me but I’m not sure it’s enough of a difference to be worth the long drive from the north or south shores.

Restaurants - North Shore

Polynesia Café (lunch) - Had a very good grilled fish sandwich here in a very casual (i.e. paper plates) environment. Order at the counter and eat at a covered outdoor pavilion in Hanalei’s Ching Young Shopping Village. Fries were good too. Although the blue bible raves about their baked goods, we tried the cookies and weren’t impressed.

Sabellas (dinner) - A bit pricey, but good food only steps from our condo in Pali Ke Kua. Pleasant tropical atmosphere, although not on the water and no outdoor dining that I can recall. They had a Hawaiian singer on the night we were there (a Thursday) who was quite good. The only thing I didn’t care for was their xanga (fried-yuck) cheesecake dessert. We found we didn’t need reservations here but YMMV.

Lapperts (snack) - Very good. “Kauai Pie” was our favorite flavor (Kona coffee ice cream w/ chocolate fudge, coconut and toasted macademias).

Café Hanalei (dinner) - The is the main restaurant at the Princeville Resort and it was the most beautiful and romantic place we ate, hands down. The terrace view is to die for. Bring your camera. We went for the Friday night seafood buffet, which was very good, but I’d return for the atmosphere alone. Dcd provided an excellent description of the buffet and everything on it so I won’t attempt to repeat that here. If you want to go, I’d reserve at least a week in advance for the first seating at 5:30. Reservations for later than 5:30 will probably end up indoors. It’s very expensive at $65pp but worth the splurge, in my opinion.

Postcards (dinner) - Pricey but very good and creative organic/vegetarian fare. There is no water view, but a pleasant atmosphere if you can get a table on the porch. It was interesting looking at pictures of all the celebs who’ve supposedly been patrons at one time of another. Our waiter mentioned that he’d served Leonardo Dicaprio, Laura Dern and Lindsay Lohan all within the past year. Their bulletin board also had pics of the staff posing with Harrison Ford and Bill & Hillary Clinton. You’ll definitely need reservations here.

Hanalei Dolphin (dinner) - Directly across the street from Postcards in Hanalei. This was probably our least favorite meal of the trip. The food wasn’t bad, just nothing to write home about. We enjoyed the salads but our entrees (we tried the Haole and the Hawaiian chicken) were just OK. They don’t take reservations here, so expect a wait unless you come very early or very late. It did seem like it would be a nice place to have drinks while you wait.

Hanalei Wake-up Café (breakfast) - I know others love this spot but we had a bad experience here–partly our own fault–and I probably wouldn’t return. Their menu is rather limited, with mostly egg dishes (I’m not a big fan of eggs, so that didn’t help). Mike liked his omelet, but ordered a huge one without reading the menu closely enough. It turned out that each ingredient over the first two or so was an extra $2.50. With a base price of roughly $10, it turned out to be a very expensive omelet! Be aware that they do not accept credit cards. We didn’t have enough cash, and had to make a run to the ATM at Big Save. We were seated on the terrace, which ended up being very hot in the morning sun.

Restaurants - East Shore

Duane’s Ono Char-burger (lunch) - This place is in Anahola, so I wasn’t sure whether to classify it as north shore or east. Don’t come for the atmosphere but the burgers are great (if a bit small). You order at the window and eat at picnic tables around the end of the building. There are lots of chickens wandering around under the tables looking for crumbs and you’re right next to the busy highway. If we came here again, I’d probably get it as carry-out and go elsewhere to eat.

Scotty’s BBQ (dinner) - We thought the BBQ here was decent. True connoisseurs might be disappointed, but I’d say it was on par with the big chains we have here in DC, like Memphis BBQ or Red, Hot & Blue (more expensive, of course). Sides and desserts were pretty good as well. This place is waterfront and the tables are built on tiers so every party has an unobstructed view.

Kaua’i Pasta (dinner) - Small, unassuming restaurant in Kapa’a with surprisingly good food and good prices. There are no views of anything here–just great Italian fare. A sign at the hostess stand informs guests to “BYOB” (we noticed several tables with wine). There seemed to be more locals here than many places we visited. Try the crab ravioli. They don’t take reservations, so go early, go late, or get lucky.

Ono Family Restuarant (breakfast) - Very good breakfast food at very reasonable prices. The banana pancakes were fantastic and pretty big. Mike got the short stack (2 pancakes instead of 3) and that was more than enough. I had the Breakfast Burrito and thought it was very tasty despite not being a big egg fan. A few of the staff seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, but overall we enjoyed this spot and thought it was definitely worth the drive from Princeville to Kapa’a.

Restaurants - South Shore

Puka Dog (lunch) - A little hard to describe, Puka Dogs are like a Pig-in-a-blanket stuffed with Hawaiian sauces and relishes (various choices from mild to spicy and different tropical flavors). You can choose either a veggie or polish sausage dog. We thought they were good but a little overpriced for what you get. No soft drinks here–only water and fresh squeezed lemonade. At the Po’ipu Shopping Village.

Jo Jo’s Shave Ice (snack) - Our first taste of shave ice and we liked it but ate so much we ended up skipping dinner. A small would probably be more than sufficient unless you’re really hungry. This place is a true hole in the wall. I tried the tropical rainbow over mac nut ice cream. Mike ordered the Keiki special not knowing what the word meant, and JoJo laughed at him. This was the only shave ice we tried, so unfortunately I can’t compare it to any of the other brands.

The Beach House (dinner) - Very good food and a very nice waterfront setting but this place is really crowded (and feels crowded). Everyone in Poipu seems to come here for sunset–if not to the restaurant itself, then to the bluff in front of it. If you want to dine at sunset, you’ll need to make reservations a week or two in advance. We had a nice table by the railing but it was a little annoying the way people stood on the bluff directly in front of us, blocking the view. Don’t get me wrong–The Beach house is nice, but the quieter atmosphere and sunset views at Café Hanalei beat this place by a mile.

Roy’s Po’ipu Bar and Grill (dinner) - The food at Roy’s is excellent–probably the best of anyplace we tried. Their macadamia nut crusted mahi is the best I’ve had anywhere. Unfortunately, the strip mall location isn’t exactly great for atmosphere and the service is almost *too* attentive. A waiter asked to take my plate at least two times before I was actually finished eating and another inquired about our dessert order before our entrees had even arrived. You’ll need reservations here, but not more than a day or so in advance.
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 01:16 PM
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Glad to hear folks are enjoying the pics! This is the first time I've ever tried posting pictures to the web and it took me quite a while to get it figured out.

cm318--we bought a new camera right before the trip because we wanted something small and digital. Ended up going with the Canon Powershot A630 and we really like it so far. It's 8 mega-pixels, which I think really helps with the clarity.

Will try to post on all our tours/activities tomorrow!
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Old Oct 21st, 2006, 05:07 PM
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Looking forward to more and starting to push Kauai further up on our travel list.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2006, 03:26 AM
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Julie, I know trip reports aren't easy to do and are rather time consuming. You have provided some very useful and helpful info for future travelers. Looking forward to more so I can re-live the isle!! Dave
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Old Oct 22nd, 2006, 08:03 AM
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Get a box lunch at Foodland in Kapaa and take it along with you to the beach. We had wonderful sandwiches made in their deli and had picnics at the north shore beaches...
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