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Monday, June 30, 2008

Polihale & Waimea Canyon

Today, we explored the western part of Kauai. We woke up around 8:00 a.m. and got ready to head out for the day. The condo here provides a cooler, so we packed it up with things for lunch so we would be prepared. We stopped by Big Save to get some turkey cold cuts and we were off to the western most point of Kauai (well, the furthest west that you can drive).

We stopped at a lookout along the way because we thought it was beautiful... little did we know what we would see later on in the day.

Once you drive to the end of the state highway (route 50), you have to turn on a dirt road and continue down another 3-5 miles (depending on where exactly you want to go). It's a bumpy ride, but it was worth it for the view.

We started off right toward the end of Polihale Beach, right next to the beginning of the Na Pali Coast (only accessible/visible by boat or helicopter).

With the camera attached to my face... too beautiful

Polihale Beach... it's important to note that pictures really do not do these places justice. You have to see them for yourself to truly get how beautiful they are.

The little bit of the Na Pali Coast that you can see from Polihale Beach

Consulting the "Blue Bible" (Kauai Revealed) to try to figure out how to get us to Queen's Pond so we could swim. The book (and numerous signs) warned against swimming in this area. The surf and current are so strong that it's pretty dangerous. We didn't want to take any chances.

We backtracked down the dirt road a little bit and were able to find the access to the area of the beach called Queen's Pond. There were other people swimming there and the water looked relatively calm. We were dying to get in (so hot), and didn't waste any time.

Swimming in Queen's Pond

After swimming and taking in the beautiful beach and water for a little bit, we went back to the car and started heading back east. Back on the highway, we came across a little beach/park area with small pavilions and picnic tables. Since it was noon, we decided to stop and eat our lunch.

The view at the park at lunch

We didn't really plan ahead about what we were going to do with our afternoon, so while we sat at lunch, we figured it out. Since we were already over on the west side of the island, and we had seen many signs for Waimea Canyon, we decided to take the drive up the mountain to go see it today.

On the way, we saw a cool waterfall on the side of the road and stopped to take some pictures.

Here is Michael with the red dirt and the waterfall

Wild chickens EVERYWHERE on this island!

We continued up the mountain and eventually reached the Waimea Canyon Lookout. The view was literally breathtaking. I have never seen the Grand Canyon, but I assume it must look something like this.

Well, I suppose the sign is different at the Grand Canyon. :)

After spending a good chunk of time looking at all the glory that is Waimea Canyon, we continued up the mountain to try to see the Kalalau Valley. Unfortunately, when we got all the way up there, we were in the middle of a huge cloud and couldn't see a thing. :( It looks stunning in the Revealed book, so we're disappointed... but oh well, we can't control the weather! Who knows, maybe we'll give it another shot before we leave, but it's kind of a long drive to go all the way up there not knowing what the conditions will be like.

On the way down the mountain, we stopped at a couple of other lookouts. One had a different angle view of the Waimea Canyon, and others were just pretty countryside.

Our rental convertible for Kauai... brand new!

We ran into a little bit of traffic (with only one road that goes around the island, that's bound to happen) on the way back to our condo. Once there, we showered and got ready to go out to dinner. We had planned to go to Duke's at the Hyatt because we heard it is excellent. I happened to check out the menu online before we left and found that it wasn't really going to work... they have like one item on the menu that isn't seafood. Given that I don't touch seafood (picky eater), we decided to nix that idea, and had to find another place quickly.

We ultimately decided to go to a little Italian place called Casa di Amici. It was our nicest dinner we have had so far on our honeymoon (we have reservations for the Beach House later this week). We liked the atmosphere and the food was excellent. We shared a caesar salad to start--it was unique--the dressing was amazing!

My chicken marsala

Michael's pistachio crusted salmon with butternut squash and cheese risotto

OK, there is a funny story behind this last picture. We found Casa di Amici because of a recent comment left in the guestbook here at the condo. The woman wrote, "The food was so good, I almost cried." Obviously (hopefully?), this was an exaggeration to describe that the food was excellent, but Michael got a kick out of it. So at dinner, after we had our food, he started acting like he was crying because it was so good. ;) My funny husband. We were cracking up. Even now, looking at the picture, I can't stop laughing.

We ended the evening at Lappert's for ice cream. I can't remember what mine was called, but it was something like praline ice cream, fudge swirls, pretzels, peanuts, etc. It was excellent. Michael had Banana Fudge. Yum. Our friends came to Kauai as part of their Hawaiian honeymoon last summer and said they couldn't stay away from Lappert's... they said they spent like $75 there in four or five days. I can see why!

We're not 100% sure what our plans are for tomorrow, but we're thinking about heading up to the east coast for the day. We'll see what the morning brings.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Travel Day

Unfortunately, much of today was spent getting ourselves from Maui to Kauai. The flight itself was easy--less than an hour--but it was all of the packing and preparing ot leave Maui, and then the unpacking and settling in to Kauai. Oh well, we are here in Kauai now, and we're ready for another fun-packed 4.5 days.

We got up at about 8:00 this morning (I think it's official--we may actually be somewhat adjusted to the time change now). We relaxed around the condo in Maui for a little bit, and then started packing. By the time we got everything packed up and cleaned up, it was time to head to the airport.

It was pretty sad to leave Maui. We had such a great time there, and the condo we stayed in was beautiful. After we get back home, I plan to write up full reviews (with a ton of pictures) of each condo we stayed in and post it to the blog for anyone interested in possibly staying there. We were really pleased with our experience at The Mahana, and would highly recommend it to those who might prefer a condo over a hotel (we sure did).

We stopped to drop off our snorkel gear at the rental shop, and then made the approximately 40 minute drive to the airport.

We were kind of late getting to the airport, but didn't have any problems dropping off the rental car and then checking in for our flight. We had plenty of time.

I was a bit scared of the plane. As you saw in my post earlier, it was a small prop plane. I prefer the big ones, haha. But it was fine. A nice flight (so short--less than an hour), and you get to see the different islands as you fly over.

Preparing to land in Kauai

Once we landed in Kauai, the airport was easy to navigate (it is so small). Our bags took forever to get out to the carousel. Or, I should say, it took us forever to find them. Once we had waited for what seemed like a really long time, I actually took off to the rental car headquarters to try to pick up our car while Michael continued to wait for the bags. As it turned out, they came out on a different carousel than we were originally told, so they were sitting over to the side waiting for us to find them. *sigh*

Meanwhile, I was in the slowest moving car rental line EVER. Which reminds me, I really want to call National and complain about the service we received today. We waited well over a half an hour in the stupid line just to get our rental contract. It was ridiculous. There was only one woman working at the desk, and with every customer, it took her eons to wait on them. Michael eventually ended up meeting up with me since it took so long, and we continued to wait and wait and wait. Of course, when we got up there, our contract didn't seem to take so long--I have no idea why. The other customers suck, I suppose.

As if that weren't bad enough... we get on the shuttle to go to the rental car lot, and the driver drops us off in the convertible "section" with another family (who was also renting a convertible), and says, "Those two convertibles to my right, you take those." We get off and he drives away... and only then do we find out that the two convertibles he motioned to? Well, both of them have "DEAD BATTERY" written on the driver's windows in grease pen. LOVELY.

We look around, and there were tons of other convertibles. But upon inspection of them, they are all either a) filthy dirty inside, or b) the gas tank was not full. Obviously these were cars that had been returned and had not yet been serviced. So we start to look around for someone to help us. This woman comes out of a booth and gives us attitude about how they only have two service agents and we need to be patient. Patient, my ass. I'm sorry, but we have already been screwing around the stupid rental car place for an hour now, and we were pissed.

The other family ended up taking a convertible out of the returned car lot (I guess they were satisfied enough with it) and taking off. Finally, a guy comes over and says he's getting us a car. We see him pull a convertible out of the line (freshly washed), and then he takes off... off the lot! Michael and I are looking at each other like what the hell, and the lady comes out of her booth again and says the guy has to go put gas in the car. Seriously... what the hell. What is the point of making a reservation if they don't have any cars ready for you??

The guy came back and gave us the car, which turned out to be really nice, actually. It's brand new--only had 320 miles on it when we climbed in. But ugh, what an inconvenience that whole thing was.

We plugged in the condo's address into our GPS and took off. The drive from the airport was really nice. Only about 20-25 minutes, and the scenery was pretty.

Kauai looks a lot different than Maui. For one, all of the areas we have been in so far have been pretty quiet and sort of rural looking. We stayed in a pretty "hustle and bustle" area in Maui, so this is a change. And just the scenery itself is different... Kauai is a lot more green.

We "checked in" to our condo (and I use that term loosely, since we basically checked ourselves in... they don't have a manned desk here. You just sign in the book, and you get your keys out of a lockbox next to the front door of each condo--the owners gave us the code). We took some pictures, unpacked a few things, and then headed back out again.

We decided to stop and rent our snorkel gear to get that out of the way. We don't want to be running any of these errands tomorrow! That took longer than expected, too (figures). The guy didn't know what he was doing with the computer. Gotta love it. But we have our stuff now and should be able to snorkel right outside of our condo tomorrow. We've already seen some sea turtles swimming around out there.

In the snorkel/dive shop

After that, we stopped at a grocery store to pick up a few snacks and essentials. We also decided we wanted to make dinner in the condo tonight, so we picked up all the ingredients for salad, pasta, and meat sauce.

We went to Big Save because it was the most convenient. "Big Save" is not exactly the best way to describe it, but oh well. In Maui, we noticed that things were definitely more expensive than they are on the mainland, but we also didn't really see what all the "Hawaii is SOOO expensive!" fuss is all about. The prices aren't that bad. But we were treated to our first real sticker shock at Big Save. Like... $7 for a bag of salad. Or $7.50 for a gallon milk (we got a half gallon, haha!). $5.30 for a box of cereal (the STORE brand!). But hey, we're on vacation... we're not going to worry about it.

Michael and I aren't much for eating out. We both like to eat fairly healthy, so we eat home most of the time. After being here almost a week now, we're kind of sick of restaurants. After a day of frustration, we just wanted to be "home" for the night.

We unpacked the groceries, cracked open a few Coronas, shared some crackers and cheese, and started on dinner.

Gotta love that view while cooking dinner, eh? :) We loved cooking in this kitchen. It's so beautiful!

Our finished product. So good. It really hit the spot, and it was nice to have a home cooked meal tonight.

We ate at the table overlooking the ocean. It doesn't get much better than that! Then we cleaned up (and watched some "Dodgeball" on TBS). We took a little walk outside around the property and down the street to get a feel for everything. We are right next door to the Beach House Restaurant--famous with all of the knotties--and we actually have reservations for later this week. It looks beautiful, we can't wait to go.

Not totally sure yet what our plans are for tomorrow... we're interested in surfing lessons, as well as kayaking. And of course snorkeling and hiking/sightseeing. We'll see what the morning brings!

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my Mom! Love you. Let me know if there is anything Hawaiian you'd like me to bring back for you. :)

To Kauai

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Zip zip

This morning, we actually did sleep in! Well, at least we slept in later than we have the entire time we were here... I think it was almost 8:00 a.m. Woohoo for adjusting a little bit!

We had the zipline tour scheduled for noon, so with the few hours we had in the morning, we decided to go back up into the West Maui mountains to do a little bit more sightseeing. There are such beautiful views up there, so we stopped in a few places to take pictures.

On our way back toward the condo, we stopped at Honolua Bay, a wild life preserve where we heard there is excellent snorkeling. We had to park the car along the side of the road (no real parking), and then we walked down a path toward the beach.

The beautiful walk down to the beach!
Once down to the beach and in the water, we were impressed with how clear it was. The visibility was much better than the other places we have snorkeled so far. Probably for two reasons: 1) It was in a bay, so the waves were not big at all (calm water conditions), and 2) it was still pretty early in the day.

Our attempt at an underwater self portrait

A few colorful fish. These ones are called Raccoon Butterfly fish.

A very scary looking urchin. There were plenty of them hanging out on the bottom. We stayed far away.

The most awesome part of this snorkel trip. A school of fish... probably a thousand fish (no joke). I couldn't keep my eyes off of them. It was completely fascinating. I got a cool video, too, but unfortunately, it doesn't play back well when optimized for the web. You can't even tell what you're looking at.

I'm pretty sure this is a Bluestriped Snapper. It was really cool looking. Flourescent.

This is an overlook view of Honolua Bay, where we snorkeled.

Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to snorkel at the bay before we had to head back to the condo to get ready to go ziplining. Our check-in time was at 11:45 a.m. at the Skyline Eco Adventure headquarters/shop in Ka'anapali.

We changed into shorts and t-shirts, charged our camera battery, and then went to the shop. Once there, we had to sign our lives away (again--you have to sign them away for pretty much every excursion), and get weighed (I guess they want to make sure you're not lying). They gave us all Nalgene water bottles and loaded us into a van to make the trek up the mountain.

The first five minutes or so of the ride was on normal roads, but then we went off roading... we had to endure quite a bumpy ride. Our first stop was at a little building they have set up. Here, we met our guides and got all of our equipment. When we walked up the steps onto the deck, I noticed the cutest black lab lying in the corner, sleeping. He made me miss my puppy. :( Of course I had to go over and visit with him for a few minutes. Too cute, he barely even opened his eyes.

We met our guides--Troy and Sean. These guys were funny from the very first minute. Cracking jokes, being sarcastic, making up far-fetched stories... they certainly kept us on our toes and entertained.

All geared up and ready to go!
Michael in his gear

We were then loaded into a different van with our guides. We actually had to keep our helmets on in the van (more off roading). You know why? Some geniuses that were riding up several months back ended up knocking their heads together. I guess a week later, they decided they might be able to cash in on that little mishap, and actually visited a hospital and found a doctor to attest to their injuries. They are currently trying to sue Skyline Eco Adventures. So now, helmets are required just to ride in the van, thanks to those idiots. Gotta love it.

After a few more minutes of rough riding, we unloaded and walked a short distance to the first zip. We had about 12 people total in our group (plus the two guides)... and I was actually the first to go! I happened to be standing closest to the line and was ready with my gear. I was surprised that I was not more apprehensive about it. But I was excited... I leapt right off the platform and was on my way! It's quite a thrill... you get going pretty fast and it's cool to look and see everything around you--side to side, below.

Before the first zip

Here is a video of me on one of the ziplines:

After four ziplines, we took a break for lunch. We walked to a little shelter they have built on a cliff overlooking the mountains and the town of Ka'anapali below. It was beautiful.

Lunch was good, too. Deli sandwiches, pasta salad, tortilla chips with bean dip, and chocolate chip cookies. We were hungry so it really hit the spot.

The view from up on the mountain, where we were ziplining. This is actually the view from where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch, on the walk toward our 5th zipline

At points during the tour, they were telling us different things about the environment up there--the land, the animals, the history, etc. They told us about how the mountain is home to many wild boars, and actually told us what to do if we were to encounter one (with a few jokes in there for good measure, of course).

When we were walking back to the course from lunch, Troy disappeared but no one really noticed he was missing. The next thing I know, there's commotion from the bushes and this guy walking behind us is mildly freaking out. Turned out that Troy had appeared in the bushes with a "boar" mask on. Hilarious.

Here's Troy as an angry wild boar

After lunch, more ziplines. With each one, it seemed to get longer and scarier (well, if you're scared of that sort of thing--which, for whatever reason, I wasn't). I couldn't wait to get on each one. I was actually taking flying leaps off of the platforms to gain more speed!

My husband, waiting for one of the ziplines

We had SO much fun. Out of all the things we have done so far, this is the thing that I would go back and do in a heartbeat. Hell, I'd go back and do it again tomorrow. We'll be talking about this for years. It was a total of eight ziplines, and the tour itself (with the van rides and lunch included), was probably right around four hours.

Once done, they took us back down to the building to get out of our harnesses and helmets, then we bid farewell to Troy and Sean and headed back down to Ka'anapali. We actually bought t-shirts (had to have something to commemorate the experience!) and Michael got a pint glass (he collects them).

We were really happy with the whole thing... the company was extremely professional and our guides really made the tour for us. If we had boring people, it wouldn't have been as much fun. We were the only honeymooners in our group. We were accompanied by three families. Everyone got to know each other a little bit, got to talking and laughing, etc. A very fun time, indeed.

Once done, we drove back to our condo to shower and get ready to go out to dinner. I think I was the dirtiest I have been in a really long time. COVERED in red dirt. Good thing I wore dark clothing (which Skyline Eco Adventures highly recommends).

Our dirty hiking boots. Essentially ruined (they will never be the same color again!). But that's what they're for, right? :)

Tonight is our last night in Maui, so we got dressed and went down for one last dinner in Lahaina. We went to Moose McGillycuddy's. They had awesome happy hour specials (all cocktails and beer--$3 each!), and the food was really good.

Now, we are just preparing to leave tomorrow. We are island hopping over to Kauai tomorrow afternoon. We're doing all the laundry we can since we have a washer/dryer in our condo. In Kauai, I think we have access to laundry, but it's a shared facility on each floor (definitely not as convenient!).

Our inter-island flight is at 1:10 p.m. We're trying to decide what we have time to do tomorrow before we leave here. It'll depend on what time we get up.

We're disappointed to be leaving Maui... there is so much to do here, we definitely could have filled many more days with fun activities, and could have eaten many more meals at all of the wonderful restaurants. But we're also excited to go and see all that Kauai has to offer.

I guess we'll find out tomorrow!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Snorkeling & Old Lahaina Luau

Today was our morning to "sleep in." Yet I still woke up at 6:30 a.m. Damn time zones. Oh well.

We did, however, relax for a bit this morning. We basically just did nothing around the condo until around 9:30, when we finally started getting ready for the day. We decided to hit up a couple of good snorkeling spots.

First, we drove a little bit north to Kapalua Beach.

This little bastard kept trying to fight me or something. He was an aggressive little thing. Certainly got a really good look at him, though! The pictures didn't come out as nicely since he kept darting around. This is a Rectangular Triggerfish, which is the state fish of Hawaii.

A very cool looking fish. I think there is one of these in Finding Nemo (if my memory serves me correctly). This is a Moorish Idol. They were difficult to get pictures of because they liked to hide underneath and behind the coral and rocks.

After we felt we had exhausted Kapalua Beach, we went back to the condo to have some lunch. By this time, it was noon and we were starving.

Around 1:00 p.m., we decided to walk down to the north end of Black Rock. It's quite a hike down the beach from our condo, but the nearest parking to Black Rock is really not close at all, so we figured we might as well walk it.

Once we got down there and into the water, we weren't disappointed.

A beautiful flourescent looking fish. We've had trouble identifying this one because it doesn't look exactly like any of the pictures our "guide" shows.

Our turtle friend! We were so excited to stumble upon a sea turtle. I've read that we're going to have an abundance of them in the water right outside of our condo when we go to Kauai, but wasn't sure whether we'd actually see one here in Maui. But sure enough, there he was. I was overwhelmed by the size of him (her?) when he got really close to me. They are HUGE!

Just another cool fish. Not sure what this one is, either.

We made the walk back from Black Rock to get ready for the Old Lahaina Luau. We caught the bus into downtown Lahaina since the luau had open bar and we wanted to take advantage. We actually arrived early, killed some time in the mall across the street, and then went back when it was time.

Once on the grounds, we were greeted with mai tais and fresh flower leis. I also was given a flower for behind my ear... it goes behind your left ear if you're "taken," behind your right if you're "available." As a married lady now, that bloom immediately went behind my left ear! :)

We had time to walk around the property and explore a little bit. The scenery was really beautiful, and the atmosphere is fun and really "Hawaiian," for lack of a better way to describe it. Basically, it's stereotypical Hawaii... what you'd expect to see, hear, and smell based on what you've seen in the movies and on TV. Simply put, it's just really pretty!

We were impressed by how many people they had working there. It's a really well-run operation. Many greeters, servers, etc. All are authentically dressed. I overheard someone say that they only hire true Hawaiians because they want to make sure it's as authentic as possible. Well, it certainly worked for us!

At about 6:20 p.m., they made a big show out of unearthing the pig. They removed it from the imu (underground oven), after cooking for 12 hours. It was cool, and part of the experience... but pretty gross, too! ;)

When we sat down at the tables, we had a little bit of entertainment while we waited for dinner. There were four couples (including us) at our table. Three of the four couples were newlyweds. All of the other three were from Los Angeles. One couple was married on Friday, June 20. The couple across from us was married the same day as us, June 21. So that was kind of fun.

The show itself was fast paced and entertaining.
Toward the end of the performances (which were fun to watch), they recognized all of the honeymooners by asking them to get up and dance to a traditional Hawaiian wedding song.

Us dancing with all of the other newlyweds

When it was over, we caught a cab back to our hotel... another tiring but exciting day and night! Off to bed!