Sunsets, acai bowls and pure magic!

HAWAII (OAHU, MAUI, KAUAI)

Overview

OAHU

Day 1

Happy New Year to us! We are less than a week engaged and now we are off to Hawaii!!! With all the excitement, there was no need to celebrate the New Years- we went to bed at 11pm so we could be semi- awake for the 7am flight to San Francisco. Connecting flight was an hour late, but that did not dampen the mood- only a few more hours and we will land in paradise where January does not equate to snow, ice and short gloomy days.

Regardless of long flights, going to Hawaii, is not like flying to Europe, where you are fed twice on a 6 hour flight and drinks are free. Plane snacks did not do much. United lounge in San Francisco had some decent soup and salad, but by the time we picked up our rental car in Honolulu, we were famished. However, it is January 1st, New Years day, so not much is open, which seemed to be the case in HI as well. We found a sushi place and were lucky to get one of the last tables so we can try our first real Hawaiian Tuna Poke! QMZD1097

Very first impression of Hawaii- I thought it would be a bit warmer. In the evening it was high 60ies and you definitely need a sweater, which I did not bring many. Hoping it warms up a bit more for the rest of the trip. Despite the 4.30 am wake up and 2 long flights, we made it up to 11pm local time- the best way to beat jet lag is to suffer through the first day and get into the rhythm the next day. Or so we hoped 🙂

Day 2

Body knows it’s usual clock and it’s not as easy to trick it into thinking we are not in Boston anymore- 5am wide awake with no hopes of going back to sleep. OK- lets take advantage of that and start exploring the island! What can we get for breakfast?? We worked out hard before this trip, I think we deserve Portuguese donuts!

Oh yesss! Malasadas! Let’s have 2 each to start and bring 2 more to the beach for later. We plan on surfing today, we’ll burn them off! Must try – original, cinnamon, coconut, passion fruit and macadamia nut. Sill no regrets, still mouth is watering just looking at the picture.

Sweet tooth has been satisfied (for a brief moment) and we took a slow walk to Moana Surfrider hotel. It’s right on the water, near Waikiki Beach and has a nice Honolulu coffee shop next door. If you are into caffeinated drinks- order an iced macadamia nut latte- it’s amazing!

Time to check out Waikiki Beach and get our surf on!

Its is such unbelievable feeling when you finally catch that wave!!! And when you realize that you are still standing. And still standing! I got lucky to catch one of those. It was pretty much first or second attempt and I could not believe my luck. It was pure happiness. Which lasted for about 5 minutes:). And then I could not get back on that board for the life of me…I would get up, but as soon as I tried standing, either the wave has passed, or I would fall. I started to think I was imagining that first lucky wave, but I had confirmation that I DID ride it:). And with that, my day was complete!

Highly recommend trying it for at least an hour- long boards were $15 per hour, plus $5 for each additional hour (if you have arm strength to go longer than that).

Salty water and the exercise got us hungry again, so we ventured into near by Dukes Waikiki.  The place was packed, but we were seated pretty fast and mojito that arrived soon was delicious! Fish tacos and mango burger took some time to be prepared, but we did not care- we are on vacation and in no rush! Dukes manager did not think that waiting for food for a long time is acceptable.

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Hula pie-on vacation calories don’t count, right?

So after our meal, we were presented with a huge piece of Hula pie! AND the lunch was on the house. We could not believe the hospitality and certainly made a mental note to go back to Dukes again while in Hawaii.

Enough of the eating- lets go find some culture and get to know the history of the islands a little bit better- time to experience Ha- Breath of Life show at the Polynesian Cultural center. We booked tickets about a week in advance and went to the evening (7.30 – 9pm) show. It was well worth the hour drive from the Honolulu downtown where we were staying. Photography is not technically allowed, but I wanted a memory, so here are a few pics I managed to snap before I was told to put my phone away.

It was very entertaining and kept us awake even with the jet lag tiredness that was starting to creep in.

Day 3

New day, new adventure! And a new place to try for breakfast. We usually trust TripAdvisor reviews and Bogart’s cafe had great ratings for their acai bowls, so we were very excited to try them out! For those that don’t know what acai bowl is- please give it a try any chance you get. Acai is Brazilian berry, found in the rain forest of Amazon. It’s one if the healthiest berries out there, full of antioxidants and vitamins. The way they are served is usually either as juice or as an acai bowl (my favorite). IMG_1877The berries come in frozen packets or in a powder form and the bowls are made by mixing them with banana, orange or apple juice in a blender and served with fruit, granola, coconut flakes and drizzled with honey or sweetened condensed milk on top. Recipe variations are incredibly wide and every tropical place we go, we always try to find a cafe that has acai bowl on the menu.

Bogart’s did not disappoint! Bowl was served with plenty of fruit and we also got one of their omelets- delicious! I think this place wins over the donuts for breakfast. Our bikini bodies will thank us later!

First activity on today’s agenda- Diamond Head. It’s a nice short hike with some steps involved, which rewards you with the sweeping views of Honolulu. IMG_0328

Recommendation: Get there early in the morning. We came before noon and still had to park in the lower parking lot and walk up to the entrance, since the closer parking lot was full.

It is one of the top recommended places while in Honolulu, so granted there will be some crowds. But the walk is pretty short and you will get to see the views and take that selfie eventually 🙂

After the hike, we wanted to check out Hanauma Bay and do some snorkeling, as it was also highly rated park in Oahu. We did not expect this, but upon arrival, we saw that the park is CLOSED. Important note: The park is closed for public on Tuesdays, New Year’s Day and Christmas Day to allow fish a day of feeding without interruption.

That’s ok, we’ll get back another time, we have a few more days on this beautiful island. We continued down the coast towards eastern side of the island, allowing a quick stop at the Makapu Lookout and down to Waimanalo Bay! PLEASE do NOT skip this beach. It is gorgeous, clean and quiet. IMG_0363Waimanalo Bay is rarely visited by tourists and you may have the whole beach pretty much for yourselves! We wanted to see more of the island in quite a short time here, so we reluctantly left Waimanalo bay and continued down to Lanikai. IMG_1967 The town was hustling and bustling with tourists and we had to look for parking in one of the side lots, before walking up to yet another amazing beach Oahu had to offer!

The water was crystal clear and the 2 mountains in the distance formed a great backdrop view.

However, looking back, if we had more time and do it again, we would have stayed at the quiet Waimanalo longer. It’s definitely a hidden gem.

As afternoon was quickly approaching, we headed back for a small snack and a scheduled sunset yoga session at Waikiki Beach!  The class is for all levels, usually starts at 6.30 pm and is  1 hr 15 min long. All you need is a towel (no yoga mat is required). The feeling of yoga outside is amazing! You are facing the ocean as the sun is slowly setting, sail boats glimmer in the horizon, soft grass smell beneath your towel and palm trees above your head. If this did not have you convinced yet- think of how your body will thank you for a good stretch session after the long flights! Namaste.

Day 4

Lots of plans for today! And that’s when the jet lag is in our favor. 6.30-7am wake up would be sad on any given day, but in Hawaii it felt like that’s just the time to get up and go have the same amazing breakfast at Bogart’s 🙂 . Yes, we like variety, but also hard to resist going back to a good place. Acai bowl was replaced with Hawaiian waffle with fruit, coconut sauce and nutella!  We only have one more day on this island…Better live it up:) !

Time to try Hanauma Bay, since it was closed yesterday. We arrived at 9.30 am (maybe because it was Wednesday and all the tourists had same idea)- the parking lot was full! The long line of cars going up the hill were turning around and looking for parking elsewhere or simply driving away. We took the first left after making a U turn and parked in a residential street, with hopes that the car will not get towed or ticketed. There were no meters, but also there were no “NO Parking” signs either.

The bay is definitely picturesque. IMG_1981

But as we got to the actual beach, it was so so crowded…We rented the snorkel equipment and went for a swim, but because of all the people, the water was cloudy and you could barely see any fish around. That was a bit of a disappointment and the fact that the water did not feel very warm either did not help.

We got some sun on the beach, warmed up and decided to leave. It was not as amazing as it was hyped up to be. And it could totally be only because of so many people coming all at once. Maybe another day, not the one right after the park was closed, would be better. Regardless, we are in Hawaii, there are many more beaches to see! We are not going to dwell on this and move on.

Aloha Stadium Swap Meet and Marketplace next! I cannot recall who told us about this local market, but they did us a huge favor! The market is open 3 days a week- Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. We were here for a short time, so Wednesday works for us! The place was HUGE. Stalls after stalls of local vendors, souvenirs, crafts, Hawaiian coffee- you name it. And the prices are WAY better than in Honolulu center or anywhere around Waikiki. We did not want to buy too much, considering that we had two more islands to visit and had a limit for a weight in a suitcase. We still got a lot of good stuff. Looking back, it was THE PLACE to buy the little gifts for family and friends. Maui and Kauai did not have such variety and  good prices.

Shopping got us hungry and we had many more plans for today. On to Haleiwa! It’s a small community town on the North Shore of Oahu, known as the surfing capital of the world. If you are in Haleiwa to see some surfers- stop by and get an acai bowl (I told you, we were on the acai tour mission:) ) at Haleiwa Bowls. They have several ways of making acai- as a smoothie or frozen. They also drizzle honey on top, which is a nice touch!

We came here to see the surfers, so time to check out those waves.  Waimea Bay had some impressive waves. We did not see many surfers out, but the view of the powerful ocean was breathtaking. IMG_0516Soon after this picture was taken, the lifeguard rushed over to us and asked to step away from the rocks. He had seen these photo sessions end badly. Oops. Ok, we got our picture, we are walking away from the roaring water now.

Evening was quickly approaching and we had one more goal today- to see the sunset at the Sunset Beach. IMG_2177As cliche as that sounds, it was the best decision and the pictures will tell you why. IMG_2172

The most photographed palm tree on the island- it’s too postcard perfect not to have a few pics of our own…IMG_2190

How can you not with views like this?!

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Simply incredible…Feeling extremely grateful and blessed to witness such beauty.

MAUI

Day 5

No sleeping in on this trip- 6 am alarm, so we can get on a short flight to the next island- Maui! Just as in Oahu, we had rental car booked in advance and picked it up at the airport. We’ve read about Charleys in Paia town, which is on the way to our Bed and Breakfast in Lahaina, so we made a point to visit and have some breakfast. The size of the macadamia nut pancake was bigger than my head, so breakfast also served as an early lunch!

We booked Moana Lani bed and breakfast through AirBnb and the host, Stephen, was waiting for our arrival. The stay was superb. Not only Stephen had breakfast for the guests every morning, but he also baked fresh deserts and made a cool island drink (alcoholic as well as non alcoholic) every afternoon. He had surf and paddle boards to borrow free of charge, snorkel gear, bikes, towels and best advice on what to see and do on the island. As we were recently engaged, we had scheduled an engagement photo shoot same afternoon, but clearly not having a good sense of the island yet, we booked it in a far away beach. Stephen suggested to change it to a no less beautiful beach next door, which allowed us to settle in, relax, have a swim and still make it in time for the photo shoot!

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Not a bad place for a photo-shoot

We did not know what to expect, since neither of us has had experience in photo sessions, but Bruce, local photographer that’s been doing this for 40+ years, made us feel comfortable and at ease. IMG_3017IMG_2969

I see how models do it! Just give me a warm beach, a palm tree and I will be happy to smile for the camera. Ok, handsome fiance helps too 🙂 .

For dinner we stayed local. Stephen recommended Aloha Mixed Plate right in Lahaina, so we walked over there. It was a simple and definitely not expensive affair for an easy dinner close by.

Day 6

Good that we had an early night, because once again, we’re having an early morning. After a wonderful breakfast with the jam eating gecko , we are on the road by 8 am.

Not just any road- The Road to Hana!

Point

Anyone that does not mind driving on a curvy road and is up for adventure should do this whole day trip. Hana is just another town, there is nothing special there. The point is the journey, not the destination! The road takes you through amazing nature, Gardens of Eden (botanical gardens), black sand beaches, blow holes, caves, waterfalls and so much more! If you decided to take this trip- wear comfortable shoes- you might get muddy or wet. Bring a towel, bathing suit, snacks, water and most importantly- do yourself a favor and download a GyPSy Road to Hana app before you get on the road. Again, this was our host’s advice and so far he has not been wrong.

Besides giving you directions, the guide on the app will tell you funny stories as you drive, will provide history about the island or the sites you are passing by. But most importantly – it has VERY accurate recommendations on where it’s worth taking a side trip and where it’s a waste of time to get out of the car. We named him “Dad”. The other couple we met, said their nickname to him was “Maui Mike” 🙂 . I have to admit- we did not always listen to his recommendations. We saw a lot of people parked on the side and taking this hike. “Dad” said it’s not worth it. Well, we wanted to do it our way- let’s get out and see where it leads! And guess what- we walked through the mud, we sweated and yes, saw some cool plants and bamboo trees, but at the end we came to nothing- a little clearing in the woods with no view!

We lost a good amount of time and the road is long with MANY more stops along the way. From now on, we are listening to “Dad”s advice and only getting off where he says it’s a must not miss point!

Well, not completely. He did not say that Gardens of Eden is a must not miss. But we went there anyway. In retrospect we could have been fine without this stop, but it was also a nice break from driving and the views/plants were pretty spectacular.

I’m not sure if it’s $30 worth beauty, but it was enjoyable walking around.

Road to Hana continues along the coast with mini stops for the views, pictures and banana bread snack.

One of the MUST stops according to our guide- Wai’anapanapa Park– you have to experience this one. Continue on past the black sand beach (cool phenomenon on its own) and follow the path on the rocks to see the giant blow holes with water coming up so high and with such force that it will take your breath away!

There is a reason why the guide was moving us along in a pretty fast pace. One- you cannot see anything after sunset. We made it past Hana as he recommended and went to the Kipahulu Seven Sacred Pools. But because we made so many other stops, we could not see them all…We only saw the lower pools, which were amazing!

Sun was setting and we had to turn around and make the same curvy road back in the DARK! There is a road around, but we heard way too many bad stories about cars getting stuck and rental companies not covering the rescue, that we did not want to risk the trouble. The devil you know, is better than the one you don’t right? Let’s drive back and hope for the best. We made it. By beeping on every blind corner we turned 🙂 . As we left at 8 am, we reached our place at 10 pm. Long, exhausting, but oh so rewarding day!

Day 7

One of those rare vacation days when we “slept in”- until 9 am!! No major plans on the horizon, because another big adventure is waiting tomorrow. One of the things we wanted to try out was stand up paddle boarding (SUP). We tried surfing, how hard can it be to float around on the big board?

The beach near our place seemed to have bigger waves than recommended for the beginner paddle boarders that we are. Our host advised us against it and recommended to try it out either at the local Baby Beach or early in the morning when the water is calmer. We ventured out to Kanapali Beach, which is right near the mall if you looking for some shopping, but it was quite windy and crowded, so we did not stay for very long. SUP was still on my mind, so to we decided to check out the Baby Beach and see if the wind/waves cooperates!

Baby Beach is a small beach mainly filled with locals. No crowds or loud tourists in sight. It’s perfect for a calm, relaxing afternoon with a good book. Or a fun photo op! IMG_2718As the sun started setting, any small waves that were there previously disappeared. Time for our first SUP. We called Stephen and asked if we can borrow the boards and awesome host that he is, he put the boards in his car and drove them over to us!IMG_2751

Yes, very cool me, doing a yoga pose for the first time on the paddle board . Showing off my awesome balancing skills. I should just leave it here. Does everyone need to know that the following move was a face plant into the luckily warm and shallow water 🙂 ?

Paddle boarding is definitely FUN. But it is not as easy as it seems looking from the shore. It takes time navigating the paddle, avoiding a little coral here and there; certainly not meant for backward poses (at least not the first time around 🙂 ).

Stephen collected the boards when it was getting dark- we had enough for our first  try.  Time for dinner at Paia Fish Market.  Again-  close in town, so we can get up  early and see the sunrise at the dormant volcano crater- HALEAKALA!

Day 8

3.30 am alarm. We are NOT jet lagged anymore. Yes, we are doing it on our own free will 🙂 . But how often do you get to see the sunrise over the volcano crater? For me it is certainly a first! We did our research before this trip and came prepared- warm jackets, gloves, scarf. Trust me, you will need them. IMG_2777The road is steep, curvy and yes, very dark. The goal is to make it to the summit before the sunrise, find parking and get a good spot for the pictures. To say that we were very lucky is an understatement. The weather at Haleakala is very unpredictable. We could have gotten up at 3.30, driven all the way and be greeted by rain, fog or clouds. But we checked the forecast obsessively and hoped for the best. Lucky us! We reached the park by 6 am and were directed to the lower parking lot already. Top one right at the summit was full of an even earlier risers. We walked up and claimed a spot facing east with the rest of the crowd.IMG_0872 We did not have to wait much longer. This view paid for the little sleep and a pretty long and not so easy drive.

 

We did not have a cloud in the sky and the visibility was clear for miles! The summit is at 10 030 feet, so walking up left us slightly breathless. The pictures don’t even do it justice. It’s almost like you are walking on another planet. Cold temps only add to that. Because as soon as you drive down- you’re back to a warm paradise where jackets and gloves can be packed back into the suitcases and wait their return home to cold Boston.

Still in awe with the sunrise we’ve just experienced, we continued on with the day exploring the other part of the island. Maui is famous for it’s beaches, so we need to go find ourselves a favorite one. Wailea Beach was first stop.

It is undoubtedly beautiful, clean beach. It is right in front of a few major resorts, so the lawns around are perfectly manicured and you feel like in a pleasantville. We continue down south and see what else Maui has in store for us. Makena Beach State Park was it. As soon as we saw the Big Beach with it’s soft white sand, plenty of space and not overly crowded, we knew we wanted to spend the afternoon here. IMG_2977Located at the southwestern side of Maui, Big Beach is one of the biggest and nicest beaches on the island.

If you want to be more adventurous, take the small path to the north end of the Big Beach, just over the cliff and you will reach a famous nudist beach, also known as the Little Beach. The water is calmer here, which makes it great for snorkeling. This beach has no amenities, so bring your own snacks/water and a open minded attitude!IMG_2879 One of us enjoyed a few tan lines-free hours in the sun, while the other stayed as much  covered as humanly possible being at the beach 🙂 .

As we stayed local for the past few nights for dinner, this time we decided to try out a restaurant with great reviews in Wailea- Monkeypod Kitchen.  Place had fun ambiance, great drinks and delicious food. We especially enjoyed the Mixed Plate with tuna poke. Will definitely miss this fresh Hawaiian dish when the trip is over.

Day 9

Another early day- it’s our last day in Maui and we haven’t taken a boat ride yet! We booked a snorkeling excursion to Molokini through Pacific Whale Foundation. We did have to arrive by 6.30am, so alarm rang at 5.30. We might not be jet lagged at all when we return back to Boston! The fun crew quickly distributed light breakfast and we barely reached the open waters when we started seeing whales!! January is a season for whale watching and this tour being mainly for snorkeling, turned into a whale watching trip as well!

The trip had two stops for snorkel and timed it so the first one had no other tour boats at the same place, same time. Water was deep and clear, we could see a ton of colorful fish accompanied by the sea turtles. One as big as 500 pounds!

The second stop was a bit more crowded, since there were other boats around, but the sight of turtles at the previous stop had already made our day! The crew served delicious lunch with chicken, beans and pasta salads that went very well with beer! We met a fun family from Texas- Marise took awesome under water pics for us and we are following each other’s adventures on Facebook since!

To end our Maui trip, we went to a nice restaurant right on the water – Kimo’s in Lahaina.  If you want a great fish, delicious Hula Pie and the seat with the ocean view for a sunset – Kimo’s will not disappoint.

KAUAI

Day 10

As soon as we landed in Kauai, I knew this was my favorite  HI island. Oahu was more like Miami- busy with cities, touristy and very active. Maui was magical with it’s beaches, but still had an active vibe. Kauai- is pure wilderness paradise. There are no tall buildings, no skyscrapers will be looming near the beach. They say you can’t build anything higher than a coconut tree, but I’m not sure if that is 100% true 🙂 .

Once again we picked up a rental (to my horror and to Sean’s delight we got a Nissan minivan!). Yes, the car was spacious and comfortable, but a mini van…Anyway, who cares that it’s cramping my style. We need it to get us from point A to point B safely and it served it’s purpose.

We arrived to Kauai beach Resort in Kauai which we booked through AirBnb and were pleasantly surprised. The host left us cookies, souvenirs to bring home and detailed recommendations on what the island has to offer. It’s worth mentioning that we did not pay the resort room price, but got just that- the room at the resort with all the amenities (pool, jacuzzis, place for parking) and for a much cheaper rate. We did not come to stay inside though, so off to see the island we go!

Remember how much we loved Dukes restaurant in Oahu? Well, there is one right in Kalapaki Beach- and it’s lunch time!

Easy relaxing day led to the beautiful sunset right near the resort.

Tomorrow- new adventure!

Day 11

If you came all the way to Kauai, you MUST have heard of the famous Na Pali Coast. There are 3 ways of seeing it- from the air (that is yet to come!), water, or by hiking along the gorgeous coastline. Today is as good as any day for the hike. We have been eating a lot and not skipping desert (all those hula pies are starting to leave their mark right around the waistline), so a nice 2 miles each way hike will do us good. We headed off towards the Kalalau Trail while making stops along the way for yet another acai bowl and pictures of the beautiful nature.

IMG_3143Kalalau Trail started pretty easy. Yes, there were a few steep parts and there were muddy areas, so definitely wear sneakers or hiking shoes. I would not recommend this hike in flip flops.

Before we reached the nice views, we of course had to pass the rooster!

Islands are full of wild roosters that roam around. IMG_3145The story goes something along the lines of a hurricane hitting the chicken farm and blowing off the doors and farmers not being able to collect all the missing chickens and that’s how they all spread around the island..

The higher you go, the more beautiful Na Pali coast views open up…

It’s something out of a National Geographic magazine, but we get to see it in our own eyes. But the closer you get to the beach, the more you realize that the beautiful ocean is also a very dangerous one.

A lot of lives have been lost while swimming in the wild currents. By now we know- no swimming for us here for sure!

Near the beach, the trail split. Either continue on hiking to the waterfall or go down towards the  beach.

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Looks so innocent, yet so dangerous…

We still had 2 more miles to get back, so we chose to relax at the beach, look at the big waves and resist swimming here.

The area was beautiful, but the waves were big and clearly the undercurrents were even worse. However, we saw two surfers that came on their jet ski and were enjoying the wild ocean. Did not stay long enough to see that they made it out ok, but I really hope they did…

After the hike, we were muddy and sweaty and REALLY needed to cool off. Seeing the beach and not being able to swim in it was such a tease! Luckily, right at the start of the trail, there is a cute little Ke’e Beach that is safe and calm, and they even sell fresh cold coconuts near by! IMG_3222Nothing tasted better than that coconut water after a hot hike! IMG_3231And as I was done with it, the chickens got to enjoy the rest of it 🙂 . Back to nature – best recycling program there.

On the way back to the car, we saw the cop issuing tickets on all the cars parked along the road and as there was no other place to park, we did the same thing- just parked near the “no parking” sign like everyone else. Except we got lucky- he started with the tickets on the opposite side of the street first! Phew, made it back, jumped in the car and quickly changed so we could go to St Regis Princeville resort for a drink and a gorgeous sunset views! Remember our host in Maui, Stephen? When we told him that we are going to Kauai, he said it’s a must do one night.

He was right, again…

As we did not make the reservations for dinner and only wanted to have a drink with the view, we enjoyed the sunset and went into town for a light meal. The Dolphin was recommended as a good sushi place and we left full and happy!

Day 12

I don’t want to think about it, but the thoughts of this magical trip coming to an end  keep on entering my mind…I push them away and concentrate on what else is there to enjoy while we are here in paradise.

Not in any rush we have yet another acai bowl and a smoothie and it’s almost noon when we reach Waimea Canyon.

It is the closest thing to Grand Canyon that Hawaii has to offer. And we would like to do another hike, but as we reach the Kalalau Lookout, we just see all these clouds rolling in and starting to hide the majestic views…

There is not much of a point hiking if we can’t see more than a few feet ahead of us, so we’ll just enjoy the view while it lasts.

As the hike did not pan out, we can always go to the beach! But before, take a quick stop and have a grilled cheese with pork and bacon from Porky’s food truck.  Totally random stop and we were in love!

The beach today- Poipu Beach on the southern coast of Kauai. We heard that a lot of turtles come to this beach and were hoping we might be able to see one ourselves.

As we were walking along the water, we saw a family with familiar faces- the same nice travelers that we went on a Molokini snorkeling trip back in Maui! Took a second to put together where we know them from and next thing you know we were hugging each other like long lost friends. Luck would have it- I asked when Marise could send me the under water pics from the snorkeling trip. She said she sent it and I never got them…We confirmed and she had my email wrong! Had we not gone to this beach today, we would not have had a single under water pic from that snorkeling day. How can you call this a coincidence?

Poipu Beach was pretty full, but the rumors about the turtles were true!

First we saw the seal sunning on the beach and then the turtle swimming right next to the shore!

As the sun was setting and everyone was leaving, we lingered around and just walked along the beach. And guess who came out of the water to sleep!

Not one, not two, but the whole family of turtles! Can this day be any more complete!?

Day 13

Today is Friday, January 13th, full moon. Does that sound like a day to take a helicopter ride? Oh yesss! Ok, maybe we did not pay attention to all these details when booking the flight. We only have couple more days left and the weather report is good- it might not be the same tomorrow, so we are going on a Blue Hawaiian helicopter ride TODAY!

There are a lot of heli companies to choose from. It all depends on how much you want to spend and their availability. We read a lot of reviews and Blue Hawaiian has good reputation. Their price was also not the highest- $433 for two tickets, which we used a local Expedia agent to book. The ride is 50 minutes long and there are only 6 people on the helicopter plus the pilot. IMG_3491They seat  everyone based on their weight and I was deliriously happy to get the window seat. Not that other seats are bad. But having a window allowed maximum views from every angle and you can hold the phone near the glass to avoid the glare.

Up to now, the memory of the ride makes me smile. It was by far the best $215 that I have spent on a 50 minutes of pure happiness. Everyone was provided with a set of noise cancelling headphones, pilot was telling us jokes, stories about the island, informing of the sights that we are about to see…And in between music was playing. The combination of music and the fantastic views made me want to cry out of joy.

It was nothing I have experienced before- yes, it was my first helicopter ride, but also seeing such a majestic nature was very powerful. We flew over the canyons, waterfalls (where Jurassic Park movie was filmed), we got to see the parts of the island that nobody set foot on the ground! Kauai is only 20% accessible by land. The rest of the beauty can only be seen from the air or the sea.

It was by far the luckiest Friday the 13th I’ve lived to experience! As I got off the helicopter, my first words were- can we go again?? Luckily I have a sensible partner or we would be broke by now 🙂 . We went to the beach instead for the afternoon swim and then decided to look where Porky’s truck is at today. According to their Instagram, they were in Hanapepe town. Well, we’ll drive for a good grilled cheese, why not? We did not expect what we found! Apparently, every Friday from 6-9 pm, Hawaii’s ‘biggest little town’ celebrates artists! We not just found Porky’s truck. We found a lot more local food and crafts vendors, local souvenirs, snacks- you name it. I even got to try kava (Kava is a beverage or extract that is made from Piper methysticum, a plant native to the western Pacific islands. The name “kava” comes from the Polynesian word “awa,” which means bitter. … Some people take kava by mouth to calm anxiety, stress, and restlessness, and to treat sleeping problems (insomnia). Not that I had any stress during vacation, but the locals said this is pretty magical drink used in some sacred rituals. And who does not want some more magic in their life 🙂 ?

Day 14

Today we are sleeping in (yes, the day before last of a two week trip) and then going surfing one more time! But breakfast first. After several days eating at the same great Aloha Aina juice bar, we decided to switch it up and try a new place- Ha coffee bar.  All of it- coffee, acai AND the pumpkin pie were delicious! Try this place if you are around.

As it was Saturday, we wanted to visit a local farmers market as well.

There was one right in Lihue, at the parking lot of the Kauai Community College! Besides the local exotic fruit and honey, the best thing we tried was frozen pineapple ice cream! Except there was no other ingredients, just frozen white pineapple. It was pushed through this sort of a shredder/ice cream maker that came out as a creamy tasting ice cream sans any cream! We could not believe the taste. We asked if they ship it to the mainland. They can ship the frozen pineapple, but you’d still need a machine to get that ice cream- like consistency.

Ok, after all the sweets, time to go surfing for real. Kalapaki beach it is! For $15/hr we rented the boards and spent good 2 hours in the water. The waves were not too big, but lots of surfers were catching them one after another. I was not as lucky this time. Frustration was starting to hit when one of the local ladies offered to help.IMG_3815 She started surfing at the age of 56 and was catching nearly every wave! With her guidance on which wave to skip and when to start paddling, I was able to get up and catch a few moments of glory 🙂 . Still need a LOT more practice…But that will have to be on another amazing trip. Tomorrow is our flight home and today there is one more appointment to be met- Farsyde tatoo. The plan to get a tattoo was made well before the trip and I had appointment with the artist Rob. It was nearly painless and I’m very happy with the result. IMG_3902Mountains and waves- two of my favorite things!

Last evening on the tropical island rewarded us with the last magical sunset. IMG_3898

Now time to find some food (everything closes early in Kauai, pretty much nothing is open after 9pm), so we drove to Kapaa and went to “The Local“. Again, based on the reviews online. Totally can vouch for it- kale pizza, beet salad and creme brulee with Hawaiian sea salt ended our last night on this island.

Day 15

Last day in paradise has to end with our favorite meal on this trip- acai bowl of course! We drove slightly out of our way to go to The Coconut Cup Juice Bar & Cafe for a healthy and delicious breakfast. IMG_3073

Before the long flights home, I highly recommend having a relaxing massage. We did not book them in advance and not many places were open on a Sunday. Given the day notice, we were lucky to have an opening for both of us at the same time at the Spa at Kaloa Landing resort. Massages relaxed our muscles and we enjoyed another few hours by the resort pool- we’ll take all the sun we can get, we are going back to cold Boston!

Last brunch at the TR Cantina & Margarita bar (unlimited mimosas, yes please).

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And we are off to the airport…

Conclusion

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There is no doubt- Hawaii is special. It may be still USA, with same stores, same language, similar culture. But it is incredibly diverse in nature and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

I’d like to end it with ALOHA:

A- Akahai- meaning kindness (grace) to be expressed with tenderness.

L-Lokahi- meaning unity (unbroken), to be expressed with harmony.

O-‘Olu’olu- meaning agreeable (gentle), to be expressed with pleasantness.

H-Ha’aha’a- meaning humility (empty), to be expressed with modesty.

A- Ahonui- meaning patience (waiting for the moment), to be expressed with perseverance.

LIVE ALOHA

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