Thursday, March 24, 2011

2010-Kauai trip #9, Feb. 19-March 5: tim and faith-Year of the Tsunami: plantation monument; TripAdvisor M&G; Moloaa; Wailua falls; Gaylord train ride; Smith's Luai;

AA did away with the flight from STL that let us get to LAX 2 hours before the LAX-LIH flight, so we were rescheduled on a much earlier flight. We ended up with a 5 hour layover in LAX and arrived in Kauai about 9:10pm (Hawaiian time)---almost 15 hours after leaving home. We had carry on luggage only, so were off to catch the Avis shuttle in minutes. We've always used Budget in the past, but after a really bad experience with Avis in Skagway, Alaska, over the summer, we were given $50 in Avis certificates so I found a really good deal with them through --- $350 for 2 weeks include all fees and taxes. I figured we'd give them a try. Check in was a breeze and we were in our Pontiac G6 on our way to Worldmark Kapaa Shores in less then 20 minutes from the time we got off the plane. As Worldmark owners, I was able to pick up the lone Friday night on bonus time for about $85.
Some pictures of the Worldmark Kapaa Shores 1 bedroom unit:
small but adequate kitchen
 murphy bed in the livingroom.
 ocean view from our side window.
We flew out a day before our Wyndham KBV stay started in order to redeem air miles to fly free. That pretty much takes care of day one.

Next day we moved to our Kauai Beach Villas.   Even the lagoon view units are nice.
For most of our first week here, the weather was beautiful. It was sunny, in the 70’s, little wind and no vog, although the surf on the north shore was at advisory levels most of the 2 weeks we were there.
One Sat. morning we made it to the "new" farmers' market at the Community College in Lihue. One of the highlights there for me was the demonstration put on by some culinary school students from the college. Here they made and gave out samples of a ginger cookie with carmalized pineapple on top of it and a rum sauce and whipped cream garnish with piped crispy lattice cookie on top.

It was very good and the students were interesting to chat with.
We also finally stopped and checked out the monument to the sugar plantation workers in Koloa. It is an interesting sculpture with lots of info about the sugar plantation days. Here's a close up of a couple of the figures within the monument.
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We had heard there was a return of the Poipu beach tombula (sandy area leading to the island), so we were anxious to check that out, too.

I was also anxious to snorkel and try out my new Canon D10 underwater digital camera. I was very pleased with the results.  Saddle butterfly fish---

ring tail surgeon fish
 another eel
 Another monk seal.  We often see one here, or at Lawai, or at Tunnels.
 Less often we see a turtle resting on the beach. 
 Here we have a colorful toby.
Even got to see 3 stages of the Orange Stripe Surgeon fish.  Here it is as an adolescent.
Here it is as beginning to change to it's adult colors.
And here it is as an adult.

We also really enjoy going to Lydgate on the East side.
I believe this is a cigar wrasse.  Haven't seen many of them.
Always see schools of these small Flag tail fish at Lydgate.
 Rarely see the yellow fin snapper.
 Here's a crab hanging out on the rocks underwater.

We did our Wyndham owners' update (a.k.a. sales presentation). Incentive was a discount card for activities and restaurants and a $100 debit card. We were out of there in just at an hour. We had heard the new pool at the Wyndham Bali Hai was done, so after our presentation, we went to check out the pool. I thought it was rather impressive!
bali hai pool
We finally hit the infamous Duane's Ono Char Burger restaurant we've heard so much about. In our 8 previous trips to Kauai, we never made it there. Today we did and were not disappointed. It doesn't look like much and there's no inside dining, but there’s an outside seating area with pic nic tables. Ken got the patty melt and I got fish and chips. Both were excellent! We will go there again, and again, and ... .
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The weather created some really beautiful clouds formations throughout or visit this year. We  don’t often stop at many overlooks anymore since we’ve been there so often, but this trip we stopped just to get pictures with the gorgeous skies, such as here at the canyon overlook.
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It's been 2 or 3 years since we've been able to snorkel at Salt Pond. The past few times we went the surf was high or the wind was blowing and making it cold, or sharks were sighted and the bay was closed, or ... . But this time we lucked into conditions good for snorkeling or just resting on the beach.
Looking towards the main beach from where we like to snorkel.
saltpond reflection
The deceivingly small looking snorkel area.
 Some of the fish you see in that area when it's calm enough to snorkel there.
I've seen some really unusual things here in the past, but this time I found some really weird things, too, such as (?) growing under a rock.
wierd salt pond creatures
But those weren't nearly as wierd looking as this creature! I've never seen anything like it and would love to check it out online if I had any idea of what to call it! It appeared to be eatting. The "arms" in the front kept shoving stuff into the top of it (mouth-?). I actually saw 2 of these critters there.
wierd salt pond creature 2
Over the years, I’ve been lurking on the TripAdvisor Kauai Forum. This year, a meet and greet was organized by Barbie and Salim at the Hyatt after Koloagirl’s lighting ceremony. There were only 8 of us there, but we enjoyed our 2+ hour visit. We had never made it to the lighting ceremony before, so it was nice to be able to check that out, too.
TA gettogether
The east side surf is consistantly high when we’re there (Jan or Feb), so we don’t get to do much snorkeling at the east side beaches other than at Lydgate, but we lucked into a really calm 1-3' surf one day and decided to check out a beach we had looked at years ago when it was too rough to enjoy then. That beach was Moloa'a beach on the east side, north of Kapaa. I had heard that snorkeling on the far left side of the beach was pretty good. We watched the surf for awhile, then decided to give it a try. There was a Movies Location Tour group there when we got there and we heard someone say some of Gilligan's Island was filmed here. I'm not sure I'd want to be rescued if I was deserted here!

The water here was the clearest we've seen yet this trip. Reminded me of how clear it is on the Big Island. There weren't a ton of fish here, but good enough to keep me entertained.
Here is one of the cute little critters we found today. There were actually 2 of these guys here. I had seen one of these guys one other time---in the shallows at Poipu beach a few years ago.
spanish dancer nudibranch
Also saw this critter there.  I'm assuming it's a type of Christmas Tree worm?
General underwater terrain here.
 An interesting convict tang ?  Don't recall seeing them with the black tails before.

Our schedule of snorkeling in the day and catching a beautiful sunset worked pretty well this trip. Usually we headed south for sunset. Here was yet another gorgeous sunset at Poipu.
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Another one at the little boat harbor near Spouting Horn.
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Another from Salt Pond

The East side can also be nice at sunset. We took a long walk along the bike path one evening and were treated to this sunset.
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On our 7th day there, we woke up eager to track Tim and Faith's flights to the Big Island. Seems they got to Dallas, Texas OK, then the problems started. First their flight was delayed 20 minutes, then 30. They finally left about an hour after their scheduled departure time. Therefore, they missed their Hawaiian flight from Oahu to Hilo. Talking to Hawaiian, they said they won't put them on the last flight because they won't be checking in 45 minutes before that flight, even though the plane is scheduled to get in there 40 minutes before that flight. So that pretty much ruined my day. We also had the return of the trade winds. I know the residents probably welcome the trade winds with the lower humidity, rain, clouds, and cooler temps, but I like the Kona winds (when it doesn't bring in a bunch of vog). We didn't really get much rain, but did get lots of wind (the 15-20 mile per hour type).
While hanging around tracking their flights, we check out Wailua Falls. We hadn't been there in awhile. I was surprised to see the "no vendor" signs up. Last time we were there we actually bought a painting from one of the vendors. They have done a lot of work to the viewing area since we were last there. Although you can see in this picture that some people think you need to get closer! I couldn't believe this young man was walking around so close to the top of the falls with his very young daughter. You can warn people of danger, but not everyone will heed it. They actually even got closer to the edge then this. At one point the man even picked his daughter up and was carrying her next to the edge. Then he would wave to the onlookers. On our drive from the falls, we even encountered a baby boar. Didn't have my zoom lens with me at that time.
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Fortunately, all turned out well for the kids getting to the Big Island. As soon as the kids landed in Honolulu, they made a mad dash to the interisland gate and made it just in time to get on the last flight to Hilo tonight. What a relief!
With the trade winds back, we spent much of the last week south. While at Lawai beach, I wandered over to check out the Koloa Heritage site down the street.
This is a Prince Kuhio Birthplace and Park. He was a delegate to the US Congress for 19 years after Hawaii became a territory in 1900. I've always looked as it as we drove by, but this was the first time I walked around the park. It's a very nice memorial for Prince Kuhio.
Of course we also spend a lot of time snorkeling at Lawai.
barred file fish
2 different types of surgeonfish.
 Even saw a Flying Gunard at Lawai---now I've seen 3 of them: one at Waikiki Beach, one at Saltpond, and one here. 
We like to check out the Spouting Horn when we’re in the area. This particular time the waves were really coming in. I've never seen the spouting horn spout quite so high. It was a good day for watching it. Again there were lots of signs up warning not to go down there, but again they were ignored by some.
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Sat. Feb. 27th started pretty early for us. At 6am workers at the ocean front resort we're in (Kauai Beach Villas), knocked on our door and basically told us to get out----now! With the 8.5 earthquake in Chile a couple days ago, we knew there was a chance of a tsunami reaching us, so this evacuation wasn't a surprise. Our first stop was Walmart. Not for water and food supplies like just about everybody else there, but for snacks---plus I'm looking for new snorkel fins. No luck with the fins, but did find snacks. We also checked out K-mart for the fins, but had no luck there, either. So we headed to breakfast at Dani's---along with half of Lihue! They were bussing tables like mad. Our wait for food was a bit lengthy, but they had a full house. We also noticed lines of people waiting for gas for their cars. That sort of surprised us. We wondered were people were going to drive with a full tank of gas if the island was hit hard. I guess we weren't expecting it to be as bad as many of the residents did--but what experience do we have with tsunamis out in the mid-west?! Fortunately, the tsunami pretty much fizzled out by the time it got to Hawaii.
Because of the tsunami, we decided to check out the train ride at Gaylord's. With roads being closed all over the place, we were somewhat limited in where we could go. Couldn't go towards Kapaa since the highway was closed at WAilua. Couldn't go to any beach since police were turning people away. So the train ride seemed a logical choice.
We hadn't planned to do this excursion, but I am happy we did it. Some may think it's kind of corney---or good for kids, but I thought it was a nice photo op, too. We had a discount card, so we were able to get 24% off on our fare, so it only cost us $13@ for the 40 minute ride. This is the old train we were on.
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The ride took us through their many fields of fruit crops. Here we are by the pineapple fields.
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Then it took us to their animal pastures. Here we were at the wild pig pasture. They let us off the train here and let us feed the pigs (from the other side of the fence from them).
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Another last look at the animal pasture.
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AFter the train ride, we headed south. All the time the radio was covering the tsunami. By now it was past noon, so we were curious to hear what had happened in Hilo and Kauai. Although the ocean apparently receeded from the Napali a bit, there were only about 1 foot tsunami waves here on Kauai. Hilo had about 3 foot waves, I believe, but there was no damage to any of the islands. Tim and Faith called and said all was well there on the Big Island. Lots of roads were closed so they were hanging out on a lava field and in the jacuzzi in the jungle. They went into Hilo for dinner after the warning was lifted and said there was no sign of high surf.
We continued south. About 1pm we stopped for lunch at Brick Oven Pizza. I love their pizzas, although they are spendy at $19 for a medium 1 topping pizza. But it was good.  Someone had even brought in a tv so we were able to watch the news about the tsunami.
About 2 we were heading back towards Lihue to hit the movie theatre when the radio said the warning was lifted and the roads were reopened. With that, we decided to forgo the movie and just head back to our condo.
The state parks are suppose to be closed for the rest of the day so snorkeling was out, so we decided to walk part of the new bike/walking trail along the east coast. We had walked the part from just north of Kapaa to Kealia Beach last year. So this time we started at Kealia Beach and headed north. It's a fantastic paved path!
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The views were spectacular. We walked a little past Donkey Beach before turning around. Even saw a nude beach goer. But I decided not to add a picture of that to my blog.
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On Monday, March 1st, Tim and FAith flew over from the Big Island. With the tsunami and vog, sounds like they weren't terribly impressed with the Big Island. But they did really like the B&B they stayed at in the town of Volcano.
After the kids arrived and settled in, we were ready to head for the sunshine and they were anxious to hit the beach (they didn't get to many on the Big Island). With the surf still above advisory levels on the north shore and the cloud cover on the east side, we decided to head south. Ended up at Poipu.
After some snorkeling and sunbathing, it was time to think about dinner. They'd heard alot about Puka Dog and wanted to try it. So off we went to the famous Puka Dog.
The dog (sausage) is stuck in a pouch of bread and filled with exotic relishes of your choice. Little too much bread for me, but the rest of it was good.
The wind advisory was here for awhile more. With gusts up around 40 m/h, it sounded really wicked at times. Surf stayed up on the north side; 3-5 feet on the east, but with the east wind it was too rough for snorkeling; 1-3 on the south shore. So----south we kept going.
Lawai seemed to be the best place to go with the winds blowing so hard. The beach is sloped so the wind was blocked more. It probably also helped having the bushes above us.

But snorkeling was still good.
saddle wrasse
 School of yellow tail goatfish
 blue stripe snapper
 Lawai is still the only place around Kauai that I've seen these Black Triggerfish.

We even wandered around the little town of Koloa one afternoon. I love all the Monkey Pod trees around there. A few years ago we were here when a bunch of them were going to be cut down for expansion. There were protests and it was taken to court. Not sure what's going on with the proceedings now. There's still a large barackaded area with several monkey pod trees in it here in town. At least these ones aren't in that danger.
monkey pods
We've never really walked around the little town until today. There is a nifty little museum in the block. I found this old picture of Koloa Landing really interesting. A placque said it was the 3rd largest port in Hawaii back in about the early 1900's. Knowing how small that landing is, I was surprised.
old koloa landing
Here's a view of Koloa Landing today from up by where the train tracks are going in the above picture.
On the 13th day of our vacation, the forecast actually said it was suppose to be warmer and a little less windy on the north side. Surf wasn't in the advisory levels north, but were still listed as somewhere around 12 '. Rain was in the forecast for all over the island. Surf on the east side was around 5' again and very windy. South was 1-3' and windy. Seeing as this was really our last chance to go north this trip, we decided to head north anyway. I had already resigned myself to the fact that there wouldn't be any snorkeling, but hoped to get a few pictures. We had planned to meet the "kids" at Hanalei Dolphin at 7. They, too, ended up going north, but left 2 or 3 hours before us. They pretty much ended up heading to the same spots we did, but with totally different results.
By the time we got to Tunnels, the sun was shining, the surf was calm and there was very little wind. The kids had been there a couple hours earlier when the surf was pounding. I was surprised just a couple hours could make such a difference! Here's what it looked like when we were there.
tunnels 1

Just in case, we came prepared and headed in! 
Here's a blue stripe butterflyfish near the drop off.
 And an emaciated Christmas Wrasse looking for someone to feed it.  Another reason not to get them reliant on hand feeding.
 I neglect to add many of these guys to my blogs since there are so many around Hawaii---the Hawaiian state fish---the Reef Triggerfish or humuhumunukunukuapuaʻa.
 White bar surgeonfish
 Tear drop and 4 spot butterfly fish.

AFter an hour or so, the skies clouded over and it started to rain, but since this was the first rain we've seen in 13 days, I'm not complaining. We packed up our stuff and moved up under the trees. Ken was ready to go and I was happy to have had the chance to snorkel Tunnels, so we left. First had to get one last picture of the Bali Hai mountains for this trip.
We made it to Hanalei Dolphin for dinner that night. Not a cheap place, but service was very good. My fish dinner was very good, but more spendy then I remembered. Faith had sushi which she said was only so so; the guys had fish and chips which they seemed to enjoy, but they didn't seem to think it was anything special considering the price. But the company was great! In fact, they treated us tonight. At about $40/person, that was quite a treat!
hanalei dolphin
One morning we decided to give Olympic Cafe in Kapaa a try. We had never been there before. We were all very impressed. NOt only was the food very good and plentiful, but the ambience was really neat. We did have a brief rain shower while we were eatting, but that resulted in our 2nd rainbow of our trip. Loved sitting in the open 2nd floor cafe overlooking the main street through Kapaa. We even liked the mugs so much that we bought 3 of them. Sorry Kountry Kitchen and Dani's, we found a new favorite breakfast place.

One day Ken and I even wandered around 2 Frogs Hugging. The name of the store always had me curious to check out what they have, so we finally did. I decided if I ever get rich and get to refurnish my house, that's where I'm getting my stuff from. Loved their style!
We even went to Smith’s luau again. Ken and I have been to it 5 times now and I still love going to it. This was the kids' 3rd time and their idea to go. I love the gardens that it's on and the food is outstanding---not to mention the international performance.
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The grounds are a great place for taking portraits.
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A happy couple with their plates full of great food.
I loved the colorful outfits and the commentary about the different nationalities. Even thought the singer and band were fantastic.
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We find it refreshing these youngsters want to follow their traditions and really seem to be enjoying what they're doing.
I forget what they call this swinging around of fire balls, but it really looks neat in the dark.
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On our last day there, Tim and Faith had to leave early (for a 2:50pm flight). They were flying back from Honolulu. So we didn't do much before they left. Hung around the condo and walked the beach by KBV. Here are some pictures from our beach.

Eventually I came along the ocean side of the Wailua golf course. Looks like a pretty nice course from what I could see of it.

We got to enjoy another vacation in Kauai. Loved sharing it with family again. We’ve been there so often now that we really feel at home here. Can’t wait for our 10th trip!

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