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February 2003 - Hawaii

Trip report written while in Hawaii, Saturday, February 22, 2003: Four weeks in Hawaii sounds like a long time, but here we are with only three days left and the time flew by.

Leaving

We arrived on January 29 after a very busy month of work and a chaotic flight out. We had to change our plans at the last minute to spend a day working in Phoenix, so ended up flying Southwest Albuquerque to Phoenix, night in Phoenix, worked the next day, evening flight on Southwest to Los Angeles, night in an airport hotel, 8am flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, then on to Lihue.

As we are waiting for our luggage and getting our car in Lihue, Steve is doing a conference call for work on the cell phone. So we arrived in a bit of a state - tired and wrung out and needing a vacation.

Weather Summary

It was raining when we arrived on the Wednesday afternoon, but starting Thursday morning we had two weeks of hot and sunny weather. The next week was not as good, with two days of bad weather (rain and cold) and a few days of overcast "iffy" weather. Then it turned hot and sunny again and is supposed to be like this until we leave. (It was perfect for our last week.)

I bitched and moaned to anyone who would listen during that one not perfect week that this was our last winter trip to Kauai! It wasn't worth it because the weather is not perfect. That from now on we would do a shorter trip, but in the summer when you can depend on the weather. Then the sun came out and I forgot about all that. We are booking for next year. (Our last week was hotter than our first two, and it was actually a little too hot for me - which shows that Hawaii in the summer would probably be too hot for me.)

The previous two years in Hawaii in January/February we had cold and rainy weather for almost half the time. This year we had the best weather. It is hot enough to go swimming (and to want to go swimming) but not so hot that you have to be finished your walk by 9am or you roast in the heat. So, when I really think about it, the weather in February is perfect for us (except for the days of rain).

Where we stay

If possible, we always rent the Little Grass Shack (LGS) from Kauai Vacation Rentals. If it is not available, we try other cottages in this area - but the LGS is the best. It is not expensive, is a cute cottage with lots of character and we like the location. Poipu is the best place to stay in the Winter - more sun, warmer weather. On the north end of the island, it can rain a lot in the winter and the water is rough up there in winter.

Kauai Vacation Rentals lets you rebook the same place for the same time of year if you do it during your stay. That was what we finally did last year to be sure we got the LGS and we will do it again this year. You pay a $600 deposit up front, then pay the rest 30 days before arrival.

We used frequent flyer miles for free first class air tickets this year to make the whole trip cheaper. This worked out very well because we had to change our outbound flight at the last minute and this was easier to do with frequent flyer tickets than if we had bought tickets. Plus, we like to upgrade to first class and the class of ticket you have to purchase to upgrade from is almost the same as a ticket to Europe - expensive. So it makes sense for us to use miles for Hawaii tickets.

What we do in Hawaii for a month

This is our typical day on Kauai. We get up between 7 and 8am. We always plan to get up earlier, but if I wake up before 7am it still seems to be dark out and I always go back to sleep. We do a long walk most mornings (6 days out of 7). This takes a couple of hours. Then breakfast sitting on our porch. Coffee, toast and fresh papaya.

We usually work from after breakfast until swimming time at 2pm, with a break in there for lunch if we ended up eating breakfast early. Working in the LGS is fine - the house has lots of windows and we keep them and the door open, so it is almost as good as being outside.

Steve always works, some days I lie about with a detective novel. I brought "good books" with me (one on Rome in the 50s, one about Sicily) but have yet to open them. Instead we go up to the Borders once a week and I get more junk. Fun new novels or detective novels.

I am just finishing a fabulous book about hitchiking the length of Japan - very appropriate reading here because of all the Japanese tourists and Japanese products in the stores. "Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan" by Will Ferguson, an entertaining and informative writer. Really an excellent book. The detective books I read are two by Ian Rankin (Scottish detective), one Jack Frost book (English detective) and a Michael Connelly (good old American junk). Plus some computer books: Javascript, CSS and another book on Blogs.

2pm is beach time! Put on our bathing suits, load up the beach bags with towels, hats and books, hop into the car. We keep our beach chairs and mats in the trunk so we are ready to head to the beach at all times. It is a two minute drive to the Sheraton where we park on the road or in the public parking lot, then go to the beach. We sit and read, then go in for a swim. We don't spend too long here - maybe 1 to 2 hours. Then home for showers. The whole "going for a swim" thing is very time consuming - usually 3 hours when you add in showering and changing after. It is the main activity of the afternoon.

We go out for dinner a couple of times a week and out for lunch or breakfast once or twice. We met a nice couple from Tennessee and had lunch with them a couple of times. They stayed in the LGS two years ago and we were staying down the road in the Baby Beach Bungalow (BBB). We met them because I saw them on their porch and went to complain that we wanted to stay in the LGS but they had booked it first! Turned out they did not like the LGS as much as we did. This year, they stayed in the BBB and we were in the LGS, but they moved to the LGS after we left.

We have been having vegout evenings enjoying the back to back South Parks on Comedy Central! I now know all the main South Park characters and Steve does a very good impression of Eric Cartman.

Walking around Poipu

If we are tired, we have a short 3 mile route from the house to Spouting Horn (we can add an extra mile by walking past Spouting Horn until the road ends). This is a nice, easy walk.

A fun thing about this part of Kauai is that there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of other walkers out in the morning. And everyone is in a good mood (because we are in Hawaii!). Everyone says good morning as they meet you walking.

Most days we do a longer and nicer walk. From the house we walk to the end of the road heading away from Spouting Horn. We join the Spouting Horn road for one block, then turn right over a little bridge to the road that goes to the Sheraton. The cove just after Whaler's Cove is a popular place for turtles and if the morning is sunny, we stop and watch turtles. We have seen more turtles on this trip than ever before. We stop and watch them and talk to the other people watching.

We continue along this road towards the Sheraton, then take the path on the Sheraton grounds that goes along the water in front of the hotel, then we walk along the sand for a bit to the boardwalk in front of the Plantation Gardens hotel, then a bit more sand to a path in front of the old Poipu Beach hotel.

All the hotels along this part of the coast were damaged by the 1992 hurricane. I think the Hyatt was the first to reopen, then the Sheraton and Plantation Gardens. The Poipu Beach Hotel and the Waiohai sat as ruined shells behind wire fencing for years. Last year the Waiohai was under construction and this year it is a new Marriott hotel. The Poipu Beach Hotel is still a ruin. We spent a wonderful two weeks in a waterfront suite at this hotel in the early 80s and from the path we can look right into our old room. Only the side stone walls and the floors are left. Everything else blew away.

The path goes above the beach in front of the ruined Poipu Beach Hotel, but then joins a new pathway along the water in front of the new Waiolai Marriott. This is a time share, so there is always a salesman sitting at a table along the path, but he is pretty laid back for a salesman and just says hello to us when we go by.

We always think we are trespassing on these hotel walkways, but we are not. The public beach access goes quite a way back from the water and the pathways are open to the public.

From the Marriott we have a bit more sand walking along Poipu Beach and ending up in Poipu Park in front of Brenneckes. From here we take the road along the coast, past another great turtle cove, before it turns inland. Eventually we get to a place where you get on a path off the road that goes out to the headlands. A big open field where the wind is always blowing. This is a good spot for seeing whales. From there we continue on to the Hyatt, then cut back on paths that go from the Hyatt, through the condo resort of Poipu Kai and back to Poipu Park. From there we retrace our path back home. It is a good 5 miles and we usually spend two hours or more on this walk (including turtle stops and sometimes a stop at the Marriott or the Hyatt for coffee and bagel).

Swimming in Poipu

The beach in front of the Sheraton has always been our favorite beach - and still is. We have been coming to Kauai since the early 80s, but to Poipu regularly since 1988 (when we spent 3 months that summer in the LGS). We didn't come here for several years after the 1992 hurricane - but since 1997 we have been back every year.

The beach in front of the Sheraton is not as perfect this year. Big winter storms changed the beach. It is not as flat as it used to be. Now there is a couple of feet of flat sand at the start of the beach, then it slopes steeply down to the water. The sand under the water seems to have been changed too. Now it gets deeper faster, which is good for swimming.

Some of the sand along the shoreline is as hard as concrete and I have the scars on my knees to prove it. I was body surfing in on a great wave only to realize that I was being pushed along this concrete sand.

Sea Life

On our morning walks we always stop to find turtles. During the first two weeks we saw several turtles every day. When it is sunny, the sun hits the water and lights it up so you can see the turtles easily. Those first two weeks we saw turtles every day down from Whaler's Cove. Some days the turtles were very close to shore, eating algae from the rocks. We saw more turtles on this trip than ever before.

Most days we see one or two monk seals on the beach. They come up onto the beach and sleep for 10 hours or so. The lifeguards rope off the area around the seal, because you are not allowed to get too close and disturb them. Twice we saw a baby seal and its mother - well, that was what we figured the situation was. If you wait long enough, and we did, they might roll over or scratch. This is pretty exciting. Twice we saw them move up the sand to a better sleeping place. I told Steve that my trip would be complete if we saw one wake up and go back into the water. I made him wait several times when we found seals where the waves were just beginning to touch them, but none of them ever got up and went into the water.

One time I was positive that the seal was about to awaken, but Steve did not want to hang around any longer, so we left. I was convinced that if we had waited another 30 minutes we would have seen the seal wake up. That afternoon we went back - about 6 hours later - and the same seal was there in the same spot, still sleeping. I guess Steve was right after all. He wasn't about to wake up.

January through March is the time to see whales migrating through this area. We saw many spots and a few tails, but didn't see the big jumps that we have seen in other years. Once we saw one of those spinning dolphins.

Land Life

Kauai is full of roosters and chickens running wild. They got loose during the hurricane and have stayed loose since. You even see a mother chicken and baby chicks. And sometimes along the highways, dead chickens and chicks.

When you are out walking, you see dead and flattened frogs all along the road. I have yet to see an alive frog here.

Other Kauai Things

We did our one trip up to Hanalei the day before yesterday. During the bad weather week I had been thinking we would be much happier just coming for two weeks (and perhaps doing no work at all during that time) and staying in Hanalei, because I always remember it as being a cute town with more restaurants than we have here. Also there is that great swimming area north of Hanalei, at the end of the road. In the summer this area is hot and dry enough and the water is calmer.

But this day trip up there made me see the error of my ways. Hanalei is full of tourists now. The town has more restaurants - but they are all burger places. The famous Tahiti Nui (which we have not been to since 1981) now has an "Activities Desk" in front of it - those booths where sales people sit and talk to you as you walk by, trying to sell you helicopter rides, boat rides, etc.

The growth of Princeville has changed that part of the island. Princeville is very boring - all golf courses and condos. Hanalei has become the poor cousin. The town is lively and fun, but in an over touristed way. The part of town where you find vacation rentals is feeling a little rundown. Some streets are nice, some aren't. Still the beach in Hanalei is perhaps the most beautiful that I have ever seen.

Working While Vacationing

I spent the weekend before we left for this trip getting my travel computer ready - installing software, copying files across - so that I could do a couple of work projects and a couple of SlowTrav projects on the trip. This was my new travel computer - Steve's one year old one. I did a final email check a couple of hours before we had to leave the house and the computer "blew up". Not literally - but with the same result. It was no longer useable. I spent a frantic two hours copying files to my very old travel computer and was not able to even copy over everything that I needed. On the good side, it forced me to do less work on the trip. On the bad side, I spent my time here working on an old, slow, clunky computer.

You may think we are crazy to go to Hawaii and then work, but it is the only way we can get away at that time of year. Steve works shorter days, so it is a vacation for him.

Our Sprint cell phone does not work in Poipu (only works in Lihue) so for next year I will change to a service that works in Poipu. This will make things easier for working. There is only one phone line into the LGS and we need to be available for calls, so we have to limit our time online. Next year, we can get people to call us on the cell phone and we can be online with the phone line.

Restaurant Reviews

I have a page on the website with all my Kauai favorites and with notes about vacation rentals on Kauai.

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