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Monday, October 8, 2007

Our Hawaii Vacation: Kauai (Part 1 of 3)

Okay, so I don't yet have the new pink laptop, but my old computer was refurbished and while it looks like it's going to die a final death here soon, I think it should hold out until the new beauty arrives. So, that means it's picture and story time! :)

I'm splitting the vacation up into 3 parts, which is how the trip was structured. We spent our first 3 nights at The Princeville Resort in Kauai, the next 3 nights at the Grand Wailea Hotel in Wailea and the last 5 nights at the Sheraton Maui on Ka'anapali Beach. Sorry in advance b/c it's going to be long and picture filled.

We flew into Lihue, Kauai at around noon on September 1st. After picking up the rental car we started on the approximate 45 minute drive up the coast to the Princeveille Resort. I made the mistake of not eating something before we left the airport and wound up getting very car sick on the drive. So, no pictures of the beautiful drive. I seem to recall the foliage was amazing, but I was too sick to capture any of it on film. Oops.

After getting to the resort, we checked with the valet staff and after greeting us with leis we made our way into the lobby. Um, wow. The picture doesn't do the place justice.

Since we were early and our room wasn't ready yet, we went to the poolside cafe for lunch and then a quick walk on the beach.

After lunch, we were able to check into our room. [Side note: I had signed up for a "free limited-time upgrade to Gold level" for my Starwood Preferred Guest membership at the beginning of the year that was only supposed to be good through the end of March '07. Well, somehow this was never removed from my account so when we checked in, I was listed as a Gold Level guest and we were automatically upgraded to an Ocean View room. Suhweet!]

The "magic window" in the bathroom that goes from opaque to clear with flip of a switch! Conceivably you could take a shower while having a view of the ocean. Interesting concept, but not something we really took advantage of.

And the view from the bed. Amazing.

We got settled and then hurriedly got into our swimsuits and spent the next few hours at the pool enjoying the sun and the swim-up bar. Like a little piece of heaven. That night, we had a casual dinner at the hotel lounge where we accidently wound up sitting next to 2 very drunk men who didn't quite understand the concept of inside voices. Thankfully, they didn't stay long. The sushi was decent albeit expensive. I think we were passed out by about 7:30ish.

Monday morning, after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we were off to Ke'e Beach for some snorkeling and laying around on the sand. We were there for a few hours and were planning on beach-hopping the rest of the day, but the fact that it was Labor Day made finding parking more of a hassle than we cared for. So, back to the hotel we went. But not before a quick stop at the Hanalei Lookout to see the taro fields. Pretty cool.

That afternoon it was lunch at the poolside cafe again and more pool time. Rough, I know. ;)That night I was starting to feel sort of "off" again, so dinner was a bit of a solemn affair. Jim and I only remember the food being ho-hum although I don't know if I was the best judge that night.

Tuesday morning we woke up to a downpour, but it was actually really relaxing eating outside under a covered patio while watching the rain come down. While most of the rain had let up by the time we were done eating, the skies were still dreary on our drive up the coast to Tunnels Beach.

Our first hour or so at Tunnels was filled with grey skies and drizzle, but by the time the sky cleared up, we realized what an absolutely gorgeous beach it was! Granted, the snorkeling was just meh, but the weather was perfect, the sand warm and it was large enough to not feel crowded even though there were a lot of people there. Not a bad morning.

That afternoon we had lunch at Bubba's Burgers, which was suprisingly yummy and downright cheap compared to the food prices at the hotel! And what trip to Hawaii is complete without a stop for shave ice? I was super bummed that the most popular place on the North Shore (Wishing Well Shave Ice) was closed, but we tried the 2nd favorite place instead. In my haste to eat the thing before it melted, I forgot to take pictures. Oops! But, let me tell you, macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom is so.freaking.good.

After we woke up from our lunch induced food-coma, we decided to have one last adventure before going back to the hotel. Just about a half mile from the hotel is the entrance to Queen's Bath -- a natural pool located on a lava bench that is constantly refreshed with ocean water. I'm not the most adventerous person out there, but Jim really wanted to go and it was so close to our hotel, I gave in. After a hike through some jungle and then another short walk across lava rock, you stumble upon this beautiful natural swimming pool right there on the side of the cliffs. Ah-mazing. Took me a few minutes to work up the courage to go in, but it was so refreshing and gorgeous once I took a dip. Again, pictures don't really do it justice.

On the way back up to the car, my brilliant hubby thought it would be a good idea to stop at the freshwater waterfall to clean off (did I mention that our hotel was literally a 2 minute drive from this place?). Let's just say the mosquitos had a little feast. Boooo!

That night we had dinner at La Cascata -- the hotel's Italian inspired restaurant. Since we still hadn't adjusted to the time difference, making silly early reservations allowed us a window seat and a perfect view of the sunset. So nice.

We both ordered the Shrimp with gazpacho for an appetizer and the seafood linguine for dinner. The appetizer was so good-- perfectly cooked prawns sitting in a little glass of slighly spicy yellow gazpacho. However, the linguine fell a bit short for both of us. The sauce was not that flavorful and the seafood (shrimp, lobster, scallops and sea bass) were all slightly over-cooked. One of us should have obviously ordered something else, but oh well.

For dessert, I opted for the gelato (chocolate and coffee, both very tasty) and Jim ordered the tiramisu (one of his favorite desserts, but he said it was just meh). Overall the dinner was just okay, but the view was pretty spectacular.

The next morning we got up early, grabbed a quick breakfast and started back to the airport for our afternoon flight to Maui. Before dropping off the rental car though, we made a detour up into Lihue to see Wailua Falls. One of the easiest waterfalls to get to (you just drive up a long road, park and you're there!) it is taller than Niagra Falls (albeit not nearly as powerful). We were one of only 2 couples there and it was so peaceful and beautiful.

After 20 minutes or so of gawking and taking pictures, it was time to head back down the moutain, turn in the rental car and take the puddle-jumper over to Maui!

A few general thoughts:
  • We usually vacation on Maui, so going to Kauai for a few days was a nice change of pace for us. It's much greener than Maui and moves at a slower pace. I think Maui is still our favorite island, but Kauai was a lot of fun for a change.
  • The Princeville Resort is huge, the common areas are gorgeous and the location is paradise. The rooms themselves, however, are not worth what the hotel charges for them. Our room was clean and spacious, but not overly "luxurious" and somewhat in need of a face-lift. We specifically stayed at this resort because we got a killer deal through my retirement association (almost 70% off), so we felt like we got the room for a steal. However, if we had paid rack rate for the room we would have been pretty upset. I have read that St. Regis has purchased this hotel and over the next 2 years or so will be making major rennovations and turning it into one of the Starwood Luxury Collection resorts. I would be interested to see what the resort looks like at that time.
  • Princeville is very isolated from other major tourist areas on Kauai and for that reason, the food choices are severly limited. For ease, we ate at the hotel for most of our meals, but it is very very expensive to do so. While the food isn't bad, for what you're paying, we expected more. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering staying here.


  1. I am so puke greem with jealousy right mow. Oceam view bed? Swim up bar? Burgers? IHY!! But really, it looks like a fabu vacatiom so far, I'm happy for you!

  2. Wow, Amber...amazing! Can't wait to read parts 2 & 3!!! Nice recap too!

  3. it was wonderful meeting you!!!

    your vacay looks wonderful, 3 locations that's awesome =) i spy another boston fan...go sox!!!

  4. I loooooove Kauai! I'm quite envious! And I totally had shaved ice from that same place! Delic!

  5. Your trip sounds amazing so far! Hawaii is the top choice for our next vacation so I can't wait to read part 2 and 3.

    By the way, you look hot! All the workout definitely paid off :)

  6. Omg, what an amazing trip! I can't wait for parts 2 and 3!!

  7. When we went to Kaui we didn't do anything in Princeville except get on a helicopter tour and drive through the town. It's awesome to get a look at it from your recap. Yay for Hawaii vacation part 1! I'm really glad you had such a wonderful vacation.

    P.S. Happy belated anniversary!

  8. my 4th grade sense of humor is cracking up at that picture of your gelato.

    and, shave ice with mac-nut ice cream?? OMG. i hope i can find some of that next month!

  9. Great review, Amber! Seriously, woman! You and Weemo should go into business together - food/travel reviews.

    Loved the pics!! Hanalei holds a special place in my heart because we rented a house there. The house was awesome and we cooked at home every night so didn't have to deal with restaurants - but yeah, I can imagine how it was like that. I went snorkeling at Tunnels! That's where that shark attack on that surfer happened. OK, am I rambling?? Done now.