I’ve wanted to go to Kauai since we returned from our honeymoon on Maui, 12 years ago. Now living on Oahu, we thought it the right time to seize the proximity! So here we have it:
Kauai Part One – Adventures of traveling with a 4 year old and a 2 year old (not for the faint of heart)
Flights, cottage and rental car booked were the extent of the planning I put into this trip. I was too distracted with everything else to work on an itinerary and definitely wanted this to be a relaxed adventure with no concrete expectations. Unlike the busy, busy trip we did on Maui (Yes, we did the Road to Hana – What were we thinking?)
The flight over, all thirty-four minutes, were eventful across the aisle. John, our 2 yr old, did not appreciate the experience in the least. Learning from this, we did prep for the return flight with jelly beans, fruit snacks and cheese crackers; can you tell John is motivated by treats? That behind us, we stepped on Kauai. Hawaii as it should be! Ahhhh. Not an island overrun with traffic and tourists like Oahu, or even the relaxed busy-ness that pervaded on Maui way back then.
Kauai was as anticipated, an island that feels like an island. There are lots of services near the airport, including the almighty Costco, but as you drive away from Lihue, it gets decidedly serene.
Lodging: We stayed at the Navy’s Barking Sands Cottages (Pacific Missile Range Facility). Remote accurately describes the location of these cottages at the very Southwest corner of the island, nearly at the end of Hwy 50. You know you’re there with the light traffic dwindles down to a trickle. The boys particularly enjoyed seeing the horses staked as landscape maintenance along the roadside.
It was a renovated, nicely furnished two bedroom cottage, complete with washer and dryer. A must when traveling with two small boys. The view from this part of the island is amazing. There’s the backdrop of lush Waimea Canyon and the island of Niihau not far off the coast. If you read up on Niihau (the Forbidden Island), as I did once we had returned, you’ll probably want to take a trip out there. We definitely will in the future.
The best part of the cottage – it was steps away from the beach! While the surf and undertow were a bit much for our little guys, they had a great time hunting hermit crabs and playing in the pools that formed on the sand. There were guests at some of the other cottages, but it was so remote and expansive you could go out in your pjs and not see anyone.
Food: There aren’t many places to eat near the cottages. We tried the Galley on Base for breakfast one morning. It was CHEAP! but not too tasty. Be sure to check the hours before driving down there. In true military fashion, the operating hours are limited.
Shenanigan’s, the only restaurant on Base, was good and well priced. But of course the easiest was to purchase groceries and eat at the cottage or eat while we were out touring. One word of caution about groceries, if you are a coffee lover, be sure to bring coffee filters with you, or you’ll end up coming home with a 1000 pack from the NEX, as you get one filter pod for your entire stay. No, they don’t give more and No, you can’t buy more. Another great option for coffee is the Kauai Coffee Plantation; most likely you’ll go past it a time or two. I got the distinct feeling they started to recognize me, but maybe it was just my imagination?
The closest town on Hwy 50 is Waimea. There’s a grocery store, plenty of places to eat and touristy shops. We stopped in at JoJo’s for Shave Ice. So yummy! I’d say even better than the places we’ve sampled in Haleiwa (Oahu). We also picked up a pizza to go at Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo one day. Excellent as well.
Beaches: Given the ages of our boys, we took a tip and made Salt Pond Beach Park our first beach stop. The boys had a great time. Brendon did some serious body surfing and they both enjoyed chasing the many free range chickens. Yes, the chickens are literally EVERYWHERE on the island! My dad would be so proud of all the chicken/rooster facts I was able to recite; he trained me well. There isn’t much at this beach beyond swimming, so bring your own drinks and food if you’re staying for awhile. We rented chairs and an umbrella from the MWR for our entire stay. They also have snorkels, sand toys, boogie boards, etc. very reasonably priced by the day or week.
Our second beach visit was Poipu Beach. It was more like Ko Olina for those on Oahu. Adjacent to the lagoons, there was an open beach where some were paddle boarding and surfing. There was also a rocky portion, where I heard some were tide pooling. What were my boys doing? Rolling around in the sand talking to two ladies trying to sunbathe. Seriously McNultys? They start young! I appreciated the break, Vance enjoyed snorkeling the morning away and the ladies didn’t seem to mind the endless chatter of dinosaurs and birds.
There are a couple resorts right near Poipu Beach, as well as some shopping and food around the corner. We had a scoop (or two) from Papalani Gelato. Molto Bene!
**Tree Tunnel – There’s a tree tunnel at the top of Hwy 520, where it intersects Hwy 50. Very beautiful and worth taking this route in or out of Poipu.
Our third and final beach visit was on the East Side of the island, Lydgate State Park. If you are travelling with wee ones, this is the place to go! The beaches here are most accurately described as swimming ponds. Very protected. We swam at the larger of the two ponds, which was brimming with fish for snorkeling and calm enough even Brendon could enjoy snorkeling (with his goggles only). John spent the majority of the time running between the chairs and water with a bottle, filling and spilling on the sand. Somehow this really entertained him. I don’t claim to know the thought process of a two year old.
By this time on our trip, the boys were seriously “beached out”. This is where Lydgate really shined – there is a HUGE playground across the street. Playground doesn’t really describe how wonderful this play structure is. It is three stories high in some parts, made of wood and concrete. I was wishing I had my camera to capture this on film. Whoever designed and constructed this thing has my nod of sincere approval and thanks!
Wrap-up: And that’s as far as we made it around the island on this visit! We now have a good list of places still to explore on Kauai, namely the North Shore, Niihau, and Waimea Canyon. We know we’ll be back to Kauai before our duty time is finished on Oahu. The real debate is wether to go alone or take the mini masters. We’ll wait until the memory of the plane flight fades to decide.