Sunday, January 10, 2016

Aloha, Kauai

Trip date: May 2015

The minute I walked out of the airport the scent of tropical flowers and salty ocean greeted me. I couldn't help but breathe deep; my shoulders and neck relaxing.

The word aloha can mean both goodbye and hello. This was never more relevant to me than on this trip. I was saying goodbye to my old life as I knew it and hello to a new one, where sometimes I would travel all by myself. Not just a day or two on business, or as part of a trip while meeting other friends, but for the first time I was taking a complete holiday solo. I'd have much more time on my own from now on.

Since I had been upgraded to first class and had taken advantage of a lot of complimentary drinks, I called a taxi from the courtesy phone upon landing. After waiting about 10 minutes I was on my way to the north part of the island. The taxi was about a 45 minute ride/$90 before tip; I was happy not to drive the 2-lane road in the dark up to Princeville.

At check in at the Westin Resort I was upgraded to a 1-bedroom villa which included a lovely balcony on the 2nd floor and a peak-a-boo view of the mountains and the main pool. Building 5, I'd ask for it.

Jet lag had me up early the next morning and since it had been well past dark when I arrived the night before I took advantage of my awake status and went on a walk all around the property. Lush gardens and ocean views were exactly what I had signed up for and gotten!

After my walk I stopped in for breakfast (the Westin lets you forgo daily housekeeping in lieu of complimentary breakfast if you choose) and by 10am I was napping at the pool. Heaven.

That evening I took the Westin's free shuttle to their sister property, the St Regis, where I had an absolutely outstanding dinner at Jean Georges' restaurant, The Kauai Grill. They very nicely sat me at one of the best tables with a view of the ocean. The octopus, hamachi crudo, and service were all outstanding.

The couple behind me heard me say I would need a taxi back to the Westin (the shuttle stops at 8pm) and sweetly offered me a ride. I deferred as I decided to order dessert ("peanut buster parfait" -my term only). Sweet tooth appeased and $10 later I was home back at the Westin.

After that I started each day with a nice run/walk around the property and neighboring golf course before sitting down to my complimentary breakfast and mimosa. A quick change into my bikini and I was set for the day. The resort had a few pools; one for kids, one for everyone, and one for adults. I could take my pick and change it up from day to day.

One afternoon I took the complimentary shuttle to the Princeville airport (which is used by private planes only as far as I could see) and picked up a rental car. My shuttle driver and I were tight by then and she mentioned she was going to miss me. I assured her that since I don't drink and drive she would keep seeing me each evening as I headed to the tony bar at the St Regis for sunset.

I drove my cheap and cheerful rental to the absolutely beautiful town of Hanalei. My plan was to visit the farmer's market but it was already shutting down by the time I pulled up (noon) so I grabbed some delicious fish tacos at Tropical Taco and then drove to Hanalei Beach for an afternoon of sand, surf, and sun.

As it is known to happen on Kauai, late that afternoon the sky turned really dark. When I saw the clouds rolling in I high-tailed it back to the resort, pulling in just as a big-ass rain storm dumped. I grabbed a Mai-Tai or two and settled in on my covered balcony with my book. Even when it rains in Kauai it is still 80F+.

I drove back to Hanalei another day to pick up some coffee from the Hanalei Coffee Roasters, a great little spot that roasts beans not just from Kauai but from all over. (Upon searching for their website for this post it looks like they might have closed but still sell their coffee at local shops.) Then, taking a cue from my favorite shuttle driver, I stopped at the North Shore General Store (which is also the corner gas station) on the way back to the resort for Hawaiian chili pepper chicken. My take out box probably weighed 3 pounds and was hella spicy. Get it if you are there, share it if you are two.

On my last day I booked a massage at my Westin resort. I had seen the tents set up outside, overlooking the ocean, on my daily walks. WOW! A massage in an open-air tent with ocean breezes, softly playing Hawaiian music, scents of exotic flowers, blue skies, and a view of the Pacific waters. HEAVEN.

I followed up that bit of indulgence with Mai Tai happy hour at my resort, a shuttle to the St Regis for a stunning sunset and cocktail on their patio bar, and an absolutely delicious sushi dinner at their restaurant Makana Terrace.

Before hitting the road for my hour drive to Lihue airport the next morning,  I had the Westin's Sunday brunch buffet, which isn't included in the comp plan but is very much worth the charge!

There was very little traffic, the scenery was pretty, and I even pulled off at a couple of random beaches for some last ocean views as I made my way south.

I needed a place to unwind and destress, that wasn't overrun with too many children, families, or newlyweds, and the North Shore of Kauai was the perfect place for that. And spring is the perfect time!


All Kauai photos here.

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