I gave fair warning that I’d be posting all about our first-ever trip to Hawaii in several posts!!! So here goes the first one. And a second warning: it’s long and I am sharing a gazillion pictures.
As I said, Justin’s mom instigated the trip, saying she wanted to celebrate her 70th birthday in Hawaii with her family. We spent 9 days on Kauai with Justin’s mom, Leanne, his sister, Jamie, and her wife, Rachel, and Justin’s other sister, Julie, and her husband, Russ, and 2 kids, Everett & Owen.
Now, some people might think a week with your extended family sounds like a claustrophobic nightmare versus a relaxing vacation, but I am lucky to actually like and enjoy my in-laws’ company. And I’m not just saying this because they read the blog … although, small detail, there was a fair bit of alcohol purchased from Costco for everyone’s sake and drinks at every meal … just sayin.
We rented 2 minivans and 2 condos in Poipu (the southern area of Kauai), which was walking distance to a local beach (but also had a pool) and restaurants. Jamie and Rachel have been to Hawaii something like 45 times (or 10), so we had experts to roll out the plans!
In the interest of organizing this post and pictures, I’ll stick to the top highlights.
Justin, Leanne & I took a helicopter tour with Ali’i Air Tours & Charters. It was a first for all of us. Some of us were nervous (cough, Justin, Leanne, cough), but no better place to do it than Kauai! To make things even sweeter, we opted to have the doors off (much to Leanne’s chagrin, but then she appreciated it). Being it was a 4-seater helicopter, every seat was a very large window seat!
There’s so much private and inaccessible land in Kauai, so unwrapping the island’s immensity from the vantage point from the air brings the whole geography to life. Kauai is nicknamed “Garden Island” for good reason with its Jurassic Park natural beauty. I especially loved the views of the “rainiest place on Earth” (it was indeed raining for that portion) and the Napali coast.
We attended the Smith’s Family Garden Luau, and it was so so so enjoyable. The delish food and roasting of the pig—or more specifically, unearthing of the Kalua pig from the imu oven—is only one small piece of it. The performances were unbelievably elaborate celebrating traditions, history and culture, including the infamous lyrical sway of the hula. I simply cannot believe how big of a production it was and that they’ve been doing this for 50 years across the generations (and actually, there have a newborn making it 5th generation). And yes, I tried the poi, but I’ll pass next time.
We took a sunset dinner cruise with Capt Andy’s. Though we were all convinced the boys would feel sea sick, it was I who turned as green as my jacket. While the sea-scented wind felt good at first, all of the sudden, it didn’t. Kind of interesting because Justin, Leanne and I took a sunset dinner cruise through PacWhale Eco-Adventures in Maui, and it felt more of a cruise. (Plus we saw whales! And a moonrise!)
Justin, Russ & I took Everett & Owen mini golfing! The young boys had a blast, but Russ & Justin had more of a blast when they went adult golfing alone.
Justin, Jamie, Rachel and I went on a kid-less adventure along the Wailua River. Jamie & Rachel brought their paddle boards from Denver, so Justin and I rented a tandem kayak through Wailua Kayak Adventures. It was 3 easy miles along the river, and really reminded me of paddling in New Zealand. We popped out of our boats, and hiked 1.5 miles to Secret Falls (not so secret, lots of crowds!). I’m not bashful to admit that Jamie and Rachel were brave enough to plunge under the frigid waterfall, while we took photos for proof from the sidelines! It was a really beautiful spot to enjoy lunch. Now, those 3 miles to paddle back … not so easy. There was a wicked headwind and I am really glad I was a tandem kayaker versus a single paddleboarder!
There was, of course, a lot of down time, AKA beach time. We spent much of the time on our beach in Poipu, but 2 days on the beach in Hanalei Bay (so pretty). Justin & I claim we are not beach people, but we sure did enjoy ourselves. It was really surreal to spend most of Thanksgiving day on the beach in Goldilocks temperatures (especially compared to the below 0 temps we left behind in Alaska)!!! Beach time included playing in the ocean with the boys and I went snorkeling with Rachel (Justin wouldn’t dare go). Plus, every night, the Hawaii Green Sea Turtles (honu) returned to the beach from their day out at sea to bask on the warm sand and sleep for the night. It was amazing to watch!
All in all, the multi-generational vacation was a complete success! We may not have had enough shave ice (or shaved ice as Justin wrongly calls it, and only four times for the record). But we gained plenty of happy memories … and had way too many leftover tamales (note to future self: no need to buy 24 tamales from Costco).