Monday, July 9, 2007

9-July 07

Today we took in the island by sea. After another great buffet breakfast at the Sheraton's open-aired (and sparrow-filled) Shells restaurant (it's included with our room; they change it up each morning, and it's always a delight--we're getting hooked on morning miso soup!), we headed to the town of Waimea to check in for our Na Pali Coast Tour with Liko Kauai Cruises.

I'd worried about motion sickness in the kids--turns out it was wasted energy, as all three were more than fine (Sadie looks to be a natural in and around the water--after a nice doze on the boat, she was up and more animated and excited than I've seen her in a long time. At one point, she exclaimed, "I wish we never had to get off this boat!"). The narration was relaxed, informative, and entertaining (you felt like a much-loved guest on a friends' boat--it was nothing like an impersonal tour!), and the views were stunning (by law, no building can be taller than a coconut tree on Kauai, and it really does ensure that the natural beauty is up front and center where it belongs).

We passed by unspoiled sandy beaches (the Navy owns a good chunk of the west shore beaches), lush valleys, and countless waterfalls as we made our way to the Na Pali Coast. A pod of spinner dolphins played around our boat (the captain shut the engine off to savor the moment), and shortly after that we ran into a bunch of sea turtles and mother-and-baby monk seals (the narrator had seen the baby be born the week before!). We got a glimpse of the privately owned "Forbidden Island" of Ni'ihau, 18 miles off of Kauai, where about 250 traditional, land-loving, family-oriented residents speak only Hawaiian, live devoid of plumbing and electricity (I believe I was told they run a generator once a month), and are virtually, and intentionally, protected from outside, modern influences. Then we continued on for a fantastic look at the Na Pali Coast (na pali means "the cliffs"). We even tucked into a few sea caves, which was a thrill! (Mike and I are itching to sea kayak into those caves one day.) We went as far as Ke'e Beach ("The End of the Road," where we'd snorkeled just days ago) before turning back.

On the return ride, we stopped for snorkeling and a hearty lunch at Makola, which is a beautiful, glassy-watered area bursting with colorful fish (and just about where we'd seen the turtles on the way out, though none were in sight when we were in the water). Sawyer and Sadie both braved it off the boat to swim, and we had a terrific time snorkeling together. In addition to finding that American dollars are waterproof (Mike swam with his wallet in his pocket), we found whitebar and goldrim surgeonfishes, redlip parrotfishes, an orangespine unicornfish (way cool-looking!), and many others we don't readily recognize in Hoover's Hawaii's Fishes book.

After feeding the fishes some leftover bread, we motored back and enjoyed gigantic homemade chocolate chip cookies and watching the crew catch a big yellowfin tuna.

All day we were complimented on our kids' behavior, which really felt so good. I think everyone was astounded by how easy-going and smiley (and pudgy!) Scarlett is (I'm sure we scared them all when we boarded the boat with her), and they seemed to get a genuine kick out of chatty Sawyer and brave, sweet Sadie.

In fact, our little ones have made a splash everywhere we've gone here. All the Hawaiians comment on how beautiful they are, their skin tones, etc. They seem to really love Hapa children on Kauai!

On the way back to the hotel, we hit Jo-Jo's Anuenue (the original owner of Jo-Jo's on the main drag) for shave ice (I know this is sacrilege on the island, but I'm just not that into the stuff--while the texture is fluffy and it's nice over ice cream, the fruity flavorings are just too artificial for me--but Susie liked it so much she had a second round!) and then spent a little time at the dark-sand beach by Waimea Pier.

Tonight was the Sheraton's Surf to Sunset Luau. I'd wanted to do the Smith's Luau, as I'd heard it was the most "authentic" (as tourist luaus go, anyway), but with the drive and the later start-time and longer program, that would have made for a much more draining evening. And we weren't disappointed. The setting (it's the only beachside luau on Kauai) was perfect, the open bar was free-flowing all evening, the buffet was beautiful and exceptionally tasty (Sawyer went back for fifths! The poi I could have done without--I was the only one brave enough to try it--and the poki had such potential, but was far too spicy), and the show was a bit over-glitzed (and with a pretty hokey MC) but plenty enjoyable and entertaining all the same. (Mike met wood carver Leo and purchased a tiki that Leo kindly personalized for him.) Even with a spot of tropical rain, the luau was a festive and fun way to cap our day.

The Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters: 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and 7 consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w). We're mixing up street and town names constantly!

Signs of the day:

(We've seen a bunch of wahine/kane bathroom signs on Kauai but somehow haven't managed to photograph any of these are respectfully stolen from the weird and wonderful world wide web.)

(One showing of one movie five days a week--hardly seems worth the rent!)


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