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KAUAI - THE GARDEN ISLE
Having been to the South Pacific and seen the incredible mountains of French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and Fiji, Kauai most resembles this true paradise with it's jutting green mountains. We think that Kauai is the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands because of this scenery.
From the moment you pick up your rental car at the airport in Lihue, the mountains are incredible.
We stayed at the beautiful Kauai Marriot Resort and Beach Club. The property is just super and it sits on a little inlet with a protected beach. This resort often shows up as one of the best beachfront properties in the Hawaiian Islands and we certainly enjoyed our stay. They've got some great restaurants on site including the highly recommended Duke's Canoe Club.
If there's one thing that is synonymous with Kauai it's the Moa. Also called the Red Junglefowl. You'll recognize it as a rooster!
You'll see these wild birds everywhere even on the finest resort grounds. And while some may find them irritating, I was intrigued with them from the get go. Number one, the roosters are beautiful birds with bright greens, oranges and blacks. Number two, these birds were introduced by the initial Polynesians who discovered the Hawaiian islands. So in my book, they're pretty special.
Again, even the roosters make you feel like you're on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia because they are loud. As the sun goes down it's "cock-a-doodle-doo." Same thing even before sun-up which is mother nature's alarm clock around here!
In addition to the big roosters there are hens pecking around all over the place, too. Even the big resorts tolerate these birds. I guess there's no real way to keep them out. They've been there for hundreds of years and aren't leaving any time soon!
There are many lovely beaches on Kauai although in the winter time the rollers can interfere with water clarity severely limiting snorkeling. The surfers appreciate the big waves, however!
One day trip that you should definitely consider is to Waimea Canyon in the center of the island. We were told that it resembled the Grand Canyon on the mainland but we were skeptical--until we saw it.
Driving up and along side the canyon is a twisting proposition. If somebody in your party gets car sick easily, I'd load 'em up on Dramamine prior to the trip to be safe. It's not a dangerous driving but it is tedious and demands close attention thanks to dozens of twists and curves.
Waimea Canyon is nothing short of spectacular! From one viewing point, you'd swear that you were, indeed, viewing the Grand Canyon. It's that big, deep and massive. At one overlook you're looking down into a canyon that probably dips 3,500 feet. And just like the Grand Canyon, you can see the river in the middle that has been carving up the mountains for century after century.
Along your trip around the canyon at the various stops, you'll no doubt run into Hawaii's official state bird, the Nene. It's the Hawaiian goose and you're encouraged not to feed them or get chummy with them although some are pretty tame now.
While Kona coffee rates as some of the best--and most expensive in the world--from the Big Island, Kauai has its own coffee plantation. You can drop by the visitor center for a tour and even better, get a close up look at how the coffee plants crow. Visitors are welcome at the Kauai Coffee Company.
SOME RESTAURANT REVIEWS & SUGGESTIONS ON KAUAI
JJ's Broiler in Lihue is a great little spot right on the water next to the Marriott resort. We sampled it for lunch and dinner and enjoyed it far better at lunch. The wait staff was fun and energetic and the food selections excellent. The Mahi Mahi fish and chips are great. And don't miss the onion rings. For dinner, the place was much more subdued. Almost quiet. And our server seemed like she was just going through the motions using as little energy as possible. We tried the "Slavonic Steak" which JJ's is famous for. All it is is finely sliced tenderloin in a garlic and wine sauce. Nothing special in our book and nothing that we'd order again. The two pound bucket of Manila clams as a starter was a home run hit! Our complete review is here.
Duke's Canoe Club in Lihue is an excellent choice. It's not only near the Marriott but in the Marriott although you would never realize that if you enter at the separate entrance. Great atmosphere at the downstairs barefoot bar and upstairs in the dining room. Very tropical atmosphere with lost of surf memorabilia since the place is named after the famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku. For starters, we sampled an order of sugarcane shrimp and some spring rolls. They were good but nothing special. For the main course, I ordered the special Opah dish that night. Opah is also known as the giant moonfish. It was encrusted in panko bread crumbs along with parmesan cheese and herbs and lightly sautéed to a golden brown. For Hawaii, it was a substantial piece of fish and done perfectly. In fact, I'd have to say in all my trips to the islands, this is one of the best pieces of fish I have sampled. My wife chose a Huli Huli chicken and rib combo. She didn't like the sauce on either. Cindy had to have the hula pie for dessert and it was a perfect "10." There was only one drawback to this place. Our waiter was one conceded son-of-a-gun. Very pleased with himself. But he was efficient and good at his job. Oh well! Our "official" review is here.
Roy's specializes in Asian fusion cuisine. You'll find them throughout the islands and now on the mainland, too. They match flavorful, exotic sounding sauces with the freshest fish available. But the fish remains the star of the show. The sauce compliments the fish and never overpowers it. Enjoy fresh tuna, salmon, Mahi Mahi and some prime steaks. Great cocktails and a very impressive wine list. Fantastic service always with a smile. Elegant yet not stuffy. And the molten chocolate soufflé is mandatory! One of the best chocolate desserts ever!!
House of Noodles was a surprise find in the small village of Kapaa. It's all about noodles here and primarily saimin noodles (egg noodles). We started with an appetizer of "monkey bags" for lunch. These are fried wontons stuffed with pork, a water chestnut and cream cheese. Before we could even bite into our second appetizer the main meal had arrived. Cindy ordered a "regular" and I had to outdo her by ordering the "extra special." Both were similar. Each came in a large bowl with a super rich broth loaded with noodles. Each had six shrimp to enjoy. Cindy's had a wonton noodle in addition to the saimin noodles and mine had six stuffed wontons filled with fish and curry. Each was delicious and almost too much to eat for lunch. They cost between 7 and 9 bucks each, great by Hawaiian standards. Kapaa is a small village. Just look for the House of Noodles. Can't miss it. They also serve a huge menu of "regular" items like burgers, fish and chips, fresh fish, etc. But the noodles are the thing to order here. Our "official" review is here.