A West Side Getaway

Sunday evening’s beautiful sunset (the unihabited island of Lehua can be faintly seen on the horizon).

Sometimes you just need to get away from regular life, to decompress and forget about all the everyday things that you have to do. Here on Kaua’i, we discovered that going just 35 miles away from home put us in a completely different environment, both climatically and culturally.

The weekend before last Brett and I took care of an item on our Kaua’i bucket list: a little holoholo to the island’s west side, to stay in one of the beach cottages at the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands (PMRF). The getaway was supposed to be part of YaYu’s graduation celebration, but since she’s now a working girl and couldn’t take time off, and because reservations are currently hard to come by (summer season), Brett and I decided to head out on our own rather than cancel.

Our cottage

The view from our lanai

The beach cottages are run by the Navy’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation department, and are available to all active duty and retired military members, some reservists and other classes of military veterans and civilians. We were surprised to learn when we checked in that we had been “upgraded” which meant we were assigned one of the oceanfront cottages versus one in the second row back. Our two-bedroom cottage was clean, spacious and very well-equipped, including a in-house washer and dryer – the only thing missing was a dishwasher. We had a good Internet connection (a surprise), and cable TV was also available. Our bed was comfortable, and there was air-conditioning in the bedroom which made sleep heavenly. Best of all was the amazing location – besides the view of the pristine Barking Sands’ beach and the 24/7 background sound of the surf, we could also see Niihau and Lehua islands.

Barking Sands beach, looking east. We walked out to the far point and back in the mornings

Saw loads of these on our beach walks – can you guess what it is*?

After the past few months of craziness, our time at Barking Sands felt like indulgent laziness – it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so relaxed. We woke when we were ready to get up, and took a long walk on the beach each morning. Brett went hiking in Waimea Canyon one day with friends who were visiting from the mainland but I stayed back and pitched our umbrella out on the beach and relaxed there for a few hours. We enjoyed our coffee in the morning and a glass of wine each evening out on the lanai while listening to the sound of the surf, and we headed out the beach at dusk each day to catch the sunsets.

Mango-lilikoi pie (and yes, we brought whipped cream with us!)

We brought all our own food along from home, and with the low daily price we had a very affordable little vacation. We made a couple of stops on the way down to pick up fresh pies from two of our favorite places: a mango-lilikoi pie from The Right Slice in Kalaheo, and a lilikoi chiffon pie from Aunty Lilikoi in Waimea, to bring home for YaYu. We had planned to stop at the original JoJo’s in Waimea for a shave ice on the way back, but were sad to discover they had closed.

On Sunday I had the beach all to myself. Sadly, Barking Sands is not a swimming beach – there’s a dangerous shore break and lots of rocks hidden just under the water.

Brett and I have decided that when we come back to Kaua’i to visit this is where we want to stay. Besides being affordable, it’s also sublimely quiet and peaceful, and the drive back to the south or east sides of island is not too bad. The west side is more relaxed, and there are fewer tourists. Neither of us was ready to leave when our time was up, and we wished we could have stayed a few more days. We’re happy though our our experience, and excited about the prospect of coming back some time in the future.

*This little guy and his (or maybe her?) friends were responsible for all the holes and sand hills on the beach. He’s about as big as my fist, and didn’t like having his picture taken!

#Kauai: Backcountry Adventure Tubing Tour

Our grandson coming down the waterfall – he loved the tour from start to finish!

The tubing tour here on Kaua’i was never all that high on my “must experience” list. I’d heard about it, but never thought about actually doing it until family came to visit this year and I was trying to find fun, local activities to do with my grandson. Floating in a giant inner tube through old irrigation channels looked like it might have just the right amount of excitement for a seven year-old.

I ended up having so much fun that I now can’t recommend the tour enough, and keep telling Brett and YaYu they should do it before we leave the island.

Lights on! Heading into one of the tunnels – there are five of them in all.

The tour takes place on what was the former Lihue Sugar Plantation, now privately owned by Steve Case who, like the owners of the Kipu Ranch, has agreed to keep the land undeveloped. The irrigation channels and tunnels were dug in the late 19th century by Chinese laborers to supply necessay water daily to the thirsty cane (over a million gallons a day). The tunnels were hand dug through rock with laborers digging from each side and meeting in the middle. They are still considered an engineering marvel for their size and length – some even curve in the middle. The first people to float the channels did it in a kayak, and flipped over while traversing one of the tunnels, losing their light and having no way to know how long the tunnel was. It gets very dark inside the tunnels so I can only imagine how unnerving that experience was.

Starting out everyone is bit crowded but the channels move everyone along at a different pace.

Participants on the tours are provided with a helmet, lamp and gloves at check-in, then driven over to the starting point, with a couple of stops along the way to check out some spectacular views that are otherwise hidden from the public, including Mt. Wai’ale’ale’s Blue Hole and its Weeping Wall of waterfalls. At the float starting point, after receiving a safety briefing and instructions, guests climb on to their tubes and once everyone has boarded the group is released to float. Helmet lights are needed for going through the tunnels, and the gloves prove their worth over and over when the tubes drift too close to the sides and riders have to push off from rocks or mud on the sides of the channels or tunnels.

Running the “rapids”

The current through the channel can move swiftly at times, but usually the pace is leisurely. The two biggest challenges are going over a three-foot “waterfall”  and keeping from getting wedged together with others’ tubes inside the tunnels. The entire ride though is fun and relaxing, and takes a little over an hour to complete (2.5 miles), with the entire tour from start to finish taking around three hours. The guides moved among us throughout the tour and even provided live ukulele music and Hawaiian songs as we floated along! At the end of the tour we were treated to  deli sandwiches, chips, and cookies and then driven back to the tour office.

Tubing tours can be booked through Kaua’i Backcountry Adventures. They offer several tours each day (which fill up fast, rain or shine); all are suitable for children aged five and above. Tour price is $110 per person; there is no price discount for children.

#Kauai: Bucket List Progress Report


The view of Kipu Kai beach, the last stop on the ATV tour, did not disappoint!

With just three months left to go before we set off on our Big Adventure, I figured this was a good time to check our Kaua’i bucket list and see how we’re doing.


  • Rent a beach cottage for a couple of nights at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, to enjoy the beach and experience the gorgeous sunsets. We have reservations for a two-night stay in early July. We have a two-bedroom cottage, so YaYu is going to bring a friend along.
  • Hike Waimea Canyon. Brett, YaYu and her friend will hike somewhere in the canyon while we’re staying at the PMRF cottages.

    Brett, YaYu and her friend will have several trails to choose from for a hike in Waimea Canyon.

  • Hike the Wai Koa Loop/Stone Dam trail. The trail and the dam were destroyed during the April flooding, and are currently still closed. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to do this or not, but I’ve heard rumors the trail may be open again later this summer, but I doubt it will be as beautiful as it once was. Even if I don’t get to go, I’m grateful that Brett and the girls had the opportunity.
  • Take an ATV tour out to Kipu Kai Ranch This was so much fun – Brett and I did it in April with our friend Denise, and it lived up to the hype.
  • Get up early and hike out to watch the sunrise from the Pineapple Dump. We’re going to do this after we move over to the condo in late July.
  • Take the tubing adventure tour. I did this with my grandson and daughter-in-law, and it was very fun and total worth going. I highly recommend!
  • Visit the Kaua’i Museum in Lihue. Another activity we plan to do after we’re staying at the condo.
  • Tour the Limahuli Gardens & Preserve. The garden, located on the north shore, was severely damaged during the April floods and remains closed. Actually, I don’t even think anyone can even get there any more because of damage to the roads.

    Flood damage at Limahuli Garden


  • Celebrate our anniversary this year at Duke’s Kaua’i. Brett and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner here: great food, a terrific view and a HUGE complementary slice of their famous Hula Pie!


    We were seated at the table on the left and enjoyed this same stunning view.

  • Have a lunch date at Brenneke’s Beach Broiler. Another nice outing earlier this spring, and we enjoyed our lunch.
  • Have dinner at The Eating House 1849. We are planning to take YaYu with us to eat here the night before we depart Kaua’i – we think it will be a great ending to our time on the island –  and at Bar Acuda in Hanalei. We’re currently undecided about this. Not that it isn’t good, but will we have the time and $$$?
  • Try breadfruit. Glad we got to do this with WenYu – she loved breadfruit! We all thought it was delicious. WenYu ate hers with butter and syrup.


  • Make an overnight visit to the Big Island to visit Volcanoes National Park. We have flight reservations over to the Big Island for late June, and a reservation at the Kilauea Military Camp, but the camp is closed indefinitely due to volcanic eruptions, and the whole trip could end up being cancelled depending on what’s going on with the volcano at the time of our trip. If we go but can’t visit the park, we’ll drive from Hilo up the east side of the island and around the top and down to Kailua-Kona for the night, making stops along the way, and then go back the same way the next day.

This doesn’t make me eager to visit the Big Island.

Out of fourteen items on our list, we’ve accomplished five of them, have reservations and/or dates for six, one has had to be cancelled because of the floods, one is an unknown, and we’re undecided about one. Not bad!

We Come Bearing Gifts

We’re bringing along Monkeypod Jam, Koloa Rum (and coasters), Kauai Kookies, and Anahola Granola as small thank you gifts for our Airbnb hosts on the first part of our trip.

Local businesses here on Kaua’i produce some very, very delicious edibles and beverages, some of them using only locally-sourced ingredients, and we’ve had the great privilege of enjoying most of them.

Among our favorite Kaua’i products are:

  • Monkeypod Jam: Produced in Lawai, on the south side of the island, owner Aletha Thomas uses locally grown fruits (and vegetables) to produce amazingly creative and delicious jams, curds, sauces and pickles.
  • Kauai Kookie: Baked in Hanapepe, Kauai Kookie offers a selection of different shortbreads and cookies, including Guava Shortbread, Macadamia Shortbread, and Cornflake Crunch.
  • Kauai Nut Roasters: This company offers several unique nut mixtures and flavors, including Hawaiian Snowballs, Monkey Nuts and Holy Cacao! (all their flavors and mixes are pretty amazing though).
  • Anahola Granola: Also produce in Hanapepe, Anahola Granola was started in 1986 by a single mom as a way to support her family. The company produces three types of granola as well as granola bars and trail mix.
  • Lappert’s Ice Cream: Yet another Hanapepe product, Lappert’s ice cream is famous for their local and Hawaiian flavors. They also sell their own (delicious) coffee.
  • Kauai Coffee: Grown on the south side of the island, they offer a variety of roasts and flavored coffees.
  • Koloa Rum Company: The award-winning rum (which comes in several flavors) is distilled on Kauai and made from locally grown sugar and other ingredients.
  • Ko Bakery: This bakery produces Hula Baby Biscotti, addictive little cookies featuring island flavors and containing mainly locally raised products. They also offer 19 decadent cake varieties and cheesecakes here on the island.

Each of our hosts on the first part of our journey will receive a small Hawaiian-themed gift bag containing a two-ounce jar of Monkeypod Jam (assorted flavors), a miniature bottle of Koloa Spiced Rum and two coasters (given to us by Koloa Rum), a box of Kauai Kookies (assorted flavors again), and a four-ounce bag of original Anahola Granola (the one in the picture is a 16-ounce bag – the small bags are only available online and we haven’t ordered them yet). The items were selected based on size, weight, and price. We would have liked to also give small bags of nuts from Kauai Nut Roasters, but at nearly $10 a bag now, and there was no way we could afford 10 of those. All the above items were affordably priced and we received kamaaina discounts, making them even more affordable. The other issue in choosing what to take was weight, but the total for all the above comes in at around seven and a half pounds, which will be divided between Brett’s and my suitcases, and dwindle as we pass the gifts along.

We’re going to pack a few jars of Monkeypod’s Lilikoi Curd (pure heaven in a jar in my opinion) into our storage shipment, and will probably take along a 16-ounce bag or two of Anahola Granola to eat as we travel. It’s the best granola I’ve ever eaten, and I love a little of it sprinkled over yogurt. YaYu will be taking a few boxes of Kauai Kookies along with her when she goes to Bryn Mawr to share with others in her dorm.

In the meantime we’re enjoying as many of the other local products as we can before we go as it may be a while before we get to have them again!

#Kaua’i: Talk Story Bookstore

Located somewhere near the middle of historic Hanapepe town, coming from either direction, is the westernmost bookstore in the United States: Talk Story Bookstore. Any time we’re in Hanapepe, Talk Story is a must-stop location.

The bookstore opened in November 2004.

Now in business for 13 years, Talk Story Bookstore is a book-lovers dream, an old-fashioned store with something for everyone, including the latest bestsellers and beach reads, cookbooks, travel guides, books for kids, and Hawaiiana among other offerings. The store also stocks over 3,000 used, out-of-print or rare books, and also carry vintage and Hawaiian vinyl records, vintage comics, vintage sheet music and songbooks, and ukulele and Hawaiian slack-key guitar lesson courses.

The old Yoshiura food and clothing store in Hanapepe

The Talk Story Bookstore is owned by Ed and Cynthia Justus. They came to Kaua’i on their honeymoon in 2002 and never left the island. One day they were offered the space in Hanapepe, the Yoshiura building, which had previously held a long-time food and clothing store. The offer came with one month of rent free to test a new business so they agreed to the deal and opened with their eBay inventory, which just happened to contain used books.

Half of the store’s Hawaiiana offerings – both fiction and non-fiction

The Justuses had never intended to open a bookstore, but made enough during the free month to either pay next month’s rent on the store or the house where they lived. They chose the store, and moved into their van while they built up their business. Thirteen years later Talk Story Bookstore is a Kaua’i institution, and a destination for visitors from all over the world.

Visitors are encouraged to browse – the selection is pretty amazing for such a small space

Located on the west side of the island, historic Hanapepe town is a must-stop if you are visiting Kaua’i, and Talk Story Bookstore a must-visit while you’re there. The store welcomes visitors, and invites them to come in and browse for a while. The store also accept old books with store credit given in return, and they will also ship books back to the mainland if there’s no room in your suitcase!

#Kaua’i: Kipu Ranch Ultimate Ranch ATV Tour

Looking out to Kipu Kai beach

Ever since I saw George Clooney look out over the Kipu Kai beach in the film The Descendants, and found out that the only way I could see it was by taking an ATV tour, the Kipu Ranch’s Ultimate Ranch Tour has been on my Kaua’i bucket list. The beach seen in the movie is part of a four-mile stretch of beaches on the south shore of the island. While the beach seen in the movie is public (there are no private beaches allowed by law in Hawai’i), overland access to it is privately owned by the Waterhouse family. Currently, the only way to reach the beach is by boat or kayak.

Denise, Brett and I have our helmets on and are ready to roll!

We rode with one of the guides, which allowed us to focus on all the beautiful scenery versus concentrating on the road . . .

. . . which became challenging pretty quickly into the tour

Besides the beaches, the Kipu Ranch contains an amazing variety of landscapes, from grazing land to mountains to beaches. The ranch runs several large herds of cattle, and the property is often used for movie locations, including the first four Jurassic Park films (the first one was being filmed when Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and The Descendants among others. The ATV tour takes visitors to see many of the film locations as well as other breathtaking sights that exist on the ranch. The ranch also hosts several zipline tours.

Grazing land runs right up against the mountains. Four of the five Jurassic Park films were filmed in this location, near the mountains.

Mt. Ha’upu (also known as the Hoary Head) is the most imposing feature of the ranch. The tour took us up the face of the mountain and over one of the cuts to get to the ocean side of the ranch.

The ranch land was originally owned by a member of Hawaiian royalty, Princess Ke’elikolani, granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. Land was the only thing of value that Hawaiian royalty owned, so when the princess wanted some money to live in Europe she first leased and then sold some of her land to William Rice, a rancher, with an agreement that it never be developed. Rice sold the ranch to Jack Waterhouse in 1948. Waterhouse was descended from early missionaries on Kaua’i, and was related to Rice through marriage. During his stewardship roads were built, irrigation was developed, and other improvements made, all while maintaining the original agreement that the land not be developed.

Yes, there was LOTS of red mud. We didn’t get too dirty, but some of the other drivers came back coated in the stuff.

Most of the other tour members in our group drove their own ATVs, but we arranged to ride with one of the guides, and were glad we did. The roads were not in the best repair, mainly due to all the recent rain we’ve had here, and we were glad we didn’t have to worry about navigating all the bumps, ruts, potholes and hills, and could instead focus on the scenery along the way. It was still a very bumpy, muddy ride though.

Looking back down over the ranch from the mountainside.

Our two tour guides were very knowledgable – both were born and raised on Kaua’i, and had worked for the ranch for many years – and they added to our enjoyment of the tour. We made several stops along the way where they described different parts of the ranch, spoke about the ranch’s history, and pointed out sights we might have missed otherwise. About halfway through the tour we stopped for water and some very tasty homemade banana bread.

The overlook view of Kipu Kai Beach, the highlight of a tour of highlights.

While everything we saw along the way was amazing, the highlight of the tour came at the end, where the sky cleared and we were rewarded with a stunning view of Kipu Kai beach. We learned that because the land is private most local residents never get to see the beach; the ATV tour is the only way to access the view.

Looking down at the city of Lihue from the highest point on the road, the last breathtaking view before finishing the tour.

Jack Waterhouse died in 1984, and deeded the ranch over to the state of Hawai’i. The heirs still control the property, and it will remain private until all the Waterhouse nieces and nephews are gone. There’s no way to know at this time what the state will do with the land, but many residents of the island are hopeful the land will remain undeveloped and use it for research. It’s an amazing place, and shows off the best of Kaua’i. Plus, the ATV tour is just a whole lot of fun!

SAD on Kaua’i

Brett and I tried to go for a walk on Tuesday, but it was raining and the wind was fierce enough that it snapped my umbrella so we gave up.

We’re going through yet another week of overcast, rainy, windy, cool weather here on the Garden Island. There have been some indications of spring lately, and the odd warm and sunny day, but mostly the gloomy weather continues. March roared in like a lion and pretty much left the same way, and I think there were only seven or eight days in the entire month when it didn’t rain. A couple of friends here also originally from Portland have said that at times it’s felt like we were there again and not on Kaua’i.

A typical March day this year.

Back when Brett and I were deciding where we wanted to retire, weather was the number one item on our list. After 22 years in Portland, we had grown more than a bit weary of the long gloomy winters (and falls and springs). We both loved Portland and our life there, but the weather kept us hibernating indoors almost all winter. I grew sluggish and always gained weight, and as the years went on felt more and more depressed through the long dreary winter season. Both Brett and I yearned for warm, sunny days year-round, and when we evaluated our choices Hawai’i came out on top.

For the most part Hawai’i has kept its promise, but these last few months have made us realize how much we have come to love and depend on the usual sunshine and warm temperatures. It’s been hard being stuck indoors more often than not, and having to forego planned outings because of the weather.

The less-than-good weather does have benefits at times though.

Many of you are probably thinking, “cry me a river, Laura.” No, it doesn’t snow here, or get below freezing, and we’re not bundled up in boots, gloves or coats, and we don’t have to heat the house. But weather and temperatures are all relative to location, and this has been the most depressing winter we’ve experienced since we arrived. I am feeling the beginning twinges of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) once again.

I keep reminding myself that rain is what keeps Kaua’i lush and green, and the farmers productive. The rain and cooler weather has meant that our lawn doesn’t need to be watered and our water bill has been less than usual. Same for our electric bills – the ceiling fans haven’t been running constantly. Maybe best of all (for me anyway), humidity levels have been low too.

Sunshine and blue skies will return, and all the gloom will be forgotten.

The sunshine will come back, the temperature will rise, and the humidity will return. In the meantime though I’m feeling a bit SAD.


#Kaua’i: Everyday Color

One of the joys of living on Kauai is that every day nature provides an abundance of colorful delights for the eye, in all the colors of the rainbow and then some:

Deep purple

Bluer and bluest

Lush green (everywhere)

 Juicy, sweet yellow

Fiery orange
Vibrant red

Cotton candy pink

Soft, warm brown

Weathered black

Fragrant white

And sometimes we can see almost all the colors at the same time!

Oh so lucky we live Kaua’i!


#Kaua’i: Malasada Love

Fresh malasada – what’s not to love?

Last Saturday morning, YaYu came home from her service project and handed Brett and I a bag: “I brought these for you.” Inside the bag were two still-warm and fluffy malasada, or as they are sometimes called, “Hawaiian doughnuts.”

I avoid most carbs and can say no to a doughnuts, but I will not say no to a malasada. First of all, they are delicious. Second, we don’t see them very often because they sell out very quickly here.

Traditional egg-shaped and sugar-coated malasada may look like a regular doughnut on the outside, but their appearance hides the deliciousness inside. They’re way more rich and flavorful than a regular doughnut. Yeast-raised and fried, malasada dough contains egg, usually one egg to every cup of flour, and they’re also made with either evaporated milk or cream.

Malasada came to Hawai’i with the Portuguese workers who were brought to work on the sugar plantations. The Portuguese were mostly hired from Madeira and the Azores, considered highly desirable because they were skilled from working on sugar plantations there. Like other plantation workers they brought recipes from their home country with them, including malasada.

A variety of fresh malasada from Leonard’s

The most famous place to buy malasada in Hawai’i is Leonard’s in Honolulu. Leonard’s claims to be the original malasada bakery in Hawai’i and they are well-worth a stop. While a traditional malasada is plain, they can also be filled with custard or coconut-flavored haupia, and Leonard’s carries a wide variety of filled malasada as well as plain. They make the doughnuts all day long so fresh ones are always available. That’s a good thing – allowed to cool for too long, a malasada becomes dense and more like a fat bomb than a doughnut.

Here on Kaua’i, malasada can be somewhat tricky to find. You have to know where to go and be willing to get up early to get them because they sell out quickly. Malasada are traditionally associated with Mardi Gras and the Lenten season, so a few more places around town recently had them available, although we abstained then. They are definitely worth searching out though if you are visiting, and nothing goes better with a hot cup of coffee!

#Kauai: Historic Christ Memorial Episcopalian Church in Kilauea

The front of the church with its traditional stained glass rose window.

Brett and I have driven by this small, beautiful stone church several times on trips up to Kilauea, or at least seen it off to the right as we get ready to turn left to head for home. The other day though, after a doctor’s appointment, we had some time on our hands and the weather was lovely, so Brett and I decided to turn right and see what we could find out about this old and historic church.

The cemetery on the south side of the church. The border around the grave indicates a family plot.

The south side and cemetery – several of the stones are over 100 years old. The building across the street is the church’s thrift shop.

The church and cemetery grounds to the rear, on the south side.

Episcopalian worship services were held beginning in 1888 in Kilauea under Bishop Willis who had been sent to Hawai’i by the Church of England. The idea for a permanent church came about in 1924, on the site of a frame church where the church had been meeting but that was owned by the Hawaiian Congregational Church. In 1939 the Kilauea Sugar Company deeded the churchyard to the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii and donated the native stone used to build the current church. The chief benefactor, however, was Mrs. Robert Shepard, of Griffin, Georgia, in memory of her husband. The church was consecrated in 1941.


The cemetery around the church dates back to the earliest days of the original Hawaiian Congregational Church, with several graves more than 100 years old. There are also many unmarked graves on the grounds, and the number of people buried here will stay a secret “known only to God.” Many of the gravestones include not only dates, but information about how the person died, and their position in the family. The most recent burial we could find was in 2013, in a family plot beside the church.

South side stained glass windows.

The Christ Memorial Episcopal Church is one of the most picturesque historical churches on Kaua’i and in the Hawaiian Islands. It is especially noted for its beautiful stained glass windows. The windows were originally made in England, but reworked in 1968 to insure a longer life.

North side stained glass windows.

The church is open to visitors from 2-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. There’s also a wonderful thrift store operated by the church across the street. The church is closed to visitors on Mondays and Sundays, although we stopped by on a Monday and there were people there who let us come in.  It truly was a beautiful place to stop for a while, and absorb a little history of the island.