On this first trip home, we were headed to Seattle first before San Diego for the wedding of some good friends. When looking at flights, I realized that the most direct route took us through Honolulu and decided to add a few days to our trip and spend some time in Hawaii. It ended up being a great choice since it allowed us to take an overnight flight from Sydney rather than a day flight, gave us a few days to get over jet lag, and we had a wonderful time.
We left Sydney on Saturday night and arrived in Honolulu on Saturday morning after an easy 9 hour flight (anything less than the 15 hours to Sydney will now always be considered easy in our books – its amazing how your perspective changes so quickly). Theo slept about 5-6 hours of the flight so we only had to entertain him for a couple of hours when he woke up and then we were there!
We spent the first night at the Hilton Waikiki Village in Honolulu to break up our travel. We swam in the hotel pool, took a long nap in the cool, dark hotel room (which happened to have a perfect alcove in the bathroom for Theo’s pack’n’play), and then enjoyed garlic shrimp and pina coladas while watching the sunset over Waikiki Beach and strolling along the waterfront.
We slept in the next morning and then headed back to the airport for the quick jump to Kauai, where we would spend the next four days. It ended up being the perfect stopover. Here are some of our highlights from the trip:
Wailua and Opaekka Falls
These waterfalls are both just a short distance from the airport in Lihue and were well worth the stop on our drive from the airport to Kauai’s north shore. Winding up into the valley towards Wailua Falls immediately transported us into the real Hawaii with lush forests and farmlands. At Opaekka Falls, we walked up the pathway from the parking area and crossed the road for amazing views of the Wailua River and valley.
Beachfront Guesthouse in Hanalei
We chose Kauai in part because it is my favorite island, and Matt had never been there so I wanted him to experience it, and in part because our good family friends own a beachfront home in Hanalei. They generously let us stay in their two bedroom guesthouse on their property which they typically use as a vacation rental and it was the perfect setup. The guesthouse has a large screened in lanai where we could relax while Theo napped and is surrounded by a large lawn for him to play. They had all of the beach gear and toys we could have ever needed and since we were right on the beach we could go back and forth between the house and beach all day with little effort. And it was fun to spend time with our good friends and catch up!
Sunset Sail on Hanalei
Within minutes of arriving our friend Smoky whisked Matt and I off on his homemade catamaran (which he has crafted to be part sailing, part fishing and part cruising vessel) while our other friend Kim stayed with Theo to play on the beach. After almost 48 hours of travel it was just what we needed to get us into vacation mode. And the views looking back toward Hanalei Bay and the many waterfalls that cascade down the mountains behind the town were spectacular.
Lazy Beach Time
Theo has finally reach an age where playing at the beach is actually fun. He no longer eats the sand, usually, and enjoys playing with sand toys so it is easy to occupy him. We spent the majority of our time in Hanalei posted up under an umbrella in front of the house with an array of beach toys. Matt and Theo spent a lot of time wrestling in the sand so I even got to relax and spend some time reading, which as most know, reading on the beach is easily one of my top three favorite activities.
Indulging in Hawaiian Food
The town of Hanalei is very quaint and charming and has some great authentic food options. The Dolphin is the most famous restaurant in town, but for a cheaper and more child-friendly option we chose to pick up takeout from the seafood market located at the back of the restaurant. On our first visit to the market we sampled the sesame ahi poke and a spicy tuna roll. The food was so good we went back a second time and got the Ono salad, which was incredible. We also made two trips to the Wishing Well shave ice truck for the Tropical Bliss, which consisted of a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream topped with coconut and lilikoi shave ice, chunks of papaya and coconut shavings. Matt, who usually doesn’t like syrupy shave ice, actually requested our second visit agreeing that the homemade organic syrups they make are the best he’s ever tasted.
Drive to the End of the Road
We kept our exploring pretty mellow this trip since our ultimate goal was to relax and gear up for the whirlwind of weddings and visiting family that we were about to embark on, but we did spend one afternoon driving from Hanalei to Ke’e at the end of the road where the Napali Coast begins. Our first stop was just outside of town at the Waipa farmers market. We loaded up on avocados, mangos and papayas and then continued just a few more kilometers to Lumaha’i Beach.
We parked alongside the road and climbed down the lush pathway that opens up onto a beautiful little cove at the east end of the beach. The west end of the beach is much more expansive and exposed and subject to a heavy shore break. The cove at the east end is encircled in rocks creating a small, protected swimming area. However, the swell frequently breaks through the rocks and crashes through the cove, which is exciting for experienced swimmers, but very dangerous for those less so.
After a quick swim we continued down the road with stops at Ha’ena Beach Park (there are dry caves across the street that we skipped since we wanted to make it back to Hanalei in time for sunset, but would be worth checking out in the future) and Ke’e Beach. Matt spent some time checking out the map of the Napali Coast and we both agree that when Theo is older the overnight hike is on our bucket list.
We didn’t expect to spend any time surfing, but our second day in Hanalei the first swell of the season came in. The first evening, when the waves were still small, I paddled out and caught a couple waves. Matt joined me for that first sunset session and then made it out twice the next day for the bigger waves. We were just at the inner beach break at Hanalei, but the outer reef was breaking at 10-15 feet.
Hanalei River Sunset Cruise
Our last evening, our friends took us back out on the hybrid catamaran for a sunset cruise up Hanalei River. The river is popular with kayakers, outriggers and SUPers during the day, but we had the river all to ourselves and it was like being transported back in time. The river winds through lush forest and taro fields and was so peaceful. And it was Theo’s first official boat ride (not counting a 15 minute kayak last year in Baja).
We had a wonderful last dinner with Kim and Smoky the night before leaving and went to bed thinking we had just had our most successful vacation yet. We were relaxed, well-rested, and had finally gotten a much needed dose of water and sunshine. And then, at midnight, Theo woke up crying and fussy. We tried hanging out a bit and having a snack, then putting him back in bed. But every time he went back to sleep he’d wake up within five minutes. After about two hours he started touching his ear and complaining “ear hurt”. I gave him some tylenol, but an hour later he was still complaining and getting even fussier. We needed to be at the airport at 7AM for our flight and the airport was an hour drive away. We ended up packing up all our stuff and leaving at about 4AM so that we could stop by the ER on our way to the airport. The doctors there confirmed that Theo had an ear infection and loaded us up with meds and ear drops. We ended up making our flight fine and luckily Theo was so tired he slept most of the trip without any complaints about his ear. However, all the rest we had stored up over the past few days was totally wiped away by our sleepless night. So, on we flew to Seattle, exhausted and with a very cranky, sick child.