I’m just back from my first trip to Hawaii.
Along with our camping buddies David and Pam, and Pam’s mom, Joan; Ed and I spent the first 10 days of our Hawaiian holiday in a vacation rental by owner (VRBO) property called the Mango Plantation, located in the Moloa’a Valley on Kauai’s North Shore (just south of Kilauea).
(I will write separately about the Mango Shack and Cottage experience, as it deserves a post of its own.)
Traveling throughout the stunningly beautiful island of Kauai we discovered distinctly different climatic and surf zones from north to south.
With nearly daily rainfall, the north is a verdant oasis with jagged-peaked green mountains, whereas the drier windward west and south sides were consistently warm and sunny.
As a bunch of water babies, we found that the beaches in the north frequently had up to 6 foot surf and dangerous undertows; while surf on the southern shores never rose above 2 feet during our stay, i.e. always safe for swimming.
Our primary beach was at Moloa’a Bay, where we soaked up the sun, swam and boogy boarded when possible; and read, painted or hiked when the surf was too high for safety.
The east end of the beach has a trail that leads up to the Larsens Beach overlook where you can watch sea turtles at play in the ocean below.
We saw a whale breech from that beach on our first day there.
On a couple of occassions, we tripped into Kapa’a, where we lunched at the Olympus, shopped for groceries at Foodland (great Ahi Poke and the best cake ever) and saw a firetruck equipped with a surf board.
We all ate copiously, especially from the fruit trees which included oranges, pomelos, bananas and avocados. Unfortunately, the mangoes were not in season.
Ed and I drove up to Ha Ena State Park where we saw a Monk seal asleep on the beach, protected from human harrassers with warning signs.
We also stopped at the Tunnels.
While on the plantation, Dave celebrated his birthday with bananas and tequila, Ed serenaded us with the ukelele (badly) and Pam gave Joan and I spa treatments (right).
When it was dark or rainy, we stayed inside and played games, did a jigsaw and watched videos from a selection of bad Hawaiian-themed movies and TV shows (i.e. Blue Hawaii, Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum P.I.). The boys also did some repairs around the Plantation and I made friends with Mango, the resident cat.
We also tossed rocks and coconuts at the local roosters, which are an endemic pest throughout Kauai — where crowing begins between 2 and 3AM. Stupid though they are with regards to civilized sleep patterns, they’re not so stupid as to become standing targets.
After saying goodbye to Pam, David and Joan, and before heading off to the Big Island on our own, Ed and I spent an evening at the lovely Marriott in Lihue.
That was a good choice, because despite its beautiful location, the permanently under-construction, ill-kept, service-lacking Naniloa Resort in Hilo definitely deserves its 2-star rating.
Fortunately, there were 2 better hotels right next door, so we had access to food and entertainment. We did breakfasts at the Hilo Hawaiian and enjoyed an evening listening to a local entertainer sing and play the ukelele at Uncle Billy’s. Other food highlights were Cronie’s and the Cafe 100, were I enjoyed a Beef Teri Loco… YUM!
The banyan trees were also amazing.
In our rented Mustang convertible, we spent a full day touring Volcano National Park, and visited at all the hot spots including the steam vents and Jagger Point where we found offerings to Pele.
We did the hike down into Kilauea Iki, the lava tube (2) and out towards the cinder cones. Later we drove down to the Sea Arch and the end of the road — literally.
The next day we did a helicopter tour with Paradise (doors off) and looked right down into the crater, saw the sole remaining house of 150 in the subdivision that remains standing (and requires a tough 3-mile hike over lava fields to access) and witnessed lava flowing through the skylights. Bob, our pilot was excellent, giving us much more than just a volcano tour, but local geo-political information as well.
After Hilo we spent 3 nights at the Fairmont Orchid located on the Kohala Coast about 30 miles north of Kona. We tripped into Kona just once to do the Atlantis submarine tour, where we saw fish and a couple of boat wrecks.
Mostly we just stayed at the the Orchid which is a beautiful, comfortable and quiet resort with a fantastic snorkelling beach, whale watching and incredible sunsets.
The Spa amenities are superb, and 3 days later and I’m still enjoying the benefits of Floyd’s deep tissue massage.
The only downside would be the ridiculously expensive dining options, but we overcame that with trips to Foodland Farms, where a 6-pack can be had for $8.99.
Foodland is located just 3 minutes away by car at an outdoor mall, where there are also restaurants, galleries and clothing stores at the mall. I’d recommend the newly-opened Moderna, a noodles / sushi joint where Brian, the bartender, gave Ed a free mohito while we waited for our food order at the bar.
The last week was definitely great but we did miss our friends, particularly tequila-totin’, ukele-playin’ David (see left).
Rob McFaul says
Sounds like a great trip. I was wondering if you had fallen off the planet cause I saw no posts and had posted on your other blog.
Bet you are glad to be back.
Are you going to the Olympics?
Rosalind Gardner says
My apologies for ‘falling off the planet’, Rob, although if you read my latest post “No Blogging from the Beach for Me“, which kind of negates the apology, I’m sure you’ll understand. 🙂
No real-time Olympics for me… just a brewskie to watch the opening ceremonies in an hour. 🙂
Aloha, Mrs. Rosalind Gardner, I’m glad to hear you, your husband and friend’s had a fantastic time in Hawaii. I was born and raised there on the Island of O’ahu, then moved to Kaua’i, I love that Island, very laid back and always a nice place to just relax. I can’t wait to go back and visit my family and friend’s again. Also love your articles too!! 🙂
Joan Miller says
Enjoyed your trip report! VRBO and HomeAway are a couple of our fav owner rental places. We only live once so good on you for taking an extended break. We are off on a camping trip to NZ for 4 weeks mid March.
Gene B says
Thanks for the boost for the Big Island. I live on the Hilo side, and we need all the help we can get over here. Sorry to hear about your experience at the Naniloa, but some of the hotels have had to cut there staff due to the the downturn in the visitor business.
I’ve lived in the Hawaiian Islands for 20 years, and I love the culture more and more every year.
a hui hou
Rob McFaul says
No need to apologize. I loved your post and completely understand.
I was also having a brewskie last night at a friends house.
But was it a Newkie brown?
BTW, I took your advice and started a blog related to beer and the like.
I wrote a post about our fun at the bar if you want to check it out it is here.
Sounds like you had a fantastic trip :O)
I have always wanted to go to Hawaii – especially to the island of Kauai, heard so many nice thing about this place.
Well, welcome back to the real world again Ros :O)
All the best
It seems nice vacation and nice pictures as well.
Did you ever get around to writing a post about the MAngo Shack?! My fiance and I are considering staying there for our honeymoon. Any thoughts?? It looks like you had a great time!