The Hawai’i 2018 trip kicked off on Wednesday, October 10. The shuttle left College Station at 4:00 am for Houston. We left Houston at 10:00, non-stop to Honolulu. Arrived at 1:30 and caught a 3:00 flight to Lihue, arriving at 4:00. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott at Coconut Beach in Kapa’a. Kapa’a is a quaint town on the east side of Kaua’i. We had never been to Kapa’a. On previous trips we’d stayed in Princeville, or Koloa, or Lihue. Our purpose on this trip was to take part in Ni’ihau Day at the Kaua’i Museum. More about that in another post.
Kaua’i and Ni’ihau are the oldest of the inhabited islands. Ni’ihau is wholly owned by the Robinson family and cannot be visited without permission, which is never given to casual visitors. Kaua’i is home to gorgeous beaches, rugged mountain trails and the wettest place on earth, Mount Waialele.
Kaua’i has seen its share of natural disasters, In 1992, it was struck full on by hurricane Iniki, which occurred during the filming of Jurassic Park. The aftermath of the hurricane can still be seen in the number of wild chickens around the island. When the hurricane struck, it liberated the island’s chickens from their coops and no one was able to round them all up afterwards. As a result, wild chickens are everywere on Kaua’i. At the supermarket, you might just find a wild chicken sitting in your grocery cart. They have become symbols of the island. Of course, Iniki liberated some chickens on the other islands as well, but not nearly to the extent on Kaua’i. This Spring, Kaua’i was struck by torrential rains in April, which caused serious flooding and property damage to Kaua’i, especially in the Hanalei area. The remnants of hurricane Lane in August added more damage. Over twenty landslides closed Highway 560 between Hanalei and Haena. The highway is still undergoing repair and we could not get to Lumahai Beach as we hoped.
Food, or, as they say in the islands, grindz.
First stop after picking up a car in Lihue, was Foodland for some Hawaiian-style ahi poke, some seaweed salad, and some gin and tonic. Dinner. Nothing beats poke. It’s cubes of raw ahi tuna mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, sliced onions and chopped green onions. The recipe varies. Some people add rice vinegar, furitake, maybe some chili paste, garlic, or sriracha. It can also be made with yellow fin tuna, swordfish, or cooked octopus (tako) or cooked salmon. My favorites are the ahi and the tako.
Breakfast each day on Kaua’i was bagel, coffee and yoghurt, which we ate at the beach.
One evening we went to the Hukulau Lanai to hear a musician and had candied ahi. I can’t tell you what was in it, but it was one more form of poke. Another night we had dinner at Smith’s Luau on the Wailua River. The food was usual luau fare: Kailua pork, Lomi Lomi salmon, lau lau and poi. I’ll do another post on the luau. Suffice to say Smith’s is one of the best luaus.
We found an out of this world saimin place near our hotel. Saimin, if you’ve never had it, is one of the best grindz in Hawai’i. It is a noodle soup with influences from Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Hawaiian. The restaurant is called Saimin Dojo. I had the garlic shmoke saimin with pork belly, soft egg, veggies, rice noodles and broth (above bottom left.) Mary Fran had the chicken katsu (a fried chicken cutlet) with curry sauce(bottom right.)
Another must have grind is plate lunch. We wanted to get to Smiley’s in Lihue, but we were too late. They were closing. The server directed us to Kalena Fish Market about two blocks away. If we hadn’t been given directions and if it hadn’t been recommended, we would have passed it up. It is a small shop in an old building surrounded by warehouses and light industry. It’s a place that those who work nearby know, but few others know. The decor is functional, the menu limited. Cash only. A lot of guys from the shops came in while we were there. The food was good. Basic plate lunch style. Three protein choices and four sides. All tasty and filling. We shared a plate of kalbi ribs, shoyu chicken, meat jun (thinly sliced beef fried in an egg batter.
Learn about it here). It came with rice, kimchi, eggplant and some mixed vegetables.
One other unique food item on Kaua’i is Puka Dog. A puka dog is a hollowed out Hawaiian bun, which is toasted on a special rack that toasts the inside. Then a sweet relish (pineapple, lilikoi, and others) is poured in followed by a polish sausage and topped with a variety of mustards. We had it at the stand in Poipu. I thought it was an interesting concept, but not spectacular. I would not go out of my way for it.
The Tiki Bar is open
The drink for this weekend is Mai Tai. The basic Mai Tai, as created by Vic Bergeron (Trader Vic) consists of orgeat syrup, orange curaçao, light rum, dark rum, the juice of one lime, garnished with mint and the lime husks. Mai Tai means “out of this world” in Tahitian. When preparing it, you mix the syrup, curaçao, and light rum together with ice and float the dark rum on top. It should be a two-tone drink with a light golden color on the bottom and a dark brown color on top. Some variations use a mix of fruit juices such as orange, lilikoi, pineapple, or sour mix as the base.
There are two kinds of Mai Tai drinkers—those who stir the Mai Tai and those who don’t. I prefer to not stir. I alternate sips of the dark rum with sips through a straw of the light mixture. However, i recommend that you watch how the bartender prepares it. If it is a cheap Mai Tai, the bartender might simply float dark rum on top of fruit juices with no light rum or curaçao. In that case, stir.
We had a lot of Mai Tais. Our hotel served $3.50 Mai Tais everyday from 11 to 3 pm. The best Mai Tai on his trip was not on Kaua’i, but at the Halekulani Hotel bar, the House Without A Key in Honolulu. It was made the Trader Vic way and came with gorgeous sunset, a trio of musicians performing under a century-old kiawe tree, and Miss Hawai’i 2015 performing hula. Out of this world!