Our Hometown Getaway

The makai (ocean) side of the Coral Reef Inn (yes, the storm clouds were gathering). Our room was on the second floor, second from the right.

Brett and I have driven by the Hotel Coral Reef in Kapaa more times than I can count; it’s just down the highway from where we turn off to go up to our house and we pass it every week on our way to the farmers’ market. Although it’s somewhat unassuming from the mauka (mountain/highway) side, we’ve strolled past it on beach path walks, and been intrigued by the building and the beautiful landscaping. So, when we wanted to take an overnight getaway to celebrate our 38th anniversary (March), and both our birthdays (April &May), we thought of the Hotel Coral Reef.

Our room at the Hotel Coral Reef – the room and furnishings were lovely. The strip around the top of the room is actually a soft light that for some reason shows bright orange in the photo.

We did look at other resorts on the island for our getaway, but most were w-a-y over what we wanted to pay for a one-night stay. Rooms in Poipu in the south or Princeville on the north side ranged from $300 to over $600 for one night. They all had superb amenities and ambience, but the splurge just wasn’t worth it to us.

The view from our balcony looking south.

The lagoon pool and waterfall – it was too stormy and windy during our stay to use the pool, but it was looking inviting by the time we had to check out.

The Hotel Coral Reef has been called one of Kauai’s hidden gems, and has received awards from TripAdvisor as one of the best places to stay on Kaua’i. It’s regularly given 4.5 stars by TripAdvisor readers, as well as on Expedia, Hotel.com and other travel sites. This year it received a “Best Kaua’i Hotel” award from Honolulu Magazine. The hotel has had an interesting history: It was first opening by the Matsumura family (date unknown) on the same land that housed the first fire station in Kapaa. In 1962 the sixteen-room masonry building was constructed, and it’s survived two major hurricanes. The Matsumura family sold the hotel in 1985 to new owners, and in 2001 it was sold again to Pixar Development. Pixar undertook extensive renovations, including the lush landscaping around the hotel and the lagoon pool and waterfall. The hotel got new owners about a year and half ago, and more renovations are planned in the near future including a third story addition to the masonry building which will include two suites and a plantation-style roof, and updates for all guest rooms.

The view while we had our coffee and breakfast on the balcony in the morning.

Brett and I booked a deluxe oceanfront room for our getaway, and the views did not disappoint. My only complaint about the room was the mattress was too soft for me, but otherwise every amenity you could think of was provided, including a free continental breakfast, free bikes to ride around town or on the beach path, a large movie selection, and books. You can also get an oceanside massage during your stay at the hotel, although it’s provided by an outside contractor so not free.

Our dinner at Sam’s Ocean View was yummy.

The view was complimentary with dinner.

It was a short walk from the hotel to our dinner spot, Sam’s Ocean View restaurant. We had decided ahead of time to keep both expenses and calories down by ordering two small plates (crispy tempura-battered cauliflower and roasted brussels sprouts with sun-dried tomatoes and panchetta), and the grilled cheese sandwich board (brie with apple and fig jam on local sourdough). Everything was so delicious! Brett had thought he might have dessert, but we were both too full before we finished, and ended up bringing the leftovers back to our room (and then home the next day for lunch).

You can sort of see it in the picture, but the wind was quite strong and getting stronger while we took our after-dinner walk.

After dinner we took a 30-minute walk south on the beach path, down to Baby Beach and back to the hotel. It had been overcast when we arrived, but as we set out on our walk more clouds were really rolling in and the wind picking up. It was rather gloomy, but we made it to the beach and back to our room before the storm began. Both Brett and I stayed up to listen to the ocean’s roar, and hear the wind whip through the palm trees – very exciting!

The sun trying to break through the clouds at sunrise . . .

About 10 minutes after “official” sunrise it was getting a little brighter.

Forty-five minutes after sunrise there was plenty of blue sky, although the wind was still quite strong.

One thing we wanted to do while we were there was wake up early on Sunday morning to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the previous night’s storm hadn’t disappeared completely, and there were still too many clouds on the horizon to enjoy anything spectacular from our balcony. We did sit outside to enjoy our morning coffee and continental breakfast, and eventually the clouds broke up and the sun and blue sky appeared again. We had wanted to go for a bike ride on the beach path before we checked out, but the wind was still too strong and we had to skip it.

We had the sun at our back, and had hoped to take a morning bike ride, but the wind was just too fierce.

YaYu asked us a couple of weeks ago why we had decided to stay so close to home for our getaway. “Because someone else is still going to make the bed, and cook the dinner and wash the dishes, that’s why.” And because it was affordable – for less than the cost of the lowest-priced room elsewhere we had a wonderful getaway and celebration, right in our own hometown!

Hotel Coral Reef: 4-1516 Kuhio Highway, Kapa’a, Kaua’i, Hawaii, 96746; 1-808-822 4481 or 1-800-843-4659; reservations@hotelcoralreefresort.com

Sam’s Ocean View: 4-1546 Kuhio HWY, Kapaa, HI – 96746 1-808-882-7887

#Kauai: Hanapepe Old Town

Hanapepe Old Town

Hanapepe Old Town

After being cooped up in our house for a few days because of rain (and a sick daughter), visiting Hanapepe Old Town was a fun way for Brett and I to get out and spend an afternoon last week. We hadn’t been to Hanapepe in a while, and had heard there was a new restaurant we should check out, as well as some new shops.

The historic town of Hanapepe is home to art galleries, gift shops and boutiques, Kauai’s only bookstore, a few restaurants and a wonderful bakery. There was plenty to see and do on this short little stretch of road that forms a gentle curve off the Kaumualii Highway on the south side of the island. The best way to see the town is to park your car as soon as you arrive and walk, which is exactly what Brett and I did.

There’s lots of history in Hanapepe. While many of Kauai’s towns were built and owned by the sugar plantations, Hanapepe was created by entrepreneurial immigrants who had either retired from the plantations or could not adapt to the plantations’ strict working conditions. Most of the stores and shops on the street today are in renovated and refurbished buildings that have been around since the 1920s and 1930s. Many have plaques that tell when the building was erected, and what the original business was. For example, the Talk Story bookstore once was the home of the Yoshiura Store, which carried food and clothing, and carried often hard-to-find goods from Japan. We discovered other buildings that held a grocery store, a hardware store, and a bakery (a whole pie from the bakery was just 10¢ back in the 1930s!).

These days, every Friday evening Hanapepe hosts an Art Night, with sixteen galleries open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to meet and chat with the artists, and can enjoy local food and live music. There were several galleries open the day Brett and I visited, with a wide variety of genres for sale including oil paintings, photography, sculpture and even painted and lacquered surfboards.

One interesting piece of trivia about Hanapepe town is that it was the inspiration for Kokaua town, the fictional village in Disney’s animated film, Lilo & Stitch.

No visit to Hanapepe Old Town is complete without a walk across its swinging bridge. The bridge was originally built in the early 1900s as a way for people to get across the Hanapepe Stream to get into town. It was restored following Hurricane Iniki in 1992, and still rocks and sways as you walk over it. There is an art gallery on the far side of the stream once you cross the bridge, but the area is primarily residential and visitors are asked not to go any further than the gallery.

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Outside of the historic old town, Hanapepe is also home to Lapperts Ice Cream, Anahola Granola, the Kauai Kookie Company, and Salty Wahine – all have retail outlets out on the main highway, or at the end of the old road, before you enter back on to the highway. The Salt Pond Beach Park is also in Hanapepe, offering a protected swim pond and views of Niihau (the “forbidden island” – it’s entirely owned by the Robinson family, and visitors are not allowed).

#Kauai: Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kilauea Lighthouse

About two miles, six or seven minutes, off Kuhio Highway (56) at Kilauea lies Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse, as well as sea birds and marine life. When Laura and I arrived at around 11:00 a.m. on Valentine’s Day we were greeted by the sign below and two people directing traffic suggesting we come back in the afternoon because there was no parking (you cannot enter the refuge on foot). However, after about a five minute wait, several cars came out and we were able to enter the Refuge.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge sign


While we waited, we wandered over to the fence and watched nesting red-footed boobies, soaring Laysan Albatross, some lolling sea turtles, and even a couple of humpback whales. However, neither of us have the sort of camera that allows us to capture credible shots of turtles and whales—all we get are brownish gray spots. The only good photos from the fence were of pounding surf the and the red-footed booby community (those white spots in the brush) above the cliffs.

Pounding Surf, Cliffs, Red-footed Boobies, Nests

Red-footed booby nests on the cliffs

One of the first and most important signs before you even enter the refuge is this one: Do Not Feed Wildlife! No, the wildlife here won’t rip off the top of your car to get at your stuff, but if you are inclined to toss them a treat, you shouldn’t.

Do NOT Feed Wildlife, Mahalo

First and most important sign within the refuge

We  first visited the refuge while vacationing here in 2012, but since moving to Hawaii Laura and I seem to have found a thousand reasons (excuses) not to go beyond Kong Lung Market in Kilauea, which is only a mile-and-a-half from Kilauea Point. However, since our first visit the lighthouse has undergone renovations, and reopened with the name of late Senator Daniel K. Inouye appended to its name. Shortly before moving to Hawai’i, we had purchased a lifetime Access Pass for U.S. National Parks and Recreation Lands which turned out to be valid for our admission to the refuge (otherwise $5 each), and since the Valentine’s Day weather was positively gorgeous, off we went.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Following restoration, the lighthouse’s lens still can cast a beam but does not rotate because the bearing that allowed rotation consisted of an open trough containing 260 gallons of mercury. Nevertheless, the 8,000-pound fresnel lens is impressive.

Among the endangered species, the nēnē (Hawaiian goose, and state bird) was the first to greet us on the lawn in front of the lighthouse. The number of nēnē was once down to 40 throughout the Hawaiian Islands and within the refuge, but the numbers now grow every year. This cunning nēnē totally ignored all the visitors and continued grubbing for insects and shoots throughout our entire visit.

Nēnē, Hawaiian Goose, grazing

Nēnē, the Hawaiian goose

There is an island, Moku‘ae‘ae (‘fine small island’), just off the end of Kilauea Point that supports its own colony of sea birds, which you can see dotting the rim in the photo below. To a certain extent, this rocky outcrop protects the point itself from the punishing waves. Although we witnessed it twice, we weren’t fortunate enough to capture a video of the islet’s impressive water spout. It’s well worth the wait for a look and listen of the spout.

Small Island North of the Point

Small island off of Kilauea Point

Looking to the west (your right as you exit), you get a splendid view of Kauai’s entire North Shore, from Secret Beach to Makana (‘the gift’), aka ‘Bali Hai,’ and Ke‘e Beach.

Kauai's North Shore

Kauai’s north shore

Before returning to our car, we stopped into the gift shop to refresh my wardrobe because my 2012 lighthouse shirt is no more – I wore it out. Just like that archival moment when a child gets their first driver’s license, my new Kilauea Point Lighthouse shirt is preserved for posterity.

New Winter T-Shirt-Kilauea Lighthouse

New winter shirt–Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Kapaa Farmers’ Market: How Much Did We Spend?

It was cool and drizzly yesterday, so crowds were larger than usual. If the weather's good there are fewer tourists.

It was cool and drizzly yesterday, so market crowds were larger than usual. If the weather’s good there are fewer tourists – they head to the beach!

Every Wednesday afternoon Brett and I get ourselves down to the Kapaa Farmers’ Market, located in the parking lot near the New Town Park. The market begins at 3:00 sharp with the blowing of a whistle (with no buying or selling allowed before the whistle), but we always like to be there a little bit early so we can scope out what’s available and how much it we can afford. We always go with a list, but are open to buying other things if we see something we like and can eat in the coming week, and if the price is right.

The last few weeks at the market have been frankly amazing. We’ve been going to the market for over three years now, and I can’t remember seeing such an abundance of fruits and vegetables, all of them freshly picked that morning. There really is something for everyone.

Here is just a fraction of what was available yesterday:

Giant heads of broccoli

Giant heads of broccoli

Even bigger heads of cauliflower

Even bigger heads of cauliflower

Ripe papayas

Ripe papayas

Beautiful breadfruit (ulu) - so many tasty ways to prepare this

Beautiful breadfruit (ulu) – so many tasty ways to prepare this

Giant beets

Giant beets

Local honey

An assortment of local honey

Sweet, tasty jackfruit - these babies are bigger than soccer balls

Sweet, tasty jackfruit – these babies are bigger than basketballs

Hawaiian ginger bouquets

Hawaiian ginger bouquets

Our favorite produce stall is Dang’s Anahola Fresh Farm – we head there first every week, and buy most of our produce from them because of their great selection and prices. Although many farmers sell to restaurants and stores on the island, this family makes a good living selling at just three island markets during the week. Otherwise, they’re working on their farm.

Hanging Dang's sign before the market starts - the Dangs are from Thailand.

Hanging their farm sign before the market starts. The Dangs are from Thailand.

Some of Dang's beautiful produce, including lettuces, zucchini blossoms, fresh mint and daikon radishes.

Some of Dang’s beautiful produce, including lettuces, zucchini blossoms, peppers, beans, fresh mint and daikon radishes.

Finally, here’s what we bought yesterday. Can you guess how much we paid for all of this beautiful produce?

Our fruit purchases

Our fruit purchases

  • 1o navel oranges
  • 3 tangelos
  • 2 papaya
  • 1 bunch of bananas (7)
Our vegetable purchases

Our vegetable purchases

  • 1 giant head of broccoli
  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • bag of ripe, medium tomatoes (9)
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 large bunch bok choy
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 small jar honey with comb as a treat for Brett

Prices will be revealed on Sunday!

#Kauai: Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand

Banana Joe's is located on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway, just north of the Kilauea turnoff

Banana Joe’s is located on the mauka (mountain) side of the Kuhio highway, just north of the Kilauea turnoff.

My all-time favorite Kaua’i treat, without hesitation, is a banana frostie from Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand, located in Kilauea, on the north shore of the island. The frostie is made by pushing frozen, local bananas through a Champion juicer, and the result is a cool, creamy ice-cream like treat that’s pure fruit and deliciousness. Every bite tastes like Hawai’i. Pineapple frosties are also available, or you can get a combo of both pineapple and banana. Frosties made from summer fruits such as mango are available in season. Frosties come in one size, and are $4.50 each.

Banana frostie - yum!

Banana frostie – yum!

Banana Joe's offers a wide selection of Kaua'i-produced treats as well as local produce and drink.

Inside the Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand.

Besides the frosties, the stand also offers smoothies made from local fruit, and sells a variety of locally made products and drinks as well as a wide assortment of local fruit and produce. If you’re visiting the island it’s a great spot to pick up some local products to take back home.

Banana Joe himself!

Banana Joe!

The best part for me of visiting Banana Joe’s, besides the frosties, is that I get an opportunity to chat with the owner, Joe Halasey. He’s a genuinely warm,friendly guy, and we share a love of Japan, so always have plenty to talk about and catch up on.

The Chocolate Shack, located next to Banana Joe's and in front of the entrance to the Chocolate Farm Tours.

The Chocolate Shack, located next to Banana Joe’s and in front of the entrance to the Chocolate Farm Tours.

A new feature that’s popped up since our last visit is the Chocolate Shack, located right next to Banana Joe’s! We’ve known for a while about the Chocolate Farm Tours that are offered, but now you can purchase chocolate bars made from Kaua’i grown cacao, drinking chocolate and other chocolate treats right at the source. The three-hour tours are offered several times a week, and include an all-you-can-eat chocolate tasting experience at the end of the tour! WenYu and I already have plans to (finally) take one of the tours this coming summer.

Kaua'i Mini Golf and Botanical Garden is a popular attraction on the island, for both visitors and locals alike.

Kaua’i Mini Golf and Botanical Garden is a popular attraction on the island, for both visitors and locals alike.

The Banana Joe’s Fruit Stand is also located right next to the Anaina Hou Community Park, which contains the Kauai Mini Golf and Botanical Gardens, a popular Kauai attraction, along with many other things to see and do. Located in the Park is also the head of the Wai Koa Loop Trail.

Whether you live on Kaua’i, or are just visiting, you owe yourself a stop at Banana Joe’s! It’s a purely Kaua’i experience.

#Kaua’i: Winter Hike

Hiking in winter is occasionally just like summer, but more often than not it’s wetter and muddier all across the Garden Island. Because Sleeping Giant (Nounou) is nearby and has three trails, I most often hike there (although it appears that I rarely blog about it). The eastside trail, from the Wailua House Lots, is the steepest, but undulating along the west slope from the southside is the Kuamo‘o (‘backbone’)-Nounou (‘throwing’) trail, the longest trek of the three. My favorite approach however is from the west trailhead, principally because it is usually the driest.

At the end of Lokelani (‘red rose’) Road, there is a cash only/honor fruit stand at the west trailhead, just in case you didn’t pack enough of the right kind of snacks, or you just happen to see something you’ve been craving. The winter selection is slim, but even when fruit is plentiful, don’t be surprised if all you find is a half a dozen limes.

Fruit Stand

Fruit Stand

Off Kamalu Road, the west trailhead follows a grassy lane which yields abruptly to a lattice of Eucalyptus roots crisscrossing the trail as it gets steeper. One other prominent feature of winter hikes is vog (volcanic smog), which blows in from the Big Island, and sometimes blankets Kaua’i for a week or more.  If you often have difficulty breathing, either do not hike on vog days, or plan to take plenty of breaks.

Then, just beyond the quarter-mile marker, the lattice transitions to strawberry guava.

Crisscrossed root of Eucalyptus trees in red dirt lane.

WenYu hikes up through the eucalyptus lattice . . .

Strawberry Guava Lattice

. . . and through the strawberry guava lattice













A little beyond the strawberry guava lattice is a fork in the trail. Be nice instead of taking the shortcut to the left, and help prevent erosion by veering right, up to the four-way intersection with the Kuamo‘o-Nounou Trail. Straight ahead, it’s two miles to Kuamo‘o Road, often through muck and mire, and mosquitoes, and the broad pathway to the right ends about 2oo yards down mountain at the western edge of the Nounou Forest Reserve. The latter course is an interesting diversion that offers a magnificent view up the continuation of the west trail through a tall grove of Cook Pines.



Shards of Light

Shards of light













Fortunately, the upper trail was dry, but not too dry. When it’s too dry, you can easily lose your footing because a fine dust settles over the clay and can be like walking on marbles, invisible marbles. Luck was with us on this hike, as evidenced by this four-leaf clover near the three-quarter mile marker.

Four-Leaf Clover at Center

A four-leaf clover can be seen almost directly in the center

Lichens form on the bark of both living and fallen trees, and are more noticeable in winter when much of the greenery surrounding them is missing. Because lichens fatten up by storing water in winter, they are a treasured food source for many of the fowl and field mice with whom you share the trail.

Lichen on a fallen branch

Lichen on a fallen branch

So after hiking through this and that, around a few bends, and doubling on many switchbacks, you will pass by the intersection with the Wailua House Lots trail on your left, and about three switchbacks later you will arrive at a picnic shelter. Just east of the picnic shelter is a narrow bench or love seat with a scenic view through a break in the trees. Sit a spell, have lunch if you brought it, or just talk story with other hikers who happen by every few minutes.

Still Dry beyond the One Mile Marker

Still dry beyond the 0ne-mile marker – WenYu stops to catch her breath

Lookout at the Picnic Shelter

Lookout at the picnic shelter – vog blocks the view













Thus ends the state sanctioned hike. That is, the trail is only maintained up to a point about 25 yards beyond the picnic shelter. While the views are stunning, hiking past the “End of Trail” sign, which someone has recently twisted 90 degrees away from hikers, is strictly at your own risk.

View Just Before End of Trail

View just before end of trail

NOTICE: End of Trail

NOTICE: End of Trail!













Up ahead the trail runs a few yards along a narrow spine, scarcely wide enough for two people to pass, then continues ever steeper over a widening course to an 8-10 foot near vertical climb to the path along the summit. Going left at this juncture leads either to a hollowed out cave or up onto the “face” of the Sleeping Giant. Use extreme caution if there is any wind at all over the top because a light breeze becomes a shearing wind up there and there is no path, only rough stones, some of them loose, and a 500-foot drop to the east.

I visited the cave on this hike simply because I was tired. Nonetheless, a trip to the cave is always refreshing both for its shade and the venturi effect. NOTE: Field mice also enjoy the cave, although there were none up there the day of our hike.


West portal of the “Giant’s Eye”

View from the East Lanai

V0g-less view of Kapa‘a from the east lanai













From the junction above the little rock climb, the trail continues south up to the true summit at 1,280 feet above sea level ~ give or take. There you’ll find a concrete slab that served as the base of an abandoned warning beacon for the disused grass landing strip up the Wailua Valley (which is behind me in this photo).

Warning Beacon at True Summit

Warning Beacon at True Summit

 Your return trip to the trailhead may take nearly as long as the climb, not only because of variable terrain, but because you may find some of the views you missed as captivating as anything you saw on the way up. My personal favorite of the day was seeing Wai‘ale‘ale, like a floating dragon between the vog and clouds to the west.

Wai'ale'ale Amidst the Vog

Wai‘ale‘ale amidst the vog

#Kaua’i: The Tip Top Cafe

The outside of the Tip Top gives no clue to the good food that's waiting inside

The outside of the Tip Top gives no clue to the good food that’s waiting inside

There is “local” in Hawai’i and then there is local, those places where residents like to hang out and you rarely see tourists. The Tip Top Cafe, located in Lihue, is nothing if not local. And, it’s our new favorite breakfast spot on the island.

They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2016

They celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2016

We’d heard about the Tip Top, off and on, from different sources, but nothing that really made us want to go. One day a couple of months ago though I heard about it again and finally told Brett that we should probably check it out.

The Tip Top is located a block off the main highway in Lihue, next to the small (and I’m assuming very inexpensive) Tip Top Motel. If you didn’t know to go look for it, you would never see it, and we actually drove by it before we figured out that’s where we wanted to be.

The dining room has a very 60s vibe. It's always crowded.

The dining room has a very 60s vibe. It’s always crowded.

Step inside and it feels like you’ve been whisked right back to the 1960s. After passing through the lobby/bakery/shop, there’s a large room filled with lots of booths. Waitresses wearing colorful hospital scrubs move through the dining room pushing carts carrying coffee and water, cups, glassware, cutlery, and napkins on top and either food to be delivered or dirty dishes (never at the same time) on the bottom shelves.

The Tip Top's awsome, plate-sized banana pancakes

The Tip Top’s awesome, plate-sized banana-macademia nut pancakes

Service at the Tip Top is brisk and very friendly, and both the breakfast and lunch menus are filled with both traditional items as well as Hawaiian favorites like loco moco, saimin, and fried noodles. The portions are generous. Their banana pancakes are legendary, and their oxtail soup is locally famous. Everything we’ve ever had there has been delicious, including the coffee, and it’s all very affordable. Depending on the time of day you go, you may have to wait in line to be seated, but we’ve also been when there was a sign up for us seat ourselves (even though the place looked packed).

The Tip Top's oxtail soup is legendary. It comes in three sizes - this is a small!

The Tip Top is famous for their oxtail soup. It comes in three sizes – this is a small, and WenYu almost couldn’t finish it!

The Tip Top celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, and after dining there a few times we get why it’s been a favorite with locals all these years. We’ve also been there for lunch, and again the food was terrific and affordable.

The girls were happy to find fried rice and fried noodles on the menu - both were delicious.

The girls were happy to find fried rice and fried noodles on the menu – both were delicious.

The Tip Top is probably not even considered by many tourists to the island because it isn’t marketed to tourists – it’s definitely a local place. Still, while it may be off the beaten path, the Tip Top is well worth taking the time to find. You’ll be greeted warmly and have some terrific food at an affordable price, no matter whether you live here or are just visiting.

The Tip Top Cafe is located at 3173 Akahi Street, Lihue. It’s open daily from 6:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

#Kaua’i: Winter Is Different Here

Kapaa Lookout

Greening Up

Although it does not snow on Kauai, there is a marked seasonal change that occurs sometime after Halloween, and may linger past St Patrick’s Day. The grass is often greener, the surf a bit rough and choppy all day long, and the sky a deep gray as it appears a little closer to the beach before it engulfs the mountains.

Rough Surf

Rough Surf

We frequently carry sweatshirts or sweaters when we go out in late afternoon because the trade winds gust up as the sun goes down. Really, it takes no time at all to acclimate to the warmer summer weather, and begin shivering as the mercury dips below 70 degrees Farenheit (21 degrees Celsius) on wintry evenings and early mornings.

Heavy Clouds; Windswept Waves

Heavy Clouds and Windswept Waves

Throughout the non-hurricane season, we make fewer trips to the beach, and umbrellas are more frequently seen at cocktail bars. And, occasionally it rains like it’s never going to let up. Great masses of saturated soil slump and creep, and big things fall down the mountains with a rumble or roar. On the other hand, this is the best time of year for watching migratory marine life from the shore.

Whale & Porpoise Watching

Whale & Porpoise Watching

A few weeks into this season, flash flood watches and warnings are issued by the National Weather Service for days on end. Roads are temporarily flooded and closed, and tragedy strikes more often in rivers and streams due to the heavily silted and rapidly rising water.

Gloomy Sunset

Distant Heavy Rains

Winter is different here, but it’s still paradise, still home.

Kukii Point

This past weekend, Mrs. Occasional Nomad asked what I intended to do while YaYu was studying with her Mandarin tutor, and I told her I thought I might explore another little beach near Lihue. However, on my way to the Ninini beaches (there are two), I was distracted by the sight of a little lighthouse. By following the “Shoreline Access” signs from the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort I arrived at Kukii Point, across from the breakwater at Nawiliwili Harbor.

Little Light at Kukii Point

Little Lighthouse at Kukii Point

Parking was available at the end of Kalapaki (double-yoked egg) Circle, and I walked from there around the loop surrounding a huge ficus to get to the somewhat steep pathway and stairway down to the 16th hole of Kaua‘i Lagoon’s Kiele (Gardenia) Golf Course.


Loop at Kalapaki Circle


Steep Pathway

At the turnaround for golf carts, there was a short rubber-clad stairway that ended only a little closer to the shoreline.

Golf Cart Landing at the top of the Stairway

Golf Cart Landing at the top of the Stairway

A blue warning sign was waiting at the bottom of the stairway, where the path simply disappeared into bushes and guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus), also called buffalo grass or elephant grass. If, like I was, you’re wearing shorts, you won’t want to go this way because this tall grass bears fine, whisker-like stickers the first few feet above ground, and the upper blades are just that: blades. I walked around the berm between the bunker and green to my left and found a more inviting, though steep, descent.

Warning Sign

Warning Sign

Once I was down to the harsh pumice field (where my hide would have remained in perpetuity if I fell—probably should have recommended running/hiking shoes earlier) I could see three channels scouring away the point to the left of the lighthouse.

pumice field

Pumice Field

Both the two narrow channels and the broad channel up the middle of the pumice field afforded spectacular demonstrations of the hazardous surf at work here.

Surf in the Narrow Channel

Foamy surf in the near Narrow Channel

Rip-rap dumped at the head of the broad channel created interesting random click-clack sounds like the colliding balls on a pool table at the break.

Surf in the Broad Channel

Surf in the Broad Channel

Intense wave action on the other side of the point often makes for some decent surfing at Kalapaki Beach, but at the same time the surf rips into the jagged stone that supports the foundation for the lighthouse.

Shoreline below the Lighthouse

Shoreline below the Lighthouse

I could spend hours—weeks, months, years perhaps—exploring and sharing photographs of these rocks, and the wave action, but know that may not delight everyone. If you enjoy geomorphology as much as I do though, I invite you to come on over to my island sometime and watch the shoreline tumble into the Pacific.

Shadows on Kukii Point

Shadows on Kukii Point

After watching rocks and surf for a while, it was time to proceed back up the stairway, pick up YaYu, and head for home.

Looking back up the Stairway

Looking back up the Stairway

#Kaua’i: Duane’s Ono Char-Burger

Lucky day: Only one customer in front of us at the Ono Char!

Lucky day for us: Only one customer in front of us at the Ono Char!

This small hamburger shack, located in Anahola on the eastside of Kaua’i, has been an institution for both locals and tourists alike for more than a quarter of a century. Locals stop by all day to get their fix, and pretty much anyone who visits Kaua’i makes a stop here as well. The ‘Ono Char’ is the first place Meiling has to go whenever she comes home to Kaua’i, and it was our first Kaua’i dining experience on the island on our visit in 2012. Everyone who either lives on Kaua’i or has visited is always more than happy to tell you about their favorite Ono burger or make a recommendation.

The Ono Char menu

The Ono Char menu – my favorite is the teriyaki burger. It’s the most popular item on their menu.

An "Old Fashioned," with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and fresh sprouts. All burgers are served cut in half, with each half individually wrapped

An “Old Fashioned,” with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and fresh sprouts. All burgers are served cut in half, with each half individually wrapped

Duane’s Ono Char-Burger opened in 1975 (Ono means ‘delicious’ in Hawaiian), and has been run by family ever since. They serve fourteen different types of burgers, as well as other items, like sandwiches, fish and chips or chicken strips. Burgers start at $5.15 and go as high as $8.00 for one of ‘Duane’s Specials,’ and bacon can be added to any burger for $1.50. Their milkshakes are delicious (marionberry is reputed to be the best), but I love the ‘Aloha Special,’ a smoothie made with fresh papaya, mango, banana and pineapple juice. I tried the fish and chips (their fries are amazing!) on our last visit and they were very tasty – and hot! Several locals had also recommended I try the teriyaki mayonnaise with my fries – so good!

Fish & chips - very tasty!

Fish & chips – very tasty! The fries at Ono Char are outstanding

An "Aloha Special"

An “Aloha Special”

Making a good burger takes time, and appearances aside the Ono Char is not a fast food joint. Each order is cooked individually, in order. That means that you have to wait for the orders ahead of you to be done before they’ll even start on yours, so be prepared to wait. I’ve heard of people having to wait 30 minutes, but we’ve personally never had to wait that long – 10 minutes is about our average. If you don’t want to wait, or have a large order, you can call ahead and they will have it ready to go for you. The wait is worth it in my opinion though because when you finally get your burgers they are hot, and the lettuce, onions and tomatoes are still fresh and crispy. The beef patties used in the burgers are locally prepared, and seasoned with a special blend of Hawaiian salt made just for Ono Char.

Shaded, outdoor seating

Shaded outdoor seating

All seating is outdoors, in a nice shaded area. Besides other diners you will most likely share the space with a few chickens and roosters who hope you will accidentally drop something for them. Just like the Ono Char, the chickens are a Kaua’i institution and aren’t going anywhere, so we just deal with them.

Duane’s Ono Char-Burger is located in Anahola, right next to the Anahola post office and a small Whaler’s grocery store. Heading north on the Kuhio highway from Kapaa it will be on the right (makai) side of the highway. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily except for Sunday, when it opens at 11:00.