My Kauai 2011

The Kauai Experience:

The last time I set foot in Kauai was almost two years ago and fond memories of the tropical setting, hiking trails and temperate weather were calling me. With a strong desire to leave the wet, chilly Bay Area weather behind (and they call this Spring?) I couldn’t say “Aloha” – or book my plane ticket – fast enough.

As the plane touched down my visions of sunny, humid weather quickly gave way to thunderstorms and rain showers for a few days. Yes, I said it. A few days.  And I wondered what I’d do besides look at chickens roaming freely (from a hurricane a long time ago) and hearing thunder roll (which is much more interesting in a movie than in a too-small Harley Davidson themed hotel room). Someone, somewhere had a sense of humor. It just wasn’t me.

All funny stuff aside, it really did pour. And just when I started to think the trip to Costco would be a shining moment the sun came out to christen the tropical wonderland of Kauai.

With the weather finally on our side we took advantage of the beach plus sampled food from both ends of the price – and formality – spectrum. I’ve listed not only the eateries but also the places we stayed in case you are planning your own Kauai vacation.


Hotel Coral Reef
On the Beach
4-1516 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, Hawaii 96746

This is a family run business and it’s pretty low key. Want to rent a movie? You simply select from a stack and take it back to your room. Just don’t expect any Netflix-like selection – or late fees – because the cost is a very acceptable:  free.

Rooms are clean and most have a nice ocean view. The pool? It’s ok but if you stay here the real allure is that you can hang on the beach nearby. Unless, of course, it’s pouring.

Overall, the Hotel Coral Reef is close to the beach, close to some good eating places and generally well-priced. And yes, this is where we encountered the Harley Davidson themed room!

Hotel Coral Reef

Ko’a Kea
At Poipu Beach
2251 Poipu Road
Koloa Hawaii 96756

Ko’a Kea, simply put, is all about making the people who stay feel welcomed and wanted. The staff is lovely as is the hotel itself with a bar poolside and a pretty great restaurant to round things out. In fact, don’t even think about skipping a breakfast of eggs benedict with the pancetta hash. It’s sinful but amazingly delicious (and calorie free I am told!)

At almost twice the price of the Coral Reef, you might gasp. But factor super comfy rooms, a pool spanning the center of the hotel property and a good swimming and snorkeling beach right in front and the value starts to add up.

As a friend put it: “If you’re going to splurge, this is the place to do it” and she’s right. Given the chance I’d do it all over again and next time order two servings of eggs benedict!


Mermaids Café
1384 Kuhio Highway
Old Kapaa Town

This is a take out place where they serve fresh fish regularly caught by the Mermaids crew. In addition to the locally caught fish, the crew helps out at the nearby vegetable garden where much of the produce is produced.

We enjoyed a tuna wrap with wasabi cream and a fresh lemonade. Prices super reasonable and food is fresh. A nice start to the trip!

Pono Market
4-1300 Kuhio Highway
Kapaa, HI

Also located in Old Kapaa Town, this place is easy to miss but do look for it because they have good sandwiches and lunch plates for a quick and easy bite. I personally like the tuna poke (raw tuna with soy and other delectable additions) served at the deli counter. Delish!

Kauai Pasta
4-939 Kuhio Highway #B
Kapaa Hawaii 9674

We enjoyed a pretty simple but very tasty dinner of pasta marinara and salad. Like the other places listed, this was not a wallet buster but beware: the large portions are best split between two people (we learned our lesson!)

Puka Dogs
Poipu Shopping Village
2650 Kiahuna Plantation Dr.

Recommended by a friend and located near the Koa Kea. Their specialty?  Grilled hot dogs in homemade buns with your choice of salsa (pineapple, mango etc.) and condiments on the side. My take? Good, but a hot dog, chips and fresh squeezed lemonade (while tasty) landed somewhere around $19.50.

The gelato place next door though (can’t remember the name) is another story. YUM. I ordered the Salt Pond (flavor?) which doesn’t really conjure up the right image but had a curiously addictive salty sweet taste I couldn’t – and didn’t – resist.

Waimea Brewing Company
9400 Kaumualii Hwy
Waimea, HI 96796

Probably had the best tuna poke we tried on the island!  A big plus: the sun came out long enough for us to sit back after hiking the Waimea Canyon and enjoy the setting. Really loved this place.

Pomodoro Italian Ristorante
2-2514 Kaumualii Highway
Kalaheo, HI 96741
(808) 332-5945 ‎

Met the owner who moved from Manhattan by way of New Jersey. Her husband is from Italy and cooks up the homemade pastas and sauces which made me swoon. The dinner rolls are homemade (yum) and the waiter gave me a great tip: take olive oil and balsamic – half and half – then add freshly grated parmesan to make a dip for the rolls. Something I must try at home!

The Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant
5-5016 Kuhio Highway

We drove up to Princeville and stopped for a quick bite. Loved the drinks and the onion rings (wow – wasn’t that a random comment!)

Must Do:

Helicopter ride over the island. We went through Jack Harter to secure seats in a 4-person open air helicopter for roughly $500 (two people). If you want a good view of the island and a photo session, this is not to be missed!

A view from above

Back to Reality:

I’ve been back at work for a few days and my tan is fading almost as fast as the supposed “vacation glow”. But if I close my eyes and listen carefully I can almost hear the waves crashing and feel the peacefulness which comes from a nothing-to-do state of mind and drink in hand. Mahalo!

This is the life!
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I’m a tech marketer by day and a wannabe cook once my laptop powers down. These days, the line between quitting time and play is pretty thin. It's why I like a little discovery in the kitchen— creativity in prep and ingredients—to take the edge off the mundane and make food and feasts fun. Because let’s face it, if it’s not fun, then somewhere, somehow, you’re doing it wrong.

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