Kauai 2008, trip #1 in Hanalei Print

This year was a major birthday for Sue and she doesn’t like birthdays very well—in fact, she doesn’t like them at all. For my significant birthday, we had gone to Mélisse with Jennifer and Duane for an incredible dinner that surpassed, in cost, even the amazing dinner we enjoyed at Le Bernardin a few years ago. I suggested to Sue that we could do that for her birthday, but she isn’t as into food as I am.

One day she said that she wanted to go to Kauai for a week for her birthday. I pointed out that we already had firm plans to go to Kauai for two weeks in the summer with Jennifer and Duane, and Christopher and Brooklyn. She said right, and she wanted to go to Kauai for a week for her birthday.

So, we went to Kauai for a week for her birthday.


We have always stayed in a house on Baby Beach in the Poipu area but decided to be different this time—we stayed at the Hanalei Colony Resort. It’s almost five miles past Hanalei on the north shore, very secluded and quiet, on Kepuhi Beach in Haena overlooking Hanalei Bay back toward Princeville—just 2 ½ miles from the end of the road at Ke’e Beach.


We first noticed it when we drove out to Ke’e Beach in 2004 with Jennifer and Duane, and it received excellent marks from The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. They have a 7th night free program, so we booked a premium ocean front unit for seven nights and planned to do very little but relax and enjoy the surroundings.

We loaded lots of books into our luggage, Sue packed her needlepoint and I packed my camera gear, and off we went. After picking up our car we drove from the airport in Lihue to the Foodland store in Princeville to get some breakfast provisions and arrived at Hanalei Colony Resort by 7:00 p.m. We had made reservations for an 8:30 dinner at the restaurant on property, Mediterranean Gourmet, and were able to get in early.

Restaurants have come and gone at the resort because it’s so remote. (Besides being almost five miles past Hanalei, there are five single lane bridges to cross in that span.) Mediterranean Gourmet had been there almost two years and was receiving good reviews and while I didn’t think much of their mai tais, the food was quite good. I had fresh fish all three times we ate there, with lemon/caper butter sauce and, except for the fact that the fish was overcooked the first time, it was very good. Sue had a steak one time and appetizers for dinner the other two times and enjoyed everything. It was nice to have a good restaurant on property, given how remote the property is.

For the record, we loved the Hanalei Colony Resort. The buildings are architecturally uninteresting outside, but inside, each unit is two bedrooms with 1 ¼ baths, very nicely laid out, efficient, comfortable, pleasing to stay in—and with a view to die for:


Yes, that is the view from our unit--I just walked out onto the deck to take that photo. 

We have this on our list of favored places to stay so if you’re looking for a place that’s out of the way, quiet, peaceful and gorgeous, you might want to look into this one.

The only other advance dinner reservation I made was for Sue’s birthday at La Cascata in the Princeville Hotel. This is an excellent upscale restaurant that prepares food very well and has a stunning view across Hanalei Bay looking back toward Haena. They make good mai tais, too.

We had one other pre-arranged activity—the 3-hour walking/riding tour of Na 'Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, which is a beautiful 240-acre complex created by Ed and Joyce Doty. Mrs. Doty is the ex-wife of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and she and Mr. Doty were able to create an amazing dream for themselves, and now the public, that includes tropical gardens, sculpture galore, hardwood forests, a secluded beach and streams, all in pristine condition. We enjoyed this tour, which took us through all the gardens that the Dotys created with excellent commentary by Luane and Roger, a husband-and-wife volunteer team. The gift shop had some very nice things available, including walking sticks hand-carved by Ed Doty from hardwood grown on site. (Yes, I bought one to add to my collection, a nice stick with a shaft of strawberry guava and a head carved from Moreton Bay chestnut.)  Click this thumbnail to see a few photos of the flora, fauna and sculpture there.

After our tour, we drove to Anahola to try the burgers at Duane’s Ono Char, which gets good reviews in The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook and on Chowhound; it’s something of a local legend.


Sue had a teriyaki burger and I had Duane’s Special burger, we tried the fries and onion rings, and I had a marionberry shake. The burgers were good but we didn’t think they were as good as Bubba’s (the beef tastes better at Bubba’s), and the atmosphere and eating facilities at Bubba’s are decidedly better. I must say, though, that the marionberry shake was awesome.

By the way, we didn’t care for the onion rings at either Duane’s or Bubba’s. They’re both the frozen type that have way too much breading on them, so we’ll stick with the fries from now on.

We went to Banana Joe’s on the way back to Haena to buy more papayas (fabulous produce there) and have a Frosty—pure pineapple that’s forced through a Champion Juicer and comes out looking and feeling like a frozen smoothie. No sugar, no nothing but pure pineapple.

We spent much of the time just relaxing in our unit. The view was gorgeous and it felt good to decompress for long periods of time. I went out one morning to see what photographic opportunities there might be, since the sun was out here and there, and had fun shooting the taro fields in Hanalei and the Kilauea Point Lighthouse.



On my way out of the Kilauea Point area, I stopped in Kong Lung Center and went to the Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza. They have great baked goods there and the light pumpkin scones that morning were really good.

Having affirmed that my new walking stick wouldn’t fit in my suitcase, we drove down to Kukui Grove to visit the UPS Store and sent it home. Having driven all that way (about 30 miles) we continued on to Poipu to see how things looked, make sure Hale Nalu (where we stayed in 2006 and will stay during our summer trip) was still there, and so forth. There is an unbelievable amount of construction going on in Koloa Town and Poipu—two new shopping centers, one in Koloa and one at the Poipu/Lawai Road “Y” intersection, plus over 1,000 houses in Poipu and the Lawai Canal area. There is a big traffic circle going in at the “Y” intersection. All very weird for us. And, our favorite fruit and vegetable stand is gone.

Oh, well. Baby Beach is still the same, Hale Nalu is still the same, and we’re going to have another wonderful time this summer. We’re looking forward to seeing Christopher and Brooklyn play on the beach.

On one of our last nights this trip we ate dinner at Hanalei Dolphin. It’s quite good, on the banks of the Hanalei River at the east end of town. It’s a busy place and they don’t take reservations, so we went early. They had fresh ono, walu, mongchong and ahi that night and they believe in simple preparation for those who agree (I do). I had walu grilled with simple butter and it was great. The grilled vegetable kabob they offered as one of the sides was also great. Their mai tais are OK. Sue had a teriyaki New York steak that was good, but not great, although the steak fries that came with it were very good. They want to turn the tables quickly there so don’t plan on lingering over dessert or drinks, but for good, fresh fish, it’s a winner.

On our last full day, I drove over to Red Hot Mama’s, a little Mexican food place just across the twin bridges in Haena, to pick up lunch. It’s literally a hole-in-the-wall (hole-in-the-door, to be exact) place next to the Last Chance store that gets high marks in The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook and on Chowhound.


It really is terrific—several kinds of burritos, tacos, and so forth, with quesadillas also. They use all local and organic ingredients to the fullest extent possible and it’s very well prepared. The young lady behind the door gave my order to me in what appeared to be a plastic bag, but which on closer examination turned out to be a fully compostable, bio-degradable bag. Good for them!

We really like Hanalei and the north shore. It’s a lush area that’s really laid back, and Hanalei is a nice little town. We had lunch at the Bubba’s in Hanalei, which is always a treat, did some light shopping and enjoyed ourselves some more. It was nice to be able to spend time there without feeling like we had to leave at a certain time to get back to Poipu, which has been our situation on all previous visits. There is gorgeous scenery on the north shore and despite the fact that it rains more there than in Poipu (85” a year, vs. only 36”) it’s well worth the time spent. We would definitely go back and for anyone who is visiting Kauai, we recommend it.

And we highly recommend buying our favorite guidebook, The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. There are many, many reasons why it’s the best of all, so trust us and buy it if you’re going there. You will learn everything you need to know, especially if you take the time to sit down and read it all.

I didn’t take as many photos as I usually do when in Hawaii, but if you click the thumbnail below you'll see my favorites.