Hawaii doesn't suck. Hawaii for the holidays, again and perhaps even more so, doesn't suck. Spending time with your family, anytime of year, not matter where you are, can well, sometimes suck. Before my family all starts returning their Christmas gifts to me, I will say that I'm quite lucky to be related to some non-sucky siblings, and thank goodness they have good pickers in the marriage department. Then there's their kids who don't light things on fire, like my hair or my clothes, and don't eat sand (anymore), so overall, the family did well in the no one sucks to be around department.
But each of the aforementioned individuals has different opinions on what makes a good vacation, though none of these opinions really matter, because it's all about keeping the kids happy, because when they're happy, the parents are happy and so on. What does a kid want on vacation? A big pool and frothy drinks. That's it. I'm in on the drinks, but mine tend to be a little stronger than the children's version, ok a lot - I am on family vacation. So where to go?
Hawaii worked because of the weather, decent proximity to the west coast and most importantly, there are plenty of pools and frothy drinks, but would there indeed be something for everyone one? Time would tell.
We stayed at the low sprawling gem, the Grand Hyatt in Kauai. Grand indeed, but in a low key, Hawaiian way. The hotel is in Poipu on the water, with a small beach, but mostly volcanic rock and hills. Right off the rocky beach, we were able to catch a trio of body surfing giant sea turtles enjoying the ocean.
Who doesn't like the "Where's Waldo?" game of trying to find a sea turtle in the surf. Universal crowd pleaser.
Animals are usually a sure thing for kids, but when it came to the chickens, not so much. There are chickens all over Kauai, and I'm not talking grilled on a plate, under sweet mango salsa. No, these chickens are running amok all over the island, squawking, cooing and pooing. They're in the shopping centers, parking lots, streets, and after seeing all of this, definitely NOT on my plate because these are feral chickens, aka, wild roosters.
I heard several stories on why they're there, but the general consensus is that a hurricane in '92 knocked their more formal habitats aside, allowing them to roam freely. Score 1 for the roosters and none for the family.
The kids had all of their pool wishes come true at the Grand Hyatt with a giant water slide, salt water lagoon and a fresh water pool. For those sad not to see a high dive, and don't look at me, there was a very high cliff right on the water's edge that got 2 participants from the family, much to some parents' dismay.
Luckily there were some excursions planned for the non-aquatic family members, and one day that included a drive to the "Grand Canyon" of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon.
The erosion of the soil has led to an orangish hue on some of the mountain tops. It's too bad to hear about the erosion, but the color is beautiful in the canyon. It reminded me of the red ochre town in the South of France, Rousillon, so you know how that scored for me.
A little further drive past the Canyon is an equally spectacular outlook where the mountains meet the sea.
The jagged mountainside nearly fed right into the ocean. Because of the amount of rain they get year round, everything is so green and lush, further adding to the picture perfect scene.
Were the kids equally enthralled? They were bored and whining and wondering when they could get back to the pool. We were in the car though, which meant, there could be a stop off for a treat, but not just any treat, the local specialty of Hawaiian shaved ice.
The Japanese actually brought the shaved ice concept to Hawaii when they came over to work on the plantations. The sweet icy combo stuck and now you can find stands all over the island.
Some put condensed milk in for a creamier consistency, but we all went straight up with ice and of course 3 different syrup flavors on top. Root beer, tiger cherry and coconut were the crowd pleasers.
Shaved ice was a big win across the board.
We saw Kauai by road, and then we surprised my dad and the kids by taking them to see the island by air.
The roads are so windy and only get you so far, but taking it to the friendly skies in a helicopter, gives you a breathtaking bird's eye view.
It was breathtaking on many accounts since I'm guessing the chopper pilot gets bored with the tourists' rides so he had fun snaking us through canyons and then abruptly pulling up and over and around and around. Good thing we didn't have shaved ice before or there may have been added colors in some of those pictures.
It was still a great day for everyone which ended with more shaved ice.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot to say about the food in Kauai beyond the ice. It's fine and they have some different types of local fish like Opa, but it just feels like you're eating at one big non-inventive chain restaurant. And they do have their share of chains in Kauai like Roy's and Duke's.
One of the issues is that can't grow a lot of food on the island so much is shipped in, causing a bigger foot print, less originality, and much higher prices. The food is very expensive in Hawaii for this very reason.
We had a decent meal at The Beach House, but it was more of the same, with a Mai Tai throw in.
I have to say that the best meal of the trip wasn't in a restaurant at all, but it was eaten on the road to the airport because I had to try this highly recommended dish.
The dish was actually a hot dog, or rather, a Puka-Dog, pronounce pooka, NOT puke-a. It's a stand alone shop, tucked away on the side of shopping center, and with a long line usually sprawling from the ordering counter.
They use a soft, homemade Hawaiian sweet bread that wraps all the way around without the standard sliced opening across. It is then thrown on a metal rod where the real magic happens since it can get toasty inside and out. Your kielbasa (we're not even going to talk about the veggie dog) is placed in the "puka" (hole) and then the fun begins. You get a secret garlic lemon sauce and yes, you want the Hawaiian mustard, but then you get to choose from one of their 6 fruit relishes. You can't go wrong with mango or papaya. Not so sure about the banana.
The polish sausage is meaty, the sauce is zesty, the relish is sweet and the mustard brings it all together.
And guess what? Everyone big and small was down with the Puka Dog.
So Hawaii for the holidays was a fun trip. Did everyone get exactly what they wanted every day? No. Did everyone have some really fun experiences? Yes, and I could say something schmaltzy about how it didn't matter what we were doing, eating or drinking, but that it was just nice being together, but instead, let's just say Hawaii for the Holidays with the family didn't suck.