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Aloha from our little green shack on Kauai! Yep, really. We're staying in a screened-in shack on a rural road on the northwestern corner of the island. As Grandma Kathy often said, "It's just us chickens," and given her experience on Kauai, I'd say she probably picked up the term here. Kauai locals call the feral chickens and roosters that run amok here the official bird of the island. And besides the geckos, the mosquitoes, island feral kitties and two friendly shack kitties, it's just us and the roosters and chickens here. The roosters begin their song around 10:30 p.m. and carry on well into morning before settling in for their afternoon naps so they can hit us again when dark falls. Otherwise, here on Kauai, our nighttime sounds are limited to crickets and a passing car now and again.
Such a relief to be here after a nightmare first flying experience for the girls (well, it certainly could have been worse, but given that it took us 17 hours to cover 6 hours of air time, it was hardly ideal), we arrived in Honolulu late Monday night. (Simply put, I'll never recommend United, nor AAA travel services which uses United as its preferred carrier.)
The Diamond Head B&B in Honolulu, however, is another story. Our hostess, Joanne Trotter, offers spacious rooms and comfortable ambiance. Each room includes a small 'fridge that is stocked with water, sodas and beer for guests. "Help yourself," she urged us as she made us at home in the dark of night. Books about the area, the islands, works of fiction and fancy are on various shelves and tables, and our room had a comfortable balcony overlooking the garden and, ultimately, the skyscrapers of Waikiki Beach just a few blocks down the hill. Breakfast was a more-than-ample selection of local seasonal fruits and other goodies. My favorite: cranberry orange scones from nearby Diamond Head Market & Deli.
On our first day, we visited Pearl Harbor (aka World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument). Though we've talked about war (it's difficult to cover human history without talking about it, over, and over, and over again), we didn't feel it was appropriate to have them view a film with war footage, so we opted to skip what is, without a doubt, a key piece of this park. Instead, we headed directly to "Big Mo," the U.S.S. Missouri for a self-guided tour of the battleship. Then it was off to Queen's Surf for the girls' first touch of warm ocean.
The girls were pretty slow to move from the car to our spot on the beach. They meandered over as if it were any other beach day. They apparently didn't buy our stories about how warm the water was. It looked a lot like our water (on a super clear day). But once they touched it, well, that was IT! They didn't leave the water for the next four hours (and Mr. B and I spent our fair share of time in the sea as well). We all love the beach, but we love it more when the water is friendly. Queen's Surf was a perfect intro, too, because it's protected by a reef. There is still enough of a swell for the kids to play in and learn to play with, but there were no breaking waves.
The following day, we headed to the other side of the island where we spotted lots of great potential beaches and coves, enjoyed a picnic lunch (picked up from the fabulous Diamond Head Market & Deli), then finally found our way to the Polynesian Cultural Center. The center was recommended by a few friends who had really enjoyed it. Like all of them, we felt it was a bit like Disneyland minus the rides. It had all the hype and commercialism of the D, but with an educational bent. The park is divided into several lands at which performers offer music, song, storytelling and dance throughout the day. There are also so many activities for kids (of all ages) that we didn't have time to get to them all before our luau dinner and an incredible, Hollywood-style show. The dancers showed amazing athleticism and skill. I'm sure it's a night we'll all remember for a very long time.
Finally, it was time to head to Kauai. We had a couple of hours to spare, so we took a ride to the interior to check out the Dole Plantation where Mr. B had honed in on a report of "fantastic ice cream." We checked out the demonstration pineapple garden, but otherwise, the plantation is entirely a commercial tourist venture - there are separate tickets for plantation tours, the maze, stuff for sale, plus the "ice cream" which was a soft-serve pineapple ice-cream-like dessert. We agreed we wouldn't drive out of our way for it, and neither of the girls liked it. (V opted for the chocolate-covered banana instead - what a mess, and E opted to save herself for a treat later in the evening.) Our flight with Hawaiian Air was quick, clean and fabulous. Customer service gets a gold star, and promptness couldn't be beat.
The Mango Shack is certainly funky, and smaller than we'd pictured it, but it has ample room for us, and two friendly cats. I think the place grows on its visitors, as it has already on us. There's a journal here from past visitors and many of them had similar first reactions to ours: "Really?!" But 24 hours into it, we've settled in, discovered that the shower is, indeed, wonderful, and the amenities more than sufficient.
Today, we found our way only as far as Lydgate State Park. Great swimming in a protected pool where fish find their way to snack on tourists' tidbits (bread, frozen peas, whatever) and kids can play freely without fear of riptides or other natural dangers. The park also has a couple of fantastic play structures which we found late in the day on our way into town for pizza, grocery shopping and finally back to the shack.
More later - for now, aloha, from wonderful Kauai.