First of all... thank you to all of the other reviewers! I copied/pasted comments from the last several years and it made a HUGE difference in what a terrific vacation we had! We knew what to do and what to ask for! I am going to try to update the information that was on the review site. I will include SUGGESTED TIPS, PLACES TO EAT, and THINGS TO DO. I hope that this lengthy review helps you plan as much as the other reviewers helped me plan our trip!
Good luck spelling or pronouncing cities and streets in Kauai! I am a teacher and did not think it was possible to put so many vowels in a row and still have a word! It is hysterical to hear the GPS try to do its best also!
We were advised to CALL TWO WEEKS EARLY and ask for an UPSTAIRS upgrade in a remodeled unit (definitely do this!!! so you don't hear footsteps PLUS, if you do not, your patio will be right on the sidewalk to the upstairs places. I don't think I would have felt comfortable leaving the sliding door open if we had been downstairs, and we needed the air flow.) Also, we asked to be in a remodeled unit away from the construction. The traffic behind us in room #921 was minimal. This is good because there are no real "windows"; they are just louvers that you can open or close. When you check in, don't forget to remind them that you had called with the request.
Apparently, they USED TO allow people to smoke in the rooms or on the patios. We had to sign a form stating that there was a $250 fee for smoking in either location. This made me very happy because the "windows" are really just slats that open or close, so smoke would definitely have been in our rooms if a neighbor was smoking!
Stop on your way in at Kapaa or Anahola to get some basic groceries. There are no stores once you turn off toward Princeville near the large fountain unless you continue on to Foodland in Princeville. There is a Costco in Lihue and gas was $4.18 per gallon for members (about 60 cents cheaper than anywhere else!) They also have some macadamia nut kisses and other items that stateside Costcos do not have.
I am VERY happy to report that I did not see ONE mosquito at the resort (and only two at the Fern Grotto Tour) and I am a magnet for them! (We traveled from June 6-13, 2013) The temperature was up to 90 degrees, but the breeze made it not feel hot. It usually rained at night, except for the one evening that I finally decided I did NOT need to carry my umbrella! (It was kind of fun!)
All advice told us to bring ear plugs for the roosters- we did not hear ONE, however, there were some pretty happy looking cats in the neighborhood that carried on a little at night. (Ear plugs are still a great idea; I used mine on the plane and could have made a fortune selling them to other passengers!)
They are not kidding about not "feeding the birds"; I made that mistake one time and they did not let us forget it. The birds were amazingly beautiful! However, you do NOT want to leave your breakfast on the patio and go in, even for a minute!!!
You can pick up a Foodland card at the front desk, but we asked one of the workers if we could give him the points as we would not be there long enough. The timeshare provided enough coffee for several days and coffee filters for the whole week. We were also pleased that we did not have to buy salt and pepper, dishwashing soap or laundry soap.
Don't forget to buy or bring A LOT of ziplock baggies in all sizes for leftovers, sandy shoes, etc. ( A plastic baggy is "beach wallet".) Someone I saw had a cell phone in a waterproof case around their neck. This would have been VERY helpful!!!
The resort has 8 huge beach towels in the room so you don't have to pack your own. (Don't take them! $30 each!) They also have an ice chest in the closet along with a broom which is handy for the sand that came back with us from the beach. There is also a locking safe and a fan in the master bedroom closet.
The TVs are really small and not flat screen. Fortunately, we did not go to Hawaii to watch any TV. We also were not impressed with the "water conserving" shower heads. My friend was convinced you had to run around in the shower just to get wet! The Jacuzzi /whirlpool tub in the master bathroom was really nice and you should try it at least once! The racks on the back of the bathroom doors rattle ALL THE TIME! Just hang a towel on it! If the neighbor's alarm clock goes off (it sounds like a truck backing up) do NOT wait the 30 minutes to call the desk that I did. They stopped it within minutes of my call!
The one pool that was open during the construction was very nice. I was surprised to find that the pool and the Jacuzzi had sand bottoms! (It would have been nice if some of the guests had realized that a baby (especially one in a diaper) did NOT belong in a hot tub, but that is what they make rum punch for! We did not spend much time at the pool with the beach so close (you still have to drive.) There is a really nice beach and parking area up near the St Regis or down near Anini Beach.
Everybody sells postcards, but NO ONE seems to have postcard stamps! (One helpful girl told me, "well the regular stamps work too". I however, was not going to pay that much more.) Bring POSTCARD stamps with you!
Bring a very big stuffable bag that you can carryon for souvenirs when you return. (Hawaiian Air charged $25 per bag, so we carried on everything and paid for only one bag.) This bag is also a lifesaver when going to the beach and shopping. Kauai is going to be banning ALL plastic shopping bags, so you need to carry a reusable bag of your own!
There are some very unusual plants there. At times it was easy to forget that we were actually IN AMERICA!!! The Norfolk Island Pine Tree looks like a very anemic pine tree... you will know what I mean when you see it. There is also a Fan Palm or Compass Palm which always grows in a North/South direction. It is also a very strange looking tree. (Supposedly it was able to save people who were lost by giving direction and also with its canister of fresh water under its roots.)
Oahu- When you take the shuttle back to Oahu, find the AIRPORT SHUTTLE to take you to the mainland gates. We decided to walk and it was a L..O...N...G walk! The shuttles are free but you can only pick them up at the beginning!
PEARL HARBOR MEMORIAL / FORD ISLAND
USS Arizona Memorial If you have a decent layover in Oahu, you should try to get to the USS Arizona Memorial (you have to reserve tickets about 6 months ahead of time because the tour agencies grab all of them!) I gave up and we just took the tour so we could see the rest of the island as well as the USS Missouri. (That ship is huge! Prepare to get lost and just remember, when you find the Post Office, the way out is UP!!!) We were very fortunate to get to meet one of the only 9 remaining survivors of the USS Arizona attack. (He told us he went hand-over-hand down a bow line to another ship and had burns on 80% of his body. He was there to sign paperwork at a ceremony stating that when he passed away, he wanted his remains interred with his shipmates on the Arizona. We were blessed to meet him; there are so few of these heroes still living.)
We had my nephew-in-law stationed at Pearl, so we did not have to drive. Taking a shuttle from the airport and storing your luggage would be a really good idea! NOTE--- you may NOT take ANYTHING like a bag, backpack, purse, etc onto the ship that takes you over to Ford Island. You are not allowed even to take a bag if you go on a bus across the bridge to the island. So PACK LIGHT and make sure you have a lot of pockets! Once there, you can buy something so you have a bag to carry items. There is a locker facility as you enter the location, but the last thing you want to do after waiting in line along with all the tour groups is to have to wait again to get a locker.
SPECIAL NOTE- The movie that they show before you get on the boat is very good. (Try to sit in the first two rows on the far left so that you will be the first on the boat. When getting on the boat, sit on the right (starboard) side so that you can take some great photos and not have people's heads in the shots.)When you exit the boat at the USS Arizona Memorial... go immediately to the BACK of the memorial so you can take pictures of the Memorial Room before 150 people join you. Then work your way backwards so you can avoid the crowd. Each group get about 15 minutes on the memorial before the next group arrives and you leave.
Pacific Aviation Museum- my husband is retired Air Force, so we spend a lot of time in these type of museums. This one was exceptional! It is DEFINITELY worth taking the guided docent tour. We had our own personal tour guide who walked us through all of the exhibits. We learned that the first Japanese pilot killed was one who crash landed on a nearby island and was staying with a farmer and his wife. The farmer's wife, to save her husband, smacked the pilot in the head and killed him! (Don't mess with a ticked off wife!) We also got to see the plane that President Bush flew and an actual Japanese Zero plane. (They don't even have one of those at the WWII museum in New Orleans.) The exhibit was even better because there was a young Japanese man dressed as part of the display and he would answer questions. (It was a little scary, because I thought he was a mannequin at first.) Did you know that these pilots got their licenses at age 16 (compared to our men at 20) and that they each carried a sword in the cockpit with them? Very interesting! We wish we would have planned to have more time there!)
Waikiki- If you have time, a stroll on the Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background makes a great picture. Good luck with the parking! It is a mess!
Aloha Crepes- This place makes the absolute best breakfast crepes. They are HUGE!!! Plus, I had never had a real shaved ice where they actually flavor the stuff they shave. (Usually it is just ice that they dump flavor onto.) I LOVE the peanut butter and coconut flavor! I swear, if I decide to give up my day job of teaching, I may just open one of these shops here in Arizona! They did have "poi" flavor, which to me did not have much taste (it is a purple color and comes from a tuber root which is eaten a lot there.)
Blazing Steaks- this is a stir fry steak place. Very plain looking but VERY GOOD and VERY INEXPENSIVE!
PLACES TO EAT on Kauai-
Ono Family Restaurant - you MUST have the banana/macadamia/coconut pancakes with the coconut syrup! (I bought a jar of syrup to bring home but forgot that it needed refrigeration, so I had a science experiment instead!)
Paco's Tacos (in a truck on the beach- not sure what city)- the fish tacos were AMAZING and worth the $5!
Chicken in a Barrel (everywhere) was REALLY good! They have a rib /chicken plate for $12. Great to take back to the condo or eat on the beach!
Kilauea Lighthouse Bakery-( head toward the lighthouse) The food is terrific! (Don't even ask why I had to buy a loaf of whole wheat bread to bring home with me!) I had never seen "plastic" utensils that are biodegradable! There are also some very cute shops in the area. One shop had sea glass bracelets for $5, so guess what all my friends got as a souvenir? (Good luck trying to find the restrooms! They are clear over near the baseball fields... plan ahead!)
We wandered on some streets near the bakery and found several "Serve Yourself" fruit stands in people's yards. You just put the money in and take what you would like. The mango and papaya were terrific! I had never had coconut that was not hard inside. Apparently, if it is very young and wet sounding inside, the coconut itself is actually more like the consistency of flan or pudding. (I like my coconut hard; my husband found a new love of coconut this way!) WARNING- you cannot take any produce out of the country!!! (They do check.) However, you can paint and mail a coconut back home. Ask at the front desk about that.
CJ's Steakhouse in Princeville was appx $50 per person with one drink. (nothing exceptional)
Thai/ Mexican Food---The shops near the Princeville Foodland have some cute souvenir items. (Shops close at 6pm.) There is also a great Mexican food takeout place as well as a Thai take out restaurant. (The taco salad was HUGE and very good!) Inexpensive also!
St. Regis Bar (follow signs from our resort to St. Regis) The Happy Hour in the upstairs bar is from 5:30-10. They have a beautiful sunset off of the balcony and you can see Hanalei Bay from there. There is a sunset ceremony with champagne that the manager does on the balcony. Good luck on getting a set time to anything on the island. Everything pretty much happens when it happens! The local beer was only about $7 and the appetizers were $14 to $25. Do NOT eat dinner there unless you take out a second mortgage! You will want to dress a little nicely or you will feel out of place here.
Foodland- my husband loved the sushi that they had there. They also have prepared shish-kabobs for the grill at the property. Easy and tasty! Don't forget to buy COCONUT ICE CREAM and Hot Fudge to put on it. (You can get toasted coconut to go on it! Delish!) You can buy an airplane carry on box of macadamia nut souvenirs for a good price (6 boxes for $18) However, 6 dollars cheaper at Costco in Lihue, but I needed to pack for the trip before we got near the airport!
THINGS TO DO-
You DEFINITELY have to go to the presentation of tours that they have the first morning. It is also a VERY good idea to do the resort update appointment. We not only got a $50 visa card, but we were able to get a HUGE discount off of almost all of the tours that we went on! Once you sign up for your "visit", you will receive an "APC" card that we used to get local discounts on most of the island. (You don't have to actually HOLD the appointment before you get the card, just sign up for it.) We saved several hundred dollars between the four of us! (If you are a Wyndam owner, it is a 45 minutes briefing. 1.5 if you are not, and they do punch a timeclock when you get there. The time does not start until you turn in your information paper to them. (We scheduled a tour for right after the appointment, so we could NOT go over!) It was time well spent and we learned some new things about our timeshares. Do NOT skip your appointment or you WILL have to pay the full rates for the tours that you did at a discount!
Kauai Travel If you take any tours, you might be transported on a Kauai Travel bus. If you are lucky, you will have "Uncle Willie" as your driver! He told us stories, taught us crazy songs and really welcomed us to his island. The blessing that he gave as we ended our trips with him really touched my heart! (He was our driver for the luau and also when we went to see the play "South Pacific.")
Luau Kalamaku Uncle Willie's grandson is one of the performers in the Luau Kalamaku. It was a PHENOMENAL show and really helped me to understand the pride of the Indonesian people. I can't believe that the fire dancers were able to do what they did and not go up in flames! PLUS... BONUS.... there is a Rum Factory with free taste testing that you can do before the luau begins. (Make sure you take the bus, way less hassle for only $12.50) You could purchase a "Coconut Postcard" there also. (Try the pork dipped in the poi. It really is like a flavorless gravy... I think I would have been better if it had been warmed up. I can see why some people call it "wallpaper paste", but hey... this is learning new things on vacation.) Be sure to tour the mansion on the grounds there as well. It was interesting and had some cute shops inside. Oh, and it is an open bar until the show starts. (One drink per person at a time.)
Hawaiian Church Service- we were fortunate enough to be able to get to church at North Shore Community Church. They meet in a tent. They knew that we were guests because apparently, no one who lives on the island ever shows up on time for anything! The service was a blessing and Pastor Steve was terrific!
"South Pacific" dinner play We had a nice time there. The food was okay. (A little pricey for a performance that was held in the ballroom of a resort, but well done with real Polynesian actors. I was a little disappointed that "Bloody Mary" did not do the cute hand motions to "talkey-talk", but I guess artists have to have creative license.) If you go, make sure that you get the tickets printed off BEFORE you get there, otherwise you have to wait in one long line for the ticket, then another line to get into the ballroom. If that happens, send someone to wait in the seating line while someone else gets the tickets!
Best of Kauai Island Tour (including Fern Grotto tour and Airplane Tour of island). It was interesting to see the island with a tour guide who knew the places. We went to the Kilauea Lighthouse and Bird Sanctuary. Even better, our guide, Steve, took us to neighborhoods where the albatross actually hatch their brood. We got to see a number of baby albatross and learned that when they start flying, they will not return to land for several years as they can glide using their 7' wingspan. We then went to the boat to see the "Fern Grotto" with the Smith Family Tour. (It was a little cheesy, but a pretty location.) We then had an on-your-own lunch, then toured the island in an airplane with large windows (as opposed to stuck in a helicopter). Not sure it was great to do this right after lunch, again... DRAMAMINE!!! I am not sure that our tour guide needed to continually remind us that the island used to be made up of sugar cane plantations (which don't exist there any more) and pineapple plantations, nor did we really need to know where all of the "original roads" were, but for the most part, it was very interesting. I was a little bothered at the end by his reminder that it is customary to tip on the full "non-discounted" amount (as we had the APC card. It was not until later that I realized that his "fee" also included the "grotto tour" and the "airplane tour", so I certainly hope that he tipped them with some of what we gave to him! If I was to do it again, I would have tipped the individual tour guides individually and figured out what portion of the cost was the actual Island tour.)
Sea Lion Watch on Anahola Beach- There are a group of dedicated volunteers who are called out to rope off and keep people back from a resting sea lion. It was awesome to see one so close up. Did you know they have algae growing on them?
QuickSilver School of Surfing- Attempting to surf and actually getting a picture that LOOKED like I was surfing was on my bucket list as I turned 49 years old in Kauai. I was so impressed with the patience that their young instructor (and life guard) had with me. I would suggest that if you are thinking of trying this, you NEED to do squats to work on balance and on your leg strength (i.e.- can you stand up without needing to use both arms) Make sure you wear the shirt that they give you which keeps you from scraping your body. I bought beach shoes but ended up not using them because the boards are sticky on top for beginners! The young man who was taking the photographs ($30 for the disc) was using a super high speed camera, so he actually got some of me appearing to be standing. (In actuality, I think I was in the process of falling, but who wants to quibble over technicalities on a bucket list item!?)
Anini Beach/ Tunnels Beach Snorkeling Our friends went snorkeling at Anini Beach and also at Tunnels Beach. They said you need to get to Tunnels Beach EARLY (at least before 9) to find a place to park. They loved it! I could not believe how crazy it looked with all the sand crabs running back and forth on the beach... it was a little creepy!
SOUTH ISLAND- we decided to tour the southern part of the island after we had gone on the Na Pali Coast tour. I am glad we did it that way; it does not look like a long drive on a map, but with only one road, it takes a while.
Na Pali Coast Sea Tour- (not to be confused with the Nepali Coast... especially since the country of Nepal does not even HAVE a coast!) We took the 1/2 day Snorkel tour but due to a medical emergency of someone on board, we had to skip the snorkel portion. (The company did refund us $50 each because of this.) It was beautiful and you have no concept of how HUGE those cliffs are until you can see little people camping on the beach in front of them!) WARNING----- take Dramamine!!! Even if you are not prone to sea sickness! It was ROUGH! There is an open bar on this trip.
Waimea Canyon After the coastal tour, we drove up to Waimea Canyon. (You can definitely see why it is the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific"; it is also where scenes from "Donovan's Reef" with John Wayne were filmed. (I bought the DVD at a vendor who was selling them outside of Foodland.)
Probably good to still have Dramamine in your system on that drive up to the canyon. It is pretty curvy and could be a problem in you are not the driver. If you tend to car sickness, either drive or at least sit up front!
Kauai Coffee Plantation-
On your way back up to the North Shore, stop at the Kauai Coffee Plantation. I had NO idea that the beverage I love so much grew on a BUSH!!! It was a very interesting museum, shop and coffee testing area. Worth the stop! (Don't forget to check all those tourist booklets for coupons. There are a lot of things that we go for free!)
Everyone says "mahalo" which means "thank you" and "ohana" which is family! Kauai is definitely a "family" island with very friendly people. I hope that this lengthy review was helpful to you! Enjoy your time on The Garden Island!
Sincerely, Bonnie Hickman
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- Also Known As:
- Bali Hai Villas Hotel Princeville
- Bali Hai Villas Kauai
- Wyndham Bali Hai Villas Princeville, Kauai