Kaua’i. You magical little gem. You stole my heart, all of our hearts, in fact. Of course, the first day was a little rough, traveling with a 4 and a 2 year old. That 4 a.m., 5 a.m., 6 a.m. “okay, Hudson, you win” (long sigh to attempt to grab some patience) wake up and walk to see the sunrise turned out to be pretty damn nice. Later, we all made our triumphant way out of our townhouse at the Poipu Kai Villas at around 730 and were hiking past the Grand Hyatt’s magnificent lagoon pool by 8. Ok. Confession time. We didn’t stay there, but we did swim there, as we just walked around the trail by the beach and happened upon this miniature ocean. I mean, really, nobody was there! It was just us. You can hear the guilty conscience, right? Another confession. We did it twice. Sorry. Kind of. The second time, we did it for two hours! It was fabulous. You can really get lost in that damn thing if you try, or don’t. We loved it.
There’s also a pretty nonchalant hike that you can do right off of the pool. We did this the first time we swindled some pool time. The Mahale’upa Cliffs. This was just the beginning of spellbinding views that we encountered on our trip to the Garden Island. I thought standing on the cliffs looking down the coast, “there’s no f-ingway it can get better than this!” Yes f-ing way it can! Every turn we made seemed to open up another mesmerizing vista full of NEON colors. Not shitting. It seemed that the colors were like those black-light rock concert posters my older brother used to have adorning his bedroom, when we were teens. They hit you like ‘BAM! BAM! Oh wait! BAM again!’ Stupidly amazing and vivid colors. We might as well have been on a hallucinogen they were so ridiculously bright.
We sought out the colors and then they seemed to follow us. On the turn on the drive from the airport to our home for the week, you pass through the Maluhia Road Tree Tunnel. The thing is so doggone beautiful, it’ll take your breath away. And if you’re that kind of guy (or girl), or in a softer mood, it may bring a tear to your eye. Who knew a bunch of Eucalyptus trees held that type of power? I do now. So strong were the emotions with this first experience, that we bought a painting depicting this scene by Doug Disney at the Art House in Koloa. That gallery was a spectacle alone. From the quaint little shop, to the giant tree that provided for a beautiful picture, to the owner Jordan; that was an especially memorable day-trip. Jordan was an inspiring guy. Mid 50’s I’d say. Fit as a fiddle. Cool looking. Well dressed. Well traveled. Great with the kids (hard to find in an art gallery). Talk about life goals! “I’ll have what he’s having.” That guy set the mark. Go see him if you can. And naturally, we stopped afterwards at Koloa Fish Market for some Wasabi Poke. Delish!
Poipu Beach, a short walk from our place, and our own little swimming pool provided a ton of energy burn and activity for our clan. Both boys became much stronger in the water. I wouldn’t call them “Watermen”, yet. Although, Teddy, at 2.5 years old, thinks he is one. Please don’t tell him he’s not! “Teddy, you can’t swim!”, I’d say. “Yes”, he’d reply. “Dude, you’re going to kill yourself!”, I’d bark back. “No”, he’d calmly repeat. And by God, towards the end of the week, he was swimming. Not to the point that he wouldn’t drown if I weren’t there to lift his head out of the water for a breath, but enough to dive off of the rock at our pool and swim 10 feet to me afterwards. Stubborn little shit. Good for him.
Naturally, there’s give and take in any travel party. I really wanted to do a couple of things. Those being the Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast either by helicopter or catamaran. Well, holy mackerel is the Waimea Canyon beautiful!
As for the coast, there’s always next time. I know! I hear it’s the greatest, and I drooled over a ton of pictures in anticipation. But, I’ve got these kids, and, well, you get it. So we left something on the plate. Plus, I want to get into that canyon. Like in it in it! I want to hunt a hog the next time we return. I totally picture myself romping through the majesty with some dogs and a knife, getting down and dirty on that night’s pig. Ooooohh yeah!
Did I hear pig? We did the Smith Family Luau. Thirty acres of manicured gardens, a guided trolley ride learning of all the indigenous plants, the Imu Ceremony, where the cooked pig is unburied, the Hawaiian music while eating said pig with about 300 other guests, and the Luau itself. All quite spiritual and humbling. We actually got to meet the Smith’s. One of the elders was so kind to our boys. I felt honored and completely welcomed.
It’s such a familial place and one that feels like if you could crack the shell, the people here would be nothing but open arms. We also gathered that from a couple of transplants that we met who had opened up their own family businesses here on the island. Two notable ones were The Fresh Shave and Porky’s. Both operated out of trailers and took their products, which were undoubtedly the best of both Hawaiian Shave Ice and Kalua Hot Dogs that we’ve ever tried, to the community events as they happened around the island.
We were lucky to have been turned on to the Hanapepe Friday Night Festival and Art Walk by the Porky’s crew on Instagram of all things (the folks here really are good at using Insta to bring the customers to them). Now that was a community event. After walking across the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge, that fittingly spans the Hanapepe River, we hit the streets where food trucks and music in front of all of the charming art galleries awaited. Yes, we left with more art for the boys’ rooms here. It was a day-of-boogie boarding-at-Poipu-inspired purchase of Welzie Art from the Bright Side Gallery. We were given instructions into a secret kids garden with miniature doors just for them. There, we witnessed two frogs “cuddling”. Awe. So nice, right boys. Whoops. The boys got to ride a “pony”. I don’t know. Maybe it’s like the Hawaiian waves are bigger. But these things, by all accounts, were full grown horses marketed as ponies. Jayme and I looked at one another just before they mounted their ride, and simultaneously said half-nervous,
“Oh fuck it! They’ll live!” And it turns out, they did live. We entered and left empty-handed the Westernmost, Independent Book Store in the U.S.A. Truthfully, I did leave with a wet wipe that the owner gave me to wipe Teddy’s hands. Grimy little dude. His older brother is so much tidier. To the point that it can be strange.
We were calling Hudson our mountain goat. It makes him feel empowered on our hikes and gets him to go a little further than he may want to go. We started that on our ramble on the cliffs that first day. But, it continued at the Kilohana Plantation. We signed up for the 4 hr tour.
It was to consist of a train ride, which was on something like a 1948 diesel train engine. Killer. Then there was the goat/pig/chicken feeding. Followed by the 1/2 mile nature hike that somehow took at least an hour. I mean, it was cool, but come on! Let’s get covering some ground here people. But our little mountain goat, who would’ve normally been all whiny by this point, led a group of twenty adults up and out of the canyon to a shaded area for a picnic, which again, lasted about 30 minutes too long. Continuing on the theme of “island time”, we meandered over to the fruit plantation, where we were allowed to pick as much fresh fruit as we could eat or carry out. Mandarin oranges, tangerines, and something referred to as Brazil Grapes, or Jabuticaba, which Jayme and I went HAM on. Whew! But again, 30 minutes into that, “OK, we get it. Can we get on the train now?” Or maybe I just need to slow my life down.
But back to the mountain goat. On our last day at Hanalei Beach, after goat-ing his way powerfully for two miles, one each way from our parking spot to the Hanalei Pier, freaked out about having sand on his legs as we returned to our car. Sand. On his legs. At the beach. No shit! My internal voice at that point, “For Christ’s sake kid, you’re a Hardwick, not a coward.” My external voice at that point, “(Long Exhale)”, followed by a walk away and under-breath when out of ear shot, “Holy fuck.”
But he was hungry, and walked through soft sand for a long ways for a boy his age . So, I took it easy on him and tried to calm him as best as I’m capable. And we got food. A turkey sandwich and a mango smoothie, from the Hanalei Harvest Market (super cute spot). That helped. And then they fell asleep on the ride back. To finish our week of adventures in Hanalei was a perfect ending; an exhausting, beautiful day.
We came together this trip, the Hardwick tribe. It was just us four. And by necessity, the boys, for the first time, learned to enjoy one another’s company. Hud and Ted became friends on Kaua’i. And that is priceless.