Horseback on KauaiBy Larry Levine –

You know how you go someplace on vacation and the locals try too hard to convince you how glad they are that they moved there from someplace else and it doesn’t quite ring true. You get the feeling they know they made a bad decision and are stuck with it and now they need to rationalize it by telling you how quiet, safe, relaxed, or idyllic life is here away from the pressures, traffic, crime or frenzy of wherever they left to come here.

You’ll run into it in places like Alaska, Florida, North Carolina and Atlanta. In the southern part of the U.S. it likely will be transplants from the northeast. They came to escape the weather or retire to a less expensive or safer life. In fleeing the snow and ice of the winters they forgot to consider the humidity, tropical storms and hurricanes that await them.

In Alaska they probably are transplants from the mid-west, who were struggling financially or want to get away from an ex-wife. The same thing happens with native-born Australians. They see America in movies and on TV and try to convince us how much like that they are.

These things came to mind during the week we spent on the island of Kauai in Hawaii because it is so not true here. We met scores and scores of transplants from the continental U.S. during our stay and every one of them sounded genuinely happy to be there. They were sincere in their love of the beauty of the land, the glory of the sea, the sunrises and sunsets, and the easy and unhurried life style. It may not be the life for a big city guy like me, but I can see why they feel this way.

Kauai is a place for adults and it’s a place to relax. If I were bringing a kid on a vacation I think Maui would offer more to do. Of course it depends on the kid. Definitely not a toddler on Kauai. Maybe one who’s eight or nine years old could be kept interested for four or five days. But as we waited to board out plane for home at the end of our week there, we saw plenty of families arriving with young kids.

We’ve found the best time to visit the islands is the first two weeks of December. It’s before the schools let out for winter break on the “mainland” and hordes of tourists descend on Maui, Hawaii, and Kauai. The next week prices soar and the hotels, resorts, restaurants, roads, golf courses and sightseeing destinations become jammed. This week we felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Our last night’s luau was a great example. This was not one of your typical, hokey tourist luaus. This as the Luau Kalamaku in Lihue, Kauai, recommended and arranged by Christine the concierge magician at the St. Regis Princeville. No buffet line luau food for us. Christine put us in a special package – the Plantation Owners’s Evening.

It included a four-course dinner at Gaylord’s, her favorite restaurant off the St. Regis property. First a welcoming glass of champagne, then the choices – FIRST COURSE: shrimp and scallop spring rolls, or a roasted beet salad on a leek tart with goat cheese and fried Maui onions; SECOND COURSE: caprese with Tahitian vanilla infused balsamic vinegar, or a field greens salad with grilled portabello mushroom, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts; THIRD COURSE: sesame seared ahi with ginger scallion rice, and tempura avocado, or Hoisin glazed pork spare ribs with pineapple fried rice and Asian slaw; DESSERT: banana cream pie with butterscotch sauce, candied walnuts and Gold Koloa Rum whipped cream, or profiteroles with mandarin orange anglaise, hot chocolate truffle sauce and vanilla bean ice cream.

After dinner we had a half an hour to browse some very interesting shops before we were escorted by torch light to the luau pavilion. There we had Premier Seating and open access to the rum bar and the dessert bar before the show started. And that’s what it was – a show, a real production. In song and dance, complete with fire twirlers, we were told the story of the Tahitian immigration that settled the Hawaiian Islands.

Spectacular evening to end a spectacular week – a helicopter flight over the island and in the canyons, a horse ride to a secluded pool fed by a waterfall, a dinner cruise along the Na Pali coast, excellent golf and spa treatment, foods we never tasted before, sunshine and warm Pacific water, and visits to locations where the movie version of South Pacific was filmed. Strange, however, while we wouldn’t have passed up any of the things we did, we agreed we have no real desire to do any of them again – except the golf and the spa.

Gaylord’s is another matter. It would be worth a visit for dinner even without the luau. And if we go back to Kauai there most definitely will be another dinner at Gaylord’s, next time off the regular menu. The restaurant, bar and several shops are located in a restored and renovated plantation house. The menu is well thought out and if our special dinner was any indication the food probably is excellent. Maybe next time we’ll skip the luau and do the tour of the plantation.

It’s been nearly 50 years since I was on Kauai. There are whole cities and golf courses there now that were just tiny villages back then; there are more good restaurants serving a wider variety of foods, and some of the most famous hotels and resorts of those days are gone. But the Na Pali coast still is spectacular, the ocean water still warm and welcoming, the mountains still lush and green, the locations where the movie version of South Pacific was shot still are smile worthy, and the next rain storm still is around the next turn of the clock.

(NOTE: The photo accompanying this article is Jennifer and me on the horses we rode at Silver Falls Ranch. For the record, we ride horses every 10 or 12 years like clockwork. And look at Jennifer on horseback after two hip replacements and a knee replacement. My hero.)

Share this: