So, last week, for a wonderful week, I was fortunate enough to spend some time on the two of the Hawaiian islands. The original purpose – to run the Kauai Marathon.
But then…I fractured my ankle.
Yep. Fractured my freakin’ ankle three days before leaving for Hawaii. SUCK!! I tried to put a positive spin on things…I really did. At least I was still going to Hawaii. Yeah…it didn’t really work for me then either…but I was trying. To help make this painful adjustment, I started a Twitter account for Bootsie (the boot I’m forced to wear for 6-8 weeks) to document traveling adventures. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason…so there better be a damn good reason for this. That’s all I’m saying.
The first leg of the trip was flying out to San Diego. This gave us pretty much a full day to adjust to a bit of the time change (West Coast = 3 hours behind EST; Hawaii = 6 hours behind EST) and break up what was already a long ass flight to the islands. We’d depart San Diego before it was bright and early to get to Kauai by mid-morning. It was a plan. The ankle just meant we had to depart from the hotel sooner because I wasn’t moving anywhere very fast. So…my traveling companions, Cathy & Jenn, were both very helpful and very, very patient with me. And, I didn’t complain much. I mean, complaining won’t change the situation. I just apologized…a lot…for being slow.
The first order of business after getting to San Diego and checking into the hotel to drop off luggage was…lunch. Not having prepared for lunch, I ate a protein bar, while my fellow travelers ate tacos from a local taco stand. SO cool. But after that, I required my morning cup of coffee…so we sought out and found a great local establishment called…
Lestat’s Coffee House, San Diego, California
Lestat’s is one of those places that is open 24/7, 365 days of the year. YES…it is always open! Holiday? No worries…they’re open! Lestat’s Coffee House has a few signature drinks on their menu…and as it was pretty toasty in San Diego, I wasn’t feeling the hot coffee that day. Neither were my traveling friends. So, they each got coffee freezes (think blended drinks!) while I opted for one of Lestat’s Signature Drinks done up all refreshing and cold. Jenn got the Winter Raspberry Freeze ($5.25), which is a ice blended raspberry mocha. I took one little sip. WINNING! Cathy had me pick for her, and I choose the Arctic Squirrel Freeze ($5.25) for her, which is an ice blended hazelnut mocha (similar to the Hazelnut Turtle drink she loves at our local cafe…just…blended and cold). As for me…I went with the Iced Arctic Joey ($4.55)…which is coconut, almond and chocolate. I had mine made with coconut milk as well (+$1.00). In essence, it was a liquid almond joy. And it was delicious. There were bits of coconut floating in it. I think I was just starting to get in the Aloha spirit by getting something with coconut. Needless to say…smooth, creamy, delicious. Nothing overwhelmed the drink, and it wasn’t heavy. It was pure liquid gold. And refreshing. And tasty. And in the end, coffee should always be tasty. I was beyond happy with this decision.
Upon arriving in Hawaii…after the rental car debacle…wherein we learned…convertible is fun…but not when you have a fractured ankle. We got it sorted…and switched out the fun and stylish convertible for…a Ford Fusion. Yeah…definitely not the way we had envisioned traveling, but it gave us more leg room and some more storage space for our big-ass luggage. LOL! After checking into Pono Kai Resort in Kauai…coffee was needed.
It’s always coffee with me. LOL!
So, we scoped out and fell in love with a local café called Ha Coffee Bar. And we went back every day we were on the island of Kauai…save for Sunday, because they are closed.
Ha Coffee Bar, Lihue, Hawaii
It was love at first “Aloha” when it came to Ha Coffee Bar. I have nothing but warm fuzzies when I think back to every stop at Ha Coffee Bar, each morning, first thing, while on Kauai. It was a bit of a drive from the resort, but always worth it. I tried three different things on the three days we were there that they were open. And, not once, was I ever disappointed in my choice. Ha Coffee Bar is a café that is built to resemble an old-school bar. No joke. Their iced drinks are even mixed in martini shakers. LOVE. This set-up allows them to showcase and sell products and items, such as pour-overs, that might not typically be served at a café. Ha Coffee Bar primarily serves espresso coffee, cold brewed coffee, pour-over and French press coffee. The variety in the types of coffee they serve allows for different origins and price points, which also helps minimize waste as they don’t have coffee sitting and going stale…high quality coffee and flexibility that allows customers to explore different blends, flavor profiles and methods of making coffee. Coffee love. And boy…did I LOVE this. On the first day there, I stayed pretty basic. I got a Salted Caramel French Pressed Cafe Au Lait with Almond Milk. I loved that they added the flavor to the steamed milk itself, and then gave me the pitcher of leftover almond milk in case I needed more of it in the drink. But it was perfect the way they gave it to me. And the French pressed coffee…OMG…so good. Jenn got a simple Iced Hazelnut Latte and Cathy got an Iced Peppermint Mocha. So, on the next morning, I noticed they had signature drinks hanging up near the register…so I decided to give one of those a try. I had it narrowed down to two…but opted for their drink the Bee Sting. The Bee Sting is simply Espresso, Coconut Milk, Honey and Cinnamon. I got it iced…as the humidity was killer that morning. Cathy got their take on an Iced Black & White Mocha (Zebra). And it was, absolutely, hands down, my favorite coffee drink of the trip. I wish I could have had it again. I would have gotten it again. The coconut milk gave it this rich flavor, the honey sweetened it, the cinnamon lent a hint of spice…and espresso…got me moving for sure. Simple…yet SO good. SO very good. In fact, on our last day there, this is the drink that Jenn opted to get after trying mine. With Ha closed on Sunday, we had to go elsewhere, but on our last day on Kauai…we were there in the morning and I was getting another signature drink…Liquid Sunshine, which was cold brew coffee, coconut syrup, and coconut milk. DELICIOUS!! Not Bee Sting delicious…but delicious. I was quite happy with it. Not something I can get here…anywhere…so that was most of the draw for this drink in particular. The last morning there, Cathy got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha and a Pineapple Cream Cheese Scone to enjoy for breakfast. I still say it today…back in Louisville, Kentucky…that I miss Ha Coffee Bar. It made that much of an impression.
Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream, Lihue, Hawaii
I have KONG Radio to thank for the discovery of Skinny Mike’s. As we were driving the island of Kauai on Saturday, just enjoying beaches and the like…an advertisement for Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream came on. And it advertised ice cream, sorbets, and vegan ice cream. They had my attention, and the attention of both Jenn and Cathy too. I looked them up…and took note of where it was located. And we vowed to go there and check them out. At least once, yes?
And so, Saturday evening, after splitting a gluten-free pizza at a local chain…we headed over to Harbor Mall, where Skinny Mike’s is located. We parked and marched up the stairs to the little shop. Online I had taken a peak at the flavors, and sort of had my heart set on the Pineapple Cream. However…they didn’t have that flavor. So…I was left to look over the offered flavors while Jenn & Cathy made their choices. We each got regular scoops ($3.49) of our flavor choices. Cathy went with the Mint Chocolate Chip as it is one of her favorites…anywhere. Jenn won with their signature flavor…a local classic…Macadamia Nut. Hers was so good, we went back the last night there and each got a scoop of the Macademia Nut. That’s how good that was. For my first trip there, without the Pineapple flavor being available…I went with the suggestion of Coconut Cream. The Coconut Cream ice cream was the perfect level of coconut flavor. No bits of raw coconut…just the flavor infused in a creamy scoop of ice cream goodness. It was delicious. Smooth. And melted fast. Ah…coconut based things…I didn’t mind though. Not one bit. I eat frozen desserts rather quickly regardless. LOL! We were so impressed with the ice cream there that, as I said, we all went back to get the signature Macadamia Nut flavor on our last night on Kauai. Worth it. That was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Just…delicious. I miss it. I want some more of the Macadamia Nut flavor…it’s a craving that hits now. Now that I know it exists…but can’t get it anywhere else…but there.
Java Kai, Kapaa, Hawaii
What happens when your favorite Hawaiian coffee stop on Kauai is closed on Sunday? You have to find a new place to get that caffeine hit. And this was what we were left to do on Sunday morning. Sunday. When I should have been running a marathon. When, instead, I was hobbling around Kapaa in search of coffee. The stop at the little food truck-like coffee place was…not going to work for everyone. No one was really happy with the menu options…so…we backtracked to a spot that Jenn spotted and had looked up online. It wasn’t far from the resort. It was a worthwhile stop in the end. And, in the end, we all ended up with a bit of breakfast with our coffee as well. How? Because this place had some gluten-free options on the menu and in the bakery case. SCORE! This meant we could have something a little more substantial at the start of the day, instead of the meager protein bars or yogurts back at the resort. It would mean eating better now and not making poor choices later. And so…Jenn got one of the bars from the bakery case…the Aloha Bar ($3.75), I think. For her caffeinated goodness that morning, she got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50). Cathy went for the Breakfast Burrito ($10.50), which includes eggs, roasted potatoes, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese, which she got with the mango-chipotle salsa. For her drink, she got the Iced Hazelnut Mocha ($4.70). She at hers there at the café as she was the driver. As for me…they had gluten-free English muffins. HELLO! So I ended up getting the Gluten Free English Muffin with Cream Cheese ($3.95), which they kindly toasted for me…looks like in a pan…no cross-contamination. And for the drink, I got the Iced Macanut Latte ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75). Jenn and I had ours to go and I happily noshed away on a Glutino English Muffin with a light spread of cream cheese. The Macanut Latte…macadamia nut flavor…espresso…nutty goodness. And it was just the perfect drink that morning. It was supposed to be marathon morning…and I needed a distraction. This food, while simple and basic…was just what I needed. The drive along the coast helped too!
Hanalei Bay, Hanalei, Hawaii
We visited a lot of beaches while visiting Hawaii. I mean, that’s part of the point when you visit an island, right? But, I think, above all others, my favorite one we stopped at, and spent the most time at, was Hanalei Bay. This beach is stunning. A beautiful 2-mile long crescent of white sand, nestled beneath a breathtaking range of mountains. The water was relatively calm that day, with some small waves crashing against the shore. Despite my new friend…Bootsie…being on, we were determined to get away and enjoy the day. Anything to keep my mind off the fact that I should have been running. Hanalei Bay is a great beach for walking and body surfing. Calm waves, lifeguards, and a great coast line. I managed a few solo ventures along the waterline of the beach, just needing to at least move a little…minus the boot. I took it off for beach time. Strange tan lines were not on the agenda. I was very careful of where I stepped and the movement of the sand…and would pause if a wave came up and rolled over my legs…because that undertow could be a bit strong and throw me off balance. It was here that I realized my surf lessons the following day were not going to happen, as much as I wanted to give it a try. It was just not going to be physically possible for me to get up on a surf board. I was brokenhearted over this…but shrugged it off as no big deal. These were the cards I was dealt. Suck it up, cupcake…you’re in Hawaii!
After some walking and some laying on the beach…we got dressed and headed off for the next venture. Which tunred out to be a good thing. Heavy rains started soon after we had changed…and soon, Jenn and I realized just how sunburned we had gotten. I don’t think Jenn slapped on any sunscreen. I had…but the burn was in those places where clothes met skin or that strings were located. I was trying to avoid strange tan lines…and yet…that is what I ended up with in the end.
That being said…for a moment, I forgot about the ankle…and the boot…and I just enjoyed the perfect afternoon at the perfect beach.
JoJo’s Shave Ice, Hanalei, Hawaii
I have my good friend Harry Cooke to thank for the journey, while in Hanalei, to JoJo’s Shave Ice. He had mentioned it to me in a message on Facebook…and we were right there!! And with the rain pouring down now, it gave us a good excuse to not sit in a car and try to avoid the flooding roads. It gave us some time to hope the rain would pass and we could do more exploring. The rain didn’t pass. It was with us the rest of the time on the North Shore. However, after a bit of a short (hobbling, for me) spring from the rental car to the little storefront that the Hanalei JoJo’s Shave Ice operates out of…we knew we were in for a treat. The original JoJo’s began in Waimea in 1992, the same year that Hurricane Iniki landed on Kauai. That store is stil there today and still has the original JoJo’s sign. The goal of JoJo’s…to offer the ultimate in Shave Ice on Kauai…which is a true Hawaiian treat. When they expanded into Hanalei, they took the JoJo’s traditions and secret recipes along…and introduced the smaller “junior size,” which closely matches the normal serving size of other shave ice venues throughout Hawaii. JoJo’s doesn’t use commercially made syrups. They, instead, carefully make up their own syrups, with a lot less sugar and more flavor than the commercially used ones by other shave ice businesses. And…no corn syrups either. They also have upgraded all their locations with the best ice machines on Kauai, making for an unmatched, fluffy shave. LOVE. The three of us each got the Junior Sizes ($4.50). And they let you choose up to 4-5 flavors. I don’t remember what Jenn got…but it had cherry…and perhaps lime? I can’t recall. Cathy got Root Beer, Lemon and Grape Shave Ice. And I opted for two of my favorite flavors…Watermelon and Strawberry Shave Ice. Of course, now looking back, I wish I opted for something more…local…like mango or something. Next time. But the shave ice at JoJo’s was huge…filling…and amazingly packed with flavor. I can see why it’s been open for 23 years.
Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café, Kalaheo, Hawaii
I know that technically Kalaheo Coffee Company & Café should have gotten a full review, as it was our place to catch a bite for lunch…on Monday afternoon. However, it was a hot day…and the humidity was really doing a number on me. And while there were a few options for a gluten-free vegetarian on the menu, what sounded really, really good was the Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad ($10.95). And the reason that this didn’t warrant a Restaurant Review post was…it was a salad I could have made at home. Honestly. But this was what I wanted. The Spinach and Kauai Greens Salad is a blend of fresh grown Kailani Farm greens, served with crisp spinach and topped off with strawberries and candied pecans. I kept the feta cheese and held the side of warm flat bread for obvious reasons. It came with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. And it was delicious. Light, but filling. And cooling. And just flat-out what I was really wanting that miserably humid day. But…it was a salad I could make…and therefore…it garners a mention here…but the restaurant itself is cozy and has a lot of great, fresh-made, delicious sandwiches, salads, soups, etc, to choose from. And I loved sitting in there, listening to runners who had run the day before discuss the marathon and half marathon…looking at the different food items coming out of the kitchen to each table. Beautiful setting, beautiful food…and tasty too. For the record, Cathy got the Hot Pastrami Sandwich, which contained grilled onions, mushrooms, and melted Swiss cheese on toasted bread. She got it with the much raved about Garlic Cilantro Fries…which after seeing her and Jenn devour…made me really wish I could have had those. Not safe though…not for me. Darn it.
USS Arizona Memorial – Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii
This was one ONE place that I had to visit while in Hawaii, and the main and primary reason we even island hopped over to O’ahu instead of just hanging tight on the beautiful island of Kauai. Honolulu is definitely a hopping city and much more urban…think LA and NYC. But this…this stop was…important. To all three of us. The USS Arizona Memorial is the number one visitor destination in Hawaii, drawing millions of people from all over the world to see where World War II began for the United States on December 7, 1941. Visitors are free to explore the grounds of the Pearl Harbor Visitor’s Center, which was recently expanded from the original 3 acres to 17 acres, and is now operated by the National Park Service. Admission and parking is free to all visitors. Over 2000 tickets are given out free per day on a first come, first serve basis. We had to check our bags before entering the historic site, so Jenn and I did that while Cathy went to get the tickets she reserved online for us. We were set for the final shuttle out, at 2:45 pm. It was the hottest day in Honolulu…and with all the metal and concrete, we were literally melting out in the sun while walking around the ground. We ducked into the museum, but it was even hotter in there. Bottles of water were purchased and Cathy and I downed ours before we were put on an earlier shuttle, the 2:30 pm, to head out to the memorial. A US Navy boat taxied us out to the USS Arizona Memorial, which is built over the remains of the sunken battleship, the final resting place of the 1,177 crewmen killed on December 7, 1941, when their ship was bombed by the Japanese Naval Forces. The memorial itself was relatively quiet upon disembarking and walking over to it. You can still see the oil leaking out of the actual ship that is buried beneath the waters of Pearl Harbor. It is moving and touching. And the memorial is beautiful and humbling. And I am so glad that we went.
Dole Plantation, Wahiawa, Hawaii
DOLE FREAKIN’ WHIP!! That was the primary reason to venture out to the Dole Plantation in Wahaiwa. It was a bit of a journey…a long drive, but well worth it. The Dole Plantation originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, before opening up to the public as “Hawaii’s ‘Pineapple Experience'” in 1989. Another one of O’ahu’s most popular visitor attractions, the Dole Plantation provides activities for the entire family, including the Pineapple Express ($8.25/adult), the Plantation Garden Tour ($5.00/adult), and the Pineapple Garden Maze ($6.00/adult). None of which we did…due to the cost that was associated with each one and the warm, humid weather that made us want to stick to the air conditioning. What we did do, however, was shop at the HUGE gift shop, which carries a wide variety of Dole Plantation Gifts, local favorites, foods, and refreshments…including DOLE WHIP!! You can even purchase a fresh pineapple to take home. I wish I had. The pineapple in Hawaii is freakin’ incredible. I did some shopping, buying a few minor things like Dole Pineapple hard candy and a magnet. Easy to transport and all. And then, we went over to The Plantation Grille to purchase a bowl each of the world famous Dole Whip ($5.25). It was a large serving, which I loved, and devoured enthusiastically. Better than Disney, which is one of the few places Dole Whip is available. This was…amazing and I wish I had gone back for seconds. Dole Whip, by the way, is vegan and gluten free. LOVE!! It’s just pure frozen treat love.
Panalu’u Beach Park and the Random Pineapple Roadside Stand, Hauula, Hawaii
Welcome to two of the most random stops we made on our trek around the North Shore of O’ahu. Panalu’u Beach Park is located on O’ahu’s windward coast and has this strip of narrow, sandy beach. The nearshore ocean bottom is shallow and has a reef, so swimming conditions here are poor. This was a clam day at this particular beach when we pulled over to check it out. Cathy went wading…and the water looked so refreshing (another humid and hot day!), that I took off Bootsie and kicked off my flip-flop to go wading in the surf myself. My friend Jenn snapped my favorite picture of me on this entire trip here…with the gorgeous blue water and the white sand on the beach. As I said on my Instagram…”Make only memories…Leave only footprints…Kill only time…”
From there, we went hunting for a shrimp place, Romey’s Kahuku Prawns and Shrimp, that the lady at Enterprise told Cathy about after we first arrived in Honolulu, when she mentioned we would be heading up to the North Shore. Along the way, I had been hunting for mangos and we found a stand that advertised them. We pulled into this dodgy little roadside stand, only to learn that they were out of mangos. The weather had ended the season early. I was bummed. BUT…we did purchase a fresh pineapple there, so we purchased one for $5.00, and watched as this little old lady had it peeled and sliced in less that 2 minutes…bagged…and ready for us to take away. We wasted no time, after climbing into the car, trying it out. So fresh…so juicy…so amazing. Hands down, the best pineapple I have eaten in my life. Anywhere. And I’ve had a lot of pineapple. We did find Romy’s…and Jenn and Cathy split a plate of the Garlic and Butter Shrimp. They ate that and I ate a good 2/3 (if not more) of the pineapple. They helped a little after they were done with their fresh seafood.
Best. Pineapple. Purchase. EVER!
Chief’s Luau, Waimanalo, Hawaii
Okay, again, this would generally get a blog of its own, despite not being a restaurant. I couldn’t go to Hawaii and not do a luau, even if it is one that is so tourist-y…it’s funny. We chose Chief’s Luau ($82.00+) due to the fact that it is the best ranked luau on O’auh AND that it had an allergen menu on their Web site. And, yeah, it’s tourist-y, but I actually had a lot of fun at the luau. I finally got a lei (made of shells as we had the cheapest package), had my picture taken with Chief…learned how to hula dance, watched Cathy throw a spear (rather poorly), watched Cathy make a coconut leaf headband (which she left behind), listened to great music, enjoyed the history of the dances that are native to Hawaii…and just…kicked back, laughed, and enjoyed my final night in Hawaii…with a Mai Tai and everything. Aside from the free drink…the luau package also included dinner…and as a gluten-free vegetarian, this left only a few things for me to pick from. Cathy was there for the meat…the pork…cooked in the ground with banana leaves…but for someone like me…I got the food that was catered in. And that’s fine…but because it was catered, I didn’t review it. I was left with the Seasonal Fruit Salad (more pineapple!), the Poi (GROSS…it looked like Barney’s (the purple dinosaur) snot…kind of gelatinous and goopy and YUCK. I didn’t want to try it, but peer pressure had me at least take a taste. NEVER AGAIN!), the Steamed White Rice and (my personal favorite) the Sweet Potatoes. My first plate of food was not really full, and as this was all you can eat, I ventured back for more of the DELICIOUS sweet potatoes and the fruit. Because…fruit and sweet potatoes are actually two of my favorite foods in life. For real. The Mai Tai’s were delicious…and I had a great time at the luau. If you are in O’ahu and want to go to a luau…go to Chief’s. They are #1 for a reason!
Barista, Portland, Oregon
The flight we took back to the mainland went through Portland, where we disembarked and stayed an entire day, so we could explore. Cathy and Jenn had Voodoo Doughnuts for breakfast. We hit up the food pods for lunch, we did a gastropub for dinner. But after the stop for doughnuts, it was vital that we got caffeine. And I chose Barista, out of all the different coffee shops in Portland. I chose wisely…of this I am certain. Being a former barista, myself, I not only liked the name, I liked everything I read about them. Barista was established by coffee legend, Billy Wilson, who now has four (4) Barista cafés open in the Portland area. Let me tell you, this cofee delivers!! Barista is one of the first multi-roaster shops in the Portland area, showcasing Heart, Coava, and another roaster on bar for espresso or drip. Barista is known for serving exceptional coffees from the world’s finest roasters, prepared by the most skilled baristas in the Portland area. No joke. Jenn skipped out on this amazing experience, but both Cathy and I partook of the opportunity to try the coffee at the Downtown Barista location. Cathy ordered the Semi-Sweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50). I went for the Bittersweet Valrohna Mocha ($4.50) with Almond Milk (+$0.75). It was delicious. Strong…but smooth. There was this perfect balance of chocolate and espresso that just…melted together. The milk softened up the bite of the espresso itself, cutting through the dark chocolate. OH MY GOD…one of the best coffees I have ever had. If you are in Portland and love coffee…you are missing out if you don’t swing by one of the Barista locations. For real. I loved every sip. Even better…finally a coffeeshop that gives me an 8 ounce cup of coffee for a small!! THANK YOU!
And that was it. It was Portland to Vegas to Louisville from there. And my 10 day vacation came to an end. Back in Louisville, it’s hard for me to ignore Bootsie. It’s a depressing reminder of everything I’ve had to cancel for the upcoming weeks leading into November. I tried not to fuss much over it on the trip. And, I ate whatever I wanted…whenever I wanted…as long as it fit into my dietary restrictions. And despite limited mobility and really lack of much movement at all…while continuing to stuff my face with local eats…I lost 3 pounds. I’ve put it back on since coming home though…so no worries. LOL!
It was a beautiful trip to paradise…and I’m already dreaming about my return. Next time…to actually run the Kauai Marathon!!