Thursday, November 7, 2013

Aloha, Kauai!

Keeping in trend with updating the blog two months behind, I'm finally getting around to posting about our wonderful Catlin family trip to Hawaii in late September. My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary in March, and to commemorate this milestone, they invited the family to join them in Kauai. A date was chosen in September to give Jon and me time to settle back to the U.S. and to visit during Kauai's low season. Though Jon started training at Tinker in July, due to maintenance issues, a government shutdown and other issues, he was still in training by the time our trip rolled around. He was unable to join us on this fabulous adventure, which was heart-breaking for us all. It's no secret that any trip is so much more fun and memorable when Jon's around! Despite his absence, we still managed to have an unforgettable trip to Kauai, the Garden Isle of Hawaii.

One of our few group photos, taken at our Luau evening
We stayed in two condos at the beautiful Kiahuna Plantation on Poipu Beach. The grounds were absolutely breathtaking with every color of hibiscus imaginable and gorgeous trees and vegetation. We truly wouldn't have ever had to leave the grounds to feel like we were in paradise. And the best part was, we were a short 5-minute walk to the beach. We spent most our mornings here listening to the massive waves crashing along the beautiful sandy shore with palm trees swaying overhead. 

The entrance of our accommodation with Braxton and Conan

Cha and Conan soon after our arrival 
So happy to be on the beach!

Conan, 4 months and 4 weeks

Though we were all quite content to be beach bums most days with the occasional snorkeling adventure, we did venture out for two excursions. The most recommended being a helicopter ride of this beautiful island. Mom, Dad and Mandy went on one with the doors off, while Laurel and I chose the more economical doors-on option. Though I get terrible motion-sickness (and did on this ride), it was still absolutely worth it for the amazing views of the island that are nearly impossible to see otherwise. Much of the island is not accessible by car or is privately owned, therefore the best way to get a complete view of Kauai is by helicopter. We saw countless waterfalls, the "Grand canyon of the Pacific" in the middle of the island, the sheer cliffs of the Napali coast, the tropical north side of the island and the sunny desert-like south side of the island. It's amazing how many vastly different landscapes are found on one tiny island. 

Our pilot dubbed us "the twins" due to our matching outfits

The Napali Coastline

The North side

Jurassic Park waterfall - one of the many we saw on our ride 
Beautiful rainbow we saw coming out of the rainclouds 

Our second excursion required a bit more physical activity - a kayak and hiking trip. Though I missed Jon countless times during this week, I REALLY missed him on this day. He loves to kayak and when I've gone with him, I've simply sat in the front and let him do most of the work while I relax and enjoy the ride. Partnering with Mandy, we equally had to do work to paddle the 2-mile long trek down the river. My arms were a-burning!

We eventually veered off the main river onto an inlet where we "parked" the kayaks and hiked through an ancient forest, crossing streams into intense vegetation to ultimately end at a waterfall pool. 

Unfortunately, the waterfall wasn't flowing as much as it usually does, but it still provided a beautiful sight at the end of the trail. 

Waterfall pool

Kayaking on the return trip

We spent most evenings grilling out at the condo, but did have two incredible dinners out. The first was at a traditional luau experience. . I think we all thought this would be a fairly cheesy, touristy evening, but when in Hawaii, we felt as tourists we must participate in a luau to get the true Hawaiian experience. It ended up being a fantastic dinner and show with outstanding entertainment in a beautiful setting. The performers were fabulous, as were the costumes, the dancing, the special effects and musicians. We had excellent seats near the stage to take in the excitement of the show. 

Wearing our matching floral dresses

Charm and Lar dancing at the Luau

The fantastic performers at the finale

Conan and his Bumpa

The Poipu State Park was a short 5-minute's drive away. We enjoyed visiting this beach for the excellent snorkeling and wildlife viewing. Where else can you see a monk seal or swim with a sea turtle? The vibrant colors and variety of the fish were absolutely incredible!

Catlin photo at Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

Monk seal at Poipu Beach
Our final night, we enjoyed an amazing anniversary dinner at the nearby restaurant "The Beach House." Not only was the food outstanding, but the sunset views were phenomenal. It was the perfect celebratory evening concluding our unforgettable week in Kauai.

Pre-dinner photos around the Kiahuna grounds

Pre-dinner photos around the Kiahuna grounds

Cocktails at the Beach House

Sunset at the Beach House

I can't thank you enough, Mom and Dad, for this incredible opportunity for Conan and me to join you on this trip-of-a-lifetime to celebrate your 40 years of marriage. You are an inspiration to each of us girls and I can only hope Jon and I are lucky enough to share such love and memories when we reach our 40th. I love you and am so grateful to be your daughter!