Hiking Hawaii: Volcanoes National Park, Big Island

When you think of the Big Island of Hawaii, chances are the first things that come to mind are volcanoes.  Not surprising, as out of the five volcanoes which are considered active in Hawaii, four of them are on Hawai’i Island.  The opportunity to walk among these incredible forces of nature is why millions flock to the island (pre-Covid-19!) every year.

You probably also remember the devastating eruption of the Kilauea volcano in 2018, which sadly destroyed over 700 homes in the Puna district of the island, permanently changing the landscape of the island.  The eruptions ceased in September 2018, and the area is currently safe.

We were lucky enough to be able to visit Volcanoes National Park just before lockdown happened. At the time of writing, most areas, including visitor services remain closed.

You can check up to date information on the park and plan your visit Here.

In this post, I’ll be writing about my recommendations and experiences of the incredible hikes in this area.  Hopefully you will soon be able to plan your own visit!

Continue reading “Hiking Hawaii: Volcanoes National Park, Big Island”

Hunkering down in Hawaii (part 2)..lockdown in Paradise

It’s hard to believe it’s been six weeks since I first wrote about sheltering in place on the Big Island of Hawaii (Hunkering down in Hawaii: social distancing on the Big Island).  I thought I’d write a little update on the situation here, as we wait to see if and when we can begin to travel back to the U.K!

Hawaii is one of the states that has imposed the most restrictive rules and regulations around lockdown and behaviour in the Time of Coronavirus.

As I mentioned previously, Kauai was the first island to mandate an evening curfew to all residents and visitors, violation of which was punishable by a fine and/or prison time! The Big Island stopped short of a curfew, but insisted on self-isolating and sheltering in place.  As the weeks went by, all the beaches, parks and golf courses closed, and shops, hotels and restaurants ceased trading.  Some restaurants remained open for take out only.

The local hotels closed their doors around the end of March

We had already cancelled our onward travel to the neighbouring islands, deciding that it was safer to stay where we were and see how things progressed.  We didn’t think that the lockdown could last as long as it has!  The Big Island, where we were to spend three weeks, has inadvertently become our home and refuge during this crisis.

Luckily, we had an ongoing reservation on our rental home, which has given us some flexibility, with travel restrictions and mandates changing on a regular basis.

The information we have from the Government of Hawaii is confusing at best.  Trying to keep up with both the Governor’s updates for the state, and the localised updates from the Mayor of the Big Island is a challenge.

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Before all the state beaches were officially closed, “Beach Closed” signs started to appear around the area, and gates were closed to block access to cars.  Apparently some were put there by locals to try and keep visitors away, which only added to the confusion (and isn’t really in the spirit of Aloha!).

It was unclear whether you could use hiking trails, and given that we were only supposed to be driving in order to buy groceries, we have mostly stayed in the local area.

Our grocery shopping is mainly limited to one trip a week – planning meals ahead of time.  This is something we have never done as city dwellers in Europe, where a supermarket or any type of cuisine imaginable is always a 5 minute walk away!

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Masks have now become mandatory in all stores – at least I was able to procure a Hawaiian themed one!

It has been very quiet here.  We normally go walking a few times a week around the neighbourhood.  Until recently, we have regularly been able to walk 4-5 miles without seeing more than one other person.  The wild goats have happily taken over the golf courses, and wander along the roads nonchalantly, enjoying the lack of traffic.

It’s a surreal but relaxing experience to walk among the volcanic paths and not see a car or human for miles.

When we do eventually get back to the UK, it will be a shock to the system after months of idyllic island living.  I’m so used to this house now,  it will be like moving home all over again!

The pools in the complex have stayed open, so we have been able to sit and read in the sunshine.  Until recently, the pool area has been very quiet, with people mostly observing social distancing.

In the last few days, we’ve noticed more “new” families in the area, who we assume have come in from the mainland.  There are apparently flights still coming in, with a few visitors per plane – a tiny fraction of the numbers that the islands would normally see.

A new law requires anyone arriving to Hawaii to quarantine inside their residence or lodging for 2 weeks, only going out for medical emergencies.  This even applies to inter-island flights.  I’m not sure that this is being adhered to in our remote part of the island.. and there doesn’t seem to be anyone around to enforce it!  We just keep our own social distance and make sure we’re exercising and keeping as healthy as possible.

The shops in the local mall remain closed, despite permission being given last week for some retail stores to re-open.  Perhaps after weeks of lockdown, they don’t have the staff or finances to open their doors.  There are so few tourists that there may be no point.

We saw today that one shop has closed its doors permanently and the space is now for lease.  It’s a tiny indication of the impact that the lockdown has had – and will continue to have –  on the economy, as we watch companies and businesses slowly fold.  It seems like it’s only going to get worse, the longer the country and the world remains at this standstill.

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In the last few days, the Governor of Hawaii has indicated that some restrictions will start to slowly be relaxed.  We are now able to go hiking, within a family group, and we can go to some beaches, as long as we don’t sunbathe!

For the rest of our time here, we will be doing a few more hikes, and hopefully be able to spend some time at the beach.  It’s been very strange to be in Hawaii for this length of time and not do our usual amount of hiking, shopping, beach time and dining out. It has, however, been very relaxing, and we have been lucky to be in this situation.

I don’t think these guys are going to be impressed when people want their golf course back!


As it stands at the moment, our flight home from the mainland has been cancelled and re-booked by the airline four times.  They are not sure that the next one they have scheduled for us (in June) will fly.  As my Visa Waiver entry to the U.S. expires before then, we are trying to contact various Government agencies for help with an extension.  We still have no clear idea of when we will get back to the U.K.

So we continue our day to day life on the Big Island, caught somewhere between not wanting to leave, and the frustration and expense of not being able to get home.  We are grateful that we have been able to shelter here, and although times are stressful, it has been the best place to wait things out.

As we take our evening walk in the shadow of the stunning Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world, I am reminded of the wild beauty of the island, and how fortunate I am to have been able to visit here.

Hopefully, as the world starts to re-open, we will be able to return home, and we will plan to re-visit the islands as soon as we can.

Stay tuned for more updates, as we continue to negotiate these strange times!


Before the islands shut down, we were able to spend some time hiking and visiting the National Parks And historical sites on the Big Island, which I have written about in previous posts (you can find them under the “Big Island” category).

Next up, I’ll be writing about the incredible Volcanoes National Park, and some of the hikes we did in the area.. including the eerie Kilauea Crater.  Hopefully you will be able to plan your own visit soon!

In the meantime, stay safe!

Mahalo

Charlotte 


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Hawaii, Big Island National Parks: Pu’uhonua O Honaunau & Kaloko-Honokohau

Aloha!

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that we’re still “sheltering in place” on the Big Island of Hawaii – monitoring the current situation until it’s safe and possible to head back to the UK.

Some of our travel plans had to be cancelled, but we were lucky enough to be able to visit the National Historical Parks of the Big Island before they closed.

While the Big Island is perhaps best known for Volcanoes National Park, there are other important sites to visit, with some beautiful beaches and hiking included! Read on to discover more..

Continue reading “Hawaii, Big Island National Parks: Pu’uhonua O Honaunau & Kaloko-Honokohau”

The Big Island, Hawaii; Kona Cloud Forest & Maka’ula O’Oma Trail

Aloha!

When we first arrived on the Big Island, over a month ago, the world was still relatively normal.  As normal as it ever has been.  No-one was in “lock down” and the Global panic around the Coronavirus was only just starting to escalate (I talked about our trip so far in my previous post Hunkering down in Hawaii: social distancing on the Big Island)

Life in Hawaii was continuing as usual.  We were lucky enough to be able to do some nice hikes and adventures on the Big Island before the Statewide “stay at home“ order, which has given me some time to update my blog!  Hopefully my posts will provide some escapism and give you some inspiration on things to do in Hawaii once the world returns to it’s “New Normal”, whatever that may be.

Continue reading “The Big Island, Hawaii; Kona Cloud Forest & Maka’ula O’Oma Trail”

Hunkering down in Hawaii: social distancing on the Big Island

As I write this from a very quiet lanai, overlooking beautiful gardens somewhere on the Big Island, it’s strange to think how much the world has changed in the past two weeks or so.  It’s incredibly quiet here.  The wind rustles the palms, a bright green gecko is stalking along the wall, colourful birds are hopping around the bushes, and a small herd of goats appears to have claimed the golf course in lieu of people.

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My current writing desk

Apart from the eerie quiet of the complex, you wouldn’t realise something was going on until you head out and see that all the shops and restaurants are closed, and walking through the once bustling shopping centre is like something out of a sci fi movie.

At the moment, we’re staying around our rental house, only popping out to one of the grocery stores, which have remained open.  We’ve been told the pools in the complex will probably be closed today or tomorrow, which given some of the behaviour we’ve witnessed is probably for the best!  Some people just can’t seem to grasp that they need to keep their distance and keep their coughs to themselves!

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Social Distancing!

If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that we are lucky enough to visit Hawaii once or twice a year, usually travelling to Kauai, and then the Waikiki area of Oahu.

This time, we had planned to start our adventure on the Big Island of Hawaii, which was a first for me.  Originally we would have stayed here for 3 weeks, then go onto Kauai, finishing in Oahu.  We left the UK on the 1st March, deciding that as long as we took the precautions we always do when travelling, it would be safe to set off.

Looking back now, it’s crazy to think that I was fussing over which bottle of hand sanitiser to buy in the chemist in Heathrow Airport, “this one is just aloe scented, it’s not as nice as the one we have at home”.  We each took a bottle in our carry-on.  Within a week or two, this 99p item was selling on the internet for several times its value and had sold out everywhere!

Aside from some more enthusiastic disinfecting of surfaces, with people spraying or wiping their plane seats and tables, everything was pretty normal on our flights.  The planes must be the cleanest they have been! The flight to LA from London was quiet, as we had expected, so we had a spare seat – the Holy Grail of air travel.

For the first 2 weeks of our trip, everything was open as normal.  The only sign of things to come was the initial hoarding of toilet roll and disinfectant.  When we wandered into Longs Drugs one day to ask if they had any hand sanitiser, we were met with a laugh and “no, we had some this morning but it’s all gone”.

We were able to explore the Kailua-Kona area, before heading to the Hilo side of the island to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and doing some fantastic hikes around the Kilauea crater.

Our plans changed once the Mayor of Kauai declared an intended curfew and “stay at home” mandate.  The restaurants then closed and there were also some bad floods happening on Kauai, so we decided to stay put on the Big Island.  One of the most important things to do, especially when you find yourself in a foreign country, is to follow the Government instructions.  There would have been no point in us trying to travel around and putting ourselves or other people in danger.

We’ve seen some negativity in the local media and social media against “visitors” to the island, and people wrongly believing that the majority of the cases in Hawaii were brought by either American or International arrivals.  This article was published recently in Hawaii News Now to give some clarification:

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – The state Department of Health is worried Hawaii residents may be getting the wrong idea about visitors in the state during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an email received Friday night, Hawaii Department of Health Spokesperson Janice Okubo said, “I have been informed that there are residents of Hawai‘i who believe the COVID-19 positive cases here are all visitors to the state, and unfortunately, there is stigma developing against visitors in Hawaii.”

The email continued: “I am asking the media to help the public understand that of the 37 positive test results to date, 32 of them are the result of traveling residents. The majority of cases are residents who returned home after traveling.”

While I completely agree that travel to the islands should be limited or stopped at this time, there are people, like us, who have been here a month and have followed all guidelines for safety.  Unfortunately, there are also individuals who act in a disrespectful or obnoxious manner, who give all visitors a bad name!  The heritage and culture of the islands should always be respected, whether in a crisis or not.

However, at this point, the most important thing is that everyone who is currently on the islands, resident or not, does what they can to keep themselves and other people healthy!

As things are at the moment, our intention is to Shelter in Place on the Big Island until we can get our scheduled flight home (assuming flights start up again some time soon!).

In the meantime, this is obviously not the worst place to be “stranded”, and it gives me some time to write about the beautiful National Parks and other areas we have managed to explore on this incredible volcanic island.   The parks are now closed until further notice.

In my next posts, I will be writing about our hikes in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and other areas of Hawaii Island, as well as information on accommodation (which we found more challenging on this island!).  Hopefully this will give you something positive to read while you plan your next trip to paradise..

I’ll also do some shorter updates on the situation as we go along.  Every few days we’re still trying get out for some smaller hikes in the Waikoloa area, while keeping a social distance – so I’ll document some of these. 

We all hope that things improve and the World, and the Hawaiian islands “re-open” very soon for everyone to enjoy 😊

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

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Mahalo

Charlotte

Return to Agaete; November 2019, Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra

Happy New Year!  For my first (long overdue) post of 2020, I thought it would be nice to write about our most recent visit to Agaete, Gran Canara, in November, where we managed to get a last bit of sun to tide us over during the UK winter.  As I sit here on a dark, cold January afternoon, listening to the rain on the window, it couldn’t seem further away!

I previously wrote about Agaete, on the North-East of Gran Canaria in my post Wild & beautiful Agaete: the Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra, back in 2017.  Please read this earlier post for more detailed information on the area. 


Update on Hotel & Spa Cordial Roca Negra

Since our last visit, around 2018, the hotel has been extensively refurbished, and we were pleasantly surprised by some of the improvements.  It was already of a very good standard, but was probably due some modernisation.

It was definitely a lot busier than we remembered, but still a lot quieter than the Southern resorts, and if you can travel during school term times and in the low season, you won’t find it crowded.

The reception staff were friendly as ever, and as usual their excellent English puts my lack of any Spanish to shame! The reception area and mezzanine level have been re-decorated with modern, tropical vibes.

The room itself was similar to the suite we had stayed in before, with stunning ocean views from the terrace.  It had been modernised and was clean and comfortable.  It was more than big enough, with a large bathroom and separate seating area (and air conditioning that actually works – sometimes difficult to find in the Canaries!)

Elsewhere, there is a new roof terrace area, with Balinese style day beds and seating area, as well as an enclosed bar/eating area for when the wind is a bit too much for sitting out!  The food menu for the bar area was very good, with really fresh and inventive salads, as well as larger main courses.

We really enjoyed hanging out here in the late afternoon, especially as the weather was pretty unpredictable for the time we were there!  The bar tender also made a very good Negroni, which is essential for my Husband!

3AB8BB88-4D79-47C9-8B31-54DBD1566F95IMG_1780The gorgeous new roof terrace area, and a view down across the pool area and beyond 


The hotel spa 

The spa had also gone through a refurbishment since our last visit, and is now an attractive and relaxing addition to the hotel.  The entrance area has been remodelled and moved to form a new, well equipped gym (it looked well equipped to me.. obviously I walked straight past to get to the relaxation area 😆), and separate entrance to the spa.

There is a good spa circuit, with flotation pool, sauna, steam room etc (finishing with a bucket of ice if you’re brave enough!), and a full range of treatments available.

I had an incredibly relaxing full pedicure (while lying down listening to relaxing music), and a slightly less relaxing – though very much needed – back massage, involving lots of digging in of elbows and latex suction cups!  I was bruised for a few days but definitely felt less knotted up and some of the toxins being released.

The spa is definitely worth a visit, especially on those overcast days, or after a long hike!


Dining 

The hotel buffet which I wrote about in my previous post, used to be situated across the road from the main hotel.  That was no longer being used on our recent visit (not sure if there are plans to use this for something else).

The buffet restaurant is now on the lower ground floor, downstairs from the reception.  It’s been decorated in the same bright, tropical vibes as the other areas, and is spacious and well laid out.  The buffet is of a good standard, with varied and tasty food choices.

There are also plenty of restaurants in the town, although we have usually been lazy and eaten at the buffet most nights!  Also, as we tend to visit during the winter months, some of the town seems a bit closed down for the season, and less inviting when wandering around looking for somewhere to eat.

On one such day, while looking for somewhere for lunch, we wandered into the restaurant El Dedo de Dios (God’s finger), named after the rock formation just off the coast of the town.

The plain, uninspiring  exterior of the restaurant belies a huge and welcoming interior, with high ceilings, traditional beams and eclectic decoration, buzzing with local patrons enjoying a fresh seafood lunch.  We were probably one of only two tables of tourists!

We ordered a few tapas-style dishes, which were delicious.   I always take it as a good sign when a restaurant is full of locals.  I would highly recommend for lunch or dinner and we will definitely be returning next time we’re in Agaete.

If you’ve visited Agaete and have any restaurant recommendations, feel free to let me know for our next visit!


Agaete remains a bit of a “hidden gem” of Gran Canaria, and well worth a visit if you prefer to really get away from it all!  The rustic and more wild beauty of the area is a nice contrast to the busier resorts in other parts of the island.  It’s also a fantastic area if you’re into hiking or mountain biking.

As ever, I would love to hear your views or comments on this or other posts on my site.  To be automatically informed of new posts, please follow me using the buttons below. You can also follow my Instagram and Twitter feed to see what other adventures I’m up to!

Adios for now!

Charlotte

Le Méridien Ra Beach Hotel & Spa & Calafell area

Hola!

After being back from Hawaii for nearly two weeks in July, we were understandably starting to miss the beach again!  So, deciding that we wanted to do a short-haul trip, Spain seemed to be the ideal solution.   After some research on the coastal areas, we settled on El Vendrell, and specifically Calafell, in the wine-growing region of Penedès (in the North-Eastern part of the country).

Less than an hour’s drive or taxi from Barcelona, this area of the Costa Daurada is easily accessible, and a perfect place for a relaxing and sunny beach holiday.

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Le Meridien Ra Beach Hotel & Spa

Set opposite the beautiful beach of San Salvador, the hotel was originally a sanatorium, harnessing the sunny climate and healing waters of the sea for health & wellness.

Fast forward 90 years, and is is now a Marriott Group 5* hotel, with apparently one of the largest spas in Spain.

The lobby of the hotel is very large, light and airy, with high ceilings and modern decor. The reception staff are friendly and welcoming, although we found that levels of English comprehension differ between staff members. As my Spanish is woefully lacking, I don’t consider this to be a negative aspect! The hotel seems to be just as popular with Spanish guests taking a seaside holiday as with other nationalities, so it definitely has more of a “local” feel to it, which we liked.

The lobby area leads though the bar and out to the back of the hotel, with direct access to a beautiful private beach. We spent most of our 10 days here!

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The private beach @ Le Meridien

If you can drag yourself away, there is also a very nice rooftop pool area, other sun decks, and of course the spa, with a heated pool and fantastic facilities. I had a very relaxing spa pedicure, as well as my first ever Ayurvedic detox massage, which I intend to talk about in a separate little post.  Highly recommended!

We stayed in a duplex sea view suite, which was very spacious, with a separate living room downstairs, one full bathroom, and another en suite off the bedroom.

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The decor of the room was appropriate for the seaside location, and very light and airy. It was in need of some TLC in places, but mostly in good order.  My experience is that 5* can mean different things depending on the country and city.  It’s all about knowing the country and managing your own expectations.

I did read some negative reviews about this hotel before we visited, which we just couldn’t understand once we were there! It’s such a relaxing and friendly place. And the majority of the service is of the 5* level I would expect.

The housekeeping was a little hit and miss, but nothing worth complaining about, and, again, some of it was due to language differences!  Also, as it’s a seasonal hotel, I imagine there are some staff changes during the later summer months,  when some return to college or back home.


Dining and the local area

The hotel itself has some good dining options, with daily breakfast and night buffets, an a la carte restaurant (La Tarrassa del Mar) and a fine dining restaurant, Lo Mam, by Catalan chef Jordi Guillemarea (which we have yet to try).  Both La Tarrassa and the buffet were of a really good standard.

There is also a nice menu for snacks and light meals in the bar area.  And a beach club restaurant serving lunch and lighter meals close to the ocean (although be warned, the servings are very American-sized, so not so much on the light side!).

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It’s a hard life

Less than 5 minutes walk down the promenade takes you towards the main town, which is a typical buzzing Spanish seaside spot.. although I imagine very quiet in the winter! There are all sorts of shops with everything you could need – casual clothes stores, bazaars, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and many types of eateries!

A couple of places to note:

Restaurant Pizzeria Giuseppe, a casual beachside venue serving pretty authentic Italian style pizza and pasta, and with some good, though inexpensive red wines.

Oroma Coffee, a great little independent coffee shop serving brunch, breakfast, and lots more! This is our go to when we wake up too late for breakfast at the hotel.  Soo much better than Starbucks!

Vermuteria L’Espineta,

A fantastic and very rustic little restaurant, which looks as if its been there forever, in an old fisherman’s cottage-style building.  Serving delicious traditional tapas and some more unusual local specialities.  Again, the portions are pretty large, so you may need fewer tapas than normal depending on your hunger level!

Self-catering & markets 

If you’re self-catering or just want to buy some good supplies for snacks or picnics, there is a large Lidl supermarket around 5 minutes walk from the hotel.

A little further along, the Mercat de Calafell is also well worth visiting.  As well as a large supermarket, there are some fantastic independent shops/stalls selling delicious local ham, cheese, fish, wine, and all good things. There’s also a good health food store. Visiting the market was one of our favourite things to do!

Don’t miss!

Castell De La Santa Creu de Calafell

constructed in the 11th century as a border castle between the French Empire and Al-Andalus, with an incredible history, the castle is definitely worth the 1.4 mile leg work-out to get there!

For a pretty small entrance fee, you get to wander the historical remains, including the 15th century prison, and the 8th and 9th century tombs under the current church building.  With some pretty spectacular views of the Calafell area to boot!

Check the opening times before you visit, and note that it is closed in the afternoon from 2pm, and reopens at 5:30pm.

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We stayed at Le Meridien Ra Beach Hotel in both July and September.  The weather in September was still warm enough for the beach, with a couple of more cloudy days.  Note that the hotel is a seasonal one, and is only open from May – September.

Calafell is also easily accessible from Barcelona by train in around an hour, with many services running daily 


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about this sunny Spanish coastal getaway, and feel inspired to visit for the first time, or to return to an old favourite.

As ever, I would love to hear your views or comments on this or other posts on my site.  Or let me know if you have specific questions on any of the destinations I feature.  To be automatically informed of new posts, please follow me using the buttons below. You can also follow my Instagram and Twitter feed to see what other adventures I’m up to.

adios for now and travel safe!

Charlotte 🙂

Hiking Kauai: Poipu area trails

In my previous posts, Hiking Kauai; Top trails on the Garden Isle and Hiking Kauai: Kuilau Ridge Trail & Moalepe Trail, I talked about some of my favourite hikes on the North and East of the island.

On our last couple of trips, we’ve stayed in the sunny South of Kauai, in the Poipu area, and have discovered a few nice trails for all abilities, which give you the opportunity to explore the neighbourhood, and take in some stunning views of the coastline.  So if you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip to Kauai, these are on my “must do” list!

Continue reading “Hiking Kauai: Poipu area trails”

Kauai: South Shore Poipu area, activities & sightseeing

In my previous post about the sunny South shore of Kauai, I talked about my experiences and recommendations for accommodation, dining and shopping (Kauai: South Shore Poipu area accommodation & dining)

If you can tear yourself away from the world class beaches, and delicious eateries, there are plenty of interesting things to see and do around this beautiful and historical area.

Whether you’re in the mood to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture (and get a respite from the heat for a while!), wander beautiful gardens, or tick off the stops along a the Heritage Trail, here are a few of my “must dos” while you’re there…

Continue reading “Kauai: South Shore Poipu area, activities & sightseeing”

Kauai: South Shore Poipu area accommodation & dining

It’s hard to believe a year has flown by since I wrote about visiting the Western side of the beautiful Island of Kauai Summer on Kauai; Waimea town, Canyon & surrounding areas.

With the far North of the island still inaccessible to tourists, due to the severe floods last year, we have enjoyed discovering and experiencing new and varied sides of the lush Garden Island.

On our last two visits, we have stayed on the sunny South of the island, in the Poipu area,  which boasts an array of stunning beaches, some great shops and eateries, and, most importantly, the best weather on the island!

Read on for more of my experiences and recommendations for Poipu and beyond!

Continue reading “Kauai: South Shore Poipu area accommodation & dining”