Kaua’I: A Paradise for Untamed Chickens and Tourists

Hawaiian Airlines was having a bad day on our trip to Kauai, also known as the Garden Isle.

As we arrived at Honolulu Airport, we noticed a gathering of more than 200 passengers slowly making their way toward a single overwhelmed check-in agent. Unfortunately, the airline had a scarcity of staff available to assist with inquiries, leading to a considerable delay before we realized that we, along with numerous other travelers, had mistakenly joined the wrong queue. However, amidst the airline’s troubled day, there was one silver lining for us: we were spared the $10 surcharge imposed on each checked bag by Hawaiian Airlines.

Following a short half-hour flight, we finally reached Lihue, the main airport on the island of Kaua’i. Ranked as the third largest island among the main Hawaiian Islands, Kaua’i spans an area of 552.3 square miles or 1,430.5 square kilometers. Interestingly, it’s worth noting that Kaua’i’s name can be pronounced in two ways: “Kuh why,” which is the pronunciation commonly used by mainlanders, and “Ke why ee,” which is the preferred pronunciation among native Hawaiians.

When we picked up our rental car, the two lovely ladies behind the counter asked where we were from and assured us that Kaua’i was not the place for partying. Perfect, we thought.

Driving north on the Kuhio Highway to our resort in Princeville, we took in the breathtaking beaches and stunning landscape. To our surprise, free-roaming chickens were everywhere; from the side of the road to each beach that passed. When shopping at a Foodland store for groceries (and don’t forget to ask for their free customer card – Kaua’i is pricey!), we asked a local about them. He informed us that these domesticated birds had managed to escape following a hurricane in the early ’90s, and have been living wild ever since–something which research showed they had been doing much longer too! Furthermore, he mentioned that roosters on the island crow all around the clock, not just first thing in the morning.

As you embark on the journey from Lihue to Princeville, you’ll encounter an array of charming small towns and roadside shops, with occasional breaks of vibrant forests punctuating the landscape. Interestingly, this very island served as a filming location for certain scenes in a movie. Along the highway, your gaze will be captivated by the sight of magnificent mountains, their grandeur accentuated by veils of vog— a unique phenomenon formed by the amalgamation of volcanic activity and fog. Locals often make reference to vog in their TV weather forecasts, adding to the island’s distinctive character.

Kaua’i seemed to be filled with aging hippies, some of whom related to us stories of discovering paradise and the waves when they first arrived in the ’70s, or using this island as an escape from their so-called “strange’ ‘ families. We were left curious to find out just how strange those families must have been! A lady at the St. Regis resort in Princeville mentioned to me that she had slept on the beach for four months during her initial arrival, which we soon learnt was a common thing. She also explained that it was typical for Kauai residents to juggle multiple jobs because of the expensive cost of living.

Kaua’i is a place where the spirit of Aloha thrives and flourishes. Everyone is very friendly – I have never seen so many smiles and such a laid-back attitude – and they all have a story to tell, which they are very willing to share. In addition to saying hello, goodbye, love, and literally “sharing God’s breath”, native Hawaiians greet each other by pressing their foreheads together and holding each others’ shoulders.

We stayed at The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, perched upon a cliff overlooking the Pacific. It has all the luxury amenities any four-star guest could desire. However, beyond lodging, the only way to truly see Kauai is by booking Kauai Tours.

One evening, Nanea restaurant gave us the opportunity to sample an array of authentic Hawaiian delights. Ahipoke, salmon lomi-lomi and poi (which could be described as a colorless yet flavorless gruel) were the starters. The titular dish was undoubtedly Banana Bread Pudding with pig and cabbage which definitely stole the show. Our main course was a combination of succulent grilled chicken teriyaki and beef. To finish off, a range of delightful desserts such as coconut cake, Haupia (a kind of coconut pudding), pineapple upside down cake and fresh fruit provided us with a very contented conclusion to our meal!

Although we did venture to several of the highly recommended hotspots on Kauai, we were disappointed with the quality of the food. The abundance of incredible fruits on the islands, in particular the pineapple, more than made up for the lack of innovative flavor in the restaurants.

Lastly, you’ll love the abundance of Macadamia nuts that come in every style you can imagine: milk chocolate covered, dark chocolate covered, toffee coated, or, for savory palates, garlic and onion coated. Macadamias, contrary to their marketing, are NOT native to Hawaii. They were introduced to the islands from Australia, New Caledonia, and Indonesia in 1910.

There is no better place to spend a week or 10 days than Kaua’i. We came home refreshed, tanned, and with a deep desire to return.