Lessons learned

That’s a wrap on our family trip to Kauai! We left the island with quite a few takeaways on how not to travel with kids, and of course, with many many memories of adventuring together. Emerson still talks fondly about the dolphins we saw in Hawaii. (Note: We did not see any dolphins in Hawaii.)

Kilohana Plantation train

On our last day in Kauai, we boarded the Kilohana Plantation train, an old-fashioned engine that took us deep into the heart of the plantation. We learned about star fruit and cara cara oranges and sugarcane and taro. We had a picnic lunch, then on to feed the wild hogs, cows, horses, and chickens, all of whom eat tortillas. Emerson donned his Hawaiian finest for the day, matching the painted eucalyptus beautifully.

You had me at “Farm tour”

On Wednesday, we booked an animal interaction tour through Airbnb Experiences. The Kauai Animal Education Farm is a nonprofit dedicated to serving native Hawaiian animals by taking in native animals who are no longer wanted (like chickens who no longer lay eggs) and by providing a safe space for non-native animals that disrupt the ecosystem. Our little animal lovers were fearless in doing their part to care for the animals.

That evening, we went to a different kind of farm, this one a regenerative food forest called Common Grounds. Here, they plant banana trees next to papaya trees next to starfruit trees. They practice no-till farming and cover cropping to reduce soil erosion, a significant issue worldwide. They’re also of the belief that with better farming practices, Hawai’i should not need to import 85% of its food. In fact, with one anise plant, they supplied the entire island with enough spice for every Thanksgiving pie. The tour concluded with an absolute feast crafted entirely of food sourced from the farm.

Tour Guide & Dancer

On Tuesday, we ran around the Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens, a private sculpture garden. While we’d originally hoped to book a guided tour, Emerson became our tour guide extraordinaire. He ran from one sculpture to the next, with Shiloh surfing in the wagon behind him. We loved feeding the koi, engaging with the bronze, and doing airdry in the palm tree garden.

At night, Emerson surprised us all by going onstage to learn the hula at the Tahiti Nui luau.

Surprisingly civilized dinner

Much to our surprise, one of our more successful outings was to dinner at the 1Hotel, Kauai’s new top resort. We couldn’t quite justify the cost of a resort stay given the fickle nature of children, but we did thoroughly enjoy some buttered pasta with a side of fruit.

Tiny bubbles

The next day led us to another rainy adventure, this one enjoyed under the cover of a boat. With the exception of a wipe-out from running on slick mud, the Smith Family Grotto Boat Tour was a hit for the boys. Emerson continues to sing the songs that were shared with us as boat entertainment. “Tiny bubbles, in my wine, make me happy, make me feel fine…”

On our way home, we stopped for fresh fruit smoothies, freshly dried mango, and shave ice in the town of Kapaʻa. Shave ice was a hit throughout the trip, with Emerson eating nearly two bites per purchase.

We love citrus!

On our first day in Kauai, we stepped out in the rain to tour a fruit farm. This farm tour, found on Airbnb Experiences, takes us through Moloa’a Organica’a, a private fruit, vegetable, and spice farm in the northern part of Kauai. Rather than organized rows, the trees were all intermixed in a disorganized array, some old, some new, and nearly all bearing fruit across 30 acres. As we weaved through the orchard, our host would stop at a tree and take out his cutting board, slicing the exotic fruit as he told us stories about medicinal uses, history, and flavors. We tried noni, apple banana, star fruit, avocado, breadfruit, coffee fruit, and more. Shiloh and Emerson enjoyed sucking on the many varieties of oranges from their comfortable positions in the carriers. We were all soaked by the time we meandered back to our cars, arms full of fresh fruits to bring back to our Airbnb, grateful for the experience and exhausted by the skipped naps.

A beautiful wedding

From the top of an old sugar plantation overlooking most of the island, the wind is blowing strong yet peacefully, and the light continue to play games with the clouds and the grounds as it sets over us.  The groom, one of my best friends, and the bridge both exchange heartfelt vows that bring tears.  One highlight of the evening is a very moving flower lei exchange between families as they welcome each other into their lives.  Along with being so happy for them, I thank them for creating this chance to reunite with so many college friends and enjoy an adventure of a lifetime here on Kauai.

Wedding ceremony

Hawaiian wedding outfits