Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tasty Travels: Kauai, HI

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to win Meal Exchange's "National BBQ Day," a contest whose prize was two Westjet plane tickets to any of their locations. See here for details/your chance to win this year! Originally, I was going to credit them to exploring far-away universities, but when I noticed some of their more exotic destinations, Kauai fell into place. Kauai is the oldest, smallest and arguably, the most beautiful of all the Hawaiin  islands. Of course, its "Garden Island" reputation and lush surroundings draw a crowd, but not the usual, shop/beach/flop demographic. Sure, sitting on the beach is fun, but we really wanted a taste of the island's culture. People come for the diverse landscape: stunning cliffs, the Napali coast, fern grottos, a variety of beaches, etc. Being youthful and adventurous, myself and a friend made our trip into one of authenticity. Selena and I got our beach fill the 2 days it didn't rain....(There was torrential flooding in the northern Hanalei region, where The Descendants was filmed). Where we stayed in Kapa'a and Poipu was considerably drier. We filled seven days with hiking, biking, skydiving, hitch-hiking, hostels, boating and eating proper local cuisine. 

The food on the island is heavily influenced by American culture, so you'll find things like oversized breakfasts, hot-dogs, hamburgers and french-fries. However, with its blend of ethnic minorities, Kauai showcases food from Polynesia (try the poi!), Indonesia, Japan, China, etc. With tropical fruit-trees abound, it's perfectly normal to eat coconut, papaya, locally-grown coffee, macadamia nuts, pineapple and avocados, daily! We were spoiled at the end of our trip when bed & breakfast owners, Bob and Patti made the most amazing, fresh breakfasts. We sunk into a regular routine of eating a massive breakfast - ala hollowed-out papaya with granola and yogurt followed by bananas foster over french toast and robust coffee - skipping lunch, then grabbing some fish tacos for dinner, to be eaten al-fresco. At the hostel we did some of our own cooking, but food was never going to be a compromise. We're the kind of girls who would share a mattress and wake up beside wild roosters to cost-justify dinning at Meriman's Cafe. Eating well is, in my opinion, integral to the quality of one's travels. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it should be authentic and recommended by die-hard customers, (ie: "Da Crack" Mexican take-out in Poipu). Regardless, we saved a few pennies hitching rides with strangers and being shamelessly treated to breakfasts and dinners by handsome locals. I couldn't have asked for a better trip, or a better travel-buddy. Returning home from this excursion not only gave us a taste of  Hawaii, but a sweet-tooth for independence.