Family Kauai Trip : {Island Life Recommendations}

This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to go with my family to Kauai….and by family I mean the whole family:  My husband and kids, Mom, Step-Dad, Sisters, boyfriend, brother and his family, nieces, etc.  EPIC!  Anyway, me being me, I had to really plan out the trip.  I so rarely go to big places like this….plus I am a bit of a busy body…..that I had the desire to really MAX-OUT….to really “get my monies worth” so to speak.  So I asked a ton of people for recommendations, scoured the internet, printed up this here map of the island, and started marking places I wanted to see (yes and color coordinating it).  I then made copies for my entire family and sent a ton of texts regarding places to see and plans.  Too much? haha (That’s just me).  But I am so glad I did and I really felt like I got to see a lot of what I wanted on the island (of course there is tons more…but that will be for another trip).  I didn’t see everything, and didn’t blog about everything we saw…there is just too much!  But I do have a friend who lives there, so if my list of things to do isn’t enough…ask and I can def get some more places for you!  ALOHA!

EAT:

  • Puka Dog:  My husband and I loved this place and went twice!  They are amazing hawaiin style hot dogs that do not have a traditional open-face bun, but are almost incased completely in a bun….and then toppings are injected into the bun casing.  And the toppings are special…like tropical relishes and garlic mustards…YUM! It’s a must!
  • Street Burger:  The chef here is bringing some culinary expertise and is changing the food game of Kauai (say the locals).
  • Chicken in a Barrel:  These are stands on the side of the road with just some yummy chicken and ribs…we pulled over and grabbed a bite. 
  • Lava Lava Beach Club:  This was just a little indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar right on the sand in Kapaa.  It had great food and a really cool vibe.  
  • Duane’s Ono-Char Burger:  This is a little burger stand on the side of the road, but it had a huge wait and it was so yummy!  A good old burger!
  • The Wishingwell in Hana Lei:  SHAVED ICE!  You will find Shave ice everywhere on the island….but this spot was the best!

***Buy a cheap cooler and groceries and pack sandwiches if you want to travel a lot around the island and don’t want to always buy food.  We did this all the time, and it really helped because the kids were always hungry, and it isn’t like there is a McDonalds on every beach corner.  Plus you can put beers into the cooler and drink on the beach!

SEE:

    • Queens Bath: This was one of the most beautiful parts of the trip for me.  There is a short hike down to Queen’s Bath, and when I was there we dipped into the bath, then jumped off the rocks into the ocean where we were with a seal and sea turtles.  It was amazing!  But BE WARNED:  Queens bath can be very dangerous depending on the tide, so only go when it is safe.  (Not for little children)….that’s me swimming in the middle. 
    • Wailua Falls:  You can just drive up, park, and get out to view the falls and take pictures.  
    • Hoopi Falls Hike:  We took the kids on this and it was an easy hike!…but the trail is hard to find and is just a small opening across from some homes.
    • Waimea Canyon:  This is a beautiful drive and is like the “grand canyon” of Kauai
    • Hanalei Bay:  This was also one of my favorite spots.  It has a great view, great beach, no real waves which is great for kids, and you can go down the pier and jump off (it isn’t too high).
    • Wailua River:  We kayaked the entire river and then “parked” our kayaks on the shore where there was a path that lead to a hike.  This hike lead to an amazing waterfall!  My arms were dead, but it was so worth it!  BE WARNED:  Rent a kayak inadvance…they were all sold out when we tried to get one day of (luckily we knew someone in Kauai who let us borrow theirs).
    • Napali Coast:  Everyone loves this view…it’s so beautiful.  You can only drive so far, and then you either have to hike or take a boat to view the coast and beautiful mountains.
    • Maniniholo Dry Caves: These are on the North Shore and are just really cool to see.  You pass them on your way up towards the Napali Coast
    • Kalapaki Beach:  My brother and I surfed here and it was such a great experience.  You can rent a surfboard for a pretty reasonable price.
    • Honestly ALL THE NORTH SHORE BEACHES!  We would drive up and see gorgeous remote beaches, land, churches, a lighthouse, etc.  There are so many great beacheslike Anini, Tunnel’s, Hideaway, etc.  My husband and I wore our swimsuits with light clothing over, and brought towels and a cooler of food and just drove up the North Shore.  We would throw off our clothes and jump into the beaches we found, then head back into the car.  It was so laid back and beautiful.  (Clearly we left the kids with grandma at the hotel haha)
  • Luau:  My family and I went to a Luau and had a really great time!  However I was expecting it to be on a beach (like in the movies), but it was on a plantation and there were so many people!

SHOP:

Honestly I didn’t do any shopping because in paradise, who cares to shop? The only things I bought were some souvenirs, a hat for me from Hanalei Bay, and groceries! *Groceries…like a load of bread are pricey in Hawaii! Go to Walmart and Costco while there if you need to get food

  • ABC Stores:  These are everywhere in Hawaii and you can get anything from toilet paper to aouvwniers and clothes there. It’s a one stop shop to grab stuff for people back at home, or grab something you forgot.

HELPFUL TIPS:

  • When traveling with young kids, prepare yourself in advance that this will not be anormal trip to paradise with lots of sleeping in, massages, date nights and sex.  So just mentally prepare yourself now lol.
  • Don’t pack a ton of makeup, and lots of fancy shoes and dresses….you will get so into the island way of living that you won’t care about such things….plus it will most likely be too humid to want to get ready at all. (Bring a tank and shorts, sandals, and a swimsuit, done).

BUT SERIOUSLY:

  • Kid Tip:  When traveling with kids, pack TONS of food, snacks, lollipops (for the ear popping), pack the Ipad and headphones, and wrap “presents” for them to open on the plane to keep them entertained.  We wrapped crayons, a coloring book, a couple small toys from the cheap section at target, animal crackers, etc.

Praise God there was a Shake Shack in the LAX airport…..YUM for days!

WHERE WE STAYED: 

We stayed in condo’s at the Lae Nani Outrigger Resort.  These are privately owned condos that vary in size (1-3 bedrooms), and there are three floors to choose from.  We booked ours on AirBnB and had a great experience.  We got a 1 bedroom, that had a pull out couch in the living room for the kids, a full kitchen, two bathrooms (showers only), and a TV in each room.  It was plenty of room for the 4 of us.  The condo was fully stocked and even had beach chairs, inflatables for the pool, snorkel gear, cooking gear, and a cooler.  Just do a little research, look at customer reviews/pics, and ask the owner questions, and I am sure you will get what you want!  It was under $200 a night for us to stay right on the beach…which is a pretty good deal to me!  We chose a bottom floor unit so we wouldn’t have to lug kids up and down and so they could just wake up, have breakfast on the lanai and run on the grass as soon as they woke.  (Our poor neighbors lol).  There is a pool and tennis court also there, and I like the location….plus if you pick the right unit (like we did), you can have an awesome morning view.  The little beach right out front was so pretty, and there was even a spot that was set aside for kids to play (a portion of the beach is closed off by lava rocks making it safe without waves).  Kapaa is in the middle (coast) of the island, so almost equal distance to the North and South Shore.  

Texas State Fair

Everyone has told us since moving to Texas that we have to go to the Texas State Fair and see “Big Tex!”  We visited and had a great time!  We are used to the OC Fair that happens in Orange County every summer, so this felt familiar and fun in comparison.  My favorite thing from the OC Fair is the bucket of hot, mini, cinnamon and sugar donuts …….they are HEAVEN!  But I could not find them here at the Texas state fair.  But where they were lacking in donuts, they made up for in cotton candy…they honestly had the best cotton candy I have ever tasted!  The kids loved the fair (I quietly mourned our Disneyland Days), and we made some great memories.  I am excited about this new fall tradition!

 

My Faves of Portland : {Making the most of a short trip}

IMG_6371_2“Keep Portland Weird” is a phrase that was painted on the wall of a local pizza place by our hotel…and it says so much about Portland!  Portland is weird and quirky and artsy and beautiful and they own it!

Because my mom is a cosmetic laser trainer and travels all the time; training clinics and doctor’s office staff on their newly purchased lasers….she gets to travel and earn lots of travel points and rewards!  So we used some of her rewards points and had a mother/daughter trip to Portland two weeks ago!

It was a short trip (Sunday night-Wednesday evening) so we had to make the most of our time to ensure we saw everything we wanted to.

Despite only being there a few days, I FELL IN LOVE WITH PORTLAND!  It had all the best things of a big city: tons of things to do and see, so many great and unique eateries, amazing parks, quirky neighborhoods, etc……but it was so much better than most of the famous big cities I have visited!  Mainly because it was clean, lush and green, the people were so friendly, and it was oh so quiet!  Of course being the socal girl that I am….it helped that it didn’t rain while we were there :).

Here are just a few highlights and recommendations on where to eat and what to see when there….especially if its only for a short time!  Prior to leaving I scoured blogs, Pinterest and yelp to make sure I hit great spots.  Plan a trip there soon friends!!

EAT:

  • VooDoo Doughnuts – Famous for their crazy donuts
  • Salt & Straw – Amazing & unique ice cream flavors (like Olive Oil)…plus this is in a cute neighborhood that I wish I had time to really explore!
  • Tasty & Alder – Great breakfast biscuits! (although I still need to try Pine St. Biscuits)
  • Veritable Quandary – The Bacon Dates app was on point, and everything was so delish here…but make a reservation!
  • Cheryl’s on 12th – Not only did I chat and talk about babies with the actual Cheryl, but my mother and I shared drinks, chatted, and showed off baby pictures with a lovely couple sitting next to us.  Oh yeah and the food was great…I had a fig & goat cheese sandwich!
  • Stumptown Coffee Roasters – The best coffee…seriously so smooth and delish!  You will find a number of cafe’s and bakeries around the city that promote that they brew Stumptown.
  • Lovejoy Bakers – Grab a Stumptown coffee and a pastry and you can sit on their adirondack chairs and just relax..taking in the Pearl District!
  • Petunia’s Pies & Pastries – Vegan Bakery…my mom was obsessed with the raspberry bars
  • Ken’s Artisan Bakery – We had an amazing lunch here…the bread is so fresh and I love that goat cheese came on the salad.
  • Andina – Peruvian Food (I recommend the cheese plate & quinoa crusted shrimp)
  • Isabel – Yummy latin breakfast (I had the artichoke scramble)
  • Lonesome’s Pizza – Open late and cheap delicious slices from a tiny speak-easy type window (Cash Only)

SEE:

  • Washington Park – There are endless things to do here.  You can visit the zoo, rose garden, japanese garden, tree arboretum, children’s museum, etc.  And the hiking…oh the amount of trails!
  • Waterfront Park – This runs along the river which divides Portland and it is a great walk where you can take in all the gorgeous bridges!…just watch out for all the bikers!
  • Keller Fountain Park – This is a fountain (although it didn’t have water when we were there) that just looks so cool!

SHOP:

  • Powell’s Bookstore – THE bookstore in Portland
  • The Pearl District – This was my favorite neighborhood to explore.  It has a ton of cute shops, adorable homes and apartments, art installations and sculptures line the streets, and it is just oh so hip feeling haha.

HELPFUL TIPS:

  • You can’t catch cabs in the city…just from the airport or if your hotel calls one for you
  • The train/bus system is awesome but you can walk the city fairly easy (when you stick to one side…I.E. the Westside or the Eastside)
  • Best months to travel there are August and September…a friend from there told me Don’t go in the fall!…you can seriously get just drenched by the rain!
  • They offer great tours…like bike tours and brewery tours.
  • If you do rent a car…there are lots of one way streets and you have to pay for parking pretty much wherever you go in the downtown area…but I didn’t find it was too hard to find a spot or too expensive.
  • Traffic going in and out of the city can be rough so plan ahead when trying to catch a flight.

I MUST go back…and maybe I will bring the hubby along next time :).

IMG_6382_2

My favorite cheat sheet/map that I found! IMG_6379_2We loved our stay at the Embassy Suites Downtown…the decor was so 1920’s art deco…and the accommodations were great!
IMG_6510No joke the cheese plate at Andina’s…the corn nuts!…so good 
IMG_6514 IMG_6473Our appetizer at Veritable QuandaryIMG_6469_2These cinnamon/sugar puffs (like a beignet) come free as you wait for your meal at Cheryl’s on 12th!IMG_6458This is at Washington Park and there were just so many trails!….I was almost expecting Edward Cullen to walk out from behind a tree.
IMG_6461Lush lush lushIMG_6446These are the drinking fountains that are spread around the SouthWest side of Portland…they are all around and the water constantly flows!  Plus the water there tastes AMAZING!IMG_6443_2Keller Fountain Park…would have been so cool if it was flowing…but still so beautiful.IMG_6441_2Walking along Waterfront ParkIMG_6426_2VooDoo Doughnuts…the line can get cray so go when its slow!IMG_6419_2This place is so adorable and the vegan treats were delish!
IMG_6409Our lunch at Ken’s Artisan BakeryIMG_6398_2At Lovejoy BakersIMG_6400_2Oh you know…just a baby on a bench :).  IMG_6392_2Such cute homes in The Pearl!IMG_6391_2Oh I love all the greenery!

There were a ton more places to see and eat at but there just wasn’t time (feel free to comment if you want more recommendations).  So….looks like I will just need to go again.  Until next time PDX!

Best Meal EVER!!!!!

CARNEVINO-LOGO_2

Being the self-dubbed “Foodie” that I am, any celebration for me has to include good food….and more than that….good steak. For my 30th birthday my husband and I took a day trip in order for me to have dinner at my favorite steak restaurant, Carnevino. I had been there once, but the food was so incredible that I have been dreaming about going back for over a year.

What makes Carnevino so different is the length of time that they dry age their steaks. When a restaurant says they serve dry aged steaks they usually don’t specify for how long…and if they do, the average is a few weeks only. Carnevino on the other hand dry ages their steaks for about 3 months! Dry aging makes the beef more flavorful because it removes un-needed moisture and simultaneously makes the steak more tender. So this steak LITERALLY tastes like none you have ever had before. The longer it is dry aged the more the flavor changes…I would compare it to a wine or cheese in how the flavors can change so much. They even have a riserva steak that is dry aged 8 months and it has a blue-cheesy flavor. Their beef quality is also beyond compare. This is from their website:

“(Our Beef) is often beyond regular USDA prime standards for marbling and flavor and is hormone and antibiotic free. We rub all of our beef with sea salt, black pepper and fresh rosemary to get a delicious and slightly charred crust.”

Carnevino was ranked 4th in a list of best steak houses in the U.S. so of course it is a bit pricey, but is worth every penny! The service is remarkable and you def feel fancy eating there, haha. When we were waiting for our table they gave us a free glass of champagne at the bar and when we were being seated they wouldn’t even let me hold my glass…they carried it for me! Please enjoy the pictures below of our most recent meal there and put eating here on your bucket list!

photo 1 (1)Rosemary bread, in-house made unsalted butter and a butter made from pork back fat, thyme, rosemary, and garlic (SO GOOD)

photo 1 (2)

photo (2)Pasta with black truffles and butter sauce (Off menu item)…THIS ROCKED MY WORLD!

IMG_0683

A glass of Pinot Noir paired perfectly with the mealphoto (3)This is a seasonal cream corn dish that has no cream. They use the natural juices from the strained corn as a broth. It was so delicious with roasted corn and had a kick of peppers.

IMG_0687For dinner we had a dry aged bone in rib-eye for two. At Carnevino, they cook their steaks on the rare side so this is a medium-well. It is hand-carved table-side, sea salt is sprinkled over it, and then olive oil is drizzled on top.

IMG_0711The great thing about this steak is the variety of flavors depending on what part you are eating. For example, the bone has such a savory taste that is so different than the rest of the steak.

IMG_0714As a birthday surprise they served shortbread cookies with chocolate sauce that said “Happy Birthday”….at least it did before someone got too excited and dragged their finger across it and put that finger in their mouth…..it was me haha.

IMG_0679We had to grab a salted caramel chocolate at Godiva before leaving the hotel.

IMG_0676

I am always wanting to hear about places to have a great meal. Please feel free to share where places you have had a perfect meal.