Swimming With and Eating Scary Things in Kauai, Hawaii–and other Vacation Adventures/Tips

Lydgate Park, Kauai for snorkeling. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy.

Snorkeling in a “kiddie-lagoon” in Kauai is no longer mild fun when someone asks if I’ve seen the barracuda. The enthusiastic, kind-hearted stranger who really, really wants me to share this barracuda moment with her insists that barracuda don’t really hurt people. However, she also tells me that another man at her hotel made the following comment just the other day: “but when they latch on, they won’t let go!” So, no, I’ve not seen the barracuda. I don’t want to. Instead, I’ve seen happy little sky blue fish with lemon-yellow outlined bodies following me. And I’ve followed them, just to be social. I’ve also seen “sergeant fish” with their translucent white shapes and vertical black stripes. I hope to never see a barracuda.

Nate and Alex, on the other hand, have seen the barracuda and they’re swimming around, trying to find it again, which absolutely astounds me. I guess someone has to survive long enough to take people to the hospital and that lucky someone will most likely be me, I suppose. I watch them plunge their masked faces back into the water, circle around, and shout,

“It’s only about three feet long! That’s like, nothing!”

Three feet long is just way too long. I’m only 5 foot 2 ½. This barracuda is more than half my size according to the anxiety fueled “generous proportion math” method I’ve applied to this very situation. But Nate tells me I should trust him. There’s nothing to fear. He spent a year in the Fiji Islands where he taught math and accounting in the Peace Corps. He knows his way around a reef or two, as well as how to just let venomous sea snakes glide on by. The “lagoon” in Lydgate Park in Kauai doesn’t have either of these things: reefs (for reef sharks) or sea snakes. There’s just one random barracuda floating around and I feel like we’re playing Russian roulette with it.

While Nate and Alex continue to snorkel and look for the barracuda, a man from Alabama has just found the barracuda, inches from where I am standing and his reaction is the one I would expect from normal people. He tells his kids, in a very alarming sounding voice, “That’s a barracuda! Swim! Swim!” The kids totally freak out and start swimming and I follow their lead. In mere seconds my portion of the “lagoon” erupts into a scene from Jaws. Pale arms are thrashing and flailing about. At one point, I lose my balance and fall rear first into the shallow water, but do I stop moving? No. I scoot on my bottom all the way to safety. Nate and Alex watch me, bemused. Nate swims back over to ask me if we should leave for the day. I decide I’m just fine in the shallow end and he and Alex can continue to take chances with the barracuda. After 45 minutes more, we’re done and blissfully unharmed.

“That’s pretty good,” Nate tells me as we leave. “You lasted 15 minutes—just like when we snorkeled on our honeymoon in St. John’s.”

Back then, Nate said I had turned snorkeling into a competitive sport. I was the last one out of the boat and the first one back in. I got into the water, looked around, saw scores of pretty fish, wondered about sharks, freaked out, and got back in the boat.

“I still got it,” I said. “Even after 20 years I’m the gal who will try anything once for 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes are the best 15 minutes ever.”

After all, on this trip to Hawaii, I didn’t sign up for the adrenalin-packed rush of teetering on narrow trails while hovering above steep canyons, zip-lining over coconut trees, surfing mountain-sized waves, or trying my hand at sailing for the first time. I signed up for the hammock-swaying—mai tai drinking—relaxing vacation. Still, I want to have some adventurous fun and I find it on the menu at an ocean view restaurant: Barracuda. It’s following me. I have no choice but to order it and eat it. The entire thing. Okay, it’s only 3 ounces and not an entire barracuda, but it’s the best 3 ounces of buttery, flaky fish I’ve ever tasted in my life. It’s good. Scary good.

My barracuda plate at the Oasis restaurant in Kauai. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy.

Of course, we explore the island of Kauai, starting with farmers’ markets and working our way through look-out spots for the Wailua River Falls and the Waimea Canyons. We tour the Kahaleo Gardens and check out Hanalei as well, but one of the most daring things Nate and I experience in Kauai takes place in our hotel room and it all starts with a trip to Walmart.

Family picture at Wailua River Falls.  This photo was taken by a kind tourist who noticed we were trying, unsuccessfully, to take group “selfies” without a selfie stick.

Nate, in addition to being a pretty adventurous guy is also a thrifty accountant who manages even thriftier accounting employees who enjoy a visit or two to Hawaii. One of his employees told him that, in Walmart, for about $14.23 it’s possible to pick up an entire bottle of Koloa Mai Tai Cocktail. It has the local Koloa rum and the mai tai mix in it together. This entire bottle costs the same as one mai tai in a restaurant in Kauai, so it’s quite a bargain, but Nate and I are a little skeptical.

“I don’t know. Should we really get this? It might not be very good,” I say.

“Nah! Let’s get it!” Nate says, grabbing the bottle by the neck and taking it directly to the checkout counter.

It’s not the best mai tai in the world, but it’s definitely pretty good. I highly recommend this little thrifty adventure.

Bottle of Koloa Mai Tai Cocktail. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy.

Here are some other things Nate, Alex, and I recommend/learned if you are planning a trip to Hawaii:

1) A flight to Hawaii, in our experience, is never cheap. We thought it would be less expensive since we now live in the state of Washington, rather than Ohio, but the flights are still expensive. And long.

2) Website companies advertise great hotel rates, but those deals might not exist in real life. After Nate booked a dream room at a dream price using one of these websites, the hotel manager contacted him directly to tell him that the room did not exist at that price. If we wanted a room at that price, we could book one with a king sized bed and share it with our teenage son. Or, for just $600 more, we could have the room we originally wanted, with the ocean view. (We paid the extra amount. It was an incredible room.)

3) Interestingly enough, the hotel where we stayed, contracted with the above-mentioned website company to provide a “concierge” service. (I don’t want to mention the website company by name, but it rhymes with Flexpediabotrom.) In any case, Nate wanted to find out more about snorkeling at Lydgate Park, which is basically known as the “baby pool” of snorkeling and the exact experience we wanted. It’s practically free as well, except for renting the snorkel gear, which isn’t pricey at all. So, he approached the Flexpediabotrom concierge and asked about Lydgate. She did not offer any information about Lydgate. Instead, she pointed to a glossy flyer advertising a $200 per person boating/snorkeling tour. We could come back later if we wanted to book that tour—or any other expensive helicopter/kayaking/hiking experience. So, if you want to take really, really expensive and adventurous tours when you get to Hawaii, you’re in luck. There are lots of people who will happily help you with that.

4) We also opted out of attending a luau. Our hotel had a beautiful (and free) hula show that we enjoyed.  There is a highly recommended luau in Hanalei, Kauai that is quite affordable, comparatively speaking. It takes place on Wednesday nights at Tahiti Nui. We were leaving on a Wednesday and arrived on a Thursday, so we missed it. Returning to experience this luau is one of the many reasons why I think we should come back.

5) Nate figures that we saved about $700 by stocking up on sandwich supplies, snacks, and breakfast items to eat in the room. (The room had a very tiny refrigerator, but we made it work.) Then, we could justify our splurges at dinner or lunch when we were out. (We just couldn’t resist trying new drinks in restaurants even though we had a $14 bottle of mai tai in the room.)

6) In Kauai, chickens are everywhere. They run loose and they are adorable and, if you’re not careful, you’ll have tons of pictures of chickens taking up loads of storage space on your phone. You will name them: Hotel Chicken, Road Chicken, Pretty Chicken, Fighting Chicken, Hungry Chicken, Beach Chicken, and Party Chicken. I even went so far as to rate places in Kauai based on how many chickens were there. “Gee, the Waimea Canyon area is really pretty,” I’d say. “Except, I just wish there were more chickens.” Any place that gets a 5-chicken rating is superb.

Hotel Chicken. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy.

7) Swim with—and eat—something scary.

In Other News: A publication I submitted a while ago went “live” on April 1st. We were on vacation. That morning, when I got the email and the link, I told Nate and Alex about it. Alex, though, didn’t believe me:

Alex: Wait! Today’s April 1st. You’re kidding, right, Mom?
Me: No! This is not a joke! My short story really did go live today! Look!

So, here’s the proof. It’s here on this link below. It’s a short horror story in Coffin Bell Literary Journal. Cheers!  Pretty Pink Flowers

Your Turn: How do you go about planning a vacation? Or, what’s your favorite vacation memory?









47 thoughts on “Swimming With and Eating Scary Things in Kauai, Hawaii–and other Vacation Adventures/Tips

  1. My favorite vacations are the ones without planning sometimes solo and sometimes after I met my husband. Trips in my 20’s with a girlfriend to the South of France while studying in London. We parted ways after Paris but I continued solo. A solo trip to Oman during my Spring Break while teaching in the UAE. A shared voyage with my husband to the Everglades was very good!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oahu sounds wonderful! We typically like to have a pretty packed schedule too, but not for this vacation. Nate and Alex were pretty stressed from work and school, so it was nice to relax. When we went to England a few years ago though, we packed tons of stuff in and had a great time. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Cecilia. Congrats on your published story.

    My wife and I are lucky to have done a good amount of traveling. The only place we keep going back to though is Cape Cod. It has many of the right ingredients for us. We never thought we’d get hooked on a place, but we did.

    Neil S.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cape Cod is a beautiful area! Over the years our family has settled on a few places to revisit, but I wish we’d settle on one so that we don’t have to do so much research every year. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In my ukulele class we play and sing our favorite Kauai songs, ‘Beautiful Kauai’ and Ko’kee. I told them that the island bird is the rooster. When I visited there I saw a dozen roosters in their colorful plumage, not counting the hens. Did you see ‘Airport rooster?’

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by! I’ll bet there are many, many wonderful songs about Kauai-it’s such a beautiful place. I did not see the Airport Rooster, but if I have a chance to go back, I will definitely look for that one. Cheers!


  4. Love your story, Cecelia; it gave me serious chills! Congrats on the publication.
    As for vacations, I’ve never been anywhere very exotic. However, I’ve stayed several nights in a large, rented Victorian in an old mining town and also in a few different lighthouses on the Great Lakes. These experiences were fun and very memorable!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I wouldn’t want to say hello to a barracuda either! I’ll stick to Nemos & Dories 😉
    Wow, a year in Fiji teaching in the Peace Corps, Nate’s definitely got an interesting resume!
    I love that – try anything, just for 15 minutes. That makes a lot of scary things seem a little more reasonable. I’d go for ‘I’ll try anything, for 60 seconds tops’. But a definite no to eating barracuda. You’re braver than I.
    I’d love to visit but I’m not sure that’ll ever happen. But, never say never. Great tips, including for those who may be considering Flexpediabotrom concierge. Your post gets a 5-chicken rating from me! 😉
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wanted to cry when I left. Maui is the next place I want to explore–Alex in particular fell absolutely in love with snorkeling, so Nate and I will have to take him snorkeling “for real” next time. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So, April 1st is a “joke” in the Usa as well? I can’t believe it! Hawaii Islands are a dream for a European like me, I’ll spens my next holidays in Greece (four islands). I organize by Internet. My best vacation? Well, I went to Jerusalem one month ago, I recommand: holy, strong town. Congratulation for the short story!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Have to be honest, I was hoping for a photo of Party Chicken. Looks like an amazing holiday. I have travelled, a tiny bit. That tiny bit was very far away. It nearly took in Hawaii as a stopover, but we couldn’t get the dates to tally up, so we went via Hong Kong instead. But I’m a scaredy cat, so when I came back from the very far away trip, I decided I didn’t want to ever get on a plane ever again. That was 20 years ago. But I don’t want to regret not seeing places or be the reason my partner doesn’t travel, so I have taken the mammoth step of renewing my passport. No excuse now! I have made note of your very useful travel tips 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Party Chicken could not be photographed well–he moved too much, so all of the photos were blurry:) I hate, hate, hate flying too–I’m a miserable wreck and alcohol does not help at all. I just sweat through it. I wish it were easier. Once I’ve landed though, I’m fine. Congrats on the passport!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s not a particularly pleasant memory, but it reminds me of the day my friend told me there was a boa inside the river we were swimming in, and I did the reasonable thing of rushing out like the Road Runner and then sitting outside and crying like a baby for the remainder of the time we were there. I was a very mature 15-year-old. BUT… I didn’t get eaten by the boa, so… that’s good? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t even imagine a boa–right in the water while swimming! I would have done the same thing–except I probably would have fallen–right on the boa. So, yeah, it’s definitely good that you got away when you did. Who would stay in a river with a boa?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My friend, apparently. I’m not sure whether he was lying or he had a death wish. Though that river was pretty dark and had some deep parts, Lord knows what was there. For the record, he didn’t get eaten either.

        Liked by 1 person

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