kauai recap: a week in paradise

the breathtaking na pali coastline, from the kalalau trail

This post was created in partnership with The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas. All opinions are our own.

Every time we visit Kauai, we seriously consider moving there. Don’t get us wrong, we love our house and garden here in Eagle Rock, but there’s something enchanting about the idea of living in the tropics—just steps away from the beach, with ocean breezes blowing through our hair as we sip coconuts, eat fresh pineapples, and watch the waves all day. We’ve been home for just over a week and already dreaming about our next trip.

rainbow over the Westin Princeville
the main pool area, with a cocktail bar just a few steps away
there are private balconies off every bedroom

We were invited by The Westin Princeville to stay at their beautiful resort and host our weekly live cooking show from the lovely kitchenettes that are in every suite. This was our third time traveling to Kauai, but we have never stayed in such a gorgeous hotel before. Surrounded by palm trees and lush flowering gardens, this classy resort is nestled in the green rolling hills of the North Shore. After a direct five-hour flight from the bustle of Los Angeles, we landed in tranquil paradise. The Kauai airport is not much larger than our local grocery store, and as soon as you step off the plane, you can feel the magic of the island in the air.

the suite is almost as big as our entire house
the living room with a view of the gardens
sunrise over the adults-only Mālie Pool

We picked up the rental car and with the classic Hawaiian music of The Polynesians as our soundtrack, we headed to our very first stop: lunch at our favorite restaurant on the island. Verde is a small family-owned Mexican spot serving fresh, healthy food with a Hawaiian twist. Their vegetarian tacos and burritos are filled with mixed greens, broccoli, and seasonal vegetables, and just as good as any place in Southern California—and we have high standards when it comes to Mexican food! The chips are fresh, the homemade salsa is spicy and tangy, and they even have a full cocktail menu with Hawaiian-inspired drinks like passionfruit margaritas, which of course we had to order after our long journey! With full bellies, we drove north to Princeville, stopped by the grocery store, and stocked up on food for the week—including a few ingredients we needed to make our triple coconut cookies on the live show. More on that in a moment…

there are tropical flowers everywhere you look
pink sunrise on the North Shore
a spicy bloody mary to start the day off right

After a good night’s sleep—on the comfiest king-size bed ever—we set our alarms for 6am (intentionally) to catch the sunrise. The hotel faces northeast and is known for its spectacular morning displays, so we made sure to get up in time to see the show. Watching the sky turn from a mysterious early-morning blue to dreamy shades of pinks and oranges was worth the wake-up-call. On our walk back to the room, we witnessed something rare: two mating nene geese, which is very special to see since only about 2,000 of these endangered birds exist today.

rows and rows of coffee
sampling the local specialty at Kauai Coffee
in Kauai, there are chickens everywhere!

The rest of the morning was spent prepping for our live show. This is something we look forward to every week: we enjoy cooking for people, knowing they are tuning in from all around the world. We love hearing from you, the interactive platform makes it fun for us, and each episode feels like we’re hosting a party at our house. Eight months ago, when we first started the show from our living room, we never would have imagined that we’d be broadcasting from exotic places like Kauai. We decided to make something appropriately tropical for the occasion, so we came up with a recipe for irresistible triple coconut cookies, and baked them live from our hotel room for the world to see.

hibiscus blooms blanket the island in a rainbow of colors
starting the taste test at Koloa Rum Company
this sunset was so stunning, we left our table to come outside and take this picture

Our spacious one bedroom, 800 square foot villa included a gorgeous kitchen, equipped with a full-sized refrigerator, stove, convection oven, microwave, and the best part… a dishwasher! We don’t even have one at home, so it was a nice treat to take a break from hand-washing dishes on this vacation. And the cookies turned out perfectly: extra chewy with crisp edges, golden and delicious. Using three types of coconut—coconut flakes, coconut sugar, and coconut oil—makes a mean cookie that will tenaciously transport your tastebuds to the tropics. The recipe is written below as well as a video of the live show where you can see us baking them in our charming suite.

the first drink in the Kauai's Best Bartender competition
fresh rambutan may look bizarre, but they're sweet and juicy
the farmers markets have gorgeous tropical produce you'd never find on the mainland
the sweetest coconut we've ever tasted

Every Friday our show begins at noon, but since Hawaii is three hours behind California, we started at 9am which left us the rest of the day to play. The cookies were a resounding success, so we decided to celebrate with bloody marys and a breakfast buffet for two at Nanea, the poolside hotel restaurant which offers refreshing cocktails and a delicious spread of brunch items for guests. Although we could’ve easily lounged by the pool for the rest of the day, we were excited to explore the island and ventured to Kauai Coffee, our first destination on the South Shore. We took a quick, self-guided tour of the plantation, complete with all-you-can-drink samples. Neither of us are caffeine connoisseurs, but we did taste a few of the flavors, and enjoyed walking amongst acres upon acres of coffee shrubs that stretched out as far as the eye can see.

the verde burrito is so good, we had it twice during our trip
the kalalau trail is steep and slippery, but the views make it all worth it
oh yeah, it's pretty muddy too

Of course, our Friday would not be complete without a rum tasting. Feeling electric after the coffee plantation, we drove twenty minutes to Koloa Rum, an award-winning Kauai-based local distillery which offers a complimentary tasting for visitors. We sampled four different flavors, all of them as smooth and satisfying as the island itself. Between the white rum, coconut, coffee, and spiced rum, our favorite had to be the coconut, filled with intense coconut flavor without being overly sweet. The tasting ended with a small piece of rum cake topped with a decadent rum fudge sauce—the perfect sendoff to our next appointment: sitting on the judging panel for Kauai’s Best Bartender Competition! The event was held at RumFire, a contemporary restaurant with breathtaking oceanfront views at the Sheraton in Poipu. The competition runs every Friday from August through November: each week, two bartenders create unique cocktails using a mystery ingredient, and the winner moves on to the next round. We judged the two cocktails based on flavor, appearance, and use of the mystery ingredient, which this week was fresh basil. Both drinks were complex, creative, and completely different: one of them tasted similar to a piña colada with coconut cream and pineapple, and the other incorporated dark chocolate, edible flowers, and three different infusions of basil. After judging the cocktails (the chocolate drink ended up winning!), we enjoyed our dinner overlooking the ocean and met the personable chef, but the highlight of the evening was the show-stopping sunset that persuaded us to leave our seats in the middle of our meal to go outside and take photos. At the end of the night, all the sipping, tasting, touring, exploring, cooking, and judging had worn us out, so we headed back to the North Shore to get some rest and restore our energy before our big adventure the following day.

the beach at the end of the trail was covered with dozens of stone cairns
stopping to snap some pictures on the trail
these ripple-barked trees grow all along the trail
it was the perfect day for a hike, and not a drop of rain
ke'e beach awaited us at sunset

On Saturday morning, we visited not one but two local farmer’s markets. At the first one in Kilauea, just a short drive from the hotel, we wandered the grounds, sampling alien-looking tropical fruit we’d never heard of, and stocking up on snacks for our upcoming hike. At the far end of the market there was a friendly woman selling hot lasagna made with soft homemade noodles, fresh pesto, and filled with veggies. Typically, pasta isn’t our first choice for breakfast, but it looked appetizing, the aroma was irresistibly tempting, and it turned out to be just as delicious as we expected. Our next stop was the Hanalei farmer’s market, held in the center of town, known for its eclectic selection of tropical produce and handmade crafts. We are usually not the biggest fans of coconut water, but since we were in Hawaii, we figured that we’d have better luck finding a tasty one. At one corner of the market was a gentleman who spoke barely any english and only sold coconuts. He selected one from his ice chest, broke it open in front of us with a machete, put a straw in it, and handed it over. At the first sip, our eyes lit up, and from that moment on, our lives would never be the same. It was nothing like the vaguely salty, savory coconut water we had tried before. This was crisp, clean, and wonderful, tasting like naturally-sweetened sugar water with hints of coconut. It was a highlight of the trip and an experience we will always remember.

at secret beach, we had the entire place to ourselves
rinsing off in the natural spring feels refreshing...
... but it is pretty chilly!

The Kalalau Trail is known for being one of the most spectacular and dangerous hikes in the world. Up steep hills, through thick mud, and across slippery rocks, we trudged four intense miles surrounded by lush jungles and astounding ocean views. The last time we were in Kauai in 2014, we woke up extra early to finish the full day hike, trekking all the way to the epic 120-foot waterfall and back. This time we decided to do a half-day hike, starting after lunch, with the intent of making it back to the trailhead just in time for sunset. We brought sandwiches which we prepared in our hotel kitchen, and at the end of two vigorous miles—including wading thigh-deep through a 50-foot flowing river—it felt wonderful to rest our tired and wet legs at Hanakapiai Beach, where we picnicked and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. After a well-needed rest we headed back, and towards the end of our journey the light began to fade, the temperatures cooled, and we made it back just in time to watch the sunset at Ke’e Beach. We relaxed on the sand admiring the local chickens casually patrolling the area, and as the last sliver of sun disappeared beyond the horizon, the entire crowd of spectators simultaneously burst into approving applause. Physically and mentally drained, we changed out of our muddy clothes in the car and had a tasty dinner at a new Japanese restaurant in Hanalei called Ama (the roasted brussels sprouts were a standout), followed by one of the most deep and restful sleeps we can remember.

a lone bench on the sand at Larsen's Beach
the unmarked, secret trail to Larsen's Beach
drying the fermented cacao beans before roasting

There is actually another trail on Kauai that we absolutely love called Alakai Swamp, but on Sunday our enthusiastic hiking plans turned into an all-day beach day instead. Our first relaxation destination was a remote beach in Kilauea with a natural waterfall pouring from a cliff, known as Secret Beach. We packed sandwiches, a bottle of Koloa spiced rum, and with a view of the lighthouse off in the distance and white egrets flying above, we rested our sore muscles while listening to the waves crash against the shore. When it got too hot, we would take turns cooling down in the invigorating falls that spring directly from the black lava rocks of the cliff. Practically a religious experience, we visited this spot last time we were in Kauai, and now it is a must-see every time. We were there for hours and less than five people walked by, so it felt like we had the beach to ourselves, but we wanted to visit another favorite place of ours, so we gathered our belongings and drove twenty minutes east of Princeville to Larsen’s Beach, another secluded location that is just as quiet, peaceful, and revitalizing for the soul. We stayed through sunset, then headed back to our hotel where we capped off the night baking homemade pizzas on English muffins! It can really put a dent in your wallet to constantly dine out while you’re on vacation, so we took full advantage of the kitchens at the Westin and made a handful of meals from our room.

Rollinia fruit or dragon egg? Hmmm...
cacao pods grow right out of the trunk of the tree
the mature pods come in a variety of colors

Chocolate and rain was the theme of our Monday morning. We had heard about Steelgrass Chocolate Farm from our very first time on the island and have always wanted to visit the plantation and take the tour. This time we made it happen, and learned that chocolate does, in fact, grow on trees. Even though it was pouring rain for much of the time, the three-hour tour was informative, fun, and of course, delicious. Our guide Andrea—who kept everyone smiling the entire time—introduced us to an eclectic array of tropical fruits that we were able to sample, from Rambutans and Rolinas to Longans and Mamey Sapote—which tastes exactly like pumpkin pie! We toured the plantation, seeing fresh vanilla beans growing on vines and more cacao trees than we could count. Plus, we sampled a dozen different types of chocolate from around the world, and each one had a unique flavor based on where it’s from. This one-of-a-kind farm is run by the nicest people: we left with vanilla beans which we can’t wait to transform into extract, as well as a dark chocolate bar printed with their new name Lydgate Farms, in honor of their family’s long history on Kauai. We had a great time from the moment we arrived, and can’t recommend it highly enough.

have you ever tried to beer-bong a bottle of honey? Ryan has.
the chocolate tasting was a highlight of the tour, obviously
Andrea opening a fresh cacao pod for us to sample

It was still raining heavily on the way back to the hotel. We stopped at a tasty hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant called Tiki Tacos which made warm homemade tortillas and offered a variety of vegetarian options. We didn’t want to order too much because in the evening, we had plans to attend the He Aina Ola Farm Dinner at the Waipa Foundation, an outdoor three-course, farm-to-table dining experience with wine pairings prepared by the Westin Princeville’s culinary team. There was a walking tour of the Waipa Foundation’s orchard and gardens, followed by three vegetarian courses where much of the produce was grown directly on the farm. The first course was a comforting and warm coconut carrot ginger soup garnished with taro chips and a crispy fried basil leaf. The main course was grilled huli huli crispy tofu, an extra-thick tofu steak, crunchy and sweet on the outside and intensely flavored throughout, accompanied by a Hawaiian purple sweet potato mash, creamed kale with fried shallots, and pickled wom bok, cucumber, and carrots. The grand finale was a rich chocolate cake with a chocolate ganache, served with a dollop of whipped cream. It was luxurious and dreamy and you would never guess that beets were one of the main ingredients. Accompanied by Hawaiian ukulele music with two singers and a dancer, it was the perfect meal to end our trip.

the menu for He Aina Ola farm-to-table dinner
a pre-dinner tour of the farm, which is just steps from the beach
the soup was garnished with taro chips and a crispy fried basil leaf
grilled huli huli tofu on a bed of bright purple mashed sweet potatoes

The time flew by while we were there. We took over 1000 photos and edited them down to this batch of 46. It’s a magical place, one of our favorite destinations to hike and explore, and the perfect spot to relax and unwind. The Westin Princeville was centrally located to everywhere we wanted to go, the accommodations were especially comfortable, and the fact that we had a proper kitchen to bake cookies, make pizzas, and cook a lot of our meals made it the ideal place to stay. Only time will tell if we end up calling this tiny piece of paradise our home one day, but there’s something incredibly special about it that will continue to bring us back.

when they say "farm to table", they really mean it: the dinner is set up in the middle of the farm, with cute animals walking by
aloha from the husbands!
triple coconut cookies

Triple Coconut Cookies
Makes about 18

1 1/4 cups (150g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (104g) virgin coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/2 cup (64g) coconut sugar (see note)
1/2 cup (99g) granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (70g) unsweetened coconut flakes

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the coconut oil, coconut sugar, and granulated sugar, and stir until blended. Add the egg and vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in the coconut flakes until well mixed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest in the fridge for 45-60 minutes, or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll the chilled dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place on the prepared baking sheets with few inches between each ball.

Bake 12-14 minutes, until the edges are brown and the centers are set but are still soft. Let cool on the rack for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

note:
— Coconut sugar is available in many grocery and natural food stores, as well as online. If you cannot find it, you can substitute an equal amount of brown sugar.

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4 Comments on kauai recap: a week in paradise

  1. Christine | what do you crave?
    November 4, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    My friends!

    What a magical trip! And from your beautiful photos to the incredible landscape to the mouthwatering food and your wonderful cookies looked absolutely divine! It looks like you had the most incredible time on your trip. Lovely post!

    Reply
    • husbandsthatcook
      November 5, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Thanks so much Christine! We gotta make a trip out there together sometime! It’s such a magical place!

  2. Nisha / @rainbowplantlife
    November 7, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Wow, beautiful photography! Makes me want to travel back to Kauai again! I love it there.

    Reply
    • husbandsthatcook
      November 8, 2017 at 10:24 pm

      Thanks so much Nisha! We absolutely love your travel photos, so that means a lot coming from you!

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