Welcome to the Garden Island: Day 1

Labor Day weekend is coming up, and we all know what that means...summer is basically over. Luckily, I had the chance to go on one last family vacation before the fall/winter grind really begins. Already grateful for a June-July that included the Philippines and Disneyland, I was ecstatic for a week-long trip to Kauai with my parents and our long-time family friends, the Quintanas. Of all the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is my favorite. Hands. Down. A perfect way to cap off my 2012 summer!

My journey from San Francisco to Kauai, though, did have one stop. A 3 hour layover in Honolulu. I think that eating is one of the best ways to pass some time, and I also think that a beer-burger combo is one of the best things to have after a long day. To unite these two concepts perfectly, we headed over to the Kona Brewing Co. restaurant, right inside Honolulu International Airport.

I already knew that I wanted a Big Wave Golden Ale and a plate of Pele's Fire Wings. I've had them before at KBC's Koko Marina pub (on the Hawai'i Kai side of the island). Starting with the Big Wave, it's a lighter bodied beer that's nice and smooth. It's marketed as their "easy drinking, refreshing" ale that "goes down easy after a day out on the water". Long day of surfing...long day of traveling...you see where I'm going with this. A long day is a long day. Have a beer!

The Fire Wings are marinated in their Fire Rock Pale Ale, another crisp and refreshing brew. It went well with the chicken and didn't clash with my pint of Big Wave.

My parents shared the Lawai'a Special sandwich, a "catch of the day"-type deal. The grilled mahi mahi had great char on it, but it was still moist and flavorful. It ended up being a huge portion with a salad on the side.

My Imu Pork sandwich was just what I needed! The pork is slow-cooked in Castaway IPA, one of their "draft only" beers that has more of the floral, hops flavors coming through. Crisp red onions, melted cheddar, and provolone top everything off, while the Black Sand Porter BBQ sauce is served on the side. The sauce accents the deep, bitter sweetness of the porter and makes the roasted pork stand out.

After filling up on brews and grub, napping through the rest of the layover, and getting through a bumpy 20-ish minute flight to the Garden Island, we all finally arrived at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club! This stunning oasis is where my Uncle Alex and Auntie Jocelyn have a timeshare. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with lush trees, exotic flowers, and colorful shrubbery. And, as if the ocean being steps away wasn't enough,  there are ponds, waterfalls, and lagoon-style pools. My favorite detail had to be the hammocks. When you look closely at the photo on the left, you can see a couple of hammocks pitched next to the water's edge. Or, perhaps, a lounge chair perched on a hill overlooking the ocean is more your thing? Either way...Total. Relaxation.

The villa that our families shared was just as spectacular. Vibrant upholstery, dark wood, granite countertops...While on a tropical island, you don't expect to spend a ton of time inside, but at least here, the time you spend indoors is time spent comfortably. The bottom-right photo is of my bedroom!

The balcony had great views of the ponds and a sneak peek of the ocean, but it also shows the nearest whirlpool spa and the great BBQ area.

Now that our luggage was dropped off and we had time to freshen up, we were ready to do some exploring!