Get out and enjoy the great outdoors with these proven products that will keep you going – climbing, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking and doing whatever you do in the wild, in style, comfort and with gusto.
Get down tonight
When the weather outside is frightful, it’s time to get down. Really good down. Every outdoors aficionado knows that not all down-filled puffy jackets or sleeping bags offer the same warm, wearability and durability.
The difference is the quality of the down. ALLIED Feather & Down insulation is the industry gold standard, with superior loft, proprietary multi-wash cleaning and drying process for freshness allergen-free comfort and certified as sourced ethically and responsibly. Look for ALLIED Feather & Down in top-rated outerwear and sleeping bag brands like Slumberjack, Helly Hansen, and The North Face.
Cuddling up by the campfire or huddled in a camp chair for a chilly soccer game, the Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket ($159) provides a comfortable layer of warmth that goes anywhere. This all-purpose throw blanket, made with the same technical materials found in premium sleeping bags, comes in bright colors and patterns, including the latest design, a collaboration between artist and outdoor adventurer Stickfort and camping gear companies Rumpl and Yakima, is a beautifully printed blanket inspired by the Pacific Northwest sunset. A portion of the proceeds will directly benefit the environmental preservation non-profit group Friends of the Columbia River Gorge.
Lock and ride
Most cyclists love their bikes, but they don’t love lugging around a heavy, bulky bike lock for securing their wheels when they park. The lightweight but sturdy Otto DesignWorks Ottolock ($55 and up) is a tough, smash-proof cinch lock that is compact enough to tuck one into a pocket or seat bag. They unlock using a resettable, three-number combination, so there’s no key to keep track of—perfect for a stop by the brewery at the end of a ride.
Remember the boom boxes of yester-yore, balanced on a shoulder and pumping out tunes people could hear a block away? The go-anywhere compact bottle-sized BoomBottle MM ($129.99) has captured that grand, satisfying surround-sound acoustics of the famed traveling stereo with its two 12W speakers and two 45mm passive radiators, providing a full-range of crisp highs and deep bass tones, all situated in an IP67 rated dust and waterproof enclosure. This rugged, waterproof wireless speaker can travel anywhere, and it even has a MagicMount magnetic base to keep it stuck to metal surfaces. Available at Costco and other retailers.
Soft hands, warm hearth
Out in the wilderness, catching dinner, chopping wood, and building a bonfire, your hands can get dry, rough and sore. Take along Lansinoh’s HPA® Lanolin Minis and apply soothing salve to hands, lips, heels and any exposed skin that needs protection from the elements. Originally developed as a nipple cream for nursing moms, this ointment is 100 percent natural, containing just a single ingredient, HPA Lanolin, providing a barrier layer that hydrates skin without perfumes or other harmful additives. A three-pack of .25-ounce minis is $10.99, available at CVS and Walmart.
Eyewear for life
Good eye wear is more than a fashion statement, but who says you can’t look stylish while shielding your peepers from glare? Sunski sunglasses, the recycled plastic eyewear that supports the environment with every pair sold, are ideal for the beach, the mountain, or anywhere the sun shines. Sunski’s polarized lenses protect her eyes from harmful rays, and they stay put thanks to a fit for active lifestyles. Designed by San Francisco surfer dudes and tree huggers, Sunski frames, are quality crafted from industrial scraps and guaranteed forever. Available at sunski.com. $55-$68, kids frames ($38) also available.
Best foot forward
As Del Griffith expressed so eloquently, nothing’s worse than when your dogs barking. Whether you’re pounding the pavement, hiking through the woods, or standing in a stream in waders all day, your feet will thank you if slip Sof Sole insoles into your footwear. Freshen up the insoles of an old favorite pair of boots or give new life to your worn-out trail running shoes with the Sof Sole Airr Insoles ($27.99), for all-day comfort of a COOLMAX moisture-wicking top-cover and the and shock-absorbing relief of Polymer Gel that your puppies will love.
Patch it up
A great down jacket will last for a decade or more, but accidents happen, and that’s why there’s NOSO Puffy Patches. Fix up those tears and snags in your favorite outerwear with this permanent rip-stop nylon fixer that will seal up holes in your coat, backpack, sleeping bag, tent or other gear with just the sun or a clothes dryer to activate the adhesive. They come in six colors and 13 shapes that are so fun and stylish, you might just want to stick them on for fashion. $14.95 for a pack of 3.
Eat, love, tell
Pack a picnic basket that will tantalize your taste buds, with True Story Foods, purveyors of ethically sourced meats that are wholesome and delicious. Every meat-loving and health-conscious foodie will find something tasty to chew on, like organic apple & wildflower honey chicken sausages, organic grass-fed beef hot dogs, or organic bacon and tenderloin from Non-GMO fresh pork. The culinary carnivore on your list can enjoy premium flavor every day in a brown-bag lunch, with sliced deli cuts like black forest ham, oven roasted turkey breast or uncured Italian dry salame.
Never again have that empty feeling when you run out of your favorite snack, with Weplenish ($39.99, Amazon). This amazing smart endless snack dispenser takes count of your snacks and automatically re-orders them when the container is running low. Weplenish also holds your favorite k-cup brands like Starbucks, Green Mountain, Nespresso, Dunkin Donut etc., and is compatible with a variety of snacks like KIND Bars, RXBARs, GoMacro Bars, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, and Keebler’s Cookie Variety Pack.
Smells like millennial spirit
Add some atmosphere to your living or work space with Moodo, the first smart aroma diffuser. This room-freshening device sends scents into air with the touch of a button, using an app on your phone, or on the device itself. You can even link it to Alexa or Google Home and control the fragrance with voice commands. Starter packs ($189, with special sale pricing up to 40 percent off) include one aroma diffuser and three scent families. Refill capsule collections are priced at $17.94 to $29.90.
If you love to be plugged in, but you hate the tangle of cables on your desk or nightstand, you will love the Cable Wrangler ($19.99). Created by Austin-cool Silk, makers of a variety of unique smartphone cases, wallets and accessories, this upholstered magnetic mound will hold her cables with a satisfying “click.” For non-metal cables, the holder features tiny metal collars to place around the necks of those pesky errant cables.
Get your headset in the game
Get into the game with the Audio Technica ATH-PG1 ($129), a headset for serious gamers with immersive audio that makes you feel inside the action. The 44 mm drivers provide powerful, lively sound specially tuned to accentuate all the sonic detail of the gaming environment. The closed-back, lightweight headset stays on snuggly with complete comfort, allowing extended play. The ATH-PG1 also comes equipped with a flexible, 6″ boom microphone for live-sounding in-game voice communication with other gamers, or you can use the headset for everyday media listening, and even for calls and controlling audio and video on smartphones and other portable devices. Compatible with PS4, iPad, iPhone, laptops, PCs, and other gaming devices with standard 3.5mm TRRS connector.
If the new era of tech has got you thinking, then The Fourth Age (Atria Books, $23.25 in hardcover, Amazon), Byron Reese’s thoughtful new book about smart robots, conscious computers and the future of humanity will give you some virtually real intelligence to ponder. Reese, the CEO and publisher of the technology research company Gigaom, offers this essential reading for anyone who enjoys probing the deeper questions about how tech has revolutionized our society and our very selves. The Fourth Age will make you wonder, and it will make you smarter for your next dinner party convo, or online chat.
Hit the Hi-Fi Bottle
Remember the boom boxes of yesteryore, balanced on a shoulder and pumping out tunes people could hear a block away? The go-anywhere compact bottle-sized BoomBottle MM ($129.99) has captured that grand, satisfying surround-sound acoustics of the famed traveling stereo with its two 12W speakers and two 45mm passive radiators, providing a full-range of crisp highs and deep bass tones, all situated in an IP67 rated dust and waterproof enclosure. This rugged, waterproof wireless speaker can travel anywhere, and it even has a MagicMount magnetic base to keep it stuck to metal surfaces. Available at Costco and other retailers.
What’s old is new again
Kids of all ages will enjoy a trip in the way-back machine via Bandai Namco Flashback Blast ($18.88, Walmart). This collection of old-school classics, such as Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Sky Kid The Tower of Druaga and Xevious, will take you back to when video games were simple and pixelated. The game set includes a wireless controller and HDMI dongle that easily connects wirelessly to your HD TV, for hours of timeless fun.
Moodo smart-release fragrance diffuser spruces up your home, apartment, or office
Add some atmosphere to your holidays with Moodo, the first smart-home aroma diffuser. This room-freshening device sends scents into air with the touch of a button, using an app on your phone, or on the device itself. You can even link it to Alexa or Google Home and control the fragrance with voice commands. The small plug-in warmer device contains cubbies to drop in four pod-like capsules of fragrance, like Floral Musk, Spice Market or Eucalyptus Nights.
The capsules come in four-pod collections of complementary scents for mixing, for up to 400 combinations. Using the app, you can blend the fragrances to the scent you like, and you can turn up or down the intensity of the fragrance to suit your senses.
You can customize your fragrance mix, or you can use pre-set blends such as Alpine Wood or Holiday Spirit, which releases more of some scents and less of others to give just the right aroma you want. The diffuser can be left on all day or only when you want fragrance; and the scents are safe and clean-releasing, without any residue on furnishings.
For the holidays, the Winter Scent package contains Xmas Cookies, Xmas Tree, Snow Angels and Fireplace capsules. So even if you have an eco-tree (fake), you can pump up Xmas Tree for a journey to a Canadian Forest in winter, with the soothing scent of Fir needle, Fir balsam and Cedar tree oil.
She loves flowers, but she wishes they would stay fresh and beautiful forever. Venus et Fleur eternity roses are her bouquet dreams come true. These preserved and perfectly formed roses last a year or longer, displayed elegantly in their special vase containers, such as crystal clear acrylic or luxurious leather boxes. Also available in custom collections, these exquisite and fragrant blooms can be exhibited like a museum treasure. From single minis ($39) to abundance bouquets of dozens ($499 and up).
With a uber warm cost by Helley Hansen, like the stylish Svalbard 2 Parka, ($325), your favorite outdoorsy gal can get down and get warm, literally. The difference in this jacket is the quality of its ALLIED Feather & Down insulation. This legendary fill is the industry gold standard, with superior loft, proprietary multi-wash cleaning and drying process for freshness allergen-free comfort and certified as sourced ethically and responsibly.
The clog she’ll love
When she’ stepping out, for a fast jaunt to the mailbox, to walk the dog, pick up a few groceries, or joining her buds for après ski, her tootsies will be toasty in Stegmann wool clogs ($125). These comfy clogs wear like winter flip flops. They slip on quickly and are easier than pulling on her boots, perfect for around the house, or out running errands. These quality crafted sustainably manufactured classic clogs have earned their workhorse reputation as the timeless slip-on show that has been keeping feet luxuriously warm and comfy for decades.
Give her sweet dreams, pampered in stylish luxury bedding from Loomstead. The lavish and unique designs of these fine yet affordable bed linens complement the high-quality sustainably sourced Belgian flax and Egyptian cotton fabrics, offering a soft, crisp and comfortable experience. The simple and modern Cotton Coverlet ($200) will freshen up her bedroom and the natural linen materials will keep her warm in winter and cool in summer.
Make her feel good all over, free of stubble on her legs, underarms and bikini area, with the Luminess Silk and Smooth Body, a gentle shaver that removes unwanted hair anywhere, by lifting hair off skin and cutting if at the root – with zero cuts, shaving bumps, or skin irritations. This compact, battery powered girls’ best friend uses sonic technology to sheer unwanted hair wither wet or dry, and its gentle enough for daily use. $49 at luminesscosmetics.com
She will never again have that unfulfilling feeling when she goes to get her favorite snack, and the box is empty with Weplenish ($39.99, Amazon) . This amazing smart endless snack dispenser takes count of your snacks and automatically re-orders them when the container is running low. Weplenish Also holds her favorite k-cup brands like Starbucks, Green Mountain, Nespresso, Dunkin Donut etc., and is compatible with a variety of snacks like KIND Bars, RXBARs, GoMacro Bars, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, and Keebler’s Cookie Variety Pack.
She’s with the band
Active gals who work and play hard may love their betrothed but hate their uncomfortable wedding band, which is why Fixate created a variety of quality silicone rings ($8.95 – $24.95), ideal for the gym, outdoors, construction site, watersports, and just about everything she does on a daily basis. Made with premium medical-grade silicone in a variety of ring sizes, colors, shapes and designs, she can wear this band wherever.
Eyewear for life
When she wants to make a fashion statement and a statement about sustainability at the same time, she can frame her face in stylish Sunski sunglasses, the recycled plastic eyewear that supports the environment with every pair sold. Whether she’s at the beach or on the mountain, Sunski’s polarized lenses protect her eyes from harmful rays, and they stay put thanks to a fit for active lifestyles. Designed by San Francisco surfer dudes and tree huggers, Sunski frames, are quality crafted from industrial scraps and guaranteed forever. Available at sunski.com. $55-$68, kids frames ($38) also available.
Whether she’s out in the wilderness, on the slopes or out for run, she will feel comfortable and warm wearing a Kora ($160) base layer. This snug-fitting sweater, made of 100 percent pure Himalayan yak wool fabric, conforms to the body with an ergonomic 3D fit and insulates for an effect of 40 percent more warmth than comparable merino fabrics. Styled for maximum body coverage with and extra-long length and zip-up neck collar, the Kora can be worn in comfort all day.
Live by the knife
She can chop, dice and slice up a meal like a pro with Michelin-Star-Chef-approved Edge of Belgravia’s Galatine cutlery ($167 for the 7-piece set).The bold, sleek jet black knife collection gets its name from the magical sword that the Lady of the Lake gave to Sir Gawain. The blades can be stowed in their own unique holder, the Black Diamond Knife Block ($99), a half-utility, half-piece-of-art, in which the knives appear to magically float. Available online and in retailers nationwide including Bed Bath and Beyond.
She loves to be plugged in, but her OCD makes her hate the tangle of cables on her desk or nightstand, she will love the Cable Wrangler ($19.99). Created by Austin-cool Silk, makers of a variety of unique smartphone cases, wallets and accessories, this upholstered magnetic mound will hold her cables with a satisfying “click.” For non-metal cables, the holder features tiny metal collars to place around the necks of those pesky errant cables.
She can snuggle up by the campfire or on the sofa with the Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket ($159). Made with the same technical materials found in premium sleeping bags, this go-anywhere throw blanket will keep her cozy and warm in any environment. The latest design, a collaboration between artist and outdoor adventurer Stickfort and camping gear companies Rumpl and Yakima, is a beautifully printed blanket inspired by the Pacific Northwest sunset. A portion of the proceeds will directly benefit the environmental preservation non-profit group Friends of the Columbia River Gorge.
Crystal Duffy went into her high-risk pregnancy like many other mothers, trusting in her doctors and expecting the best outcome. As many expectant mothers learn, things don’t always go as planned. In Duffy’s case, at 21 weeks, she had a “gut” feeling something was wrong. She talked to her doctor and underwent tests that showed that her twin daughters shared a single placenta. Duffy never knew that the crucial information about one or two placentas could mean the difference between life or death, for her babies and herself.
Duffy, who was age 29 at the time, was experiencing an uncommon but serious complication of pregnancy called placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery. If untreated, the condition could result in the babies not getting enough oxygen or nutrients, which could cause premature birth or stillbirth. For the mother, the risk is hemorrhaging and bleeding to death during delivery.
Duffy and her doctors collaborated and determined that she should undergo an in vitro surgery to correct the problem, and they decided she should deliver her babies early, at 30 weeks. Duffy’s delivery went as well as could be expected, though she spent two months on extended bed-reset and her premature infants spent 38 days in NICU. The traumatic experience of finding out about her life-threatening pregnancy complication and then having to make crucial decisions to save her life and the lives of her children proved a transformative experience for Duffy and her family.
To help other mothers and families facing similar situations, Duffy wrote a book, Twin to Twin: From High-Risk Pregnancy to Happy Family. Duffy’s twin daughters are now four years old, and they are healthy and happy sisters to her oldest daughter, who is six, and Duffy feels her emotionally, physically and spiritually transformative experience has given her the strength, knowledge and inspiration to help others through their journey of a high-risk pregnancy.
Duffy’s book gives practical advise to mothers regarding how to communicate with their doctors and form a partnership with them. She also advises mothers to learn everything then can about their pregnancy and possible complications, so that they are prepared if something does go wrong. Duffy urges mothers to speak up, ask questions, and to trust their inner feelings about their pregnancy, since they know their bodies better than anyone else. Through the book, Duffy aims to equip mothers to handle all aspects of their pre- and post-natal self-care, from dealing with anxiety to finding creative outlets and otherwise staying mentally healthy while home caring for a newborn.
Taking a challenging episode of her life and making it into a positive is part of Duffy’s message to other mothers. She has become an advocate for mothers experiencing high-risk pregnancy, and she now dedicates herself to educating other mothers, by serving as a patient advocate on advisory boards at hospitals and through TV appearances and involvement in raising awareness for campaigns such as of Preemie awareness month in November and Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) Awareness Month in December. She is also a leader in a movement #ChangeTheConversation, which encourages doctors and mothers-to-be to communicate more effectively, to improve pregnancy and delivery outcomes.
They say that each of the Hawaiian Islands has its own personality, and it did not take more than a few hours for me to figure out the character of Kaua’i. Just ask any Hawaiian and you will get schooled on their state. As I traveled the island, I was amazed at how every local, usually a transplant, possessed an encyclopedia-worthy amount of knowledge about the island. I learned that each of the state’s eight main islands is very different, and each has their own history, culture and pride. When a native of Kaua’i wanted to tell me what his island was all about, he said to truly experience it, I should do nothing.
Kaua’i is the laid back, decompressed island. The oldest and fourth largest island is a surfer’s haven that embodies the lifestyle where locals chill and invite visitors to do the same. Everyone who lives on Kaua’i has a story of what brought them there and how they ended up staying. I heard countless tales of those arriving with round trip airline tickets that became a one-way ticket to a new life. I also spoke to many locals who were born on the island, and several had never been off the island, and they had no desire to leave.
While tourists are welcome to kick-back and relax, for type-A visitors, Kaua’i hosts a plethora of activities for non-stop action.
Kaua’i is famed for many things, including its lush mountainous terrain, which has starred as the backdrop for every Jurassic Park movie. It is also known for its legendary surfing beaches, such as the surfing area off Makua Beach called Tunnels, which became infamous as the spot of a 2003 tiger shark attack on Bethany Hamilton’s in which the top-ranked surfer lost an arm.
Many of the beaches are beautiful to look at but are not for frivolous frolicking in the waves. The day we attempted to swim in the ocean, our shuttle driver from the Hanalei Resort reported that he had tried to surf that morning, but he turned around because the swells were too big. That same day, we heard from another beachcomber a tale of a young man who narrowly escaped an attack by mounting a tiger shark and punching it in the eye after the shark toppled him by biting his surfboard. The quick-acting surfer then jumped back on his board and paddled to shore, limbs intact.
The many faces of Kaua’i
As different as each Hawaiian island is, each side of each island can have its own culture, climate and topography. To really get a feeling for each island you need to explore all its coasts. On the sunny side of Kaua’i, we visited Aston at Poipu Kai resort, a beachfront condominium community. It was a hot and humid night when we arrived late, well after check-in time. I was worried the room would be muggy when I learned the resort had no air conditioning, and I was skeptical when the management sent two room fans; but with the balmy ocean breeze coming through the windows, we slept comfortably and soundly. The condo was nicely furnished with bamboo furniture and tropical printed draperies, with an open loft style upstairs master suite and two baths. Outside our window were beautiful bright pink flowering vines and a cute blue tile-lined swimming pool with an ocean view, where we were the only users. The grounds were quiet even though it seemed from the abundance of cars in the parking lot that the resort was at capacity.
The resort is near the Grand Hyatt Kaua’i, which was hosting the last evening of a cultural celebration, so we walked to the hotel to peruse the hand-carved jewelry and crafts displayed and to watch hula performances of children as young as five years old who confidently and gracefully told the stories of the island’s history with their interpretive dance.
We learned a good lesson about Kaua’i that night, when we walked home in the dark. We observed that total darkness that engulfs the island after sundown is incredible for star gazing, though it is hazardous for pedestrians. We nearly stepped on a dozen frogs and wished we had brought a flashlight and bug spray.
All about Po’ipu
By daylight, Poipu is a great place to stroll around and a central location for many activities Close to our accommodations we found a darling boutique shopping center, the Shops at Kukui Ula, where we found great prices on Tungsten and Koa wood ring, which we had set out to find after we spotted them in an ad in the Hawaiian Air inflight magazine.
The mini mall also had a great café offering a decadent turnover pastry chock full of warm melty coconut flakes, and a very cool Italian eatery, Pizzetta, with a delightful patio overlooking a garden and a lively happy hour with half-priced appetizers, including my fave, calamari, and $4 Mai Tais.
Po’ipu Beach Park was a three-minute drive from the Aston, but we could have walked in less than 10. There we ran into some handsome and friendly lifeguards who warned that swimming around the island could be treacherous where no lifeguard are present. They noted that there had been 11 drownings last season. With that cautionary bulletin, we decided to forgo swimming and sunbathed instead, in front of Marriott Waiohai Beach Club, which was a popular spot for snorkelers and stand-up paddle boarders.
Determined to find the beach less-traveled, we ventured on where the danger of no lifeguard didn’t bother the hard-core surfers at the secluded Kihili Quarry Beach, where we took our Avis rental car down a quarry road so obscure that it was not even on our GPS navigation map. While we only got our feet wet, we enjoyed the view of the surfers until the sun started to set.
Another day of Kaua’i
Don’t worry if you forget to set your iPhone alarm clock in Kaua’i, the roosters will wake you up bright and early, each morning, afternoon, and in fact all day long. The gorgeously colored wild roosters and their chicken mates can be seen strutting and pecking everywhere on the island, running amuck in parking lots, on sidewalks, in stores and restaurants and even in the halls of our hotel.
Evidentially too tough for human consumption – and without natural predators, and out-numbering the feral cats which have given up hunting them, the feathered pests have proliferated in Kaua’i, necessitating “Please do not feed the chickens” signs throughout the island. As with everything else in Kaua’i, the natives have a live-and-let-live attitude and have embraced the phenomenon with abounding rooster souvenirs and artwork art at the local galleries and gift shops.
To gain an appreciation for many parts of the island, we changed accommodations, staying at a few different resorts and condominiums. Our goal was to explore each of the regions and its highlights, such as the cliffs of the Napali Coast on the North Shore, the coconut groves of the East Side, the Wailua Falls of Lihue, the commercial center of the island, the beaches and history of the South Shore, and the art community of Hanapepe Town and the scenic vistas of Kokee State Park of the West Side.
Our second stop on our whirlwind six-day trip was the Hanalei Colony Resort, a quiet and comfortable resort, situated in an area of pristine natural beauty on Kaua’i’s lush north shore. The resort holds the distinction of being the only commercial property existing in this spectacular setting. The resort also features ocean front dining at the Opakapaka Grill and Bar and the Napali Art Gallery and Coffee House, where you can enjoy your morning java and shop for treasures created by local artisans.
Next we lodged at the Kaua’i Beach Resort, called Kaua’i’s most authentic resort, with breathtaking ocean views of the eastern shores of the Garden Isle and an expansive property of 25 acres which features four swimming pools, including two lagoon pools with waterfalls and a sandy bottom.
We found many excellent places to dine, starting with Postcards, the most-recommended restaurant, where we feasted on the famous Postcards Platter of pupus including crunchy seafood-filled rockets with coconut curry, crab cakes, spice-encrusted seared ahi, the Hanalei taro fritters.
We also enjoyed the lively atmosphere of Tortilla Republic Grill, serving fresh Mexican fare with an expansive selections to tequilas at their margarita bar.
Other mentionable restaurants on the island include the Kaua’i Grill at St. Regis Princeville, which is fantastic but not the cheapest place; Bar Acuda, for excellent tapas dining; the Tavern at Princeville, known for its gorgeous setting and good food; Common Ground, offering awesome organic farm with the best breakfasts you’ll ever taste; and Hanalei Coffee Roasters, serving up scrumptious breakfasts and great coffee.
Waterfalls, waterfalls, everywhere
What else can you do in Kaua’i, you ask? Everything, if you don’t take the natives’ advice and just chillax. You can test your bravery at Zip N’ Dip Expedition at Princeville Ranch Adventures, where you can soar over breathtaking jungle valleys on ziplines and stop for a dip in a waterfall swimming hole. The thrill was intense, especially when the guide told us to get a running start on one platform over a 60-foot ravine because there was a wasp nest in a tree near the cable. I kept thinking about tracker-jackers in Hunger Games, but our party made it to the other side unscathed.
It seems all adventures in Kaua’i involve a swimming hole. At Silver Falls Ranch, we trotted through the mountains on horseback, breathing in the fragrance of the yellow ginger and cooled by the balmy trade winds, on a journey to a waterfall where we could swim in the chilly, refreshing pool below. That outing proved particularly exciting when I, the least experienced rider, lucked out by getting the most spirited horse, who reared up when we hit some deep mud he didn’t like. Thanks to the attentive and quick acting guide, I stayed in the saddle, and I walked away with a good story.
Down the road a bit, will also enjoyed the exhilaration of unpredictable twists and turns on an ATV course, courtesy of Kauai ATV. Suited up with rather unflattering one-size-fits-big nylon gym shorts and T-shirts, which we donned in order to spare our clothes from the mud onslaught, we traversed the jungle in our mud buggies, which resemble giant go-carts with awesome shocks.
Our caravan of about eight buggies slogged through a muddy fire road through Jurassic Park country – also the setting for nearly 200 other movies — through sugarcane fields and under the Wilcox Tunnel, Kauai’s only drivable tunnel. Our buggies took a beating, rattled over rocks, ripped through ditches and mud puddles and griped the ground through steep off-road trails before arriving at a midpoint rest stop where stripped to our bathing suits under our clothes and jumped into – you guessed it – a swimming hole of refreshing mountain water from a cascading waterfall.
Our afternoon was made more exciting by the resounding boom of repeated gun blasts from a local neighbor who was hunting boar on his land adjacent to our rest stop. A couple of the locals along on the ride, two 20-something women, guessed at the fire power, “Sounds like a 35 to me.” It was either that, or maybe some baby T-Rexes out playing.
Oceans of fun
No trip to Kaua’i would be complete without a snorkeling adventure, and Blue Dolphin Charters was glad to oblige us with a Napali Snorkel Adventure with Captain Andy. Being that it was a time of year when the waves can get rough, we were glad we took the advice of a shop keeper at the marina and downed Dramamine before boarding. Forewarned, we were not among the 10 people aboard who barfed, including a few kids, who were very unhappy for the duration of the cruise.
Due to the choppy water, the captain changed up the schedule, which was supposed to end with snorkeling, and instead anchored us at a secret spot where only one other boat was within eye shot. I bought an underwater sea camera at the marina but should have practiced with it before diving in, as I missed a money shot of a giant sea turtle that swam less than two feet under me and then came face-to-face with my snorkeling buddy. After about 35 minutes we were ready to come up, as stinging plants had started to cling to our legs and other exposed skin. Obviously, this was a common occurrence, as when we emerged from the water, the crew was waiting with a spray that quickly cooled the sting.
Listening to the natives
We packed in as much activities as humanly possible in our week-long visit to Kaua’i, but I had one regret before leaving. I wished we had been able to follow the advice of the natives, and just do nothing. While I wouldn’t trade our adventures for anything, I longed to just hang out on the beach, sip coffee at an ocean front café and watch the water, spend an entire afternoon browsing at the local shops, sit atop a cliff and take in the beauty all around me. The most important lesson I learned from our travels was that to truly experience the islands you need to stay a while, if not forever.
Elan Hotel is a rare find in Los Angeles – lodging smack-dab in the middle of some of the city’s most desirable attractions – yet reasonably priced. For a luxury boutique hotel at the crossroads of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, one would expect a commiserate price tag, but this stylish, five-star-service hotel offers everything a business or pleasure traveler could want, including the comforting assurance of no hidden fees.
As someone who used to live just outside of Beverly Hills, I have a fondness for the area. The Grove, the ultimate SoCal lifestyle shopping center, is within walking distance, as are several other shopping hubs, including the Beverly Center, and the discount department store plaza, the Beverly Connection. There’s plenty of great restaurants close by too, including several of my very favorites in LA – Fig & Olive, Fogo De Chão and Little Next Door.
If you don’t feel like going out, no worries, the hotel has an excellent continental breakfast, complete with Wolfgang Puck coffee, all complimentary with your stay. Likewise, in the evening, the hotel hosts a lovely wine and cheese reception in the lobby, which not surprising many guests take advantage of, making the lobby lounge a lively and social place around 5 pm daily.
To make cruising to the Sunset Strip, Mulholland Drive, or the legendary Pacific Coast highway a breeze, the hotel features a rental car package deal with Enterprise, the Élan’s California Cruisin’ Package, which includes an expanded continental breakfast, an overnight stay in an Executive King Room, valet parking, nightly turndown service, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a mid-size car rental from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The car rental arrangement includes complimentary delivery of the car to the hotel and unlimited mileage within California.