Conference season rolled around after an extremely busy October and before we knew it we were flying through the skies to my annual veterinary dermatology conference in the islands.
Kauai called and we had to go.
Even though we have gone to Hawaii yearly since 2009 (save for 2020, thanks to Covid) I am still spellbound by how green everything is on Kauai. They don’t call it the Garden Isle for nothing!
Travel day was long thanks to the 4am alarm clock but the flights and layovers were great and our hotel room was ready for us a couple of hours before standard check-in time.
We once again stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Lihue, which is minutes from the airport. It used to be the Marriot and we’ve both had conferences there before.
Some of the breakfast restaurant staff at Kukui’s remembered us from our stay there in February (hi, Gina!) so that added to the sense of Ohana that we feel when we’re at some of our favorite resorts.
The fact we have real Ohana on Kauai was part of the amazing-ness of our trip.
My step-daughter, Whitney and her hubby Lau with their precious baby, Sonny (and their dogs) were a huge focus for us this trip. After that inaugural round of golf we cruised up to Kilauea to join the Estrellas in a huge community Hallowe’en party! We even brought costumes just for this!
The community showed up in droves and in great costumes (that T-Rex was hilarious) and everyone in Kilauea celebrated just like families do all over North America- with lights, treats, games and laughter. Even though he won’t remember it, 9 month-old Sonny’s first Hallowe’en was pretty great.
My mornings of conferences began the next morning and the seminars didn’t disappoint.
I really like dermatology. If I had been a young veterinary student or even if I had been 10 years younger when I closed my veterinary clinic in Seeley Lake I likely would have pursued a derm residency. They bring top notch speakers in for this annual event and many of us return each year.
(Granted, if this conference was, say, in Chicago, many of us probably wouldn’t be there.)
Alistair got to work-out and then spend mornings with our little Hapa Grandbaby and his folks. Sonny is pretty tight with his mom but by the second day he wasn’t completely losing his mind when Alistair would hold him. Alistair even babysat the little guy when Whitney had to run some errands and Lau was at work.
We enjoyed golf almost every day at Hokuala, The Ocean Course, which is across the street from the Royal Sonata. We got a membership type of rate that made it less frightening than the regular sticker shock price tag of resort golf on Hawaii. The island trade winds changed it up each day and we generally played pretty well.
Hokuala used to be Kauai Lagoons and it wasn’t in the best of shape several years ago when we played it. That has all changed since Timbers Resorts took over and finished building the dream that was the Ritz Carlton a couple of decades ago.
Timbers has put some coin and time into developing Hokuala and it really was a pleasure playing there every day. Part of the fun is the fact Lihue’s runway comes into play. Like, it REALLY comes into play on the first few holes of the back 9. You can smell the jet fuel and see faces as the planes land from the 10th tee boxes!
The back 9 also plays along the ocean and we were twice greeted by enormous cruise ships leaving port at Naiwiliwili Harbor. This also brings tourists to a standstill on the golf course while we’re trying to play but you can’t really blame them for wanting to take a peek!
One of our favorite parts about this veterinary conference is the annual golf tournament. Our regular playing partners, Barb and Brock weren’t here this year so we got teamed up with a super-fun couple from Oregon, Jan and Mark.
Our personalities, sense of humor and golf games were well-suited. Thankfully they have the same easy-going natures that we do because, for some reason, the normal 4 hour round turned into 6 and a half hours of golf! That’s just way too long no matter where you are but Royal Canin was buying the drinks and Jan and Mark were laughing it up with the Fyfes the entire epic round. We actually got third in the tournament, with Jan earning a long drive and long putt contest and Alistair with a closest-to-the-pin award!
Then it was more conference and more Estrella-family time!
Beach/ocean day was just lovely. The skies threatened to open up and Sonny was a wee bit cranky without a nap that day but it was still magical and wonderful and perfect.
I got to stand in the ocean again.
I’m not sure why its been so long. I’m from Vancouver, BC and the ocean is part of who I am. I love the sound of crashing waves from our lanai at night or from a beach chair in the day but I haven’t actually gone out and stood in the ocean for years.
Its breathtaking, to say the least. There weren’t many people around us and the waves broke in the distance so the waters were fairly warm and calm.
And I just stood there, enveloped in it all.
Eventually Sonny let us all know his thoughts on the day so we wrapped up and headed back to our resort.
We spent the next day together exploring Allerton Gardens down in Poipu and, to everyone’s excited relief, Sonny held it together and everyone in our tour group was in love with him by the end of our 2 and a half hour guided walking tour.
One tour-guest even went up to Whitney and told her that he wanted Sonny to be a Disney character. He was in awe of her not-so-little baby!
Susan, our tour guide was great and the bus-drivers were hilarious and educational at the same time. Being surrounded by nature while on the Garden Isle was the perfect way to spend our last day on Kauai, together, with Ohana and a dozen of our newest friends.
The Jurassic Park type trees were cool, too!
These trees were awe-inspiring and yet they felt hollow! Its hard to explain how it feels looking up at these giants while feeling so very small on this planet of ours.
Small, but significant.
Significant because its up to us to protect this incredible planet for the little guys like Sonny Makai to enjoy the rest of his life.
Significant because I learned a ton of new stuff to share with my veterinary colleagues and my clients and patients.
Significant because we got to share in watching yet another young couple navigate through being first-time parents with a child who has a mind of his own and most definitely a voice of his own!
And significant because I stood in the ocean and swirled my hands around me in the sun.
We flew the red-eye through the night and arrived into Missoula two days ago, watching 7 inches of snow accumulate all day in Seeley Lake. Then the freezing rain thrashed the house in the night and 60mph wind gusts created an ice slick of a driveway yesterday. Alistair plowed roads this afternoon in Big Red and got the snowblower fired up.
Its November and its Montana so none of this is surprising.
And we have all of the tools and skills and equipment to keep this place humming during weather like this.
And we have memories of sunshine and old friends in Hawaii (Don, Richard, Kelly at Cafe Portofino) and new ones now, too (Swaren, Jan, and Mark).
We also have a sense of humor about it all, along with fantastic memories of a magical week on a lush island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Mahalo, Kauai. We’ll be back!