Here’s a brief bit on our just-concluded getaway. We got back to the Bay Area late on Saturday night and drove home the next day. Flying out of SJC, particularly to the islands, has become a no-brainer natural for us. Better direct flights than out of LAX, cheaper than LAX, and of course we’re not flying out of LAX, which is a treat in and of itself. This was our second trip over this year, following a short excursion to Hana in the spring. Funny, but I think I’ve been to the islands four, maybe five times since my last overnighter in Vegas. How things change. We spent the first five nights in a flat in Hanalei, a block off the sand. Then we moved to Poipu for seven nights, in a 3/3.5 house near Spouting Horn with the Pacific literally crashing on the seawall in our backyard. Nice. Terri’s folks and sister/b-i-l joined us in Poipu. Golf, food and snorkeling were the Big 3 this time. No, wait, I think we do that stuff every time. Anyway, I scored a gig with the Los Angeles Times to write about the anti-big-ticket “side” of Kauai golf, so we teed it up at Kukuiolono, Wailua GC, the Woods nine at Makai (Princeville), Puakea, Kiahuna and just for good measure added the mini-golf joint in Kilauea. (We also played Kauai Lagoons, which is a repeat for me from last year.) Now I’m not as enamored as some of my peers with the Prince Course, so giving it a pass this time wasn’t a problem; I do think highly of Makai. With Poipu Bay ticked off the list when we were on the island three or four years ago I’ve tagged every base in Kauai golf, I think. (Kukui’ulu is tres private, though I had a chance to play it through a friend but passed since half was down for aeration.) Puakea is the winner play. Huge value. Great variety of holes. Conditioning where it should be. Awesome views. Put it on the water and they’d triple the fee. Kukuiolono is a 9-holer in Kalaheo left to the citizens of the island by a sugar magnate way back when. Nature waters the course (if/when it rains), man waters the greens, they charge 9 bucks and you get faraway vistas down to the west shore and off to Niihau. Quirky and loaded with local color. In a sense, golf as it should be. Check out the Japanese garden on site. Makai should be embarrassed charging 50 bucks for Woods. We grabbed snorkel gear for the duration so we could stop as we pleased. We did Tunnels twice, Ke’e, offshore along the Na Pali Coast, and Poipu, Sheraton and Lawai beaches down south. I don’t know of any beaches in the states that compare with Tunnels and Ke’e for sheer spectacle. But the most populated reef was down at Lawai. For other grins we did one of the inner-tube excursions along the old plantation flume/canal – done it once now, never have to do that again – and an a.m. cruise from ‘Anini to Na Pali; we’ll do that again any time you let us. Highlight was encountering a huge pod of spinner dolphins – four or five dozen – with a bunch of babies. And honu, of course. Food … winner. We had cow one night, lamb another, but everything else came off a hook, the bottom of the sea or from something growing in the ground. Sushi, poke, grilled whatever; I think I now have gills. Just no way to overstate how great is the bounty out in that big pool of deep blue. We found a great wine shop in Koloa. I got a late start in life to Hawaii, not getting over until the mid-late ‘00s. I’m making up for all that wasted time now. Still need to experience Lanai and Molokai, but we’re settling in nicely with a Kauai love affair. Then again, Maui and the Big Island don’t exactly suck. Not sure when/where we’ll go in ’14. We’re hoping to get a group together for a week then again get away by ourselves for a week. Flights were the usual sub-$400 we usually catch. Costco did us well on the rental car at $250 for 13 days. Upgraded to first class going over; a nominal cost on Alaska when you figure in the free bags, entertainment, food and drinks, let alone the comfort. Came back in steerage ‘cause only one seat was available at the 24-hour mark (and, yes, I offered it to Terri). I know some of you tracked our exploits and photos on Facebook. I’ll get an album together here after I knock out a few deadline items and get back from our Sacto/Sierra excursion later this week.