Weve shared a lot of Best Family Christmases Ever from Maui to the Caribbean, from Sun Valley to Lake Tahoe . . but our 1997 Christmas might just rank up there as the best of our B.F.C.E.s of all time as the Ackerman clan gathered for the holidays in a rented home on the north shore of the island of Kauai.
Kahalelani Christmas Dinner
Our home for the two weeks was a large, architect-designed, single family home . . with three bedrooms, three baths and a large upstairs sleeping loft and enough beds for all thirteen of us . . and featured a comfortable living area, family sized dining room table, open porch and outdoor hot tub. It was located only a hundred feet from the sandy beach and roaring ocean beyond.
Located at the end of the north coast road just a few miles from the start of the rugged Na Pali coast trail, we discovered that our neighbor to the east was Craig Nelson (of TVs Coach fame) and to the west (at least up until a few weeks before) Harrison Ford, who had stayed there during the filming of his latest movie, "Six Days, Seven Nights". In fact, over fifty movies have been films on Kauai in the past fifty years . . from Jurassic Part to Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lost World to Hook, Blue Hawaii to South Pacific. One evening we rented the "South Pacific" video and watch Mitzi Gaynor "wash that man right out of (her) hair"on a beach just a mile down the road from us.
The north shore of Kauai (and all of the Hawaiian Islands) is more exposed to wind and waves (and rain) than the rest of the island so the dramatic seascape outside our house was spectacular and ever changing. In fact, the best view may have been from the shower room of the master bedroom, which has a great view of the sea through the wooden slats. The portion of beach in front of our house seemed to be the focal point for the shell seekers and, in particular, for those hunting for the small, iridescent and highly valued, Kahelelani shells from which our house got its name.
Val and I arrived first on Thursday (December 18th) to check out our new home and hang a few Christmas decorations. The rest of the crew arrived at various times over the weekend from San Francisco, Brooklyn and Seattle. We shared the cooking chores through the week (as we had done at Lake Tahoe two years earlier} with a big cook-off with each of the couples competing to demonstrate their culinary skills. I think everybody won but, of course, they were up against the very best with Nana Valerie doing her magic with the turkey and trimmings on Christmas Day.
The beach was our primary center of activity . . shelling, swimming, sunning and sand castles Ten minutes walk down the beach was a more sheltered bay which turned out to be great for snorkeling with a surprisingly large number and variety of colorful fish along the reef just off shore. It was there, too, that we saw the giant sea turtles swimming in the surf . . but the biggest thrill was sighting a pod of humpback whales frolicking in and out of the water about a thousand yards off shore .
Although it was hard to leave the beach, we did venture out for an all-family, kayaking excursion up the Wailua River to a hidden waterfall. We hiked the Na Pali coast trail. Rob, Karm, Kath and Alain explored the island from a helicopter. Marnie and Whit spent a night on the other side of the island at their honeymoon resort hotel leaving baby Duncan to be fought over by his ten baby sitters. And we all went to the Coconut Palms for a traditional luau complete with roast pig, poi and Hawaiian dancing with Madelaine joining the dancers on stage to learn the hula.
It all ended too soon with Marnie, Whit, Duncan, Jill, Trevor, Isabel, Katherine and Alain all flying out together on the Sunday after Christmas. Rob, Karm, Maddie, Val and I stayed until the day after New Years and celebrated New Years Eve at the Hanalei Beach resort in nearby Princeville having dinner on a beautiful terrace watching the sun set over Bali Hai, the Hanalei Bay and our Kahelelani home in the distance
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