Relax with Travel Editor Christine Ciarmello

Deputy Editor of Sunset Magazine

Professional Traveler, Islands Lover

My earliest travel memory is of a ride on a very small ferry boat from a Greek island to Brindisi, Italy, tossed on a wobbly sea. My mom was pickpocketed in Brindisi (or on the ferry) and we had to rely on the kindness of the Italians for food and shelter. They exceeded all expectations, and I was hooked on this travel hospitality. I was 4.

When I travel, I crave great food, tropical beaches, and culture. I would spend my perfect day in Kauai because it's slow paced - seriously, no one goes the speed limit here. They go well under it.

I would recommend a stay at the Hanalei Colony Resort, just outside of Hanalei. The buildings are low rise condos born the same year as me, yes, but they have fantastic living areas, with jalousie windows that open to the Pacific. All the fabrics are tropical with blooming red flowers on them. It's cheery. I fell in love with this place. Plus, your front yard (depending on which condo you choose) is an empty Pacific beach of the walking variety (not the swimming variety). It's off the beaten track. If you like a more formal hotel, I'd recommend Koa Kea.

My favorite places to eat

1. The food trucks! Especially Chicken in a Barrel at Kapaa. Get the BBQ chicken, specially cooked in a smoker drum (barrel).
2. I love the poke at Koloa Fish Market in Koloa.
3. 22 North near Lihue for farm-to-table freshness and a garden view. Try the fried green tomatoes and house cured salmon.

Relax with Travel Editor Christine Ciarmello
Relax with Travel Editor Christine Ciarmello

The activities not to be missed

1. Taking a Zodiac boat along the Na Pali Coast, for sheer jaw dropping beauty, and sea life.
2. Tubing down canals and tunnels.
3. Driving up to the Waimea Canyon] (and finding a hike, if you like). I like to call it the Felt Canyon. There's so much greenery. The canyon looks softer, more felty than rocky. The spectrum of colors is darker and prettier to me than that of the Grand Canyon - it's primarily greens and blacks, with bands of red.
4. Explore Hanalei. Because the Puff the Magic Dragon song has a reference to Hanalei, and it's a sweet little North Shore town that hasn't been condo-ized and golf-orized like its rich neighbor, Princeville.

My hidden gems

1. The Waimea Plantation Hotel, a great historic hotel on the South Shore, with hardwood floors and antique, rickety wood pieces. The main house is surrounded by many scattered 1900s cottages. Outside, plumeria trees drop their buds everywhere. The main asset of the cottages are giant porches that overlook the plantation house and the ocean. It's a bit rough around the edges. A great piece of history.
2. The swinging bridge in the small town of Hanapepe, with a walk around some of the galleries.
3. Ke'e Beach, the beach at the end of the road on Kauai's north shore. You can't miss it. It's the last stop on 560 traveling west from Hanalei.

Relax with Travel Editor Christine Ciarmello

My travel tips

Note that the traffic in little ol' Kauai can be soul crushing, especially at peak times, from 3-6pm from the airport to points North. It's not what you would expect. Plan accordingly.
Suggested reading: James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, Paul Theroux's Hotel Honolulu or The Happy Isles of Oceania. Watch Jurassic Park.

The place I'm most excited to go to next is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.