Paradise Restaurant in Key West, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Paradise Restaurant in Key West, Florida! “Behind every storm, there is a paradise waiting for you,” say owners Christian and Julian Velez. Together they created Paradise Restaurant, specializing in tasty Latin American food. Their hospitality alone embraces everyone who comes to dine here. Sure, the iguanas may come into view over your shoulder, but that only adds to the ambiance of outdoor seating. Sit back, sip on a salty-sugar rimmed margarita for good measure while deciding what to order. Ever tried sweet and succulent fried plantains? You must. They are simply delish caramelized niblets of green bananas. Pair them with pork carnitas and Cuban black beans. Talk about Paradise.

From Poi Pond to Bird of Paradise 

The white surf on the coral reef disappeared into the blue shadows along the shoreline. From the cliff house, on the East Shore of the island, the daily temperature rarely dipped below 71° and seldom peaked above 84°. Our exercise regimen included a two-mile walk along the small stretch of beach on Kalapaki Bay. Looking out beyond open waters, the azure blue of sky and sea melded together until it disappeared into a hazy horizon. The sun shown so brilliantly white, I often had to squint behind polarized sunglasses just to find shade in the leafy fronds of a towering palm tree. Evening strolls through the cultural garden past bridges, waterfalls, and statues led us on stone pathways from magnificent Poi Pond to exotic Bird of Paradise. A nightcap against the radiant sunset soothed the senses. Two tropical cocktails arrived decorated with a maraschino cherry and fresh-cut pineapple wedge skewered by pretty paper umbrellas. Well done, Kauai Marriott Beach Resort. 

Fields of Taro

The road to Hanalei overlooks a landscape many artists dream of capturing on canvas. In fact, it’s not unusual to see someone standing off the side of the road with feet firmly planted in front of a wooden easel with paintbrush in hand. Farther up the steep winding paved surface is a bird’s eye view of the valley below where taro fields thrive. This is the eclectic village of Hanalei. Cross the single lane bridge at the bottom of the hill and see. At first glance these plants, with leaves the size of elephant ears, appear to be growing out of soggy fields saturated with water. Second cousins to the mallard duck waddle and fly wherever they please. This wildlife habitat is their lush playground. In the distance you may spot a farmer systematically tending the crop, knee-deep in the muddy paddy fields, oblivious to the stunning backdrop. After all, taro root is Hawaii’s favorite starch. Beyond his shoulder sweeps an endless view of towering mountains ruggedly splashed with colors of smoky amethyst and emerald jade. Pause here and drink in the beauty for reflection later on. 

Invasion of the Boat People

A couple times a week the beach is inundated with tourists when a luxury cruise ship pulls into Nawiliwili Harbor and docks for a short period of time. Hoards of beach lovers pour down the gang plank to enjoy the pebbly soft beach of Kalapaki Bay. With colorful towels, bamboo mats, swim fins, and boogie boards in tow, families stake a claim along the shoreline to gather and sunbathe. Within minutes children squeal with laughter, splashing each other and running away. A slender middle-aged European man stands with feet firmly planted squinting out to sea. As if deep in thought, he raises a cigarette to his lips and takes a long drag before flicking the ash into the wind. Loose strands of black hair fall across his wrinkled brow causing him to pivot a half turn and then back again. Over his shoulder, an energetic group of millennials mark off the sand and choose sides for a pickup game of soccer. Shouting in an unfamiliar language, they slap each other on the back before aggressively kicking, chasing, and passing the ball back and forth toward the goal. So much activity. So much joy. This is how to spend a day in paradise. After awhile, short toots from the bridge of the huge vessel signal it’s time to head back. Beach towels are rolled up, soccer games disperse, umbrellas are left vacant, and the sand is brushed away as flip flops are slid into place. The boarding process begins for passengers to depart “Fantasy Island” and return to sea until we meet again.