Kauai is an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, also known as the Garden Island ("Garden Isle") or the island of the third eye chakra. It is the fourth-largest and oldest island in the Hawaiian chain. An island covered in emerald green valleys, sharp lush mountain spires, and jagged cliffs aged by time and the element.
March 29, 2019 through April 4, 2019, Ryan and I packed our bags and got on a plane to go visit the most untouched and beautiful island of Hawaii, Kauai. We're the type of people who never have restricted plans and always go with the flow, and that's how we spent most of our time here on the island, going with the flow and exploring on our own time. It's one of the best decisions we've made together because most of the time you over plan, and that sets you up for disappointment when you're unable to check it off your bucket list or you're overwhelmed with places to go and see when really you should have fun and relax.
Our first day, we checked into our hotel, Kauai Shores, in the little historic town Kapa'a. We unpacked our belongings and settled in. We were so exhausted from our flight between being at the airport for longer than anticipated since our flight was delayed and a five hour flight so all we wanted was to grab dinner and check out a local beach. We found a local spot for fish tacos called Tiki Tacos on Yelp, and it was hands down the best fish tacos.
Second day in Kauai, we explored the North Shore. We drove to the charming town, Hanalei (translates to "lei making") bypassing people kayaking in the beautiful river. We parked our car and took a stroll on the Hanalei Bay and spotted a turtle at the pier, then made our way to the local farmers market across the street to pick up fresh tropical fruit and a coconut to sip on since the sun was beating down on us. On our way out of Hanalei, we had to stop by the iconic Wishing Well to grab a shaved ice - definitely a must if you're in the area! Then we drove through the Wailua Homesteads to visit the sacred temple and waterfall. We headed back to our hotel soon after since we had reservations for dinner at the Lava Lava Beach Club which was on the premises of our hotel. We were served fresh grilled fish and tropical drinks while on the beach, it was surreal experience and the food was delicious!
Third day on the island, we drove Southwest of Kauai. On your way to Poipu, the road takes you through the Grand Gateway also known as the Tree Tunnel. Legend says that it's haunted, but all we saw was a beautiful canopy of eucalyptus trees. We then headed to Kauai Juice Co. to grab a juice before breakfast at Anuenue. Breakfast was so good, Ryan got the loco moco and I got the Hawaiian style eggs benedict. All the local restaurants source most of their ingredients from local farmers so everything's fresh and so good - it makes you want to stay forever and eat all the food. Our bellies were full and so we buckled up to drive further down south to visit the art capital of Kauai known as Hanapēpē. Before that, we stopped by the Russian Fort and spent some time checking out the historic place. The historic buildings in this little town was used as a location for iconic films like “Lilo and Stitch." We made our way through the town and drove back North to take a dip at Poipu where we were greeted by a Hawaiian monk seal and a school of tropical fish which was an experience in itself. We probably spent a couple of hours between laying out and taking dips until it started cooling down. Everyday was such a perfect day, but nothing like taking it slow like this day. We were starving at that point so we found a local store and grabbed a poke bowl for dinner. Driving through Poipu is a magical place with so much life among the greenery.
Fourth day was the ultimate highlight of the trip. We had reservations for the Nāpali Coast Tour with Blue Ocean Adventure that we booked a couple weeks in advance since reservations were going fast (highly recommend booking with them early in advance). We were uncertain with the weather conditions, but we were blessed with a clear skies and warm weather. To recap the day, we woke up around 6am and got to the dock around 8am in time for the tour. Our helmsman took us out to an area where all the dolphins hang out, and then took us along the Nāpali Coast - through caves and waterfalls, viewing untouched beaches, and going under the King Kong rock sculpture naturally formed by Mother Earth. We took a pause right under the iconic Nāpali Coast spot, and enjoyed a fresh pineapple and some snacks provided by the tour. It was an incredible and beautiful experience, and it's one I'm looking forward to seeing from a helicopter the next time we visit. Nāpali Coast is a 17-mile span of extraordinary sacred and natural beauty, and a dream to experience. Our tour ended around 2pm, and we were still in the mood to adventure so we found an unpaved road and stumbled upon a secret beach (not recommended for rentals, but we love living on the edge). On the drive back to our place, we stopped by the Kauai Coffee Plantation and had a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Then headed back, and had dinner at Lava Lava Beach Club per usual.
On our fifth day, Ryan was severely sunburnt so he spent most of his time resting and relaxing in the hotel room. It was my calling to explore the island by myself, and to find a moment to pause since we were always on the go. A balance between being on the go, and finding time to be still and soak in all the beauty that you've experienced in a different place is so important. It was a serene day in silence, driving down unknown roads in the rental truck and finding beautiful beaches all to myself. Don't recall all of the beaches encountered on my adventure, but I found one called Donkey Beach which was so peaceful and quiet. On my way back, I stopped by Kalalea Juice Hale for an açaí bowl in the rain. Does anyone else love eating ice cream in the rain or is that only me? Eventually, drove back and had dinner with my man at the hotel.
We dedicated our final day to exploring the South Shore specifically since that was a lot of ground to cover - on our list we wanted to see Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park. We're a couple who loves hiking, and everywhere we go we always have to get at least one hike in so that called for trekking up the Awa'awapuhi Trail. The hike was about 7 miles roundtrip and it took us about 3 hours with a little breather at the top. Lots of uphill and downhill and mix between sunny and shady. Keep in mind that the trail was a bit muddy from the rain so plan according to the weather. The view from up top was breathtaking, metaphorically and literally. It was worth every grunt and sweat in the 100° degree weather. One thing we didn't think about was to bring snacks or a lunch to enjoy at the top, so I'm encouraging you to pack snacks and bring lots of water. We took the scenic drive down highway 550, and stopped at every viewpoint to snap photos and take in all the beauty. Driving through Waimea Canyon you'll find yourself surrounded by red dirt naturally done by Mother Earth herself. The rich red soil is a natural byproduct of the dark, iron-rich basalt rock that have oxidized over time, giving the soil shades of red. Be sure to make your way to Red Dirt Waterfall, and grab a white shirt so you can bring a tie-dye souvenir with you home (or you can buy one for $10 and support locals). It was on my list to watch the sunset at Hanalei Bay, so we then drove all the way to North Shore to take a dip while watching the sun set in the horizon before heading to dinner. We had dinner at the Local Spot which we were hoping to try before leaving, and it did not disappoint. Local, wild-caught seafood always hits the spot.
Our last moments on the island was so hard for us. We were so sad to leave, and to go home because Kauai was beginning to feel like home with everyone we crossed paths with. We spent the morning packing and loading our truck, then headed to the Old Town to find little souvenirs we could take home for our family. With the little time we had, I insisted that we put our toes in the sand and dip our feet in the ocean once more at Donkey Beach. After that, we headed to the airport and hopped on the plane back home.
If you only have a couple days or about a week's time to spend on this beautiful island, I would suggest spending time on the North Shore for half of your trip, and the other half on the South Shore. We didn't see everything that we wanted to see, but that only leaves us with having to come back.