How to spend five days in Kauai full of adventure, exploration, and relaxing with your toes in the sand.
First, The Basics….
My Favorite Travel Camera + Add-On Lens + Accessories
Nikon 1 J2 10.1 MP HD Digital Camera with 10-30mm VR Lens (White)
Sunscreen Lip Palm
Sun Bum SPF 30 Lip Balm Coconut 3 Pack
Oversized Sun Hat
San Diego Women’s Ultrabraid X Large Brim Hat,Black,One Size
Ray-Ban Women’s 0RB4171 Polarized Aviator Sunglasses, Havana, 54 mm
Water Proof Phone Pouch
Voxkin ® ★ PREMIUM QUALITY ★ Universal Waterproof Case for iPhone 6S, 6, 6 Plus, 5, 5S, 4, Galaxy S6, S5, Note 4, LG G4, HTC etc – Best Water Proof, Dustproof, Snowproof Dry Bag for Every Cell Phones
Phone Battery Extender
AEW Power Bank 2600mAh, Cell Phone External Battery Extender, Recharges Fast! iPhone 4, 4S, 5, 5S, 6, 6 Plus, iPod, iPad & More. Portable USB Backup Battery Charger, 3-In-1! Lifetime Warranty
Beach Spiker To Keep Your Drink Sand Free
SPIKER Lifestyle Holder, Life is Better at The Beach, 6-Pack
Growing up, I had the pleasure of visiting two of the most frequented islands of Hawaii, Oahu, and Maui. The island of Maui is what made me fall in love with Hawaii with their culture of “Living Aloha”, the warm waters, beautiful beaches, and overall peace and serenity that immediately came to you when you would touch down.
“Slow down, this ain’t the Mainland.”
In September of 2015, I was graciously invited on a Hawaiian adventure. I would be spending five days on the island before flying off to Seattle for three days. My excitement was through the roof; Kauai had always been an island I had wanted to explore. We flew Hawaiian Airlines, one of the top 20 safest airlines, to get us on our way. This was my first experience with Hawaiian, and may I say; I was impressed. The flight attendants were fun and bubbly Polynesian gals with endless smiles. The flight was a breeze (that’s coming from a nervous flyer), and before I knew it, we had touched down on the beautiful Island of Kauai.
Our first stop was the plantation rented for our stay. It was on the North side of the Island in Kilauea. First of, Kauai is unlike any other Hawaiian Island. Luscious rainforest, waterfalls, and windy roads surround the island; it’s clear why they call it The Garden Isle. If you are looking for a secluded location filled with beauty, this island is your spot. Our drive there was filled with unbelievable views of valleys, ocean, and the occasional waterfall that would pop out of nowhere along the road. The rain would come and go, but the smile on my face remained. The rain is different in Kauai; you welcome it. It is so humid and warm; the rain comes as a relief.
Our plantation was a two story, picture perfect beach rental. It held views of the rainforest and welcomed more chickens and roosters than I had ever seen before (outside of course). It was within seconds of the beautiful Anini Beach. The perfect beach for swimming, floating, and snorkeling.
To get to Anini, you have to walk through this walkway sheltered by tropical trees and lush greenery.
Wading in the 80-degree water was all we did for a few hours, as the sun set over the island. Before long, the rain began to trickle in, our cue to head back to our bungalow.
The local grocery store is called Foodland, which is a small fine foods store. On the menu that night, Hula BBQ Chicken, Sweet Potato and a tropical kale salad with papaya and hemp seeds.
Renting a vacation home is the best way to do it in Kauai. Since the island is so quiet, with places closing up earlier, you can come back to your place and fire up the BBQ after a long day spent on the beach. It’s a great way to save money, so you can spend it on other adventures throughout the island.
Expect to start your mornings early; if you are flying from the east, that shouldn’t be a problem. The roosters “cock-a-doodle-doo” bright and early, but it is nice to get your day started as the sun comes up. In Kauai, everything closes early by the time it is dark. During my stay there I was in bed by 8:00-9:00 PM, and up at 5:00-6:00 AM. It’s the perfect amount of hours to fill your day with adventures while the sun is still up.
We were up by 6 am and were excited to see our first Hawaiian Sunrise. All you need is a bathing suit on, and you are out the door, walking to the beautiful and quiet Anini Beach.
Anini Beach is a unique beach, with a coral reef that lines the three miles of coast, and water that only reaches four to five feet deep. You could see the break, about 100 yards out. We would be out there around six in the morning, watching sea turtles swim by. It was breathtaking.
Your goal every day should be to get in the ocean. Start with a morning swim, paddleboard, or snorkel. You will be so happy you did.
Our first morning there, we went for an excellent breakfast at The Westin in Princeville, before heading to Hanalei Bay. It’s a great place, nearby with breakfast ranging $20-$30 including coffee, and the food is delicious. They fill their plates with fresh papaya and my choosing of eggs and house potatoes. After breakfast, we were off to our first adventure.
Hanalei Bay is exquisite. It’s quiet, and the views are endless, filled with rainbows and the turquoise sea that splashes against the pier as you wander across it. It’s very easy to get lost on the pier, taking pictures, watching fisherman, swimmers, surfers, and tourists.
We saw some asshole tourists jumping off the dock where the fisherman had set up their crab traps and fishing lines. Side note: Don’t be the asshole tourist.
One thing we realized very early on while visiting this island is that the locals will happily engage in conversation and welcome you if you are not an asshole. Don’t disturb their water while fishing. Be aware of your surroundings. Make friends and have them show you surf spots. Pick up after yourself. Be kind and courteous, and realize this is their home.
After exploring the pier and making friends with the locals, we hopped in the car and headed to the town of Hanalei, a quaint hipster town full of surf shops, shirtless boys, and shack-like restaurants.
(view from Hanalei)
While checking out the local shops, the rainfall came down again. It is so hot and humid, the cool water drops on your skin feel refreshing, rinsing the salt from your surface. That’s one of the great things about Kauai; the rain doesn’t bother anybody.
We went to grab a drink at a Brazillian/Mexican joint, but then quickly decided that packing up the cooler and heading to the beach sounded better.
We made it to the beach with 30 minutes to spare before we had to get back to the house to get ready and head to our dinner reservation at a restaurant called Beach House in Poipu, wich was about an hour drive from where we were staying in Kilauea. By the time we got back to the house, we had 45 minutes to shower, get dressed and then we were out the door again.
Driving the roads in Kauai, you won’t find many stop lights, and everybody really is on island time. If you are running late, expect to be late. Nobody drives over 45 mph on the fastest roads.
Beach House is a beautiful restaurant with views overlooking a gorgeous beach where you find hundreds of surfers catching waves. The salty air hits your face, and the tiki torches set the mood under firelight. You find yourself in a trance, watching the sunset, and the surfer guys and gals catching wave, after wave, after wave. Beach House is a beautiful experience for a dinner splurge, boasting fresh seafood options, delicious cocktails and wine selection, and artsy desserts.
We started the day per the usual, waking up early to the roosters calling and heading to Anini beach to enjoy the sunrise. How often do you get the chance to do that?
After Anini, we headed to Princeville to hike down to Queens Bath. Hiking is a personal favorite when it comes to exploring new places, and hiking in a tropical place where waterfalls pop out of nowhere is a must. Get on with the tour earlier rather than later. Parking is limited, and the hike can get busy pretty quick, and who wants to be bothered by tourists 😉
The walk is wet and slippery, so don’t wear your slippers (flip flops) and make sure you have some traction on your shoes. It goes from a muddy walk down the hill to a rocky, and wet, climb across lava rock.
Queens bath is a must do on the adventure list. The hike down is a short 10-15 minutes, and the hike across is 10-15 minutes. It opens up to beautiful, unique tide pools beginning with King’s Bath, a more dangerous opening filled with the tide pounding against the rocks while sea turtles fish, or try to escape the jaws.
The second pool is the famous Queen’s Bath. Calm and crisp, water flows over the lava rock, keeping the tide pool refreshed. Take a dip while you are down there, and float where the Queen bathed.
Safety tips: People have died visiting Queen’s bath by not paying attention to known hazards or mistaking other tidepools for Queens Bath. Pay attention to signs and be cautious when climbing slippery, sharp lava rocks. Don’t stay too close to the edge of the rocks as large waves will take you into the ocean.
The rest of this day was spent at the beautiful Makua Beach (a.k.a. Tunnels Beach). Green mountains and rainforest surround this stretch of beach, with water that is so clear, warm, and perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Pack the cooler with some Hula Girl brews, bring your beach read, and relax with your toes in the sand all day long.
Dinner Spot: Head to Bar Acuda in Hanalei for local eats, excellent cocktails & wine, and ambiance. It’s one of the best restaurants on the Island and gives you a little taste of nightlife.
This day was spent traveling to the other side of the island. Our goal was to see Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. In about two hours, you are transplanted to the dry side of the island, lined with beaches and crashing waves, random pop up stands (with things like TACOS!!), and finally, the breathtaking Waimea Canyon.
We stopped at a wonderful market on the way to our destination, a different Living Foods Market in Poipu, for an organic breakfast and healthy snacks for the trip. It’s a great way to get some energy and indulge in a coconut milk latte before your adventure.
When you arrive at Waimea Canyon, there is a parking lot at the very top, and before you climb the ramp to get to the lookout point, there is a fresh fruit stand. Do yourself a favor and grab a pineapple, some other tropical fruit of your choosing, and coconut chips.
There are tons of hikes that lead you to picturesque views and waterfalls, too!
The drive back, we made a stop at the Koloa Rum Company, because who doesn’t want to try local rum?! We ended up purchasing two bottles, the spiced option being our favorite. Highly recommended if you are in the mood for a cocktail!
Side Note: Don’t forget to sign up for the tasting when you get there. Be patient! It’s an attractive place.
With our week full of activities, we took it easy on our last day. We got dressed, said good morning to the sunrise, and then headed to Kapa’a for breakfast at a joint called Java Kai, which was AMAZING. I got the surfer girl breakfast with a delicious coconut milk latte. The Kauai coffee was just what I needed to start the day. Walking around the shops in Kapa’a is a must. There’s this great store called Work It Out Kauai, and it soon became my favorite with chic active wear for the workout fashionista in you. A new pair of sunnies, a few cute tops, Aloha Pineapple stickers, and new acquaintances from the girls working in the shop, and our shopping needs were satisfied.
Of course, after shopping, it was margarita time. Mariachis Restaurant Kapa’a was the spot. It was a Thursday, in the middle of the day, so the place wasn’t too crowded. We got great seats at the bar and ordered up some fresh margaritas on the rocks. Relaxing on our last day, cocktails in hand was just what the doctor ordered.
(monsoon rolling in)
Post-margarita, we headed back to Tunnels Beach to enjoy our last sunset on the island. We swam, snorkeled, and got caught in a monsoon. Soaking wet from head to toe, we danced in the rain as the sun slipped behind the mountains. Honestly, that was the best sunset of the week.
We woke up early on our last day. A sad goodbye, we headed to the beach in our bathing suits with our coffee to greet the sunrise and watch the sea turtles swim by. I sat meditating on the beach and doing my yoga practice while a few took the paddle boards out to explore the reefs.
Of course, we had to head back to Java Kai in Kapa’a for breakfast. While we waited for our meal to be ready, we went to an awesome shop called Shipwrecked Kauai right next door to Java Kai. They have great local items and souvenirs like signs that say “Yoloha,” and pineapple infused shirts. I walked out with a pineapple print. You have to buy a piece of art when on the islands.
The end of our trip had come so fast. Before we knew it, we were on Hawaiian Airlines, taking off for the mainland. We left refreshed, with island life lingering in our souls. I definitely left a piece of mine on the island. And although it was sad to leave, I couldn’t wait to plan our next adventure back to the island.
Adventures for next time: