Shaka on the Kalalau trail
So typically I post about places within easy striking distance of Greenville, SC, but today I wanted to share about an amazing place we had the opportunity to visit that is basically the opposite of easy striking distance. This past June, my husband and I got to go to Kauai, Hawaii. We were planning to do something fun for our five year anniversary and when airfare to Hawaii dropped hundreds of dollars lower than I had ever seen it, our choice became easy. Apparently last year and even 2016 are proving to be better years for travel due to lower fuel prices, so if you’re considering the trip, now might be a good time to jump on it.
I would recommend that anyone considering Kauai for a vacation take the opportunity. Hawaii is every bit as beautiful and unique as people claim. I’ve been to multiple Caribbean islands (St. John, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel- all incredible places!), but Hawaii, particularly Kauai, still felt special and worth the lengthy flight and subsequent jet lag. In many places, the air is infused with exotic bird songs and literally smells like flowers and fruit . The water is dramatically blue and speckled with spinner dolphins, giant sea turtles and neon fish that hardly seemed real. You get the contrasting beauty of dramatic volcanic mountains and multi-hued beaches. Then, there are the sunsets–soft golden light making a haze over the jagged hills with fiery orange and pink finishes or the flourish of a rainbow. It really is magical.
Sunset hike below the Nepali Overlook, West Kauai
Each island has its charms, but for us, Kauai was a great fit. We love to do outdoorsy things and prefer a less touristy more natural environment. Some blogs and travel forums talked about it lacking some of the restaurants and tourist options that other islands have, but we did not find this to be a problem. There was only one night we had trouble finding a place to eat because it got a little late on a weeknight and everything seemed to be shutting down. Even then, the problem wasn’t a complete lack of options. We were just being picky and looking for something amazing, relatively cheap, and also casual. Our take away was that you need to plan, but if you do, there are plenty of great places to get food. As far as activities go, we had a full week in Kauai and did not even come close to getting bored.
There are so many things I could recommend in Kauai, from tiny honor-system fruit stands and stunning snorkeling with giant sea turtles to the famous farmer’s markets and paddle boarding in Hanalei Bay. However, I will try to limit this list to a few highlights (more to come in the next post):
If you’re looking for the lush, green tropical feel, I would definitely recommend the North Eastern side of Kaui as a home base for your trip. We picked two spots in that part of the island and as much as we loved the whole island, that area continued to feel the prettiest. At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong staying anywhere, but we loved these spots.
Princeville– We stayed at Hale ‘O Imi Loa , a VRBO rental that we were very happy with. It was very comfortable, clean, and pretty. The location worked really well as it was close to Hanalei, not far from the Kalalau trail, and a reasonable distance from everything else we wanted to check out
Kilauea– We had an amazing experience at the Kauai Retreat Center with our Airbnb host, Hilary. This place was lovely and the breakfast was so fun! Delicious fresh fruit and flowers were out everyday and the whole place was super clean. It is very airy and bright. You can hear people out in the common areas because all the windows stay open to keep the temperature comfortable; however, the beauty and cleanliness of the spot outweighed that little inconvenience.
Eat and Explore:
The Queen’s Bath- A hotly debated spot, I found. Many people shared horror stories about the dangers of this place and others described a beautiful, peaceful must-do excursion. For us, it was a cool hike to a gorgeous turquoise pool; however, we could totally see where the potential danger comes in. The waves really crash in and if it’s a particularly wild day, you can get swept out of the pool or off the rock wall that creates it. If you go, definitely be careful and don’t underestimate the ocean. We heard that locals will watch any swimming spot for at least a little while before getting in, just to get a feel for how the water seems to be acting on a given day.
Hanalei Bay– Gorgeous bay, perfect for SUPs and catching sunsets. We rented paddle boards from the place that hosts Napali Kayak tours and Kauai’s North Shore Surfing School. This location is in Hanalei and the price was reasonable. They even helped us strap them on the rental car.
Paddle boarding on Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Farmer’s Market- Top notch market with a great view.
Lei Petite Bakery and Coffee– Great little Princeville breakfast spot. We loved the Acai bowls and the eggs Benedict dish was good too.
Acai bowl at Lei Petite
Pink’s Creamery– smoothies, ice cream and Hawaiian grilled cheese
The Dolphin – Great market for fresh local fish! Not the crazy deals of the farm markets, but reliably delicious.
Trucking Delicious– gourmet grilled cheese food truck
Puka Dog– Funny name, but these are actually tasty Hawaiian hot dogs.