Whether you’ve already booked your Kauai accommodations or you’re searching for your next best vacation, you are in the right place. First of all, Kauai is not your typical Hawaiian vacation. Yes, they have some resorts and luau’s and Hawaiian shaved ice, but you don’t go to Kauai for all that. You go for the adventure! Hikes, snorkeling, helicopter rides, four wheeling, boating, cliff jumping… the thrills never end!
Before you travel to Kauai, it’s important to know what to pack. We ending up totally overpacking and pretty much just lived in swimsuits and athletic wear the whole time. Here’s what you need:
– One or two nicer outfits for a luau or nicer dinner
– Hat (Dan insisted I note that you should have a straw hat)
– Snacks (obviously they have everything you’d want there, but food is more expensive so we brought a box of protein bars to supplement)
Obviously there is a ton to do on the island, but here is what we did and what we would recommend.
Head South to the Kalalau Lookout and stop for food on the way. We grabbed food from a little Thai/Smoothie place right by where you turn to head up the mountain.
Make sure you bring a ton of water on the hike, you’ll want it! Stop at all the lookouts then find the Awaawapuhi Trail (kind of hidden on the left side of the road) It’s a 7 mile hike (3.5 each way) that leads to the edge of a cliff with the most amazing view of the Napoli coast. It’s hard to find so just follow some people that look like they know what they are doing. It’s a pretty tough hike so be prepared, but the view is totally worth it!
On the way home, stop for food near Poipu beach at Makai Sushi for Poke Bowl then take it to the beach for dinner with a view!
We were exhausted at this point, so we went back to the hotel, ordered some virgin Mai Tais and went to bed early so we could get up and at ’em the next morning.
Get up early for the sunrise, a lot of hotels offer cheap breakfast buffets (ours was $15 – food is expensive in Kauai so this is best deal and easy).
Drive to Hanalei beach for body surfing and sun bathing. Walk around the shops- it’s a super cute little surf town. There is some great food around this area (Pinks Creamery) but we drove to a fish market near Hanalei which I wouldn’t recommend so I won’t name it.
Hike to this hidden waterfall called Ho’oipi’i Falls for some cliff jumping! Be careful because you have to scale a wall to get back up. The water is dark and there are only certain parts that are deep enough so watch the locals do it first then jump with caution! Stop for Acai bowls at Anake’s Juice Bar and watch the sunset on Poipu Beach.
Up early to watch the sunrise with the wild chickens (we made this a habit every morning). Breakfast at resort for something quick and easy, drive to Poipu beach and rent snorkel equipment ($8/person). Snorkel along the beach – tons of fish and cool sea life!
Lunch at Da Crack. It’s literally just a tiny window outside the convenience store but they had some awesome Mexican food. I’d recommend the fish tacos, add guacamole! Grab some Hawaiian shaved ice at the booth right next door for dessert, after all, you worked up an appetite snorkeling.
Drive around and enjoy the scenery. Then embark on an adventure you will never forget. An open-door helicopter ride with Jack Harter helicopters. Request to sit in the back, make sure your hair is tied back tight and bring a sweatshirt! It is superrr windy but one of the coolest things we’ve ever done. You’re going to pay a lot but… when in Hawaii, right?
After the helicopter we drove back to our favorite beach on the North side, Hanalei, to watch the sunset. Then we grabbed dinner at Chicken in a Barrel, which I’d totally recommend.
Drive to Hanalei beach and enjoy! Stop for breakfast on the way at Java Kai. Enjoy body surfing, sandcastles, relaxing with a good book, all the best beach activities for a couple hours.
Lunch at poke food truck or be patient and drive to get Tiki Taco (giant fish tacos on thick corn tortilla) back in Kapaa. Dan was not patient so ended up getting both… Shop this area then split a shaved ice at Wailua shaved ice.
We spent more time walking the shops, found a beach down the road full of crabs, then got dinner at Mark’s Place (Classic Hawaiian teriyaki chicken with rice and Mac salad). Take it to go and enjoy on Poipu Beach while you watch the sunset. You can also watch the fishermen as they usually come out at night.
Raft Adventure! Dolphin spotting, scuba diving with sea turtles, cave exploring, see the coast up close and personal. Boated all around the Na Pali Coast! This is the only way to really see the coast up close so I’d highly recommend it. They also have a raft adventure that also includes a hike that we wanted to do but it was fully booked so make sure you book in advance! We chose Capt Andy’s boat tour.
Grab ahi bowls at Kolao fish market and take it to shipwreck beach for lunch. We took a little nap in the shaded area under palm trees. Waves were 12-15 feet so we watched the surfers for about an hour before we got the courage to get in. Enter at your own risk! The rip tide was super strong and there are big rocks in the water so it’s pretty dangerous. A 12 foot wave may not sound big, but it is and we got out quickly. We decided to drive back over to our favorite beach on the north shore.
Stopped at wishing well for Acai bowls on the way! Played in waves and watched sunset.
Dan was still hungry pretty much every night so we made it a routine nightly stop at Island Country Markets. He would get a full pound of poke and we would sit on their patio and talk about our plans for the next day. This market was conveniently located just minutes away from our hotel, but prices weren’t cheap! Also, I mention a lot of food, but it should be noted that Dan pretty much only ate poke.
We wanted to spend our last day on our favorite beach, Hanalei!
Lunch at sushi girl. Get the daily special sushi burrito and walk around the shops.
Clean up at hotel, pack and try not to cry because you’re headed back to reality. We went to Shipwreck beach and hiked up to the cliff and watched the sunset.
Dinner at shops near Poipu Beach. We ate at Savage Shrimp, but they have tonnnsss of options (burgers, pizza, vegan market, even Ruth’s Chris steak house). The stores were open until 9pm so we shopped until we had to head to the airport for our flight!
We took a red-eye home so we actually only stayed for 6 days. In the future, I’d recommend spending the extra money to stay one more day and get a decent amount of sleep. 🙂
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn. The staff was really friendly and the hotel is on the east side so it’s perfectly in the middle of everything. Rooms are clean, bathrooms are nice, and they have a good breakfast buffet with live music and entertainment on weekend evenings. That being said, when we go again we will stay near Hanalei beach because we loved it so much.
Kuku’ula village shopping center