Before I kick off this blog post about all the do's, don'ts and beautiful sights to see on the lovely island of Kauai... does anyone want to buy a house there and let me move in with you? Any takers?
It is seriously one of the most magical places I have been and I could very easily be convinced to move there (minus the whole "it's way out of my budget and I can barely afford my rent in Los Angeles" issue).
Let's talk about Kauai!
I have been to all of the Hawaiian islands and I must say, I really thought I was a die hard Maui gal until this trip. My family's go to vacation spot is Maui and that island holds so many specials memories for me and will ALWAYS be near and dear to my heart. So when I had the ability to work with Hopper (Yes, this trip was part of an ad but man, that is a nifty little app), I was immediately drawn to going back to my favorite of all the Hawaiian islands. But then my sister and I decided that we want to venture out and check out Kauai after hearing quite a few people talk about how amazing it is.
My initial thoughts were, "No way it's better than Maui!" - Oh Morgan... you are about to be surprised!
Let me first say that every Hawaiian island is different and very unique and TRULY YA CAN'T GO WRONG. They're all beautiful. Here's how I would describe each one:
Oahu = Epic hiking + more lively city life.
The Big Island = Badass volcanoes + unique beaches, but a lot of driving.
Maui = The best of everything! Beaches, excursions, city life and quiet time.
Kauai = Green, lush and beautiful. More remote + great for sight seeing.
How do you even pick? I know, it's tough.
I think Kauai is a great option for those who want to escape and want to truly get lost exploring. There's not as many restaurants, bars and touristy options on the island, but... it's kind of nice? You really feel like you are on a different planet and I cannot describe to you how green everything is?!?! Like holy cow. No wonder one of the rainiest places on earth is located on Kauai (fun fact).
Okay, now let's dig into ALL THE GOODS.
Where I stayed:
HOLY HIDDEN GEM? Not going to lie, I wasn't sure what I was going to think about this hotel. We snagged it for a great price (Thanks, Hopper!) and it got pretty amazing reviews online, but I am used to staying at a pretty large, all inclusive type resort and this was definitely on the more homey side.
But I freakin' LOVED it.
Seriously, y'all I cannot recommend staying here enough.
First, the location is amazing because you're kind of in the middle of everything. So you're a quick drive to the South side (Poipu area) and also around the same driving time to the North side (Princeville, Hanalei Bay, etc) - which ended up being perfect for us because we really were short on time and wanted to see everything!
Secondly, the property is just so cute and quirky. No, there's not all the bells and whistles of a 5 star resort, but you don't need that, I promise. You are literally STEPS away from a gorgeous beach, there's an amazing lawn with fun games and you can rent bikes for free (great photo opp, ps). There's a path that goes right along the beach and it's just so fun and wholesome. Who doesn't love a little bike ride?
Lastly, right next door is live music and yummy food at the Lava Lava Beach club! It's got affordable bites and a good happy hour option... plus, it's just got a great ambience and was pretty poppin' when we were there? You'll definitely meet a new friend or two. My only complaint with where we stayed would be that the parking spots are pretty tiny and they fill up pretty quickly BUT! there's free valet so have no fear... it's an easy fix.
You get two big thumbs up from me, Kauai Shores!
Where I ate:
Everyone and their mom told me I HAD to go to The Beach House for the views and I am not going to lie, the views are seriously gorgeous. You are sitting right on the water and if you're lucky and make a reservation way in advance (we didn't lol) you get to enjoy the sunset over the water while you dine. Sounds dreamy, right?But if I am being totally honest... the food is not amazing (who am I a food critic?) and it's WILDLY expensive. My sister and I got a fish dish and it was $50. FIFTY DOLLARS?! Pretty insane. If my fish is 50 bucks, I expect there to be gold flakes in it and it to be the most delicious thing I have put in my mouth. Periodt.
With all of that being said, it's a lovely place for a special occasion because the views are really just beautiful and you feel super boujee. Just make sure to try and make a reservation for past 5:30 pm or so, or else you will be quite toasty and looking right into the sun!
If you want my honest opinion... go for a drink, watch the sunset and then grab dinner elsewhere. Just my two 'lil cents :)
We met a really kind local dude and my mom (Chatty Kim) was asking him about his life story and also asked for his food recommendations and Hukilau was a place he said was "consistently really good" and MAN! He was right. We went here for my dad's birthday dinner and every one of us absolutely loved our meal. Which is rare because my family can be a picky bunch (love you guys, but it's true).
You'll want to make a reservation here, but it doesn't fill up as in advance as The Beach House. The prices are more affordable (still up there, but better) and so worth it, in my opinion!! The calamari and chicken with mushrooms... CHEFS KISS!
Don't go here. Whatever you do.... don't go here LOL. We were also given this recommendation by a local and we were so excited because it was rumored to be some of the best tacos on the island. Instead, we all took a couple bites of our tacos and then went to Safeway and got carrot cake to eat for dinner instead. According to the online reviews (I linked the TripAdvisor), it used to be super good and something changed recently (new chef?) and it's gone downhill since then. Womp, womp.
BEST ACAI BOWL I HAVE EVER CONSUMED. Honestly, if I could pick my favorite spot on the whole island for food... it would be this place (and I know my sister agrees with me). The most incredible concoction and the freshest ingredients... Plus, you are looking out at the most gorgeous mountain views while enjoying your sweet bowl of Hawaiian greatness. We talked about these dang acai bowls for the rest of the trip... wish I was kidding. Make sure you get there early though, they close at 4 pm and are not open on Monday's!
A great casual lunch spot! We went here before heading to Poipu Beach and IT WAS FIRE. I wasn't aware that it was a chain when we went, but honestly who cares. It's delish! Besides burgers, they have sushi burritos, poke bowls, sandwiches... whatever you do get the furikake fries. Don't question me... just do it. Whatever sauce they put on is magical.
Fun fact: this place was on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives!
Honorable mention: Bar Acuda
We didn't have enough time to spot here, but this was our local friend's FAVORITE restaurant on the whole entire island?! So like, it's got to be pretty amazing. Make a note if you are looking for a dinner spot and like tapas.
Fun excursions + Must see sights:
You seriously MUST see the Na Pali coast from a boat. Like if you take anything away from this blog post - it's this! It's truly stunning and unlike anything you will ever see in your whole entire life... think of massive green cliffs, water falls and bright blue water with untouched beaches. Amazing, right? So grab your Bonine, grab your barf bag, get on the dang boat and go look at the coastline!
We had heard so many amazing things about Captain Andy's from our research online so obviously, we had to do it. Duh. My sister and I opted for the star sunset dinner cruise (a little more $ for the star one... but WORTH IT) and had the best time. Did we love it because of the epic views or the unlimited wine and delicious cheesecake? We will never tell...
You have to meet at the dock pretty early (2 pm!) in order to make it to the coastline and back for sunset, so keep that in mind! It's not like you roll up at 5 pm for sunset.. it's basically an all day thing. I am prone to sea sickness (love that for meeee) and forgot to take Bonine (love that for me moreeee) and I won't lie, there were moments when I felt NOT well. It's pretty rocky out on the ocean! But honestly, it wasn't awful and as long as I was out in the open air and not inside, I was totally fine. I do recommend taking some form of motion sickness medicine if you are anything like me... better safe than sorry ;)
Some thing to note: YOU WILL GET WET. If you are wearing an outfit like I was (all white and ready for a photo opp) then you definitely should not sit in the front of the boat. My sister and I nicknamed this "the splash zone" because big waves would come out of no where and absolutely soak the people sitting up there. It was comical to watch but whewwwww, y'all would not have wanted to see that happen to me. I would have be G R U M P Y (and so soggy).
Also, despite you being on a boat... the food is really, really good?! The steak and shrimp was delish, and my sister and I made friends with the chef and had him sneak us seconds of his homemade cheesecake. #noregrets.
All in all... this was one of the best excursions I have done while traveling and I would absolutely do it again! The coastline was stunning, the crew was so knowledgable, and wow, we love a glass of chardonnay with a good sunset view.
Wailua Falls Hike
You can't go to Hawaii and NOT witness a waterfall up close and personal... right?! My friend (Hi TJ!) raved about this hike to me and claimed it was his favorite place on earth, therefore y'all know I had to go check it out!
You can drive to the falls and check them out from above (there's a little bridge close to where you park you car) or you can opt to take the adventurous way and hike down to the falls - you can even get in the water and swim, so bring a swimsuit and towel in your backpack!
It's relatively easy to figure out how to get down and you will probably see a mass amount of people hopping over the ledge to do so... just follow them. This hike down is for all fitness levels (we saw kids in flip flops doing it) but beware... it can be SUPER muddy and slippery! If you want more in depth deets on how to get down, here is the blog post I used for reference!
Once you get down, you will feel like you're in your own private little oasis. Carve out an hour or two of your day and hang out + enjoy the gorgeous swimming hole!
My sister and I didn't get around to going to this canyon on this trip (but I have been in the past and can say it's pretty epic) but my parents went to explore while we were on our sunset cruise. Seriously guys... this is a MUST when you are on the island of Kauai - if you have the time. You can drive it and stop at the different lookouts, or you can take it by foot and hike it (no way Mama Kim was doing that LOL). If you want my opinion... hopefully you do... I would drive to the canyon and save your long hike for something on this list!
But seriously, make the journey here at some point. They call it the Grand Canyon of the Pacific for a reason. It's stunning.
This was one that quite a few people via social media told me that I HAD to do. So we decided to check it out before we headed to Hanalei Bay for the day and it was so worth it! It's near Princeville, a bit of a drive for us, and the hike will lead you down to tidal pools of crystal clear, bright blue water. There's spot to jump off the cliffs (at the first pool) and if you are looking for something more mellow, the last pool is pretty relaxed and easier to swim in (lots of kiddos in this one). If you're lucky, you may even see some giant sea turtles hanging out!
Side note: this can be a dangerous area and there's a couple signs warning about people being swept off to see. Not to discourage you from going, just be careful. Also, it can be VERY muddy (according to the internet). We got lucky and made it there on a dry day, but that's apparently very unlikely so make sure you wear sneakers and don't mind if you leave with them caked in mud.
Sadly, we were in a bit of a rush when we came here so I didn't get to jump in... I still have my regrets... but you better believe when I come back to the island, SHE IS GETTING IN THE WATER! It's too amazing to not jump in!
This beach was ranked one of THE BEST beaches in America... and you will quickly see why when you go to visit. INSTAGRAM HEAVEN.
This was our favorite beach from the whole trip because it truly is stunning and something out of a post card. On one side, you have giant, lush green mountains and on the other side, you are looking at crystal clear water and a beautiful pier. My recommendation: carve out a whole entire day to spend here. I promise you... you won't want to leave. There's great sand, tons of space, calm water... 5 stars!!!
Also, if you are looking for an easy lunch spot or a quick snack to take to the beach... make sure to check out the Hanalei Food Trucks right up the road! We stopped here for lunch and I was in foodie heaven - so many options!
This is also another popular spot, but if I am being honest... it wasn't our favorite?! It was SLAMMED when we went so there wasn't a ton of space and it honestly felt like very "Miami" or "spring break" vibes to me. But we also did go on a weekend, so I am sure that didn't help.
It's definitely still a gorgeous beach, but I feel like there's way better options on the island. *Don't get mad at me for saying that LOL* My family was definitely more North Shore > South!
If you are a dare devil... this is the beach for you. Massive body surfing waves and a cliff jumping spot. My mom was about to lose her mind when I suggested we all jump off (I was kidding, lol). This beach is definitely lacking in shade, but there's some nice grassy areas with trees and holy moly, the waves are insane?!! It was highly entertaining to watch the body surfers go to town. Definitely a place to check out on the South side!
OUR FAVORITE LITTLE HIDDEN GEM! Seriously, you have to check out this beach. It was like a private oasis and we had the whole beach basically to ourselves when we went! Pro tip: go early before the crowds start to roll in and it really will feel like you are on your own private beach. There's insanely clear water, turtle sightings, snorkeling, tons of shade, camp grounds, a tire swing.... sigh. I miss it already.
It's probably 20 minutes from Queens Bath, so you can quickly hit both of those destinations in one day on the island!
I mean... come on. Kauai is insane.
Okay, I think that's all I have for you - can't feel my hands and my fingers are cramping up from furiously typing. I hope this blog post was helpful if you are planning a trip to the beautiful island of Kauai. It is TRULY a magical place and it's very high up there on my list of "Must See" places on this planet earth. I'm already bugging my friends to see if anyone wants to plan a trip back with me! I need to explore more!
If you do end up visiting this island (did I just inspire your next vacation?) please tag me in all of your photos so I can live vicariously through you. :)
Until next time...