A Dream Vacation In Kauai
So in early 2015, I was able to take my four children with me to Kauai. I had been there once before in 2011 and promised them I would take them on the next trip. I saved my booty off and was able to make it happen the week of my birthday in Feb of 2015. We had so much fun. My kids are still talking about it almost weekly. While we’d all love to go back but there are some other places on our wish list too.
I spent a ton of hours, literally months, planning my first vacation and learned about some great adventures and super places to eat.
On this first trip, I had the pleasure of meeting quite a few locals who shared even more knowledge with me about what to do on my second trip! Kauai is full of wonderful people. The laid-back atmosphere is exactly what I had been looking for.
The Island Differences
So this information is according to the locals I talked to because I have not been to all the main islands.
The Big Island.
Traditional. This island has a rugged outdoor vibe and plenty to keep you busy if you enjoy horses, four-wheelers, volcanoes, and maybe a beach day or two. This island is great for a less touristy vacation as they are spread out over a greater area. You can learn plenty about the culture and history of Hawaii here.
The city and beaches all in one. Oahu is home to Honolulu. This is a metropolis, no doubt about it. For those freaked out by the idea of trekking through nature, you could easily stay in downtown and chill in the pools or beach cabanas. Nightlife and shopping galore but plan on crowds and wait times. Pearl Harbor. And if you are really lucky 30 foot swells on the North Shore the week of PipeMasters Surfing Invitational. You can get off the grid but it would require a little planning.
The couples island. Maui is touted as being the most romantic island. I think any tropical vacation can be romantic but the rumor is tons of couples geared activities like snorkel, scuba, hiking, biking, parasailing, and helicopter rides. Also sunset cruises and specials just for couples. This island has plenty to keep you busy. Maui is also known for being a little more expensive than the other islands, that said, I really would like to visit here next time I’m flying that direction.
Lanai and Molokai
These two smaller islands are for the person really wanting to escape. Last I checked Lanai only had two main resorts. This is the kind of place you go to REALLY get away. You won’t find a lot of shopping or restaurants. These two are going to be like rolling back a few decades and just relaxing. You won’t find commercial luaus or touristy offerings around these parts.
Ahh last but certainly not least. My little garden isle gem!
I love the people here. There are certainly amenities but it’s laid back enough and not so crowded. The first time I went was in the first week of Feb. Let me tell you I was so glad to be leaving home. As much as I love it here, it was -18 degrees the day I left. I was ready for some sun! The second time when I took the kids it was the last week in Feb rolling into March.
So Kauai is one of the wettest places on the planet but if you time your vacation right and book your rooms on the south shore, you should have some wonderful weather. Even when it does rain it’s like taking a lukewarm shower haha. The weather in the North part of the island is more temperamental but Hanalei Bay is stunning, to say the least.
So the following are seven activities I recommend, especially if you are traveling with children. I will also mention a few that are geared more towards adults.
7 Must Do Activities
Charter the Napali Coast. I used Captain Andy’s and had a wonderful time. The boat was clean, the captain was awesome. Breakfast and Lunch are both included. This is a must not be missed opportunity. My first trip in 2011 was canceled due to weather, ocean conditions.
Book the trip. If the weather is not good they will refund you in full. They won’t take advantage of you and go anyways. They make sure you can snorkel and sail on days when the water is good enough to not make the majority of people seasick.
The scenery is a once in a lifetime view. My photo to the right is where the cliffs start. They get a few thousand feet taller! Did I mention we saw whales, turtles, and dolphins along with a few dozen species of fish? This is a must do in Kauai.
Makewehi Lithified Cliffs. This is an awesome and easy jaunt down the coast. Start at Shipwreck Beach which is a pretty awesome find all it’s own. The trail takes off from there and you can walk a couple of miles down the beach on a nice trail. My kids kept hearing this howling noise. Upon further investigation and a few laughs, they found a dry blowhole. We found three but I am sure there are more. The first picture in the top series is the trail we were on.
On the right. My daughter putting her hand over the draft blowing from the ground as my son takes a face full of dust, lol
Poipu Beach. If you have smaller children this is very ideal, however, I do recommend water shoes as the lava rock can be very sharp. The beach is divided almost like two crescent moons. The sand is spectacular and there is a very good chance of seeing a seal on the beach. You can photo but don’t get too close. Seals are much larger than they look and move very quickly when they want to. There are nearly always volunteers who tape off the area where a seal is “sunbathing”.
They want to help protect this endangered animal while we all enjoy the cuteness too! The sunset photo is Poipu Beach. You can’t see them but there were bottlenose dolphins out there showing off.
Waimea Canyon Kauai. Dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and with good reason. Imagine something similar to the grand canyon only blanketed in green lusciousness. While it’s not nearly as big as the Arizona giant, it’s certainly a little more eye appealing. I stopped several times on the way up for different photos and viewpoints. The top is amazing but take a rain jacket. The weather up that high tends to be very different from the beach below. Flash rains can appear from nowhere and five minutes later it’s 70 and sunny.
Gillan and Haula Beaches. This is a walk and beautiful place to go for a picnic. That said, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SWIM here. I am an excellent swimmer and I wouldn’t even dare. The tide, surf, and rocks make it a no-no. I am fairly certain we took the wrong road to the trailhead because the “road” was more of a treacherous pothole pass for about two miles. Would have been faster to walk it, not even kidding.
The holes were more like mini-abysses and at the end was a closed down sugar mill with a little gate guard shack that had seen better days. I thought we were lost but the trail appeared. I am near certain there is another road to this destination. The trail is through a thick patch of brush/trees and just when you are thinking the jungle has swallowed you it opens up to a spectacular beach. We went nearly three miles and only saw one other person! The second and third pictures in the top series were taken here.
Tree Tunnel. Maybe it’s just my love of nature but this short drive is awesome. These Eucalyptus trees were gifted to Kauai a lonnng time ago. They have grown over to create a tunnel of sorts that makes the drive anything but boring. My pictures don’t do it the justice it deserves. After you get down here I strongly recommend a taco or three from Savage Shrimp. They used to be a food truck but have now purchased a little hole in the wall near the roundabout just past Poipu. The building doesn’t look like much but the food is mouth-watering and affordable! We ate there four times in our week long stay.
Wailua Falls. This is easy for people with small children as you can drive right to the waterfall. Since my first trip, they have blocked people from going down to the bottom. With the rain and slick trails, I am sure it’s an accident waiting to happen. I hike fairly regular and while it wasn’t a long walk by any means it was certainly steep. Locals had put ropes up in an effort to help people have something to hold onto. In any event, this is no longer allowed but the top is gorgeous. This set of falls is featured in many Hawaiian or tropical calendars.
- A vanilla milkshake at Pono Market. I would order them for delivery if possible.
- Opaekaa Falls. Nice drive. Great photos and road follows a beautiful river.
- Hanalei River Trail. Gorgeous. Not for small kids and wouldn’t recommend for beginning hikers or after a period of heavy rains.
- Botanical Gardens. The big trees from Jurassic Park with the giant roots. You’ll find those here for a small fee.
- Spouting Horn. Neat but very touristy. Free to see but vendor shops adorn the grounds.
- The Beach Hut. Located in Lihue. Most reasonable and tasty breakfast on the whole island.
- JJ’s Beach Broiler. Nice dinner place for couples. Duke’s is less than a five-minute walk down a paved path. They are good too but go early or plan to wait an hour to be seated. Reservations recommended.
- Marriot Beachfront. The resort is spendy. This is where I stayed on my first trip. The pool is huge! However, the beach out front is open to all the public and is a great place to paddleboard and such. Very nice.
I hope that someday you are able to make the trip. You won’t regret it.
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