A few years ago we had tickets booked to Bali, Indonesia. We were pretty stoked to be heading there, but before we could get too far into the planning process, a few important things happened:
- We got engaged.
- Two Malaysia Airlines flights ended in tragedy.
- Our flights were with Malaysia Airlines.
I don’t know about you, but there was pretty much no way I could handle 24+ hours flying with them given the crashes. We also decided, that maybe we should cancel our flights (sooner than later) to get as much money as possible back. Assuming, that after all this, there may not be a Malaysia Airlines business for much longer. We also figured we should be responsible with our money, since we were now planning a wedding.
The tough part was that we had been looking forward to a nice tropical vacation in November and now we weren’t going to get one. But like true, nearly-zero-responsibility adults, we decided that just wouldn’t do. We made the decision to go to Hawaii instead. Neither of us had been since we were kids, and we able to get decent flights. We went for 2 weeks. Spending just over a week on the island of Kauai and a few days on Oahu.
What we didn’t take into account, was how fucking expensive Hawaii is. We weren’t out shopping or getting drunk every night and having big fancy dinners, but the cost of 2 weeks in Hawaii worked out to about as much as we spent the year before for 5 weeks in Europe. I will point out that November in Hawaii is nearly peak season, and November in Europe is pretty much the opposite of peak season. But still, it was outrageous.
Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle”, its where some of the most recognizable scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed (as well as over 70 other films/TV shows). We stayed just outside of Kapa’a, at this VRBO on Wailua Bay. The host was great and the unit came with everything we could need. We loved the location so much we were researching how much it would cost to buy a unit there. (spoiler alert: it was out of our price range).
Wailua had everything we needed within a quick drive/reasonable walking distance. There were a few different restaurants to choose from (not just chains) and a Safeway nearby. We went out one night, but otherwise just bought our groceries and BBQ’d at the condo. We were able to get super fresh Ahi Tuna steaks from Safeway which was a dream!
One day we spent driving Route 56 up to the north side of the island to Princeville and the 560 through Hanalei. It’s not a long drive, but we made a real trip of it.
Our first stop was the Kilauea Lighthouse. The parking lot was a zoo but the view was fantastic and definitely worth the stop.
Our second stop was Kauapea Beach (also known as Secret Beach). It was a beautiful beach, that took a short but respectable hike to get to. I remember feeling like I was going to die coming back up. The trail is unmarked and the water was not great for swimming. I stood just close enough to get my feet wet and even then I misread it and got knocked on my ass. Tyler attempted going deeper and thought better of it. They were literally surfing maybe 20ft from shore, it was nuts. The beach is about a kilometer long and you can easily feel like you’re the only one on the beach. At the far end of the beach you can gain access to a waterfall. Which we didn’t do, because we were content with our view that required no additional walking.
We continued on to Hanalei Bay, which was very busy, but also beautiful. Duh, seriously? I don’t think there is a “meh” beach on Kauai. We stopped at Kalypso Island Bar & Grill (the website leaves something to be desired, but I got my fill of Mango Daiquiris and coconut shrimp so I was happy). We made pit stops along the way to check out other beaches and view points as we made our way back to the condo. One thing to note is that Kauai has wild chickens, which were prevalent on this side of the island.
The next day we headed down Route 56 the other direction towards Route 50 and Waimea Canyon Dr. It took about two hours of driving but we made it to the top of Koke’e State Park. We definitely had to switch up who was driving as I started getting carsick. When we got to the top we had a quick picnic and made our way to the view point. We got about 5 seconds of a view of the Pacific Ocean through Kalalau Valley before the clouds closed back in. We made our way to the Waimea Canyon lookout point. The state park has lots to do, and the lookouts are great, but the canyon had a lot of people and tour buses to deal with.
There is a best time for viewing the Kalalau Valley (or the entrance to Jurassic Park) which happens to be between 8am and 11am, as the clouds are just too thick in the afternoon.
After this we headed to Polihale State Park. It’s 15 miles of beach that isn’t protected by any reef. You DO NOT swim here. The waves are the full force of the Pacific. I wouldn’t recommend driving a small car here, but it is possible (we did), but some clearance would be best. One of our co-workers comes here and camps on the beach, actually he camps on a lot of the beaches, but this one for sure. He’s a bit of a lone wolf, with some quirks; we’ll call him adventurous.
The next day we did a catamaran cruise of the Na Pali Coast. This coastline is only accessible by boat or hiking. We looked into doing the hike, but there are some dodgy areas, where a fear of heights would not be helpful. The hike takes about 2 days and is said to be one of the best, so maybe one day. But likely not any time soon. The cruise was a lot of fun. We did it with Holo Holo Charters and had a great time. I would definitely book one of their other tours given a chance. This coastline is amazingly beautiful. I think it looks awesome in pictures, but the pictures don’t do it justice.
So there, that’s 3 jam-packed days on the island of Kauai. We spent a decent portion of time relaxing on beaches too. As the island is small, we could manage to split the day up more or less, with adventuring in the mornings and beach in the afternoon (or vice versa). I realize this isn’t a city guide, and technically more of an island guide… but just go with it.
Accommodations: Our VRBO was perfect. It was a great area for accessibility and it had everything we needed, plus a fantastic view. If we could live here we probably would. Keep in mind, there are no elevators, so, you will have to use the stairs if you are on an upper floor.
Transportation: Rent a car. There are buses, but its just so much easier to have your own car. You can get more places faster and enjoy the scenery more, making pit stops for photos and snacks.
Food and Beverage: Fresh Seafood. Today’s Catch. Ahi Tuna steaks from Safeway. GET IT IN YOU.
Watch Out For: The waves. The deep blue is a fickle bitch. Read the surf reports, heed the warnings. Check out Kauai Beach Scoop for their list of the best swimming beaches on Kauai. Keep an eye on your kids and familiarize yourself with rip current safety.
Also keep an eye on your budget. Kauai is not as expensive as Oahu, but its still more expensive than mainland USA. I wouldn’t bother going shopping or buying anything in the tourist shops, but if you must, set a dollar limit. We spent about 4 days in Waikiki and the costs were almost equal to our 10 days on Kauai.
Must Sees: Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast. They are just too beautiful to miss.
Things We’ll be Doing if We Get a Redo: Any of the other Holo Holo Charters tours. (We did the Napali Sunset Tour). One day maybe, hiking the Na Pali Coast.
Traveling with Kids: I would definitely bring kids here, the island is quiet and not touristy. But make sure you have your eye on them at all times and they are wearing personal flotation devices. Even the most chill looking beach can be dangerous.