Back at the end of April, I finally took my first trip to Hawaii. Hawaii has always just been a wishlist item, a faraway dream from the youth of my past. People have this notion that Hawaii is this super luxurious getaway location (which it is!) but I’ve learnt that it’s so much more than that. My boyfriend and I decided to explore the island of Kauai, the smallest of the four most popular islands and also the oldest island of Hawaii. It’s known for being the most lush, with its nickname being the Garden Isle; it boasts of a laid back vibe with less tourists and an abundance of adventure. I would do almost anything to go back right now.
The island of Kauai houses many roosters and chickens which you will see in abundance, it adds the cutest charm to the island. They will be right there in the mornings calling you awake at daylight and the chirping falls away as the sun fades beyond the horizon during sunset. Kauai can be split up in terms of directional shores when looking into exploring and sightseeing. You can comfortably drive around the whole entire island in about 2-2.5 hrs. It’s a beautiful drive along the coast and inwards through some jungle forests with a leisurely speed; all the while make sure you don’t have any chicken roadkill as the birds tend to like to wander where-ever. Technically you can’t drive around the full island since one of the prized gems of Kauai – the Napali Coast – creates a roadblock. The Napali Coast stretches around the North-Western part of the island with sheer cliffs, which you can only see via hiking, boat or air. These posts will break down the island shore by shore and highlight must sees, food and activities!
We decided to stay in the Eastern side of the island in Kapaa, it was pretty central for exploring the rest of the island as it would take about an hour to reach the North Shore and 1.5 hours to reach the Western side. During our 9 nights in Kauai we stayed at an airbnb in a nice and quiet residential area, it was really just for the bare necessities nothing fancy like a resort but it had a super comfortable bed and hospitable host. It was also a nice surprise by the airbnb hosts to lend us beach chairs, boogie-boards and snorkeling gear. The biggest thing to take into consideration when picking a place to stay is deciding if the location of home base will be convenient to see all the things you want to see during your time there.
You need a car. We rented an economy car, nothing fancy but if you want to do some off-roading I recommend an all terrain vehicle, it’ll allow you to get to the most remote parts of the island! (The bus stops I did see were pretty spread apart so I don’t think it would be an ideal solution to rely on public transportation.)
Since I want to be as thorough as possible I will be splitting the trip post into 3:
- Part 1 will be covering the North Shore
- Part 2 will be covering the Western side of Kauai
- Part 3 will be covering the East and South Side of Hawaii
This was probably my favourite part of the island, I say probably because the whole island was extremely enchanting and had its own unique charm on each coast. The North Shore provided beautiful beaches which are less crowded than the south (season dependent). You have two main towns in the north, Hanalei and Princeville. Princeville is the most touristy and fancy part of the island as there are many extravagant vacation homes which you can see on the drive to the trail head of Queen’s Bath. Whereas, Hanalei has a chill surfing town vibe and the famous pier crescent beach. But the absolute highlight for me was the hike along the Napali Coast. We did the 8 mile hike to Hanakapiai Beach and Hanakapiai Falls and it was an incredible adventure and thigh burner. Be sure to pack enough water and some snacks as North Shore brings out some of the most rugged landscapes that are perfect to get lost in.
- Napali Coast Trail (Kalalau Trail): If you plan on doing the full trail, give yourself 3 days and make sure you get a permit. But if you’re looking for a full day of physical activity and views like no other, I recommend the 8 mile hike to the falls. It is a moderate hike, the most challenging part being the hike from the beach to the falls as it has a lot of stream crossings, rocks and a bit of a muddled path making it difficult to follow. We were ever so lucky that it rained almost for the entire time to the waterfall and back making it extra slippery and muddy so I do highly recommend the use of hiking boots with ankle support or really good trail runners for this hike. The 300ft waterfall is magnificent but be wary when swimming in the pool under it as we did see falling rocks. The return hike is along the same trail so you will once again return to the beach. The beach is the ‘mid point’ for the hike and is unique with many ocean turned stones, perfectly rounded and with white sand. We spent some time here prior to hiking further inland towards the falls and spent time eating lunch and taking in the views. The current is quite strong at this beach with riptides so be careful when entering the water. Overall the hike took us the full day, granted you can do it faster, but we took our time and made many stops to look out at the magnificent views as it is a once in a lifetime experience. Eventually, I would like to return to do the full trail to see Kalalau Beach one day.
- Ke’e Beach: This is the beach located right at the trail head of the Kalalau Trail mentioned above. It doesn’t have the nicest sand as it was covered with pine needles but the water is beautiful for snorkeling. Tonnes of fish along the coral and rocks in nice tropical waters. If you’re lucky, you may even see a sea turtle!
- Hanalei Bay: this is a great beach for beginner surfers, we watched some young girls shredding it up at a surf camp and just admired their skills as we could barely stand on boards ourselves. This is also a great place to try some boogie-boarding on the shore break; and as the sun sets this is a beautiful location near the pier. There are also cute little shops in nearby in Hanalei that are perfect for picking up souvenirs for friends and family.
- Tunnel’s Beach: You’ll see small signs pointing to two entrances to reach Tunnels. This is a very quiet beach with a beautiful view to watch sunset with the Napali Coast as the backdrop. The sand is super unique as it is made up of tiny little sea shells!
- Queen’s Bath: Please proceed with caution at this place, a lot of people have drowned here so if it looks dangerous, don’t go in the water or near the rock edges. Now that I’ve give you that disclaimer, lets talk about how beautiful these tide pools are with the lava rock backdrop. We were super fortunate that when we visited it was calm and serene which made it possible to swim around and float with our ears underwater. It was truly relaxing and calming. The hike to Queen’s Bath is very slippery and muddy, I recommend reef shoes or anything with tread. This is also a very popular tourist spot so parking spaces are limited but if you park at the golf club at the entrance of the residential area, it’ll be a quick 10-15 minute walk to the trail head.
- Wishing Well Shaved Ice: Get the Tropical Bliss with the fresh papaya on top and macadamian nut ice cream on the bottom…you will not be disappointed!
Stay tuned for Part 2: Western Shore of Kauai