To set the stage for a place that is as wild as it is beautiful, picture this… you are flying to Kauai and over the plane’s intercom they request that you look out the window to your right. This command is followed by John Hammond’s silky voice saying “Welcome to Jurassic Park”.
Though a brachiosaurus won’t be staring back up at you, the luscious and wild greenery of the fictional land of Jurassic Park will be. Set against the deep blue of the ocean, the island looks vibrant and bold.
I had the pleasure of visiting Kauai after spending 3 days on the big island. In just a few days, I fell in love.
Kauai Day 1: Arrival to the Island and Basic Logistics
Upon arriving in Kauai, our first task was to pickup our car. We opted to rent a car because many of the best experiences on the island are very spread out. When doing our research, we quickly found that there was a terrible car shortage on the island.
We rented using Turo. Turo is a peer to peer car borrowing experience where owners of cars can offer their cars to renters and coordinate pickup and dropoff. Our experience with this went very well. The car was in great shape and the instructions were clear. This is a newer service and therefore do you research on insurance and other considerations before deciding to rent from here!
You may be able to use a ride hailing app but we came to learn that there are less than 10 Uber drivers on the island. To add onto that difficulty, they are very selective of the rides they agree to based on the compensation they will receive for rides! Beware of potentially be stranded if you try to rely on this! If you do want to go this route, I’d recommend asking Uber or taxi drivers if you can contact them outside the app and they may give you their card.
Once we had our car, we drove to check into our Resort at Koloa Landing. This served as our home base for all the explorations in the coming days!
Kauai Day 2: The Queen’s Bath and hanalei Bay
We woke up early the next day and began our drive North. To drive from Koloa on the southeast of the island to the Priceville on the northeast of the island, took a little over an hour. We stopped on the way in Kaap’a to grab a delicious breakfast! The line was out the door but ordering was quick and well worth it at Java Kai.
The Queen’s Bath
After breakfast, we continued our drive to our first stop – the Queen’s Bath.
The Queen’s Bath is a location on the island where the rocks on shore form natural pools of water, filled by the waves. It is possible to swim in these rock pools, but only during low tide. There is a .8 mile walk down to the rocky shore section and then additional walking to access different pools along the coastline.
Be cautious and do you research before deciding to swim. The area can be dangerous if waves pour over the rocks of the swimming pools, particularly during high
tide. But the view and the experience…a third WOW. Incredible and totally worth a visit.
A note here is that the parking area at the start of the Queen’s Bath hike is very very small! You should either plan to be there early in the day or plan to wait a couple of minutes until a parking spot opens up. There may be a few other people waiting at any given point in time. Don’t be caught off guard, don’t park illegally, and know that it is worth the wait.
After our swim we continued on to our next stop, Hanalei Bay. It was the nicest beach we visited in our 9 day stay in Hawaii. The beach is beautifully located with views of mountains and waterfalls in the distance. The water was mild and the waves were moderate.
Though you can continue further West to the Northwest corner of Kauai, we opted not to go any further. According to one of our guides later in the week, you need to get a permit to get all the way West. If you can’t get a permit online, it is possible to park further away and pay for a shuttle.
After a quick snowcone and lunch ini the town of Hanalei, we headed towards a sightseeing spot with a picturesque lighthouse. Though we didn’t see any, supposedly there are times of the year where you can see whales and other sea life near the lighthouse. The lighthouse also marks the furthest north part of the state of Hawaii.
We spent a few moments admiring the view and then started heading back south. On our way back, we pulled off to the side to admire a beautiful view. There were some cars waiting and ready to enjoy the sunset. According to one of the women waiting, this was a popular spot to pull up and watch the sunset. I really wish that we had planned to be there for it with a picnic and some drinks ready.
Kauai Day 3: Coasts, Canyons and Culture
After exploring the north, the next day we were headed west to Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast.
Na Pali Coast
To experience the rugged and beautiful Na Pali Coast, we booked a morning BBQ catamaran experience with Captain Andy’s. We left right on time at 8AM and enjoyed cruising around the south of the island to get to the coast. We learned a little bit about the area including its military background and some information on the neighbouring “forbidden” island that is privately owned dating back to when St. Claire bought it.
As we rounded the southwest tip of the island, the waves got rougher as we faced the open sea and we came upon a huge pod of Spinner dolphins! The dolphins were having a blast playing around the boat! After marveling at the dolphins, we continued a bit further up the coast before anchoring to snorkel.
The reef was okay. There weren’t very many fish, nor was it very colorful. It didn’t
really compare to the lively and colorful reefs of the Caribbean or Asia Pacific from my experience. Nevertheless, the water felt nice and there was limited sea life to look at in a beautiful place.
After snorkeling, we continued our trip up the coast. The captain, captain Skye, did an excellent job of pointing out key features and movie references. “That there was in king kong” and “this was in Indiana Jones”… I can see why movie casts like filming there. It seems like another planet.
The captain also called out several of the beaches that are accessible via kayak or by hiking. Plan ahead if you are interested in these Na Pali Coast Hikes since they
are not available year round and may require permits.
We got back to the dock in Port Allen, unloaded from the boat, and went about our days with happy bellies, sun-kissed skin, and wonderful memories.
Since we were out west, we decided to continue on to Waimea Canyon. We drove up the canyon road, which was relatively steep, and paid $20 to visit the state park. The canyon, often called the grand canyon of the Hawaiian Islands, was picturesque with views of waterfalls against a dramatic backdrop.
After spending some moments enjoying the views, we stopped at several other lookouts before making our way back to Koloa to prepare for our Luau. Though very touristy, we decided to go to the Luau Kalamaku.
It is located close to Lihue in the middle of the island. There were a couple of artisan shops setup outside of the main luau area to browse before the show. The bar opened at 5:30 and was serving Mai Thais and Blue Hawaiians along with wine. Dinner started at about 6:30 after a short opening and consisted of rice, vegetables, noodles, pork, chicken, and more.
The food and beverages were okay but watching the cultural dances and celebration of Hawaiian heritage was LIT. Literally. The dancers in the show seemed to really enjoy what they did and the fire throwers were unbelievable. We called it a night after again, another fun packed day.
Kauai Day 4: Helicopter Tour and Chill
Waking up the next morning, we were nervous.
We had signed up for our first ever helicopter ride. Somehow the idea of flying in a tiny aircraft over a rugged island that frequently changed weather was frightening. All of these fears ceased when we took off. We opted for a tour with Blue Hawaiian and Greg, our pilot, was so kind and so funny.
He took us all around the island and turned the helicopter for 360 views of some of the most incredible gems on the island. Not to mention the coordinated music to go along with some of the stops on the helicopter tour.
Picture this, you approach a waterfall tucked away in the folds of the island while listening to the Jurassic Park theme song and playing back in your head the exact scene in the movie. Pretty awesome. We also flew over Waimea canyon, along the Na Pali coast, and into the misty crater of the volcano where we had a view of many narrow waterfalls tumbling in.
And Chill… Hanging out near Koloa
After the helicopter tour, we called for an Uber to take us back to Koloa. We had returned our car since we had done most of the sight-seeing around the island that we cared to do and because cars on the island are in a shortage and thus very costly.
After returning to the hotel we hung out at the pool before determining that we were hungry for some Puka dogs! We got to the restaurant after about a mile walk. Despite Google saying that it closed at 8:00PM, were told once we got there at 7:25 that they were closing at 7:30 and therefore we couldn’t order…so we decided to stop in to Brennecke’s Beach Broiler. The wait was long but it was a nice time with a fun live band.
Kauai Day 5: Surfing
For our last full day on the island, we woke up early for a surf lesson at Hoku Water Sports. After a brief crash course, we hit the water at a beach nearby. The water was a nice temperature and the waves were a good size for beginners. Our surf instructor for the day helped us catch a few waves and by the end of it we were able to stand up on a few! The only downside was that the run from wave break to short was very short and therefore we had to stand up very quickly.
After surfing, we finally grabbed our puka dogs and enjoyed a picnic on Poipu Beach. We enjoyed our last full day lounging around. As the sun set, we wished for more time. The lifestyle was slow and sweet. We soaked in every moment.
Kauai Day 6: Departure from Paradise
On the final day, we got up early and headed to Little Fish Coffee for some breakfast. It is a cute litttle coffee shop in walking distance of a lot of properties in Koloa Landing. With happy bellies, we went to the airport. For a small airport, there were a ton of people. Make sure you get there on time for wherever your journey is taking you next.
Mahalo for reading and happy exploring!