Kauai: A Week in Paradise

I can’t believe it’s taken me two months to write about my awesome trip to Kauai, but better late than never? This was my fourth (or fifth??) time visiting this amazing island and it did not disappoint.

If you’ve ever heard the term “island time,” you know it refers to a slower than average pace. Like a really slow pace. I only wish that vacation went by in “island time” speed. Instead, it seems more like time is on steroids and goes by way too fast. There is just never enough of it. We definitely made the best of our time though and I’ve put together all the highlights of each day.

Day 1: Travel day. Arrived later than planned due to plane issues. The airplane mechanics were definitely on island time that day, even though we were on the ground in San Francisco. When we landed in Lihue, the car rental place was really, really on island time and it took over an hour to get our rental. So, instead of doing shopping for the week like we had planned that afternoon, we dropped our bags at our rental house in Poipu and headed to Brennecke’s for dinner and mai tais. Lots and lots of mai tais.

Day 2: Since we didn’t go shopping like we had planned the day before, this was a Costco and pool day at the house…and more mai tais. Did I mention that the house was right across the street from the ocean AND had a pool!? Sitting at the house and drinking mai tais on the lanai with an occasional dip in the pool wasn’t such a bad thing!

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Sunset view across the street from our rental house in Poipu.

Day 3: My brother arrived the night before and today was his birthday, so we decided to celebrate with a special round of golf. Kukuiolono Golf Course is local, laid-back, and has some awesome ocean and mountain views. After a $25 9-hole round, including cart and clubs (best deal on the island!) and trying not to hit all the chickens, we went back to the house to get ready for dinner. Since it was my brother’s birthday, we went to what we remember being a really great restaurant, The Beach House. The setting is beautiful—you can’t take that away from them—but the food and service was less than sub-par. It is not at all what is was several years ago and I would not recommend wasting your money here. If you want to enjoy the view and have some drinks in the bar, great, but the food and service is not worth the price.

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Golfing at Kukuiolono Golf Course.

Day 4: We decided to pack up the car with boogie boards, snorkel gear, beach chairs, and lunch and head to Tunnels Beach on the North Shore. This was about an hour drive from where we were staying and definitely a place you should visit, no matter where you are staying on the island. The snorkeling here was pretty good (and Brian saw his first sea turtle!), but the highlight was playing in the waves. The shore break was small enough for us to have fun bobbing up and down in the waves and then catching the occasional ride on the boogie board. After a day playing at the beach, we headed back to Poipu and stopped for a treat at Wailua Shave Ice. This place is not your typical weird-colored, corn syrup laden ice; it is made with fresh fruit juices and great toppings. Check out a clip in the video at the end of this post. Definitely worth the stop!

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Sea turtle at Tunnels Beach.

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Tunnels Beach – North Shore, Kauai.

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Playing in the waves at Tunnels Beach.

Day 5: One of the must do things when visiting Kauai is taking a boat cruise of the Napali Coast. We signed up for a boat and snorkel combo with Blue Dolphin Charters. It was about an hour to the snorkel site, where I saw a turtle and an octopus (!!) and a bunch of other cool fish. Then we headed to the Napali Coast, which was unfortunately, rainy and overcast, covering most of the awesome formations and colors. Either way, it was still beautiful. I would definitely recommend Blue Dolphin Charters to anyone interested in seeing Kauai this way. The crew were awesome, they had a nice lunch spread, and the bar was open! Pro tip: when they are doing the briefing before you head to the boat, make sure you know how to say the Hawaiian state fish and you might win a shirt. All the months leading up to this trip and saying it over and over and over with Brian paid off and he won!

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Blue Dolphin Charter catamaran tour and snorkel trip.

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Moody day on the Napali Coast.

Day 6: Brian, my brother and I headed to Waimea Canyon to hike the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls. On the way, we stopped at the Pu’u o Kila lookout, which also happens to be home to one of the wettest spots on Earth. The clouds continuously come and go here, so stay for a minute and you should see an awesome view of the Napali Coast. After a little sightseeing, we headed to the Canyon Trail. I could write all about it on my blog, but my brother beat me to it, so check that out here. After our hike we grubbed at Puka Dog, a one-of-a-kind Hawaiian-style hotdog that you just have to try for yourself. To wrap up the day, we headed across the street from where we were staying to Koloa Landing for a little snorkeling. It was okay here, but a little murky.

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View of the Napali Coast from Pu’u o Kila lookout.

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Waimea Canyon from the Canyon Trail.

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Beautiful fields of ginger on the Canyon Trail.

Day 7: Today was my favorite day of snorkeling the whole trip! We went to Poipu Beach and saw Monk Seals wrestling around, the biggest sea turtle I’ve ever seen, Snowflake Morays, Golden Morays, and so many other fish! It was pretty busy here with tourists, but when you are under the water following a turtle or fish around, it is like no one else exists. Just watch out for someone else’s flipper to your face! This was a great snorkel spot this day. After that, we headed to Wailua Falls, which was okay, but nothing spectacular, and then of course, Wailua Shave Ice, since we were up that way.

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Snorkeling with the biggest sea turtle I’ve ever seen at Poipu Beach State Park.

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Wailua Falls.

Day 8: This was our last full day and it was so sad to know we had to get on a plane the next day. We spent the day relaxing and swimming in the waves at Shipwrecks Beach, followed by more Puka Dog and a little shopping. If you’re a serious adventurer, there is a pretty amazing cliff to jump off at this beach. You have to be a really strong swimmer and time the waves right, so this is definitely not for the faint of heart. My cousin and her husband did it and lived to tell the tale, but she is also an incredible swimmer and ex-water polo player. Be warned.

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Just a haole boy not wanting to go back to the mainland.

Day 9: This was our travel day home, which went okay, but one thing to note: if connecting in Honolulu, make sure you have a looooong layover. The Wiki Wiki bus between terminals is a nightmare! We had an hour and a half layover and got to our gate as they were boarding. It would have been way faster for us to walk and we would have had time for one last mai tai.

It was an amazing trip and I can’t wait to go back to my favorite island! What are some of your favorite things to do on Kauai that I should schedule for my next visit?

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