A Guide to Kaua’i
I had never given a thought to traveling to the Hawaiian Islands. I just imagined a very touristy place full of beach resorts. But because my husbands passport was expired, we were limited to the states for our honeymoon. He had always wanted to go to Hawaii and since that was the most tropical place we could go, we started looking at flights. At the time I noticed it was cheaper to fly into Lihue than Honolulu. I had never heard of Lihue but after looking into the terrain of the island, I was excited to go. We booked our flights and planned to (and successfully did) explore the entire island of Kaua’i. So with our weeks worth of experience on the island, I present to you: A Guide to Kaua’i.
Where to Stay
Our first stay was at a hotel. Now, normally we would not do this but our flight got into Hawaii at 7pm. I knew after 10 hours of flying we would be too tired to drive an hour away, to the first town we planned to explore.
Conveniently located about 15 minutes from the airport is the ISO. Check-in was easy because the front desk staff is around until 11pm. Our room had a 70’s motel vibe (not complaining). The bed was comfy, the bathroom was nice and our room led right out to the pool. Not going to lie, it was deathly hot in our room. Apparently Kaua’i isn’t air-conditioner friendly, which I get and respect but ya girl was perspiring, A LOT.
The ISO offers a small complimentary breakfast. Nothing phenomenal – just oatmeal, cereal, some coffee, tea, yogurt and milk. This was enough to start the day though. We then took out some of the hotels vintage bikes and rode them to ‘Opaeka’a Falls. This was treacherous and an uphill battle with street bikes but worth it for the views. Bikes are available on a first come first serve basis and are free to rent to hotel guests.
When we returned to the hotel we hung out by the pool. Our checkout was at 11am but the friendly staff allowed us a late checkout at 130pm. There are hammocks, lawn chairs facing the ocean and a sleek fire pit for the evening in the courtyard of the ISO. Even though our room was hot I really enjoyed staying here and if you can stand the heat, it’s worth a stay.
After the ISO we headed to our first apartment through Airbnb. I love Airbnb. It’s nice to feel at home when you’re traveling. You can rent an entire apartment, an entire house, a room, a cabin, a plot of land – wherever you travel, there’s probably an Airbnb that can accommodate your needs. Click here to sign up for Airbnb and get a discount on your first stay! With my link for Airbnb, you’ll get $40 off booking a home and $15 to use toward an experience worth $50 or more.
We rented two apartments throughout our stay. The first was a studio in Princeville. Princeville is beautiful but it has a very generic feel. You’ll find private golf courses for $200 a round, two lattes can cost you $18 and there is no genuine Hawaii feel. It felt more like what I imagine Beverly Hills would be like. But I digress…
And we had AC here!
Our other apartment was in Kapa’a and chosen because it was close to the airport. This stay, much like our time at the ISO, was incredibly hot. It was a room off of a house with a private entrance. At night it cooled down but we stayed out during the day because the heat was unbearable. We did not have a kitchen here but that was by choice. We wanted to enjoy all the local eats! Our apartment was nice as expected. We had a large balcony which overlooked Namolokama Mountain. The kitchen was very well equipped so we were able to cook some meals instead of going out to eat every day, which was a nice balance. The neighborhood, as generic as it was, was picturesque for quick runs in the morning or sunset strolls.
Some of the breakfasts we prepared at our Airbnb’s.
Where To Eat
I love food – maybe we hurt our bank account a little with all the places we dined at but as my husband kept reassuring me, “We only get one honeymoon.” Well played.
Before I dish out all the places that helped us gain some extra pounds, a quick forewarning: Hawaii is expensive. Believe me, I tried to look for the cheapest meal options and these were what I came up with.
Tiki Tacos in Kapa’a
These are some FAT tacos. Tiki Tacos has a simple menu with tacos, burritos and my all time favorite food: tamales. The shop is tiny with just 2-3 seats inside but some outdoor seating. I thought the prices were a little steep for a taco but after seeing the size of the taco, I believe the price is right.
Kountry Kitchen in Kapa’a
For the most important meal of the day, definitely get to Kountry Kitchen. Bottomless, delicious Hawaiian coffee, crispy waffles and giant omelettes. We ordered one Mediterranean omelette to split and I could barely finish my half. Service was quick when went around 8am but the place started to pack in shortly after we finished eating, so get there early. You can find a simple eggs and bacon meal on the menu or something more elaborate.
Lava Lava Beach Club in Kapa’a
Our kayaking tour guide recommended this place after our excursion. We arrived at 2pm right before their menu changed to only happy hour foods. We got shake fries, which was a bag of French fries that we added, cajun seasoning, furikake seaweed and Parmesan, to and then literally shook the bag, sizzling shrimp and a $16 salad. Now before you judge me, I saw the size of the salad before we ordered and it was enough to feed 3 people. Well worth it after five hours of kayaking and hiking.
Rob’s Good Time Grill in Kapa’a
This place was so good that we went back twice. They have an Ono fish and chips dish on the menu that has the best GD tartar sauce I’ve ever tasted. The slaw they give you with the fish and chips is not some mayonnaise doused coleslaw, it’s a kale and purple cabbage coleslaw with a nice vinaigrette. They also have a fantastic selection of local beers on tap, karaoke some nights and a dance floor.
Aloha Roastery in Koloa
Another spot we visited twice. I’m not an expert on coffee; in fact I drink Tim Horton’s coffee almost everyday and I once heard a barista compare that to jet fuel so what do I know? But this place made a delicious matcha latte and a nice vanilla latte. They have non-dairy substitutions for milk and a small selection of baked goods.
Island Taco in Waimea
After Waimea State Park, we stopped at this place. Small menu with mainly just tacos and burritos. With the tacos you have the choice of flour or corn tortillas. The tacos come with thick homemade chips and salsa. I got a glimpse of the burrito that another customer had ordered and it was quite large so you get your money’s worth here.
Fresh fruit and street food
We found a ton of fresh fruit by chance and street food as well. We passed by a cocoa farm and stopped there to buy the most delicious strawberry mint dark chocolate truffles. The woman behind the counter gave us as much starfruit as we could carry without damaging it (it’s such a delicate fruit), for free.
We drove by a papaya farm and stopped there, found a man selling coconuts by the beach, grabbed some of those and saw a couple of young girls selling an ENTIRE COOLER OF TAMALES by the beach so of course, we bought some of those too.
Keep your eyes peeled for people selling food next to the beaches – you won’t be disappointed and it’s cheaper than the restaurants.
What to Do
Tahiti Nui Luau
This place is the definition of a mom and pop restaurant. Every Wednesday they throw a traditional luau and but you must make reservations to see this amazing show. Owned by a family, the husband places guitar and sings for the audience while you enjoy free MaiTais until 6pm! The imu roasted pig is served with a ton of traditional Hawaiian foods and later in the evening a family begins the hula and fire dancer show. I really appreciated being able to see the tradition of the hula dance and being able to enjoy a traditional Hawaiian meal.
First off, be ready for a workout. This FIVE HOUR kayak and hiking tour gets you onto trails only accessible by tour guides. After kayaking for a mile and a half, we made our way through muddy trails, grass and plants taller than us (I’m 5’9, my husband is 6’ for reference), to a cool refreshing 80ft waterfall. Like our tour guide said, “you could take thousands of photos of this place and photos will never do it justice.” 100% agree.
Hā’ena State Beach/Park
Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework well enough because you have to make a reservation to enter Hā’ena State Park. The views are said to be spectacular, the trails long and scenic and the photos of the park are out of this world. Since the park just recently reopened, only a certain amount of visitors are granted access each day. Reservations can be booked a month ahead and I saw why: the earliest reservation we could find was two weeks after our flight to go home. So sadly, we didn’t get to the park. But we did get to the beach. This is a big snorkeling spot for tourists because turtles frequent this area.
No matter where we are vacationing in the U.S., we always find a bowling lane near us. We used to bowl a lot in college so we like to check out the lanes in other cities. We went on a Saturday around 8pm. The place was packed with leagues but only on one side. It’s large enough though, so at any given night I’m sure lanes would be available. The staff is super friendly and so were the patrons.
Waimea State Park
I’m not sure if Waimea is accessible without a car. The Jeep we rented really came in handy for this trip. There was misty rain on and off all day but that didn’t take away from the beauty of the park. We were originally going to hike through the trails but the minute we got to the first lookout peak, I felt awful. Not sure why but it could definitely be blamed on the altitude; the elevation is 3,600 ft! The canyon is 3,00ft deep and affectionately referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.”
The rest of our trip was spent on the beach in the sun and I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing honeymoon.
I hope this guide prompts you to make a visit to this beautiful place or at least add it to your bucket list. Where to next? – aloha 🙂