Hawaii is just one of those special places. The place you can go and instantly feel relaxed and energized at the same time. I am fortunate enough to have been to 4 of the Hawaiian Islands – Maui, Oahu, Hawaii and Kauai. Though there is one that steals my heart every time I go and also happens to be the setting of my most recent adventure – Kauai.
It’s easy to be smitten by the Maui sunsets, or the giant swells by Oahu. But, there is something about the wild, untamed beauty of Kauai that just gets me every time – the fact that there are wild chickens running around everywhere, the fact that you can’t even drive around the whole island, the fact that it seems like there are more food trucks than restaurants and the absolutely incredible lush, natural beauty with rainbows for days to name a few.
So, when Adam and I were looking for a relaxing vacation with a side of adventure, I knew Kauai would be the perfect place. As per usual, our vacation time was limited so squeezed out a 4-day Kauai adventure by taking crazy, red eye flights.
We arrived after a very long day of travel, picked up our Jeep rental car (#Tourist) and headed straight to the hotel. Thankfully, there are a slew of SPG hotels on the island, so we split our time between the Sheraton Kauai and the St. Regis Princeville. What’s great about these is that one is on the South end and the other on the North end – perfect for exploring!
Pro tip: I know that for some, it can be a hassle to switch hotels, but I really like being able to have multiple home bases through a trip – it helps cut down on the driving (which we already do enough of!) and if we find something incredible nearby, we have the time to explore it.
After a great night’s sleep, we headed out for some breakfast. Thanks to Yelp, we found Little Fish Coffee – basically the most perfect spot for breakfast and coffee! This little blue house has THE BEST açaí bowls I have ever had, lattes for days and homemade bagels that give any Jewish deli a run for its money. FYI, I still dream about this place, so that really says something.
After stuffing our faces, we made our way to our helicopter adventure of the island! I mentioned that so much of the island isn’t reachable by car – that’s because of the Napali Coast.
Pro tip: We scheduled our helicopter ride for the first day because it gave us an awesome aerial view of the island and helped us plan what we wanted to go back to by car throughout our time there.
We scheduled our tour with Mauna Loa Helicopters because it was highly rated, private and we could do the tour with the doors off! I was partly terrified, but also excited because for this amateur photographer, that means no glass to ruin my pictures!
We flew around the entire island – and I’ll just let the photos do the talking!
As you can see, Kauai has just about every kind of topography you can imagine – mountains, lush forest (complete with waterfalls) and even a desert canyon. It all was spectacular, including my personal favorite, the Napali coast.
After our incredible adventure, we wanted some lunch. Though, we were really on a hunt for seafood! We happened to be right next door to a food truck that was known for ahi sushi burritos – umm, YES please!
We indulged and then hit the road (top down!) for some adventure and to head north to our hotel, the St. Regis Princeville.
We weren’t able to afford more than 1 night at this spot, but thanks to my status were able to get upgraded to an ocean front room! I highly recommend this hotel if you’re able to swing it – it’s built into a cliff and has spectacular ocean views and its own beach.
And that is basically what we did for the rest of the afternoon – beach with a side of cocktail and ahi tuna nachos. I am not sure it gets any better than that! We ended up eating at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner, which was surprisingly fantastic.
The next day, we knew that we needed to get back to the Napali coast, but this time wanted to go by boat – and at sunset. Adam and I both love being out on the water – so we found a sunset catamaran sail with Captain Andy’s. Dinner and drinks included!
We boarded our catamaran and were ready for an adventure! Though we really had no idea what kind of an adventure we’d be in for. First, we found spinner dolphins along the way that played with the boat – it was incredible!
Next, the real fun happened. As we rounded the corner toward the Napali coast, we came upon 15’ waves and let’s just say, the boat dominated the waves and I wished I was wearing a bathing suit! After getting absolutely positively soaked, we made it to the Napali coast. It was beyond stunning from the water! They hoisted the sails and we kicked back and enjoyed an amazing dinner, drinks and of course views…and one of the most perfect sunsets.
We got back to the pier and realized that it was such a dark, clear night that we were able to see stars for days. So, did what all good adventurers do – drive to the most remote part of the island we could find, pull off the road, put on Kygo’s “Stargazer” and just hold hands and stargaze.
It was one of those moments in life that I just appreciated being alive – and appreciated all of the incredible places I have been and things I have experienced. I always say travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer – and moments like these completely validate that.
The next day we woke up for an incredible sunrise and then hit our favorite breakfast spot for another açaí bowl and bagel.
Once our tummies were full, we set off to see the Waimea canyon again – this time by car. We had done some research and saw that there were a ton of different look outs along the 18-mile canyon ridge road, so we drove all of the way to the end and then made our way back. We only got a taste of all of the beauty there – and would love to go back and do some of the hikes we saw along the way! Here are a few highlights of the views – both of the ocean and the canyon.
On our way back, we needed to find more seafood – this time, poke! Adam and I are absolute poke addicts, so we consulted our master list of poke spots to try on Kauai and noticed one that we’d be driving right by – Ishihara Market. What I love about this place is that it’s an old school Japanese market that just so happens to have some of the freshest ahi – and they make that ahi into about 10 different kinds of poke. HEAVEN! We grabbed some poke to go and went back to the hotel so we could enjoy it beachside. Obviously.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the beach – just listening to the waves and relaxing.
Adam had to pry me off the beach, but at least it was so that I could get ready for the luau we were headed to on our last night! Our hotel has the only oceanfront luau on Kauai and while I know they’re not the best representation of the Hawaiian culture, I still cannot get enough of them. Especially of the yummy food and amazing performances! We got incredible seats, so I felt like I was practically part of the show.
Sadly, we only had a half day to enjoy the island before our flight, so we woke up for another sunrise and then just parked our butts at the beach to get in some final Vitamin D.
We stopped at another food truck on our way to the airport, Kauai Food Truck. What did we get? Seafood of course! I was on a hunt for damn good fish or shrimp tacos and I got both – complete with wild roosters roaming nearby! It was a delicious way to say goodbye to Kauai.
As we boarded the plane to head home, Adam and I both looked at each other and said, “don’t make me leave here”. There’s just something about Kauai – it changes you. The crashing of the waves, colors of the sunset, lush jungle, jagged mountains, crazy roosters cock-a-doodle-doing at all hours of the day. It’s a special place. It’s so simple, yet so beautiful. And it’s the kind of place that reminds you what really matters in life – ‘ohana.