If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you’ll probably agree with me on a few things. One, that it’s one of the best places to go on vacation. Two, the food is amazing. Three, it’s very hard not to feel relaxed when you’re there. I’m a Hawaii fanatic – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been there (I’ve gone nearly every summer since I was 9). I usually go to Oahu, but when I’m feeling like something less touristy ( a LOT less touristy) I pick Kauai. If you’re heading over there for the first time, or if you usually spend most of your time on Poipu and want to adventure out a little – keep reading. I’ve got some great suggestions for beaches and food.
1. The Smith Family Luau: Let’s start with my favorite part of Hawaii: the culture, the people, the food. I know, that’s three parts 😛 BUT they come together into one fantastic event: the Luau. We booked the Smith Family Luau and it was amazing. The property itself is on what used to be a sugarcane plantation, and when you arrive they have you board these little trains that take you around the place on a tour. Be sure to bring your camera if you’re a fan of peacocks – they’re everywhere and they like to show off! My favorite part by far, however, was the food. I kept going back for seconds, then thirds – until I couldn’t breathe (that’s a pretty picture ain’t it). There’s also an open bar for those of you that like that kind of thing 😉 The hula dancing is after the feast, so feel free to skip that if you’re not a fan of the dancing. Oh! and the whole thing is staffed and run by Smith family members. I tell ya, its one heck of a family!
2. Captain Andy’s Sunset Dinner Cruise:
So many reasons to experience this. First and foremost, you go all the way up the coast of Kauai, and you see so many beautiful, breathtaking sights. Dolphins personally escort the boat and are very visible underneath the crystal clear blue water. The coast is unreal. The caves and waterfalls are a sight to behold. Don’t get me started on the food – steak and shrimp dinner (I’ve never seen shrimp so big in my entire life), and the cheesecake dessert was to die for. The staff are amazing – the captain himself let me steer the $3m beauty for a while 🙂
3. Ke’e Beach:
Renowned for its beauty, Ke’e beach is one of the famed filming spots of Jurassic Park. Drive up to north Kauai (all the way north. ‘Till you can’t go any further north…) to this fantastic little beach and take in the sights. I can’t begin to express the feelings I experienced when we arrived at this beach – I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere so beautiful in my life. the water is shallow, so it’s safe to swim with kids, but arrive early as all the parking goes fast and it tends to get crowded.
4. Lydgate State Park/ Beach:
This East Coast beach is absolutely essential if you’re traveling with a) a family with children, b) anyone insecure in their swimming abilities, c) anyone who wants to get some decent beginner level snorkeling in without having to venture out into the reefs, and d) anyone who hates touristy, crowded beaches. This was my mom’s favorite beach. It’s closed off from the currents by lava rocks that form a pool-like area. There’s also a mini section to the inner left (pictured above in the bottom right) that’s extra shallow, for the teeny tiny ones 🙂 Snorkeling here was a blast – there’s a huge school of beautiful fish that you can comfortable float over (they’ll swim between your legs, its trippy), and some other really cool fish that end up sneaking through the lava rock barrier. It was never overly crowded, but did get busy at times. The parking was plentiful and free, and there’s great places to eat within a few minutes drive time. There’s also a grass area and a picnic area with tables for those of you that like to eat full on meals at the beach, without the sand.
5 & 6. Wailua River and Wailua Waterfall:
You can conquer these two between breakfast and lunch. If you’re not one to go hike up the NaPali Coast (I completely understand you, I didn’t feel like risking my life either =P but serious props to anyone who does!) This is the hike for you. Ok, so maybe its more of a pleasant walk than a hike, but the scenery is still amazing, and you don’t need to be in amazing shape to experience it. You can rent a kayak or bring a paddle-board to explore the river on, but be sure to also drive/hike up the trail so you can see it from above. It’s breathtaking.
The waterfall is another one of those sights you’re going to want pictures of. There’ll be at least 3 rainbows at any given time, and you’ll wonder how it’s possible that this even exists.
7. Koloa Fish Market
I don’t have a picture of this place, but picture poke on poke on poke. This is one of Kauai’s favorite little family owned markets, with fresh catch everyday. Make sure to get up early for this one because they sell out fast. I’m talking 11am fast. We stopped by nearly everyday of our trip. What’s great is that they’re small, fresh, and have a nice selection – spam musubi, korean fried chicken wings, Hawaiian plates, and, of course poke of all kinds. Prices were standard – not cheap, but when is good poke cheap? I think, on average, it’s about $12 a person.
8. Little Fish Coffee @ Hanapepe:
Ok, now pay attention. If you’ve never had an Acai Bowl before you MUST try one while you’re in Kauai. I know everyone talks about the shave ice – which is amazing, and will be listed as well but LISTEN TO ME – rent a car. Drive to a little town in the west called Hanapepe and find a little coffee shop called Little Fish Coffee. It was hands down the best Acai Bowl I’ve ever had and their lattes are amazing. I recommend having it for breakfast. Acai Bowls are extremely nutritious but high in natural sugar – just FYI.
9. Tiki Tacos – East Coast
Kauai is insanely famous for their fish tacos. I mean, it’s literally the fish taco island of the world (i think?) We tried several of the taco trucks (spoiler alert: there’s A LOT), but Tiki Tacos came out on top. They’re shrimp are big and juicy (hello), and their tortillas are thick and fluffy (hello again). They’re generously stuffed, and very flavorful. I mean – see above.
10. JoJo’s Shave Ice @ the North Shore
I told you I’d write about shave ice. How is it different from the snow cone you got at Great America last week? First off, it’s not chunks of ice. It’s very, very fine and very fluffy. It’s very… snow-like. Its placed in a cone, on the bottom of which is a scoop of ice cream. On top of the shave ice are flavors of your choice (which are always better in Hawaii) and, my favorite part: sweetened condensed milk. I eat that stuff with a spoon.
Ah man, and the Hawaii withdrawals start….