Have you ever envisioned paradise? I picture lush, tropical landscapes; beaches with beautiful, turquoise water; cliffs overlooking the sea; and waterfalls streaming from mountains that seem to touch the heavens. Well, I never knew a place like that actually existed until I went to Kauai, the smallest and furthest island in Hawaii.
Kauai is absolutely breath-taking and is the home of the famous Nāpali Coast and the town of Hanalei—which may sound familiar to you if you’re ever heard the song Puff the Magic Dragon.
My dad and I visited the island and stayed with my aunt and uncle who have a house in Poipu. Poipu is on the southern part of the island, where you can watch perfect sunsets every night at Makahuena Point. We visited in January which also happens to be when humpback whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters. Around the Poipu area, you can see the whales’ spouts and if you catch it right, you can see one breach the water. We did a whale-watching boat tour with Blue Dolphin Charters, but it was hard to anticipate where the whales would be while out on the boat.
Instead of the tour, I liked going to the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in the morning and grabbing breakfast at the coffee bar in the lobby and watching the sunrise. We saw more whales there than when we went on the tour. But you should get on a boat at some point during your trip so you can see the island from the water. I would have loved to try the Nāpali Coast Snorkeling Tour.
What to do in Kauai:
- Head to Waimea and go to the top so you can look down on the canyon. It rains a lot on Kauai so make sure to check the weather so it’s clear while you’re at the top. Afterwards, grab some shrimp tacos at The Shrimp Station. There are two locations but we preferred the one in Waimea.
- Go to JoJo’s Shave Ice, maybe even make it a daily routine. There are quite a few options for shave ice but this is hand’s down the best.
- Hike along the Nāpali Coast. There are varying types of difficulty on the trail but the best option for a day trip is the two-mile hike to Hanakapi’ai Waterfall. If two miles seems like too much, then you can go about a half a mile in and still see the beautiful coastline. That’s where I took the picture above!
- Spend the day in Hanalei. You can check out the beach and pier in town. The waves make the perfect setting for beginner (like me) or intermediate surfers. There’s also great shops and cafes in Hanalei (including a JoJo’s) if you need a break from the beach. On your way there or back, stop in the town of Kapaa for a coffee at Java Kai.
- Try out boogie boarding. Boogie boarding is just as fun as surfing and doesn’t take quite as much skill. Poipu has a great boogie board beach and be sure to check the shore while you’re there because you may be sharing the beach with a sea-lion or some sea turtles.
Other tips for a trip to Kauai:
- Kauai is a fairly casual island so don’t bother packing your stilettos. Against the advice of my aunt, I packed a pair of wedges and never wore them. It also rains a lot so make sure to take a jacket with a hood. Even if it doesn’t rain, it can get chilly in the evenings so you won’t regret it.
- My aunt and uncle have a car and I was thankful we could get around the island by driving. There’s so much to explore so it would be beneficial to rent a car even for a day or two in case you want to take a break from the beach and head into one of the towns.
- Poipu is a great place to stay. It’s close to the airport and there are tons of condos in that area and you’ll be able to walk to restaurants and beaches.
- If you love sushi as much as me, you’ll love how convenient it is to get poke. It is available in the deli at grocery stores which makes for an inexpensive, casual dinner. Serve up some steamed rice and you’re all set!