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Kauai is known as the Garden Isle for its lush rainforests, rustic hiking trails, and picturesque beaches. It is home to the Kalalau hiking trail, Waimea Canyon, and the famous Na Pali Coast. Several blockbuster Hollywood films and TV shows have been shot here including Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Avatar, South Pacific, Fantasy Island, the pilot episode of Gilligan’s Island, and many, many more. After researching all of the islands, I knew Kauai was the one to go to for the real Hawaiian experience.
I planned a four-night/five-day vacation for my birthday in April 2011. I live in Los Angeles, California and sometimes this city really drains me. I wanted to get out of the city and experience the natural beauty of Kauai. My vacation included hiking the Kalalau trail, which is some of the best hiking in the world, photographing secluded beaches, driving to the top of Waimea Canyon, and experiencing the local cuisine; pork and poi.
Below you will find my itinerary, tips, and links to valuable trip planning resources. Please feel free to ask questions and share your tips, photos, and videos with me. I hope this information is helpful in planning your trip to Kauai. Aloha!
The Aston Islander on the Beach located on the east shore. I highly recommend staying on the east shore. It is centrally located and will really maximize your time on the island as both the south and north shores are easily accessible.
Wailua Falls, also known as the waterfall from the opening credits of Fantasy Island. This is a must see and a quick trip from the airport.
I landed on Kauai around 1PM. After picking up my rental car, a mustang convertible, I stopped by the Wal-Mart to pick up my supplies.
1:00PM - Arrive on Kauai
1:30PM - Pick up rental car
2:30PM - Wal-Mart
3:30PM - Wailua Falls, also known as the waterfall from the opening credits of Fantasy Island. This is a must see and a quick trip from the airport.
4:30PM - Head over to my hotel.
Dinner at Hukilau Lani. This was my favorite dinner restaurant on the Island. It was within walking distance from my hotel. Show up about a half-hour early to sip a mai tai and listed to local music.
I took the Drive and Walking tour for $119 plus tax and tip. This tour hits about 15 locations on the east and north shores. You will discover beaches and sites not in any guidebook. The tour is about 5 hours and will give you a great basis for what to see in your remaining days on the island. You will also walk away with gorgeous photos from your vacation. If you are into photography or just want to see some Kauai gems, this tour is a must! You can see my photos by visiting my flickr page. Just go to flickr and type in natashabishop kauai
After the photography tour I drove back up to the north shore to the Hanalei Lookout. This is a must for a postcard shot of the stunning taro fields.
I ended my day with the perfect sunset at the Hanalei Pier.
I did the day hike up the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi'ai Beach. This was one of the highlights of my trip, however it is a tough hike and not for the faint of heart. I don?t recommend taking anyone under the age of 12 on this day trip. It took me a long time to hike the 2 mile trek because I kept stopping to take photos and video along the trail. The views are stunning, so take your time! I hung out on the beach for a couple hours. You aren't able to swim at the beach because of the strong currents; however, it is secluded and very relaxing. The beach is a great reward for the hard hike out. Bring enough water with you and wear good hiking shoes or sandals.
After hiking the Kalalau Trail I headed over to the Kilauea lighthouse for another postcard perfect shot. On my way back I noticed several locals pulled over on the side of the road. They were watching an amazing sunset over the Na Pali Coast! If it is around dusk, stop and take this view in.
I really wanted to get to Spouting Horn early in the morning before all of the tourist showed up. I arrived at Spouting Horn around 8:30AM. This is a pretty quick stop and you’ll take home some cool photos. The little souvenir booths open up around 9:00AM. They have cheap jewelry and little knickknacks. I bought a very cute turtle necklace and a dashboard hula girl for a great price. I left around 9:30 right as a big tour bus was pulling in.
If you are really into coffee this is a fun stop. They have free taste testing and you can walk around the coffee bean fields. I grabbed a muffin and some fresh coffee here.
The drive up to the lookout is breathtaking. Be sure to stop on the way up for some stunning photos. I spent a good 4 hours in Waimea canyon. Unfortunately the lookout was fogged in, but I still went all the way to the top which I highly recommend. Fogged in or not, this was a great way to spend an afternoon. I had lunch at the top of the canyon. The roads are very rough going up. I was driving a mustang convertible and was convinced I was going to blow a tire. Be careful!
I spent the remainder of my day watching people jump off the cliff at Shipwreck Beach. I also decided to hike to the top of the cliff and found an awesome hiking trail! This was the perfect way to spend my last full day on the island.
Guide Book: The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook by Andrew Doughty. This book became an invaluable resource while planning my trip to Kauai. Mr. Doughty knows his stuff and will save you hours of research. I read this book front to cover about a month before my trip and based most of my itinerary off of his guidance. A must buy for your trip. You can purchase the book on amazon.com at a great price.
If you are a DSLR photographer bring a polarizer! This will be essential in bringing home some amazing ocean view shots. A polarizer works just like your polarized sunglasses – it removes the glare from the water so you can see all of the different colors and reefs below. The polarizer filter should be rotated when you are framing your shot to remove the glare from the water. This is a must have when shooting tropical or sunny scenes.
Souvenirs: Believe it or not, Wal-Mart is also an excellent place to purchase souvenirs. They have all of the stuff the boutique stores have on the island and for a much cheaper price. Seriously, the SAME stuff! Save your money for Mai-Tai’s, fresh pineapple, and local cuisine; buy your souvenirs here.
You can view my Kauai vacation movie on my Youtube Page. Hopefully this will provide a great overview of the island. Just go to youtube and search for natasha bishop kauai.