After 5 days on Maui (see the board for my TR), we flew to Kauai, where we had an instant connection with the island. Writing this TR gave me an opportunity to relive it all, while I sip my Kauai coffee from my souvenir mug and snack on the farmers market banana bread I’m trying to make last.
Day 1: Kapa’a and Princeville
Our flight from Maui got in around 12:30, and I had a long list of restaurants I wanted to hit in Kapa’a. Pono Market was at the top, but I had heard that there was a new location for Shrimp Station in Kapa’a. I hadn’t been able to find an address for it, but fortunately, they had an ad in the Hawaiian Airlines magazine! Pono Market would have to wait. Even with an address we ended up turning around a few times before we found it (Note: Google maps isn’t a friend of Kauai!). At long last, I got my shrimp tacos, and oh my, were they delicious!!! And huge!! I left happy, and was soon even happier after we found Tropical Dreams (new location), conveniently located next to Safeway, where we were about to get groceries. I had read about Dan, the owner, in various reviews, and he lived up to his reputation, chatting away and boasting rightfully about the ice cream. The banana storm was ridiculous! As soon as I had my first taste, I knew we’d be back as much as possible throughout the week.
We continued up to Princeville and settled in to Unit 423 in Emmalani Court, rented by Parrish. It was a beautiful, large unit with a partial ocean view, looking out over the golf course. We changed into our suits and headed out in search of Hideaways beach. People aren’t joking around when they say that it’s a steep descent! Holy heck! We loved the solitude and even managed to find a place among the rocks to swim a bit, as the water was very calm.
We turned in early to get ready for our Napali Boat Tour the next morning.
Day 2: Napali Boat Tour and the Hanalei Farmer’s Market
We headed to Kilauea for our 7am check-in with North Shore Charters. They outfitted us with dry bags, loaded the 14 passengers into a van, and drove us to Anini Beach, where Mike and Julia were waiting with the boat. North Shore Charters uses a 14-passenger inflatable that has a hard bottom. I’ve never been on a soft-bottom inflatable (which would be the Zodiac style of boat, I think), but this could probably be a similar ride based on the descriptions I’ve heard from friends. We moved really fast, and on the way back, we got WET! They even provided rain gear, which was a blessing because at the speed we were traveling, the wind and water combo was cold! The boat was small enough to go into all the sea caves, and at one point, after hanging in one cave for a few minutes snapping photos, Captain Mike slammed on the gas and whipped a serious, full-speed U-y, shooting us out of the cave via a second opening and grazing a waterfall on the way out. I seriously thought I was in Pirates of the Caribbean. It was hilarious and awesome. Needless to say, he was an expert captain!
We stopped and snorkeled a bit and it was okay. As others have said, the snorkeling on Napali isn’t the best on the island. But it was fun nonetheless. As I mentioned, the ride back was pretty hard core; we were all grabbing on to the ropes and holding on for dear life, as the trade winds kicked up some decent-sized waves. Who would have thought a boat ride could drain so much energy?
When we got back to Kilauea, we ate lunch at the Kilauea Fish Market. I had been really excited to eat there, but my ono plate was nothing particularly special. It was fresh tasting, though! I think I should have gotten the fish tacos or the burrito instead.
We finished up and headed to the Hanalei Farmer’s Market. We got there pretty early, but fortunately the guy in charge decided to let people start shopping at 1:30 instead of the 2pm set time. I got banana pie from Right Slice, a white Elena pineapple (the sweetest pineapple I’ve ever had), some apple bananas, and, my best discovery of the trip, Sarah’s baked goods from Kauai Kumana Dairy. Oh my! I decided on the spot not to miss Saturday’s market so I could stock up on bakery and bring it back home with me.
We strolled around the shops for a bit and had dinner that night at Hanalei Pizza, which was good (but the best pizza was at Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza).
Day 3: Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls
Awoke early again to hit the trail and beat the crowds. This was a tough trail, and we’re not exactly novice hikers. After 5 busy days on Maui and a long day yesterday, our legs were dead before we started this 8-mile hike. What makes it so challenging is not as much the up and down in the elevation, but the rocky and slippery footing. Footing requires a good deal of concentration. Just as we were fording the final stream crossing, we were overtaken by a group of about 8 or 10 guys with their sons. If it weren’t for them, we would have had the falls to ourselves for a good while. Nonetheless, the falls were very impressive, even in our weary state. The hike up to the falls is considerably harder than the Kalalau portion. If I had known this, I would have hiked to the beach and back and called it a day.
When we got to the beach, I was on the lookout for a dog that another poster had encountered there. No dog, but we made fast friends with two tiny, underfed cats who trailed me down to the water. I would love to know how they got there!
When we finished the trail, I sprang for a super fast dip at Ke’e Beach, which was calm as glass, while DH cooled off in the car with the AC full blast. We got cleaned up and ate an early dinner at Kalypso’s, which made DH very happy. He loved his burger, and my ono and crap wrap was undeniably tasty. Their fries are pretty nice too.
Day 4: Snorkeling at Tunnels, Waimea Canyon
We started out the morning at Java Kai, now called Hanalei Coffee Roasters. I loved this place so very much and at the end of the week went back to buy a mug so I could remember it every day with my morning coffee. After a delicious breakfast of Kauai Waffles and Kona coffee, we walked over to Hanalei Surf Co., rented some snorkel gear, and headed to Tunnels. The snorkeling here was really enjoyable. There was a great diversity of fish, and a lot of them. The toughest park was getting to the snorkeling. We parked in a lot that had a bathroom, showers, and some camp sites. I don’t think it was Haena Beach, but maybe it was. It required a good quarter-mile walk through the sand to walk back to the protected reef area, which was a lot of work with all our beach gear!
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating, so we hauled the beach gear back to the car, showered up, and headed to south to Waimea Canyon. We had planned on going later in the week and doing some hiking, but we scratched hiking off the list (we had already done Pipiwai and Sliding Sands on Maui) and decided just to enjoy the scenic overlooks. This is not really my style, so you can gather how tired we were at this point!
Before we headed out, we stopped at Common Ground for lunch. It was just okay. We should have gone to Pono Market! On our way south, we stopped at the Kauai Coffee Co. which was super fun for a coffee snob like myself, Kauai Chocolate Co., which was not as awesome as I envisioned, and Kauai Cookies factory outlet, which was not what I expected! I’m not sure how to describe it—the cookies are very dry and light and look like something you might buy in a gas station or the dollar store. I got some cinnamon toasts, which were tasty enough for me! We poked through Hanapepe town and then hit up Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park.
At this point I had planned on canceling the reservation I had made at Hukilau Lanai before we decided to head south. I called from Waimea town at 4:40 to cancel our 5:45 reservation. She let me know we did have a 20-minute window, so we figured it would be close, but we could try and make it. And I am so glad we did! We rolled in at 6:03 and they were very kind about our tardiness. This was a fantastic dinner and probably the best on the island. Highly recommended!
And, of course, for dessert? Tropical Dreams!
Day 5: Kalihiwei Beach, Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza
We spent the morning relaxing on the lanai and hitting up the pool and hot tub at Emmalani Court. Around 11am, I got bored and wanted to go to the beach, and we were planning to go get pizza in Kilauea anyway, so we headed for Anini Beach. I have to be honest, I don’t understand why this beach is recommended. Sure, the water was calm, but the beach was narrow and there were rocks, bits of wood, and seaweed all over. We left right away and started driving around looking for another beach. With the help of a very nice local woman, we found our way to Kalihiwei Beach, which was much nicer, in my opinion.
Lunch at Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza was awesome. We had the ham/pineapple/jalapeno pizza, which was so good. Their crust is the best.
Day 6: Farmer’s Market, Halanei River Kayaking, Hanalei Gourmet, and More Pizza
After breakfast at Hanalei Coffee Roasters, we went over to the Saturday Hanalei Farmers Market, where I stocked up on Sarah’s banana bread and cookies, which actually did make it all the way back to Chicago without being devoured! Even though we were leaving tomorrow, I got more pineapple and apple bananas and we managed ate it all before our Sunday afternoon plane departed!
After the market, we rented kayaks from Kayak Kauai and paddled the river out to Hanalei Bay. (We had originally planned on kayaking the Wailua River and doing the secret falls hike, but at this point in the trip, that seemed really ambitious.) I thought Hanalei River might be a let down because Wailua is always recommended as the best river to kayak, but we had a great time. It was fun seeing Hanalei Beach from the water, and on the way back, we had pretty views of Mount Wailealea.
We worked up a good appetite and enjoyed a nice meal at Hanalei Gourmet. I had crab cakes and the half Waldorf salad, and DH had a burger. The atmosphere there is great, but the service was pretty slow. Which was fine; we were in no hurry!
We did a bit of shopping in town and I got tasty shave ice from Shave Ice Paradise because Wishing Well was closed every time we drove by. By the way, don’t miss Kauai Nut Roasters! The entrance is a little tricky to find. We only discovered it because the smell of roasting nuts was wafting into a store we were browsing in, so we asked the clerk where it was coming from and how do we get there. Free samples, but I bet you can’t leave without buying something!
Later we headed back to Kilauea for more pizza. Yum!
Day 7: Saying good-bye
On our last day, we packed up the condo, checked out, and headed into Hanalei for one last hurrah. After Kauai Waffles and cinnamon rolls at Hanalei Coffee Roasters, we went down to the Hanalei Beach Pavilion and read/people watched for a couple hours. I took a stroll up and down nearly the whole beach, taking in the beauty one last time, trying to memorize what it looked like and felt like to be there.
Soon we were ready for lunch, so we headed into Kapa’a where I would finally get to eat at Pono Market. Except it was Sunday, and they were closed!! Augh!! It was flaming hot out, so we passed up the sunny tables at Mermaid’s Café and headed instead to Olympic Café, where our table was great and the food was alright. We split a kalua pork burrito and fries because the portions are huge. We poked around town a bit and soon found our way to Tropical Dreams for one last scoop of ice cream, except that I couldn’t decide on one flavor, so I ended up with a double scoop. Hey, it’s vacation!
We loved Kauai; not just the things you can do there but the entire feel of the island. It really struck a chord with us. There was so much space, so much room to breathe. We’ll be back, hopefully soon.
Thanks to all on the boards who helped me plan this trip. Talking with you all and reading your posts gave me a chance to start enjoying this trip way back in January when I started planning it. And now that I’m back, I’ll still be checking the boards every time I need a little “Aloha” in my day.