My wife and I traveled to Kauai for a 10-night stay back in March and the following is our trip report:
We flew from Denver to Phoenix, and from Phoenix direct to Kauai on US Airways. I must say this was hands-down the worst airline experience we have ever experienced. Sitting with your spouse and/or traveling companion is not guaranteed on US Airways. In fact, it appears to be their policy to split up couples and families on purpose. It is even difficult if you "upgrade" to their special seats (which consist of exit rows, and similar leg-room seats). The planes were old, dirty, and poorly appointed. The boxed "meals" were nothing more than stale crackers and dried fruit. You have to pay for everything and nothing is included. Awful, awful, awful.
Prince Kuhio Condominiums
We decided to save some money on this trip by avoiding the resorts and renting a condo unit on the south shore near Poipu for our stay. The owners of the condo were relatively easy to deal with, although they didn't respond as quickly after receiving the full payment for the unit. The condo itself was a small (about 400 square feet) studio layout. The bed appeared to be two twin beds pushed together. The bathroom was small but OK. The kitchen (which was pretty tiny with limited counter space) had a small refrigerator, microwave, and all utensils. The unit included an entertainment center with LCD TV, DVD player, and stereo system. Wireless internet access was included free of charge. It also had a nice balcony with a partial view of the ocean. The ever-present Kauai chickens were often near the condo, and we were woken several times by the crowing. Ultimately we were satisfied with our decision to stay at a condo because of the significant cost savings.
We ate a several of the eating establishments on Kauai, mostly on the south side. We splurged and had our anniversary dinner The Beach House, despite some reservations due to some of the reviews on TA. Although it was quite pricey, we had a wonderful experience at the Beach House. The sunset view from the patio, along with a very good meal, made it very worthwhile. Other restaurants included TomKats Grille (lunch there twice, very good mahi burgers, good service), Pizzetta (dinner once, excellent other food in addition to the pizza, good service, reasonably priced), Koloa Fish Market (numerous take-out meals, great poke and fresh fish, reasonably priced, only accept cash), Savage Shrimp (the whtie truck in the parking lot behind Old Town Koloa, ate there twice, decent prices, good fish tacos), and several others not really worth mentioning.
We went to numerous beaches on Kauai including Poipu (nice, clean, overcrowded, mediocre snorkeling), Salt Pond (less crowded, nice sand, bigger waves, marginal snorkeling), Hanalei Bay (didn't swim, just looked, OK but crowded), Tunnels Beach (big waves, good for watching surfing), and Ke'e Beach (beautiful scenery, hard to find parking, decent snorkeling, reef protected). Our favorite beach was Prince Kuhio Beach, which just happened to be right across the street from our condo. Snorkeling was surprisingly good here, seeing large schools of a variety of fish, and even a turtle one day. However, strong currents were somewhat tricky here and sometimes difficult to deal with. This beach was sometimes crowded with snorkeling groups and the snuba people, but wasn't too bad most of the time.
We did one day of diving with Fathom Five dive shop. Not much to report here... the diving was a huge disappointment with little to see as far as sea life goes. Fathom Five did a fine job as far as dive shops go. However, the 2-tank dives were way overpriced, especially considering the complete lack of anything interesting to see. I would advise other activities while in Kauai, or other destinations if you are big into diving.
This attraction is one of those things that you kind of have to see while visiting Kauai. It is strikingly beautiful and awe-inspiring. However, like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, once you see it and take a bunch of pictures, you can move on to other things.
Kauai - Overall Impressions
My wife and it traveled to French Polynesia in 2011 (Huahine, Bora Bora, and Tikehau) for our "dream" vacation. It may be unfair, but Kauai cannot even begin to compare with that experience. The pervasive wind, overcrowded beaches, rude locals, high-priced activities, and overall "touristy" feel of the island made the trip somewhat disappointing. Kauai definitely has its good points and we still had an enjoyable trip.
French Polynesia is only slightly further (about another two hours of flying time from the west coast) and only slightly more expensive. Needless to say, we will not be returning to Kauai.