First, thanks to everyone who contributes to Trip Advisor. Your advice and information were invaluable to our trip.
We spent two weeks on Kaua’i, the first week in a cottage at Hanelei and the second in a condo at Wailua. We found the north shore absolutely compelling and found ourselves returning many times during our second week.
In our minds, nothing elsewhere could come close to matching the natural beauty or vibe of the north shore. Our first week we drove no further east than The Common Ground Restaurant just east of Kilauea and as far west as Ke’e Beach. So much is available in such a short drive or walk. In comparison, while staying on the East Shore, driving was an absolute necessity and the sense of shared community and wonderful natural environment (can’t compare any beach to Ke’e, Tunnels, Hanalei or Anini in our minds) could not compare to what we experienced up north. As an example, one day we decided to visit Poipu Beach since it was so highly recommended. We didn’t even drop our chairs and towels and decided to make a bee-line for Anini Beach. Crazy, perhaps, but the difference; lack of crowds, expansive beach and really friendly folk made the drive so worth while. After that experience, we decided that only booked activities (Captain Andy’s, Waimea Canyon, Smith Family Luau ... ouch!) would draw us south again or for that matter stay in the east. Biased perhaps, but the north had a hook in us.
For some recommendations based on our reviews, here is our list:
1. Go early to Tunnels Beach not only to score a decent parking spot but to take advantage of the outstanding snorkeling before the divers head out.
2. Go early to Ke’e Beach and hit the Kalalua Trail early. Even the 4 mile hike to Hanakapi’ai Beach is taxing and be sure not to rush. The views are beautiful. We took some food to eat on the beach as well and be sure to take plenty of water. Make sure you have good footwear. We both wore lightweight Columbia hiking shoes and they were perfect. You’ll regret flip-flops, which we saw!
3. Jump from the Hanalei Pier but ask the kids there about safety. They are far better at determining tide levels. Jump with them ... it is a blast. No pencil dives and certainly no head first dives. Watch the kids.
4. If you are into local music, listen to Kaua’i Public Radio and go online to the Kaua’i Music Scene website for locations and musicians. The variety is amazing! The Tahiti Nui is the musical hotspot in Hanalei. Also look at the Oasis in Kapa'a for times when Aldrine Geurrrero is playing.
5. If you are heading to Lihue, check out the Kaua’i Museum which is great. Kapa’a has a great cafe called Heminways at the north end of town.
6. The Kilauea Lighthouse is a great visit (open at 10.00 AM) and the Kilauea Bakery is fantastic. When we were there, there were some homes selling fruit from their front yards. Don’t pass up the opportunity!
7. Queen’s Bath is unique but heed the warnings. The day we were there, the ocean was reasonably calm but one wave did make it’s way through the opening to the bath and tossed us around a bit. Would not want to be in there when something broke over the shelf.
8. If you are planning a trip to the Waimea Canyon, Chuck Blay has an amazing day long escorted tour with a pickup at the Poipu Beach parking lot. Highly recommended.
9. Our last tip may seem presumptuous but is not meant to be. Don’t rush around, rather give yourself lots of time and opportunities to meet other tourists but more importantly, the locals and the employees and musicians in restaurants and bars. Without a doubt, our most memorable times were conversations with them.
Hope this helps and enjoy Hanalei.