I just got back from 10 days in Kauai and it was a much needed getaway. This is my second time to the island, and what I love about Kauai compared to the other islands is that it feels like how Hawaii is supposed to look - lush, a little bit wild, and a great small town vibe. The weather wasn't the best this time around - I think Hawaii was getting some of the rain from the snow storm that hit Seattle - but as always the people are what makes Kauai such a special place to be rain or shine.
How To Get Around
For the most part everyone rents a car when they get to Kauai. It is the most convenient rental process I've ever come across. You step off the plane into a cute, small airport that you exit in about two minutes. Literally, right across the street is the car rental, but they make it even easier and provide a shuttle that rides around every few minutes. It can't get any easier, and totally helps with travel anxiety. We saw some folks riding bikes and of course walking, but if you want to get to the North part of the island you will need a car.
Where To Stay
Kauai is not a perfect circle of an island - meaning you can't drive around it end to end. The island is split up into the North, East, South and kind of a South West. We stayed for the first 6 days in the south in Poipu, and the last 4 days in the North in Princeville. Poipu is known to have the best beaches and generally sunnier weather. It's also easy and quick to get to the neighboring towns of Hanapepe, Lihue, and Kapaa. In Poipu we stayed at Koa Kea, a small boutique resort known for it's customer service which it delivered! The resort sits on a strip of resorts that all connect and you can walk between them along the beach. There's enough privacy where you don't feel like you are being toppled by the nearby Marriott, and it's also the primo beach area. It was primarily an adults only resort which was also really nice. In Princeville we stayed at the Princeville Resort (formerly St. Regis). This hotel is about to get a massive makeover, and in all honesty it's due. We enjoyed our stay but the attention to detail and care was missing. We'll be trying out the Westin next time we are in Princeville.
Where To Eat
There are SO many places to eat on the island; that being said, I noticed that many places offered a lot of fried food or sugary smoothie bowls. It might be because it's winter, but we were a bit surprised to see so much junk food everywhere. Our favorite place to eat was at Nanea at the Westin in Princeville - amazing prices (everything is SO expensive in Kauai) and generous portions. It was a pleasant surprise for our last day on the island. We also loved Tortilla Republic and Eating House in Poipu. For breakfast, we loved Little Fish Coffee - this place gets busy in Poipu, so we drove a ways down to Hanapepe. Midnight Bear Breads is also amazing and Java Kai in Poipu for a great cup of coffee. For lunch, we ate a few times at Verde - quick and tasty. We loved Grandma's Cafe in Hanapepe - delicious sushi and grain bowls! The Kauai Beer Company was also a pleasant lunch surprise that we ran into while waiting out a downpour. For dinner, we enjoyed Red Salt and Tidepools. Red Salt was the restaurant in our resort at Koa Kea and they have a sushi bar area in the lobby and it's super relaxed and chill. You can also order off the full menu - it's a nice option. Similarly, the Princeville Resort has a bar and they serve delicious sushi and drinks, with live Hawaiian music playing nightly. It's so relaxing to be sitting on cozy couches, listening to Hawaiian music, watching the sunset and munching on some sushi rolls.
Where To Explore
There is so much to explore in Kauai! Something we always do is take a dog on a hike from the Human Society. It is an awesome program full of lovable dogs and you get to spend time hiking with them. A new activity that we stumbled upon due to the rain, is the Kauai Escape Room. Even with two people, it is so much fun! Highly recommend it. Of course the hiking here is amazing. We did Sleeping Giant in Poipu and a few hikes in Waimea Canyon. The hikes were crazy muddy because of all of the rain, but the views were worth it! I bought this collapsible bottle which I LOVED taking on the hikes we did. After I drank all the water, I just attached it to my jacket that I had wrapped around my waist. One of our favorite hikes to do is the Hanalei hiking trail. Unfortunately, the whole mountain has been wiped out after a series of storms. Kauai is rebuilding the trails and access to Hanalei, but not sure when that will be completed.
After a morning of hiking, there's nothing like spending time lazily by the pool or beach. You do have to be careful about the beaches because not all of them are okay to swim in. To stay on the safe side, I'd recommend the public beaches in Poipu. Most of the beaches attached to the hotels are also public. For example the beach at the Princeville resort is available for public access.
Where To Shop
Each of the towns has cute boutiques, but the best would be in Poipu, Kapaa, Hanapepe and Hanalei. A few of my favorite stores are Shipwrecked in Kapaa, Malei in Poipu and Blu Umi in Hanapepe. The local farmer's markets are also worth checking out!
If you are an uber planner, I'd recommend the Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. I liked the way the book is organized, and it is small enough that you can bring it with you in the car when you are exploring the island.
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