Top 6 Kauai Experiences

At first I thought, “Let’s go somewhere different, everyone goes to Hawaii for their honeymoon.” Boy is it a good thing I didn’t listen to myself- honeymooners go to Hawaii because it is, in a word, AMAZING, and I feel so lucky to have spent 12 days exploring two incredibly unique Hawaiian Islands, Kauai and Maui. Now, my husband loves to plan trips, and so even though this was our honeymoon and we would be coming from wedding craziness and a year-long absence of real vacation time from work, our trip was going to be chock full of day-trips, adventuring, and, of course, lots of eating.

We started on the island of Kauai and I’d love to share our top 6 experiences from this beautiful faraway piece of paradise.

  1. Boat Tour of the Na’Pali Coast– Forget sleeping in! Our first full day in Kauai started at 6:00 AM and took us to the coastal town of Kekaha where we boarded a six person speed boat for a five hour boat and snorkle tour of the majestic Na’Pali Coast. The pictures hardly do this part of the island justice, and being right up against the climbing, jagged cliffs was awe inspiring. The hiking trails along the coast are for advanced hikers only, and the few beaches nestled into the shoreline are only accessible by boat or kayak- basically, #hardcore. We saw dozens of spinner dolphins, snorkled with fish (and a sea turtle not far away), went into sea caves, enjoyed some fresh pineapple and POG juice (passion fruit, organge, guava, a Hawaiian classic), and successfully avoided getting seasick!

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2. Hideaways Beach in Princeville– Ok, so maybe it’s not a true “secret beach”, but it is, as the name implies, hidden from the straight and narrow tourists, which made it a perfect destination for us adventuring types. After a swanky lunch at the St. Regis Princeville, we made our way to the edge of the hotel property and found the rocky, rope-guided path to Hideaways. It was postcard perfect and we had never experienced something so secluded. We enjoyed sunning, lounging in the sand, and getting much of it up our swimsuits after bodysurfing too many waves (I’ll spare my husband the photographic evidence of this).

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3. Enjoy some poke beachside- if you live in LA you might be a bit more familiar with the Hawaiian style dish called poke, but it’s really just starting to catch on in NYC. Poke bowls (still unsure if it’s pronounced po-key or po-kay, but who cares, it’s too freakin delicious to matter) are essentially a sticky rice base, topped with freshly cubed raw fish, like ahi tuna or salmon, which has been marinaded in different styles, such as spicy, garlic, teriyaki, or sweet onion. At the fast-casual spot in NYC where I’ve tasted poke you have the additional option to add on cucumber, edamame, shiso, avocado, or spicy furikake (a flavor bomb of ground sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, salt, sugar, and more salt as MSG). Naturally, in Kauai we were on a poke mission, and were promtly directed to Ishihara Market in Waimea. While I’m unable to recall the specific varieties that we procurred from this little Asian market, I do remember eating it beachside at Salt Pond Park and this experience being one of our favorites on Kauai.

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4. Hiking in Waimea Canyon– there is literally a trail for everyone at Waimea Canyon, also called the Grand Canyon of the West. Being the semi-novice hikers that we are, we planned to hike the Canyon Trail, and after a few park, get out of the car, “Is this is the trailhead?”, “Are you sure?”, “We’re going really far down…” momments we finally found our way. To make it clear for other Canyon Trail seekers who might be reading this, to get to the trailhead for CANYON Trail, drive past the Puu Hinahina lookout, and continue up the road until you are just past mile marker 14 and you see a dirt parking area on the left side of the road- park here! Then proceed across the road and down the path (which it looked like cars could actually drive on) to meet the ACTUAL trailhead farther down the hill, pointing you right towards Canyon Trail and Waipoo Falls.

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We first took the Spur Trail from the Puu Hinahina lookout, which would have met up with Canyon later on, but we did not like the quick descent and lack of signage! A moderate-level hike, Canyon took us to some breathtaking viewpoints and to the top of the massive falls that were gushing after recent rainfall.

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 5. Don’t say “no” to Hula Pie– with so many active, adventurous days we rarely felt guilty saying “no” to a slice of classic Hula Pie at dinner. Essentially, it is an ice cream cake with a cookie crumble crust, topped with whipped cream, fudge, caramel, macadamia nuts, and more cookie crumbles. And you know we couldn’t just get it once because everywhere had a “signature” version, from chocolate, bannana, to coffee, and we agreed that they were all delicious. Did I mention Hula Pie only comes in one slice size? GIGANTIC.

Macadamia HP from Brenneke's Beach Bar and Grill

Macadamia HP from Brenneke’s Beach Bar and Grill

Classic Chocolate HP from Keoki's Paradise

Classic Chocolate HP from Keoki’s Paradise

6. Wailua River– ok, so maybe we needed a bit more activity to burn off those Hula Pie slices and poolside frozen drinks, and that’s where our day on the Wailua River comes in. I think we both agreed that this was our favorite day, mostly because it felt so unique and, doing a group-guided tour can be a nice break from constantly navigating and finding adventure for yourself. We paddled up river for about 2.5 miles where we came to a shady grove and pulled our kayaks out of the water to begin the hike portion of the day. We traipsed across very muddy paths and through the dangerously strong currents of the river until we reached Secret Falls. Neither of us had ever swam at the base of a waterfall before and so this was a huge highlight. After hanging out at the falls for a bit, we hiked and paddled back, all in all making for an amazingly fun day!

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While every day in Kauai was truly an amazing experience, and I could probably dedicate a post to each incredible sight we saw or meal we ate, these were some of the standouts and I believe a trip to Kauai wouldn’t be complete without them. If you have time, there is plenty of snorkeling to be done, a helicopter ride to take, waves to surf, farms to explore, and more tasty eats to enjoy. Guess that means we’ll just have to go back for more…

Next stop, Maui- mahalo!

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