Aloha! We just finished a full week on the island of Kauai and it was magical! Of all the Hawaiian islands, it’s known as the Garden Isle, and it’s plain to see why as you make your approach into the airport at Lihu’e (we heard this pronounced SO many ways during the week we were there, but mostly we heard it as “Leh-hue-ee”).
Want to watch a fun overview video? It’s posted on YouTube!
As you can imagine the hiking here was incredible! I’ll have our hikes at Waimea Canyon and Secret Falls in completely separate blog posts, so this post will be a general overview with a LOT of recommendations–similar to Cabo!
Before we get too far there are TWO things you must know:
- This island is FULL of feral chickens. If, for some reason, you are alektorophobic (yes, it’s a thing), then Kauai might not be your island, and that’s okay! When I say it’s full of chickens, I’m talking in parking lots, on golf courses, at elevation, and near the beaches. We even had a few families of chickens near our condo, waking us up at God’s hour.
- Do yourself a favor and download the Gypsy Guide app (the whole Hawaiian Collection, if you’re hitting up more than one island). We found this app when we were completing the Road to Hana on Maui, and honestly, we love it SO much! You can trust that the guy at the other end will show you to all the major hot-spots and also some of the cool lesser known places on the islands. In case you’re wondering, we call him “Randy.” That’s not his real name.
Okay, are you ready for some recommendations??
It’s the reason we travel. Okay, okay, not the only reason, but a big one. We are lucky enough to live in a place with SO many options, but there is nothing like eating local! As a note, we had breakfast in our condo each morning, so I don’t have any morning eatery recommendations, but do know that there are a plethora of bakeries and cafes throughout the island.
- Fish Express – This was our very first stop on the island! It’s #1 on a TON of lists and it’s also easy to see why. Fresh fish, poke bowls, lunch plates, you can get it all at this take out counter. The parking lot is a bit tricky, but since no one is eating there, the cars are in and out fairly quickly, just pack a little extra aloha spirit when you go! We picked up lunch and headed to the beach to enjoy it!
- Island Taco – There’s more than one location, but we ate at the one in Waimea. Holy smokes the fresh fish tacos are yummy! Bonus to the one in Waimea, it’s directly across from a fresh fruit stand. Treat yourself!
- Ono Ono Shave Ice – You. Guys. We learned about this place from Randy (see above) and had to go. It’s a walk-up window, there are a lot of syrups to choose from, but the best part: Macadamia Nut Ice Cream in the middle. Yeah, I know. In case you’re unfamiliar, shave ice is NOT a snow cone, it’s 1,000 times better. Add in the Macadamia Nut and you’re at 150% sugar intake for the day. Be careful. We shared one and it was just about perfect.
- Al Pastor Taco – If you’re thinking to yourself, another taco place? Yes. Another taco place. I love tacos. This one is a food truck in Kapa’a and actually not too far from Ono Ono Shave Ice or Coconut Coasters (mentioned below). We grabbed a couple of fish tacos AND al pastor tacos. They do it right. No mumbo jumbo in my tacos, just tasty things.
- JJ’s Broiler – For a “fancy” night out, we went to JJ’s. I’ll be honest, the ambiance can be a bit underwhelming when it’s raining out and there isn’t any patio seating. All I wanted was some surf and turf and wine. I ordered the surf, Ben ordered the turf and we shared! They do a Slavonic steak that’s completely worth the butter sauce, and the lobster tail was on point.
- BONUS: Puka Dog – This is a Hawaiian-Style hot dog joint and they also seem to have a couple of locations, we went to the one in Poipu. This is no ordinary hot dog, it has all kinds of fixings including a garlic lemon sauce of varying degrees of heat, a tropical fruit relish of your choice, and a Hawaiian mustard or traditional mustard/ketchup/relish topping. It was delightfully unexpected.
Places to See/Things to Do:
We couldn’t possibly see and do everything in the period of time we were there, but here are some of our favorites:
-Waimea Canyon – You’ll get an entirely separate post on the hike we did at the canyon, but even if you don’t want to hike around, just taking in the scenery is enough!
-Secret Falls – Again, I’ll have a separate blog post on this excursion as well. It’s literally the only thing we had booked going into the week.
-Biking the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Coastal Path – What a blast!! You can watch the video HERE! We rented bikes from the nicest people ever at Coconut Coasters and hopped on the path right beside their shop. The path takes you along the coastline and sometimes into the wind (which isn’t the most enjoyable part), but you can stop off at the beaches, go up through the Tunnel of Trees near Donkey Beach, pack a lunch, and just savor the time outdoors in the sun. Oh, and make sure it’s a sunny day. This likely would not be as wonderful if it was raining.
-Go to the Beach – Any beach! We stayed near Kalapaki Beach, but also traveled up to Hanalei Beach on the north end (there’s even a video), Lydgate State Park in Kapa’a, Shipwreck’s Beach in Poipu, and even found our own little beach to enjoy at the end of the Kauai Path. There are SO many beaches to choose from, so don’t limit yourself to just one! Only one major caution here: when we went, the north part of the island was essentially closed to non-local traffic for maintenance. We really wanted to get to Tunnels Beach, but it just wasn’t possible.
–Kilauea Lighthouse – The video is up! This is part of a National Wildlife Refuge and was $10/person to get in, although they will recognize an annual pass if you bring one over from the mainland. The lighthouse itself is simple and beautiful, but the surrounding vistas make it that much more epic! It’s not too far off the main road and doesn’t take too long to walk to. If you want to tour the lighthouse, be sure to check ahead for timing.
–Kukuiolono Park – The park (and adjoining golf course) do NOT get enough press. We went on a whim while waiting to check-in to our condo. There is a beautiful Japanese Garden, a rock garden, and view of the ocean. There are plenty of walking paths to get you around, and it’s maybe one of the most peaceful places we went to. In any case, this place is stunning and depending on your timing, you may be one of the only few people there.
-Spouting Horn – If you like watching nature do nature-y things, then head down to Spouting Horn, just west of Koloa on the south part of the island. I’d recommend waiting for a slightly windier day, when the swells are higher, because you can see some impressive water spewing up from beneath the rock shelf.
As you can see there was a LOT that we took in, but there’s still SOOOOO much more to see and do in Kauai and we can’t wait to return to the Garden Isle.