As a broke waitress, I don’t typically want to spend my money returning to the same place twice, especially with how expensive traveling can be these days. Kauai is different. Kauai is a place that I will probably visit a few more times in my life and I won’t be sorry about it. I think Kauai might even be my most favourite place on the entire planet, not that I have had the luxury of visiting every place on the entire planet, although that would be ideal.
After spending a week traveling the Big Island in Hawaii and being absolutely mind blown at how incredible it was, I wasn’t sure if the next island was going to even compare… I was really wrong, like really really wrong. We landed in Kauai in the early afternoon, rented our car and set off on our journey to find our Airbnb. I knew I was wrong about Kauai not being equally as good as the Big Island when the first thing we saw were the Jurassic Park-like mountains everywhere. Also, I just need to add that I am writing about Kauai six months after being there and I can feel serious Nostalgia setting in. It was my favourite and it makes me sad that I can’t permanently live there.
Kauai is quite a small island and it only takes about 45 minutes to an hour to drive from the most southern point to the most northern point, traffic dependant. We stayed at an Airbnb in Kilauea, which is in the north… it was a little difficult to find because the address was wrong in our Airbnb information but thankfully everyone knows everyone there and we were able to find it after stopping at a little incredible place called The Healthy Hut Market & Cafe (most amazing Acai Bowls in the world!!). Our Airbnb was an old historic house on a quiet little street just around the corner from The Healthy Hut, which turned out to be quite convenient. We stayed at four Airbnb locations throughout our Hawaii journey and our Kilauea Airbnb was by far our favourite. Our host was a lovely writer named Laura. We loved her and the location because she gave us our space, we had a very private room with a private bathroom and a comfortable bed, she told us about an amazing little wine bar down the street, and she was just plain awesome. I am also really interested in interior design and decor especially when it has a bohemian feel to it and this place was exactly that.
You know the days or nights where you have zero expectations and you randomly stumble upon something incredible and it turns out to be better than the days or nights that you did have high expectations of? That happened to us in Kauai. Let me first just say that Adam and I really did have good intentions of being smart money conscious travellers, which meant we did buy groceries and plan on cooking instead of eating out all the time. Our Airbnb host told us about a little wine bar called Palate, which was just down the street from the house and that was the end of groceries and cooking. We decided to go check it out one late afternoon and I know for me, it ended up being my favourite night out in Kauai (I think if Adam read this he would agree too). If I can remember correctly, and my memory is a little fuzzy from the wine… I think we each had a flight of red wine, a flight of white wine, and then decided to get a few glasses of our favourite wine which was the Rombauer Chardonnay. Seriously, no words can describe this wine other than it went down like candy. Even when my glass was empty I just sat there and continued inhaling the leftover scent. It was also the reason we returned to Palate one more time while we were in Kilauea. Through casual conversation we realized that our server was a Canadian from the same city as us and even used to work at the same restaurant as us, before we did of course. She also used to date the head chef of the restaurant, who’s wedding we were attending this summer. When people say it’s a small world, it really is. Kilauea is a small town and we would have never ever found this little wine bar had our host not told us about it. We ended up getting quite drunk that evening, eating delicious food, having some good laughs, and just loving the shit out of Kauai (pardon my language but there is no other way to put it).
Adam had the pleasure of celebrating his birthday while we were in Kauai so we did what any normal human would and booked a helicopter tour of the island. Yes it was expensive but we had planned for it months ahead of time and made sure it was all paid for prior. If you’re going to Kauai, this is something that you can’t not do… plain and simple. We booked through a company called Blue Hawaiian. Remember earlier when I mentioned that the mountains were Jurassic Park-like? While that’s because a lot of Jurassic Park scenes were filmed in Kauai, imagine that. Our tour took us over waterfalls that were tucked away deep in the mountains, through the Wimea Canyon, and out over top of the Na Pali Coast. All of it was incredible, however flying out over the Na Pali Coast is something that brought tears to my eyes. It is hands down the most incredible thing I have ever laid my eyes on, especially because it is all natural… there is nothing man-made about it. The ridges of the mountains with it’s lush green, bright orange, and deep red colours all melding into one another contrasting against the aqua blue water and white waves blasting the coast… it is something one must see. Again, if you make the trip all the way to Kauai then you may as well suck it up and spend the extra couple hundred dollars to see it! The helicopter tour also provides some insight into just how small the island really is.
Now, for Hanalei and Hanalei Bay… I probably should have written about Hanalei earlier in this blog post because it was one of the first things we checked out but it just made more sense this way. Our first night in Kauai we had dinner at a little restaurant in Hanalei and we sat on the patio. I was lucky enough to be sitting facing the direction of the mountains (sorry Adam). I couldn’t believe how picturesque this moment was… the lush green mountains with mist hovering all over them and long, strip-like waterfalls streaming down them, almost cutting them in half. It was in this moment where I fell head over heals in love with Hanalei. Oh and then there was Hanalei Bay, which I really don’t know how to describe and I feel that pictures can’t and won’t do it justice. The only word for me to use is magic. It really felt like a magical place, which is kind of weird to say and maybe even a little cliche. If you stand on the Hanalei Pier and look at the mountains in the background, with the waterfalls, and watch the sunset and the surfers, maybe you’ll understand. I feel so envious of the Hanalei residents that can wake up in the morning and go surfing, swimming, or running there. They can strap their surfboard on their cars and hit it on the way home from work. They can bring a blanket and just plant their asses in the sand for the day. They truly have an amazing place to call home and I feel so thankful that they let me share it with them even though the time was short. I shouldn’t have to say it but again, if you’re visiting Kauai and don’t stop in and experience the beauty of Hanalei Bay then you’re seriously missing out on an incredible place.
If you keep driving north past Hanalei then you’ll wind up finding the Kalalau Trail, which runs graciously along the Na Pali Coast. I believe it is also known as ‘The Hippie Highway’ and I can definitely vouch for that nickname. When Adam and I were just about to take our first step on the trail, a hardcore hippie emerged in an almost majestic way with a giant stick in hand, dirty hiking clothes, long wavy blonde hair, and a beard. It looked like he had been in there for a while, which is quite common. Lots of people embark on journeys through the coast and camp along the way and at the end. Some people even stay for weeks or months on end. We also had a really odd and kind of creepy encounter with another guy who was almost naked, long blonde wavy hair, covered in mud, and carrying a plastic bag with a water bottle in it. He stopped us and said he needed help, he said something about it being the end of the world and that all of the problems were left back in the parking lot and that no problems were ahead of us on the trail. He also said he ran the trail five times naked to try and find himself. I was really creeped out by this guy, I thought he was going to kill us and throw us off the side of the cliff but Adam just kept reassuring me that he was harmless. He ran past us once more and then that was the last time we saw him. A slightly cooler encounter on the trail was seeing Orlando Bloom and Katy Perry with a few of their friends out for a hike. I knew right away that it was Orlando Bloom but I didn’t recognize Katy Perry. Adam kept arguing with me telling me it wasn’t him but I proved it later when I googled his stomach tattoo and we saw them in the tabloids. Of course I would recognize my teenage celebrity crush, jeez Adam. All of this aside, I definitely recommend the hike. It was a pretty intense workout and you need some solid shoes or boots that you don’t care about getting absolutely filthy and possibly tossing in the trash afterwards. You can also choose how far you want to hike, whether you want to just hike down to a little beach, to a waterfall, or all the way in where people camp. Obviously each hike requires different preparation and if you’re going all the way in you’re going to need lots of time, a backpack, tent, food, water etc. The best part about it is being able to see the Na Pali Coast from above and then see it on the hike, totally different views but equally as mesmerizing.
We didn’t spend much time in the south part of the island other than going down for Adam’s scuba diving trip and to see the Wimea Canyon. I found the south part much sunnier, with slightly better weather than the north but also very resort based. I didn’t find the snorkelling good and Adam didn’t love his dives that much either so I don’t know that I would recommend either of those activities to anyone going to Kauai. The Wimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific is definitely a must see. I assume most people traveling anywhere in Hawaii are renting a car, which would make everything I have said much easier to do and is obviously what we did. We drove our rental car all the way through the Wimea Canyon and stopped at all of the lookout points. Again, this is where we also took the helicopter tour so it was neat being able to see it up close from different view points. Some spots were layered in heavy fog, which made it impossible to see and when I say impossible I mean it. We kind of had some good laughs at some of the spots because it was pure white and you could not see a single thing anywhere. I think you just need to go no matter what the weather says because the weather changes so fast in Hawaii and you never know if it’s going to be sunny, rainy, or foggy round the next corner. Also, just a side note on rental cars in Kauai… lots of break-ins. It is obviously easy to peg tourists, since most of Hawaii is tourists and rental cars usually have stickers labelling them. We parked our rental car in a parking lot to go grab a bottle of water and when we came back out there were two guys eyeing up our car and without going into too much detail it was kind of obvious that if we hadn’t come back when we did they would have probably robbed us. Like anywhere in the world, whether traveling or not… do NOT leave anything expensive in your car even if you try and lock it.
The last thing I need to talk about is a bar called Tahiti Nui, which they actually filmed a scene from the movie The Descendants. The bar also happened to be located in our favourite place, which was Hanalei. It was really cool because of it’s authenticity and the fact that it has existed for so long. The walls are covered in photos of the family throughout the years and also regular customers that made an impression on them. There are even a few photos of George Clooney and the other actors in the movie The Descendants from the scene they filmed there. The live music was great and very much Hawaiian. It was just a great place to hangout at night to people watch, to drink, and to listen to some really great music. And so it is with Tahiti Nui that I close this long blog post, since it was the most Hawaiian thing about the whole entire 16 day Hawaii trip. We both absolutely loved every single bit of the island and we are definitely planning on going back for some more Hanalei Bay, Na Pali Coast, Wimea Canyon, and hopefully Rombauer Chardonnay.