There is a lot to be thankful for living in the Northwest, but the truth is during the winter months we may long for some sunshine and warmer weather. When the days are short, the temperatures are chilly and gray drizzle makes things just wet enough to mess up your day, we remember the wonderful islands of Hawaii where it’s almost always 80 degrees and sunny. As a couple that has a serious travel bug, it’s rare we visit the same place twice. But after our first trip to the island of Kauai, we were back again this past May, less than two years later.
There are slices of paradise on each of the Hawaiian Islands, but for those looking to step out from behind the all-inclusives, dinner shows and crowded Waikiki and add some adventure to your vacation, the north shore of Kauai simply can’t be beat. In and around Hanalei Bay you will find some of the most spectacular beaches and scenery in the world. You can surf, snorkel, scuba, hike, bike and fly. This truly is a remarkable island, and your visit will bring you a new-found appreciation for nature.
As a traveler, I like to see and experience as much of an area as I can because who knows if I’ll ever be back again. Relaxing on the beach is always part of the trip, but I can only lounge for so long before wanting to find the next experience. This might be my favorite thing about Kauai. You can drive up and down the North Shore, find plenty of places to explore, and if you feel like a little beach time, just pull over and plop down your chair and towel.
Kauai is known for adventure both by sea and land. One of my favorite excursions we’ve taken is something you wouldn’t likely come across at the concierge desk. Our group of four hired a local by the name of “T” to take us into the center of the island and float down a century-old irrigation canal originally created to bring water from the mountains to the taro fields and pineapple plantations in the valleys below. The drive was on one of the roughest and craziest roads I have ever been on with washed out sections the size of a Mini-Cooper. We passed through the area where they shot the entrance to Jurassic Park, and we were soon riding boogie boards down a 2-mile canal. We passed through several pitch-black tunnels and ended at a beautiful swimming hole.
Another great land adventure is hiking the first two miles of the Kalalau trail. This trail begins where the road literally dead ends. It’s an 11-mile hike that wraps around the famous Na Pali Coast which you can also tour by sail boat, zodiac, kayak or helicopter. This hike is rated a difficulty 9.5 out of 10 by the Sierra Club, but the first two miles are doable if you are in decent shape and have hiking experience. Permits are needed to go further than two miles, but thousands of people make the 11-mile trek each year to camp out at Kalalau Beach — one of the most beautiful beaches and backdrops you will ever see. The trail is steep and rocky, and you traverse streams that can swell at a moment’s notice. Both times we’ve done this hike it has down poured for a short time making for an even wilder experience.
Back in the water, you’ll find a colorful array of fish snorkeling at Ke’e beach, excellent surf and boogie boarding waves in the picture perfect two-mile crest beach of Hanalei Bay, and will more than likely come across giant sea turtles snorkeling at Anini Beach. Having such an immense turtle swimming just feet away from you is really an amazing experience.
Like other vacation destinations, there are plenty of restaurants from grab-and-go to upscale fine dining, and shops carrying trinket souvenirs to fine art. You’ll notice that only a couple bars stay open past dinner, but after a day of exploring and sunny beaches, most retire early instead of seeking out the nightlife. If you get the chance to visit this island, enjoy the beaches, but don’t be afraid to step out and find your own adventure.
When my husband and I settled on a vacation to the island of Kauai and began to talk to friends and colleagues about our trip, one of the most common things we heard from other visitors of the island was “Kauai is incredible.” After having visited the island twice, I agree.
The Hawaiian island of Kauai is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The island has natural presence that truly must be seen to be believed. Kauai served as the backdrop to many famous movies (Jurassic Park and Blue Hawaii for example) so you likely have seen this spectacular place before without even realizing it.
If you are in search of a tropical paradise that comes complete with stunning, high lush green mountain peaks that seem to always be draped in a shroud of mist and that are contrasted against a coastline of white sand beaches and rolling turquoise blue ocean waves, look no further than Kauai.
The “Garden Island” is the perfect backdrop for burying your toes in the sand and your nose in a book while the ocean crashes to the shore. You can boogie board, surf and drink beer from your cooler while you get far too much sun and apply too little sunblock. You will probably have more than one encounter with some of the most colorful chickens you have ever seen, as they inhabit the island and seem to be its most numerous residents. These free-range creatures will probably be your morning alarm clock too. They seem to be lurking everywhere, including outside your window.
Impressive sunrises on the island make for a perfect excuse for getting up early for a run, taking a yoga class on the beach, or walking down to the nearby beach to stand in the ocean and watch the sun come up for the day.
Opting for a vacation rental by owner over a hotel will usually include the perks of having a little more privacy, a lot more space, and typically a cache of beach gear to let you create your own experience. Plus, if you have a kitchen, it can easily be stocked. The island boasts multiple farmers markets, with one happening most nights of the week. The markets are a great chance to be amazed at how much better things grow in the tropical climate (hello giant onions!) and to find and try fruit not typically found at your regular Pacific Northwest farmer’s market (hello papayas!).
Creating your adventure, not your style? There are also tons of resources and companies that will ensure your vacation has just the right amount of zip-lining, surfing, fishing, snorkeling or whatever you enjoy.
If you are looking to have rocking party where you stay up late and hop from club to club, this is not the place for you. And no one is going to walk up to you and try to sell you some trinket you don’t need. Kauai’s charms are much more natural and serene – and when you leave you’ll find yourself planning the next trip before you get home.