When I booked our last minute trip to Kauai (we had to cancel a planned trip to Istanbul) I was not expecting much…nor was I planning on writing about the trip. I have been to Hawaii 18 times and many of them were on photo shoots. The last time I was in Kauai was so many years ago…. that I won’t even go there. To be frankly honest…. our last trip to Lanai was such a disaster we made a vow to never return to Hawaii. The Four Seasons on Lanai was so tired and so old that we all felt they should have burned it to the ground (it’s under new ownership now and it’s being completely renovated… yay!). When we arrived on Kauai and I had forgotten just how stunningly beautiful this island is. I was not expecting much in the resort department and I am glad I didn’t. That’s not what this island is about. This island is about beaches, outdoor adventure and the sheer beauty of this magnificent island. With all that said…. I want to give you a few must Do’s and must See’s on this ever so magical island of Kauai.
We drove past Nana’s 3 times expecting… I don’t know what…. but something a little bigger that the tiny little trailer that was present in the strip mall parking lot it resided in. Finally we found the Yelp “5 star” Nana’s Snack Shack. Nana had just gotten there and she didn’t skip a beat when we ordered our 18 items. Starting with the best smoothies and acai bowls my family has ever tasted, on to the waffle hot dog (a hot dog baked into a waffle) which my husband Steve, said it was the best hot dog he has ever had. My teriyaki chicken sandwich on Hawaiian sweet bread was so good that I think I moaned. A wrap, another sandwich and finishing off with Nana’s chocolate Kit Kat covered frozen banana…. Giving Nana’s 5 stars would be an insult… this little roadside stand is such a gem we went twice and everyone wanted to go everyday! Nana is culinary roadside genius!!
4-971 Kuhio Hwy
Kapaa, HI 96746
Going on a helicopter tour was the last thing I wanted to do on the perfect mid-trip day. Beach yes! Out-voted yes! So helicopter we did…. and OMG I am so happy I was out-voted! To see Kauai by helicopter is one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. Beau’s fiancé James, grew up flying in helicopters all over New Zealand and at one point told our captain it was the most beautiful scenery he has ever experienced. I had to agree. I can’t even verbalize the vivid visual beauty we witnessed. There are 14 amazing waterfalls on Kauai and seeing them from a helicopter is like a beautiful dream. Add in the fact that we had to go through training with Blue Hawainan to board that copter… and I would have to say it was the best and safest helicopter experience of my life.
Tunnels is the most beautiful snorkeling experience on the Na Pali Coast (north island) with a beautiful natural reef. I laid on the beach while my people snorkeled. The 360 degree view was absolutely stunning with a mountain range sitting just behind the ocean… making it a surreal backdrop. To see the most fish…. head to Lawai Beach aka: the Beach House in PoiPu. There is also a great restaurant also called the Beach House with fabulous lunch right next to the beach.
Chickens where everywhere! Hahahaha I have never in my life have I seen so many chickens running around any island. Adorable, but they have fleas so enjoy from afar! My chicken photo op turned into flea bite city.
We found the the best Shave Ice on the way to Princeville from Poipu (south to north). Wailua Shave Ice uses the finest Japanese ice grinder to finely shave their ice… and use only real fruit and fruit juices. Add in some milk and Viola!… the perfect shaved ice! To say we were in shave ice heaven is an understatement.
I just switched out “Shaved Ice” for “Shave Ice” after we were informed by “Shave” in our comment section. Thank you so much for letting us know! I had no idea!!
The best dinner on the island comes from Merriman’s Fish House. Don’t let the fact that this farm fresh to table restaurant is in a cute little mall confuse you. We discovered Marriman’s 2 nights before we were leaving and managed to squeeze in 3 dinners (one on the way to the airport)… it was that good! Everything we ate at Merriman’s was amazing. From the Kalua Pig Quesodilla to the fresh beet salad that tasted like it was just pulled from the ground. There is a casual restaurant below the finer dining option below that serves gourmet burgers and pizza. AMAZING!
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Rd, Koloa, HI 96756
Ask me to off road…. Never. Ask me to go with other people on a tour… Never. Ask me to purposely get filthy dirty… Never. I guess never say never as somehow I ended up with my family at Kipu Ranch one beautiful afternoon. We went on a group off road adventure through a massive cattle ranch and I must say we had a blast! My husband was kind enough to let me drive so I could feel in control as a few times I wasn’t sure how we were going to make it out alive. Exciting… fun and really really dirty!
235 Kipu Rd, Lihue, HI 96766
The Blue Hole Sea Caves and The Queens Bath Princeville are two of the most important visual wonders on Kauai. We saw both from the air, but due to weather conditions we were unable to see by foot or boat. A visit to both will be first up on our next Kauai adventure.
There are so many beautiful and swimmable beaches in Kauai, that my feeling is to look a few up on The Beaches Map and just go for it.
Any one of the many, many roadside juice stands will have a fresh chilled coconut for your hydrating pleasure!
p.s. Renting a car, suv or jeep on Kauai is essential. Plan on driving around and exploring this island for at least half of your trip. There is just way too much beauty to miss if you don’t.