Our Kauai trip did not disappoint. This island delighted me with its diverse microclimates and accompanying landscapes; intrigued me with its rich cultural heritage and plentiful opportunities for sampling the local cuisine. Having my family in tow allowed for ample quality time with my parents and younger sister, where we all learned how to slow down and mimic island time.
Well slowing down might not be quite accurate, since my family can hardly sit still. This explains the origin of my love of travel and a general enthusiasm for new adventures. Ever since I was a little girl, while my other friends were going off to Disneyland or Yosemite during summer vacation, I was perfectly content going up to Alaska to mingle with brown bears or road tripping through Canada with my parents and grandmother as my travel sidekicks.
This past family trip to Kauai was no exception. Almost everyday we took road trips up and down the coast, stopping at roadside takeout counters for plate lunches and wandering around dusty towns to find shaved ice. It felt like a grown-up version of our childhood car trips (less fighting with my younger sis, more patience from all parties involved).
Kauai surprised me with its stillness. I had forgotten what it was like to not have the constant soundtrack of a city accompany my daily routine. It was soothing and I embraced the quiet immediately. I have so many lasting impressions of Kauai that I want to tell you about, but first I want to share with you an itinerary of our daily trips, divided into regions.
First up the…
Day 1: Westside
Our first day trip was out to Waimea, which reminded me of the Old West with its sleepy towns and a layer of red dirt covering everything. One of the things I love about the Hawaiian Islands is how diverse their landscapes are from black lava hills of the Big Island to the red rock canyons of Kauai.
We made our way through the town, stopping for shaved ice and admiring the historic art deco Waimea Theater (which is a great alternative activity for rainy days).
Eventually, we made our way towards Route 550, and Waimea Canyon, which is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the West. And at the first lookout I could see why.
Route 550 winds along the canyon, offers several scenic lookouts, and ends in Koke’e State Park. Definitely worth a day trip.
On our way back home we stopped at the neighboring town of Hanapepe, which felt like an artsy, frontier town and I promised myself I would be back for the popular Friday Art Night, which features local artists and plenty of food trucks.
Day 2: North Shore
The next day, we headed north towards Kilauea, where we stopped at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse. It was such a change from yesterday’s scenery, with stunning, rugged coastline and the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye could see.
We made a brief stop in Princeville, which I found out is often referred to as Haolewood by locals because of the local lavish lifestyles. We made a restroom stop at the local Princeville Library (which not surprisingly had impressive facilities) and wandered around the Princeville Center for some window shopping and Lappert’s Ice Cream.
Our last stop was in Hanalei, where we stretched our legs, admired the local murals, and got something to eat at the local health food market. My favorite part was the surrounding fields and mountains that reminded me of Southeast Asia.
Day 3: South Shore
Our last day trip was closer to our home base in Poipu, where we headed to the McBryde Garden, an impressive tropical botanical garden with stunning views of the beach below on the drive in. We took a self-guided tour through the garden and experienced a diverse range of lush landscapes. The adjacent Allerton Garden, was another option, but seemed a bit pricey at $45 per person, and plus we preferred to take in the grounds at our own pace.
Afterward, we headed to Old Koloa Town, where we walked among the historic sugar plantation buildings which are now shops and restaurants. This town is a great spot to pick up snacks before heading down to Poipu Beach.
One of my favorite detours? The Tree Tunnel, which is made up of a mile-long stretch of eucalyptus trees that formed a natural canopy over the road and can be seen on the way from Lihue to Poipu on highway 520.
Where To Stay
Kauai Beach Hostel
Great place to say if you are trying to save money. Spotless mixed and female dorms as well as private and double rooms are available.
Kauai Shores Hotel
Reasonably priced and located right on the beach. Centrally located for sights on both the North and South side of the island.
Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa
An expansive stunning property that includes a luxury spa, panoramic ocean views, and a wide range of pools to cool off in. This is what Hawaiian vacation dreams are made of.