Latest visit: November 2020

Tips for visiting Kauai:

  • What to bring for a stay in Kauai:
    • Reef safe sunscreen: Hawaii is the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunscreen containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The new law is currently in effect!
    • Snorkeling gear: the water is so clear and there is so much to see (fish, coral, turtles, eels, etc!).
    • Waterproof hiking shoes: if you plan on hiking a lot I’d strongly recommend bringing shoes that dry quickly and that you don’t mind getting wet and very muddy.
    • Hiking poles: same here, if you plan on hiking a lot, I’d bring hiking poles. They saved us from A LOT of falls and slides.
    • Rain jacket: idem- to stay dry on hikes but also anywhere on the island during the rain showers.
    • Ecofriendly wipes for muddy hikes:  you can thank me later.
    • Mosquito spray: bring a lot. I was eaten alive the whole time I was there!
  • Getting to Kauai: multiple airlines fly into the island at the moment but make sure you follow COVID19 protocols. They are VERY strict and there is no wiggle room. Read more here.
  • Getting around Kauai: You need a car. You can walk around Poipu and most of the little towns but if you want to explore the island properly, you will need a car.
  • Where to stay: I stayed in Poipu beach area for the length of my stay (8 days) and it was great. I would love to bounce around the island a little bit more next time : stay in Hanalei for a few nights and around Kapaa too.
    • I’d also recommend getting an apartment so you can eat at home and also go out when you want to.
  • Hikes I did:
    • Wailua falls: This hike can either be a quick 2-minute walk to the waterfall overlook or a GRUESOME short hike down to it.
      • Be warned! The not-so-official-trail is very muddy and super steep. It is not for the faint of heart. To start the hike down, you have to walk through a hole in a fence and go down a steep slope holding on to what looks like long shoe strings.
      • Once at the bottom, you will witness the beauty and strength of this HUGE WATERFALL. The current in the water below it was very strong and expect to get soaked by the mist.
      • Bonus: rainbows seem to appear and disappear constantly at the bottom of it!
    • Okolehao trail: We drove through taro fields to get to THE MUDDIEST TRAIL I’VE EVER HIKED.
      • Wear hiking shoes you don’t mind getting very wet and dirty and bring your hiking poles for balance. There will be a lot of puddles,  sliding and climbing up steep slopes. I’d also recommend a raincoat as it rained on us on some parts of the trail.
      • Be warned, some of parts of the trail are very overgrown and super muddy.
      • It was a good challenge!
    • Kokee State Park: Such a lovely drive up to the Waimea Lodge area. Take your time and stop at all the lookout points to enjoy small waterfalls and breathtaking views of the canyon and the ocean.
      • We started on the Nu’alolo Trail and came back through the Awa’ awapuhi Trail. Here’s what you need to know:
        • Start the hike early.
        • Your shoes will be soaked after the first mile of hiking.
        • You need walking poles: some areas were extremely slippery and steep.
        • You need water and food.
        • You will not see many people on these trails.
        • There are no restrooms on this hike.
        • Be on the lookout for mile markers or pieces of string along the trail- you can easily get lost- especially on the connector part.
        • The canyon can get VERY FOGGY- but it can also clear up very quickly!
        • We HIKED FOR 22 km in rainy weather. It was a long one and we did get lost but found our way back.
        • It was stunning and worth every minute of it.
    • Waimea Canyon to do the Waimea Canyon River Trail:
      • Offers STUNNING VIEWS! It’s a somewhat steep descent for 2.75 miles to the river. Take the time to stop and enjoy the amazing views of the Canyon: you feel like you are immersed in it… because you are!
      • You can camp close to the river, at the bottom of the trail, but there were A LOT OF MOSQUITOS!!!
      • We would have loved to keep going on the trail but we had time constraints.
      • The return was HOT, steep and a good workout- 2.75 miles uphill with a 2280 ft incline!
  • Hikes I want to do next time:
    • Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park & Kalalau Trail:  In-order to access the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park as well as the Kalalau Trail, visitors have to go through Hāʻena SP.  Hāʻena SP now requires advanced reservations for entry except for those with valid camping permits for the Nāpali Coast SWP and Hawaii residents (from their website). I was too last minute and sadly I was unable to access the park !
    • I would love to walk, run or bike the Kauai multiuse path. It seems to follow the coastline for miles.
  • Restaurants I loved:
    • Fish Express: delicious poke. I tried dried, marinated tuna in my poke for the first time and it was quite tasty!
    • Waikomo shave ice: The BEST you will ever have!
    • Little Fish Coffee shop: Great cappuccino and I want to try the açaí bowls next time.
    • Beach House for sunset dinner: everything here is amazing: the view, the drinks (The Mai Tai is to die for), the food and the service. Try to get a table on the low-level, by the sliding windows for the best sunset view over the ocean.
      • As I just mentioned, the Mai Tai was incredible! It’s called the Monkeypod Mai Tai and it has kula organic silver and dark rums, fresh lime juice, house-made macadamia nut orgeat, orange curacao and honey-lilikoi foam!! DO not miss out!
    • Lappert’s coffee + Ice cream: delicious cappuccinos, fantastic cinnamon buns!
    • Eden Coffee truck: locally owned and really nice service. The cappuccino was divine.
  • Restaurants I want to try next time:
    • Java Kai coffee shop in Kapaa.
    • Kauai Poke Co. : Highly recommended poke truck in Lawai (it was closed both times we tried to get to it).
  • Village of Kaloa: it’s very small and cute to walk around.
    • Pizzetta for apparently delicious Italian-style food.
    • Grocery store, cute shops, wine shop
    • There are a bunch of little food trucks in a parking lot including Eden coffee truck!
  • Things to do around Hanalei:
    • Walk along the Hanakapi’ai Beach and stop at the Ke’e Beach Kalalau overlook.
    • Chill at Haena Beach/Canon’s beach and explore the Maniniholo Dry cave.
    • Walk the Hanalei Pier- the view of all the mountains and all the waterfalls in them is simply incredible. The beach is very wide and the water is shallow for quite some distance. It looked like the perfect spot to learn how to surf: we watched so many parents out in the waves with their kids!
    • We tried to go to the Queen’s bath but it was closed for high tide (and looked like it had been closed forever).
    • We drove through tarot fields to get to the Okolehao trail (see details above).
  • Village of Poipu Beach:
    • Seems like this is the town of tourists, resorts and restaurants.
    • You can walk along the beach and through a paved path in and out of resorts for a good distance.
    • Run/walk the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail:
      • Start at the Grand Hyatt.
      • Follow the path to shipwreck beach: you will see people jumping of the cliff and some surfers in the water
      • Walk past the Makauwahi Cave Reserve (I want to explore it next time)
      • Walk Mahaulepu Beach and Gillin’s beach to Kamala point and the labyrinth… and that’s where I turned around but the trail continues.
        • Fun fact, on my uber ride to the airport on my last day, my driver was the artist of the labyrinth! His name was Bob Vlach and he created it for his wife who passed away a few years back.
    • The shops at KuiKu Ula: a very cute outdoor mall.
      • Make sure you stop at Lappert’s for some great coffee, pastries and ice cream!
      • Malie: for the most incredible body and skin products as well as fragrance diffusers. Buy everything you can here, you will not regret it. Bonus: it’s all organic and local!
      • SoHa Living for cute souvenirs and home decor.
      • Mahina: for affordable shopping in style. Warning: You’ll want to buy everything here!
    • Multiple public beaches and a lot of surf spots too!
      • Snorkeling was amazing everywhere we stopped. The Poipu beach sandbar is pretty cool. I saw so many fish: trumpet/needle fish, sea cucumbers, bullethead parrotfish, turtles,  Butterflyfish, urchins, crabs, etc!
      • Snorkeling at Lawa’i Beach has incredible visibility!
    • Check out the Spouting Horn.
    • Make sure you check out a sunset at Poipu Beach and maybe you’ll be as lucky as me and watch the turtles coming up on the sand to sleep for the night.
    • Rent a cabana at the Grand Hyatt and get the VIP treatment with the VIP views. The view was fabulous and the service was great. The cheapest way to do it would just be to sit on the beach in front of the Hyatt. There’s also a public parking right next to it. You can watch people boogie boarding and surfing, watch the adventurous people jump off the cliff, and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
  • Other places to explore:
    • Visit the sea glass beach: Worth the stop! At first you can’t find the glass… but then you look down and realize THE SAND IS NOT SAND BUT millions of miniature pieces glass! You will find some bigger pieces too although they are scarcer. This beach also has black sand.
      • Warning: this beach is small, and not in a cute area (industrial).
    • Drive to Hanapepe and stop for coffee and pastries at Midnight Bear Breads.
      • Check out the cute artist village (everything was closed when we were there due to COVID19)
      • Walk across the swinging bridge and go for a walk along the trail on the other side of the river.
    • Drive to Waimea Pier and go for a little stroll on it.
    • Walk around the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park / Pāʻulaʻula.
    • Go off the beaten path: find secret beaches. We found Pakala beach by stopping where there was a bunch of pickup trucks and just found an opening in the fence by the road and followed the trail to the beach.
    • Polihale state park was closed when we tried to access it but I now see that it has reopened for day use only. Polihale had been closed indefinitely due to increasing abuse, including driving on the beach and dunes, gatherings, and rampant illegal camping, which has led to public health and safety concerns. Please note that the road leading to the park is an unimproved dirt road that may flood during rains and become impassable. Other areas have deep sand. Four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Rental car companies may prohibit use of their vehicles on this park access road (from their website).
    • Walk through the Kawai’ele Waterbird Sanctuary: This was supposed to be a leisurely stroll around the sanctuary since the Polihale excursion was a dead end. 5 minutes into our walk we got attacked by a Nene (Hawaiian version of a Canadian Goose) and ran back to the car! Quite the adventure!
    • Visit Kauai Coffee: it is the largest coffee estate in the USA! They offer coffee tastings and you can go for a stroll through part of the plantation (it was pouring when we were there so we skipped it).
    • Warehouse 3540 is a creative community space on the south side of the island of Kauai. You will find:
      • Kind Coffee Company: great coffee
      • Cute shops: My favorites- Lily Koy and a cute apparel clothing store
      • food trucks: this is where Kauai Poke lives
    • Stop at the Lawai Market for some local high-end food shopping such as taro hummus and macadamia nut ice cream.
    • Shop at Aloha Exchange: cute, fun outdoorsy shop with local branded clothes.
    • Go on a magical ride with CJM Country Stables: We did a 2 hour ride around Mahaulepu Beach, Gillin’s beach, Kamala point and admired the Hidden Canyon. The horses were in amazing shape and looked very well taken care of. Apparently they had all participated in the local rodeos! They have 57 horses that they rotate so every horse gets exercise but is not overworked. It was a great experience with stunning views!


Impressions of visiting Kauai:

I’d be lying if I didn’t start by mentioning how wet Kauai was ! I was soaked every single day I was there, which also means that this was the greenest island of them all! It reminded me of Ireland- that’s how lush, healthy and green it is. It’s also why it’s called the Garden Island! You know what comes with dampness? Mosquitos… THOUSANDS of them! Needless to mention how much mud we hiked in too. The plus side: we saw at least one rainbow every day! It was so magical.

Kauai is definitely the less touristy, slower, chiller island I’ve visited so far (I’ve been to Maui and Big Island). Everything is on island time: no one is in a rush, people enjoy conversations, sunsets and all the little things in life.

If you’re a coffee addict and snob like me, you’ll be delighted to hear that ALL the cappuccinos I had on Kauai were INCREDIBLE. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say that! Additionally, the pastries were amazing: fresh, flaky, buttery and flavorful.

As we explored the different areas of the island, we found a lot of cute food trucks everywhere. It was also a nice surprise and fun to try local ‘street’ food, especially since a lot of shops and restaurants were still closed due to COVID19.

Rooster and hen alert! I’ve never seen so many wild roosters and hens just roaming around. They are so beautiful with their bright colors. When I asked why there were so many, I was told that Hurricanes Iniki (1992) and Iwa (1982) destroyed domestic coops, letting the animals loose in the wild to breed and multiply. The escaped domesticated birds joined up with jungle fowl originally brought in by Polynesians 1,000 years ago. The domestic chickens bred with the Polynesian chickens of times gone by, and here we are today! Crazy right?

Secret tip: if you are looking for empty, secluded, local beaches and places to surf, look for groups of random parked cars by a busy road. That’s how we found the empty beach of Pakala.

Don’t forget your snorkeling gear and keep it in your car! There were so many times I wish I had it with me when we went exploring around the island!

Lastly, my heart went all fuzzy every time I saw families of surfers. I saw moms and dads out in the waves with their kids and it was beautiful to see. Watching them chat on the beach with other locals was beautiful to witness: you can tell the community is very important to Hawaiians living in Kauai.

I would LOVE to spend more time in KAUAI! I enjoyed every second of my time here (except for the mosquito bites).


Arriving in Kauai, Restaurants, beaches and things to do:

Hikes and trails: