If you know me, you know I can hardly sit still. I am fidgety, restless and prefer to constantly be on the go. It’s my personality, and my travels tend to follow suit. I try to see and do it all, and while that’s a great way to get the most out of a trip, it’s not necessarily the best way to relax.
As I contemplated visiting one of my top bucket list destinations, Yellowstone National Park, and scrolled through their Instagram feed, I quickly realized that I wasn’t in the mood for the pandemonium of summertime in a National Park, or any other top travel destination. In fact, I wanted nothing more than to avoid sightseeing hotspots, large crowds and traffic on this trip.
As I pondered where to go, my mind drifted back to the summer of 2013. On my way to Oahu, I had an overnight layover in Kauai and spent a full day in the tropical dreamland. But my time there was all too short, so on a whim, I decided now was the perfect time to go back and explore the rest of the island. I mean, “Kauai” not head back to the peaceful paradise and enjoy the relaxing vacation I so desperately desired?
Kauai was a great choice for the kind of vacation my husband and I had in mind. The airport is mellow, the roads are mostly traffic-free, the weather is warm, the beaches are plentiful, and the hotel prices are surprisingly reasonable in the summer compared to other Hawaiian islands like Maui. We enjoyed five days soaking up the sun, and came back refreshed, rejuvenated and sunburnt, of course.
Below, I’ll share more about my trip and some of the places we enjoyed! If you’re looking to visit Kauai and are interested in hotels, beaches and more, keep scrolling!
Note: This blog post is based on my own personal experiences and opinions.
The airport is exactly what you’d expect a small island airport to be, simple and mellow. It’s easy to navigate and the check-in and security lines are typically short (when compared to metropolitan airports). Transportation options here are slightly different, however. When we tried to get an Uber on a weekday morning, the app said there were no options available in our area. When we checked again a second time, we received the same notification. Since Uber was not available, we were pleased to find a public phone right outside of baggage claim that directed us right to a cab company. The cab arrived less than 5 minutes later.
Kauai Beach Resort in Lihue
We stayed at this resort for the first half of our trip. The complimentary hotel shuttle picked us up from the airport and drove us a few miles down the highway to the hotel; this took less than 10 minutes. Upon arrival, the hotel checked us in early and upgraded us to a deluxe room. The decor was nice and the room was clean. We had a garden view from the balcony which wasn’t as nice as a beach view would have been, but we did have a view of the mountains behind us and enjoyed the Jurassic Park vibe. The main hotel pool was large and the grotto was a nice touch. There was also a kid’s pool, waterslide and poolside bar and grill. Just a few steps past the pool was the beach. The water was not ideal for swimming as there are posted signs warning visitors of jellyfish and strong currents, but it’s a beautiful spot nonetheless with soft sand, tropical trees and big logs to sit on. For $219 a night (not including taxes and fees), this was a nice option. However, for those coming to Kauai without a car, this location is not conveniently located near off-site shops and restaurants.
Aston Islander on the Beach in Kapaa
We stayed here for the second half of our trip. Upon check-in, we were given one drink ticket per person, per day, for free coffee or mango lemonade. We were also given a DVD rental card that was valid for up to two movies at a time during our stay. These types of small gestures are always appreciated and helped us begin our stay on a high. While we had reserved a room with an ocean view, we were given a floor level room with a minimal ocean view. That being said, the room opened up to a patio that was steps away from the pool and a large grassy area. We enjoyed this prime location, playing frisbee on the grass and eating snacks on the patio. The hotel was also located on the beach. While the hotel displayed the same type of warnings as our other hotel, we saw more people in the water snorkeling at this beach. There was a concrete path along the tree line of the beach that went from one hotel to the next and it was lined with beach chairs and hammocks. We enjoyed walking along this path in the mornings and in the evenings. The Coconut Marketplace was also located nearby which was especially useful because we were able to walk to the grocery store and buy food, instead of eating out. This is one of the easiest ways to save money on a trip! While the hotel pool was disappointing, the $189 nightly fee (without taxes and fees) was a fantastic deal for a beachfront hotel. Upon departure, the hotel organized a shuttle for us. They do, however, require 48 hour notice for this complimentary service.
Lava Lava Beach Club
Aston Islander on the Beach was right next door to the Kauai Shores Hotel and the beachfront restaurant on their property is called the Lava Lava Beach Club. This restaurant was literally a two minute walk from our room and boasted outdoor Jenga and cornhole games for enjoyment. While the food prices reflect that of any beachfront eatery (my small bowl of Cesar Salad with no chicken was $12), the view was worth it and the wait staff was pleasant.
Kalapaki Beach in Lihue
Kalapaki Beach is my all-time favorite beach. Not only is it picture perfect with a panoramic view of the greenish-blue ocean and nearby mountains, but the water is enjoyable to swim in and there are restaurants and shops located next to the sand. Duke’s Kauai and Cafe Portofino are just a few of the many eateries located by the beach. In addition, Kauai Beach Boys is right there, offering beach equipment rentals and the ABC store is just a short walk away if you need towels or sunscreen.
Spouting Horn in Poipu
When speaking to locals, we discovered that Poipu is one of the more popular tourist destinations on the island. I was initially hesitant to visit this part of the island, seeing as I came to Kauai to avoid tourist madness, but I didn’t want to miss out on this sight. When the water hits the small openings in the lava rocks, the water shoots out with a loud noise. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s worth stopping by for a few minutes! Once you leave the parking lot, you can turn left and continue down the road for another mile or two. If you park, you can walk to the edge of the cliff and see the magnificent waves crashing against the rocks and enjoy a scenic view of Poipu.
Kiahuna Beach in Poipu
After visiting Spouting Horn, we decided to drive through the town and see what the craze was all about. After driving by the famous golf course, Poipu Bay, we took some side streets and ended up by the water. There was a small cut out with limited parking, but we found a spot and saw some water nearby. The palm tree lined beach was located right next to the Sheraton and other beach condo rentals. While it appeared to be a popular spot for surfers and boogie-boarders with a lot of foot traffic, the water was light blue and the sand was perfectly golden. We were able to rent a boogie-board for 24 hours and it only cost us $7. This was a great deal if I do say so myself.
While we very much enjoyed our trip to Kauai, there was one thing on my bucket list that I was not able to cross off. Kauai is famous for its Na’Pali Coastline. There are various tour companies that offer boat rides along the coast for snorkeling, dinner cruises or sunset cruises etc. When we tried to book a tour 3 days in advance, we found that they were actually booked for about a week out. So, if this is something you would like to do when visiting Kauai, I highly recommend that you book it in advance!