The Garden Isle. The oldest island. Kauai.
Luke & I were long over due for a true vacation (aren’t we all) and after COVID ruined our original trip dates in February, we were thrilled to see cheap airline tickets for April.
We had done a TON of research on what to expect when we got there. After emailing their tourism department, our Air BNB host, getting our negative COVID test, and providing appropriate travel documents, we were set!
We really weren't sure what to expect when we landed. The Island opened back up to tourists April 5th and we landed the 8th! I hate when people say it can go one of two ways, and then list the literal only two options, but that’s what I’m about to do. Anyways, we figured people would either be thrilled to see tourists again, or they would be down right disgusted, but in all honesty, everyone we interacted with was 100% pleasant. It was actually the travelers who caused the most headaches, from not knowing there were covid regulations, to not having the appropriate documentation, Guys, just know if you’re traveling, the airlines hate enforcing the rules as much as we hate having to follow them. Let's all just cut each other a break.
After passing our COVID customs, & waiting 2 hours for our rental ( A 2020 Camero!! We love when people mistake us for honeymooners), we arrived at our airbnb. Which was a studio apartment in a condominium hosted by the Aston.
Nothing makes a person more hungry for real food than traveling for 13 hours. Luke and I are infamous for the following rookie mistake, picking a super swanky restaurant after we land that's overpriced and not that great, and this time is no different. We end up at a resort restaurant called Hukilau Lanai. We complete the lost traveler look with my still- wet-from- the-shower- hair, and Luke's wrinkled khakis to be greeted with a "Do you have a reservation?” Which we of course, do not. She replies "Luckily, we have one last table we can squeeze you in.” Which, was a lie.
I order a way too expensive salad, Luke orders a very boujee version of Poke (you’ll hear me reference this a lot, it’s like a Hawaiian version of sushi. It’s raw tuna with differs flavor options over a bed of rice) and we leave just thankful we had a nice atmosphere and real food to rest up before the next day.
One of the main attractions in Kauai is Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali coast line. So we make this our first priority. It was a foggy morning but after we waited out the rain, we were able to hike the Napali Coastline. It was one of the harder hikes I have ever done, but with the best views I have ever seen. It's not technically a certified hike, but someone cut the fence and everyone hikes it. It's one of those hikes where one step off the trail has you rolling down the left side of the canyon or the right side.
We ate at Koeke Lodge which was my favorite restaurant of the trip! It was a log cabin in the middle of the mountains in Hawaii! They were even playing country music. A very very cool atmosphere with good food and an even better coffee menu.
We started the morning off with a 5 mile hike on Ship Wreck Shore. It was a long walk along the southern coast line through two beaches, a golf course and some lava rock. By day two I am already in love with the island. There's a sense of adventure everywhere you go, with room to think on the hikes because there isn't anyone around.
Our second hike of the day is Wailua falls. It was a short but intense hike filled with a lot of adrenaline. We were quite literally using ropes to repell down the hills so that we could get to the bottom of this huge waterfall. Luke eventually got to swim in said waterfall, while I watched from the shore because I am not a good swimmer. The hike was short, but we couldn't get ourselves to leave. It was one of those places that you couldn't bear to leave because you knew you might never see it again in your lifetime.
This was our North Shore day. Jet lag finally caught up to us. I was so unbelievably tired on our way to the north shore. I could hardly keep my eyes open. We got skunked 3 times that day. The lighthouse we wanted to visit was closed. The trail we wanted to do required a permit that had just been introduced. Then 2 of the beaches we wanted to hang out on got rained out. We ended up grabbing a bite to eat ,BBQ for Luke & an açaí bowl for me, and headed back to the east shore to be in the sun.
Today was the first day I did not feel like I was in paradise. The weather just did NOT cooperate. The sun would be out & then duck behind the clouds, actually making it quite chilly.
Luckily, the day redeemed itself with a dip in the hot tub and a nap by the pool. We cleaned up and went to the Princeville night market. There were lots of local vendors & I got 2 really cool rings. (One of which, the ocean claimed the next day, and we had to go back and buy a new one).
At last, we tried to decide on dinner. Let me just say, food has NOT been easy to find this trip. We have had 1 great meal, but it was expensive. So far thats the norm. Expensive sub par food. Luke says it's because of Covid. I think it's because of Island time. Which has been so hard to get used to. They take their Sunday's seriously.
Theres not much 8 hours of sleep cant fix! We wake up feeling energized, and decide to take on Ho' oop-i (who-oop-ee) falls. Kauai is so unique in that it feels like we took 4 different trips. You can hike mountains, coastlines,- today a true rainforest. We were the first ones on the trail & had the falls entirely to ourselves. Luke tried out a rope swing & I hang back 2 film.We head back to our condo to beach bum before our dinner cruise.
Im not one for excursions. I think they are overpriced and tacky. However, we booked a "Romantic Dinner cruise" for this trip because it's the only way to see the Napali Cliffs at large. Plus, I've never been on a Catamaran, so when in Rome right?
Anyways, our "Romantic Dinner Cruise" ends ups being more like an episode of "The Office" called "Booze Cruise." While Luke & I had a fantastic time, we would not call our experience "romantic". There were lots of kids running around-below deck and the same amount of adults seasick below. It’s the ocean people, not Lake Havasu, take a Dramamine.
Our captain is hilarious and shares some really interesting facts about the island.
We even saw whales! Like a lot, which was a complete surprise. The Napali cliffs are breath taking & magnificent, and you realize how deep Hawaiian & Polynesian culture runs. Dinner was local popular items served takeout style, plastic utensils included, and deserts was a chocolate chip cookie. (Again, Expedia's concept of the word "romantic" is loose at best.)
The deckhands pass around champagne to toast the evening and the captain ends the night with, I'm not kidding, the cupid shuffle.
We make lemonade out of the night, and enjoyed ourselves.
Jet lag strikes again and we spend the morning on our beach outside our condo, and as unbiased as I can be, I'd like to say this is because we have the best beach on the island.
This is where we make our next mistake. We wait this long into our trip to get Hawaiian ice. No, it is not just a snow cone. Its a flavor packed, creamy, delicious treat with a sauce that I will be dreaming about for weeks to come. So. good.
We end up getting take out from the market down the street, mostly because of connivence, and spend the evening souvenir shopping.
We spend the last day pretending that it isn't. We end up back on the north shore at Queens Bath a coastal swimming hole that you couldn't pay me to swim in because the ocean doesn't give a crap about you.
We beach bum harder than we did the entire trip because check out is at 11am and our flight leaves at 10:30 pm. We shower at the beach, eat grocery store poke and change in gas station bathroom.
All in all, it was an amazing trip, t we cant wait to go back. Heres the best & worst from our trip.
Im not going to lie. Food was hard. Nothing really opens until 11am & everything closes by 8:00. Most places want reservations, but have the weirdest hours to try 2 call to get them. All of the "easy" places are touristy, EXPENSIVE, and with limited menus. It's actually easier to just cook for yourself than deal with that. Also the sun goes down at 7:30 pm. So if you're looking for nightlife, Kauai is not the place for you.
Being in Kauai truly felt like being in a foreign country with all the comforts & familiarity of the U.S. I have never truly felt like I was in the rainforest until now.
Luke put it best when he said "There are more untouched and undeveloped parts of Kauai than there are touched" and thats kind of the point I think.
We never saw more than 10 people on our beaches. Never more than 10 people on our hikes-We always found parking. There is NO ONE around. Is this because of Covid (maybe? But I also think it's just that way.)
The sheer beauty of the island takes the cake. I truly had to pry myself away from every location we went to because I couldn't stand the thought that my eyes might never see a more beautiful sight in my life.
I never felt like the mountains were missing something until now. Where else in the world can you hike hard in the morning and beach bum all afternoon.
We can't wait to go back some day!
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To express, explain, and exclaim the lessons life continually throws at me, and my take on how to deal.