In the interest of remembering what we did (and in case anyone else ever wanted some ideas), I figured I’d put it all down on something other than the soggy-then-dry-eight-times scrap paper we used to make the plan.
Ahhh the North Shore – what a gem. First, we drove to the literal end of the road so we could spend a day hiking from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach (2 miles along the Na Poli Coast) and then to Hanakapi’ai Falls (2 miles in from the coast). It was so beautiful! Absolutely, most definitely worth it. There were some slippery parts on the way to the falls, but nothing too bad. There’s a pretty big natural pool at the bottom of the fall. You can swim out to the waterfall and then there’s a place to stand directly underneath. Water shoes would probably be nice for this because the rocks are super sharp and slippery. Ultimately, this was one of my favorite things we did. I was compelled to do some complaining around mile 7 when we were headed up the side of a mountain in direct sunlight…
This part of the island also includes wet and dry caves that are pretty cool to look at (Ha’ena State Park & Maniniholo Dry Cave). We ate a picnic lunch at He’ana Beach. This is also the beach/parking we used to access Tunnels Beach which has great snorkeling! (Fun? fact: right outside of the protected area of Tunnels Beach is where Bethany Hamilton had her armed munched off – I didn’t tell Matt this until after we were done snorkeling.)
He’ana Beach and anywhere North of this is definitely a place where it’s worth showing up early… parking gets a little hairy. I saw at least 10 cars with tickets. Also this car:
Hanalei Bay is also on the North shore. It’s a beautiful place to just hang out on the beach or do some swimming. Also lots of beginner surfers if you want to try that out! The weather changes really quickly up here – I think it rained about 20 times for no more than one minute each time. However, this was very deceiving and (even though I know better) I got a terrible burn. Like couldn’t-bend-my-leg-because-the-back-of-it-is-so-painful burn. Thanks reflective clouds! Still peeling… 14 days later.
We had yummy shave ice at Shave Ice Paradise. Although I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong with shave ice anywhere on the island…
We spent our last day at Anini Beach Park. It’s a super long beach in a more residential area. We just hung out and did a bit of snorkeling until I was scared out of the water by a giant eel. That was no good. But the rest of it was great! Also where we watched the crabs running away from the wild chickens. Very entertaining. I think if we go back we would camp on this beach. It was really nice.
We stayed on this part of the island. It’s normally cheaper than the North Shore but less touristy than the South Shore. Also a nice middle ground for driving all over the island.
Lydgate Beach Park was the first place we tried out our snorkels. I would not recommend it for snorkeling unless you’re very nervous and want to get used to it – it’s a completely protected pool so slim chance of having any trouble with waves. Also slim chance of seeing anything cool. Or really of seeing more than about three fish. However, it would be great for just being in the water or on the beach.
Our very first morning was spent at Kalapaki Beach. It was almost empty when we got there and good for swimming and beaching. We went back to this beach that same night (our anniversary) to eat at Duke’s which is a nicer restaurant. We got kalua pulled pork and kalua ribs. Basically amazing.
Then we got shave ice at Skinny Mike’s. It was not small! We also got shave ice at Hawaiian Blizzard (Kapaa) and Wailua Shave Ice. Hawaiian Blizzard was literally just a rolling cart this man pulls out of his van for a couple hours a day and sets up in front of a grocery store.
We also ate at Pho Kapaa. Very yummy. Plus we ate there on Mother’s Day and ended up getting two free cupcakes – and neither of us are even moms! 😀
Our favorite place we ate (the whole trip maybe) was Tiki Tacos. Oh my gawsh! So yummy. And they’re giant. Basically Tiki Burritos That Won’t Close. Kalua pork was the obvious choice. We ate there twice and were not disappointed!
East Side was mainly for eating and sleeping. Which is good because vacation is also mainly for eating and sleeping, right?
Our first South Shore day started with Rip Tides Shave Ice. I did mention we ate a lot of shave ice, right? I like mine with chocolate or macadamia nut ice cream underneath. Matt likes his plain. Just in case you were wondering. Anyway, my boss mentioned his neighbor moved to Hawaii and owned it so how could we not go say hi?
Right across from the shave ice is one of the best snorkeling beaches – Koloa Landing. We saw lots of fishies and some of them were following us around! They were actually following us so much that it became rather alarming. Po’ipu Beach Park was also good for snorkeling. It got busy really quickly though and there were tons of people! Also tons of fish. So I guess it makes sense.
There’s a cool tree tunnel that you drive through to get to most things on the South Shore. It’s pretty. A thing that’s not pretty but is very delicious is Puka Dog. It’s a hot dog in a Hawaiian sweet roll bun with some kind of sauce and also a tropical-flavored jelly thing. Sounds weird but for a person that doesn’t like hot dogs, it’s still pretty good!
We went to Spouting Horn Beach Park to just be mesmerized by the power of the ocean without any work on our part. I love stuff like this.
We did a shorter hike on the South coast. It was the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail. It ends at a beach that is only otherwise accessible by a terrible dirt road the car rental company would definitely not approve of. Apparently there’s good snorkeling at the very end (about 2.5 miles in) but we didn’t carry all our stuff. This is a great place to watch turtles in the water!
Another great place to watch turtles is North of the Hyatt. We got this tip from a local and we drove straight there and saw so many turtles! It was great. I freakin’ love watching turtles.
We only spent one day on the West Side but seriously considered going back to eat for a second time at Kaua’i Island Brewery & Grill. Yet again, kalua pork. This time on a quesadilla and a sandwich. Plus I got an IPA that had some passion fruit flavor. So yummy! Also this is where we got the secret turtle info.
We spent our time on the West Side stopping at the various lookouts in Waimea Canyon. It’s a fun road to drive and it’s basically the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. There were some hikes we thought about doing in there but this was the day after the sunburn and there was no way that was happening. We enjoyed the views and having a calm, mostly shady day.
We randomly stopped by the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge because we’re tourists and that’s what we do. I’m also quite sure we ate shave ice this day, but it must’ve been on another part of the island on the way home.
If you’re still reading, well done! I’m now going to launch into how we pulled this off because I love saving money! And I love Kaua’i and think everyone should see it if they can so here’s how we went for a reasonable price:
- We have the Alaska credit card and booked our tickets with them. Obviously living in Seattle makes it easier than some other places… we were able to get a direct flight. We used our companion pass (buy one ticket, get one for $120). So it was under $700 for both tickets.
- We have the luxury of flexible travel. We knew we wanted to go in May so we just booked the cheapest tickets that were available – what luck that our anniversary was our first day there!
- We flew in late (arrived at 9pm) and took an overnight flight home. We’re young so we managed. Again, not always an option, but definitely saved us money.
- We booked through Vacation Rental By Owner. Definitely cheaper than a hotel, but also more likely to have things you need like a cooler, flippers, beach towels, etc. included in the price. We also intentionally booked a place with a kitchen. Our room ended up being under $125/night and it could’ve slept 3 more people!
- We went to Costco on our first day and bought groceries. We got a big salad and turkey wraps and things we could easily take as picnic food. We also got a pizza for lunch that day, because still only $10! And leftovers! We also went to Walmart to get some other food that we didn’t need in bulk. And Foodland to get some fruit.
- We took our own water bottles and refilled them. Except sad because I lost mine in the overhead compartment on the way there and had to buy a new one at Walmart 😦
- We used our Alaska card to check one bag for free and took lots of food (which I packed into tupperware). We took all the hiking snacks we could need, almonds, breakfast bars, spaghetti, cereal, etc. Food on the island is expensive! Plus when we unpacked the tupperware, we had something to use to portion out the salad and wraps for the day.
- We rented our car through Discount Hawaii Car Rental. I was a bit skeptical at first so I called them and they confirmed I could reserve a car without a credit card and cancel anytime I wanted. So, I reserved the car at $408. Then, over the course of the 6 weeks leading up to our trip, I checked the site every day. Because of the demand, the rates were constantly changing. I reserved a new car and canceled the last one 16 times before our trip! This is ridiculous. I was a little afraid we would get to the rental car place and they would be like… here are 16 cars in your name. But no. Just one that we got for $283. That’s $125 off just because I checked every day. So easy. And that was for an “intermediate SUV” because some of the roads are not that great and the parking lots are worse.
- Once we arrived, absolutely nothing we did cost anything except for the helicopter ride. So the cost once we were there was only eating out, gas and groceries. Exactly things we would pay for at home.
While we’re only 2 people, I still think it was a pretty reasonably priced trip to paradise. All said and done, we spent 8 days in Kaua’i for under $2800. That includes flights, car, room, gas, food, helicopter… everything. Plus $250 of that was on the things we’ll use again (snorkels, dry bag, etc.) I’d say that’s a pretty good deal!
It was a great trip and so wonderful to have some time away in the sun! Matt and I had a blast and even got to celebrate another year of marriage! Yeah!