In May I went to Kauai to visit my friend Lauren. I’d been to Kauai a few months earlier on my honeymoon and had enjoyed it so much, I couldn’t wait to go back.
Lauren lives in Ha’ena, which is on the north side of the island of Kauai. Her house is a 5 minute walk along a jungle path to Tunnels Beach. Jonathan and I spent an afternoon snorkeling at Tunnels back in October and I thought it was one of the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen. Unlike some of the other beaches I’ve visited (side eye Maya Bay, Thailand) it always seems to be almost empty. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a long drive from most of the hotels on the island or because it’s such a huge beach but I have never felt crowded there. If you are planning a trip to Kauai, Tunnels Beach is a must on your to do list. Bring lots of sunscreen and snacks with you as there aren’t any stores or restaurants nearby.
I spent most of my time at Tunnels Beach tanning, nervously wading in the clear blue water (not a strong swimmer), and reading in the shade. Last time I was in Hawaii Jonathan and I were fortunate enough to snorkel with sea turtles. I loved seeing these gentle creatures so much and really hoped I’d get to see them again on this trip. All week I scanned the water hoping to catch a glimpse of one. On my last day in Kauai I walked down to the beach in the morning for a last minute swim. After spending a few hours in the sun I made the long walk down the beach to the path to Laurens house. Just as I reached the edge of the path and stopped to put my shoes on something told me to turn around and take one last look at the ocean. It sounds stupid but I just had a feeling that if I turned around I’d see one. So I turned and sure enough, there at the edge of the water was a large sea turtle. I ran down the beach and sat in the sand on the shore and watched him until he disappeared into the surf. It was such a special moment and I feel really fortunate to have had that experience on my last day in Hawaii.
There is so much good hiking in Kauai, it’s hard to choose which one to do. Lauren and I decided to hike part of the Kalalau trail because it was a quick drive from her house and it is beyond beautiful. The trail is fairly challenging, it has quite a bit of elevation change as it takes you up and over several headlands. When Jonathan and I hiked the trail back in October it was a beautiful sunny day and it was scorching hot. On the day Lauren and I hiked it had been raining heavily overnight so the trail was fairly muddy and slippery. Throughout the hike it went back and forth between being super hot and sunny and pouring on us. This meant we got to see several rainbows and waterfalls on the lush Napali mountains. I also slipped crossing a river and had to hike out with one wet shoe which I consider to be some kind of hiker badge of honour. I can’t recommend this hike enough but it is not to be underestimated. Do your research first, pack lots of water, and be very careful at river crossings. Hiking out with one wet shoe is not the only danger here.
Poipu is one of my favourite places in Kauai. I made poor Lauren drive us there so many times. One of the best days on this trip was when Lauren and I went to Poipu beach hoping to snorkel. We’d been earlier in the week and had seen tons of brightly coloured fish not far from the shore. When we arrived there were quite a few waves, making it less than ideal snorkeling conditions. Instead we spent the afternoon splashing around in the waves as they broke on the sandbar and laughing our asses off. We probably looked crazy but it was a lot of fun. After we watched the sunset from the beach and went for dinner in Koloa town. Poipu beach is one of the most reliably sunny destinations on the island and a great spot for snorkeling. It’s a fairly busy beach so I’d recommend arriving early if you want to get a good spot!
The above picture is a field of Taro root in Hanlei. Most restaurants in Kauai have a dish on their menu with Taro in it. It’s an interesting flavour and texture, I think it’s one of those love or hate things. I’ve found it quite difficult to find vegetarian options (beyond Taro burgers) in Hawaii but maybe I just have unrealistic expectations from living in the Pacific Northwest. Below are a few recommendations for anyone planning a trip to Kauai.
Puka Dogs in Poipu makes non-GMO veggie dogs with homemade tropical relish and spicy mustard on a freshly baked bun. It’s the perfect post swim snack!
For great coffee, baked goods, or lunch a stop at Hanalei Coffee Roasters is in order. The open air coffee shop is the perfect spot to people watch or wait out a passing rain storm on the way to Ke’e beach. Vegetarians try their roasted veggie sandwich!
Paco’s Tacos are great for a quick lunch enroute to your next adventure. They have several locations, one conveniently located along the Kapa’a bike path.
In Koloa Lauren and I had dinner at Pizzetta. We made the mistake of sitting on the lanai during termite season and spent most of the evening batting away the flying bugs. Aside from that, the food was delicious and the ambiance was nice. The portions are pretty huge so I’d recommend sharing.
Aloha Juice Bar in Hanalei has freshly made tropical juices and smoothies. There are so many different flavour combinations to choose from, it’s a tough life!
Ke’e beach on the north island is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Bring a beverage and set yourself up a little further down the beach so you get a view of the Napali coast as well.
Lauren took me to the St. Regis Hotel in Princeville for their Aloha Friday Happy Hour. I cannot recommend this enough. Floor to ceiling windows and a large terrace offer sunset views of Hanalei Bay as you sip a Mai Tai. On the night we were there the live band Maluhia was playing Hawaiian music. They were so talented and kind, they really made the experience for me.