I know I’ve said it before, but my little family loves the beach and ocean. From watching the sunset to playing in the sand, the Sims / Stuber clan is ALL in. I’m so happy Brooks loves the beach just as much as his Mommy and Daddy do.
I adore Hawaii. Each island has its own special magic and Kauai is one of my favorites. Did you know that the center of the island receives the MOST rainfall in the world? Taking that fact into account, just imagine how beautiful and lush the island is. Clearly, that is why they call it the garden island.
Driving in Kauai, you are immediately forced to leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind (which is a good thing), as many of Kauai’s roads are only two lanes. There are many bridges that are only ONE lane. The local protocol is to yield to the cars that approached first and then let 5-7 cars pass for each turn. I found a driving cheat sheet which was really helpful.
The Ultimate Kauai guidebook is awesome. What was even better is that they also have an app that has GPS. You can always find the closest restaurant, shop, or shave ice purveyor. I had downloaded the book to my Kindle, which was great to read in preparation for the trip but for boots on the ground, vacation traversing, I would definitely get the app. I found their reviews and recommendations pretty spot on. Take heed of the restaurant reviews if they tell you that a place is good only for a specific mealtime. We accidentally hit a spot for lunch that they only recommended for breakfast, and the meal wasn’t awful, I just wished we paid more attention.
Hawaii’s official state bird is the Hawaiian Goose, but if you’ve been to Kauai you would beg to differ because the island is filled with wild roosters that the locals and tourists alike share a love / hate relationship. I think they add to the local island charm, but your love will run thin if you get one of these buddies crowing outside your hotel window at all hours of the night. There are tons of tourist trinkets and souvenirs celebrating everything rooster. I promise there will be at least one of your photos dedicated to our feral-feathered friends.
The time of year you are visiting will dictate where you are going to spend most of your time on the island. For example, the Na Pali coast is breathtaking and I would suggest a boat trip to properly view it, but in January you would be hammered with waves, would be miserable and most likely seasick. The ultimate guidebook is excellent at telling you what times of year are best for specific attractions.
Located on the northern most tip of Kauai, the Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point lighthouse was built in 1913. The lighthouse served as a beacon to for traveling ships until the '70s. This now wildlife preserve is a sanctuary for seabirds. A gorgeous vantage point (they even have binoculars that you can borrow) that you can see humpback whales off the coast from December to May.
Called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii, this spot is absolutely worth the drive! To be completely honest, the drive itself was stunning as well. My only warning is watch the fog. We drove up once and you could barely see in front of your face. We drove back down and had lunch (stay tuned for that delicious morsel) and while we were eating, the sun came back out, so we made the decision to drive back up the mountain and it was 100% worth it. Nature at its finest.
Now about that delicious lunch we had…
Island Taco in Waimea is a small homey street stand that does not fool around. The food is to die for and as a girl who lives in California who knows her way around a taco, I give this place two thumbs up. We had the Kalua Pork tacos (Hawaii’s version of pulled pork) and I should have just ordered one they're so large. They also have these amazing fried cinnamon crisps that are ridiculously good. You should try them. You are on vacation after all!!
Something a little fancy…
St Regis Princeville: The bar is an incredibly beautiful spot to relax and enjoy a cocktail. Sunsets out on the patio are truly gorgeous. When we arrived the patio was jammed with people wanting to watch their ritual of sabering champagne at sunset, so we had to sit indoors. There are huge glass windows so everyone has a view. There is a gorgeous mural behind the bar that depicts the ancient Hawaiian ceremony of oahi, or fire throwing. Definitely worth a peek!
Shave ice… oh My!!
A very important necessity for island living is this tropical treat. For me at least!! Shave ice is taken very seriously in Hawaii. Don’t call it “shaved ice” as that is considered sacrilege. On initial look, you may want to consider this sweet majesty a snow cone. Not so! Shave ice is more like the snow cone's exotic and prettier cousin.
The possible flavor combinations of shave ice are almost limitless and people can be particular with exactly how they like their shave ice served. Because I’m always willing to give the readers what they want (the best darn shave ice, right?!?!) I sampled many shave ices (is that the plural form?) to be able to tell you with certainty exactly where you should go. First, there is an important decision to be made. What flavor of ice cream should be at the bottom of your shave ice? Macadamia nut of course! Or as we say in the islands, “Mac” ice cream, see I’m sooo local already!
My favorite shave ice would have to be Hee Fat’s General Store. Located right on the main drag in Kapaa, this is the place you don’t want to miss. They have so many choices to choose from its really hard. That being said, you really need to try a lava flow!
Even though the first Mai Tai was created in the mainland (Oakland, California), the Hawaiian Islands have definitely laid a claim to the delicious layered rum cocktail. If the shave ice escapade is not your speed, perhaps Mai Tai tasting is more your style. We sampled (always for my readers), and the fav, fav, fav Mai Tai in Kauai was courtesy of Duke’s and a close second was the one from the very yummy restaurant, Gaylords. I tell you a little more about that restaurant later in the post.
Dog Day afternoon!
As someone who is a HUGE proponent of animal rescue, I thought this fun travel tidbit was perfect for my animal kingdom loving family. Called the PT Field Trip Program, this unique opportunity lets you “borrow” a dog for the day from the local shelter! Giving the dog a chance to exercise, socialize and hopefully been seen by others to get adopted. Read more and please consider donating to this innovative program.
There are so many beaches to see and my first instinct was to rent snorkeling gear and get to it. Not knowing the island and remembering the fact that some beaches are more dangerous at various times of the year, we decided to do a snorkel tour. I’m so glad we did. The Original Aloha Kauai Tours is definitely my recommendation for snorkeling. Our tour leader, Paul, is all kinds of sassy and irreverent, but incredibly knowledgeable about the island and marine life. He’s also a great photographer and can help you move beyond your disposable waterproof camera. He posts the pics from your trip on their Facebook page so you can get some great shots. There is just something absolutely magical watching a sea turtle cruise by you. I swear for a moment, time stood still.
A little something for everyone in your family…
The Kauai plantation and railway at the beautiful and historic Kilohana plantation is the perfect place for your entire travel crew. Enjoy a train ride that is fun for your littles, as well as weary parent feet. Relax happily while your guide points out more than 50 fruits and vegetables that grow on the plantation.
The plantation also is home to many shops that support local artists. Yay shopping!! This is also a perfect place for an afternoon visit, especially to have lunch at Gaylords. Let me just say that their rendition of mud pie is divine.
I could go on and on about my love of the Hawaiian Islands. An incredible paradise and every island is absolutely worth a visit. My best travel tips are to check out guidebooks and great travel sites like TripAdvisor and then plan your trip around your family’s likes. Where are YOUR favorite places to go in Kauai? Tell me EVERYTHING!!!
Actress, model, active humanitarian, & Mom! Author of 'Everyday Chic'.