Dates Traveled: 12/26/16 – 12/31/16
Happy New Year, friends! We made it to 2017; a bit battered and bruised but we made it!
If you’ve read my Mendocino post, you know that Tejinder and I have an annual tradition of taking an end of the year trip together. It is our time to fall off the radar, enjoy a few days without a schedule, and just mad chill. For our third annual trip, we starting researching locations that would: 1) be by the water, 2) be good for hiking, and 3) have great food. After doing a bit of research, Kauai felt like the perfect vacation spot so we packed our bags for a week on the Garden Island.
Since the week of relaxing and exploring Kauai was simply too long for one post, I have broken up our trip into two parts. First up, the North and East Shores!
The day after Christmas, Tejinder and I met bright and early at Oakland Airport for our flight to Lihue. We were fueled by excitement and Starbucks when we landed in Kauai a little before noon. Upon landing, we enjoyed the cool island breeze while we waited to rent our car from Alamo. My advice to anyone renting a car in Kauai is: 1) rent a Jeep and 2) go through Kauai Jeep Rental for the best rate. We reserved a two door Jeep Wrangler through their website and it was one of the best decisions we made! Reserving and picking up our car was so easy and in no time, we were on our way to Kapa’a to check into our hotel.
Tejinder and I were both pretty ravenous at this point. Okay, I was the ravenous one but I was ravenous for the both of us! We made our way to Bubba’s Burger in Kapa’a. Bubba’s has been serving no-frill mouthwatering burgers since 1936 and they have no plans of stopping. Their veggie burger was so juicy and if you are vegetarian you will understand how unheard of that is! Paired with fries, a banana shake, and an ocean view, it was the perfect first meal on the island.
We spent the rest of the evening unwinding and unpacking before driving to Safeway to buy a few snacks for the week. Have you ever heard the phrase “Island-time”? It is a time zone in which literally no one is in a rush, ever! No one is ever in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything. Tejinder and I got a serious dose of “island-time” on our way to Safeway because the speed limit on the highway we were on was 45 mph. We were both baffled! For those people who are like me and have no idea how to do anything slowly, don’t worry, island-time will grow on you.
On our first full day on the island, Tejinder and I woke up rested and ready to explore Northern Kauai! We packed the car with water and snacks before heading to the North Shore. But first, bagels. Tejinder and I stopped at Java Kai for breakfast. This cute café on the east side of the island lives by the not so subtle motto “Drink Coffee or Die” and they also serve killer bagels, tea, sandwiches, and smoothies. Tejinder ordered an onion bagel with cream cheese, tomato, and pesto. You guys, the pesto changed everything. It was the unexpected thing you look for in a regular bagel and cream cheese breakfast. Java Kai has a very cool vibe, and even cooler apparel which you can buy from their online shop.
After fueling up our bodies, we hopped into Sheeba (yes, we named our Jeep) and started on the one-hour drive to Ke’e Beach to hike the Na Pali Coast. The drive there was absolutely beautiful. It was like a scene from Jurassic Park or Lost everywhere you turned.
The Na Pali Coast trail we chose was a 4 mile round trip trek that ended at Hanakapiai Beach. It rained in the morning so the normally dirt trail was pretty darn muddy. The trail itself is fairly steep with a few twist and turns. There are plenty of waterfalls, creeks, and lush greenery to enjoy as you make your way through the hike. And the views of the coast were just breathtaking! The trail hugs the coastline so we constantly had this amazing view of crystal clear waters as far as our eyes can see.
A few helpful tips to know beforehand:
- Bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty because there is a lot of mud and you will slip a few times and you will be upset if you take you new pair of Nikes.
- Bring an extra pair of shoes to wear after the hike. Again, your shoes will get muddy.
- Get there fairly early because parking is limited and you cannot park on the side of the road. We arrived around 9 AM and there was plenty of parking. When we left around noon, it was completely full.
After our hike, we rested up at Ke’e Beach. The family friendly beach is the perfect spot to relax and soak your feet in the clear water. There is a small coral reef you can snorkel around in if you remember to bring your gear.
We swam in the salty ocean water for a bit and relaxed on the beach before packing up Sheeba to go to Hanalei Bay. Hanalei is truly a beautiful place with an incredible beach that offers expansive views of the bay. There is a pier kids were jumping off of and families were enjoying tacos while taking in the spectacular views of the coast line. Since it is a bay, the waves were a lot calmer which makes it a great spot for paddle boarding or surfing classes.
From Hanalei, we made our way to Kilauea, which is a few miles south. We grabbed lunch at Kilauea Fish Market – a quaint grub spot serving whatever fresh catch that came in that morning. And when they run out of the morning’s catch, they close up for the day. Their portions are large so come hungry!
Five minutes away from the Kilauea Fish Market is the Kilauea Light House. Be sure to stop here and check out the awe-inspiring views of the ocean and Kauai coast. While we were there walking off our food babies, a very nice man named Jeff took our photos with the light house.
After a day filled with exploring the North Shore, Tejinder and I were both exhausted. Our night ended with a trip to the ABC Store which, if you’ve never been before, is like the 7/11 of Hawaii. ABC Stores are everywhere! They are a great places to buy souvenirs, snacks, and $2 wine (sorry Mom). Be sure to save your receipts because if you spend $100, they will give you a free gift!
We stayed at Kauai Shores Hotel located on the East Shore of the island. The hotel was at full capacity the week we were there but it was so quiet you would not have believed it. The private beach is a short walk away and in the rare event you get tired of laying on the beach, you can lay out by one of their two pools. Our room was clean and the staff was extremely friendly. It was literally the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. Note: their WiFi is a bit spotty but you’ll be too busy sipping mai tai’s on the beach to notice. Because of its central location on the East side of the island, we were able to visit the many restaurants the East Shore has to offer and have listed a few of our favorite spots below.
Trees Lounge – Never would I have guessed that Kauai is where I would find some delicious Cajun food! The Trees Lounge is a lively place to enjoy some serious creole classics, $6 martini’s and live music from the one and only Tom Selleck. Or at least a talented native musician named Tom Selleck. Be sure to finish your meal with their macadamia nut brownie!
Wailua Shave Ice – Wailua Shave Ice is the spot to get some of the best, most flavorful (aka non-syrupy) shaved ice on the island. Their truck can be found on the East Shore serving up large portions of their tasty desserts. I will never be able to look at ice again after tasting mouth watering deliciousness of their Da Almond Joy. It is the perfect way to cool down and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Kauai Bakery – On Tejinder’s island to-do list was to eat a malassada. We searched everyday we were on the island and finally found them at Kauai Bakery. Malassada’s are basically the Portuguese equivalent to a donut but without the hole. But if the cream and chocolate filling won’t help you forget the missing hole, the sugar coating sure will! Paired with a cup of coffee or tea and you’ve got yourself a sweet and scrumptious snack.
Mark’s Place – Also on Tejinder’s list was a lunch plate at Mark’s. Located in Lihue, Mark’s Place whips up classic Hawaiian plate lunches, bentos, and salads. I will caution that their do not have many vegetarian options but if you are like me, and are okay with eating fish, get the sushi salad. It basically is carb lovers dream! The salad consisted of sushi rice, flakes of nori, wantons stuffed with crab, and kimichi bean sprouts. I was a little bummed at first that they did not have any veggie options but after trying their sushi salad, I wasn’t even mad.
Be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of our Kauai trip where I will take you along with me as we discover the South and West Shores!