Since I had so much great feedback on my Southwest blog post, I decided to put together a detailed list from Kauai. These photos are a collection from the times I've been on the island in the last three years. It's my favorite Hawaii island!
I feel extremely grateful that I got to see and do so much on this island. The first time I went, Patrick Kelley and Matt Feeser put in endless effort in showing me around. They introduced me to their friends and it was so much fun! Without these two amazing humans, I wouldn't have been able to do half of this stuff. At the time, I don't think I fully realized the opportunity or how much it was impacting me. Looking back, I appreciate how much they went out of their way for me.
For those of you interested in an unique and educational workshop on photography, I highly recommend Patrick's Kauai Adventure Photography Workshops. He's an amazing landscape photographer and takes his tour groups to places on the island to get incredible scenic shots. It's a hands on learning experience! I can't say enough about him and his team that leads these tours. If you are on Kauai and are an avid photographer, definitely check into it!
Top things you need if you are going to hike.
1. Waterproof hiking shoes that let your feet breath. Because it rains so much, it's guaranteed that water will be on your trail. There are streams to cross to get to a lot of the waterfalls, so your footwear is very important. Nothing is worse than wearing wet, disgusting socks in soaked hiking shoes.
2. Always have your swimsuit on hand. Most hikes have a waterfall destination, so you want to be prepared to jump in if you feel like it.
3. Invest in a good backpack and carry water, sunscreen, snacks, all the essentials all the time.
4. Leave everything fashion related at home. Kauai is wet, muddy, humid and frankly nobody is paying attention to you. This is not Waikiki! I made that mistake my first time there. I even brought heels! You will never wear any of it and there isn't any nightlife.
5. Buy a waterproof case for your iphone and camera. Life is easier when you aren't worried about getting your phone wet. For your DSLR and iPhone, I recommend the DiCAPac brand.
1. Hike Kalalau Valley Look out Trail
I'm going to start this list with something that isn't in the guide books. This is one of the most worthwhile hikes I've ever done. One of the reasons I love it, is because there are so many discoveries along the way. The way you access this trail is to the left of the regular lookout beyond the chain linked fence. The fog is always rolling in and out, so you have to be a little patient with this hike if you want to see the view at the end. This hike is not difficult and I'm guessing less than 2 miles round trip. Bring water and never go while it's raining or after a heavy rainfall. These are 4,000 ft. cliffs, and in some parts there are massive drop offs on both sides.
2. Red Sand Waterfall
On the road up the canyon to the Kalalou lookout, there is this amazing red sands waterfall. Definitely check it out and walk around. I felt like I was on Mars.
3. Hike to The Upper Waipo’o Falls in Waimea Canyon
This is a great hike to see the canyon valley. It's a much different view than the Kalalou lookout. This is a lot longer hike and fairly strenuous. This is a regular hike that is well paved and listed in the guide books.
4. Stay in a Yurt
I'm all about staying at funky places. This was one of the few airbnb places on the west side. There were two yurts on the property. I recommend this for the adventurous! The amenities were very barebones. There was one outhouse and outdoor shower along with an outdoor basic kitchen. Everything was clean and I definitely recommend this to anyone who can handle it!.
5. Beach Camping at Polihale State Park
Polihale beach is so vast that it makes you feel like you have the whole beach to yourself! It's a little bit of a trek out there, so make sure to pack all the supplies you need. You can get out there with a car, but I recommend an all wheel drive vehicle.
6. Beach day at Poipu beach Park
For those of you that want your Hawaii experience to be all sunshine, Poipu has really great weather. In my opinion, this is where you want to go snorkeling. I've tried snorkeling in other parts of the island, but nothing compares to Poipu and the convenience. You can rent the gear at the Sheraton and buy the food at the local shop. You can also rent the paddle boards on the beach. It's always sunny and hassle free. Make sure to eat lunch at the Puka Dog (best hot dogs ever), or grab a burger on the patio by the Sheraton.
7. Helicopter Ride
If your budget allows, I recommend doing a helicopter ride. Any chance you get to see the Na Pali coast, take it. There were so many waterfalls and views to see including the famous opening shot from the movie Jurassic Park!
8. Eat at the Mermaid Cafe
While in Kapaa, check out the Mermaid cafe. It is a favorite of mine. And for coffee shops, make sure to hit up Small Town Coffee.
9. Jump in a waterfall and swing on vines at Hoopi Falls
This is one of my favorite places on the island because jumping into waterfalls is what it's all about! This place is such a gem. If you take the trail and hike further down, there are some vines that you can swing on. This is definitely not officially advised in any of the guidebooks, and I strongly don't advise it to anyone who is not physically fit. However, if you can hold your own body weight with your arms, it is incredibly fun and a super memorable experience.
10. Splash through puddles on Loop Road
Steven Spielberg used this road to film the Jurassic Park sign. Since then the road has eroded and makes for great pot holes to go off-roading on. You can't do this road in a car. You need a high clearance vehicle to do this activity. Since it rains a lot on this island, this is the perfect activity to take advantage. I could go off-roading and splash in the puddles all day every day. If you make it to the top, then make sure to bring some boogie boards and swim through the old irrigation tunnels to the waterfalls on the other side. It's super rad!
11. Stop at a Coconut Stand
Whenever you see a coconut stand on the side of the highway, pull over and get one! Make sure to pay the extra $1 to have them carve out the coconut meat when you are done drinking the water.
12. Take an outdoor shower
I've stayed in some pretty funky airbnb's over the years. This was one of the more regular ones, but I really loved it. One of the reasons I decided to stay here was because of the outdoor shower amenity. This place is clean, organized and located in the Wailua homesteads. I love when I see attention to detail, and the owners really went out of their way to be very thoughtful about each unit. This area is a bit more upscale and I did not hear a single chicken during my entire stay! Click here for the link.
13. Sail along the Na Pali Coast
I had the opportunity to hop on a sailboat and see the mighty Na Pali coast by private tour. It was one of the best times. Whether you decide to see the coast by kayak or booking a boat tour, I highly recommend it. We stopped at Kalalau beach, which you can only get to by kayak or hiking. It's also where they filmed a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. We went into caves and climbed around at the beach.
14. Hanakapiai Falls Hike
This trail starts at the end of the road on the north shore. It's also the same trail you take to do the Kalalau trail hike, which is the big 11 mile hike. If you are only prepared for a day hike, the Hanakapiai falls trail is perfect. You will see beautiful vistas along the way, a beach full of stacked rocks, a bamboo forrest, and at the end, a gorgeous waterfall that you can jump into. I would recommend starting early because you will want to spend all day doing this hike.
If you like kayaking, take the opportunity to either do a tour along the Wailua river to Secret Falls. Or, if you are up for something more physical, book a tour to kayak along the Na Pali coast.
16. Horseback Riding at Silver Falls Ranch
I will admit, I am not a horse person. The opportunity came up for me to ride a horse at this ranch. There were beautiful vistas, and I'm glad I had the chance to do this!
17. Explore all the beaches along the north shore
Driving along the north shore and stopping to explore all the beaches was a favorite past time while I was there. Some of my favorites and seen below are Ke'e beach, Anini, Secrets beach and Tunnels beach. Eating lunch and grabbing a shave ice in Hanalei is a must! Don't forget to stop at the Wainiha General Store as it's your last chance to grab food and snacks before heading to Ke'e beach. Remember that you won't be able to get any reception or service the further north you go, so bring quarters just in case you need to make an emergency call at the vintage phone booth!