Where to Go: Kauai Edition

Honeymoon, Day One

When Blake and I started to plan a honeymoon, the deliberation period of ‘where should we go?’ lasted all of about ten minutes. The criteria? We wanted a place that was tropical, still in the United States, had ample cell service and obviously, the same money currency to make things all around simpler. For such a big decision, this proved to be an easy one: Hawaii. We arrived on the idea to go to the Island of Kauai specifically after asking several people who had vacationed in Hawaii and many said the ‘Garden Island’ was one of the most beautiful, most relaxing, and had a ton to offer outdoor adventurers. This fit what we were going after. I know if you work in NASCAR like Blake and I, you have VERY limited weekends to choose from for a vacation, but if you are planning a trip in the future, allow me to persuade you to visit Kauai. Below you will find a list of things to see and do. Several people reached out to me before my visit and offered recommendations of things to do, so part of this list has been a result of their help.  Let the photos speak for themselves.

Room with a view

Where to Stay:

We went with the Kaua’i Marriott Resort for six days. This is a four star resort that had an incredibly friendly staff, beautiful accommodations, with the highlight for us being the huge family friendly pool and various hot tubs. We want to go back to this spot and bring Kadence along. (No she wasn’t with us, this was our honeymoon after all) This resort also touted an impressive golf course and a spa that includes couples massages on the beach in covered cabanas. There are multiple restaurants on the property featuring traditional Hawaiian fare that we frequented for both libations and food. Not to be forgotten: beach access as well for swimming and tanning. So in conclusion, this place pretty much kicks ass.

The pool at the Marriott Resort, Kauai

Where to Eat:

 One thing we learned quickly: no matter where you go to eat, you can’t seem to go wrong, especially when it comes to sushi. Here were some of our favorites:

Java Kai #coffeebythesea

Java Kai: Visit this joint for excellent breakfast and lunch options, organic juices, smoothies, and coffee with a laid back vibe. They sell a lot of unique merchandise and coffee beans as well. When we arrived, the place was packed, but there’s a back entrance (walk around the right side of the building) that has a lot less populated counter and you can go right out the door down the street to a path that leads you to the beach. Not bad for an AM coffee spot.

The ‘La Pina’ at Duke’s

Duke’s (at Marriott resort): Duke’s cocktails were some of my favorite on the island. The downstairs part is considered the ‘barefoot bar,” and has a very casual atmosphere. Make sure you order a La Pina cocktail (see, above). It’s served in a whole pineapple as a blend of pineapple, coconut cream, and hana bay gold rum. Your view looks straight out on the beach and ocean off the resort, a perfect view of the cruise ships coming and going.

Stevenson’s (at Grand Hyatt Kauai resort): At this sushi spot you have a view of the ocean off the back porch and it was the perfect locale for our first date of the Honeymoon. It features a 27-foot koa wood bar and provides an intimate setting by the ocean. The Steven’s roll (a signature sushi roll with crab, cucumber, seared ahi, and avocado) was off the chain.

Kauai is known for their Mai Tai libations. Order one or ten.

Tidepools (also at Grand Hyatt Kauai resort) This spot had an unbelievable atmosphere. The tables are situated under thatched-roof bungalows above a koi-filled lagoon at the base of a waterfall. As you can imagine, the seafood menu options are what we gravitated towards, and you will not be disappointed with the unique flavors their chefs incorporate. For couples, it has been voted one of the most romantic restaurants in the United States by OpenTable users.

Beach House: This one is located in Poipu, and had the most incredible sunset we saw all week long (see, below). We went in December and it seems the sunset times vary from day to day, but we arrived around 5:45 pm. All their seafood is sourced directly from local island fishermen, and I would recommend ordering one of their signature dinner menu items: The Macadamia Nut Butter Sauteed Fresh Hawaiian Catch.

Sunset at The Beach House restaurant

What to See & Do: 

Pearl Harbor: This was high on the list of things we wanted to experience, even though it required a separate plane trip to Honolulu. We purchased a ticket package that included a flight to and from Lihue, transportation to and from the Honolulu airport, and tickets for entry to the USS Arizona Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, the USS Missouri Battleship, and the USS Bowfin Submarine. We spent a whole day on this, but if you don’t want to sacrifice an entire day — at least visit the USS Arizona Memorial. That was an experience not to be forgotten, and is a beautiful and moving tribute to the brave men and women who were lost that day.

USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor

Helicopter Tour: We used Sunshine Helicopters for our tour, as they were located right by our resort. The ticket packages can be a bit pricey, but the views and experience are well worth it. We purchased the two front seats on the helicopter which I also think makes a big difference. Your video and photo capabilities are not obstructed by other people’s heads, and you have a clear view of everything on the island. Kauai is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and over 11,000 acres of the island is privately owned, only accessible by fly-over to see the falls, wildlife, and landscape. This is a must-do, IMO.

A view from the helicopter tour. Parts of Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean were all filmed on this island

Kalulua Trail Hiking: This scenic trail runs from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach along the Na Pali Coast. It’s 11 miles in entirety, but we only did 8 miles total. Let me preface this by saying, I’ve hiked dozens and dozens of times, but this proved to be one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever done. It wasn’t until after we completed our hike that I learned it’s one of the most dangerous hikes in the world (!!). Not just in the United States, the world. I would recommend for non-regular hikers to only do the four mile round trip to Hanakapi’ai Beach. We made the additional four mile trip inland to see the Hanakapiai Falls. For 7.5 miles of our hike it was pouring rain, and numerous water crossings proved treacherous with waist-deep water as the area started to flood from so much rainfall. Rocky cliff embankments, steep uphill climbs, and sparse ribbon-marked directions characterized the second portion of our hike. Believe me when I say….do the Hanakapiai Falls leg only if you are a well-versed hiker or athlete. Shit got real around Mile Five. We only saw a handful of people making the trip to the falls, the weather didn’t help — but a one-on-one visit with the falls made it well worth it.

So close, yet so far…

Hanakapiai Falls

Kauai Culinary Market: This market takes place every Wednesday from 3:30-6pm at The Shops at Kukuiula near Poipu Beach. The market showcases various  fresh, locally grown produce and food items along with live music. The market also includes a wine and beer garden.

Surfboards for days.

If this hasn’t convinced you to visit Kauai, I don’t know what will — happy travels to wherever your next destination may be…

1 Comment

  • Michael Mast

    Outstanding pics and enjoyed reading your blog, well done! Never considered going here before however, you changed that thought process.