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Travel Guide: Kauai

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I have been so excited about this post because this was one of the best trips I could have imagined! Kauai completely lived up to and surpassed the hype and I cannot wait to go back one day. We didn't have any activities planned out beforehand, just a list with recommendations of places to see and things to do from books and friends. We had such a good time that I decided to compiles my own list of must-do's and sees! Note: there are a lot of amazing ways to do Kauai, this was just our experience and hopefully it can help anyone who is looking to visit!

1. Where to Stay

The Island is broken up in to 4 shores. North, South, East and West. After a lot of research, we decided the South shore would be the best for us. It is the sunniest, has a few, smaller, boutique hotel options and some amazing beaches. We landed on the Koa Kea Hotel & Resort because it was rated highly on trip advisor for honeymooners, and thats what we were! I cannot say enough about this resort. We originally booked a garden view room, but hearing we were honeymooners they upgraded us to a partial ocean view room. I highly recommend booking that! We enjoyed room service breakfast on our lanai a couple of mornings and it was amazing. The pool was the perfect size and had the most comfortable chairs ever, like I took 100 naps in them. There are also chairs down in front of the ocean in the grass that are ideal for sunbathing and listening to the ocean!

The Koa Kea is located steps away from Poipu beach and also a smaller, more private beach as well. You can rent snorkel gear and beach chairs from the resort, which is definitely worth it!  There is an awesome reef on Poipu with plenty of fish to see so we ultimately decided to do that instead of a guided snorkel tour and I am so glad we did. The rental shop guy has all of the information you will need to have a successful snorkel (we are total newbs). We spent one morning snorkeling and a couple of afternoons under an umbrella on the beach and I dream of those days still. Note: If you love to snorkel and do not get sea sick, I hear great things about the Napali coast snorkel tours! The sea is much calmer on the coast in the summer months than fall/winter. I tend to get sea sick easily which is why we opted out.

The food and drinks at the Koa Kea are top notch. All food is expensive in Hawaii, so plan for that, but nothing beats a Wagyu Beef burger with fries or Poke by the pool while sipping on a fresh Mango Margarita. 

2. Helicopter Tour

This was the one thing everyone told us we MUST do! We ended up booking with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours and they were able to get us in that afternoon. Their helicopter is designed for these tours so it has AC and a bunch of windows for ideal viewing. I made a request for the front seats to get the best views, which they can't guarantee, but we ended up getting! I was so excited. I am sure there are other great tour companies out there, but this one exceeded all expectations for us. Every minute was planned out, no joke I cried at least once because the music set the mood so well. Plus, I'm a sucker for Somewhere Over the Rainbow :) The tour lasts an hour and takes you over the whole Island. Kauai is 90% uninhabited so this really is the best way to see everything in the shortest amount of time. Plus, theres just something about being in a helicopter above some of the most beautiful landscape in the world. I recommend booking for early in your trip in case they need to reschedule because of weather.

Below are some pictures from the tour! Including the waterfall from Jurassic Park and the Napali Coast and from inside a crater. 10/10 highly recommended splurging a little for this! Pro Tip: wear all black if possible so you can minimize the glare.

3. Waimea Canyon

Do. It. I've never been to the grand canyon but they call Waimea the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and it is jaw dropping. It takes a little while to drive up so I would block off half the day for it but its worth it. There are many scenic lookouts on the way to stop at but you'll see the main one just past mile marker 10. You can walk up a bit and you'll feel like you are on the top of the world. I would bring a light jacket, it got chilly :) There are also some hikes you can do if you enjoy hiking, we did a small one. I probably wouldn't do it again but I hear the longer one to the waterfall is way more worth it! Make sure you don't wear white shoes, the dirt in Kauai is all red and doesn't come out. A local gave us that tip on the plane over and we were so grateful!

4. Drive Around

One of the best things we did was buy Fodor's Kauai Guide book. I don't typically buy book guides because you can usually find all the info online, but because Kauai is so easy to drive having the map with different suggestions on it was perfect! We spent our last day there just driving and going to different spots with the top off in our jeep. We saw multiple waterfalls, a lighthouse, stumbled upon an amazing food & coffee truck and just enjoyed each others company! We had already gone West when we did Waimea Canyon so we decided to go East on our last day before heading to Lihue for our evening flight out. We made our way around, stopping often and headed all the way up to the North shore to check out the Princeville. Below I listed out noteworthy stops we found along the way.

Noteworthy Stops:

Wailua Falls - An amazing waterfall you can drive up to! One of the only ones that you don't have to hike to, so definitely worth seeing.
Kilauea Lighthouse - we went on Sunday and it was closed, but it was still a beautiful view! If you can go another day, I recommend that.
Princeville Resort - Go for sunset and have a drink or meal at the restaurant overlooking the ocean! We didn't go at sunset and it was still worth going for the view. It is a totally different landscape and breathtaking. 

Restaurants: 

Red Salt - Located at the Koa Kea and on the pricier side but so worth it! Get the Tahitian Vanilla Cheesecake if they still have it. They brought us one as a honeymoon gift and we ordered it room service 2 more nights! 

Puka Dogs - Across from the Koa Kea on the south shore. If you're looking for a quick and less expensive lunch or dinner option this is a must go! Also, get the lemonade. It's fresh made to order. Craving it as I type this!

Living Foods Market - We went here for breakfast twice on the suggestion of a friend, and it was that good! The french toast with fresh pineapple was the bomb. Oh and the bacon... This is also a great place for grabbing snacks to take to the beach or have a picnic at a scenic lookout.

Loco Coco Shave Ice - They make all of their syrups in house with fresh fruit and then top it with fresh fruit and honey. You can also get ice cream on the bottom or eat it in a coconut. Its a more fresh and natural version of shave ice!

JoJo's Shave Ice - This is the most popular shave ice spot in Kauai and is located on the west side. Its also amazing but totally different that Loco Coco! It's the perfect stop on your way back from Waimea Canyon.

Sunrise Coffee - we stumbled upon this food truck when we were driving around and my husband wanted some coffee. It ended up having the best Acai bowl I have ever had. Apparently the coffee was good too!

The last thing I would recommend is to catch the sunset as many nights as possible. Our favorite one was on our last night on Poipu Beach. I put some pictures of it below! Overall, you can't go too wrong when you're in kauai ;) Hopefully these suggestions are helpful if you are looking to go! We definitely plan on going back one day. 

Kalie Cirinna