Author’s Note: A version of this post originally appeared on The Let’s Go Ladies! on January 14th, 2015. 

Last month Kyle and I got to spend a beautiful and perfectly relaxing week in Kaua’i, Hawai’i. It was the sort of place I never really thought I’d ever get the chance to visit, and I didn’t really believe it was happening until we were actually there.

Kaua’i (pronounced kah-wa-ee, not koo-why as I had originally thought. Those apostrophes make a significant difference!) is the oldest island in the Hawai’ian archipelago. It’s affectionately referred to as “The Garden Island” and it’s not difficult to see why; the place is a small, lush, green paradise plopped right in the sunny middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I don’t have any experiences with other Hawai’ian islands to be able to compare Kaua’i with, but according to Kyle and his family, the island is much greener, less commercialized, and a lot quieter than, say, Maui (expect for the chickens and rooster that you’ll find anywhere and everywhere!) which makes it right up my alley. The locals were as friendly and laid back as I had always heard they were and it took me no time at all to fall into step with their “no worries” attitude toward life.

We stayed at a place called Nihi Kai Villas (a comfortable and reasonable alternative to staying in a resort hotel) in the village of Po’ipū on the island’s South shore where we were never more than a four minute walk from the beach. Every morning Kyle and I would walk down the road and watch the sea turtles riding the surf in the lava rock shore before stopping at Brennecke’s Beach Broiler or Kao Kea’s Red Salt restaurant for breakfast. The rest of our days were generally spent with a drink or two in tow at Po’ipū Beach. When I wasn’t napping in the sun I was swimming in the ocean (which was actually a brand new experience for me! Seriously, I had never been swimming in the ocean before this trip) and/or “snorkeling” (quotation marks because I only ever used my goggles) around looking at the many schools of tropical fish around my ankles (it never got old).

But lest you think I spent the entirety of my vacation as a beach bum (although what would be wrong with that?) we did manage to get out at explore the island. Here are some of my recommendations:

Fave places to eat (aside from the above):

  • Da Crack (Po’ipū) – The very definition of a “hole in the wall”, you order your food at a pick-up window and take it to go. The food reminded me of Chipotle only much, much, better!
  • Makai Sushi (Po’ipū) – You’ve got to go into the Kukui’la Food Market next to Da Crack to find this sushi counter. Prepare to pay a little more than you normally might but expect to be blown away by what you get!
  • Bubba Burgers (Po’ipū, Hanalaei and Kapa’a) – Quirky and fun, this is a classic burger joint. I had never considered putting teriyaki on a burger and now it’s all I want! Their tag-line, “We cheat tourists, drunks, and attorneys!” instantly landed them a special place in my heart.
sushi, Hawaii, Hawai'i, Kauai, Kaua'i, Poi'pū, Poipu, food, delicious
Ahi, ono, salmon – Chef Matt’s Gorilla Poki is to die for!

Road trip worthy:

  • Hanalei – This little surf town is right along the North shore of the island. We drove up on our first full day in Kaua’i and spent the whole afternoon at beach at Hanalei Bay. If you visit, make sure you stop by the caves that are close by!
  • Kilauae Point National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse – We only stopped by along our way to Hanalei but you can actually get in and visit this classic lighthouse for a small fee. The view is great from wherever you happen to be though!
  • Waimea Canyon – We saw this natural wonder from the air but you can also get to the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by car and hike along a number of trails for an up-close and personal experience.
Hanalei Bay Beach Park, North shore, Kauai, Kaua'i, Hawaii, Hawai'i, ocean, mountains, waves, pier, beautiful
The famous pier at Hanalei Bay Beach Park.

Worth every penny:

  • Kōloa Rum Company – This distillery and their award winning rum have roots in Kaua’i’s sugar cane history. You can tour around the beautiful plantation and stop in for a tasting (don’t forget to tip your bartender!) The tastings are free but you’re going to want to hit the gift shop before you leave so don’t forget your wallet!
  • Safari Helicopter Tours – They say that about 80% (!!!) of Kaua’i is inaccessible by car. It may be one of the more expensive things you do while you’re there but the best way to see the island – including the famous and gorgeous Nā Pali Coast – is by helicopter. There are lots of companies that will take you, but after a bit of research we settled on Safari and we’re so glad we did. Safari is operated by great people who care about safety and offer respectable prices for their tours. One of the coolest things we’ve ever done! (Seeing the waterfall from Jurassic Park completed me as a human being.)
beach, cliffs, Hawaii, Hawai'i, Kauai, Kaua'i, helicopter, ocean
The incredible Nā Pali Coast as seen from the air.

Even though I selfishly want to keep it an unspoiled little secret, I really can’t recommend Kaua’i enough. If you’ve ever been, be sure to tell me what you thought and what you did in the comments!