WHAT AK PRODUCTS TO TAKE TO KAUAI?
I feel like I a broken record but of course it's the French Market Tote. I love this bag and carry it everywhere, dinner (fits the iPads) lunch, farmers markets and shopping to tote all goodies home.
St. Tropez Sandals - Kauai is super casual so these were my go-to dress up shoes for night and day! They are sooooo comfortable and they are the ONLY shoes I brought beside running shoes. And a new addition to my beach list includes a neon lizard Circle Key Ring which is ideal for rental house keys, car keys and more as it fits around the wrist, is easy to find and is perfect for beach and summer destinations.
WHAT TO DO?
I am TERRIFIED of heights but really the only way to see this beautiful island in all of its glory is by air. After Chris, our pilot with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters (who was a Black Hawk pilot!), got us up and away I immediately embraced the beauty and ignored the naseua! We saw the beautiful waterfalls where "Jurrasic Park" was filmed, the Na Pali coastline and the stunning Olokele Canyon and then dipping into Waimea Canyon dubbed the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Truly amazing to charter a private helicopter for your family or do a group - either way just get over your fear and do it! Our grand finale was seeing a Humpback Whale mother swimming with her child and the fin came up and waved and I swear we did not pay extra for that!
Know I have two young boys so this was a must for them. Driving through the mud at top speed and getting covered in it was the most exciting part of all. For adults the scenery is exquisite. You ride along one of the largest private ranches on the island and see movie locations, wildlife, swimming in waterfalls and my husband even took a swing on the ropeswing from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." It was a little bit of a Universal movie tour, but in true nature and on location. Well worth the excitement but don't wear anything you don't want to part with! Kipu Ranch Adventures took very good care of us and offer amazing trips.
We stayed on Hanalei Bay and it was a true gift to be able to walk out the front door onto the beach and surf. This was why we came and all that my boys wanted to do - rain or shine. Depending on your level here is a great resource to navigate the beaches and find which one is the best for your level. There is a bit of North Shore mentality here - you don't want to get in the way of the locals and certainly don't want to bite off more than you can chew because the ocean will eat you up and spit you out! Tunnels beach is a great stop to check out and watch the big wave surfers as that is where Bethany Hamilton was attacked by a shark and my boys live for anything Soul Surfer.
We did not bring our boards with us but found the Hanalei Surf Shop to be super helpful in rentals and in taking care of all our needs.
There are amazing hikes in Kauai which is famous for its Na Pali Coast which is arguably one of the most beautiful in the world. The Kalalau Trail hike is eleven miles of extreme inclines and declines - not for the faint of heart. But, if you are an experienced hiker this trail will grant you some of the most picturesque and remote settings imaginable. Other strenuous, but shorter trails with out of this world views include the Awa'awpuhi Trail or the hike to Hanakapi'ai Falls. Want a hike with the children? Then be sure to check out the Maha'ulepu Trail that is a perfect two miles leading to an open beach - the whole family will enjoy it.
There are amazing fresh fruits and vegetables on the island and of course fish! We cooked at our house almost every night so hitting these stands, known to the locals as "Sunshine Markets," is a must and makes cooking at home more fun with freshness and quality that cannot be beaten.
There are beautiful rivers such as Hanalei River and Wailua River that wind through Kauai where you can leisurely go - many offer tours where you can go to reefs and snorkel but also maybe rent some gear on your own and have a leisurely adventure. The waterspouts and pristine views seem to have endless options on Kauai so that whatever you, your friends or your family are looking for you'll find! Snorkeling at Tunnels (surf permitting) is a great experience for all ages and was even featured in the movie "South Pacific." It is so perfect for everyone as the inner reefs are less shallow and ideal for children or beginners, but those seeking more of a dive or thrill have the option of going further out to the deeper reefs.
Princeville Ranch is a great place to go for all sorts of organized adventures and fun, including most if not more offerings than those mentioned above - they've got it all - including some wondrous horseback riding trails with amazing destinations. Their zip lining also has a couple of fun and different options - but keep in mind that it is for only those 10 and up which could pose a challenge if you have younger children, that being said, if you are in the age range we would give this a big thumbs up and a must to add to your Kauai vacation.
A gorgeous to do if you enjoy being on the water as much as we do. Captain Andrew Evans and his team at Capt. Andy's have been conducting fabulous trips for decades and are sure to take good care of you. From a sunset dinner sail to a private charter, they've got options for every price point and desire with some of the most gorgeous coastline one can see.
WHERE TO EAT?
We did not eat out much during our stay in Kauai, but when we did this was hands down our best meal. Breakfast and lunch only this farm-to-table experience is divine. Take a stroll through the farmland after lunch and just maybe you will see the local celebs Laird Hamilton and his wifeGabrielle Reece like we did!
A friend suggested Tidepools at the Grand Hyatt and it was a surf and turf experience where you eat in a beautiful hut surrounded by koi fish swimming around you. It was yummy food but we were eager to escape the big resort and go back to our sleepy surf cottage ASAP!
Mailani Dinner Show
This show is said to be must, but unfortunately due to seasonal restrictions it is only available during the summer, but if that is when you find yourself in Kauai be sure to make a reservation with the St. Regis and enjoy the show's natural grandeur.
They are all just so yummy and there was not a shaved ice stand that we did not hit! The history behind their use of the "Hawaiin lunch wagon" (or food truck) is interesting as it dates back to the sugar plantation era when kitchens would come to the workers. Now, the kitchens still come to you and with some of the most interesting and best casual food around so be sure to track one down during your stay.
Merriman's Fish House consistently gets rave reviews with both causal and more elegant dining on a plantation style venue that will provide you with ocean and mountain views while you enjoy classic Hawaiian cuisine made out of the finest local ingredients from both local farmers and local fishermen. When you dine at Merriman's you are sure to feel like family as their fabulous atmosphere will draw you right in.
MOVIES FILMED IN KAUAI?
Jurassic Park (all 3!)Hook
...and tons more!
WHERE TO STAY?
This resort stands as the brand's first hotel in Hawaii and it does not disappoint. From the incredible pool and beach to their unparalleled service, this is your best bet for local luxury.
If you keep track of our travel Style Files, you know by now that we are huge fans of renting houses where we vacation. One of the best rental companies is Bali Hai Realty, and they have a personal concierge that helps you and they are beyond helpful and friendly to boot. With a wide ranging price range and tons of housing options, they're sure to be able to help you find the right house for your Kauai vacation. But, if you want to have even more luxury options, you can also check outPure Kauai too for your your house rental needs who also go above and beyond in service.
WHY DO WE LOVE KAUAI SO MUCH?
My boys are big surfers so we follow the surf. In searching for the best beaches in the winter for surf I stumbled across an article in a magazine that was the most beautiful image and I knew we had to go there. Honestly I had never had the urge to go to Hawaii...I thought it was for honeymooners and retired hippies, but I now realize that yes there are they there but it is also a fabulous place for families and those wanting to unplug.
I love the sleepy little town of Hanalei Bay and the small family run operations - no fast food chains in this town. There is such a sense of peace and calm within this place and the lush green mountains and waterfalls are so picturesque that no wonder many Hollywood movies are made here. We had a wonderful time and rested, recharged and reconnected with our family in one of the most beautiful places on earth.