Alohaaaaaaaaaa! Kauai was ah-mazing! I mean straight out of a movie, stunning. This was my first ever trip to Hawaii and I think I’m in love. The island was magical and everything I could have hoped for to celebrate my 30th Birthday and ring in 2017 with my family! I’ll just go ahead and say right now before we even left the island we were already looking at houses to rent to go back in May!
Kauai is called the Garden Isle and it really lives up to its name! From the moment the plane touched down and I saw my first glimpse of the island I knew it was going to be paradise. Everywhere you looked there was a stunning lush green view.
We flew direct from LAX to Kauai, a quick 6-hour flight (shorter on the way back!) got our bags pretty quickly and headed to pick up our rental cars then made the 25-minute drive to our hotel. We stayed at the beautiful Grand Hyatt on the South part (the sunny side) of the island! Overall the hotel was pretty good, we had access to an amazing breakfast buffet (seriously SO good), many different pools, water slides, and ocean access as well! The downside was my sister and I got the room that was filled with bugs in the bathroom (we had to complain several times and then finally moved rooms the day before we left!) BUT besides the room situation, I would recommend the Grand Hyatt for families (especially ones with small kids!). We decided as a family of all adults it would be better for us to just rent a house near the ocean with a pool for the next time we go!
Our first day there we just got situated and unpacked and checked out our hotel, then strolled our way to dinner basically on Poipu Beach at Brenneckes. Thankfully we had a reservation, the place was packed (clearly a local favorite)! I would recommend reservations for dinners if you can on the island! Mai Tai’s in hand we ordered fresh fish sandwiches, burgers, garlic fries, clam pasta, and the fresh fish of the day and everyone left full and happy. It wasn’t the best food we had on the island but it was fast, fresh and walkable to our hotel!
The next morning I woke up and was officially 30! To ring in my 30th year, I wanted to have a super active day so we had an early wake-up call for a day full of hiking at Waimea Canyon! Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and boy did it live up to it’s name! We used Kauai Hiking Tours and had an AMAZING tour guide! I would highly, highly recommend using this service*, especially if you are new to hiking or have a large party like we did! My mom had never hiked before this trip and having the guide with us was extremely helpful, we definitely wouldn’t have made it as easily without him! (*NOT SPONSORED)
We set out with very clean hiking poles, hiking boots, raincoats, hats, and camelbacks filled with water and healthy snacks and came back covered in mud! Our guide picked us up at our hotel and we made the 45-minute drive up to our trailhead. Along the way, we stopped at a few scenic outlooks and got a taste of what we were going to see on the trail! Lush green views, waterfalls everywhere, red clay mud, and the most picture-perfect spots for family photos!
Finally, we got to our starting point at Kokeʻe State Park! Our guide gave us ice chains to put on the bottom of our hiking shoes (sounded too extreme but I don’t think we would have made it through without them! Almost every single one of my family members [including me] fell or slid down part of the mountain and got covered in mud at some point throughout the day!) and had extra walking polls too, which came in handy (aka my brother forgot to pack his)!
I still to this day I have no clue what the name of the trailhead is called, our guide wanted to keep it a secret so that it doesn’t get overwhelmed by tourists! But it was the most beautiful yet challenging hike I’ve ever taken. We had a pretty big group and 5 out of 6 of us had never hiked in mud so that in itself was a challenge and if you’ve never hiked in the mud I suggest trying it at least once! We did it twice on our trip (more on that below!).
We hiked through the mud and the brush to a stunning lookout on a pretty small cliff to see the Na Pali Coast and enjoyed lunch and some snacks while taking in the view from the top of the mountains and the ocean! Then we made our way back which was surprisingly harder than it was getting to the outlook! Most of the way back was uphill!
But after about 3 hours total we all successfully finished, a lot dirtier than when we started, and it was one of the most satisfying feelings ever! I was so proud of my family (especially my mom) for being such troopers and indulging in my birthday hike!
After making it through the first hike we decided to hit one more close to our hotel! The second one was a coastal hike to the sea cliffs! It was much easier of a trail and was less muddy and hardly any incline or decline, so it was the perfect trail to hit after a more challenging one!
Everyone agreed this was their favorite activity we did by far the entire week we were on the island! So if you’re into hiking or even if you’ve never hiked before I HIGHLY suggest grabbing a tour guide, gearing up at REI, and hitting the trails in Kauai!
Day two’s adventure led us through the beautiful Wailua River, the largest tropical river in Kauai, and onto Wailua Falls, a 100-foot waterfall! This adventure came in a close second for me and my family, it was another full day of challenging fun! The adventure started with a 5-minute bus ride to the drop-in zone, where we climbed aboard our tandem kayaks for a 2-mile row down the river! Another adventure filled with gorgeous views in every single direction. The sun was shining down on us as we struggled to keep our kayaks straight to get to our hiking destination.
Once we finally made it, we parked the kayaks and crossed the river, climbed up a tree, and were on the trail to head to the waterfall! The hike was basically like hiking straight through mud, slippery at points but on the plus side, it was at least all flat terrain!
The hike was about 1.5 miles through the mud, several river crossing, fallen trees, and stepping on lava rocks but after about 40 minutes we made it! Wailua Falls! I’ve admittedly never seen a huge waterfall up close, so I really have nothing to compare it to but it was so breathtaking! I mean literally, the water was so cold it took my breath away! It was an awesome experience and I found out that I will walk through tons and tons of mud to make it a giant waterfall!
I personally could have done without the kayaking part, the hike itself was the most fun but seeing the waterfall at the end made the 4-mile kayak 100 percent worth it! I would recommend this for families of all ages, along the trail, I saw small kids and older folks as well making their way through the mud!
On day three of our Kauai adventure, we finally had a day to relax by the pool and the ocean! The Grand Hyatt has about 3 pools, a lazy river, a lagoon, water slides, jacuzzis, and access to the ocean, so we were set for the day! We spent the day tanning, relaxing, sipping on drinks, having delicious snacks by the pool, and hanging out down the water slide!
Day four brought another pretty awesome adventure, tubing through an old sugar plantation! We used Kauai Back Country Tubing Tours and they were great! Most of my family members were the most excited about this adventure because we had seen so many awesome reviews about it and it lived up to our expectations!
The water is fresh and therefore super chilly but once you get past that it’s basically a super awesome lazy river adventure! The guides were a big part as to why I liked this trip, they were funny, high-energy, and knowledgeable about the land and the plantation! This was our most “relaxing” adventure so I suggest this if you have a large party and the priority is to relax and chill, you will still get to see the land but it’s not an all-day strenuous adventure!
On our fifth day on the island, we got to experience a traditional Hawaiian Luau! We went to Luau Kalamaku at the Kauai Plantation! Graceful Hula dancers, fire poi ball twirlers, traditional fire knife dancing, a lavish buffet of local delicacies and a vivid storyteller come together during this Luau!
My parents have been to several luaus on different islands and they said this was by far the best they had been to! You get a real taste of Hawaii and it’s history at a Luau and the performers are so talented, if it’s your first visit I highly recommend going!
Our sixth day was another day to relax however the weather wasn’t the best (cloudy and a little rainy) so we decided to go explore the North Shore for the day! We made the super long trek (on basically the only main road in Kauai) it took about 80 minutes to get from our Hotel to the furthest tip of the North Shore, Napali Coast State Wilderness Park and Beach! The beach was beautiful (as are all the beaches in Kauai) and I would have loved to hike a bit but we didn’t come prepared. My best advice if you like hiking, bring your gear everywhere in Kauai, there is a place to explore everywhere you go!
After hanging out at the beach for a bit, we decided to head back towards Princeville and then explored Hanalei! We shopped, enjoyed lunch, shared an Acai bowl, and a gigantic shaved ice from JoJo’s and just sort of took in the cute little town! If you are staying in Princeville this would be much easier to get to than where we stayed but so glad we spent the day exploring the North Shore so we could at least get a glimpse!
This trip flew by and we all definitely didn’t want to leave the island and come home. I can’t believe it’s already over, at least I got to relive it a bit by writing this blog! I will have another post up soon with food recommendations and reviews of where we ate! So many yummy options, so make sure you stay tuned for that!
This was a trip of a lifetime and I’m so happy I finally got to experience the magic of Kauai! Family vacations are always so much fun and this one was one of my favorite trips to date! So many amazing memories and experiences! Kauai is great for the adventure seekers and the sun lovers alike!
I'm sure I will be back to Kauai soon and would love to have more recommendations for places to eat and explore so make sure to leave them below! If you're reading this and about to leave for Kauai, 1. I'm extremely jealous and 2. I hope this guide helps you decide what types of adventures you want to take!