Aloha! It’s been a few days since we returned from Kauai and we’re definitely missing the sunshine and sand between our toes. However, thanks to all the photos and great memories, we’ll be able to reminisce about our time there for years to come.
As I mentioned before, we decided to take this big trip to celebrate paying off debt and our upcoming 5-year wedding anniversary. After choosing our destination, I booked our vacation through Costco Travel (flights, hotel, and rental car – it was a breeze!) and started finding recommendations for activities, beaches, and restaurants via blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, and TripAdvisor forums. Before we left, I made a quick Google map highlighting the places of interest to us. It proved invaluable as we navigated our way around the island!
All the hard work and travel research really paid off, because we had an amazing time! It was such a fun vacation and I’m excited to share our adventures with you.
Day 1: Traveling to Paradise
Whew! 11 hour travel day. Talk about exhausting! Flew from Minneapolis > Phoenix > Honolulu > Lihue. Picked up our rental car and drove to Kiahuna Plantation (a condo resort) in Poipu on the south shore. Dumped our bags and immediately set out in search of food. Ended up devouring dinner at the Olympic Cafe right across the street. A mai tai and kalua pork quesadilla for the Ryan and a grilled sandwich for me (sourdough topped with melted brie, avocado & sun-dried tomatoes – mmm mmmm!). Collapsed into bed right after.
Day 2: Bagels + Beaches
We woke up early, got breakfast at Rainbeau Jo’s food truck (bagels and smoothies), and ate it at Nukolii Beach. Then we grabbed a few groceries, made sandwiches for lunch, and played in the waves at Poipu Beach all afternoon. On our way to dinner, we stopped by Spouting Horn, a natural lava tube that releases a huge spout of water during large swells. It was neat to see! We then wandered through the Shops at Kukuiula to check out their Farmer’s Market (every Wednesday night) before eating at Merriman’s Gourmet Pizza & Burgers (a kalua pork, grilled pineapple, pesto, and jalapeño pizza that was to die for!). To cap off the evening, we borrowed some chairs and sat out at Shipwrecks Beach to watch the cliff jumpers and catch the sunset.
Day 3: Flying High, Feeling Low
I picked up a stomach bug (most likely from all sick people on the plane) and started feeling poorly. However, I managed to rally enough for the one-hour helicopter tour we had booked months before. Folks… it was absolutely incredible!!! Sure, I had to douse myself in disinfectant and spent the rest of the day in bed with a fever and the flu, but it was so worth it. Hands down, one of the best parts of our trip!
We flew with Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours and Ronnie was our pilot. He was funny, knowledgeable, and a wonderful tour guide. He even took us farther out over the ocean to see if we could spot any whales (sadly, we didn’t see any). I would absolutely recommend flying with Mauna Loa Helicopter Tours! A helicopter ride is definitely a splurge, but they make it fairly affordable. Their operation is well-organized and extremely safe. You’re on a private tour and every seat is a window seat (this is a guarantee and not something I found with other companies I looked at). You also have the option to fly with the doors off (at no extra cost). That is what we chose to do and it was the perfect way to see the island, take clear photos, and make the most of an already exhilarating experience.
One of the reasons we opted for a helicopter tour is because Kauai is home to the Na Pali Coast, a stretch of must-see shoreline. It’s one of the most beautiful places ever! Emerald cliffs, white beaches, cascading waterfalls… absolutely breathtaking. However, much of it is inaccessible (due to the sheerness of the cliffs) so in order to see it you only have a few options: go on a very long and rigorous hike, grab a boat tour, or (you guessed it) take to the skies. In addition to the Na Pali Coast, Kauai has Waimea Canyon, Mount Waiʻaleʻale, Honopu Valley, Hanalei Valley, and many hidden waterfalls and beaches. We wanted to see it all and a helicopter ride allowed us to do just that. Kauai is stunning!
We also got very lucky because the skies were so clear the day we toured that not only was our pilot able to take us everywhere he wanted but we were even able to see the top of Mount Wai’ale’ale. This extinct volcano is one of the wettest spots in the world and is usually shrouded in mist and clouds. It averages more than 452 inches of rain a year and our pilot said the top is only visible 10-15 days a year.
Click here to check out Part 2.