In 2018 I was fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii for the third time with my family (one could say this chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has a special place in our hearts).
This time we stayed on the island of Kaua’i, also carrying the name „Garden Island“ (you’ll get why once you scroll down to the photos). We spent almost three weeks there, during which we had enough time to explore all corners of the island. We were staying in an apartment in Kapa’a on the east coast, from where we explored the northeast during our first days.
On our first trip we drove up to Hanalei and stopped at the Kilauea Lighthouse from where you have a superb view. It’s also a great place for bird watching. To reach the lighthouse you have to pay a small entrance fee. Once at the lookout they have binoculars which you can use for free, so we took advantage of that and had a closer look at birds and the mountains in the distance.
Continuing our drive to Hanalei, there are a few lookout points along the way.
We then spent some time in Hanalei Bay. Surrounded by emerald mountains and palm trees, it’s a popular beach for people to hang out and go swimming.
And what is it you need after beach time? Right! A freshly made juice! Or just any other smoothie or fruit juice from this overwhelming menu. I studied it for quite some time but opted for the most unspectacular drink they had in the end: homemade lemon juice.
Pretty soon we had explored the North (it wasn’t possible to drive past Hanalei due to heavy floodings earlier in 2018) and started planning trips to the South of the island. Kaua’i is bigger than it seems on the map with only few main roads, so we also had to take rush hour into account. Rush hour and traffic jams on a tropical island? It’s a real thing y’all. 😉
Old Koloa town was first on our list. On our way there we discovered a farmer’s market which we had to check out of course! I bought a huge fresh bundle of basil and mint…
We then continued to Hanapepe and stumbled upon this lookout:
The Hanapepe Valley Lookout (you can’t miss it on your way to Hanapepe if you’re driving on the Kaumualii Highway).
It is definitely worth a stop!
Then we reached Hanapepe, our destination for the day. It’s a pretty old and rundown town but has turned into a hip and artsy place with cafes, a bakery and art shops. And apparently this sleepy little town served as an inspiration for the Disney movie “Lilo & Stitch”!
Hanapepe Swinging Bridge is the town’s main tourist attraction. It was pretty windy that day, so this bridge was definitely swinging!
There’s not much going on in Hanapepe:
On another day, we went to see Opaeka’a Falls (a short drive land-inward from Kapa’a), from where we had this gorgeous view on the Wailua River State Park:
And, basically opposite Wailua river, there is this view onto Opaeka’a Falls:
Which of the two would you turn to? 😉
Kuilau Ridge Trail: easy hike, stunning landscape!
When holidaying on an island nicknamed Garden Island, it would be a crime not to go on a hike and explore nature. So, naturally, we grabbed our hiking boots (sneakers), hopped in the car and drove into the jungle!
Just kidding – we did some research beforehand and found a hike called the “Kuilau Ridge Trail”. It was described as being an easy hike which was just what we needed due to our different fitness levels. I didn’t expect much from it at first. I thought: it’s an easy hike, how spectacular can it be?
And holy moly, was I wrong! I had not expected this hike to be so rewarding. We went there on a beautiful day, but scroll down and see for yourself! 😉
Not much to see here, eh? ;D
Look at the size of this friggin’ tree!
At the point where you can see my brother standing on the roots of a fallen tree (it was actually cutting off the trail and we had to climb around it), my parents decided to call it a day, so my siblings and I continued on our own. We enjoyed some pretty epic views on our hike and hardly met any other hikers. It felt as if I had entered paradise!
The trail was leading us into the heart of the island. With no roads nearby, surrounded only by rainforest and mountains, it was absolutely quiet. The only sounds we heard were the leaves rustling in the wind, birds and insects… The Garden Isle had swallowed us and we only turned around reluctantly to go back to our car…
This hike is an absolute recommendation and ended up being one of my favorite Kaua’i experiences!
Kuilau Ridge trail pro tip: bring mosquito repellent (lots of it)! We left ours at home and returned with plenty of bites…!
You’re an absolute nutter when it comes to waterfalls? Then you cannot miss this beauty:
The nice part about this: just as with Opaeka’a Falls, even if you’re not into hiking, you can go see it. It’s possible to drive up to the lookout and park your car to have a look at Wailua Falls. Although the view is pretty limited, it is a beautiful waterfall. And it even comes with a little rainbow – I mean…?!
Nā Pali – you can’t leave Kaua’i if you haven’t seen this
I bet you have already seen photos of Nā Pali without even knowing it. As a matter of fact, if you type “Hawaii” on Google, there’s no chance there will not be photos of the Nā Pali coast showing up:
Looks familiar? In this photo taken from our tour boat you can see the famous Kalalau Valley. It cannot be entered from the coast and the only way in is by hiking the Kalalau Trail (which is pretty demanding and needs preparation). The Kalalau valley and other parts of the Nā Pali coast can be recognised in many movies, such as “King Kong” and “Jurassic Park”. Like I said, you’ll most probably have already seen this breathtaking scenery at least once. 😉
We decided that we wanted to explore the Nā Pali coast by boat and booked a tour. There’s also a lot of helicopter tours going there, but since a) they are very expensive and b) Hawaii is dealing with a lot of noise pollution from helicopters, we decided against them (they mainly have this problem on Big Island, but still). Plus I think it’s just an adventure in its own to explore an island from the water surrounding it (our tour included a snorkeling stop and exploring a few caves and lava tubes along the way).
Our trip along the coast of Nā Pali started out amazing. 10 minutes after we had left the harbour and reached deep waters, our boat captain A’a spotted a group of dolphins that soon joined our boat and swam along. I couldn’t believe my eyes! A’a told us how to remember the Hawaiian name for “dolphin”: “Nai’a see ’em, Nai’a don’t!” (get it?! ;P).
When we reached the Nā Pali coastline about 30 minutes later I was completely spoiled yet again when A’a spotted a few turtles floating in the water not too far from our boat (did I mention I absolutely love turtles?!). I hadn’t yet seen the rugged cliffs of Nā Pali and was already convinced that must be the best tour I had ever been on.
One of my biggest dreams came true seeing Nā Pali for the first time.
Oahu – more than just Waikīkī
Then it was time to leave Kaua’i (or should I say we fled?).
“You fled?” you ask?
Yep, we did. There was a hurricane coming.
You heard that right. But that’s a story for another blog post. 😉 Back in Honolulu on the island of Oahu we were kind of stuck in our apartment the first couple of days (due to the approaching hurricane). Shops were closed and people were preparing for the worst, so we stayed in Waikiki, waiting…
Once the danger had subsided (spoiler), we rented a car and went on our favorite tour along the East coast of Oahu up to the North Shore.
Hanauma Bay – perfect for snorkeling.
In Pupukea on Oahu’s North Shore we found this colorful food truck and enjoyed some ono (Hawaiian for “delicious”) Hawaiian Poke!
Poke is a typical Hawaiian dish, consisting of rice, raw fish and vegetables.
After we had stuffed our bellies with poke we continued to Sunset Beach.
To wrap things up, these were my favorite activities on our latest holiday in Hawaii:
- hiking the Kuilau Ridge Trail (one of the most beautiful hikes ever)
- boat tour to Nā Pali (duh!)
- getting poke in Pupukea
Maybe I’ll be able to go back for a 4th time someday – there’s still Big Island waiting to be explored! 😉 So stay tuned!
Until next time,