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The question I would always ask people, as they went on and on about how amazing Hawaii was - is - is it really? Because...it's really far from me. The Carribean is so close, is it really worth the 10+ hours of flying (and from Philly there are no direct flights, so it's more of a 15+ hour travel day). And everyone would always say yes, it's amazing, it's worth it, you gotta go. So we finally did- this past February, we did the damn thang and flew to the smallest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai, with a flight connection in Phoenix. Everyone was right, Hawaii is absolutely awesome, and I can't wait to go back and try other islands- Kauai will be tough to beat though!
We stayed in Kapaa Town, which is on the East Central side of the island, and is only a 15min ride from the Lihue airport. We rented a condo through Airbnb which was perfect and stayed in the Plantation Hale Suites. From there it was about a 2mile walk to a strip of bars/restaurants in Kapaa town, but you also had other restaurants in hotels to choose from, grocery stores, everything you would want about a 5min walk from there so it was really ideal location-wise. You do want a car in Kauai, the whole island is so small you can drive the whole thing in just a few hours, and we basically did. Although Kapaa did not have a ton of great beaches - it was the perfect central point to have our homebase- we were able to drive to Poipu beaches in the south in about an hour which had beach resorts as well as public beaches, and was about 10 degrees warmer and not as windy as Kapaa, Princetown in the North with more scenic, natural beaches, was only a 45min drive, and the Waimea canyon and Na Pali coast on the west were only 1hr 30min drive. The change in temperature and wind was so crazy - you could be on the east and it be 75 degrees and hazy, drive South and it be 85 and sunny, and at the top of Waimea Canyon the temperature dropped to 55 and had crazy wind! But the universal thing was the rain. Rain showers would come often, but would also pass quite quickly and most of the time would only last 10mins or so. Kapaa also had a strip of bars/restaurants in a little downtown area which were all great to end the day with- we had some really good meals there. However, if you are a night owl, Kapaa town is not the place for you. The majority of the bars and restaurants closed at 10pm!
Something that really helped us plan our trip was The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook. We bought it before the trip and it really helped with ideas on where to go, what to do, which beaches were safe for swimming, restaurant recommendations and hiking spots.
Highlights from the trip:
- Hiking Waimea Canyon and Na Pali Coast Lookout in the West: some of the most beautiful views and great, challenging hikes
- Poipu beach time on the South of the island, and hiking along the coast
- Swimming in the ocean and seeing sea lions and large turtles swimming not too far from you
- Excursions: SUPping, ATVing, rope swinging and jumping into freshwater pools. We were booked for a boat trip along the Na Pali coast, but the ocean was rough and it was cancelled. The views are supposed to be amazing and you'll see lots of dolphins and whales- gives us an excuse to go back I guess!
- Kauai beer company happy hour: cool local brewery where lots of the locals hang out
- Queens Bath in Princetown: the ocean was too rough there to swim but it was such a pretty spot to check out and climb on the rocks
Cost Breakdown of Kauai (excluding flights and per person):
Airbnb Place: $500 (7 nights)
Excursions: $ 200
Rental Car: $200
Total for 2 of us (7 nights): $3100