“Two days in Kauai is better than no days in Kauai,” or at least that is what I kept telling myself after we had to change our outgoing flights due to inclement weather in Denver last month, causing us to lose the better part of a day on this fabulous island. We actually had three nights and two and a half days there, after the flight change, and we made the most of our brief time there, especially since this was our third trip to this special island.
On this particular trip, we wanted to just get away for a little relaxation and relaxed sightseeing before heading to the bay area of California to see our daughter and son-in-law, and that is exactly what we did with our brief time on the island. As it turned out, this is actually an itinerary that I would highly recommend to others that might have only two or three days on the island, with the possible exception of quick visits to Poipu Beach, Waimea Falls and/or Wailua River State Park, all of which we have seen on previous trips to Kauai. Unfortunately, we had to cancel a planned lunch visit at Gaylord’s at Kilohana near Lihue on our arrival day, since our flight did not arrive until 7 pm that night after the flight was rescheduled. We hope to go back again sometime and dine there and see this beautiful place that came highly recommended by a friend.
To see a good map of attractions on Kauai, including most of the attractions listed below, I recommend checking out Frommer’s map here.
In an earlier post, I shared about our experience at LAX and our subsequent flight to Lihue, both of which were definitely not pleasant. But despite those experiences, we were just thrilled to finally be back on Kauai once again around 7 pm Hawaiian time, as it had been six years since our last visit there. Kauai is one of those special places that we “connected to” right away back in the 1990’s, and we will likely try to return for a visit as often as we can do so for the rest of our lives.
The Marriott: We spent our first of three nights on Kauai at the beautiful Marriott hotel and resort, which is only a ten minute drive from the airport. This is a truly fabulous hotel, and it was even gorgeous at night. We opted to stay here on our first night for two reasons. We had never stayed at this gorgeous place before, and they had a $199 special for that night. We also wanted to visit Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park before driving to Princeville, where we would stay the next two nights, so staying near the airport saved us quite a bit of driving time. As it turned out, staying here was also a God-send for me, because I was so sick at my stomach when we arrived that I don’t think I could have made it on the longer drive up to Princeville anyway. I was never so glad to see a bed and some nausea medicine in my life. 😉
After finally taking some medicine to help settle my stomach, I slept like a baby that first night. The next morning, we ate breakfast by the amazing pool with a great view of the ocean just in the distance. Despite the fact that my stomach was still a little “iffy,” I enjoyed a good Eggs Benedict and a cup of Hawaiian coffee. Eggs Benedict is my favorite breakfast food, so things were now off to a great start.
After breakfast, we took a long stroll around the property, and we had a particularly nice stroll along the beach and through the beautiful garden. The hotel put out cups of fish food for the Koi fish, so we grabbed a small cup and fed the fish for a few minutes, along with several other hotel guests.
After winding up our tour of the property, we opted to go ahead and check out of the hotel to continue with the rest of our time on the island, starting with out next stop at Waimea Canyon State Park.
Waimea Canyon State Park: The “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a must-see in my opinion, and it is an amazing sight. We stopped once again at the popular lookout point where Waipoo Falls can also be seen in the distance at the far left in the photo below. Photos just cannot do justice to a place like this, as the canyon continues to the right, all the way to the ocean several miles away.
After taking a few more photos, we then continued on up the mountain to Koke’e State Park and the Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila Lookouts.
Koke’e State Park / Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila Lookouts: The view from the Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila Lookouts, which are only about a half mile apart, still remain the most impressive views of nature that I have ever seen, without a doubt. The dramatic drop from the 5000 foot lookout points directly to the Pacific Ocean below, and through the beautiful Na Pali Coast State Park land, is nothing short of breath-taking. While many people stop at the Kalalau Lookout and never proceed to the end of the road at the Pu’u o Kila Lookout, we actually prefer the fabulous view at Pu’u o Kila. You are not confined to a small area behind a fence, and you can actually see a more unobstructed view up there. This is also where the Pihea hiking trail begins. If you bring small children along, be especially careful at Pu’u o Kila, as the terrain is much rougher and there is no fence to protect people from falling over the edge. It is a very long way down, too! Wear good tennis or hiking shoes at Pu’u o Kila, or just visit the Kalalau Lookout if wearing flip flops.
As we spent some time up here at Pu’u, our view was partially obstructed by clouds once again, just as it did on our last visit here, but the clouds did not bother us. Literally being up in the clouds at this place is an unforgettable experience on its own.
After leaving the lookout, we made a brief lunch stop at the cozy little restaurant in Koke’e State Park and enjoyed both a good sandwich and the wildlife there, including many of the famous wild chickens that are now found pretty much everywhere on the island. “What’s Up with All the Chickens? A Bit of Kauai History!” tells more about how this plethora of chickens on the island came to be. Trust me, they are everywhere!
After lunch, we drove about two hours, which is about as far as you can drive around the island, up to the amazingly beautiful Princeville resort area on the north shore to check in at the Westin resort for our next two nights on the island. The entire area along the northern part of Kauai from the small town of Kilauea to Haena State Park at the end of the road is nothing short of paradise to me, as the scenery is absolutely spectacular. Just think of the scenery in Jurassic Park and that is what you have here, as that movie was filmed not far from this area.
Princeville Resort: Princeville is a large resort area on the north shore, and this is where we like to stay on the island. The small town of Hanalei is a short drive to the west on the other side of Hanalei Bay, but the resort area actually has a nice little shopping area with a good grocery store nearby, too. More information about Princeville can be found at the link provided. If you want to stay at a top hotel, pull out your wallet and stay at the St. Regis on Hanalei Bay. We dined there on Mother’s Day on our previous trip, and it was fabulous. I would also highly recommend the fun activities at the Princeville Ranch nearby, too. On our last trip, my daughter and I took a guided horseback trip with them through some beautiful inland countryside, followed by an energetic hike to a hidden pool and falls where we even went swimming. It is a special memory that I will always treasure with her, and we had a fabulous time.
Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas: This was our first time to stay at this beautiful resort, and our second time to stay in a condo in Princeville. After our first trip to Kauai in the 1990’s when we stayed with our small children on the east coast, we knew that we would most enjoy our time here on future trips by staying in the Princeville area on the north shore, especially if we could rent a cozy condo. Condos are the most prevalent lodging option in Princeville, and staying in a condo absolutely fits our style for a laid-back vacation like this. We previously rented a larger condo for the five of us in our family from The Cliffs and Princeville and would absolutely rent from them again if we took everyone in our family back again.
Kauai North Shore General Store Pizza: After settling into our condo, we drove to the shopping center in Princeville and ordered a couple of take-out pizzas from the Chevron station (aka the North Shore General Store). Yes, we ordered pizzas at the gas station store! This is something that I read about online from another traveler, and we decided to give it a try. The small store actually has a brick pizza oven in the back, and we found that we were not the only ones ordering take-out pizzas that night. They cooked our two small pizzas while we bought a few items at the grocery store nearby, and we just picked the pizzas up when we were done. This was the first pizza that I had eaten since I started my diet back in January, and it was so good! After dinner, we took a quick walk around the property, and at 9 pm, which still felt like 2 am by our time at home, we headed for bed.
Hanalei Bay: We did not have time to visit Hanalei Bay on this trip, but I grabbed a quick photo of it from the lookout point on our drive to Ke’e Beach. We visited this beautiful spot on our previous trip six years ago, including Mother’s Day brunch with my whole family at the amazing St. Regis Resort there, and that will always remain one of my most precious memories ever!
Ha’ena State Park / Ke’e Beach: This is my favorite beach in the entire world and what I like to call my “happy place.” It is such a dramatic view to see the tall mountains that literally sit right on the ocean at the end of the beach. This is where the famous Na Pali Coast begins, including the epic hiking trail that goes for about eleven miles along the Na’Pali coast. Ke’e Beach is as close to a perfect place on this planet as anywhere I have ever been, and if it was possible to go and not have to almost fight for a place to park, it would be absolutely perfect.
Hanalei Valley Lookout: This famous view can be seen just off the side of the road in Princeville. On our previous trip, my husband and I actually drove along the road seen below for several miles through the back country on a beautiful drive.
After our morning at beautiful Ke’e Beach, we came back to the resort, ate the rest of our pizza from the night before, and enjoyed a couple of hours at the pools on the property. We also enjoyed visiting with another couple from Texas for much of that time, too.
Anini Beach: After our nice, relaxing time poolside at the resort, we decided to check out a new-to-us beach nearby that we still had not seen on our two previous trips to Kauai. The drive to Anini Beach was a beautiful drive, and if we ever go back to Kauai and stay at Princeville, I think we will definitely try to spend some time at this nice beach and possibly try some snorkeling.
Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant: We discovered this great seafood restaurant in Hanalei on our previous trip in 2008, and we did not hesitate to go back and eat there for our last dinner on the island on this trip. Once again, the seafood was delicious, and the sunset ambiance along the Hanalei river was so very nice, too. On our previous trip, in addition to dining here, we also purchased fresh fish from their fish market at the back of the building to grill back at our condo.
Hanalei Shopping – Ching Young Village: After we checked out of our condo the next morning, we took advantage of our remaining time on the island to first buy a few souvenirs in Hanalei at Ching Young Village, where we also purchased some souvenirs on our previous trip. We found some good quality shirts and hats at a small store there once again.
Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge: This is yet another of my favorite places on the island, and I’m glad that we found a few minutes to stop here once again before we had to leave for the airport. I’m very fond of lighthouses and do not get to see them very often. This is such a beautiful and peaceful place, and it was a perfect farewell stop for us. It is one of the most scenic lighthouses in the world, and the bird watching is magnificent, since it is also a wildlife refuge. It is a popular stop for tourists, for good reason. We arrived just before 10 am and waited outside the gate until the refuge opened for the day. That was a great time to visit, since there were few others there that early in the day.
Lihue Airport: One of the best things about arriving and departing from Kauai is the airport itself, in my opinion. You know you are in paradise when the main areas of the airport are open-air and have beautiful flowers growing all around.
We grabbed a quick bite of lunch in one of the restaurants at the airport before boarding our next flight to San Francisco and the rest of our trip. We would soon meet up with our daughter and son-in-law for a beautiful weekend in Big Sur for the first time!