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Nikki turned 40 this month and when I asked what she wanted for her birthday, she didn’t hesitate to tell me that she wanted to go back to Kauai, Hawaii. Our first big vacation together was in the Hawaiian Islands, so we were both excited to reminisce about some our more youthful memories from that first trip.
Since this was our second time to Kauai, we felt like we made better use of our time because we were more familiar with the island. Are any of you thinking about going to Kauai? For this post, I thought we would share some tips about our favorite beaches, hikes, and restaurants on the island. We also have a smart tip for making your money work for you while you’re on vacation.
Our Favorite Beaches
It’s no surprise that Kauai has been voted as having some of the best beaches on the planet. You can’t go wrong with most of the beaches in Kauai, but if you have a specific activity in mind while you are at the beach, these are the beaches we preferred.
If you are wanting to go snorkeling, we liked Poipu Beach. We saw a variety of fish not far from the shore. It also has a long sandbank that points out from the main beach so you can take a break and not be too far from the fish.
For boogie boarding, surfing or wave chasing we loved Kealia Beach. Try starting on the north side of this beach first, the waves are just the right height and you can walk into the water for about 30 yards and still touch. We spent a couple of days at this beach playing the waves and boogie boarding. It’s also a perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
I fell in love with stand up paddle boarding at Kalapake Beach. This beach is a perfect place to learn how to stand up paddle board because it is partially protected from the open ocean by a large break wall. The waves get progressively more active as you move up the beach, so start at the south end if you are a beginner and move up the beach as you feel more comfortable. This is also a great beach for relaxing. Since it is located next to a hotel there is a lot of parking and a grassy area with shade. We floated in the ocean on float tubes for a couple of hours at this beach.
Another great spot to relax is Anini Beach. We loved walking this beach because it was fun to look at the different coral formations that washed up every morning. We saw four different turtles surface at this beach and you could easily swim out to them.
Our Favorite Trails
The first thing that drew us to Kauai was seeing images of the Napali coast. It’s one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. It’s even more incredible seeing it in person. To get an up-close look at the Napali coast we suggest going on the two-mile hike to Hanakaiai beach (four-mile round trip). About a half a mile in you get the most amazing view of the coastline and it just keeps getting better. Make sure you wear some hiking shoes because the trail can be a little rough. Also, plan to leave early in the morning so that the sun is not beating on you for most of the hike. If you make it all the way to Hanakapiai beach DO NOT get into the water. The beach is famous for it rip currents and many drownings have happened at this beach. Be sure to bring plenty of water and be prepared for exposed roots and the possibility of rain on this hike.
The Awa’awapuhi Trail leads to one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever witnessed. This hike is a little over 3 miles as you ascend down from 4,120 feet in Kokee State Park to 2,500 feet in the Awa’awapuhi valley. The trail is very shaded but be prepared for a lot of exposed roots and some rocks. The view is breathtaking and well worth the moderate hike back up the trailhead. Words can not describe the breathtaking views as you look down over the Napali coast. At the lookout point we braved the narrow path down the lower rocks for an even better look at the valley below but be warned it is narrow and I did end up getting a little nervous at one point. Be very careful if you proceed past the main lookout. One of my favorite parts of our trip was visiting Queens Bath in Princeville. Queens bath is a natural pool carved into lava rock and is about the size of a large swimming pool. It was an incredible sight to see and swim at but I do have to warn you that parking is scarce and the hike is a little treacherous. We did the hike in flip flops but I recommend wearing good water shoes, there are a lot of exposed roots and I almost fell a couple times. While we felt safe swimming in the warm, clear pool, I also need to warn you that the waves are very unpredictable and there is a possibility of a rogue wave entering the pool and sweeping you out to sea. I will never forget how beautiful this spot was but please be careful when visiting.
Queens Bath in Princeville. Queens bath is a natural pool carved into lava rock and is about the size of a large swimming pool. It was an incredible sight to see and swim at but I do have to warn you that parking is scarce and the hike is a little treacherous. We did the hike in flip flops but I recommend wearing good water shoes, there are a lot of exposed roots and I almost fell a couple times. While we felt safe swimming in the warm, clear pool, I also need to warn you that the waves are very unpredictable and there is a possibility of a rogue wave entering the pool and sweeping you out to sea. I will never forget how beautiful this spot was but please be careful when visiting.
Secret Falls is another hike you can’t miss while visiting Kauai. The real name for this waterfall is Uluwehi Falls but it is commonly referred to as Secret Falls. This hike is only accessible by taking a 45-minute kayak ride up the Wailua River Basin followed by a 20-minute trek through a beautiful rainforest. Most people pay guides to take them to the falls but we elected to rent kayaks fromWAILUA KAYAK ADVENTURES and take things at our own pace. The staff at Wailua Kayak Adventures was awesome. They helped us load our boat and gave us a detailed map on how to reach the falls. Once at the falls you can enjoy a nice swim and a quick bite before heading back down the river.
Our Favorite Food Options
Whether you are on the North or the South side of the island there are a lot of good places to eat. These are just a few of the places that we were able to hit up why we were there.
Puka Dog – Hawaiian style hot dogs made with tropical relishes. Perfect option for lunch before you head over to Poipu Beach for snorkeling.
Shrimp Station – We treated ourselves to this spot after hiking in Waimea Canyon. You have to try the Coconut Shrimp, it’s the best coconut shrimp on the planet.
Jo Jos shaved ice – After you hit the Shrimp Station head over the Jo Jos for a shaved ice. It was the perfect way to cool down and prepare you for a relaxing nap on the beach.
Chicken in a Barrel – We hit this place for lunch after going for a bike ride along the Royal Coconut Coast. We ordered the chicken plate with cornbread and it was delish. The one in Kapaa is the original and the staff there was awesome.
Da Crack – Best burritos on the island. No joke. Great price and tons of food. There must be crack in these burritos because we ate here three times while we were on the island 🙂 They are located in Poipu and have decent parking.
Kalapaki Beach Grill-Burger Shack near the Marriott
Kiokies Paradise – If you are on the south side of the island and are looking for a nice dinner we enjoyed this place. The food was good and they have live Hawaiian musicians that perform during dinner. Nikki loved their pineapple drink, that’s all she kept talking about. They also have incredible Hula pie – you have to get it.
Dukes- We loved going to this place for dinner after stand up paddle boarding at Kalapaki Beach. The view of the ocean is was perfect as we ate fish tacos with Hula pie for dessert.
The Beach House – We didn’t actually eat here but we have to mention it because we had a lot of people recommend it.
Pono Market (in Kapaa) – If you go on either Monday, Wednesday or Friday get their Kailua pig plate with spicy ahi poke! You will not be disappointed.
Fish Express – Go here for incredible seafood. Everything is fresh and the staff is hilarious.
Kountry Kitchen – Best breakfast on the island. Get there early because this place gets busy. We got the Hawaiian pancakes (caramelized pineapple, toasted coconut, and coconut syrup) – MIND BLOWING! – that is all I will say.
Our Favorite Way to Spend Rewards
Money is always a big concern on these kinds of trips, and we want to
talk about how you can make your money work harder for you while you’re exploring all
of the awesome places, we’re going to recommend. Nikki and I don’t usually like to carry
cash with us when we go on vacation and instead prefer to use rewards-based credit
rewards-based are tons of opportunities on vacation to earn rewards points through
everyday purchases, from dinners out and midday snacks to the perfect beach read and
activities to fill your days.
We love to use rewards cards because they help us save for future expenses. As you all
know, there are a lot of different kinds of credit card rewards out there depending on
what you’re looking for. For instance, if you’re planning to buy or lease a car in the next
few years, the GM BuyPower Card might be the kind of credit card you want to bring
with you on your next trip to get Earnings towards that next car, since Cardmembers
accumulate Earnings toward a new GM vehicle down the road
Here’s the deal: if you are approved for a GM BuyPower Card, you can accrue 5%
Earnings on your first $5,000 in purchases every year, then 2% unlimited Earnings on
purchases after that. When you are ready to redeem your Earnings, you can apply them
as savings when you buy or lease a new Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac vehicle. Not a
bad reward for playing hard on your vacation, right? Click the link below to learn more
about the GM BuyPower Card.
Like I mentioned before, this was our second time visiting Kauai. It is an incredible place and we highly recommend it. It is our favorite vacation spot with its laid-back atmosphere and tropical scenery. If you are planning a trip here and have questions, leave a comment and we’ll try to answer any questions you might have.