The Garden Isle is just as lush and jurassic as you imagine, with soaring cliffs, sapphire blue waters, waterfalls….and roosters. Lots of them! Here’s how we got our holiday on in Hanalei, Kauai.
There are so MANY magical spots on the islands, you have to get a car and explore. There’s loads of farmers markets, rockpools and other little places to discover. With small kids our days tended to be a little more structured (out in the mornings and naps and relaxing in afternoons) and I need to be sure to make plenty of mental notes spots for food, toilet stops and play areas along the way.
Kauai, especially the north shore, is a place for nature and adventure. Hiking, surfing, paddling, swimming, boating, fishing…get amongst it. I personally wouldn’t go here if you want a ‘stop and flop’ holiday, to me, you’re missing the point and would recommend the south side where there are more ‘resort’ style accommodation options ideal for poolside cocktails. That said, with two mini humans we were limited by what they could tolerate and who we could get to babysit!
We chose to stay in town in Hanalei. We wanted to be where we could walk or bike everywhere, and happily we did both. We rented great bikes with cool kids bike seats (hello awesome steering wheels) from the Bike Doctor. He’s on the main drag, you can’t miss it.
On the way up to Hanalei a pitstop at Kauai Juice Co in Kilauea is a necessity. Farm to table (or bottle) at its best and just so refreshing, with lots of great local flavours.
While we love staying in B&B’s and AirBnBs – and there are many cute ones around these parts – our preference this time was for a small spot where we could still hang out when the kids slept and didn’t feel far away from the action if one of us wanted to duck out. We stayed in a cute little cottage called Dolphin Cottage, right on the edge of town and tucked away on a little river and biking/walking distance to most things. Definitely recommend it. The girls loved waving to the stand-up paddlers cruising by!
Right next door is The Dolphin for great poke, sushi and sashimi (and other deliciousness). They were hauling in fresh Ahi every morning and putting it onto our plates that lunchtime. And down the road was Wishing Well Shave Ice, featuring beautiful local flavours in naturally made syrups. Of course my kids wanted the fluro stuff but I savoured my organically made ginger, lime and haupia concoction. It’s the stuff holiday dreams are made of, plus they also make a wicked Acai bowl. We were firm regulars during our time there.
We treated ourselves to great massages from Aloha Massage. Our rock star therapist Christopher came to our cottage and even obliged little Leila’s request for a special keiki massage. Needles to say, she slept very well that afternoon – #winning.
We were lucky enough to go out on a boat along the Na Pali coast and it was next level MAGICAL. The surf was flat and the wind was down, so conditions were perfect. The day was a total highlight, and truly gave the perspective and gravity of the sheer magnitude and scale of those magnificent cliffs. We are grateful to have been with a lovely crew of new and old friends, searching for unicorns in caves on remote beaches, swimming with turtles, attempting waterfall meditation and surfing on black sand beaches. Lucky ducks indeed, take me back! We passed some kayakers exploring caves and it looked awesome. Definitely on the to-do list for when the kids are bigger and can actually paddle.
Now, the surf was absolutely flat while we were there (poor Mikey) but the upside was scoring a boat day, lots of great snorkelling, beach exploration and time together. Tunnels was a beautiful spot to hang out, lots of turtles and snorkelling gold, and I think had the surf been ‘on’ we would definitely have spent more time there! Food note: you drive past a great sushi place on the way called Sushi Girl, worth a pit stop.
Ke’e Beach was a beautiful spot for a swim to capture the very last rays of the day. Heaps of turtles and lovely spot to snorkel, allegedly – I forgot our masks that day!! #rookie.
As for hiking, we threw the kids into packs and did the very start of the Kalalau Trail (only the first couple of miles). It was really fun and I highly recommend it. I’ll do the full thing one day, but definitely not with a small human on my back. They don’t call part of it crawlers ledge for nothing!!
To scratch the holiday shopping itch, be sure to pop into Barn808 – Petra has a great eye, I can assure you that you’ll not walk out empty handed :).
We arrived over Memorial Day weekend and the kids minds were blown seeing open fires on the beach (!!!) and they experienced their first ever s’mores. Hanalei Bay at sunset, s’mores, surfs and a cheeky beer was pretty great.
We definitely left some of our hearts in Hanalei – we won’t need any convincing to head back.