Travel Post: Aloha, Kaua'i!

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Ever since I was young, I have always wanted to travel to Hawaii. Even though Hawaii is part of the United States, it seems like such a faraway land, with its palm trees and majestic beaches unbeknownst to the rest of the mainland. I had the fortune to visit Hawaii with my boyfriend recently, and had such a wonderful time!

We chose meticulously which island we wanted to see for our first visit. After much deliberation, we decided to visit Kauai, also known as the "Garden Isle". The Garden Isle is named as such for its lush scenery and green mountain backdrop. Everywhere we went, there were trees, mountains, oceans, and tall grass as far as the eye could see. All the drives along the highways were extremely beautiful.



Kauai is also known for being less touristy and remote, which was something we wanted for our trip. We were interested in outdoor activities and exploring nature, and Kauai fit the bill.

One thing I especially liked during our visit was how laid back the island lifestyle was! Hailing from San Francisco, I am used to busy bodies staring at their smartphones nonstop and rushing from place to place. The residents of Kauai know how to appreciate life; they are not clutching their phones 24/7, road rage is seemingly nonexistent, and everyone is - gasp- friendly! All the locals chatted with us in restaurants, making genuine conversation and providing helpful tips when we asked. Sitting alone to eat a meal in Kauai is by no means lonely. One of my fondest memories is sitting outside a shaved ice shop and gazing at the gorgeous mountains while I stuffed my face with delicious shaved ice. The girl next to me was doing the same thing, and neither of us had a phone in sight. It makes me ponder how, even in a city as big as San Francisco with so many people, it is easy to feel alone. Kauai, with its small population, made me feel the complete opposite.

Another thing that I enjoyed about Kauai was that there are plenty of things to do. We stayed for one week, and our days were packed with activities and beach time. Here were some of my favorite adventures:

1. Kayak Wailua
Cost: $50+/person for a 4 hour tour
Website: kayakwailua.com



We kayaked through the Wailua River bright and early at 8am, and it was definitely one of the funnest things I have ever done. We kayaked 2.5 miles one way down the river, hiked one mile to a gushing waterfall (and swam in the swimming hole), and kayaked back 2.5 miles. Being the fitness enthusiast I am, I was very pleased that a lot of activity was involved.

Kayak Wailua was very pleasant to book through, and our tour guide Dontaz (spell check?) was friendly and knowledgeable. He made some recommendations on restaurants, which ended up being our two favorite restaurants on the island!

2. Kauai ATV - Waterfall Tour
Cost: $150+/person for a 4 hour tour
Website: kauaiatv.com



ATV-ing was something else. We also did this tour early in the morning, and our day kicked off with much exhilaration. Kauai ATV takes you through some of the prettiest spots in Kauai, including a waterfall and a movie spot where many famous movies were filmed (yes, Jurassic Park!). In the process, you ride through muddy puddles, resulting in a messy but fun adventure. They also provide lunch, which was nice.

3. Kauai Sea Tours - Napali Coast Dinner Cruise
Cost: $150/person for a 5 hour tour
Website: kauaiseatours.com



My boyfriend was less enthusiastic about a dinner cruise that we went on. He gets really bad sea sickness, and even his two pills of Dramamine did not prevent his nausea while on this tour. I do recommend this tour for those who can handle the motion of the ocean,  as the boat gets really up close and personal with the famous green mountains known as the Napali Coast. I was very pleased with myself that I shot some gorgeous pictures on my DSLR!



And, as you can see in the above picture, we got to see DOLPHINS. Swimming at the front of the boat (dolphins like to ride the currents of the boat, isn't that just adorable?)


 4. Waimea Canyon
Cost: Free (except for rental car and gas)
More information: here


The "Grand Canyon of Hawaii", this is definitely something every visitor to Kauai should see. It's located on the West side of Kauai, so it is a bit of a drive from the North, East, and South shores of Kauai. It's definitely worth it though.

5. Smith's Family Luau
Cost: $78/person (all you can eat! all you can drink!)
Website: smithskauai.com/garden-luau/



Being that we were in Hawaii, there were many luaus to choose from. We didn't know where to go until a local recommended Smith's Family Luau, citing it as the "best luau on the island"! I saw that the cost of the tickets were far lower than the other luaus I had been researching, so we went for it.



I do think that we went to the best luau on Kauai. The gardens were amazing (and I daresay that perhaps not every luau has gardens), the buffet food surpassed my expectations, and - I repeat - all you can drink alcohol! We ended the evening with a lovely show.



One great thing that I had on my trip to document my excursions was my faithful GoPro. Since the GoPro has waterproof casing available, I was able to strap on my GoPro for kayaking, ATV-ing, swimming, etc, to take pictures and videos. I highly recommend a GoPro for those of you who like to travel a lot, but find it irksome to carry a heavy DSLR or camera with you all the time. It's also very helpful to have when you are traveling with just your significant other, because it gets wearisome to constantly approach strangers for their aid in picture taking. It's also less risky, as you never know if you are handing over your camera to a friendly stranger or potential thief.

Dining in Kauai

While Kauai may not be as much of a foodie island compared to Oahu or Maui, some restaurants did deliver a meal where we groan in pleasure every time we relive the memory.

1. Hukilau Lanai 
Website: hukilaukauai.com

Our tour guide from Kayak Wailua recommended this place, and he lauded it as "one of the best restaurants in Kauai". Every time we had previously trusted a local's recommendation, we were not led astray, so we went to Hukilau Lanai that same night. And boy, were we impressed! The food we ordered was top notch, especially the poke nachos they served. Yes, you read that correctly. Poke nachos. Poke.

5. The Bull Shed
Website: bullshedrestaurant.com

The second recommendation from our tour guide at Kayak Wailua was The Bull Shed. He described himself as a huge steak lover, and The Bull Shed was THE place to get the best steak. Following his advice, we again were not disappointed. We ordered the top sirloin, shrimp, and lobster tail. The steak was marinated and cooked perfectly, seafood fresh, and bread and salad a wonderful complement. The service was nice and friendly as well.

6. Hamura Saimin
Website: yelp.com/biz/hamuras-saimin-lihue

I was told by many Hawaii forums to try Hamura's famous saimin. Saimin is essentially Hawaiian-style ramen. I could tell that many a locals came to Hamura's all the time. It was one of my favorite places on the island because of its mom and pop store appeal. The ramen tasted delightfully homemade, and it was priced reasonably at $9 for an extra-large bowl. And oh - what I loved even more than the ramen was their famous lilikoi chiffon pie. To die for.

7. Jojo's Shaved Ice
Website: 
jojosshaveice.com

I was never a fan of shaved ice in California, mainly because it consisted of chunky ice with overly sweet syrups. Hawaiian shaved ice in no way resembles that, and I had the best shaved ice I've ever tried at Jojo's. The ice was smooth and melted in my mouth, accompanied by flavors such as lychee, macadamia, coconut, and mango. I finished my whole cup, even though the serving was bigger than my head!

And thus completes my quick summary of my trip to Kauai. I hope that if you ever decide to visit this lovely island, that you found this blog post helpful! I hope to be back to visit the other Hawaiian islands soon.

-Mina




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