July 30, 2018
Recently we were lucky enough to travel back to Hawaii for our anniversary! I used Scott’s Cheap Flights to find uber cheap ONE WAY flights to and fro Hawaii. It is uncommon to find cheap fares that are one way and not round trip. We made the decision to travel to a new island: Maui and revisit a very old friend: Kauai. Due to saving so much getting to Hawaii it wasn’t a bank breaker to island hop via Hawaiian Airlines.
This blog post I am breaking down our itinerary with plenty of photos to show you how beautiful these islands are. If you have been contemplating Hawaii, just go. No matter your travel style you won’t regret it!
We land in Maui around 3:30pm and pickup our rental car from Enterprise. Due to my husband traveling alot lately for work we got upgraded to a sweet white Ford Mustang convertible. It was perfect for traveling around Maui. If you are traveling to other islands you may need a 4×4. We wanted to grab some early dinner and found Geste Shrimp truck on Tripadvisor. It was fresh, delicious, and hit the right spot our tummies needed after a long flight. We took our meal a couple minutes up the road to Waiehu Beach Park and watch the waves with our feet in the sand.
As true Atlanta residents we got on Google Maps to check traffic and the route we needed to go to get to our hotel. We noticed that there actually was traffic and what seemed to be a road closure so instead of going around the south end we made the decision to go drive the very windy road along the north end. It was one lane, mostly vacant, twisty turny, and absolutely stunning. It was the perfect introduction to the island of Maui. We saw cliffs, huge waves, tropical trees, blow holes, deserted beaches, and jaw dropping scenery. I admit that it was my husbands idea and I begrudgingly agreed. Per usual, he was right and it was the better decision. It was beautiful (more beautiful than road to Hana, IMO.) We took a leisurely pace and enjoyed stopping multiple times along the way. If you get motion sick easily or are particularly afraid of driving then this may not be the right road for you but then again the infamous road to Hana is probably more dangerous because there are a lot more people on the road. Ironically we asked a local later in the trip if they ever go that way and they admit that it’s dangerous and they never go that way around the island. We decided the reason we didn’t think it was that bad was because it has been recently paved so the road quality is good. According to the local we spoke with it used to be unpaved, way more dangerous.
After our lovely drive and watching our first Hawaiian sunset we checked into the beautiful Sheraton Maui resort and was upgraded to the most magical room and location on the resort. If you have ever seen the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall and remember when the main actors had two side by side rooms while in Hawaii this resort felt just like that! It faced perfectly west where we could (and did) watch infamous Hawaiian sunsets!
We woke up, ate a huge buffet breakfast (seriously delicious buffet at the Sheraton Maui) and then learned how to surf. After reading reviews I had booked ahead of time with Maui Wave Riders. We had Jimmy as our instructah. He was awesome. There were 5 of us total learning how to surf and he did an amazing job helping us catch waves and taught us the basics! We had a blast! No photos since we were in the water the whole time!
Surfing worked up such a hunger so we wandered around Lahaina for a while. We indulged in our first shaved ice ever. Such a good decision, way better than snow cones!
Right across from the shops is a HUGE banyan tree. It was amazing to see one single tree sprawl such a large area and provide perfect shade on a hot sunny day.
The rest of day 2 consisted of hanging around the Sheraton, threw a frisbee, stole unused umbrella chairs, and finished with a float around the huge pool the Sheraton Maui has. Even though it isn’t a lazy river they have crazy cool bean bag floats and a slide.
Before dinner we opted to enjoy a full sunset on the amazing lanai we had with our room. It was amazing to sit together (and the local cats) and watch a glorious sunset. We even saw turtles splashing around the waves right outside our room.
For a post sunset dinner we headed to Monkeypod. After reading reviews and having it suggested to us we decided to head there. The decor is cool, the Mai Tai’s are strong but delicious, and the pot stickers are delectable.
We woke up early, packed our luggage, snagged a to go breakfast and headed to our snorkeling excursion with Maui Ocean Riders. We did the Circumnavigate Lana’i Adventure. We take an H.B.I around the island of Lana’i, stopping at 3 different locations to jump in and snorkel. The reefs we saw offered us turtles, lobster, and plenty of fish. We were also treated to a large pod of dolphins that swam within inches of our boat and played in our wake! On our way back over the AuAu channel we encountered some fairly big waves. Thankfully our boat was built for waves as such. It was a thrilling way to spend a morning!
Based on someones recommendation we planned to do the Road to Hana backwards which required that we make it to Hana to do the road to Hana. I will admit this was not the most thought out plan but allowed us to stop at the Paia Fish Market on our way. We had delicious Blue Fin Marlin, Grilled Hawaiian Snapper, and local beer. Definitely worth the stop. That night we got in a bit late and stayed at the cutest airbnb (never actually saw it during the day so no photos.) Our plan was to wake up for sunrise so we only stayed in this airbnb for a few hours. It doesn’t have electricity so we sleep with the sliding door open all night and that night it rained. It was the most wonderful thing being in a super comfy bed listening to the rain outside your tiny house airbnb.
We woke up at 5am to watch the sunrise at State Park. We found a bench up on the hill, ate breakfast, and watched the sun rise over the horizon. It was a glorious way to start the morning to a long adventurous day.
We hiked down to the black sand beach. Since it was so early we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. This was the first moment I was thankful we did the Road to Hana this way. We got to the best and typically last stops on the road before everyone else did and got to enjoy it privately. You can even see a sea arch from the beach. The trail around the left of the beach led us to cliffs with huge waves splashing, a second black sand beach, and stunning views. We actually did the hike in flip flops because we didn’t think to put on hiking boots. It actually wasn’t hard in flip flops but I’m sure closed toe shoes would have been smarter. When we got back to the black sand beach we saw that there was a sea cave right off the beach so we decided to go in it briefly. There is a blowhole at the same state park but we got there at low tide so it wasn’t active.
Deciding that bagels were not enough we drove through Hana and found a food truck that offered coffee and smoothies (and was open.) We kept driving south towards Wailua Falls. There is an excellent view of the waterfall from the road if you wanted to stop and take photos. We opted to take the short trail to the pool at the base of the falls and also swim in the pool. It was “refreshing” aka chilly and the rocks in the water were pretty slippery. If I go back I would wear water shoes in the waterfall.
We drove towards the seven sacred pools even though we knew they were closed for swimming but open for viewing. What we didn’t realize is that it costs money to get into the Haleakala National Park for the seven sacred pools & Pipiwai trail. We opted not to go in and headed back north on our way back to Hana.
After realizing how hungry we were we turned off the main road following a sign for Huli Huli chicken and Koki beach. We got the 1/4 chicken and 2 rib combo plate. It was hot, fresh, and delicious! We found a log at Koki beach to eat our meal on and watched boogie boarders and surfers in the waves.
Being enticed by a half empty beach, a sign cautioning everyone, and soft sand we decided to throw the frisbee which of course led us to getting hot so naturally we had to boogie board (we had bought one for $20 at wal mart when we first landed.) The waves were pretty good but you needed fins to get to the good boogie boarding waves. There are lots of trees providing great shade for naps and hanging out for a while.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7rX9sxxeRU Continuing north we stopped at a fresh fruit stand in Hana and got a fresh pineapple (she even cut it up for us.) We decided that naturally the next order of business was dessert and Coconut Glens is the go-to destination along the Road the Hana. Coconut Glen’s is all natural, vegan ice cream made from coconuts. I got the vanilla/Chocolate flavors and they were delicious. I also want to preface that I don’t like coconut nor coconut flavored things and found this ice cream super yummy.
Since it was getting late in the day and we had most of the Road left we decided to just spend the rest of the time driving with the top down and making minimal stops. We did stop at a couple more waterfalls and overlooks but none of them compared to what we had already seen.
Couple final thoughts about the Road to Hana. There are a few overlooks along the road but for the most part the road is filled with large tropical plants. You can’t really see out a whole lot. It was different than what we expected and if we hadn’t driven along that road the first day we probably would have been a bit more disappointed. The road is pretty windy but it is mostly 2 lane expect turns and bridges. There are typically a lot of other cars doing the same route so you are going pretty slow. It’s not really very scary driving the road if you are in a normal sized rental car. Finally, there is no cell service pretty much the whole way. Just a heads up.
Our final night in Maui we spent in the cutest little airbnb in Paia called the green turtle house. We arrive just before sunset and essentially dropped our bags and went to find a beach to watch the sunset before dinner. What we stumbled upon was approx 30 seconds down the road from our airbnb. It doesn’t have any signage, just a parking lot. It’s a pretty decent sized beach which surprised us. As we were standing there watching the sky I happened to look over and no less than 30 feet from us was a gigantic sea turtle that looks like a boulder out of the corner of your eye. Then we noticed that we kept seeing turtles surface just past the small wake of the beach and I thought “How cool would it be if we got to see them come ashore.” Wish granted. We watched 7 turtles come ashore in the span of 5 minutes. It was the best kind of unexpected delight!
For dinner we wandered downtown Paia for a bit but decided Paia Fish Market was too good not to do again. Customer service there is A+ and the food is yummy!
Since we only had the morning left in Maui we enjoyed sleeping in as much as jet lag would allow us and headed generally towards the airport. Thankfully Paia bowls were on the way. Hawaii was the first place I ever got an Acai bowl and getting one there is nostalgia. We decided to get a large blended bowl and split it. It was easy to share and tided our bellies over until lunch.
We had read good reviews about Baldwin beach but due to time we only had time to park walk out on the beach and look around for a minute. I could see it being a very popular beach on afternoons and weekends. The sand was soft and the waves decent. There are also a good amount of natural shady spots so you wouldn’t need an umbrella.
Midday we hopped on a plane to Lihue, Kauai. While picking up our vehicle rental from Enterprise we got upgraded to a 4×4 truck which is suitable for Kauai more so than a convertible (unless you plan to only stick to the touristy areas.) Last time we came to Kauai we had found this coffee shop called Ha Coffee. It was literally first order of business to stop can grab coffee there. For a second time the coffee did not disappoint! Sitting in the coffee shop also gave us the opportunity to plan what we wanted to do while in Kauai.
Due to flooding in Hanalei a couple months before, this being our second time on the island, and some trail closings being in question we hadn’t planned our time in Kauai as much as Maui. We opted to check in to the Sheraton Kauai and enjoy a nice beach afternoon while continuing the discussion about what we wanted to do while here. If you have never met my husband then you don’t know that he is almost physically incapable of saying no to a “good deal.” Last year we took a wonderful sunset Na Pali coast cruise with Holo Holo Charters. We loved the company and our experience and were looking at the other excursions they offered. We called and found out that they have 2 openings for the 7 hour forbidden island and Na Pali snorkel tour the next morning. My husband also found that you can buy gift cards online from Costco for Holo Holo at a 20% discount which made our excursion 20% off! This qualified as a “good deal” and my husband was uber excited.
This is the tree tunnel drive towards Poipu Beach.
We ended our evening with dinner at Brenekes Beach Broiler with fresh caught fish and a small evening rain shower.
Our Holo Holo adventure began bright and early. Bless them for providing a delicious breakfast spread while we headed out of the harbor. Not 15 minutes on our way to the Na Pali coast we see a whole pod of dolphins off the coast from the Pacific Missile Range. We were able to quietly coast close to them and some of the dolphins were literally right off the front of our boat! No photos because we enjoyed it with our eyeballs plus I didn’t want to miss anything by running to my bag to grab my camera. We attempted to ride up front as we hit some of the bigger waves towards the North side of the island but got soaked and couldn’t keep the salt water off our eyes so we went to the back of the boat so we could actually watch the scenery. Coming upon the Na Pali coast never gets old. This time we were able to get incredibly close to the coast. We saw waterfalls, caves, ancient burial sites, and plenty of breathtaking sites. At this point we were already happy with our decision to do this particular adventure. Last year we were able to see the beautiful coast of Na Pali but it was more from afar and not quite as up close and personal.
After our journey across some moderately “exciting” waves we tie off at a snorkeling point just off the “Forbidden Island” aka Niihau. Other than some beautiful and bright fish we saw a Mahi Mahi (first time not seeing it on our dinner plates) and at the very end I spotted a white tip shark. After snorkeling, we enjoyed lunch on the boat and began our journey back across the sea to Kauai. My husband had the brilliant idea to keep our snorkels and ride in the front of the ship where we could ride the most “exciting” part of our journey. If you do this adventure and want to ride the big waves a mask is a must if you want to see anything. We were being sprayed with sea water the whole time and the mask was a HUGE help. The only downside is we both forgot to put defogger in our masks so we were fogging up a bit. Nonetheless, it was an awesome way to end the whole trip.
On our way back to our hotel we stopped at Kauai Coffee to nab something to drink and to see the property. It was so cool you could do a tour and they had a whole area where you could sample different kinds of coffee. As someone who needed a caffeine pick me up at the very moment I was thrilled.
We were lucky enough to be in Kauai over the course of 4th of July! Before our trip I researched about fireworks on the island because we had missed fireworks the past couple years. I found out that the Pacific Missile Range has it’s own festival and firework celebration on July 3rd so we decided we would just go and watch the fireworks. We were able to sit right on the beach directly under the fireworks and watched a spectacular show! They had some really cool explosions, shapes, and colors. That being said parking was a bit of a nightmare and we ended up having to walk .7 miles to the entrance. Next time we will either go earlier or get an Uber there.
This was our dedicated beach day. It began at the Sheraton resort where we blew up our $3 floats we had purchased and floated out beyond the waves for quite a while and then followed that up with naps and iced chai lattes.
We were recommended to Koloa Fish Market for lunch and loved this completely hole in the wall place. the Poke Bowls were fresh and delicious. My favorite flavor was the Korean Poke.
After lunch began part 2 of our beach day. We drove out to Polihale State Park. Before you go to this beach you need to make sure you have the right vehicle. In order to even reach the beach you have to drive 4.8 miles on unpaved, pot hole filled, bumpy road. We were lucky to have a truck so it wasn’t a problem. While we did see sedans driving our there it would not be the most comfortable or easy ride. This beach is also one you can drive your vehicle and park right on the beach. This was the most appealing aspect to us especially since we had checked out of our hotel and had all our luggage with us. Side note: learn from what we didn’t do, read about how to drive on the beach before you go. We got stuck and the sweetest gentleman came to help us. With lower tire pressure and 4×4 we managed to get to the spot we wanted all along and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon in the shade of our truck (may or may not have been slightly sunburned.) Best part was sitting on the back of the truck, opening a bottle of wine, and watching the sunset. If you have a 4×4 vehicle I would definitely head out to this beach. It gorgeous to spend a day and relax. If you don’t have 4×4 just drive carefully and don’t go out on the sand. There are a couple facilities in the park and non beach parking where you just walk over the dunes. It’s a really deep beach so there isn’t natural shade available so bring umbrellas.
Being that it was 4th of July we had planned to drive to Lihue for the large firework celebration but due to the fact we were literally at the end of the road on the west side of the island and that the main road was closed in Kekaha for their firework celebration. We tried driving around it but due to timing we realized there was no way to make it to Lihue in time so we stumbled upon a spot on the side of the road just big enough for the truck to fit that was not 200ft from where the fireworks were being lit. It was amazing. Again sitting on the back of the truck being enveloped by an incredible show that felt so close you could touch it. We were close enough that we would feel a little bit of debris falling on us. Made it even better! The funniest moment we had was spotting a drone flying just above the tree to get video of the fireworks and watching it slowly get closer and then a huge firework explosion happened and almost hit the drone. We laughed as the drone flew backward as quickly as it could and imagined the pilot being like “ARG!! TOO CLOSE!!” It was quite a sight.
For the second year, we stayed in an airbnb close to the Lihue airport. It is easy to check in to, clean, quiet, safe parking, and has excellent shower pressure! If you need someplace centrally located on the island from which to jump off of this place is excellent and cost-effective relative to other places.
Our flight on our last day didn’t leave until 10:50 pm so we had all day. We woke up reinflated our tires and got pancakes at Tip Top Cafe after our airbnb host suggested it. The pancakes were fresh, fluffy, and delicious. It’s a bit hidden so plug it into GPS and keep you eye out for it. This pretty much goes for any food establishment in Kauai.
We decided this was the day we would actually do a real hike so we drove up Waimea Canyon Drive (it was as beautiful as ever with a new epic waterfall) and parked at the trail head of Awa’awapuhi Trail. Now keep in mind that we don’t really hike. We have hiking boots (thanks REI garage sale) but rarely use them mainly due to having no time before sunset. The Awa’awapuhi Trail actually starts at a higher elevation so the first half of the hike isn’t too bad considering it’s all down hill. It’s pretty lush and not many look out points. For the most part you are in the forest then it opens up to the Na Pali coast and the most gorgeous view. There are 3 main viewing points you can get to. There is the tallest and most safe, then you can go a bit lower (lots of loose dirt when we went so a bit slippery) to another viewing point that is way worth going down to. It’s nearly 360 degree viewing. It’s phenominal. There is a small rock “bridge” you can get across that we eventually did go across. It offers slightly better views of the coast but if you are too nervous to go out there then you aren’t missing much. The trail back is pretty rough. It’s all up hill with some parts being steeper than others but for the most part your butt will be burning! Couple of big tips for this trail: bring soooo much water and snacks. Conserve your water for the way back to your car. You will need and want it. Hiking boots are highly recommended but tennis shoes with good treat should be fine. We were able to do the trail at a moderate pace, took our time enjoying to view and got back to our car in 4 hours.
This blow up dinosaur was hysterical. The story behind it is that this young lady takes a photo in the dino everywhere she hikes. She has an entire gallery of the dinosaur all over the world. Side note: she said the arms and selfie stick are too short to fit the whole dino head for a selfie. Made us chuckle even more.
Afterwards we drove to the end of Waimea Canyon Trail Drive and enjoyed one final view of the Na Pali Coast. It’s also the trailhead of the Pihea Trail.
We were starving (read: I was getting hangrier by the second) after hiking and had our hearts set on enjoying because we had it last year and it was to die for but alas they closed just before we could get to the bottom so we choose to grab another round of delicious poke bowls and hawaiian barbecue from Koloa Fish Market and ate it at the picnic table at Poipu Beach.
With only a couple hours left (read: just enough time) to drive up to Princeville and see Queens Bath, something we didn’t get to last time we came to Kauai. I did not read reviews about Queens Bath and didn’t realize there is a very muddy hike down to the cliffs and then a couple minute walk along the cliffs to the actual queens bath. We arrived right at dusk and got to see how clear the waters are along with how strong the waves looked. I can see why there are so many drowning warnings. My husband wanted to jump in the water (mostly since we hadn’t showered since our hike and were about to board a plane for 5 hours) but also because he likes jumping off things into water. Our excursion to Queen’s Bath was very brief but worth it.
After that we boarded a plane back to the mainland sunburnt, peeling, little pudgier, but so relaxed and happy.