I am going to break down my Hawaii recap/review into two parts. The first will cover Kauai and the second will cover Maui. We decided to stay 11 nights total, 5 in Kauai and 6 in Maui. I would not call this a "budget trip" by any means, but it is entirely possible to go to Hawaii with an average budget. There were places we decided to spend the extra money and places we decided to save, but feel free to ask any detail questions. I'm happy to answer anything and have not left anything out on purpose. Lastly, before I get into the details, the Maui Revealed and Kauai Guidebooks (the small blue books) are a lifesaver! There is also a Big Island version as well. They are worth every penny...even though we borrowed ours from family :)
We purchases round trip tickets through Delta using Carl's frequent flier miles. We had to pay a few small fees for ticketing and to move a few of my miles over, but otherwise those were free. This was a huge savings as tickets for us would have cost anywhere from about $700-$1000 a person. The flight landed in Kauai and departed out of Maui which saved us a little bit since we only had to buy one way inter-island flights as opposed to round trip.
We arrived on the island of Kauai at the airport in Lihue (LIH) at approximately 5pm. Our only plans were to go grocery shopping, get dinner and get settled in our condo. We stopped at Wal-Mart and purchased about $50 worth of groceries. This allowed us to eat breakfast in the condo each morning and pack a few lunches. It definitely saved us a bit of money. This was made possible, partially, because of the condo. Oh and the grocery debate- did we experience sticker shock? Eh, not really. I knew it would be pricier, but I wasn't really shocked. At the time we went, milk was about $4.50 a gallon.
On the topic of the condo, let's discuss that a bit. We opted to stay in a condo for this portion for a few reasons. 1. It's a bit cheaper than a hotel. 2. We knew this part of the trip would be more of a go, see do and less time would be spent there. 3. We wanted a full kitchen to be able to eat in for casual meals. We didn't go with the cheapest condo since we wanted a view, but you can find some very reasonable ones, especially in the east shore area. We booked through this group and were very pleased. The photos were very accurate and they were great with giving information. The only thing I wasn't prepared for were the bare minimum amenities. The kitchen was well equipped but the bathroom didn't have much. My main issue was there were only 4 bath towels total and while we had a washing machine, they were different colors. It worked out fine in the end, but it would have been nice to have more.
This is the view out of the day bed area. The bedroom and lanai views were very similar as the condo is perched on a bluff:
This was the view out the kitchen, however I forgot to actually take it, so this is from the ground level. Just imagine it was 3 floors up:
The entire island is very lush. I stated to Carl that I thought it looked more rugged than I expected, and he said that he loved that about it. We stayed on the north shore which has some of the nicest hotels and resorts on the island. However, many of the activities were located on the south and west shore. Nearly every day we spent time getting to the other parts of the island. A few things to note, you cannot drive all the way around. Roads stop on the North Shore and pick back up on the West Shore. Could we have saved a decent amount of time by staying in the East or South Shore? Yes. But we agreed it was a good move for us because we were "forced" to see much of the island. Plus it only takes 75 minutes to get from the north end to the west end. The views and beaches on the North Shore are unmatched, hands down.
Well, we had words with Kauai the first few days. We had a lot of fog and rain the first two days. There was barely a smidge of sun until the afternoon, but we spent a good portion of the rain in the car, so we didn't let it ruin our trip. After that, it was almost always dry and sunny with a perfect cooling breeze. Quite beautiful!
This could easily be a mile long. I could drive on those roads forever, so long as it was always daylight! The eucalyptus trees are simply stunning and the winding roads give sweeping views of beaches and the ocean. The first sight we went to see, er tried to see, was the Waimea Canyon. Unfortunately this was one of the rainy days and the clouds had settled quite nicely into the canyon. We couldn't see a darn thing. Luckily we had a chance to go back a few days later (and endure the 10 mile twisty road up the mountain at 20 mph), it had cleared up and we were able to see it's full beauty! We also saw Wailea Falls, which is a very easy sight to reach. You simply drive, park and walk a few feet to the overlook. Our favorite sight was the Molokea Lava Pools. They were reached by going to the Kilihiwai Bay beach and hiking about 1/2 mile. A field of lava pools that goes on what seems like forever is the reward. We also stumbled upon the Tree Tunnel, which is exactly what it sounds like and we also saw the Spouting Horn on the South Shore. Like I said, I could go on and on about all the things we saw, but I think blogger might get mad at me. I'll just show you some pics :)
Waimea Canyon the first time:
And the much better second time:
A very small piece of the Molokea Lava Pools:
We did a handful of activities while we were there. We went on a sunset cruise of the Na Pali Coast, tubed an old sugar cane plantation irrigation system and visited the McBryde Botanical Gardens. We went through this company for our sunset cruise. It was beautiful and if you've never seen the Na Pali Coast, trust me, you've never seen anything like it. The only negative was that many people got sick, and it took a lot of my concentration to not be one of them. Obviously that isn't the company's fault, but it was distracting. I think I would opt for the helicopter tour next time.
The tubing was really interesting. Definitely different than what I was expecting, but not in a bad way. This is the company that provides that tour. You float on tubes through 5 tunnels carved by the Chinese. I'll leave it at that as the stories are better told by the pros! If you want to do something completely different than the normal excursions, this one is a great option! My only complaint was that the lunch was Subway. Don't get me wrong, I like Subway, but that wasn't told up front and I was expecting something nicer than that.
The McBryde Botanical Gardens are part of system of gardens. All very well maintained with a great history. It fit perfectly into our last day in Kauai, so we did it. Was it spectacular? No. Was it enjoyable? Yes. Was it reasonably priced? Yes. Could you get a good enough view of the plants simply by walking through the garden next to the parking lot for free? Probably. You can check it out here.
We saw three beaches while we were there; Secret Beach, Tunnels Beach and the Bay described above. I guess we "saw" way more than that, but these were the only ones I would say we visited. Really, you can't go wrong with the beaches there, but I will have to say, the ones that are more work to get to are totally worth it! Tunnels Beach is known for snorkeling which we did. I am not a huge fan of snorkeling, but try it everywhere we go. They have some really pretty rainbow fish that made it enjoyable :) Secret Beach had a ton of surfers, and although we didn't go, it was fun to watch.
Cave at Secret Beach:
We tried a lot of them :) I'll just be straight up with you, no lying.
Bubba Burger (east)- Good burgers- onion rings are great! They highly rate their chili rice- it was just so so for me. It was perfect for our dinner when we landed.
Pizzetta (south)- we ate their for lunch the day we were going on our dinner cruise. Decent enough pizza, nothing to write home about.
Bouchon's (north)- flat out? Not that great. We had sushi there and missed our local restaurant.
Hanalei Dolphin (north) AKA Blue Dolphin- Very good! Great Ahi Tuna and calamari.
Grind Cafe (south) Just stopped for a quick sandwich- good and fresh.
Polynesia Cafe (north) There slogan is Gourmet Food, Paper Plates. It's true. The chili cheese fries rocked and the beef stir fry dish was great.
Roy's (south)SOOOO good! We had excellent mai tais and a lemon martini oh and the Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi was alright too ;)
The only ones we encountered were the sun and sharp rocks. There wasn't a day we weren't coated in either 50 or 30 spf. We both still came home with a nice little tan. Don't ruin your vacation trying to get bronze. We had a mini 1st aid kit from Target that was easy to throw in our backpack and was used to fix a sharp rock wound as well as some flip flop injuries :/
I kept saying the entire trip- "man, I am so happy with what we brought!" A few things that made the trip so enjoyable were as follows:
*2 Klean Kanteens- drink water, drink water, drink water! Trust me. This made it super easy and eco-friendly!
* A small backpack- we bought this one and it was GREAT! It was the perfect size for our 1st aid kit, a towel, cameras, sunscreen, phone, wallet and our kanteens fit perfectly on the side.
*LOTS of bathing suits- Carl had 3, I had 5 :)
*Limited dress clothes- I had a few dresses, didn't even need them all. Hawaii is VERY casual
*Lots of sunscreen. We had two sets of 50spf and one bottle of 30spf, plus one for the face. It was the perfect amount.
*Keens- great for hiking and dried super quick!
Those are the main things that I was really happy having.
Just know that Kauai is very small town feeling and very laid back. There is no "city." But that is its beauty. Enjoy Kauai for it's natural features. The rest are just little details.
So, I think that just about wraps up Kauai, but like I said, I didn't leave anything out on purpose. If you want more information, please feel free to ask questions! If you want more pictures of something in particular, again, happy to share, I just didn't want to bog everyone down. I'll be back later to discuss Maui, but my poor little fingers need a nap!