Paradise Found: Kauai'i
Everyone told us we would fall in love with Kauai’i. They were not wrong.
Sam and I had been enjoying our few idyllic days in O’ahu’s Turtle Bay so much, we were anxious to uproot (O’ahu Part I here and Part II here). A later than late taxi transfer to the airport almost meant we missed our plane. Pair that with a two hour wait to pick up a car upon landing, grumbling because we skipped breakfast, and we were far from the best versions of ourselves.
There are many times in life where I need to check my privilege. Here I was, pouting about perceived misfortunes, on honeymoon in Hawai’i . As it turns out, waiting in line worked a treat. The family in front of us turned away their pre-booked, ooh-la-la convertible for something that would fit the full collection of their sandcastle building supplies. They wanted a plain, sensible, roomier car. Our car. Free upgrade to wind in our hair? We surveyed our relative lack of luggage (and kids) and signed right up.
And then, there was Kauai’s St. Regis. Friends insisted that if we visit The Garden Island, as Kauai’i is known, we simply must stay there. We had heard the rumours. We had seen the pictures. We were sold. And then we saw the prices. We dillied and dallied, before employing a motto we definitely over-used during our Aloha adventure - “bugger it, we’re on honeymoon”. If Kaua’i had a palace, this would be it. From the shell-inspired artwork to our nautically inclined abode, the St. Regis personifies Ariel’s underwater cave of treasures on dry land.
The St. Regis sits on the edge of Hanalei Bay, after which you reach the beginning of the world-famous Na Pali coastline. Lush, jagged and mountainous, it’s a trail unlike anywhere else. And for Jurassic Park enthusiasts (and there’s a little bit in us all), it is an unnervingly familiar sight, especially for active imaginations. Our dinosaur count remained at zero, thankfully.
Hawai’i does outstanding breakfasts. On our first morning, we dragged ourselves from a cloud of pillows and duvets and made our way down to Hanalei's village for breakfast. Fluffy waffles plus whipped cream plus spicy pineapple compote equals my happy place. Wake Up Café is just about the only place you’ll find open early in the morning, and it is well worth your custom. We were up with the rising sun not to surf, but to walk the Kalalau Trail along the famous Na Pali coastline. Trail runners and similarly superhuman adventure types were already wrapping up by the time we pulled up at the trail’s base - it pays to arrive early.
We opted to follow Na Pali's Kalalau Trail along to Hanakāpīʻai beach and back, which is about a three hour round trip depending how long you faff-about 'oohing', 'aahing' and digging your toes in the sand once you reach the beach. You can do a day hike, which takes you beyond the beach, following the Hanakāpīʻai stream inland up to the falls. But our sumptuous hotel pool(s), complete with paper-umbrella cocktails, were beckoning.
Make sure your camera batteries are well charged as every step of the trail is as pretty as a picture. While you don’t need hiking boots, I would not do it in less than sneakers as the teetering trail is often slippery with wet mud. I’ll admit it - I was a little freaked out in parts. But the views - oh my - are something I will never forget. Take your time, soak it up, and keep an eye on the seas below in case of dolphins. Wandering the Na Pali coastline was one of the best things we did on the whole trip.
Appetites re-instated, we returned home via a pit-stop at Bless Your Soul’s shrimp truck for lunch. Go for the side of Portuguese sausage and buttery corn, too.
We spent every other hour of sunlight nestled under a sprawling tree on Hanalei’s beach, flipping the pages of our sandy books and bobbing in the bay to soak up some of the best snorkeling in Hawai’i. Flippers were de rigeur. After sun-down, we scrubbed the salt from our hair and made our way down to Tahiti Nui back in the village. We clinked lilikoi cocktails with locals chorusing along with the crooning ukulele artist. Fans of The Descendants movie will recognise scenes of the flaxen walls and the hibiscus prints worn sans irony.
On our final morning we decided that we definitely, must, take a surfing lesson. No visit to Hawai’i could be considered proper without one. We had noticed Kauai’s North Shore Surfing School down in the village, and decided to bestow upon them the challenge to get not one, but both of us, riding a longboard. Guess what? It worked. We loved every minute, and caught a few baby waves. We also achieved the impossible: making a surfboard look uncool. Thanks to their photographer for the gawky pictures, but we’ll leave those memories nicely cocooned in our minds rather than on our walls.
Of our four stops around the state, our time in Kauai’i's north shore was our favourite. Our next and final stop was much kinder on our battered wallets - stay tuned. Thanks Kauai'i!
With Love, Kate
(P.S We then went onto chill on Kauai'i's south coast - check that out here)