Kauai, Hawaii

If you’re visiting one of the many Hawaiian Islands for the first time, I highly recommend going to Kauai first. It is the quintessential Hawaiian getaway!

When I decided I had the funds to pull off a trip to Hawaii, I was so excited and grateful, nothing stood in my way! It was the longest flight I had ever been on too. So, lots of excitement and nervousness on that first trip there. I thought, “what is all the fuss about?” 

Well I found out, and it definitely lives up to all the hype!

We arrive at the Lihue airport and it’s dark. Tired but still so excited, I have all the energy I need to get to the car rental place and wait for what seems like forever. I just want to get my Hawaii on man! Finally getting squared away with the car we are going to be driving all over this island, I still haven’t had the pleasure of seeing it in the daylight yet. The carload is me, my husband, and a couple that’s been our longtime friends, several suitcases and bags (I definitely overpacked) with my new iPhone in hand, guiding us to our beach bungalow we booked several months back. 

We arrive all in one piece, dragging my heavy ass overpacked suitcase up a flight stairs to our temporary digs on this tropical island so far away from home. I loved it!

We stayed at the Kiahuna Plantation & Beach Bungalows in Poipu. It was like a little apartment with all the cute island decor, ceiling fans and louvers on almost all the walls to let the winds blow through to cool you. I was in no way used to the humidity in Kauai and I became thankful for the ventilation strategy.

Fast forward to morning. I’m finally struck with the lush beauty of this place. They don’t call it the garden island for nothing. Yep totally worth all the hype. Let’s get our Hawaii on!

What you must do in Kauai

Go chill on a beach – Duh! Our beach was Poipu Beach. Which was wonderful, with calm shores and warm waters. Plus our accommodations included a spot in a chair or on the nice grass if you just want to admire the ocean without the sand. Check out Glass Beach as well It’s in Eleele.

Poipu Beach
a seal on our beach!
Glass Beach

Spouting Horn – You have to go see the Spouting Horn shoot water into the air. This whole section is fenced off so you can’t get down to it, and for good reason once you see it.

Allerton Garden – This is a can’t miss seriously! These botanical gardens are one-of-a-kind.

It’s like an art gallery in a secluded tropical garden. Take the tour and learn so much about the island. You even get to sample some peculiar fruit.

These trees were used in the first Jurassic Park film!
Breadfruit

ATV rides – Right up my alley! We booked ours with Kipu Ranch Adventures and it was awesome! You can pay to drive your own choice of ATV or ride with the guide. Your group travels together all over the ranch property with the guide and learn more about the area and the Hawaiian culture in general. Our guide was fun and the best damn panoramic picture taker I’ve ever seen!

Pretty bamboo on one of our hikes during the ride

Waimea Canyon – Drive up this windy spectacular canyon and discover at the look-off a great view of the famous Jurassic Park waterfall featured in the first film. 

The air on top was a little more like home with the higher altitude and cooler temperatures.

They call it “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

Jurassic falls!

Luau – You have to do the Luau, I’m telling ya. There are a few to choose from but we went to the Smith Family Luau. It was a great first Luau to go to. They have their very own botanical garden in which you will ride around in a trolly to marvel all the glorious lushness that is Kauai

Drive around the island – I know it seems like a lot but you can get around pretty quickly as it is not very big or densely populated. Even if the speed limit never gets above 50 MPH. Go to the northern shore if you’re not already staying there. Specifically Kalihiwai Beach at sunset is amazing!

Kalihiwai Beach – northern shore
farmland
Trees lining a road like this means it leads to royalty.

Poipu Shopping Village – Check out the shopping and dining here.

  • Anuenue Cafe – Has the best breakfast and their own coffee brewmaster. Eat out side in the covered patio and watch the chickens fight over dropped crumbs.
  • Puka Dog – You must try the Puka Dog. It’s unique twist on a hot dog & bun with several choices of Hawaiian sauces.

I’d love to go back to Kauai someday, it’s the perfect Hawaiian Island. 

Maybe I will after I’ve been to a couple of the other islands.

Northern Shore Oahu, Hawaii

Read on for some great ideas for food, and activities on the north shore Oahu, Hawaii.

Ahh Hawaii. One of my favorite places I’ve been so far for sure!

The weather is great, the water is warm and the vibe is chill. Not to mention how gorgeous it is everywhere! Green and serene. Lucious and plentiful. Majestic and awe-inspiring. My experience on the Northern Shores of Oahu are definitely in my element with all of the surfer easygoing attitudes of pretty much everyone there.

We generally avoided the super busy parts of this island as much as possible like Honolulu, Waikiki and the other popular beaches and attractions on the southernish part of the island.

Luckily we got to go with another couple and shared a 2 floor beach house on Pupukea beach. Depending on your budget for lodging, I highly recommend renting an Air B&B. Most of the ones we looked at had a lot of gear stored in them for whatever you might like to do during your stay. That helps a ton when you’re traveling damn near 3,000 miles flying through the air where you pay a small fortune already to do so. Not to mention any extra baggage you think you have to have and pay more for.

View of the beach house we rented from the ocean shore.
What to do on the Northern shore

Eats

This isn’t the best food and or restaurant guide as I did have a house to cook a lot of meals myself, so I didn’t go out much to eat but these are a few things I did try. I firmly believe, when on vacay you gotsta let someone else cook for you for the most part of your stay right?

Where we stayed, there was a super convenient food truck park about a mileish down the road that we frequented quite regularly and a grocery store called Foodland right next to it. Groceries are kinda pricey in Hawaii depending on what you want but I still say it’s a little cheaper than eating out for every meal.

Getting my street taco on!
  • Ted’s Bakery – Kamehameha, Hwy  – We got a plate lunch here for breakfast one day that fed me for 3 breakfasts – Huge amounts of food. Not bad but not great.
Plate lunch from Ted’s Bakery
  • North Shore Tacos (food truck, Pupukea ) – You might be thinking like I did. WTF? Food trucks? Blech! But no this one was a hit with us all. Very good food all around!
  • The Spot (food truck, Pupukea) – Good food. Friendly service. We sat at their tables and the flies were hellacious but that’s not really their fault now is it?
  • Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck – Kamehameha, Hwy – Good luck with this one! This shrimp truck is so popular, you cannot even think about going around any time of day when most people think about eating. We made the mistake of going around lunch time one day and the line was so big, I didn’t know where it started and ended. So we didn’t end up eating here, but I put it in because it took up so much of my time that day. I thought about it a lot too. I’m sure it’s good!
There’s way more people waiting in line on the other side of that truck I promise!
  • Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican – Haleiwa – The name says it all! Yummy Mexican cuisine and very colorful and festive decor and atmosphere.
  • Teddy’s Bigger Burgers – Haleiwa – Oh man! I ate a burger and fries here and let me tell ya, them shits are big and delicious, and I ate waaaaay too much for lunch and ended up taking a nap (big mistake!) so I had to walk that shit off for a while with no dinner that night. 
  • Haleiwa Joe’s Seafood & Grill – My husband and I ate here as a little getaway as a couple and also to try some of this Islands seafood fare. This place didn’t disappoint either!
  • Matsumoto’s – Haleiwa – Shave Ice joint. Busy usually. But worth the wait. Now I know what you’re thinking. Really? A dessert made of ground up ice, some flavoring and ice cream? Yes! So good. Such a treat here and definitely go to Matsumoto’s. I tried my friends from a food truck somewhere else and it wasn’t even as yummy. Their flavoring is the cat’s pajamas!
  • Breakers Restaurant & Bar – Haleiwa – Way cool surfer bar that serves local cuisine along with American food choices. We ate here on our last day before heading to the airport. 
  • Pounders – Polynesian Culture Center – Laie – All I remember was they had a pizza oven covered in pennies that was cool and the fries were phenomenal!
Activities, attractions and what to do
Beautiful sunset from the beach house balcony

For the amount of time I spent on Oahu I guess you could say I didn’t go do a whole lot. I didn’t get to do everything on my list but I’m okay with that. I firmly believe that a fair share of relaxation time is equally as important. Read on to read about what I did and what to check out.

There’re a lot of things to do for sure, too many to list here.

  • Haleiwa North Shore Marketplace – Go shopping! Even if you don’t have the budget to buy, it’s really just fun to look at all the cute shops and buildings here. There are usually some interesting people out and about too.
  • Dole Plantation – Wahiawa – Skip it unless you’re taking kids or have an extreme affinity for Pineapple flavored FroYo. It’s a total tourist trap but they do have a train ride for the little ones, the worlds largest maze (kinda fun) and their own little botanical garden. All of these things come at a cost of course and you can also get all things pineapple inside at the shop.
Dole whip


Shark’s Cove – Pupukea – Snorkeling is popular here because the rock and coral formations are perfect for fish to swim into and basically get trapped until the tide comes back in. I could see fish just by sitting on some of the rocks and looking into the tide pools. But check before you head there to see if the tide has come in or if there are rough waves. I can tell you it doesn’t look fun when that happens and it shows because nobody is there when it does.

High tide at Sharks Cove
  • Seashell hunting – any beach really – My favorite! Seriously, one of my favorite things to do whilst I’m out on the desert at home is looking for pretty, cool and interesting rocks. Seashell hunting is just like that but on a beach, in beautiful Hawaii. Need I say more! Free natural souvenirs! Now some people say you shouldn’t take these home because it places some sort of bad juju on you. But I am not superstitious at all! So it’s all good as long as you can fit them all in your luggage and whatnot.
A pretty good size piece of sea glass.
  • Artwork wall at Pupukea Beach Park – While you’re looking for seashells on this beach, just meander over towards Shark’s Cove / tide pools way and check out the artwork on this wall. It’s really something I think.
Check out that wall!
  • Walk to Hidden Beach – Haleiwa – Beautiful hidden beach coves with the best seashells! Just West of the Mokuleia Beach park are some “hidden” beaches that are more secluded and less populated if at all. I had a lot of fun exploring around here, but in my excitement and also complete stupidity I didn’t think to keep the sunblock on and I got Lobsta red! It kinda put a damper on my sun loving activities for a couple days.
Hidden Beach
Looking inland from Hidden beach. Beautiful!
  • Polynesian Culture Center – Laie – Another sort-of tourist trap but they have the Hukilau Marketplace with shops and eats. They also have a large Luau available but I didn’t partake in this part of it. This place is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints. Which kind floored me when discovering Hawaii is full of Mormons. Coming from Utah where that state is considered the Mormon capital of America. So don’t expect to drink alcohol at this Luau.
  • Waimea Valley Botanical gardens – Haleiwa- Take a stroll through the unique and beautiful gardens and learn more about the Hawaiian culture here. Make sure you walk up to the waterfall and pool you can swim in if you’re in the mood. There’s also a little place to grab lunch if hunger strikes. If you purchase a ticket for the Toa Luau here, you can get this portion free but it has to be the same day the Luau is
Little stream in the Waimea Valley Gardens
Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens
Waimea Valley garden flower. Trust me I had a lot more pics of flowers!
  • Toa Luau – Waimea Valley – Oh yeah! My favorite part of the trip. Other than seashell hunting of course! This is a more intimate and small Luau which is what appealed to me from the beginning. When we went they had only been up and running for about 6 months so they were fairly new. They had everything running smoothly as if they’d been doing it for years, but with the enthusiasm of a new team. You begin the evening with several ancient Polynesian culture traditions and ceremonies that you get to be a part of. You can make coconut milk, braid your own head band, grind at some taro root and more. The host was funny and sarcastic. The food was a great variety and delicious and the drinks were nice and strong. The entertainment was so good I got chills and a little emotional I must admit. They treated us like family. Our friends booked right a long with us but their daughter grabbed a hot clothes iron and burned her little hand pretty bad, so they didn’t go. No refunds of course. We explained why our three other people booked with us weren’t there and they felt so bad that they sent us with to go boxes of everything for all three people and…AND the special souvenir you’re only supposed to get with the VIP package. What a great group of people really! Highly recommended!
Toa Luau. The guys are prepping our dinner.
Toa Luau – Dinner entertainment.
  • Farmers Markets – You gotta check out a farmer’s market or two. Especially if you’re fortunate enough to have your own kitchen like we did. We went to one on Kamehameha Hwy and got some delicious fresh native fruits and cut up coconut. They may look a little shady but apparently it was all good!
  • Tropical Farms, Macadamia nut farm – Kamehameha Hwy – These guys had all of the macadamia nut flavors you could wish for and more – like Kona coffee’s and souvenirs and what have you. It was pretty crowded with tourists when we went, but I’m glad we did. The Kona coffee dusted macadamia nuts were to die for!I took an unopened package home in my checked luggage hoping TSA wouldn’t jack my shit. They didn’t, so luckily I didn’t have to sob into my pillow when I got home. 
  • Pearl Harbor – Honolulu – And of course there’s this. You really just kinda have to do. Another tourist trap of course but interesting. It’s a great way to kill time if needed. Like we did after we checked out and was waiting to go to the airport on our last day. Redeye flights are a bitch! If you wanted to see all of the attractions here and maybe take a tour to learn even more, be prepared to pay a decent amount for it.
Memorial site at Pearl Harbor.

Damn you Hawaii! Why are you so expensive?!

If you’re thinking about going just save up and go already! Or just go and never come back. That’s what our cleaning lady professed to us when she showed up a little early on our last day. The humidity is a little hard to get used to especially if you’re from a very dry area like Utah. Disturbing words like moist, swamp ass and sticky come to mind. And then there’s volcanoes on some of the neighboring islands. Volcanoes are a super destructive awesome way to make an island bigger and all, but that shit is frightening. Luckily we were hundreds of miles away on Oahu where we couldn’t even see smoke from the volcano jackin up peoples shit over on the Big Island. Got a lot of texts and facebook messages that week though asking if we were alive and okay.

This is the second time we vacationed somewhere and a natural disaster hit that we narrowly escaped. But that’s for another post……

Lovin Hawaii……and that view!