Summer is on its way, and after the year we just had, let’s just say I think we’re all in need of a little mental health day.. Er.. week. Whether you’re in planning mode or just daydreaming about the perfect beach getaway, we’ve curated an awesome collection of blogs & tips to help you get there, get around - and of course, surf the best spots. Welcome to our #wanderseries. Get your notebooks out, people.
is both commemorative of and distinctively different from the other islands. Like the other islands, Kauai was initially inhabited roughly 1500 years ago by the same Polynesian adventurers who completed their nearly 2000 mile sea voyage on outrigger canoes when they first landed on the shores of the big island of Hawaii. Here they stayed undisturbed for around 500 years, until a second wave of sea-canoe travelers appeared, this time from Tahiti (which was also originally settled by Polynesian sea-canoe explorers). It was from the Tahitian arrival that the current Hawaiian gods, belief structures and many traditions evolved.
European traders did not discover the islands until the late 1700’s, when in 1778, James Cook found and called them the “Sandwich Islands” after one of Cook’s expedition sponsors. Unfortunately, the interaction between Cook and the Hawaiians ended up proving to be less than “friendly”, and he was met there with his untimely death when he tried to ransom a Chief and was killed during the altercation. Before his death, however, Cook managed to introduce the Hawaiian Islands to the European world, and with that introduction came other European travelers, traders and business ventures.
Kauai, though, remained relatively untouched by the traders in comparison to the other islands. This could be due to the fact the Kauai was the only island among the Hawaiian chain that resisted domination from the reign of King Kamehameha, who during his reign in the late 17th century to early 18th century had conquered and united the rest of the islands in the archipelago. Twice King Kamehameha had gathered armadas to conquer Kauai, and each time he was met with utter failure – due once to a storm and rough seas, and the other due to an epidemic which crippled his forces. Eventually though, the king of Kauai, King Kaumualii, united forces with Kamehameha, probably to avoid future invasion attempts, and to prevent continuing hostilities and any possible bloodshed which would ensue.
After Kaumualii agreed to become Kamehameha’s vassal, however, he engaged in secretive negotiations with the Russian-American Company in attempts to gain militia support against Kamehameha’s rule. When these negotiations ceased due to the company’s lack of support from their Russian Czar, Kauai’s historical fort, Fort Elizabeth, was abandoned. Fort Elizabeth still remains, and along with the coconut and sugar plantations which were established during Cook’s trading era, is one of Kauai’s many popular tourist attractions. (source: kauai.com)
How To Get There
Kauai's main airport is Lihue Airport (LIH) in southeastern Lihue. Many airlines now offer non-stop service to Kauai. There is also the option of flying into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu first and then heading to Kauai on a short, 25-minute flight.
For flights and vacation packages, it makes sense to use what’s available. Whether Kauai is your only destination or a stop on your island hopping tour, here are a few options to getting yourself there:
Where To Stay
Hawaii offers incredible vistas, views, and options for places to stay. It is important to note however, that Hawaii has very specific zoning laws when it comes to vacation rentals (such as AirBnb); so check beforehand to be sure you’re legally staying in one if this is the option you go for. Real Hawaii offers some great visuals to plan your trip to any island and ensure you stay in the right area.
Once you decide what type of accommodations you want to stay in, now comes the real challenge - what part of the island do you want to stay in?
Kauai offers amazing options on all side of the islands -
- South Shore (Poipu)
- North Shore (Hanalei, Princeville)
- East Side (Kapaa, Wailua, Lihue)
- West Side (Waimea Canyon)
The south shore is typically sunnier and drier most of the year, and boasts the more accessible beaches. It can also be quite a bit pricier than the other areas due to the desirable location.
Although it is pretty expensive as well and has some amazing big waves in the winter, the North Shore of Kauai boasts incredible views and opportunities for one-of-a-kind helicopter tours along the Nepali coast.
If you’re looking for something super unique, check out this riverfront vacation home with its own private pool!
Koloa Landing Resort is also another popular place to relax after a long day of adventure.
On the North Shore, Hanalei Bay Resort offers incredible views and amenities.
For something a little more wild, Kauai also offers up a few of it’s parks and beaches for camping.
Good to know: There are numerous campsites where you can camp for nominal fees. When it comes to camping permits on Kauai, there is a difference between a State campsites and County campsites. Knowing when and where to get your permit is key. Save time by using the State of Hawaii’s Wiki Permits website, https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/welcome.html, to make your camping permit reservation and pay for your permit via credit card ahead of time. If you are interested in a County campsite, you can mail in a permit application and payment ahead of time. You can’t beat the prices, camping permit fees are only $3.00 per adult per night. More information on County camping permits can be found at http://www.kauai.gov/Camping.
Where To Surf
Kauai has breathtaking beaches for advanced surfers and beginner surfers as well as just relaxing areas to longboard and chill out with your family.
One of the most well known great beginning surf beaches is on the east side, Anahola Bay. It is a long sandy beach that the energy from the waves gets soaked up into after crossing the reef, making it have small and weak waves. There are some Camping facilities nearby to just hang out with the family when you get all surfed out, making it easy to relax.
Hanalei Bay on the North Shore has a sandy, shallow bottom so new surfers won’t have to worry about getting hurt on the reef. There are surf schools nearby to make sure you know what the basics of surfing are and to help you ride the waves safely. The summer months are best for new surfers. Once the winter months are around the waves can get pretty large and wild.
What To Eat
Take a stroll through any of the local farmers markets and you’ll see why Kauai is called “the Garden Isle.” The fourth-largest and geologically oldest of the Hawaiian islands is a bounty of year-round fresh produce (look for softball-sized Kahalu`u avocados) and locally caught seafood.
From mom-and-pop dives to award-winning fine-dining rooms, Kauai offers something for everyone, utilizing their mind-boggling array of fresh produce and seafood.
For a touch of upscale dining - here are Kauai’s top offerings, according to Forbes Travel:
Perched over a koi pond and illuminated by tiki torches, this dreamy dining room at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa is a date-night must.
Monkeypod Jam, Lawai
This earthy spot may look like a simple coffee shop at first glance. But look beyond the chickens on the lawn and shelves stocked with canned jams and curds and you’ll find so much more than espresso at this epicurean event space.
Once a month, Monkeypod owner and canning maven Althea Thomas hosts a multi-course culinary extravaganza with one of Kauai’s latest and greatest chefs. Next on tap is an autumn-themed feast on October 29 from local toque Noah Blair.
But don’t worry if you miss it. Stopping in for a cappuccino and unique souvenirs like white pineapple salsa, coconut curd or strawberry-guava butter is well worth your time.
The Beach House, Koloa
Kauai is known for its sun-streaked skies, and this popular gathering place boasts some of the best twilight views on the island.
The kitchen is almost as colorful as the sunsets. Plates come packed with daily fresh catch, beef from neighboring ranches and more local produce than you can shake a coconut at.
But what’s a sunset without a sundowner? The Beach House’s cocktail menu is a parade of creative twists on traditional vacation libations like the Monkeypod Mai Tai, a blend of Hawaiian-made rums, housemade macadamia nut orgeat syrup, orange curacao and honey-lilikoi (passionfruit) foam. It’s aloha in a glass.
For cheaper eats, and grindz on the go, The LA Times curated the perfect list for the budget conscious (or just more adventurous) traveler:
Verde means “green” in Spanish, and that's what this places specializes in: clean and green dishes.
Verde's fare is delicious, from ultra-thin tortilla chips to giant burritos and other entrees.
It has two locations, a hole-in-the-wall cafe in the Kapaa Shopping Center, about eight miles northeast of the airport, and a shiny, new mall version at Hokulei Village in Lihue, about three miles southwest of the airport.
If you want to taste real Hawaiian fare at good prices, visit Mark's Place in Lihue. It consistently wins awards as one of the island's favorite spots for plate lunch (a combination of steamed rice, creamy macaroni salad and a choice of meat or seafood).
Chefs Mark Oyama and Alan Okuhara expanded their catering business 20 years ago "just to keep our employees busy during the off-season," Okuhara said.
The result is Mark's Place, which serves heaping plates of high-quality Hawaiian faves such as chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, and chicken and beef stew.
It's a familiar story: Mainland U.S. couple comes to Hawaii on vacation and decides they don't want to go home. Instead, Fred and Yuko Perrett opened a food truck on the edge of Lihue.
The Perretts describe their imaginative sandwiches, salads and plate lunches as "Asian fusion meets Midwestern barbecue."
It's so popular that the line of customers sometimes winds around the truck. It's a must stop for many travelers bound for the airport, who order a meal for the flight home.
Where To Shop
For all of your surf gear, we’ve handpicked a few shops to check out…
Nukumoi Surf, on Poipu Beach is Family Owned & Operated Since '95; a Mom & Pop Shop On the sunny Southside of Kaua'i. Bonus? They also carry all of our Dawn Patrol products!
Hanalei Surf Shop is a treasured Kauai gem, and has been around since 1989! (If you have a minute, read their story on the website.. It’s fascinating!) Definitely drop in if you’re in the area.
Tamba Surf Co (located in Kapaa) is a top rated surf shop on Kaua'i. Since 1999, Tamba Surf Co. has been the most recognized and truest surf brand of Kaua'i, offering quality merchandise, a truly local product, and friendly, outstanding customer service. Their eastside location makes it an ideal place to pick up surfing and other watersport gear before heading north, south, or west (or staying eastside).
Tamba offers surfboard, SUPboard, bodyboard, and snorkel rentals, available by the day, multi-days, week, or longer, with FREE use of surf racks for your vehicle if needed.
After you’ve purchased your Surf Soap, wax, and sunscreen, head over to the Hale Puna Farmer’s Market to grab some incredible fresh produce and also contribute to the restoration of Kauai’s Gulick Rowell Mission House.
This beautiful historic property has been abandoned and neglected for over 15 years. Initial emergency roof repair began Fall 2017 and will continue for many years to come as we garner the funds we need to give this house the overhaul it deserves and requires. Once restored, the house and working farm will provide for the conservation and study of the historically significant property. The market is held every Thursday afternoon from 3:30 - 5:30 PM under the monkeypod tree. All proceeds go to support our farm school interns from Ke Kula Ni'Ihau.
Hit up https://www.kauai.com/kauai-farmers-markets for more schedules.
For a bit more upscale shopping, Kauai offers plenty of different types of local shops, trinket stores, and retail malls. On the North Shore, you’ll find unique gifts in small town Hanalei as well as the Princeville resort area. On the Coconut Coast, Kapaa Town and the Kinipopo Shopping Village offer a variety of fun shops and eateries. Aloha shirts, vintage maps, fine art and jewelry are all available in the area. The Coconut Marketplace is home to more than 70 shops in which you'll find precious Hawaiian mementos, fine artwork, antiques, jewelry, fashion and much more.
While we typically don’t condone the sharing of “secret spots” or “hidden gems” on our beautiful islands, we think it’s definitely worth checking out just a few while on your journey. Please just remember that our islands are sacred, and to leave only footprints - carry out any trash (and pick up whatever rubbish you might find), be sensitive to the local culture and area, and be mindful of your status as a guest here.
With enticing turquoise waters, a plethora a of sea life, and the mountains of the Na Pali coast behind you, there’s no questioning why Tunnel’s is one of the best snorkeling destinations on Kauai.
Hanalei Valley Lookout
A jaw-dropping vista awaits you at the Hanalei Valley Lookout – the Hanalei River and expansive taro fields are flanked on either side by majestic mountains and waterfalls. Just off Highway 56/560, this picturesque lookout point proves that it’s not always about the ocean views.
Wishing Well Shave Ice
Some of the best food in Hawaii comes from unassuming food trucks on the side of the road, and nowhere is that more true than Wishing Well Shave Ice, a Hanalei favorite. With a wide variety of organic shave ice flavors, refreshing acai bowls, and that perfect cup of coffee, Wishing Well is a must-visit.
Located in the town of Princeville on Kauai’s north shore is a unique tide pool known as Queen’s Bath once used as a bathing spot for Hawaiian royalty. A sinkhole surrounded by igneous rock, this incredible geological formation is not only a vibrant turquoise pool set in the striking black lava shoreline, but it is also a dangerous lava bench exposed to deadly high surf.
Whether you’re just daydreaming, or actually planning your next trip to the paradise that is Hawai’i; we hope this has been helpful for you. Please support any local business you can while traveling, and act with Pono - integrity and help preserve our lands for many generations to come. Prepare ahead of time with plastic-free utensils, reef safe sunscreen, and of course - Surf Soap. Join our newsletter for more travel tips, promotions, and ways to #surfclean. See ya out on the break!
xoxo - Charlie B., Surf Soap Guest Writer