The Throwback Series: The One Where We Lived the HI Life
"Kauai is kind of my place where I go to get centered. It's always my place to come back and feel normal again" - Alana Blanchard
Ahhh what I wouldn't give to be back on the beautiful beaches of Hawaii. But for now (and the foreseeable future with nonessential travel out of the picture), I'll just have to reminisce and throw it back to October 2018, when I found cheap last-minute tickets to Kauai and convinced Jordan we should go (let’s be real, it didn't take much convincing – we’ve both always wanted to go there, and it was on Jordan’s bucket list to surf Hawaii). So, we booked the flights and began dreaming of our 10-day Hawaiian vacation. When it comes to our trips, I am the planner. From picking the destination (obviously this is a joint task, but I usually propose a place), to choosing the flights, to deciding what each day will look like. This trip was no different, so with little time to spare, I dove into researching the magical island of Kauai.
For starters – why Kauai? Well, when Jordan and I were initially throwing around the idea of a Hawaiian vacation, we knew we wanted a less-touristy island. When we go away, we want to do just that – get away (…from people) – why do you think we enjoy the mountains so much?? We also love being active on vacations. So, that was our starting point. The more I researched, the more I became drawn to Kauai. Also known as the “Garden Island”, Kauai is Hawaii’s fourth largest island. It is one of the least commercially developed islands (less people: check) and is covered in emerald valleys, jagged cliffs, tropical rainforests, and sharp mountain tops – making it the ideal hiking playground (active: check).
With the destination picked and the flights booked, I began drafting up an itinerary. We decided to reserve a rental car and our plan was to camp most of the trip, only booking Airbnb stays for a few nights. Once I had the itinerary all written up, I shared it with Jordan to get his thoughts. And this is where the compromising portion of our trips come into play. Remember when I said earlier how ‘we love being active on vacations’? Well, that definitely applies to me more than Jordan, especially if a beach is close by (he’s a water baby, I’m a land person). I had packed as many hikes as I could into each day, so the first thing Jordan said when I showed him the itinerary was “where are the beach days??” So, we made some modifications together, and soon we had a new and improved draft itinerary – with plenty of beach days for us to enjoy.
Before we knew it, our vacation was here, and we were off to Hawaii – a dream come true!!
*Note: Since this trip was a little while ago and I wasn’t diligently writing down our adventures in my travel journal yet, I’m not able to go into too much detail for each portion of this trip, but instead wanted to share some photos from the most noteworthy spots/memories on the island.
3.5 mile trail near Hanalei
Not pictured: the significantly muddy rope-assisted climb to Hihimanu Ridge... which ended up being completely veiled once we reached the top due to the fog that had suddenly rolled in. This was definitely the most difficult – and probably the most dangerous – hike of the entire trip.
Glamping (1st Airbnb)
Kilauea Point Lighthouse
2-mile trail near Kapa'a
These falls were used as a filming location in Jurassic Park.
3-mile trail near Kapa'a
A jungle waterfall adventure that involved bouldering, weaving in and out of roots and vines and dealing with slippery mud and mossy rocks. With no defined trail, it definitely took us longer than expected since we lost the way a few times, but apparently we still reached the end faster than the average hiker – according to online reviews and the other hikers we met at the falls.
1-mile trail near Princeville
A unique tidal pool surrounded by igneous rock – a true royal bathing place.
WAILUA RIVER KAYAK TO SECRET FALLS
Kauai's largest & longest river.
4-mile trail near Kapa'a
One of my personal favorites on the island – you'll seriously feel like you're starring in Jurassic Park!!
Sushi & sleeping in the Jeep – the perfect combo.
Due to hurricane damage, we weren't able to hike the legendary Kalalau trail along NaPali Coast (one day we'll be back to cross this off the bucket list!), so we ended up getting last-minute tickets for a sunset boat cruise along the coast instead, which included a dinner buffet – yes please. We were also lucky enough to spot spinner dolphins on our trip and were treated to an entertaining show of acrobatic displays (not going to lie...I was close to tears at this point – dolphins are by far my favorite animal of all time, so to be this close and to see their remarkable & graceful abilities in person was definitely a dream come true for me). It took everything in me to not hop the railing and try to hug the magnificent creatures (...and that's coming from someone who's terrified of the ocean and can't swim very well).
6.7-mile trail near Wainiha
Features incredible drop-offs and epic views down to the NaPali Coast. Another island favorite!
NU'ALOLO CLIFF TRAIL
7.5-mile trail near Waimea
2.8-mile trail near Kekaha
"The Grand Canyon of the Pacific"
Stretching 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep, the Waimea Canyon Lookout provides panoramic views of crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges.
POLIHALE STATE PARK
The longest stretch of beach in the entire state of Hawaii, Polihale was one of our favorite camping locations – mainly due to its seclusion. It's a spectacular stretch of wilderness, with 100-foot sand dunes, desert cactus and remarkable sunsets over the Forbidden Island of Niihau. It was here that I finally tried Spam for the first time (...and the last time).
Hawaiian Luau (can't visit HI and return home without a lei!) and our cozy bed & breakfast (2nd Airbnb).
A local favorite for surfing and body surfing, Shipwreck Beach features strong shore breaks that can make this beach a dangerous spot to swim. While I got pummeled by large rocks every time I entered the water (I guess there's a reason they call it Shipwreck Beach eh?), Jordan wandered off and cliff jumped like the daredevil he is.
MAKAUWAHI CAVE TRAIL
Kauai's biggest little town – a historic, unincorporated community on the island. Hanapepe means 'crushed bay'; perhaps so named due the landslides in the valley or the appearance of the cliffs from the sea to the rocks surrounding the deep bay area.
Pakala Beach – a hidden gem. This beach is best known for it’s surf break, known as 'infinities'. The nickname was given because the waves seem to ride forever. Pakala Beach is both remote and very quiet, but not quite as picturesque as other Hawaii beaches. However, it's an ideal place to go for some alone time and is a favorite surfing spot among the locals. It was here that I tried surfing for the first time, which ended in tantrums and tears (both by me – remember earlier when I said I was afraid of the ocean and that I am a very weak swimmer? – ya, not exactly a winning combination for successful surfing). Jordan is the true hero and probably deserves a trophy for patiently putting up with my antics and trying to teach me through the tears and whining (love you honey!!).
Kauai truly was the trip of a lifetime, and one that is filled with memories that we'll never forget. Definitely a place we'd love to return to one day!!