Fun in Paradise - Kaua'i

Thinking about a cheap last minute summer holiday this year? For my family we go camping on Hawai'i. Yes, Hawai'i is our cheap vacation! We've camped three times on Kaua'i, once on the Big Island (which I will post next), and cannot wait to return. In this post I will reveal my personal favorites, most of which I learned from locals. Get ready to fall deeply in love with Kauai! 

Start with the book The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed, it's very reliable and accurate. I hear the app is great too.

CAMPING

Camping might not be the first thing you think about doing on Hawai'i but it is so inexpensive. Waking up at the beach, hammock strung between two palm trees, watch the sun rise and set from our tent is paradise. If you decide to camp, you will need to arrange permits in advance. Campgrounds book up fast. Every park requires you to leave for one day so they can clean it and most of the grounds are well kept (but not all). Go to the County of Kaua'i website ($25/night) or the State Parks website ($18/night.) Our favorite parks are:

  • Anini Beach (my top choice)
  • Hanalei (Black Pot can get noisy)
  • Haena (windy but beautiful, next to Tunnels for great snorkeling)
  • Koke'e (cold at night, Camp Sloggett is private campground but another option if they are full and they have hot showers)
  • Polihale (The most magnificent sunset ever but many car rental companies will not let you drive there. Sand blows over the road making it difficult to pass. Check with your policy. You'll also hear the bleating of wild goats at night.) 
  • Napali (Amazing but a very long and strenuous hike. Not suited for young children.)

Camping is a lot of fun but it can be noisy on Friday and Saturday night. The island is full of wild chickens so expect an early morning cacophony of rooster calls (but I quite enjoyed them.)

DON'T MISS

  • Don't miss the Hindu Temple and Kilauea Lighthouse.
  • Best luau, according to locals, is Smith's Tropical Paradise Luau. I couldn't comment on any of the others but we really enjoyed this.
  • It's expensive but we really enjoyed the Kauai Mini Golf. Across from it is a great smoothie place called Banana Joe's.
  • The Na Aina Kai Gardens are beautiful and they have an excellent children's section.
  • See The Blue Room, left just before Mile Marker #10, past the Ha'ena Beach Park. A short trail uphill leads to this cave. You may see a local swimming here but I do not recommend it. There are signs about leptopiosis bacteria but it's really pretty.
  • Opaekaa Falls is beautiful but hard to reach with little ones.
  • Fun to kayak on the Hanalei River.
  • Walk the hiking trails around Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park. Trails vary in difficulty. Check trail maps. We found a wild boar family here.
  • Na Pali Boat Tours with Captain Bob from Anini Beach. They provide lunch, drinks and snorkel gear. It was amazing. 

EAT

  • Don't miss the sunshine (or farmers) markets and be adventurous. 
  • I dream of Hamura Saimin in Lihui, my favorite place! Get the pork bun (it's not on the menu and they always run out early.) In my opinion, they have the best shave ice on the island.
  • Anahola Sunshine Market has the best huli huli chicken on the island. Available on Thursday's only.
  • Kilauea Fishmarket is a favorite.
  • The North Shore General Store has the best burgers and pizzas on the island. It's in the gas station in the Princeville mall. Locals promised it's the best and cheap. I was skeptical but it's true. They have great specials too.
  • Love the Kilauea Bakery for coffee and pastries.
  • Garden Cafe at Common Ground is very fresh and delicious. Save time to walk off your meal around their gorgeous grounds where your meal is grown.
  • Hanalei Taro & Juice Co. poi stand in Hanalei. It sits just outside of Kayak Kauai. It's a green trailer and next to the best shave ice in the north shore called Wishing Well. The older woman can be abrasive to you and her staff (think Soup Nazi) and she might not get your order or cost of your order right but she does serve great shave ice.

BEACHES

  • My personal fav is Anini, it's perfect for little ones because of the reef but never ever let your guard down. Always keep your eyes on your children. It also depends on the time of year and weather. 
  • Queen Ann's Bath in Princeville is beautiful but not with a toddler.
  • Not to be missed is Lumahai but there are no sign to it. As you travel past the town of Hanalei you will see cars parked along the side - pull over and park, it's not hard to spot the trail that leads you down to the beach. If you want to, "Wash That Man Right Out Of Your Hair," this is the beach in South Pacific where this was filmed.
  • Tunnels is a snorkelers paradise.
  • When you go down the road to the Na Aina Kai Gardens there is a dirt path on the left towards Rock Quarry Beach - that is a great spot for boogie boarding and surfing.
  • Kauapea Beach, popularly known as Secret Beach, is another favorite.
  • Hanalei and Ke'e Beach is stunning but it can get crowded.

TIPS

  • The big resorts are in the southern part of the island and often have discarded and practically new surf/boogie boards in their dumpster area. Sometimes, it's cheaper to buy then rent so guests just throw them away when they leave. Want a board - time to go dumpster diving.
  • Anything you might need, check on Craigslist. We met a family from South Africa who were staying for 6 months - they bought a car and a cheap boat, cut down bamboo and went dumpster diving for 2 boogie boards and a sheet and made a sailboat Swiss Family Robinson Style (see pictures.)
  • You can use the pool and facilities for a day at the Hyatt for a reasonable fee.
  • Kauai Humane Society has an awesome program to adopt a dog for the day. You can pick one up and take it to the beach (or wherever) and it wears an โ€œadopt meโ€ vest. 
  • Kauaโ€™i Kunana is a fun farm visit, a bit pricey but a fun experience and wonderful family to support them.
  • The southern part of the island is dry and hot. That is where the big resorts are located. The north shore is moist and tropical. It rains typically once a day for about 5 minutes (locals call it the "Pineapple Express') which is refreshing, dries off fast, and the rainbows are worth it.
  • Costco is the best place to save money on food and souvenirs.
  • Kaua'i is a speed trap so obey the speed signs no matter how ridiculous they might seem.

Do you have any tips to share about Kaua'i? I can't wait to go back and would love to hear about new places to explore. Please leave you comments below.