After getting married in The Bahamas, Michael and I flew to Kauai, Hawaii for our honeymoon. You may be wondering why we flew from the Caribbean across the country to Hawaii and didn’t just stay put for our honeymoon. I myself was wondering the same thing … 😉
We had a Marriott 7-night-stay certificate that we received as part of a travel package we purchased over 2 years ago (it’s a long story, but in short, it was part of a package that allowed us to achieve Southwest Companion Pass status). We never used it because we never stay in one place for 7 nights when traveling. We thought our honeymoon would be the perfect opportunity to use it! The problem – there are only certain Marriott properties that it can be used, and the Marriott Kauai Beach Club happened to one of them!
I’ll preface this section by saying that Hawaii is FAR. Especially if you’re flying from the East Coast. Michael and I flew back to DC from The Bahamas for one night (to do laundry and repack) before heading to the Hawaiian islands. We flew Delta from DCA to LAX (a 5+ hour flight). Because of the time changes, we couldn’t catch a flight to Hawaii until the next day. We had a 24-hour layover in LA, which was kind of nice since neither of us had ever been to LA. I have a LA highlight on my Instagram page if you’re interested in checking out how we made the most of our short stay!
We flew from LAX to Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai. The flight time was close to 6 hours. Immediately upon arrival, we picked up our rental car for the week, which is a MUST if you’re visiting the island. Seriously, you NEED a car. We booked ours enough in advance that we got a coveted Jeep Wrangler, which ended up being so much fun to drive around for the week!
Where to Stay
Like I mentioned above, we stayed at the Marriott Kauai Beach Club because we had a 7-night stay certificate. With that said, I wouldn’t recommend staying at this resort. It was a fine property, just not the somewhere I would stay again. It’s really dated, and while there were extensive renovations happening during the time we were there, I don’t see how it can compare with the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort that’s not too far away, even after the renovations are complete.
We spent a day at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort. Multiple friends of ours have stayed there and highly recommended it. While we didn’t get to see what the rooms look like, the property is beautiful! There are tons of restaurants on site (a lot of which are the best of the best on the entire island), there are multiple pools, the landscaping is beautiful, and the beach was easy to access.
What to Do – Divided by Areas of the Island
Like I mentioned above, you NEED a car when you’re visiting Kauai. The island is spread out, but everything is drivable. Our resort was located on the Southeast side of the island. We explored the entire island, and the farthest place we drove (to the North Shore) was only about a 1.5 hour drive.
The easiest way to divide your time when visiting Kauai is to divide your days into visiting different parts of the island. We opted to spend an entire day on each shore to get a feel for the different areas. Each shore is different from the others, and each shore is different depending on the time of year you visit (something to definitely keep in mind when planning your trip!).
The North Shore was one of my favorite parts of Kauai. Here are my recommendations for the best things to do on the North Shore ..
- Beach at Hanalei Bay // Hanalei Bay is a beautiful bay with a public beach and a gorgeous pier. The beach is wide with gorgeous views of the towering mountains nearby. We spent an entire morning here after our drive up from the South. Tip: Bring beach mats and beach towels, a few snacks, a book, and sunscreen!
- Lunch at Tahiti Nui // The town of Hanalei has a cute little strip of shops and restaurants. Tahiti Nui came recommended to us, and it didn’t disappoint! We sat on the patio overlooking the main street in Hanalei and enjoyed a poké bowl and fish sandwich. The pizza also looked great!
- Shaved Ice at Wishing Well // The coolest shaved ice shack! In Hawaii, they serve shaved ice with ice cream (mind blown!). There are picnic tables out front where you can hang out and enjoy the sweet treat.
- Anini Beach // Anini Beach was my favorite beach on the North Shore! It’s less popular than Hanalei Bay beach and much calmer. It’s a narrow beach with super calm surf (there were barely any waves). There were only a few other folks on the beach when we were there. It was so incredibly peaceful! Captain Na Pali offers the best Napali coast boat tour as it is limited to 6 passengers rather than being a party boat. The only drawback of Anini is that it’s not part of a public park so there are no restrooms at this beach (just something to keep in mind).
- Queen’s Bath // While Queen’s Bath is a popular spot to visit during the summer, multiple locals advised against us checking it out in January because of the dangerous surf. A few people had recently drowned at Queen’s Bath right before our visit. With that said, I think it’s important to run your itinerary by either the staff at your hotel or your Airbnb host just to get the lay of the land during your visit. We had a similar experience with Ke’e Beach.
- Ke’e Beach // Kauai experienced torrential rain the spring before we visited. Roads on the North Shore were closed as a result. Ke’e Beach is a highly recommended beach as well as surrounding hikes in the area. However, when we showed a few locals our plans for the day, they alerted us that the roads were washed out in this area. Something to keep in mind.
The Marriott Kauai Beach Club, where we stayed, is located on the East Shore. We mostly hung out at the beach at our resort when we stayed put in the East. We explored a lot of restaurants in this area as we didn’t want to drive far for dinner each night.
- Beach at Marriott Kauai Beach Club // While the beach in front of the Marriott property is for Marriott guests, the beach is accessible to the public near Duke’s restaurant. If you type in Duke’s to Google Maps, go there, and you’ll see the path leading to the beach. It’s a beautiful beach nestled in a cove surrounded by mountains. It’s also right by the cruise ship port – it was neat to see the enormous boats sail in and out throughout the week.
- Pietro’s Pizza // So good we went here twice! It’s an easy walk from the Marriott. It’s highly rated and came highly recommend. The pizza is outstanding, the wine is good, and the atmosphere is great (super laid back).
- Kauai Beer Company // We had the BEST time at this local brewery! Michael and I sat at the bar on a rainy Friday night and ordered a flight. We ended up chatting with two locals sitting next to us for hours! After dinner and a few more beers they actually invited us to a BBQ the next night! I highly recommend checking out this brewery. Great local beers, good food, good vibes. Spoiler: We didn’t end up going to the BBQ because it was on the other side of the island at night, but so kind of them to invite us!
- Ha Coffee Bar // Ha Coffee Bar was our go-to coffee spot. It’s a cool coffee shop with a very local feel. Their iced coffee was superb! Of note, the coffee at the Marriott is horrible. Call me a coffee snob, but I gladly paid a couple of extra bucks to drive to Ha.
- Aloha Aina Juice Cafe // If you’re on the East Shore during the day, definitely stop by Aloha Aina Juice Cafe for an açai bowl! The perfect breakfast/lunch spot!
- Hamura Saimin // You MUST go to this super local hidden gem, especially if you love ramen! This place was also our most inexpensive meal of the trip. We went for dinner one night. The restaurant is small and it’s community seating – cafeteria style. You do have a waiter, but it’s super chill. We ordered dumplings, ramen, and their famous lilikoi pie. It was all delicious!
- Duke’s Kauai // Duke’s is a beachfront restaurant that’s somewhat of a staple in Kauai. The sunset views are great at this spot. The restaurant itself is pretty cool – there’s a giant rock waterfall in the middle. The food and drinks here were pretty good too. I’m still kicking myself for not trying the Hulu pie!
- Verde // If you’re looking for a casual Mexican spot, Verde is your go to. It’s your typical tex-mex spot with giant portions and a loud, open atmosphere. It hit the spot for our usual Sunday Mexican dinner tradition. 🙂
- Maha’ulepu Beach // We attempted to visit this beach as it came recommend to us. I think it was another case of a seasonal difference. The road leading to the beach was closed, so we had to go around and park rather far away. Once we tried to walk to the beach, it was so incredible windy that it didn’t seem worth it. We abandoned ship, but perhaps it’s worth a shot during the summer months?
- Poipu Beach Park // Poipu Beach Park was our FAVORITE spot on the South Shore. There’s a beautiful public beach where we spent most of the morning and early afternoon. Bring beach mats, beach towels, a book, and sunscreen and enjoy the day!
- Keoki’s Paradise // Keoki’s is not far from the beach. It’s a great inside/outside restaurant with a cool beachy vibe. We enjoyed coconut shrimp and a poké bowl for lunch after beaching.
- Spouting Horn // Spouting Horn is a natural formation on the beach where water spouts out through blow holes in caves created along the shoreline. It’s worth parking and taking a look (this activity takes all of 15 minutes).
- Aloha Roastery // On our way back to the East Shore, we stopped at this coffee shop for an afternoon pick-me-up. It’s a super cute little spot with great coffee!
- Poipu Golf Course // If you’re into golf, I highly recommend playing a round at Poipu Golf Course. Michael is a big golfer. He scheduled an early morning tee time one morning and I tagged along. I ordered coffee at the clubhouse and rode along in the cart for the morning. The course is absolutely beautiful! It’s situated right along the coastline. The landscaping and views of the ocean are incredible. Michael enjoyed it too! 😉
- Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort // After golfing, we ventured to the Grand Hyatt, which is right next to the golf course (we walked). We had heard great things about the Hyatt so we decided to have lunch there and walk around the property for a bit. There are a ton of great (highly recommended) restaurants on Hyatt’s property. We ended up eating at the poolside grill, Hale Nalu, and had poké bowls and fish tacos and of course, a shaved ice treat. On our next visit, we’ll most definitely stay here!
- Little Fish Coffee // There are several Little Fish Coffee locations on the island of Kauai. We stopped at this one in Hanapepe on our drive from the East to the West one morning. It’s a cute, eclectic spot with great iced coffee!
- Waimea Lookout // Waimea Lookout is a must see! There’s a lookout that looks over the Waimea Canyon – it is breathtakingly beautiful! My photos don’t do it justice. Of note, be prepared for it to be colder at the lookout and on any hikes that you do around this area. It’s pretty far up the mountain and it was significantly cooler than the in-town temp. It was also rainy at the top of the mountain when it wasn’t raining at all at the lower altitudes.
- Kalalau Lookout // Another lookout nearby. You’ll see that when you drive to Waimea Lookout, there are other lookouts along the way.
- Hiking // There are tons of hiking routes in the Waimea Canyon area. Use this guidebook (see below for more information) and ask around to see what a good one might be at the time of your visit. We hiked one trail that was pretty off the beaten path. The weather didn’t cooperate with us as we had to turn around midway through because of rain and fog.
- Lunch at Shrimp Station // When you drive up, you’ll see a shack on the side of the road, I promise it’s legit! The coconut shrimp and garlic shrimp with rice were out of this world! It’s a no frills, paper plates kind of place and it delivers!
- Polihale State Park // Ok, unpopular opinion about to be shared … Prior to our trip, all of our friends RAVED about the beach at Polihale State Park. Again, I think it’s a seasonal thing. Most of our friends visited Kauai during the summer months. First of all, you should know that you have to drive down a bumpy, unpaved, dirt road for 5ish miles to get to this beach. I was getting carsick by the time we got to the beach … and I was dreading the drive back. Once we actually got to the beach, it was unbearably windy, cold, and misting rain. I was in full on leggings and a long sleeve shirt. It was miserable. HOWEVER, every other person (locals included) raved about this beach. So maybe ask around on your trip and see if it’s worth the bumpy, dirt road ride?
- JoJo’s Shaved Ice // JoJo’s Shaved Ice is a staple in Kauai! We couldn’t pass it up. The snowballs are enormous! And so delish!
Other MUST Do Items!
- Captain Andy’s // You can’t visit Kauai without seeing the Na Pali Coast. A GREAT way to see it is on a boat excursion with Captain Andy’s! Michael and I did the Star Na Pali Snorkel BBQ Sail, which I highly recommend! Do this one over the “Picnic Sail” as the burgers, sides, and fresh baked cookies are well worth it! The picnic sail includes deli sandwiches for lunch. The sail is on a giant catamaran boat. The boat is super nice. We were served delicious muffins and coffee upon arrival at Andy’s shop. There was more coffee and breakfast items available onboard the boat too. Once we set sail, we snorkeled, saw tons of dolphins, and since we were visiting during whale watching season, we were able to see so many whales! It was incredible. The sail provides outstanding views of the beautiful Na Pali Coast. Lunch is included. On our sail, we had fresh grilled burgers, a couple of side items, and fresh baked white chocolate macadamia nut cookies – I’m still dreaming about them! This excursion was a bit pricey, but totally worth every single penny! Of note, it was really choppy at times on the boat. I don’t get sea sick often and even I was feeling pretty queasy. I suggest popping an anti-nausea pill prior to boarding.
- Na Pali Coast // Another option for seeing the Na Pali Coast is by helicopter. The helicopter rides were a bit too pricey for my liking, but if it’s in your budget, go for it!
- Luau // One of the most unique things about visiting Hawaii is experiencing the Hawaiian culture. I wanted to attend a luau on our trip. I’m usually not one for super touristy activities, but this one was fun (albeit it still felt very touristy). After doing some research, we settled on Smith Family Garden Luau. The property is really beautiful. After wandering through the gardens for a bit, the staff pulled out the full pig from the traditional imu oven (buried underground) and we were all ushered to a large dinning hall for a buffet style dinner. We ended up sitting next to a couple around the same age and had a nice time chatting with them throughout the dinner portion. The buffet included an open bar – of note – make sure you grab a refill towards the end of dinner as the bars closed pretty early (I would have loved to enjoy a glass of wine during the luau). Lastly, we were all ushered to a pavilion for the traditional luau performance. It was really neat, and I enjoyed learning more about the Hawaiian culture through the show. Of note, bring a jacket! The show was outside and it got pretty chilly towards the end.
Overall Thoughts on Kauai
We had a great time in Kauai! If you’re looking for a vacation where you don’t need a passport, one filled with lots of activities and beautiful scenery, I highly recommend checking out Kauai. Kauai is known as the “garden island” because about 97% of its land consists of undeveloped mountain ranges and rainforests. There are endless outdoor activities to do when you’re on the island.
If you’re looking for a place to walk out of your resort and enjoy the beach, I wouldn’t recommend flying all the way to Kauai. While the beaches are beautiful, they’re beautiful because of the landscape (think mountain ranges surrounding the beach) and not because of the sand or ocean color. Hope that makes sense.
Things to Know
- Weather // We visited Kauai in January. While it was warm, it could have been a bit warmer for my beach-weather taste. Also something to keep in mind is that it rains a lot on the island. And the rain patterns are dependent on the season. Check to make sure you’re not visiting during rainy season. The weather on each side of the island is also different depending on the seasons. For example, a beach that might be super popular during the summer months might experience horrific wind and rain during the winter months.
- Car Rental // I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you rent a car during your stay. While Uber and Lyft do exist on the island of Kauai, everything is very spread out so Ubering and Lyfting everywhere would get VERY expensive VERY fast. We used Uber to go out to dinner at night when we knew we wanted to enjoy cocktails. Otherwise, we drove.
- Cost // It’s important to know going into booking a trip to Kauai that Hawaii is very expensive, in general. Every meal, every excursion, the car rentals … a long vacation there can really add up. A saving grace is that most of the activities that you fill your day with are free, but man do they nail you on the food prices!
- Kauai Guidebook // Last but not least, A MUST. I know it sounds super old school, but I can’t recommend this guidebook enough! It’s totally up to date as the author publishes new editions frequently. Friends of ours gifted the book to us as they used it religiously when they visited Kauai. It’s divided by regions of the island and provides great insight into beaches to visit, hikes, different activities, and even restaurant and bar recommendations. It was so much fun to have on hand too! We loved going through it each day to see what the author recommended in each area we were visiting.
If you have any specific questions about Kauai, comment below of shoot me an email at [email protected]!