Kauai, known as the Garden Isle, is not only Hawaii's fourth largest island, but it is also the northernmost and oldest island of the Hawaiian islands. Some of Kauai's prominent features include dramatic cliffs, sharpened mountain peaks, and gorgeous green valleys. Over time, the island has developed breathtaking waterfalls, rivers, and rain forests. Some of these beautiful points of interests can only be seen by air travel as they are not accessible by car, boat, or foot. Kauai also offers an abundance of beaches which in many cases, you will have all to yourself. It's not because these beaches aren't desirable either. There are just so many to choose from and some that are very secluded.
Over 90% of Kauai can't be reached by road. The roads mostly navigate on the outskirts of the island, leaving the center of the island a beautiful mystery. Again, this is something you would need to admire by air travel. Kauai offers some of the best hiking trails I have ever experienced. The views are spectacular and the sunsets are downright gorgeous. There is no shortage of outdoor activities. Kayaking, paddle surfing, ziplining, snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, horseback riding, golfing, and of course surfing are some of the many things you can enjoy on this breathtaking island.
Aside from all of that, the food is incredible! You will find most of the restaurants pride themselves in using local ingredients which are produced with the upmost integrity. Organic produce and grass-fed meat options are in abundance. The fish is wild caught right from the island as well. Need I say more? The people of Kauai are some of the friendliest people you will ever encounter. Their warm spirit and welcoming smile makes you feel right at home. These are some of the reasons my family and I keep coming back. It is truly the most special and healthy getaway I could ever ask for. So allow me to share some highlights of this beautiful trip to Kauai.
When we arrive on the island, one of the first places we visit is Papaya's Natural Foods. I'm in love with this store! If you are familiar with New Seasons Market or Whole Foods, it is basically a smaller version of that. Hopefully you have had a chance to read my posts on Travel Essentials Part 1 and Part 2, so you may recall some of the things that I mentioned were a good idea to have on your trip. Well, if you ran out of room in your luggage, forgot some things, or whatever the case, this is the place to go. Papaya's carries a wide variety of things from organic groceries, local produce, bulk items, refrigerated and frozen items, a vast supply of vitamins and supplements, herbal products, household items, kombucha, and yes, even organic beer and wine! They also have a small cafe where they have offer some grilled entrees and have a salad bar.
*Click on photos to enlarge
Here are some of the items you will find:
Remember in the Travel Essentials post how I talked about apple cider vinegar? Well here you go!
Some of their health and wellness items:
The produce department and a great selection of organic raw nuts and seeds:
So as you can see, Papaya's is definitely one place that should be on your list as far as shopping goes. The island also has a Costco which is another great place to stock up during your stay. Moving onto restaurants, I don't even know where to begin. Kauai has some seriously great food! I wish I had pictures of everything to share with you, but some of it you will just have to take my word for.
Gaylord's! For us, this restaurant is not only a tradition, it's a family favorite. The food is outstanding, the people are SO friendly, and we always end up having such a wonderful experience that Gaylord's continues to be one of those memory making experiences. Gaylord's offers the freshest, seasonal ingredients and support their local farmers and fisherman. On their property, they have a huge sustainable farm which provides the restaurant with most of the produce and herbs used in their dishes and beverages. Some of our favorite appetizers are their Pacific Blue Crab Cakes and the Ahi Tuna Poke.
As far as entrees go, my absolute favorite is the Sesame Seared Ahi pictured below, far right). I could eat that every night! My husband loves the Cioppino and our boys go for the Filet Mignon and the Pork Tenderloin.
Last but not least, dessert. One of my sons always orders the Funnel Cake Bread Pudding. My husband and I love their Classic Banana Coconut Cream Pie and their Plantation Pie...winners!
Hukilau Lanai is another favorite. Again, this restaurant prides itself in supporting local farmers and fisherman. They provide fresh, organic ingredients and they strive to be an eco-conscious restaurant in various ways. They are also fantastic about making accommodations for dietary restrictions. One of my sons is lactose intolerant so they made sure he was well taken care of and made adjustments when necessary. They even went so far as to make him some special dairy free mashed potatoes. Kudos to them! Their staff is friendly and extremely helpful. Some of the appetizers we enjoy are the Candied Ahi and the Lobster and Goat Cheese Wontons. The Ahi and Opah were two of our favorite main course dishes but everything we had was fabulous! Make reservations a week in advance!
Another must is Red Salt. Amazing! Red Salt is located in Poipu and has a spectacular view of the ocean. The food...phenomenal! They have a sushi bar in which we always partake. The Red Salt Poke is one of our favorite appetizers.
As far as entrees go, the Madagascar Vanilla Bean Seared Mahi and the Red Salt 7 Spiced Seared Ahi were two of our favorites. Of course my boys, the carnivores that they are, go for the Australian Wagyu New York Strip and Wagyu Filet Mignon (Yes, it is expensive to feed them). Red Salt definitely has some amazing options. It's not every day you find Wagyu beef on a menu so when you get the opportunity, snatch it! We have never tried the Red Salt Burger, but we have heard it is fabulous and at $50, it should be. It's made from Wagyu Sirloin and is topped with butter poached Kona lobster. Pictured below from left to right, the Ahi and Mahi.
We ate at Red Salt twice during this past visit and each time they brought us their homemade cotton candy. One night it was green apple flavored and another night it was pineapple. A huge hit with the kids. We also enjoyed their creme bruleé and their chocolate cake.
Oasis on the Beach is a great little restaurant as well. They even have an allergen menu for those who are wanting to avoid certain ingredients. It's super helpful! We ate here for dinner and brunch. For dinner, the Seared Ahi with Kabocha Pumpkin Mash was a huge hit along with their grass-fed beef and grass-fed burgers. You can't go wrong. Brunch is nice as well. My husband and I both devoured the Oasis Benedict while the boys enjoyed the Oasis Loco Moco and the Breakfast Wrap.
Other notable mentions are Merriman's Fish House and Keoki's Paradise. At Merriman's, the Ahi and Mahi are winners. And for crying out loud, order the Crunchy Hawaiian Molten Chocolate Purse for dessert...heavenly!!! At Keoki's, again, the Ahi...amazing, and the Mong Chong is legit!
For some quick bites and treats, The Kalapaki Beach Hut offers local beef and produce. Of course I kept going back for the Acaí Bowls! The taro burgers and taro fries are also a nice treat. The Aloha Juice bar in Hanalei has some amazing Acaí Bowls as well. And if you want the best shaved ice, Tege Tege is the place to go. Just be prepared to wait about 30 minutes, no joke. They use 100% organic and Japanese style shaved ice with real fruit. The Passion Honey is off the hook!
Kalapaki Beach Hut:
Aloha Juice Bar in Hanalei:
Tege Tege Shaved Ice:
As far as outdoor activities go, they are endless so I won't bore you with the details. It's all pretty self explanatory. Just soak it all in and enjoy the beauty of the island in every way you see fit. Ziplining is a blast and snorkeling is an amazing experience. We always enjoy our hikes and the many adventures that brings. One of our favorites hikes is exploring the Kalalau Trail. It's a fantastic way to view the gorgeous Na Pali Coast. This trail is 11 miles of switchback, hills, and the most breathtaking scenery you can imagine. You will see beautiful falls, pools, streams, and much more. It is definitely a challenging hike so be prepared, start early, and enjoy your north shore adventure!
Secret Beach is another favorite. It's also on the north shore. Secret Beach is also known as Kauapea Beach. The only way to access the beach is by taking a short hike, approximately 10-15 minutes, down a steep, narrow trail which can be slippery if raining so use caution. Once you make it down the trail, you will be rewarded with a stunning golden beach which feels very secluded. Once you reach the bottom of the trail, take a short walk to the left where you will find secret lava pools. The waves can be quite harsh here. They crash down with force so again, use caution. Our boys absolutely love it though. They just kept getting hammered by the waves and continued to go back for more.
The waves don't look like much in the pictures, but they were fierce! Notice the flailing limbs in the second picture. Yep, one of the boys got nailed big time! And look at how many people were in the ocean besides our boys, no one. Again, secluded and peaceful.
The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail in Poipu is a great hike for families. It's definitely an easy hike but you still get to see some pretty awesome things. The view is spectacular and the rugged cliffs are a popular spot for jumping into the ocean! We have seen everything from sea turtles, to stingray, to crab during this hike.
Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail. Notice the sea turtle in the first picture!
If you have not yet had a chance to explore Kauai, I really hope it's on your bucket list because it is one amazing island. It is truly a gem, a peaceful escape, and beautiful beyond measure. What I'm sharing with you is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to explore on the Garden Isle.