It’s not often James and I spend time together away from the kids. In fact, this is only our third kid-free mini-vacation in twelve years of parenthood (and one of those was a staycation). So that tells you just how special this was. We’re fortunate to have some really good friends here on the island, and we decided to swap kids so we could each visit Kaua’i before we both move back to the mainland. (In case you don’t know us personally, surprise! We’re moving to Denver next week!)

Our main focus for the trip was to backpack the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast. That’ll be my next blog post – I still have so many photos to sort through.

We were on Kaua’i in late July for just four days. But man, we packed in just about as much as we could! (And I figure since it’s been nearly two months, it’s about time I tell you all about it!)

We stayed at the Courtyard Kaua’i at Coconut Beach in Kapaa on the eastern side of the island.

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We were able to get a good deal on it through our Expedia package, and we found it to be a great choice. It was right in the middle of the things we wanted to see (Waimea Canyon to the west and then the Na Pali Coast to the north.) The hotel staff members were friendly, the resident cat named Princess was a sweet reminder of our own feline, and the wild chickens tried to share our breakfast with us.

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We didn’t pay for a room with a view, but we lucked out and could see a glimpse of the ocean from our lanai. You can’t tell in the picture though. So just pretend.

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The hotel sits right on the beach, and this is the view looking back at it.IMG_1717 And on our last day there, we got to see a little momma monk seal taking a rest in the sand. Turns out she had actually been there a few days.IMG_1715

The hotel was gorgeous at night.

DSC03641 And they offered 1 free Mai Tai per person per night. Buuuut as it turns out, we’re not Mai Tai people. However, their Lava Flow cocktails are delicious.DSC03686

Okay, enough about the hotel. Let’s talk about the island. First, it’s gorgeous. And it feels completely different than O’ahu. There are wild chickens everywhere and it’s obviously way less populated.

When we first arrived at the airport, we rented the tiniest vehicle imaginable and headed out west to see Waimea Canyon.

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It’s cute right? Well I can tell you this: this car was not made for the drive up to the canyon. No siree!

We’re persistent though, so we James made it happen. Along the way we stopped for a late breakfast and later pulled over when we saw a lookout. Is this amazingly gorgeous or what?

IMG_1209 And sometimes we just pulled over when it seemed like our chances of getting pulverized by another (larger) vehicle were slim.IMG_1232 This was the best view we got of Kaua’i’s neighbor, Ni’ihau. See it off in the distance?IMG_1243 It took quite a while but we finally reached the Waimea Canyon State Park.IMG_1246 And then the lookout.IMG_1248 Absolutely incredible.IMG_1250 There’s absolutely no way to capture this scenery just in photos, but I sure tried.IMG_1251 This is the view looking toward the ocean.IMG_1259 And then back to the middle again because I just couldn’t stop snapping.IMG_1262 We stayed safely behind the guardrail, but there were plenty of others who did not. I want to get the shot of course, but I value my safety much more. It just didn’t seem worth the risk.IMG_1267 There was something so magical about that waterfall off in the distance.IMG_1271 We drove a bit down the road, and got a closer view of it. I should take a minute to note that my husband knows me well. At this point, I don’t even have to ask him to stop when there’s a scenic spot. He just assumes I want to and pulls over. Love that guy!IMG_1282 We stopped repeatedly as we drove along. The view kept changing and I couldn’t decide which one I loved the most.IMG_1292 We were certainly not alone at these lookouts. There were tons of people everywhere.IMG_1295 But why wouldn’t there be? It’s gorgeous up here!IMG_1300 And then there was a little Ni’ihau lookout. We couldn’t see much, so I’m glad we got that shot on our way up to the canyon.IMG_1302 And then the one I’d been waiting for. The Kalalau Lookout. I had these grand visions of capturing the valley we’d be hiking to over the next few days along the coast.IMG_1304 But we were totally socked in. So we drove past the lookout and went to the next one, because the guide book we were using suggested it actually had a better view of the valley.

Still, just clouds. Lots of clouds.IMG_1307 We were there for a solid hour – maybe even upwards of ninety minutes. And this was the best we got.IMG_1309

However, we did get to experience “one of the wettest spots on earth” called Wai’ale’ale. So that was neat. Not as neat as a clear valley would have been, but neat nonetheless.DSC03639 Eventually, we gave up and headed back south and then east. And man, that wasn’t an ugly drive at all.IMG_1314

Tipped off by The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook: Kauai Revealed, we decided to find this lava arch. It wasn’t really difficult, but I always get excited when we find something that isn’t being swarmed with tourists. There was just one other couple there when we arrived, and when they left, I was free to take 9,728 pictures.

IMG_1327 IMG_1337edit Watching water splash up against big rock formations? Nothing short of magnificent.IMG_1363

We also tried to find a few other things but it seemed like we had to travel on a dirt road, and that tiny car on a dirt road was just not a good idea. We know because we tried it. And it definitely felt like each little pebble might rip the car to shreds.

So after our first day of sight-seeing, we went off to find the hotel and get all prepared for our big backpacking adventure. And I’ll just totally skip over the next two days because like I mentioned before, they deserve an entire blog post of their own. But I’ll say this: it was epic. And I hate that word because it’s widely overused. But for this experience? It absolutely applied.

On Thursday, our last day on the island, we checked out of the hotel and headed out to see more sights. First we saw the ‘Opaeka’a Falls. Yeah, I know, not all that impressive from this angle.

IMG_1720 And we crossed the street to snag a peek at the Wailua River. My adventurous side thought we should rent some kayaks and enjoy the river that way. My realistic side reminded me that I was exhausted from the past few days and it would be best if I just kept my butt in a car.IMG_1730 Then we drove down to the Wailua Falls and it was pretty incredible. Very difficult to capture it though without climbing over the railing, but James was able to get this one.IMG_1739 Then we made our way to a stretch of sand known as “Secret Beach”. Turns out it’s really not very secret at all.IMG_1744 Pretty though!IMG_1746 And the “hike” back up to our car felt like it took 4 hours. And of course everyone else passed us like we were 95 and recovering from broken hips.IMG_1761 I can’t place the next two images because we were just driving around and snapping pictures along the way.IMG_1762

But they’re pretty and really that’s all that matters. I like pretty things.IMG_1772

We finished off our day by shopping for souvenirs and soaking in the beauty of the place. As I mentioned before, Kauai feels so different than O’ahu because it’s much less crowded and industrialized. It feels raw and natural. I’m so grateful we were able to experience it before we head back to the mainland.

Kauai's Nā Pali Coast: The Kalalau Trail
Waimanalo Bay Beach Park