Kauai is the island you go to really unwind and experience island living. It has an amazing contrast of climate zones and environments all within one island: one side of the island is dry as a desert and one side is wet as the tropics, where rainclouds roll in at anytime. You have black sand beaches, white sand beaches, some with nothing but sticks and some with nothing but shells.
Kauai was hit by a big storm a couple weeks before we arrived, so the north side was still recovering and inaccessible. Nevertheless we were still able to fit plenty in to our trip!
Mosquito warning!! As with most tropical places, you want to be careful, but I got eaten alive even while in Waimea (the drier side) and definitely be prepared if you’re going to visit any of the botanical gardens, like Allerton. Read on below!
What to Eat
Deli & Bread connection
3-2600 Kaumualii Hwy #1005, Lihue
In the shopping plaza, not a bad choice for the area. Its got a bunch of awards (certificates proudly displayed all along the walls), and they do have pretty tasty sandwiches but a super long wait. Call ahead, otherwise you’ll be wasting your time.
Duane’s Ono-Char Burger
4-4350 Kuhio Hwy, Anahola
More of a local spot, this burger stand sits right off the highway. There our outdoor tables, but be prepared for mosquitoes and also tons of chickens hovering for food. Try the Duane’s Special burger for all the fixings or a simpler Swiss burger, and don’t miss their mild and creamy Marionberry milkshake! If you’ve never had marionberry, you can ask them for a sample!
Hamura’s Saimin Stand
2956 Kress St, Lihue, CASH ONLY
A busy diner style eatery that’s open a little later. Satisfying saimin, though it’s not my favorite kind of noodle soup. The skewers were only ok, chicken was a little dry. The lilikoi chiffon pie was delightful – fluffy and light.
Kauai Beer Co
4265 Rice St, Lihue
Unfortunately they ran out of their taro fries when we got there, so I can’t say much for their food, typical over priced pub food but the beer was great. Only reason I mention it, since you can never say no to a flight of beer!
marksplacekauai.com 1610 Haleukana St, Lihue
Mark’s Place is a famous catering and plate lunch spot. They’re always super busy so it’s best if you go between the rushes. Beef stew — yummmm — and the chicken katsu — so moist and crisp! Just get a combo so you don’t have to choose between anything! Specials change daily, so come often!
pukadog.com, Poipu Shopping Village, 2360 Kiahuna Plantation Dr, Koloa
Almost everyone has heard of Puka Dog and while tasty, the hot dog is highly overpriced. If you’re still game, make sure to sample the various tropical relishes at the front next to the register before you make your first order. Their lemonade was refreshing, but not particularly special.
4303 Rice St, Ste B1, Lihue
Decent pho, a good place to go if you’re tired of saimin but still want some noodle soup. I really liked how they sliced the tendon thin so it’s super soft!
Tip Top Motel Cafe And Bakery
3173 Akahi St, Lihue
Came to the cafe for their ox tail soup – you can always order extra noodles or extra meat. The oxtail is very tender and you should definitely get extra noodles.
Snacks & Desserts
- Aunty Lilikoi: her famous lilikoi chiffon pie is definitely tasty, this one is thicker and richer than the one at Hamura Saimin’s.
- Kawaii Kokoro: Ooh the chocolate mousse in the profiteroles, bomb! Offerings change daily and they sell out quick so come early.
- Lapperts: A well known ice cream spot but I was disappointed by the lack of flavor in the rather mundane flavors, plus its fairly expensive.
What to do
You’re in Hawaii, so you have to be outside going to a beach or something. Hang out with locals at Kalapaki or escape the crowds over at Baby Beach – if you’re lucky you can get it all to yourself! Unlike Poipu Beach which was literally covered with people. On the Waimea side, Kekaha Beach is super quiet and “crowded” here is seeing someone else like 50 yards away.
Reknowned Botanical Garden, part of a family of gardens and definitely worth the splurge ($50/person!!) if you like lush gardens. Our guide Paul was fantastic – spouting stories and education all in one breath. You’ll learn about the history of the Allertons and how they came to create the various parts of the garden, and you’ll also learn some fairly surprising facts about Hawaii as well. Be prepared for mosquitos! They do warn you about it and they also ask if you need to purchase any when you check in. My friend and I were the only people fully dressed despite the heat and I literally kept reapplying my picaridin spray throughout the 2 hour tour, and I still got bitten.
Come early because there’s basically no parking – there’s only about 10 spots and there’s no public parking within the area. Depending on the tide and your physical ability, it may or may not be worth going. If you like climbing around on rocks and watching waves crash – wear decent hiking shoes and maybe bring a stick (or pick one up at the entrance) as the short hike to the rocks is pretty muddy and a little tricky. When we went the tide was high and we couldn’t see any “bath” feature, but for us it was still fun to go.
Waimea Canyon State Park
The ever famous “Grand Canyon” of Hawaii, it’s a great place to spend the day outside. Pack a picnic (hint – Ishihara Market) and drive through the canyon, find some empty pullouts to snap some photos and enjoy your lunch or just marvel at the different sides of the park. There are also a ton of hiking trails in the park as well, though we weren’t able to do any of them. The lookout point will be crowded of course and parking there is a nightmare, but they do have bathrooms (which may be just as popular as the lookout itself).
Accent on Design Kauai
I found the most beautiful hand painted Batik sarongs on sale here, because unfortunately the owners are planning to retire and were closing out their stock. The store is closing 7/31/18, but they will continue to be at outside fairs on Saturdays, Kapa’a First Hawaiian Church every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month plus occasionally a fair at Poipu Beach Park plus the Coconut Festival.
Deja vu Surf
dejavusurf.com 4-1419 Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa
Boutique shop with your typical high-end surf brands; they got surfboards, apparel, accessories, and even stickers!
orchidalleykauai.com, 4-1383 Kuhio Highway, Kapa’a
Fellow Bay Area-n Fely was just the sweetest lady, chattin’ it up with us. They’re certified to ship their orchids to the states, so it’s the place to get a spectacular souvenir sent home! Orchids go for something between $15-40 and shipping is $30, packing per orchid is $5. They ship quickly and pack the orchids very carefully. We bought 3 orchids and all of them arrived perfectly intact and are doing very well in their new homes.
Soha Living Koloa
sohaliving.com 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka St Unit 157, Kolo
In a shopping mall, this store is a mix of home decor, jewelry, and knick knacks — some of which make great gifts or souvenirs.
Where to Stay
Our host Laurence was great, super communicative and very friendly. He lives on the premises so he’s around if you need anything. The condo is beautiful and has everything you could need. It is conveniently right next to the airport but it’s also right next to the highway and gets quite noisy. There’s also nothing in the area but tourist traps, so you’ll have to head out for anything good.
Worldmark Kapa’a Shores (timeshare)
Beautiful modern rooms and great location, just outside of the shops along Kuhio Highway and Kapa’a Beach Park. They also provide free coffee, iced tea or lemonade outside their office and it is delicious! We did however have a scare our first night checking in – we found a giant cockroach in the bathroom, probably hiding by the water heater, and had to call the front desk because none of us could stomach trying to get it ourselves. They came and killed the roach, replaced the towel, and probably got a good laugh at our freakout.
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