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Travel Well: Kauai

The first flight I ever went on was a 10 hour flight to Hawaii. I was 6 months old and spent most of the trip in my mom’s arms as she lounged by the pool. I returned to Hawaii a second time when I was 4 years old, but needless to say, I have no recollection of either trip. Sometimes, we get so focused on going places we’ve never been that we forget to repeat the destinations that we either don’t remember, didn’t have ample time to explore, or just owe a do-over. For me, Hawaii was one of those places, so needless to say I was beyond excited when I got the opportunity to travel to Kauai for a celebration a few weeks ago. Although the long flight had me questioning how I was still in the United States, it was well worth it. I’m sharing my picks for where to stay, dine, shop, and play in Kauai, Hawaii.

My picks for where to stay, dine, shop, and play in Kauai, Hawaii.

Stay: Kauai’s lush landscapes are part of the reason why many consider it to be one of the most beautiful islands in Hawaii, but the scenery comes at a cost! It rains pretty frequently on the island, and guests should be mindful of this when making arrangements. While the north side of the island is gorgeous, it gets about 85 inches of rain each year. The south side, on the other hand, is drier with only about 35 inches annually. For this reason, many guests choose to stay in Poipu or Waimea for a better chance at sunny days. We stayed on this side of the island at both Koloa Landing and the Sheraton. Koloa Landing is a gorgeous resort-style property made up of condominiums. Unfortunately, during our visit, much of the property was under construction. To avoid the construction zones, we spent most of our days at the Sheraton. The Sheraton Kauai Resort is a gorgeous beach front resort with fabulous poolside cabanas. We spent most days in a cabana sipping frozen drinks and enjoying the views. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the rooms at the Sheraton, the amenities and grounds of the property definitely made up for it. I recommend renting a condo at Koloa Landing and walking over to the Sheraton during the day to what their property has to offer. The Koa Kea Hotel and Resort is another hotel in the area that has a beautiful lobby and pool area.

Enjoying Kauai's Beautiful Beaches

Enjoying the beautiful beach at the Sheraton Kauai Resort

If you're lucky, you may spot a seal on the beach! Check out my Instagram to see the one we spotted.

If you’re lucky, you may spot a seal on the beach! Check out my Instagram to see the one we spotted.

The view from our cabana at the Sheraton Kauai Resort

The view from our cabana at the Sheraton Kauai Resort

Dine: Before our trip, my mom warned me that she remembered the food in Hawaii being subpar during our previous visits. I’m glad to say that things have definitely changed in the 20+ years since our other trips. From the local cuisine that I sampled at a luau (more on this to come) to the fine dining establishments, the food in Kauai did not disappoint. Here are the highlights:

  1. Plantation Gardens: We had the pleasure of dining at Plantation Gardens the first night of our stay and it just might have been my favorite meal of the trip. The poke (which is something you absolutely have to eat on any Hawaiian getaway) was amazing and set the bar really high for the rest of the trip. The pork chop was also really tasty.

Plantation Garden's Ahi Poke

Plantation Garden’s Ahi Poke

Plantation Garden's Grilled Pork Chop with Apple Bourbon Glaze

Plantation Garden’s Grilled Pork Chop with Apple Bourbon Glaze

  1. Beach House Restaurant: Beach House Restaurant has the most beautiful sunset views in all of Kauai. We were sure to arrive at the restaurant early so that we had time for a pre-dinner photoshoot. The view did not disappoint and neither did the cuisine. The drinks were fabulous and the ahi tuna was probably the best I’ve ever had.

Enjoying the sunset view at Beach House Restaurant

Enjoying the sunset view at Beach House Restaurant

Beach House Restaurant's Ahi Tuna

Beach House Restaurant’s Ahi Tuna

  1. Shaved Ice: Apparently I’ve been living under a rock because before this trip, I didn’t realize that Hawaii is known for shaved ice. I’m a huge fan of Rita’s, which isn’t exactly the same thing, but I figured if I enjoy that, I would enjoy Hawaiian shaved ice just as much. The shaved ice I had in Kauai did not quite beat Rita’s Italian Ice in my book, but it was definitely way better than your average snow cone. Uncles Shaved Ice is a great choice for anyone looking to sample it in the Poipu area.

Mango and Watermelon Flavored Shaved Ice

Mango and Watermelon Flavored Shaved Ice

Shop: I didn’t buy a single thing during my trip to Kauai which probably surprises a lot of you! For those looking to shop on the island, Kukui’ula Village (near Koloa Landing and the Sheraton) has a few cute boutiques and shops. Serious shoppers are likely to have better luck in some of the other Hawaiian destinations, like Wakiki.

Play: Lately, my life has been so hectic at home that I’ve been focussing on unplugging and having some much needed me-time during my vacations. My trip to Kauai was no different and I spent the majority of my time lounging in our poolside cabana at the Sheraton (pictured above) enjoying the scenery. While R&R was my overall goal, I did make time for some fun. My travel party and I  enjoyed a boat tour of the Napali Coast, as well as a traditional luau. During our boat day with Holoholo charters, we were able to see a different side of the island’s lush landscape. We snorkeled in the pacific, saw gorgeous waterfalls, sailed by Jurassic Valley, an area where parts of the Jurassic Park movies were filmed, and even spotted a few dolphins. A luau is a must during any trip to Hawaii and we had a wonderful experience at Luau Kalamaku. This luau not only includes traditional Hawaiian cuisine such as Kalua pig, which is a famous pork dish in which the pig is roasted underground, and poi, which is a thick paste made from taro root (that I was too afraid to try), but it also features all-you-can-drink cocktails (mai tai anyone?!).  The show incorporates song and dance with a story of one family’s journey to Hawaii from Tahiti. If you want to learn about Hawaiian culture and be thoroughly entertained (and maybe a little tipsy) in the process, Luau Kalamaku is for you. For those looking for more adventure, there are various other things to do on Kauai. A few things that I plan to do on my next visit are to hike some of the mountains, zip line, and tube the sugar cane canal.

Our poolside cabana at the Sheraton Kauai Resort

Our poolside cabana at the Sheraton Kauai Resort

Kauai's Nepali Coast

Kauai’s Nepali Coast

I had a blast sliding down that waterslide into the Pacific!

I had a blast sliding down that waterslide into the Pacific!

Rockin' my lei at Luau Kalamaku

Rockin’ my lei at Luau Kalamaku

While I don’t remember my first trips to Hawaii, this one was definitely memorable. I’m looking forward to returning to Kauai and hopefully visiting some of the other Hawaiian islands in the near future.

Have you been to Hawaii? If so, which island is your favorite?

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