Places to visit on your first trip to Kauai

There's a reason why they call Kauai the Garden Isle. It's lush, serene, and green surroundings bring a whole new meaning to the beautiful islands of Hawaii. The family and I frequently visit Oahu and Maui on our #workplaypoke trips so this time Kauai was a brand new adventure for us. We were lucky enough to get a good little guide of Kauai from one of my coworkers who frequently visits Kauai and I wanted to share with you our favorite adventures and food spots we discovered. 

Like most of the Hawaiian islands there is one major highway that gets you around the entire island and there are ways to cut through the island on backroads and dirt roads in Kauai. For the most part you'll be using the one major highway to get around to all the major cities you want to visit and see. 

We stayed in Kapaa our first 3 nights in a small little AirBnB property with the intention to explore most of the north shore before the hubs had to shoot his wedding. Kauai is known being the "wetter" island, and we definitely saw part of the 460 inches of rainfall it gets every year and our North Shore exploring will be saved for another trip. 

We did get to see a place called Queen's Bath, which is incredibly beautiful and a bit of a slippery hike down to get to. Expect to slip and fall a few times and maybe toss your shoes or flip flops after. The other option is walking down the trail barefoot like my husband did. 

tip: If you want to go here for a clear picture of the bath without people, go first thing in the morning and make sure to check the tide schedules for low tide. Don't mess with mother nature. 

tip: If you want to go here for a clear picture of the bath without people, go first thing in the morning and make sure to check the tide schedules for low tide. Don't mess with mother nature. 

Waimea Canyon is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific and its such a beautiful sight to see. If you want to hike down through it you definitely can and some people do. We're not huge on hiking so its not an adventure we were ready to take on, but looking at the views were just as breathtaking. 

Other Sites to See:

If you can rent a truck in Kauai, which we highly suggest and you're looking for an incredible view of the sunset, a quiet beach, and you don't mind a little off roading then visit Polihale Beach and if you have the time, camp there. Polihale is the longest beach in the state of Hawaii. The views of the ocean seem endless and to the right of you are the beautiful cliffs of the Nā Pali Coast. 

When we weren't searching for food or adventuring of with new friends, we spent our time hanging on Poipu Beach Park just outside of Ko'a Kea Resort which as absolutely an incredible treat. It's pretty and the surf is low key and perfect for kids, but since its the beach along the Marriott in Poipu, you'll see more people than you will see a spot to sit on. Head to the right just past Ko'a Kea for a much quieter beach, but the shore break is pretty short so you may not get the chance to lay out and spread out like you would on Hanalei Beach or Polihale.

Sunsets on the south shore of Kauai are to die for. 

Sunsets on the south shore of Kauai are to die for. 

Other Beaches to check out: 

  • Hanalei Beach
  • Tunnels Beach 
  • Anini Beach 
  • Secret Beach 

We don't call our Hawaii trips #workplaypoke for nothing. We're there to eat and Kauai was an island we were ready to tackle, except we spent more time enjoying fresh Sugar Loaf pineapples, papaya, and lots of poke more than we did dining out. A lot of restaurants close early in Kauai, so its something to keep in mind if you're out adventuring all day. You'll want to hit up a Foodland or Safeway and grab some snacks to eat or grill up if things start closing down early. 

The Fresh Shave, was our favorite shave ice on the island. They explore unique flavor combinations such as cold brew shave ice, watermelon cucumber and basil combos, and coconut and lime. And they make all their syrups fresh in small batches and do not use high fructose corn syrup. One thing we admired about Kauai is their grass roots movement and love for community. Most of the local food spots you'll find are doing their best to support their local farm communities by only sourcing fresh and seasonal ingredients found in Kauai. It so good I even had two in one sitting while tasting my husbands. WHOOPS. 

We tried other shave ice on the island, but they had us at cold brew. 

The fresh poke from Konohiki Seafoods was by far our favorite. We took one bite of the spicy ahi poke bowl and was mind blown. We don't know how or what they seasoned their ahi with but it was so good that the hubs took one bite of mine and immediately ran back into the shop without a word to buy his own. It was so ono.

Tip: When the only people you see walking into a poke shop are locals, that's the place you wanna go. 

More Konohiki Spicy ahi bowl that we took on our connecting flight to Honolulu.  All dolled up in a vintage dress from Machine Machine and white leather Teva Original sandals.

More Konohiki Spicy ahi bowl that we took on our connecting flight to Honolulu. 

All dolled up in a vintage dress from Machine Machine and white leather Teva Original sandals.

Spicy Ahi bowl from Fish Express in Lihue. Wearing Teva Original Sandals in black Ombre.

Spicy Ahi bowl from Fish Express in Lihue.

Wearing Teva Original Sandals in black Ombre.

Other local grinds:

  • Bubba's Burgers
  • Hanalei Bread Co.
  • Bar Acuda
  • Postcards
  • Sushi Girl
  • Savage Shrimp
  • Japanese Grandma Cafe
  • Shrimp Station 

Shrimp Station is probably the best shrimp you'll get in Kauai, every local person we asked raved about it. It's no Romy's Kahuku Prawns from Oahu, but it satisfied our shrimp plate craving.  Kauai is definitely more known for their farm fresh fruits and veggies and fresh sashimi. Food trucks are every where in Kauai and often times those can be the best meals after a long day of island adventuring.

Old Kapaa Town is the most charming and accessible place on the island. They have the cutest little shops and my two favorites Java Kai and Kauai Juice Co.  The fresh juices and kombucha from Kauai Juice Co were to die for, everything is made fresh in house and ingredients are locally sourced. 

Throughout Kapaa you'll find tons of shopping and great stores like Shipwrecked, conveniently attached to Java Kai, and Work it Out, a cute little athletic boutique just down the street. 

Hanepepe is another little town with great gems and if you're lucky enough to check out their art night on First Friday's. As soon as the sun goes down the streets are filled with people, local artists, crafts, and live music playing at every corner.  I even discovered the cutest stores Machine Machine, a vintage inspired and thrift shop, Blu Umi, a fun little boutique, and Japanese Grandma Cafe

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On the tail end of our trip we decided to upgrade our stay. Since this was our trip without the kids, we splurged on 3 nights in the gorgeous Ko'a Kea Resort in Poipu Beach. It's a lovely resort property that only has 121 rooms to give you more of that intimate and quiet island life, but with the full experience of a larger paradise resort. It was so perfect to quieting the mind and relaxing by the beach without having a ton of people to crowd the pool and lawn areas. If you're looking for a honeymoon getaway or just a retreat to hide from the world, this is your spot.

Our room had a partial ocean view equipped with a mini fridge and L'occitane toiletries, which was perfect because just outside our sliding door was the pool and the ocean. It was our direct little line to paradise. We treated our hard working selves to an ocean side massage and a romantic dinner on our last night there at Red Salt, their fine dining restaurant. 

However the biggest treat we gave ourselves was seeing the island both by sea and by air. Our last full day in Kauai was the most exciting day we had there. Our morning started off with Blue Ocean Adventures on a zodiac boat that toured the Nā Pali Coast. Choosing a zodiac over a catamaran type of tour was the best decision we made. Our tour had 11 people on the raft including Cody and his friend who were our Captain and crew of our boat. We flew over waves and zipped through sea caves and under waterfalls. Cody, born and raised in Kauai was able to provide us historic cultural insight of Nā Pali coast making it much more of an interesting experience rather than just pointing out geographic locations. 

I've got a handful of photos from the trip, but I think this GoPro video my husband created documents it best.

Once we were fresh of the boat, we quickly headed towards Lihue to jump into a helicopter with Jack Harter Helicopter tours to see the island via air. Since most of Kauai is only accessible through long hikes, and we didn't have the chance to do that during this trip, we thought why not jump on a bird and see it from the sky. We rode in a Hughes 500, a smaller helicopter that could maneuver through the canyons of Waimea to get closer to the waterfalls than other birds, plus we wanted to ride doors off. *queue Tell Me When To Go by E-40* 

Kauai is an island that has a little bit for everyone. You can be a thrill seeker who loves to jump off cliffs into 20-30ft open waters or a chill seeker who wants to sit on a quiet stretch of beach in Polihale. There's a lot of hiking to do, surf, and snorkel; but mostly a whole lot of losing yourself in the beauty and quietness that is Kauai. I can't say that this is my favorite Hawaiian Island yet, but this island stole my heart and we made great friendships there with people whom we can now call Ohana.

Many of my followers on Instagram were messaging me and commenting me on my footwear. Yes! I was rocking Teva sandals my entire trip! They were the perfect footwear to take with me on all my island adventures, rugged enough to hike through rocks, mud, and sand, but stylish enough to feel confident to dress up in. My favorites were the Teva Original Slides in Ombre Navy. It went perfectly with all my wardrobe options and slipped on and off quickly enough for me to jump into the ocean.

Joanne E

I’m a mother of two beautiful daughters and married to a man who completes me. I started my fitness journey as a way to heal my soul and launched my blog in hopes to continue to inspire and empower women to use fitness as a tool to heal depression and find their self worth. I strongly believe that each woman deserves to be in love with herself just as much as her man does. I have an obsession with reusable water bottles, I enjoy action movies, and I’m in love with burpees.

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