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


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.

5 Reasons Why Travel is Good For your Health

With 40 days of summer left in the year there's still some time to squeeze in one more getaway before the fall begins which means pack your bags with your essentials and GO! Travel is one of the best ways to escape the day to day routine of life, its good for your mental health, and physical health. And of course travel can help reignite passions and interests in our souls just by changing our environment. 

Becoming a mother in my 20s I didn't get to do much traveling around the world, but now that the kids are getting older it'll be easier for me and my travel buddy aka my husband to be able to take these incredible trips we've always dreamed of. 

Some of those places for me are: 

  • Santorini 
  • Thailand/Vietnam
  • France
  • India
  • Philippines

We all know how incredibly cleansing travel is for the soul and when you find that place that you lose yourself just to rediscover who you are becoming, it always feels like home. Hawaii has always been that place for me. And each time I visit, her waters just seem to take a piece of me every single time and I come back from my trip with a little bit of perspective on what self love really means. Not only is traveling great for the soul, but its good for your health too.

Here are 5 reasons why travel is good for your health.

  1. You get your body moving constantly. When you travel you're bound to get up and go adventure whether you're the outdoor thrill seeker or the city slicker wanderer. Regardless of the mode or type of adventure you're in for, there's exploration involved which typically involves a whole lot of getting up and walking. 
  2. A change of perspective and environment can help reduce stress. It's no surprise that the daunting daily life can be stressful. I mean I say this all the time, #adultishard. When you are in a new environment your mind can be put more at ease because you're not trapped to your every day routine, changing your perspective on life and increasing your creativity. Freeing your to the complexities of your mind can reduce your stress levels. 
  3. R&R: Rest and Recover! Most of the time we go on vacation and get a little more sleep than we normally would. Maybe you take long lazy naps at the beach or sleep in a little early because there's no work to do. Either way if you're getting more sleep during your trip this will help the body produce more growth hormone and protein synthesis aiding in recovery. 
  4. You learn to be flexible and become more patient. There are those few occasions where things don't go according as planned. Maybe the weather isn't what you expected for your trip, lost luggage, or tours and excursions get cancelled last minute. In these situations you can either get mad and potentially ruin the rest of your time or you can learn to breath and look for the positivity in the situation. You're traveling because you're wanting to make new memories, make them as positive as you can. 
  5. Travel pushes you out of your comfort zone.  There's nothing more exciting than to trying something you've never done before an what better place then when on vacation. I always say there's this soft spot between excited and scared and if you're wading in that soft spot then its better to jump out of fear of never being able to do it again. Like jumping into 100ft deep Pacific Ocean waters just because your heart wanted to. 

Like I said Hawaii has a special place in my heart. Her waters help me find a little more self love and self grace. All the worries I had about my self image seem to slip away when I'm there, maybe because somehow Hawaii knows that in order for me to be lost in her beauty I need to leave behind the negativity and find that beauty within myself. 

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

Now that you know how travel can impact your health in a positive way where are you going to go on your next adventure? A full Kauai post on all are adventures and a list of my recommendations are coming up next week. 

P.S. I wish I had photos of if, but this is Polihale Beach, its the longest stretch of beach in the state of Hawaii found in Kauai. There's a lot of off roading involved to get here and thankfully because Jonathan wanted to blend in with the kama'aina we chose a pick up truck as our rental for the week. Needless to say I've never driven on sand before and I got the truck stuck in the sand. Probably one of the best memories ever on this trip that definitely lead to a whole lot of being flexible and learning patience, reason #4. 


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O'o Farms in Maui, HI

I'm sure you followed along some of the Maui adventures on Instagram especially since I couldn't help but flood my feed of all the amazing experiences and moments we had as a family. This vacation was much needed for all of us especially since my husband and I have been non stop on the go all summer and for the past twelve weeks while Encarnacion Photography was knee deep in wedding season.

I can't wait to share all of my memories with you on the blog, but one in particular that I wanted to highlight was the farm tour of O'o Farm. The first time we heard about O'o Farm was when we shot a wedding at Pacific'o restaurant four years ago in Lahaina. Pacific'o is one of the few restaurants in Maui that incorporates an amazing farm to table seasonal menu which highlights some of the finest ingredients found on Maui and the freshest fish caught for the day. If you are planning a visit to Maui, Pacific'o is a must for your taste buds. During our dining experience they had mentioned that we should tour the farm, but since our dinner was on our last night in Maui it was too late for us to schedule something then. So this time on our trip to Maui, we made O'o our first major adventure and one I would do all over again.

O'o Farm is nestled in upcountry Maui tucked away from the heat of the beaches in its much cooler climate. Across their eight acres you will find beautiful stone fruit orchard with some exotic Hawaiian citrus, rows of lettuce, garden vegetables, and a handful of freshly planted coffee trees which are featured in the Aina Gourmet Market at the Honua Kai. This was a treat for us since we were also staying at the Honua Kai and have been known to be slight coffee snobs who enjoy a cup of Sightglass pour over and Stumptown cold brew coffee.

The tour began with a meet and greet with Ancil Clancy, the orchard manager on the farm. You can tell by the way Ancil talks about each crop or product that he has a vast amount of knowledge, dedication, and passion for his craft. Something that any foodie can appreciate when someone is describing the food and the time taken into the harvest and process of the ingredients you are about to indulge in. Ancil is also in charge of nurturing the coffee orchard which includes harvesting, processing, and roasting the coffee. 

The tour starts with a brief walk through the orchards learning a big about coffee, the fruit, and the tasting the berries of the coffee. Then you meet Chef Daniel Eskelsen  and he provides an extensive overview of the menu for the day and the ingredients that are featured in the menu. All the produce on the menu was picked that day as well as the fresh catch which happened to be Opah, a moonfish. The salad on the menu was hand picked by us straight from the garden which was such an incredible treat for the girls. Included in the tour was an overview of their coffee roasting process for Aina Coffee, a 100% Maui grown coffee which is a single origin that offers unique characteristics and a mild beautiful roast. A definite treat for any coffee lover. 

We've always has a dee love and appreciation for food and those involved in creating the wonderful dishes we enjoy at many of our favorite restaurants, but this experience deepened it. You can tell how mix love and attention goes into creating an amazing product. The knowledge and care that goes into the process of growing and harvesting food was unbelievable.

Here are some photos from the day taken by both Jonathan and myself. We hope you enjoy. Aloha!

On the menu for our day was:

  • Fresh Maui Pineapple
  • Wood oven baked focaccia bread made with Maui onions
  • Wood Fire Roasted Chicken featured with a puree of garden root vegetables made into a "gravy"
  • O'o Farm Signature Tofu with oven roasted herbs and vegetables
  • Kaffir Lime Opah
  • Fresh hand picked O'o Farm greens with a citrus vinaigrette
  • Espresso Chocolate truffles which featured coffee fruit fresh from the farm served with a cup of Aina Coffee

* menu varies depending on season

Hana Hou Maui

I never imagined Hawaii to be one of my favorite places to visit on this planet. I haven't travelled very much in my life. My parents never had that wanderlust heart for adventure and quite honestly they just were too busy doing what they had to do to put food on the table and to raise enough money to bring my two older siblings over from the Philippines. I was born in New York, so the idea of island life wasn't something I lusted over, instead my heart was always home to a busy city with tall building, loud noises,  and people bustling around to get to their next destination. Something about getting lost in the chaos felt more like home to me. In 2011 Jonathan and I were lucky enough to book 2 weddings on the island of Maui and on my first visit I fell madly in love. The ocean swept away my troubles at the time and in some way my soul felt renewed. 

Hawaii plays such an integral part of my personal growth. My first trip to Hawaii was in June 2011 and we were spending time with the couple who hired us for their wedding post the celebrations with their friends. Mentally this was so hard for me. During that time I was at a place where I hated my body. I was ashamed of my stretch marks, my midsection, the weight I had gained from two pregnancies, and just how out of shape I was. Being in a bathing suit caused me so much anxiety, I hated it. Pair that same feeling with being around other females who seemed so confident walking around with their groups of friends in bikinis just brought on more stress and self consciousness with my own body. At the time of our first trip to Hawaii, I was facing a whole lot of chaos in my life and left with the sense of renewal and excitement for a new adventure. I wrote a little big about in an old blog

When we came back to Hawaii with the family I spent most of my time in cover ups, worrying about my body around my own family because I was so concerned about what I would look like in photos when we would look back on these memories. 

We went on a family outing to go snorkeling and I purchased a rashguard from Lululemon. When my husband and family asked me why, I replied "I'm doing it to protect my tattoos while we're out in the water." I was lying through my teeth. I did it because I was ashamed with myself and I didn't want to be look back at photos of my out of shape body. Most of our family vacation I spent worrying about how I could cover myself up instead of enjoying myself wholly and freely.

Over the past two years I took control of my health and by doing that I took control of my mind and how I viewed myself, my body, and began to love my stretch marks, my mid section, and all that my body has done to carry two beautiful children. So here's to another Hawaii adventure with the family, but this time I'm bringing an improved Joanne who's worked on building her self confidence. 

Here are some links to our Family trips to Hawaii. 

Adobo Fam 408 to 808 Pt 1

Adobo Fam 408 to 808 Pt 2