Back in February myself and two friends jokingly started to talk about how much fun it would be to go on a trip together, Hawaii specifically. That ‘joke’ ended up turning into reality when we decided to book plane tickets to Kauai, for May! I have personally been to Hawaii 4 times prior, twice to Maui, and once to both the big island and Oahu. Jessie (@jadubya) had been to Hawaii a few times prior as well, and for Vanessa (@vanessafraser) this would be her first time.
All three of us LOVE the outdoors, love adventure and love hiking and Hawaii, Kauai specifically is the perfect place for that. Since we knew there were going to be some very wet, unpredictable conditions with rain we were sure to pack a variety of shoes. We were lucky enough to partner with @keencanada for this trip who graciously provided us with the footwear we would need. For the muddier, wetter days the three of us had our Terradora Ethos and for the rest/more rugged dry trails Vanessa and Jessie had the Targhee III’s (mid and lower) and I had my Terradora Waterproof Mid boot.
Pre-trip – May 2nd/3rd
We booked the trip starting May 2nd, Vanessa and I flew down to Denver to snag Jessie then us three flew over to Seattle for a 18 hour layover. Flying into Seattle late the 2nd night, we found a hotel close to the airport, crashed, woke up at 7am and headed right downtown to explore Seattle before our plane was scheduled to take off that night. The hotel held our bags while we adventured around for 7 hours (If you ever find yourself on a long layover in Seattle it’s so easy to take the train downtown, you can hop on right outside the airport. It’s worth it!
(I also brought along a pair of casual shoes: The Women’s Elsa Sneaker (pictured above. )
Day 1 – Seattle/Kapaa – Kauai Beach Hostel
We arrived in Lihue, Kauai late on the 3rd night, picked up our rental vehicle (a 4 door jeep) and headed straight for our hostel, in Kapaa. We decided to go with a four door Jeep, which was spacious for three of us, all our gear and could handle the backroads, and beach driving, as we were planning to do some beach camping. We stayed three nights at the ‘Kauai Beach Hostel‘ before transitioning to camping. The Kauai Beach Hostel is located right downtown Kapaa, with shops all around, restaurants, cafes, and ocean view/beach access right behind. Our balcony looked right out onto the water, which was a beautiful view in the morning, as we arrived in the dark the first night.
Recommended coffee shop in Kapaa, which also has great breakfast and lunch options! —> Java Kai
Day 2 – Kapaa – Kauai Beach Hostel
Our first full day in Kauai. Waking early to take full advantage. Headed to a little coffee bus right across the street from our hostel, before discovering Java Kai, which were both equally delicious. For any of you who are huge coffee fans, it is important to know the closest coffee shop! From there we headed to the beach and enjoyed conversation with some locals, getting details/suggestions on hikes and things to do.
Once all three of us got our ‘butts’ in a line we headed to Wailua Falls (pictured below). This is a very popular spot, where many people stop at the lookout to take in the beautiful view, where we hiked down below to see the waterfall from a different perspective (pictured below). When it’s rainy it’s extremely slippery, so be prepared!
Next up we headed for ‘Sleeping Giant’ a little bit of a longer hike that we thought would be great to shake off our jet leg, airplane legs. It is only 2 miles each way, and many of the locals use it more as a quick ‘workout hike’. There are two routes up, both East and West, the East side you have more of an ocean view the entire time and more luck it it’s rainy and wet, whereas the West side (the side we took up) is more forested, ‘rooty’ and challenging in the mud… but who doesn’t like a good challenge? Was worth every step.
Day 3 – Kapaa – Kauaii Beach Hostel
Unfortunately about a month we were set to leave for our trip, Kauai took on huge damage, due to rain fall and flood damage. The flooding ended up closing down the North shore of the island, where the Kalalau Trail is located, a world renowned hiking trail. It’s also known as the Napali Coast Trail, first off we weren’t ‘on top’ of things enough to have obtained permits, as they were sold out until September, and without permits you can only hike the first 2 miles (of the 11mile one way trail), 22 miles out and back. We were hoping to at least hike the first bit, though weren’t able to do that at all, due to road closure, which all gives us a great reason to come back one day when the trail is back, open and safe.
Instead of hiking it we had the privilege of seeing it from the ocean thanks to @napaliodyssey. We went on a 5 hour boat tour, which I highly recommend doing! We got to see numerous dolphins, were able to boat right into a number of caves on the shore, waterfalls, ridge lines, beaches and just all around beautiful views. It was a great experience to have had while on Kauai, as the North shores landscape is incomparable to anything else on the island.
Day 4 – Camping – Koke’e Campground – Koke’e State Park
This was a BIG hiking day! We headed to the West side, into Koke’e State Park, a park that is FULL of amazing views, hikes, camping and more. We headed for Awa’awapuhi bright and early, for a 830 am start on the trail, which winds through a highland forest with occasional ridge top views. It’s all downhill (which means all uphill on the way back – which many hikes are in the area, ‘upside down hikes’) to the grassy point that overlooks the sheer cliffs of Awa`awapuhi and Nualolo valleys resting 2,000 feet below. The option to connect to the Nualolo trail should be taken only by those prepared for a hike over 9 miles long (one-way), which we added on, as we were prepared with enough food and water and were aware of the difficulty.
When we arrived at the Awa’awapuhi lookout the views were socked in by clouds, but we waited 15 minutes and were gifted with an amazing view. This was another common occurence during our time in Hawaii, and on hikes, where views would come and go, one get be lucky or unlucky depending on when you went. The weather/cloud coverage can be unpredictable, though they often say to wait it out, as things can change quick! Luckily it did for us.
From the Awa’awapuhi lookout (pictured above) majority of people head right back up, though we went on to hike the Nualolo Trail from here (photos below), which like stated above is an extra 9 miles added on. It is a beautiful hike, through the woods, rewarding views, and greenery/wild flowers. The terrain/length can be quite challenging depending on conditions, especially if its wet, so its important to take that into consideration.
From Awa’awapuhi you have to hike the Nualolo Cliff Trail first (2.1miles), which then connects to the Nualolo Trail (3.8 miles), at this junction you have the option to hike an additional 1/2 mile round trip to the Lolo Vista Lookout. It is known to be super windy on this point (which it was) though beautiful views if its clear.
Coming back on the Nualolo trail, you don’t finish at your car, where instead you come out at the Koke’e Campground, 1.5 miles down the road from the Awa’awapuhi Trail head. You can either hike the road back, or you can hitch hike back up as the road is pretty well traveled with vehicles.
We then headed into town (Kekaha) to grab food, eat and watch sunset at the beach, before heading back into Koke’e to set up camp for the evening. The road takes about 1/2 hour to drive down and it’s VERY windy so if you get car sick, I advise not driving it numerous times a day, and making sure you get food in Kekaha before heading into the park. Vanessa and I were feeling it for sure. There also is so cellphone reception so be sure to notify someone your plans and/or just be prepared to have no connection.
Day 5 – Camping – Kekaha Beach
After packing up camp in the morning we headed to Kumuwela lookout just down the road a couple miles, to watch sunrise, make coffee and have some breakfast. The views were incredible and it was a great way to start the morning.
From there we headed back North on the road for another hike. Starting at the Kalalau lookout, our plan was to hike the Alakai Swamp Trail (7 miles round trip), which offers glimpses of native plants and bird watching as it passes through rain forest and bogs on its way to Kilohana. When the weather is ‘good’, the views from this vantage overlooking the Wainiha Pali are amazing, though we were unfortunately faced with rain and fog/socked in conditions 80% of the hike. We would get glimpses here and there of views and could only image what it would’ve been like had the sky’s been clear.
On our way back fortunately enough 1km from the trail head the sky decided to clear and we had UNBELIEVABLE views of the valley below from Kalalau Lookout (pictured below).
After our hike we headed back to town, to eat and then find a place to set up camp. We stayed at Kekaha beach. We fell asleep to the sound of the wind and water, and were able to leave our tent tarp off as the night was free of rain. The stars were UNREAL (as photographed by Jessie below).
Day 6 – Camping – Kekaha Beach
This is the day we took over the @keencanada account, leading everyone on an adventure through Waimea Canyon finishing with a sunset hike out on Kalepa Ridge.
Waimea Canyon is known as ‘The Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, stretching 14 miles long, 1 mile wide and up to 3,600 feet deep. We could’ve easily explored here for days. We started our hike at the Kumuwela lookout, where we watched sunrise from the day before. There is a clear sign right by the parking lot marked ‘Canyon Trail – 1.8 miles each way’. It is also a backwards mountain hike… going down into the canyon the whole day and then you have to come back up. You hike through a forested area for a while, before being welcomed with amazing views of the canyon. From the viewpoint you can hike down another 0.2 miles to a ‘fork’ in the trail where to the left takes you to a smaller waterfall, and right will lead you to the top of Waipoo Falls.
Once we got to the waterfall, many people don’t realize you can cross the creek and continue on further. We hiked for another mile past this point and were welcomed with even further views of the canyon (pictured below).
Once we got back to our car from Waimea Canyon Trail, we headed for the Kalalau Lookout parking lot, where we began the Kalepa Ridge Trail for sunset hike. The trail is an unofficial trail that leads downhill from Kalalau Lookout in Koke’e State Park, along the ridge line between Kalalau Valley and Honopu. It’s unmarked and not officially maintained, also one that should be hiked with caution if one is afraid of heights or steep cliffs! Since it’s an unofficial trail there is also no official length, but took us about an hour. Many people hike down a little more than a mile down the trial to see the incredible, panoramic views of the Na Pali Coast and Kalalau Valley.
Kalepa Ridge Trail (pictured above) was by far my favourite trail of the trip (if I had to choose), the views were unbelievable and the weather/sunset we had could not have been more perfect. I highly suggest giving this one a shot. Many people chose to camp out on the ridge as well, though it does get quite cold at night so be prepared!
Day 7 – Camping – Ahini Beach
We started our day a little slower, after a couple good long hiking days. Glass sand beach and a shorter waterfall hike were the plans for the day!
First we headed to the ‘Glass beach‘, not far from our camp spot at Kekaha on the West side, that we packed up from that morning. Glass Beach isn’t mentioned in most guidebooks, and there are no signs directing drivers to it, but it is really unique and great for those who enjoy collecting sea glass. The shoreline is covered with TONS of brown, aqua, clear and blue sea glass pebbles.
After the beach we headed to Ho’opi’i Falls – which is indeed on private property, though well traveled. It is a 2 mile out and back trail located near Kapaa, which ends at a beautiful waterfall and is good for all skill levels. Half way in there is a great little cliff/swimming hole you can enjoy (pictured below), before continuing onto the larger waterfall at the end.
The whole trail is beautiful, it follows the a small river/creek bed the entire way. Through lush forested area, and greenery. The trees are also super fun to climb. Be sure to pack bug spray! Vanessa would be the first one to tell you to do so, the mosquitos were WILD!
The end destination is the perfect hang out spot, you can wade in the water, play in the waterfall, or go off the rope swing!
We ended the day way up on the North shore, up in Princeville at Queens Bath (Click more info) for sunset. Before making the little trek down to it we were sure to stop in Princeville to grab some shaved ice (which I highly recommend doing). Queens Bath is a quick ten minute hike from the parking lot. Although the scenery and bath are beautiful and pleasant, like many ocean attractions in general the area should be approached with caution and can be dangerous if you don’t pay attention. They say ‘It’s important to check the surf report before you visit the ocean on Kauai so that you know what’s possible. Simply watching the sea for 20 minutes before you approach is not good enough. The biggest waves of the day, as predicted by the surf report, could arrive at any time without warning’.
After sunset we headed to Ahini Beach (on the North Shore), where we set up camp for the night, it was VERY busy and tons of mosquitos. You do need a camping permit to camp here. It was a quick stay as we were up in the morning at 530am. to head on another fun adventure!!
Day 8 – Resort Day – Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa
First up, ZIPLINING! What a fun way to spend the morning. I would highly recommend checking out @kauai_backcountry_adventures if you are wanting to zipline or experience a tube ride down beautiful rivers in Kauai (we didn’t get to tube but perhaps next time)!
After ziplining we headed to the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa, where we spent our next two days. We thought we would end the trip with a little more relaxation, as we were go, go, go for a week straight before, and ‘roughing it’ camping. I would highly recommend looking into staying here even if it is for a couple nights during your time on Kauai. @grandhyattkauai. The staff, food, drinks and everything in the resort was perfect. GREAT way to wrap up the trip.
The ocean view from our room was also incredible. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the pool/in our room before calling it a night.
Day 9 – Resort – Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa
We woke up early to take FULL advantage of the day. Sitting/relaxing by the pool all morning, then decided to walk down the beach to some cliffs we saw people jumping off down the way. None of us girls jumped but if you ain’t afraid of heights, and are a great swimmer by all means go for it!
In the afternoon we headed to the @kauaihumanesociety to volunteer and spend some time with the dogs. Jessie and I left our pups behind so it was nice to spend sometime with local ones, to fill that little void. You can take the dogs for hikes if you want too. You can pick them up between 11-2! There have been a number of people from around the world who have adopted dogs from the Kauai Humane Society. You can check out/find more info in the link!
Above photos by @jadubya.
We enjoyed our final evening/watched sunset at the resort before heading into town for dinner reservations we had made at ‘Dukes’ which I highly recommend doing. Unreal food and great service. Located in Princeville.
Day 10 – Flight over to Oahu!
From here Vanessa and I woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our flight over to Oahu for three more days of hiking and adventures, and Jessie flew back home to Denver.
I am going to do up a whole separate blog post for Oahu, so stay tuned! For now I hope you enjoyed reading up on what we did while on Kauai, and feel free to message me ANY questions at all about where to hike, where to stay, places to eat, etc.