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Last Minute Kauai 6 Day Vacation

About three weeks ago I decided Washington was too darn cold and I needed some heat before going to the UK in a few months. I was desperate to see Humpback whales as close up as possible. So, I looked up where they were this time of year and Hawaii was the destination of choice. This worked out well because I had already wanted to go to Kauai and hike on the Napali coast.

I had first seen the coast years earlier on a cruise of the islands. I cannot recommend the cruise, but it instilled in me a desperate need to return to Kauai.

I decided to spend a week in Kauai from February 3rd to 10th. I rented a car from Hawaii Rental Cars and a room in Kapaa through AirBnb to keep my costs low. Traveling so close to the date I was booking, my options were very limited and hotels were over $200 a night. I spent around $651 without food and attraction costs (I used points for the flight so it was $11, $350 for Airbnb, $250 rental car, and $40 gas). Since my main focus was hiking I did not book any tours. The location I chose, Kapaa, was central on the main highway in the island. Since the highway extends as a backwards C around the island, Kapaa is almost in the center of the C, so that I would have about an hour and ten minutes to the North West point (Kalalau) and about an hour to the South West point (Waimea, there you can go a bit further North or West).

A surfer looks out into the Pacific before plunging into the waters off Polihale Beach

A surfer looks out into the Pacific before plunging into the waters off Polihale Beach

Day One - Polihale

First thing I popped into Java Kai and met with a friend. This café was a great choice for getting the morning started.

I drove to South to Poipu and stopped on the beach in front of the Brennecke's Restaurant. I laid on the beach and did a bit of snorkeling before getting a sandwich to go from the shop below the restaurant. I ate my sandwich and finished reading Levision Wood's Book Walking the Nile.

I decided to continue following the road West to Polihale. Here I encountered a dirt road that seemed to extend into forever. Since I was driving a Nissan Versa, I was not exactly the ideal purveyor of this path. However, I kept driving at about 15 MPH until I arrived at the park. It took me maybe 30 minutes to get to the parking lot. Once there I was rewarded with a beautiful view of the ocean and Napali cliffs. I chose to talk a stroll on the beach to where the cliffs hit the ocean and then walk back. It seemed doable but ended up being about 2.5 miles one way. On the way back I struggled to find which lot my car was in as I had found I could have driven closer to the cliffs and there were several parking lots.

Since this was the end of the line it was now time to drive back East. I hit the road and after a thrilling 30 minutes at 15 MPH I arrived back on the highway. Shortly after I came across a bird wildlife sanctuary where I watched the sunset. It was pretty, but not many birds.

Classic view of the Napali Coast line from the beginning of the Kalalau Trail

Classic view of the Napali Coast line from the beginning of the Kalalau Trail

Day Two - Kalalau/Hanakapiai Trail

Since my goal was to hike my tush off in Kauai I decided to go do a pre-check of the Kalalau to decide if I wanted to give it a try or not. I had purchased the permits a week ahead of time to allow me to camp on the trail, but as everyone's description of it was 'sketchy,' I wanted to see for myself. On the drive North from Kapaa I stopped a few times to see whales breaching in the distance and also at a few stunning beaches along the way.

When I arrived in Kalalau I found out the parking situation was as promised. If you get there too late, you will have a very hard time finding parking. I arrived at around 9 AM and found a spot in the overflow lot. Luckily it was a dry day, because the lot was full of rocks that scraped your undercarriage and I even got stuck once. Even though I found a spot I was definitely sweating the parking. I followed the signage to the trail and decided to walk a bit of the trail. I walked until just after the river crossing. I decided not to continue to the falls as the hikers were saying it was increasingly muddy and I didn't do well on the river crossing. The hike was slippery in many spots, and I didn't feel particularly confident crossing the river (I also lost a lens cap there!). The views were beautiful but the constant buzzing of the helicopters and excessive number of people on the trail left me less than impressed.

I headed back East to Kapaa and pulled into the Princeville Shopping Center. There I cleaned up a bit (as my legs had quite a bit of mud on them), and I decided to grab an ice cream. At the entrance to the Lappert's ice cream shop was a husky woman who asked me if I was going to get an ice cream. I said "Yes, I think I am." She replied, "Great! I am going to buy it for you, I am a fairy Godmother." Not sure where this was going, but I accepted. She went in and asked them to give me their signature ice cream and a lot of it in a waffle cone. Not what I was going to order and not sure what is was, but okay. Though I insisted she let me buy my own ice cream, she persisted that she was buying it for me. She then took my picture and grabbed her own snack. She was very nice and it gave me a chance to try an ice cream I would have never thought to order. It was a mixture of chocolate, macadamia nut, and coconut.

After my Fairy Godmother Ice Cream I continued down the road and back to Kapaa

The lookout from Alakai Swamp Trail

The lookout from Alakai Swamp Trail

Day Three - Waimea Canyon

Since I had seen the North and South I decided next I needed to get into the Kauai interior. The drive from Kapaa to Waimea Canyon was pretty long, even though distances aren't far, the speed limits really slow you down. Not to mention the amazing views that make you want to pull over every minute.

Once up on the ridge I stopped at almost every lookout. All offered slightly different views of either the Napali Coast or the Canyon. A small museum in Kokee helped me to put everything into perspective with hikes, roads, and landscape. There is also an outlook over Kalalau Valley so you can understand where the Kalalua hike ends.

At the very end of the road was the Pihea trail which hits the Alakai Swamp Trail about a mile or two in. I decided to take the hike the swamp hike and found my self out in the wilderness for about 4-5 hours hiking around the highest swamp in the world. The trail led up to Kilohana lookout. The view of Hanalei Bay was spectacular and we were very lucky there were no clouds to block the view. The swamp was also good to see because it helps you to understand why the Kalalau trail water is unsafe to drink. It is clear the Kalalau trail could be perfectly accessible from this route as well, but there is fencing so you cannot descend into the valley. As with the Kalalau trail the helicopters in the valley and boats cruising by were endless. In addition, there were hunters which caused you to jump now and then and the firing of their guns.

It was about 4 when I reached the car and the clouds had just rolled in. They began unleashing a torrent of rain just before I got to the car. As such, I was quite tired and called it a day.

A diver preps for his jump into the waters with his spear

A diver preps for his jump into the waters with his spear

Day Four - Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail

I decided to once again take my chances on the South Shore. I wanted to see more of Poipu as it seemed to be widely discussed. I was hoping to see some turtles and seals as I observed in online pictures. I arrived at the parking lot between the Grand Hyatt and the Golf Course in Poipu and began wandering around.

I did not, at the time, realize the commitment I was making. I saw to the East there were some trails looking up to a vista. Once at the vista point, I saw there were more vistas and tidepools to the East. Each vista led to another, and eventually even a walk across the golf course. After the golf course and Horse ranch you come to a very nice beach. It is quiet but not empty. I thought I would walk down the beach where there was another turning point. Once at that point I saw the beach continued into a little bay and yet again another view point. Since I'd been walking for over an hour and about 3 miles in flip flops, I decided to turn around. I wanted to walk to the end, whatever the end may have been. I did not succeed. I ended up turning around and heading back. There were several trails back, some led to dirt roads and some continued back towards the hotel. Since it was now afternoon the sun was directly overhead and beat down on the trail quite harshly. Once back to the car I practically hugged it and apologized to my legs for not training prior to hiking 6+ miles per day on this trip.

I went back to Kapaa, since it was still pretty early (and Super Bowl Sunday) and decided to try to find a nice bar or restaurant to chill at and enjoy the ocean. Apparently this is not as common as I thought it would be. My AirBnb host suggested Lava Lava Lounge. When I arrived they suggested I sit at the bar, with the Super Bowl folk. I longingly looked out at the ocean, and ordered a beer. I requested to move to a table but was instructed to go back to the front of the restaurant and ask the hostess. The bartender had begun to complain to a waitress that her bandaged fingers needed new bandages. This is where I was done, and a bit grossed out. I paid for my beer and headed out.

I next tried Oasis which was right next my AirBnb. I walked over and found the grounds of the Waipouli Beach Resort to be lovely. The restaurant was very welcoming and sat me at a table overlooking the ocean. There I saw several Humpback whales breeching in the distance. My Gin and Tonic was only $5 and the dinner was very good. The dessert was to die for. I had an apple-banana egg roll with Butterscotch-Caramel ice cream.

Shell from beach near Kapa

Shell from beach near Kapa

Day Five - Spa Day

Since I wasn't quite as fit as I had hoped, and I was moping over accepting I would not give the Kalalau a try I decided to do a spa day. I went the Wailpouli Beach Resort and made a massage appointment. Though very pricy it allowed me to use their facilities for the day. So the pool, hot tubs, beach chairs, and luxurious showers were all mine for the day. All with out having to worry about leaving my belongings while I went to the bathroom or for a swim (a problem for a solo traveler). Since my AirBnb was the Motel or Bachelor Pad quality, I was in desperate need of a clean. I spent the entire day relaxing, eating at Oasis, and drinking next to the pool or beach.

Taro growing in the Limahuli Garden and Preserve

Taro growing in the Limahuli Garden and Preserve

Day Six - North Shore

Looking at Trip Advisor my major misses were the Hanalei Beach, Tunnels Beach, and Limahuli Garden and Preserve. I sought to rectify these oversights and set out. I started at the end of the road again, driving almost back to Kalalau to go to the Limahuli Garden and Preserve. In the morning it was a great place to take some pictures of the beautiful plants and wildlife.

Next up was Tunnels Beach. There I had a pork sandwich from the truck that seems to be permanently parked there. I also had some pineapple. As I think I may be slightly allergic to pineapple, and Angola has the greatest pineapple ever, I was not impressed with what is supposed to be super amazing pineapple. Finishing my pork sandwich/burger creation I went to Hanalei beach. My expectations were low, but I was in for a surprise. It is a gorgeous beach with a lot of surfers. Also, they had the Make a Wish Foundation holding an event teaching kids how to surf.

Post tear jerking beach moments from Hanalei Make a Wish, I stopped in at Jojo's and got a snow cone. This hit the spot perfectly in the hot midday sun. I stopped at one more beach on the way back to the house and laid out while watching everyone boogie board and laugh in the surf.

To learn more about my recommendations please see my Kauai Destination Guide or feel free to Comment with any questions. Aloha!