Hawaiian Paradise: Kauai

Ke-e-beach-Kauai

Back in May, I visited the Hawaiian island of Kauai for the first time. Being so overwhelmed by it’s beauty, I couldn’t resist visiting Kauai again this month. Result: a summary of my experiences and advice for your future trip to the Garden Island below!

Which Hawaiian island should I visit?

This blog post will cover Kauai, one of the 6 Hawaiian islands. If you’re not sure which Hawaiian island(s) to visit, check this infographic.

Getting there

SWISS new B777-300 Business Class Bart Lapers
Pic: New SWISS B777-300 Business Class from Zurich to Los Angeles
Flying from Europe to Hawaii is quite a trip with 8500 miles to be covered and a 12 hour time difference. Economy class tickets can easily set you back €1000 or more if you don’t hunt for a bargain. If you were lucky, you noticed my tweet or facebook update a few weeks ago when tickets were selling as low as €405 for a round trip from Brussels to Honolulu (HNL, Oahu) Lihue (LIH, Kauai) Kahului (OGG, Maui) or Kona (KOA, Big Island). Missed that amazing deal? No worries, here are some tips to score a good deal:

    • Read my flight booking advice.
    • Can’t find cheap flights to your Hawaiian destination? Look for tickets to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) or Honolulu (HNL). If you find a good deal to LAX or SFO, you can use miles for the connecting flight to your Hawaiian destination. If you find a good deal to HNL, you can book cheap a domestic ticket between the Hawaiian islands.
    • British Airways charges just 12500 Avios + €5 each way to book LAX or SFO to your Hawaiian island on American Airlines.
    • Lufthansa Miles & More charges 20000 miles + €12 each way to book LAX or SFO to your Hawaiian island on United. Need more Miles & More miles? Sign-up for the Brussels Airlines American Express card and get 12,000 bonus miles + 2000 miles when you pay your cellphone bill with the card.

Where to stay

Aqua Kauai Beach Resort
Pic: Aqua Kauai Beach Resort (May 2016)
Kauai has a limited number of chain hotels which are generally not worth the high rates (and resort fees) they charge. Don’t even think about redeeming your points, keep them for non-US destinations! My advice is to use Airbnb. For my stay in May, I managed to get a room at Aqua Kauai Beach Resort for half the price the hotel charged on their website. A similar deal at Islander on the Beach for my stay in August. The trick is to book privately owned units at the resorts via Airbnb. Hula Now is one of the agencies listing these units on Airbnb. In most cases you can also avoid paying the high resort fee! If you haven’t used Airbnb before, this is the right time to sign-up, even if you don’t intent to make a booking right now. Airbnb currently offers €30 or $30 free credits which can be use as discount on your first Airbnb booking.

What to eat

hippie cafe kapaa kauai superfood acai breakfast
Fastfood chains have found the way to Kauai, but hipster go for quality food. Here are some of my favorites on the Garden Island:

Kauai Juice and Co

Things to do

Kalalau lookout Kauai
Pic: The Na Pali Coast seen from secret Kalalau Lookout trail
Kauai offers great beaches and excellent hiking. What makes Kauai unique are the Waimea Canyon, also know as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and the Na Pali coast.
The Na Pali coast can be enjoyed in several ways:

  1. Kalalau Lookout at the end of Kokee road in Waimea Canyon
  2. By boat or kayak
  3. By helicopter
  4. On foot via the famous Kalalau trail

Kalalau Lookout

Kalalau lookout hidden trail Kauai
Pic: Viewpoint at the end of the secret Kalalau lookout trail
At the 18 mile marker on Kokee road you’ll find the Kalalau Lookout, an outstanding opportunity to enjoy Kalalau Valley and the Na Pali Coast. For even better views, you can hike the secret Kalalau lookout trail. Have a closer look at the fence on the left side. Descend on the secret trail and enjoy what might be the most spectacular hike of your life! Note: this is an unofficial unmarked trail which might be dangerous, use at own risk!
Kalalau Valley Kauai

Na Pali Coast Boat Trip

Na Pali Coast seen from boat kauai
Pic: Na Pali Coast seen from boat
Another great option to discover the stunning Na Pali Coast is making a boat or kayak trip. You can spot whales (Dec-Apr) or dolphins and there are plenty of turtles to snorkel with.
Snorkeling with turtles Na Pali Coast kauai

Kauai by Helicopter

bart lapers blue hawaiian helicopters kauai hawaii
For the ultimate views, you’ll need to book a helicopter ride. I had a very comfortable ride with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters and a more adventurous doors-off flight with Jack Harter Helicopters.
mind blowing Na Pali Coast Kauai Hawaii

Kalalau Trail

hiking the kalalau trail na pali coast kauai
Real adventurers apply for a permit and hike the famous Kalalau Trail. I hiked the 22 miles roundtrip in two days and stayed at Kalalau beach for the night. Don’t worry if you don’t have camping gear, you can get all you need at Lihue Walmart on Kauai!

Hiking the Kalalau Trail Kauai
Have you visited Kauai before? Or any other Hawaiian island? Feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments! Thanks! 🙂
sunrise at Coconut Coast Kauai

22 Comments on “Hawaiian Paradise: Kauai

    • Hi Vincent, as indicated in my post, hotels & resorts tend to be quite expensive but Airbnb offers a good alternative. Food is rather expensive at the hipster hangouts but you can save a lot by visiting supermarkets like Safeway who offer freshly prepared sandwiches or eat at fastfood chains. Activity wise, the helicopter flight is probably your highest expense. In short, Kauai isn’t outrageously expensive compared to the rest of the US if you make the right choices. Not sure about to other Hawaiian islands, but I assume the same advice applies.

  1. I just came back from Maui and it was my first time to Hawaii. It was gorgeous beauty and lots of fun. We visited local stores to eat, stayed at beaches all day and we lived at Grand Wailea which had wonderful view of the coast. Last month, I received the VIP email from Starwoods hotel that they offer me a VIP package which contains 6 day 5 nights at Sheraton Kauai resort and also includes 6 days Avis car rental plus bonus 5k star points or $75 resort certificate and no block out dates! I wasn’t sure I want to go but after coming back from Maui, I booked it right away. Do you think it is a god deal?

    • Hi Alice, thank you for your input. Everything depends on how much the Sheraton package was selling for and what dates you booked it on. I would check the rates of the Sheraton for those dates via hotelscombined.com and also the price for the rental car. Should give you a good idea if the package was worth it.

  2. Kauai is definitely the most beautiful of the islands.
    But hiking to an active lava flow on Big Island was quite an experience as well. The View from atop Mauna Kea was amazing (but cold) and the Volcanoes National Park was very interesting.
    At Maui you have to drive the Road to Hana, continue on to the Oheo Gulch, perhaps hike the pleasant pipwani trail, continue driving on the gravel road until you eventually are back at the start.
    Oahu, and definitely Waikiki, is more crowded, but can’t be missed. Pearl harbor and a visit to the USS Arizona memorial makes you think about WW2. There is a nice boudhistic temple and you can drive to the north shore to see the surfers catch waves. For the adventurous there is Stairs to Heaven hike!
    So much to see and do …
    If you would like to see my (amateur) photos check my Flickr album on Hawaii:

    20130626-18h04-_DSC6245-WEB
  3. Hallo Bart,

    How many days did you spent on Kuai?
    I booked a trip for november ( British Airways voor €505 h&t BRU-HON) and I making a planning now. We intend on island hopping and i would stay 4 days on Kuai.

    Thanks for the good tips

    • Hi Philippe, sounds like perfect timing to me except if you plan to do the 2-day Kalalau trail. You can do the first part of the trail between Ke’e beach and Hanakapiai Beach in half a day. Include the Hanakapiai Falls and it would take you a full day trip. I would book a helicopter and boat trip along the Na Pali coast. (or more adventurous kayak trip) Also reserve a day to visit Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Lookout secret trail. Enjoy the trip and feel free to share your experiences afterwards!

  4. Hey Bart, you wrote about a 405 euro ticket from Brussels to Hawai. On the picture i see Swiss business class. How did you book business class?

  5. Hi Steeve, I booked a Business Class round trip AMS-LAX with SWISS and Air Canada for 1109 EUR using this deal http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/premium-fare-deals/1760593-star-alliance-ams-sfo-lax-sea-ord-many-more-usa-dest-1080-updated-price.html Great to earn status miles to re-qualify for Star Alliance Gold with Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles. The SWISS flights were great (new B777-300ER), the Air Canada flights were horrible! (A330 and B767-300 old business class, had booked the new B787 but they pulled it from the LAX-YYZ route)

  6. Thanks for the trip of the secret Kalalau lookout! Did it yesterday, and it was amazing. The views are extraordinary. When dry it is a very easy walk. Can imagine some parts are tricky after rainfall.

    Did some diving near poipu as well, wouldn’t recommend it. Not bad but expensive

    Helicopter tour is a must!

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