I am fortunate to have just returned from another fun adventure over the holidays. This one was to the island of Kaua’i. If you haven’t been to Hawaii or heard about the different islands’ personalities, this is the one that is super laid back. It’s the one that will capture your heart and make you wonder why in the world you live in the Midwest.

We arrived on New Year’s Eve, just in time to see the fireworks in the bay, and spent a week exploring secluded beaches and hiking some of the most beautiful trails I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about the areas where they film movies – Jurassic Park, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. Most of the island is actually inaccessible it’s so raw, and best seen by helicopter. Here are my top favorite things from our trip:

  • HELICOPTER RIDE! Ok, so I am not fond of heights, nor do I like small spaces, but the sheer beauty of what I was seeing squashed all of those fears pretty quickly. We even did the doors-off ride so the wind was whipping through the chopper and it was pretty exhilarating. The center of the island is full of canyons with waterfalls, with the tallest being 3,000 feet. Yes, a 3,000-foot waterfall. The bird dipped us down about 2,500 foot into the canyon so we were surrounded by mountains. I did pretty well, and took it seriously when the pilot (who I was seated next to) said “Just so you know, the arm you’re leaning against is the one I drive with so be careful.”

 

  • DOLPHINS! We took a half day boat tour up the Napali Coast which is a stretch (inaccessible by car) of up to 4,000 foot sea cliffs that are simply stunning. The captain was on the search for sea life and we happened upon a pod of hundreds of dolphins.Our boat just parked in the middle of them and watched them frolic and jump and spin around for about 20 minutes. So fun!

 

  • KALALAU TRAIL – This is part of the most famous hike in Hawaii. It’s an 11-mile trail and to hike past mile marker 2, you have to get a special permit from the state. We did not do that. We hiked 2 miles to a beachand then back out, and saw some of the most amazing coastal cliffs and sea views I could imagine. It was hands down the prettiest hike I’ve ever done.

 

  • SECLUDED BEACHES – Ok, so we aren’t a super social beach family. We like privacy and quiet which is part of why we liked Kaua’i so much because it’s so not commercial. But there are still busy beaches and we were set on finding something away from the crowds. We followed instructions from a guide book that literally had directions like “follow the 8 telephone poles down the pot-holed road then turn right at the run-down guard shack.” We found the beach and had our pick of spots where we were away from everyone. Although we did run into some spear fisherman, which were fascinating to watch. All of us had a book in hand and spent hours reading by the water. Ah, can I go back there NOW?
  • JUNGLE BOAT TOUR – This was not planned in advance, and not something I was dying to do, but I think it made this list because it was such a fun surprise. Wehad a flight delay on our last day and needed to kill some time, so we found this boat ride up the Wailua River. It was kind of cheesy, but the family that runs it narrated the trip up the river to where wedocked at the Fern Grotto (pretty much what it sounds like). There, the family sang and hula danced for us, and taught us about localplants and such. And because we were the last tour of the day, the family rode the boat back with us and played the ukulele and sang to us the full 20-minute ride back. They even taught us all to hula dance, and when my 19 and 22 year old boys get up and actually hula dance, it has to make the favorite list.

I can’t say enough about this island – it was absolutely stunning and such a treat. I wish it didn’t take 10 hours to fly there!