Kauai-Tips For An Off-The-Beaten-Path Adventure

We LOVE Hawaii.  We have been there three times now, and we hope to go back again soon.  There are so many things we love about Hawaii… specifically, we love Kauai.

Our first trip to Hawaii was in 2007 for our honeymoon.  Neither my husband nor I had ever been to any of the islands.  For our first trip, we went through a travel agent and after talking with us about the type of vacation we were hoping for, they suggested three days on Oahu and five days on Kauai.  And that was it, we fell in love with Kauai.  We’ve been back twice since, in 2011 and 2016, and both of our return trips we only stayed on Kauai.

Kauai is beautiful and traditional:
If you aren’t familiar with the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai is dubbed the Garden Island.  It gets more rain than all the other islands, and therefore is lush with beautiful forests, Hawaiian flowers, and all types of tropical greenery.  There are also beautiful beaches, amazing mountains, and breathtaking waterfalls.  Kauai stole our heart because for us it was exactly what we thought of when we thought of traditional Hawaii.  The island isn’t very large, and it isn’t very commercialized, and that was a big deal for us.  The Hawaiian culture is very much still alive on the island, and everywhere you go you feel the history and culture of the traditional Hawaiian way of life.

We found this little piece of nature along the Kalalau Trail on our way to Hanakapi’ai Falls (2011)


A view of Hanakapi’ai Falls from the trail (2011)

Our vacation ‘style’:
We aren’t what you might consider ‘typical vacationers’.  We vacation to literally get away from it all.  We like to be on our own, away from crowds, and able to do our own thing.  It’s how we reset ourselves and get the most out of our vacations.  So if you are looking for a unique vacation experience on the island of Kauai, read on my friend.  Because we like to do things our own way!

Booking our vacation:
As I mentioned before, our first trip to Hawaii we used a local travel agency.  Since then, I book our vacations using Priceline because out of the several sites I watch for vacation packages to Kauai, Priceline has always had the lowest rates.  When we select our flights to get to the island, we usually have a few options of breaking up the flight or having fewer stops and longer air time.  It’s all personal preference, but be sure to explore your flight options and you might find a flight that lands in Kauai hours earlier than the first flight option offered.
Unfortunately, Priceline doesn’t give the option to reserve a Jeep when you book a vacation package (at the writing of this post.)  Our second trip to Kauai in 2011 we booked a car on Priceline with our vacation package.  When we got to the rental lot we upgraded to the last available Jeep on the lot.  Now knowing that we need a Jeep, (see the What we drive section of this post), I book our flight and condo through Priceline and I book our Jeep separately through Alamo.  We didn’t have any issues with Alamo, and we plan to use them again for future bookings.

Getting there:
When we travel to Kauai from Northern Minnesota, it takes pretty well a whole day to get there, and to get home again.  We try to figure that in when deciding how long our vacation will be, and for us, we prefer 8 days or more including travel time.  With young children being left home with a nanny, we were gone 9 days (7 days on the island, 2 travel days) this last time, and while it did get a little long to be away from the kids and them away from us, the amount of time spent on the island could have been doubled and we still would have had stuff on our list that we’d want to do.  The island may be small, but it does not lack in the way of exploring and activities.
We were pretty amazed at how much flying has changed in the past 5 years since we’ve been on a long flight.  On the larger airplanes we found ourselves each sitting in front of a screen embedded into the headrest of the seat in front of us with several media options available to us at no charge.  We had options such as music, electronic games, and movies to watch during the flight.  If we wanted to pay for it, there was even the option of gambling games and wifi.  Needless to say, the movies we purchased and downloaded onto our tablets were unnecessary for in-flight entertainment.

What we drive:
We like to explore, go off the beaten paths, and find hard to reach locations on the island, so our must have vehicle is a Jeep.  We had a Sebring Convertible the first time we went, and while it was nice, we were severely limited as to where we could get to in regards to taking trails we came across and exploring the island by car.  A 4×4 is a must have in our opinion, so we make sure we have a Jeep.  We have had a 2-door and a 4-door, and both were sufficient for the two of us.

This is me in our Jeep during our second trip to Kauai in 2011

Where we stay:
We always make sure to book our stay in the same resort.  Aston Islander on the Beach has all the amenities we are looking for when we are vacationing, and so it is perfect for us.  If you are looking for glitz and glamour, catered room service, valet parking, and elevators, you need to keep looking.  But if you are looking for a beautiful beach front property with amazing sunrises, friendly staff, and a clean and uncrowded beach, this just might be your place.
When we book our stay we make sure to request a room on the second or third floor in either the Kauai building or the Ni’ihau building.  These are their two beach front buildings, and being on the second or third floor gives us that extra sense of security, as well as amazing views.  We stayed on the second floor of the Kauai building for our last stay.  Our room had a king size bed, a small kitchenette area with a sink and mini-fridge, large bathroom, a table and chairs, and a couch.  Our lanai was ocean front with privacy walls between us and the adjoining units.  We never once had an issue with noise from other guests, even with the resort being almost full when we were there last.

Sunrise view from our lanai at Aston Islander on the Beach (2016)

The resort doesn’t have an on-site restaurant with room service, but there is a separate strip of nice little shops on-site that have a few restaurants in them.  Our favorite coffee shop on all the island, Imua Coffee Roasters, is also located in this strip, and being avid coffee drinkers, that’s a huge perk.  The strip also has an awesome restaurant, Trees Lounge, that has amazing ribs, and local musicians playing most nights.
The resort also offers an area in the middle of the buildings with a bar, grills (ask the staff to light them for you), pool, and hot tub.  The pool is small, but the ocean is large, so no need for a big pool in our opinion.
Speaking of which, the ocean front property is a huge must have for us.  The sunrises are spectacular shimmering over the ocean.  The beach is long and clean and hasn’t been crowded any of our three visits.  If you walk towards the East, you can sometimes find locals fishing and even spot some sea glass if you are lucky.  There are beach chairs on the beach in front of the resort for use, or you can bring your own towel.

Another amazing sunrise outside Aston Islander on the Beach. (2016)

The Coconut Marketplace is also just across the parking lot.  They have some unique shops, an ABC Store which is kind of an one-stop shop with a variety of items ranging from clothing and souvenirs to snacks and alcohol.  There was also a great pizzeria last time we were there.
The resort also has on-site laundry services that you can take advantage of if you have laundry to do.  I actually did do laundry our first trip to Kauai.  For the past two trips however, I told the hubs to make sure he packs enough of everything he wants to wear, because I am not doing laundry on vacation.  If you travel with the keiki (kiddos), I can see where the option to do your laundry could come in handy.

Our must have guidebook:
One item we choose to purchase after we book our vacation is an updated version of The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook by Andrew Doughty.  We found ours on Amazon, and since it had been 5 years since we’d been there last, we updated with a new version.  You can get the newest (2017) copy on Amazon here.  We carried this book and used it often for both of our last trips to Kauai.  The author has gone all over the island and tried and then given an his honest review on everything included in the book.  This is a must have book for us, and if we ever visit any of the other islands, we’ll be getting the same book for each island we visit.  We highly recommend getting it before your trip so you can plan your hikes and activities!!!

Cats and chickens:
You are probably wondering what I would possibly have to say about cats and chickens in regards to our Kauai vacation.  The first two times we went to Kauai, we saw a bunch of chickens roaming through the parking lots, along the roads, in the restaurants, in the shops… they were everywhere!  After asking some of the locals what was up with the chickens, we were informed that during Hurricane Iniki in 1992 several chicken coops were destroyed and there was an increase in wild chickens roaming the island.  They were friendly enough, and were mostly looking for food around the restaurants and markets.  This last trip though, we didn’t see many chickens or roosters.  We did, however, see cats.  They also were plentiful, friendly and mostly around restaurants and markets.  We spoke with several waiters and waitresses who all seemed to appreciate the cats more than they did the chickens, mentioning that they mostly kept to themselves, and were a lot cleaner than the chickens.

This is a beautiful tree right outside our door to the condo we stayed in this trip. This is also the tree where the cats liked to hide. Meow! (2016)
Meow meow! Can you see the kitty in the tree?! (2016)

*This is post one of a series of travel posts for Kauai.  Stay posted for additional Kauai travel posts coming soon!

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14 thoughts on “Kauai-Tips For An Off-The-Beaten-Path Adventure

    1. It is amazing! Yes you can get right up to Hanakapi’ai Falls and swim behind the waterfall actually. It’s breathtaking. I actually just published a new post detailing our experience doing just that yesterday! You can find that post here
      It’s such an amazing experience we have it on our list of things to do again. If you ever get the chance, the hike is 100% worth it.

  1. I have never been to Hawaii but it one of the many places on my bucket list. We love beautiful landscapes and getting out into nature so I understand you wanting to get away from everything. This post makes me want to move Hawaii to the top of the bucket list!

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