Kauai Bliss: Find Your Bliss on the Magical Garden Isle
Fun Things To Do on Kauai
Kauai is blessed with a huge range of things to do. From doors-off helicopter tours to snorkeling, hiking in Waimea canyon where you could swear you're in the Grand Canyon, snorkeling and scuba diving, hiking the Kalalau trail, river tubing in an irrigation ditch, ATV mud buggies, horseback riding, zip lining, gourmet food, beaches galore and so much more. Here are just a few of my favorite things to do there.
The island has a funny thing which is that the road doesn't connect all the way around it. So to see the south western corner, for example Poipu and Waimea further west, you can't keep going to get the North Shore which looks a stone toss away. You have to drive 2 hours back the other direction to get the to other side. This is one reason that seeing the island from the air early on in your visit is a great idea. It helps you get the lay of the land and dial in where you want to see more of.
The North Shore is rainier but lush and tropical. Driving to the end of the road past Hanalei town is a must. You traverse one lane bridges on a narrow windy road with gorgeous vistas at every turn. At the other extreme is Waimea Canyon, an amber hued stunning series of canyons which rival the Grand Canyon in sheer drama.
One thing Kauai does not have much of is nightlife. So if nightlife or blingy shopping are what you're looking for, Kauai is probably not for you. If on the other hand if you want to be dazzled by nature gone wild, this has to be one of the juiciest spots on earth. The colors are truly in technicolor, the smells wafting around everywhere you go intoxicating and the people warm and inviting.
See It From The Air
Hands down my favorite activity I did on Kauai was the Jack Harter Helicopter tour with the doors off. It's an outstanding way to see the island and feel adventurous at the same time. With the doors off you feel like you can reach out and touch the waterfalls and mountains. It's thrilling to have the wind whipping around and the open air just an elbow's out away. It makes for some fantastic photo ops. The helicopters can tuck in and hover in the stunning valleys, right up against waterfalls and canyons. Jack Harter Helicopters has been around since 1962 with an excellent safety record and aggressive maintenance program. The pilots have a ton of personality and are great tour guides which makes a big difference in the experience. If you only do one splurge kind of activity there, this is the one to do. Jack Harter Helicopters (888) 245-2001
If the doors off thing doesn't sound like your cup of tea, the next best option is a small fixed wing tour with Air Ventures. It's a smoother ride and very comfortable. it's less expensive than the doors off helicopter tour and a lot of fun. The small planes fly higher than the helicopters and can't tuck into the valleys, but the views are stunning and you certainly get to see stunning beauty of the island easily. The pilots are also first rate and know the island well. Air Ventures Kauai (866) 464-7864
See It From the Water
One of the absolute don't miss things to do on Kauai is to see the Napili Coast, be it from the air or the water but whatever you do, SEE IT. A fun way to see it from the water is on the Blue Dolphin Charter boat. You'll see tons of playful dolphins, be treated to an unbelievably attentive and zany fun crew, snorkel in a picture perfect wonderland of scenery and colorful fish, then be fed a nice lunch before you head back to Port Allen. It's a really fun day in drop dead gorgeous scenery with an amazing staff.
Blue Dolphin Charters (877) 511-1311
Smith Family Luau
The Smith Family Luau is a well done evening of traditional dance and food on 30 acres of private botanical gardens. The gardens are beautiful, with show off peacocks strutting their stuff, a picturesque lake and a ton of room to wander around in the beauty. You get a tour of the gardens on a little open air train like vehicle, and arrive back at the luau grounds in time for the Emu ceremony. One thing I really liked about it is that the performance showcases traditional dance from all of the Pacific Island cultures so there is a wide variety of dress and music. It's a fun way to get to know some of the history and flavor of the many different cultures that make up the Hawaiian people. It's a fun ride on the riverboats there up the Wailua river to the Smith Family Fern Grotto. The two can be combined in a package and make for a fun evening.
The Luau Kalamaku is a different kind of Luau. The luau itself is held inside a giant, modern tented structure, and the performances happen on different stages around the massive venue. The dance is all Hawaiian and is sort of Hawaii meets Las Vegas. It's a very polished performance with a story being told about the history of Kauai, with splashy costumes and elaborate choreography. The food is good for a luau with some nice vegetarian options. If you come early, it's fun to wander around the arts and crafts booths in the cute little replica of a Hawaiian village.
The Marriott has a popular luau also which is performance only, set in their lush botanical gardens.
Kauai has an abundance of farmers markets. On every day of the week except for Sunday, you can find a great market somewhere. Everyone has their favorites, I happened to love the Hanalei town one. It had both produce and crafts, jewelry, T-shirts and other fun things. The flowers were amazing, and my very favorite treat was a freshly juiced blend of cucumbers and mint in a mason jar. Look for the colorful t-shirts with hand painted fish on them, they make great gifts. The actual fish is coated in paint then transferred onto the t-shrit. They come out looking fantastic. To see a schedule of farmers markets and sunshine markets, click here.
Art House Gallery
This lovely art gallery in Old Koloa Town is fantastic and representing several artists. The lovely Julie Berg, owner and artist, paints in the gallery so visitors can see her working. Her art is wonderful and well worth taking home. There is also sculpture, affordable jewelry and more.
Island Soap & Candle Factory
With two stores on Kauai, one in Old Koloa Town and one in Kilauea, Island Soap and Candle Factory is an island favorite. Their tropical lotions, shampoo, soaps and candles are in many gift shops around the island as well. They have been producing quality bath products and candles for more than 25 years on Kauai. This is a no brainer gift idea to bring home. Check out their fun candles in a coconut shell. They have a few different tropical scents, all of them nice, and make a great gift.
Living Foods Kauai
Jim Moffatt of Bar Acuda recently opened a fabulous market in Poipu, where it's all about local farmers and fresh food. It's a great place to stock up if you are renting a condo or house. He's got the only real cheese selection on the island, tons of great gourmet prepared sauces and easy to use food, as well as a permanent farmers markets of sorts. His back door is literally always open to local farmers, from established farmers with extras of something to the neighbor with an herb pot and two bunches of herbs to sell. He's also got the only decent collection of imported gourmet food items and staples, so whether you are planning a picnic or to cook in a kitchen, this is the place to start.
There is a fantastic take out or eat-at-the-counter kitchen for daily fresh specials and smoothies. He bakes his own bread on site and has a terrific wine selection. The motto on the blackboard says "Know Your Farmers" and he does. Moffatt works closely with local farmers to encourage production of crops needed locally, and is an inspiration to the local food movement. If he's not on the line making wood fired pizzas in the open kitchen at Bar Acuda, he's in the kitchen at Living Foods preparing handmade sausage, baking bread, making amazing sauces to go or talking to a local farmer.
Other Fun Things To Do
Alexander's Spa at the Kauai Marriott
Alexander's Spa is set in the lush interior botanical garden at the Kauai Marriott, tucked into a quiet corner. They offer traditional beauty services but also a first class massage treatment wing. The hot rock massage was absolutely sublime, by far the best version of this kind of massage I've ever had, expertly performed by Machiko. The pedicure was spot on in a bamboo walled treatment room popular with brides. (808) 246-4918
Koloa Rum Co.
If you or anyone you know is a rum aficionado, make a beeline for the Koloa Rum Company. It's on the Kilohana Plantation, where the Kilohana Plantation Railway is and the Luau Kalamaku. The dark rum is rich with vanilla undertones and it's a lot of fun to do a rum tasting where you make your own Mai Tai guided by the engaging owners. There's also an above average gift shop next door with all kinds of fun things.
If you find yourself on the southwest side of the island in Port Allen (which is where the Blue Dolphin charter boats leave from) you will find the most delicious homemade ice cream and handmade chocolates. I found myself there often and was delighted to discover that the flavors changed regularly. Well worth a detour on the way to Waimea.
Green Car Hawaii
Green Car Hawaii is the first and only green rental car company on Kauai, with plans to expand to the other islands. New Ford hybrid SUVs come outfitted with a pre-programmed iPad to show you where to eat, where to play and where to go.
(877) NO-GAS-4-U. Let them know you read about them on Juicy Hotels!