Aloha! Kauai is truly paradise. With welcoming locals, delicious food and rich culture, Kauai is an island I wouldn't mind calling home. It is known as the "Garden Isle" of Hawaii. Formed by a volcanic mountain called Wai'ale'ale that ruptured 5 million years ago, the island gives breathtaking views of of the Waimea Canyon and Napali Coast which attracts thousands of tourist every year. The explosion created the entire east coast of Kauai and formed the unique shape and topography of the island. Kauai is also where the first and latest Jurassic Park movie and Blue Hawaii were filmed.
Now everyone has heard how costly Hawaii can be there. As much as I like to brag about how I get cheap flights, Hawaii was a battle I didn't feel I won. Yes, some of us have thousands of miles we saved up to use on our next trip, work for airlines or have credit card perks, but then there are some of us who do not have that working towards our favor. I suggest purchasing a ticket 3 to 5 months ahead. From ATL to Kauai I didn't find anything under $750 for the summer months. To Honolulu I didn't find anything under $800. A trick I use to get the cheapest flights is to type in the airport codes (ATL to LIH) into Google which would then bring up prices. When you click on the calendar, prices highlighted in green are the lowest prices you will get for that day of departure or return. I usually use Google flights or justfly.com to purchase tickets. When it comes to hotels, Kauai does offer a variety of discounts, but for 5 travelers no hotel could do us justice with the necessities we were looking for. The lowest we could find for 6 days was $1,800 and that was with a military discount. Airbnb saved us $900 and we were on the beach. As far as car rentals I used Turo.com which is the Airbnb of car rentals. For 6 days I rented a jeep for $400 including insurance. Not a bad deal.
A website I used to book activities is Hawaiidiscount.com. When you are planning your activities make sure to book atleast a month in advance. We wanted to do the famous mountain tubing, but they were booked up to the next month. Kauai is also home to one of the most dangerous, yet exciting hikes in the world known as Kalalau. Kalalau is a trail along the Napali coast and is about 11 miles long. You do need to make sure you get a permit to hike and get it at-least a year in advance as there is a limited amount they give out per year and they do sell out quickly. We went to the only luau that takes place on the beach called, Auli'l. We bought premier seating and the tickets included front row seats, all you can eat buffet and unlimited drinks along with lei's.
Some free activities we did on the island was drive up to The Grand Canyon of Kauai known as Waimea Canyon. There are a few lookouts before you get to the very top if you don't feel like driving all the way up. You will have beautiful views of the red dirt river and a waterfall. On our way back to our condo we went to the Kauai Coffee Museum. They have a self-guided tour of the coffee orchard where you will read interesting facts on how coffee is grown and prepared. They also have a variety of local coffee you can taste before you purchase. Another free tour you can take is at the Kola Rum Factory. There is a tasting room that runs every 30 minutes where you will be given a brief history about Kauai and how their rum is made.
I'm not a shopping kind of gal and I definitely hate doing it when I'm on vacation, but Kukui'ula Shopping Mall is a must visit. Every Wednesday they have an outdoor farmers market and you can eat local foods. It isn't located too far from the spouting horn. According to the Hawaiian folklore a giant lizard use to protect the spouting horn blowhole. A man lured the lizard in the ocean and swam out of the hole. The lizard followed the man named Liko and got stuck in the lava blowhole. They say you can hear the lizards roar every time waters spouts out.
We stayed in a town called Kapaa and our condo was located right in front of the Sleeping Giant. Legend has it that the giant fell asleep in a supine position due to overeating at a luau. Another legend has it that villagers would pelt the giant with rocks to awaken him when invaders were approaching and unfortunately the giant swallowed some of those rocks and was unable to rise and there he remains, "sleeping".
I'm a total foodie and there were definitely a few dishes I had on my list to try. Hawaiian BBQ from H&L was delicious. They had the beef and chicken combo which was big enough to share between 3 people. Most, if not all of their local meals come with a side of rice and macaroni. Wailua has the best shaved ice on the island. Made with fresh local fruit and 100% all natural toppings. I had the Lava Flow that was topped with coconut mousse. Best tasting thing ever! Poi is a Polynesian staple food made from the underground plant stem of the taro plant. Poi has the consistency of pudding and the taste of bland baby food. To be honest I don't think the locals like it that much.
As far as beaches go, the waves on the shores of Kauai is a surfers paradise. There are many warnings about how strong the tides are for swimmers. If you want to swim I highly suggest going to Lydgate State Park Beach. One of the most beautiful sites I've ever seen. Waves are blocked by man-made, decorative rocks and the swimming area is between 5-6 feet deep. During the day there a coral fish which make good for a nice snorkeling adventure.
The locals in Kauai are some of the most beautiful and welcoming people I've ever met. They are very proud of their culture and always willing to share their history. I suggest Kauai being the Hawaiian island to visit due to it's rich culture alone.