Saturday, October 19, 2013

Honeymoon travelogue part 2: 6 days 5 nights in Kauai [Hawaii Kauai mini travel guide]

Welcome to Kauai!

This post is overdue! We have been back from our honeymoon for over a month now and I already put up a list of things we did in Oahu and I have been working (procrastinating) on Kauai for too long. Is it relevant anymore? Have the restaurants we visited shut down yet? Are the snorkeling spots gone? Nah. The list is still good, so read on! Again, it's an almost complete list since I did leave out a couple of places (gas stations, postal office and grocery store).

Tree-lined road in Kauai

This tree lined road was one of the first awe-inducing welcoming scenery on our way to our resort on on the south shore of the island. A canopy of 520 eucalyptus planted over 100 years ago stretching for a mile. It's beautiful. Make a point to drive along this stretch and if you can, get out to snap some pictures. We took some from the car only because there was always too many cars for us to pull over.

Thanks to a friend, we were able to stay at the Grand Hyatt resort and spa at a friends and family rate. Something to spoil ourselves (since it is after all, our honeymoon) after staying in someone's bedroom in Oahu we found on Airbnb. Nothing beats having a place to ourselves. Since it was our honeymoon, we got a free room upgrade to a partial ocean view, 15% off spa services, free sparkling wine and free dessert at any hotel restaurant.

View from our balcony. A water slide for adults and kids!
Our first saimin meal:

Hamura's saimin: Dave wanted to eat with the locals. He read about this "hole in the wall" diner-like noodle shop on foodie blogs and we thought we'd give it a try. When we walked in, we saw lots of locals but also a couple of tourists tucked in between. We met a group of friends who lives in Hawaii and was in Kauai for a golfing trip. They told us that Hamura is actually featured in travel guide books and not so much a local joint where you won't find tourists anymore. Dave was a bit disappointed because he wanted to eat something "authentic" away from the the mass. They also gave us a couple of resto suggestions including a local favorite called 'Da Imu Hut'. And guess what else they did? They paid for our dinner just because we were newlyweds! Awesome Hawaiians!

Stevensen's library at the Grand Hyatt: Dave says the bar at our hotel is quite popular with visitors and the locals. So we were lucky to have great drinks just steps away from our bedroom. The acai mojito was pretty good and the Lava flow pina colada was like having dessert! 

Waimea Canyon: One of Kauai's top things to visit is the Waimea Canyon national park where you can drive up to different lookouts. On a beautiful clear day, this place is a must. Especially one of the last two lookouts where you can get a beautiful view of the ocean. 

This view right here is found on many postcards. 

What we and most people think it is the most gorgeous lookout on Waimea Canyon. This one overlooks the end of the Kalalau trail/Na Pali coast.

Kalalau Lookout: We took a little hike about 3 miles straight out from the lookout. I showed some pictures here. This trail is not shown on maps nor talked about it so much but we think local guides bring more adventurous visitors here. If you feel confident and you've got water and hiking shoes on, this trail can be done at your own risk in just a couple of hours! The hike will be rewarded with the most beautiful view of the coast.

This is a path we took...barely a path!

Aloha sweet delightsLocal pastries! We stopped by this place to pick up lunch. Egg sandwich, a black bean munjus and fresh teeny bananas! They serve local coffee, warm food and sweets too!

The Shrimp Station and Island Taco of Waimea: Food eaten post-hike. We were so hungry and so these were so perfect. Big portions at small costs. I got a Got Garlic Shrimp (heavy on garlic, sautéed in olive oil and white wine sauce) from The Shrimp Station. This place was packed with chicken waiting for food to fall on the ground. It replaced the seagulls, pigeons and squirrels I am used to in the city. Dave got the Seared Wasabi Ahi from Island Taco. The wasabi taste was subtle and few chunky fresh pieces of ahi.

Got Garlic Shrimp

Seared Wasabi Ahi

Original Jo Jo Ahuenue shave ice: For dessert, we had shave ice at Jo Jo's where I tried the most intense li hing mui shave ice ever! It had homemade li hing mui syrup and topped with li hing mui powder. It was way too much so I didn't enjoy as much as I thought it would but I wouldn't have tried anything else.

Kauai Sea Tours: The best way to see the Na Pali coastline is either by air or by boat. We choose to tour the coast on a raft boat because you get a better view and also more time to savor the view. Helicopter rides are expensive and you kind of just quickly hover over leaving no time to soak up the beauty. Am I right? We choose to go with Kauai Sea tours since it offered the smaller rafts which allowed us to enter the sea caves and get a lot closer than the catamaran.

Our captain Manu is a very laid back guy and his sense of humor is so unique. We had a great time and laughed a lot at his remarks of almost everything in sight. It was hilarious. We visited 3 sea-caves, snorkeled (not the best snorkeling spot but close to reefs), had sandwiches and chips for lunch and then an hour+ of the bumpiest ride back to the seaport. That took a strain on our butt and back for sure. We were disappointed we only saw 2 dolphins the whole time when usually we're suppose to see them in pods. The captain thought it was a bit odd as well. This was the first time Dave ever saw dolphins in his life so he was pleased with seeing at least one.

Here's a glimpse of our tour (Click here). Manu had the co-captain Curren capture us entering a cave on our GoPro. It was so fun!

Keoki's Paradise: Although we were trying to avoid eating close to resorts, we were craving a good steak dinner and so we decided to try Keoki's because of the ratings. Keoki's service was top notch for tourists and the staff was simply well-trained. The food is not memorable but not horrible. Maybe because my steak was roasted and I wanted something grilled but that's my fault for not reading the menu properly. The drinks were good and our dessert was free so overall, we were content.

Drink inside a pineapple!

This was free because it's our honeymoon!
Kalalau TrailWe knew we would be hiking the Kalalau trail but not the entire 11-mile beauty because we couldn't get a permit to stay overnight. We decided to go anyway to check out Hanakapi'ai beach and the falls which is a popular day-hike for many visitors. But, because we're a bit more intense (and crazy?) and like to push our limits, we decided to do a 6-mile hike to see a taller and supposedly better waterfall, the Hanakoa Falls. This part of the hike from Hanakapi'ai beach to Hanakoa Falls is the most intense part of the Kalalau trail and we suffered. We hiked a total of 12 miles that day and it took us about 8 hours. We had it easy since we didn't have huge backpacks on us and I couldn't imagine the state I would have been if I did have the same heavy backpack I carried in Argentina. This trail is no joke. Maybe you're thinking if these two blokes can do it, so can I...well, you're right about that one but Dave almost didn't make it!

Kilauea Point Lighthouse: Like Maine but in Hawaii. The lighthouse was closed when we got there. There's supposed to be protected sealife here including many seabirds and seals but we saw none of that except some protected Hawaiian geese. Maybe it was late in the day. We went here after our 8 hour Kalalau hike. We didn't even drink redbull or anything but must have been on a natural Hawaii high.

Da Imu Hut Cafe: This place we were told is frequented by mostly locals and little tourists. The price was okay and the food was Hawaiian comfort food. My fried saimin was kind of blah but I think I was suppose to order some teri chicken to pair with to make it better. Dave got the imu pork and it was tasty!

Fried saimin

Imu pork

Wailua Falls: We visited this fall before our last day in Kauai and I overly talked about it over here.

Under the Wailua waterfall

Anara SpaThis is the spa at the Grand Hyatt. Sore from our hiking and swimming, we booked an amazing couple's massage to untie our knots and ease our sore legs. This was the only time in Hawaii where we pampered ourselves like we should be on our honeymoon.

Tidepools (Grand Hyatt): And because you do not want to venture too far after a wonderful massage, we ate at our hotel for the first time (and also claim our free dessert yo!). Something we avoided so we can have more local meals around the island. I ordered a delicious wasabi crusted certified angus filet of beef. Dave had the New York strip in Hawaii. Go figure. Our dessert was the molten chocolate lava cake which we had to order in advance since it took 20 minutes to prepare.

Blue cheese sauce on filet mignon

Free molten cake for our honeymoon!

The Fish Express: Just before heading to the airport, we quickly grabbed a meal at the Fish Express for of course, some poke. We also got a spam musubi and a perfectly marinated miso butterfish. Oh my god it was the best meal ever and wish we had gone there earlier since the pricing was not too bad neither.

ahi poke spicy and shoyu

miso butterfish...

Wal-Mart: Yes, we know we want to support the locals but Wal-Mart is good for all your needs. We picked up cereal, yogurt and milk here for our a.m. meals. They sell everything you will need in one place. Cheap souvenirs too!

To skip:

Genki sushi: Our first meal in Kauai was sushi at a fast food sushi chain called Genki sushi. Why would they go there?! is what you must be thinking. Well, the business hours are a little different than the mainland and many restaurants are closed on Sundays and if they were open, they sometimes close in the afternoon. I don't remember why we went to Genki but I think because it was closer at the time and we saw that it was a quite popular joint in Waikiki. Also, we thought maybe seafood is so good in Hawaii that the quality would be the same or even better than what we would get at a regular sushi shop in New York. The price was great but you get what you pay for and that's all I have to say about that. It's a good place if you're on a budget and want something in your tummy fast. As we got half way through the meal, we were already looking forward to trying out this Saimin noodle shop nearby so we wouldn't have to keep eating at Genki. The seafood is probably okay but since we've had really good fresh fish in Oahu, I had high expectations.

Uncle's Shave Ice and Smoothies: I am no shave ice expert but I know I didn't like this place although it's under "best shave ice on Kauai". It's in a mall catered for tourists so...

Russian Fort Elizabeth Historical Park: You can skip this piece of rubble unless you're into Russian history. I think you can hike this area. We parked, I stayed in the car while Dave ran up to read the information stands and returned to the park 5 minutes later.

Kintaro JapaneseThis place was recommended to us by local Hawaiians for good sushi. We called for reservations but it was booked and were told we can sit by the sushi bar. When we got there, we got a table. Don't know what that was about. The service was hurried and the food was okay. They forgot to charge us for coke and a appetizer. It's fine, because we didn't enjoy them so much hehe. The portions are generous. I had the udon which was okay. You're better off going to Fish Express if you're craving fish.

Kauai Kookie FactoryIf you want to buy cookies for your friends in weird unique flavors, then here's the place to stock up. Lost of tastings. The price is not that great. We didn't buy anything hear.

I wish I could write more but I can't. I don't remember everything anymore and I still want to write about the Big Island!

*side note: The movie Six Days Seven Nights was filmed in Kauai* We were there for 6 days too! teehee

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