I spent a lot of time researching which hike to do along the Napali Coast and decided to take the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapiai Falls. It's an 8-mile roundtrip trek and is absolutely worth doing. I consider myself an advanced hiker so it was a real treat to experience such a varied terrain -- not to mention extremely beautiful. It lived up to the hype of everything I read about it and more. When we reached the falls, I was reluctant to get in the water since it was very cold. But after that long journey, it felt like this was the reward I worked so hard for and slowly immersed myself in. Some tips: bring proper footwear (I wore light hiking shoes and swapped to water shoes when I'd cross over the streams, which became very useful especially swimming inside the waterfall), plenty of water, a towel if you intend to swim (which you should), a light wind breaker to keep warm after dipping in (this area is very shaded so I found it crucial when the winds were blowing, and I was so happy to have one since I didn't bring a towel), sunscreen, bug repellent, and some food to enjoy when you get there.
After hiking along the Napali Coast and a failed attempt to swim in Queens Bath (due to the massive waves and crazy tides!) we spent the rest of the day at Hanalei Beach till we headed for dinner at Kauai Grill in The St. Regis Princeville. It was a long drive back down to our hotel so next time we will definitely stay in the North Shore for a few days when we repeat the hike -- maybe even do the full 22 miles roundtrip!
The first thing we did in Kauai was take a helicopter tour around the island to get our bearings. It was a nice way to get an overview of what we planned to attack by car, and see what the Napali Coast looked like from above; the Kalalau Trail was at the top of our list of Things to Do in Kauai. We also saw Wailua Falls from up top, and after chasing waterfalls in Iceland, we wanted to check this out. It's kind of a sketchy hike down -- definitely recommend proper footwear (that I clearly wasn't prepared with) since the trail is steep and muddy. But we couldn't resist after seeing a few people swimming in the water. Even though it felt a little unsafe, it was definitely worth the adventure and a good dry run for the more serious hike we had planned the next day.
There are many incredible beaches in Kauai -- the photo above was just taken somewhere off the road in Kapaa, but we loved how easy it was to get to, and yet still felt very intimate. When we checked out Polihale Beach, it was a lot more difficult to access with the dirt/gravel roads; it was also overcast and started to rain. When we got there, I was a little underwhelmed, only because it came with such high recommendations. Yes, Polihale is huge and we did have it all to ourselves. But feeling that remote can be a little unnerving since the rain started to grow stronger and we were worried if our 2WD car would make it out. I'd love to come back in better weather conditions and stay for the famous sunset it's known to have.
One of my favorite things to do in Hawaii is taste local favorites. We passed through these fruit stands after grabbing lunch at Island Taco. Some other good restaurants we tried that I recommend: Puka Dog, Tidepools, Dondero's, Hukilau Lanai, and Kauai Grill. Hanalei also has some fun options in the town village area.
I've never been to the Grand Canyon, but apparently Waimea Canyon is the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. It was fun to see it from the lookout after flying through it by a helicopter. The drive up is very windy and pretty long, but you get an incredible panoramic view once you get to the top. And we were so lucky to have it all to ourselves since we heard it can get pretty crowded with tourists.
When we visited Kauai, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Poipu, which is located on the south side -- aka "sunnier side" of the island. It's definitely a trek up to Princeville but we had a car, and it was so nice passing through the Tree Tunnel each time we drove out for an adventure.
We were upgraded to the most impressive suite I've ever stayed in. So if you are planning a trip to Kauai and decide to stay at this hotel, book a room with an ocean view and make sure you request the Deluxe Suite 6127 in the Shipwreck Wing -- I promise it's the best! It really made our stay in Kauai special. Plus all the restaurants in the resort are incredible.