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Our Kauai, Hawaii Itinerary - Our Recommendations

Updated: Jul 16, 2022

We had a great 6-day trip to Kauai - my bucket list island to visit! The places we visited and things were did were a culmination of recommendations from friends, family and my patients! This is ALWAYS my favorite way to plan trips is for friends' recommendations - it helps you filter through the endless reviews! My goal with the itineraries is to provide SHORT overviews and then I will have detailed reports of the activities later.


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As of 03.26.21. domestic travel no longer requires COVID-related requirements. Restrictions for international travel still apply. The mask mandate was also lifted, but may still be required throughout certain areas (especially public travel). Check out the Hawaii Travel site for most up-to-date info. Note that we went to Kauai three weeks after they opened from Lock Down and they are STRICT about Covid and it did effect many parts of our trip:

  • some restaurants didn't have dine-in options

  • every restaurant had social distancing which meant BARELY any tables open (RESERVE IN ADVANCE, if you can)

  • when we got there restaurants were reserving 2-3 nights ahead of time, after I left, I was told then it was up to weeks to reserve

  • because of this, restaurants were also very SLOW; many of our meals (even lunches) took 2 hours

GETTING AROUND THE ISLAND

NOTE: If you're coming from the mainland US or any major city, it is much more difficult to grab a Lyft or an Uber - even if the app says they're looking for a driver, sometimes it'll look for 20 minutes just to say that there are no drivers available. Most of the taxis that are waiting at the airport are cash only.


Renting a Turo in Hawaii is a couple hundreds of dollars cheaper PER day. Of course, this can change at any moment, so always compare, but we have found that Turo has always been significantly cheaper in Hawaii



I opened my Hilton card about a year before and had Hilton points to cover our stay, so I didn't look at any other places to stay on the island. Our referral link will get you 130,000 Hilton points with their credit card (restrictions apply) - which should cover about 2 days at this hotel (depends when and how soon you book). It is similar to any other Hilton, but closer to the beach! The major highlights for us: there are some activities included in your stay, they give you a cooler bag for your stay, 4 water bottles a day and beach mats to put your beach towels on. This was an absolute highlight as we drove around the island on our own and it was nice to have cold water on us.


NOTE: Most links on our website are affiliate links, which means that The Bouj Crew collects a little bit of money or points when you click on certain links. This is to help us with the upkeep and fees associated with running a website, offering products, etc!

ITINERARY

Date of Trip: end of April 2021

Day 1 - Arrive into Lihue airport about 2:29pm. Pickup Turo (rental car) then head to Costco. Based off a patients recommendations: to stock up on water, snacks (if you'd like) and they even sell snorkel gear, beach chairs and beach towels here. My patient said they bought beach chairs at Costco and just left them with the hotel. Check into the hotel then head to Brennecke's Beach Bar


Day 2 - Stop by Little Fish Coffee for breakfast on our drive to Waimea Canyon. Drive straight through the Canyon to the highest point: Kalalau Lookout then make our way down the canyon, stopping wherever we wanted for photos opps and bathroom stops. Koloa Fish Market for lunch (at the time there was no eating allowed on site), so we drove to Brennecke's Beach to eat there and relax at the beach with some shaved ice! Dinner at Kenji Burger.


NOTE: Most links on our website are affiliate links, which means that The Bouj Crew collects a little bit of money or points when you click on certain links. This is to help us with the upkeep and fees associated with running a website, offering products, etc!

Day 3 - Head North with a stop at Trilogy Coffee then Hanalei Valley Lookout. Stop at Anini Beach then on the way back to our hotel go to Kilauea Lighthouse and grab lunch at Kilauea Fish Market. Drive to Anini Beach with plans to hangout there for the rest of our day. Dinner at Genki Sushi


Day 4 - Java Kai Coffee, Opaeka'a Falls, Kaholalele Falls, Sleeping Giant Trailhead. Then made our way north again to Hanalei where we walked around and shopped and enjoyed more beach time. Finished the day with dinner at JO2


Day 5 - Kauai Coffee Company, Anake's Juice Bar, Kalapaki Joe's then our Helicopter Tour with Jack Harter! Stopped at the mall in Lihue for some dessert, then finished with dinner at Sam's Ocean View


Day 6 - Little Fish Coffee, beach day by Koloa town and our best dinner at Merriman's Kauai.


THINGS TO DO

OVERVIEW ON TOURS

Tours in Hawaii are PRETTY pricey. I would say on average, you're looking at $200 per adult PER tour. The nice part with Kauai was that most of the places you can drive yourself and then go at your own pace. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS as the restaurants were just re-opening and service was VERY slow - 2-hour dine times, on average. So, if you had to schedule meeting a tour guide during a time, it would be very difficult. We originally booked tours, but the price added up, so when I compared the price of the helicopter tour, it made sense to make this the ONE tour that we booked and everything else we did on our own! Read our blog on how we always save on tours here


Our tour was with Jack Harter and I could not be happier - this is the NUMBER one thing I recommend to everyone that goes to Kauai. To get to some of the places that we saw on the tour (like Napali Coast) is a tricky hike and the helicopter just gives you such fantastic views of the island. We booked with a DISCOUNT thanks to our Chase Ultimate Rewards (see above). And the price itself wasn't much more than most tours in Hawaii. I was so pleasantly surprised with Jack Harter and the service they provided, but they are the only helicopter company I have flown with. If you are going to use someone else, I HIGHLY recommend a doors-off helicopter tour that allows you to have some pretty epic shots and just get the same experience no matter where you're sitting! My full review is here





OTHER TOUR IDEAS

NOTE: Most links on our website are affiliate links, which means that The Bouj Crew collects a little bit of money or points when you click on certain links. This is to help us with the upkeep and fees associated with running a website, offering products, etc!

See below for more detail on the beaches we liked


WAIMEA CANYON

You can easily drive here and navigate on your own. The Bouj Dude used his Gaia app to find good lookout and hiking spots. The BEST review I read suggested driving straight up to the top before stopping and then stop on your way down, as most people stop as they are going up and you will hit more crowds and traffic this way. So, I recommend driving straight to Kalalau Lookout. We also chose to go in the morning and during a week day to avoid crows. There are plenty of restrooms throughout your drive and water fountains. Note that the restrooms have a sink but no soap. We spent probably 3-4 hours here



HANALEI VALLEY LOOKOUT

An easy stop from the east side of the island to the north part (well a little tricky to pull to the side of the road, depending on where you're coming from) but this place offers great views!





KILAUEA LIGHTHOUSE

Many people recommended the lighthouse to me and admittedly, I thought, what could be so great about a lighthouse? LOL. But, man was I wrong. The views and photo opps here are pretty incredible. Reservations are required and you can book in advance. We were able to get in FREE using the Interagency Military pass (we did not have the pass on hand, but you are able to select "buy pass upon arrival entry"). Otherwise tickets were $11 per adult.


NOTE: Most links on our website are affiliate links, which means that The Bouj Crew collects a little bit of money or points when you click on certain links (this is at no extra cost to you). This is to help us with the upkeep and fees associated with running a website, offering products, etc!

OPAEKA'A FALLS & WAILUA FALLS

They are pretty close to each other, so I grouped them together. Both spots have parking and pull-off spots with great photo opps!


We only hiked Sleeping Giant and even then ran out of time. We do not hike that often and reading reviews of people not being fully prepared on their hikes, scared me away from trying some of Kauai hikes. However, if you are an avid hiker and are fully prepared Kauai has some of the most amazing hikes. Again, I rely on the details published by Hawaii Guide to plan our hikes in Hawaii


HANALEI VALLEY

This is a cute area with boutique shops and restaurants. We did NOT have much time here as the road was closed getting there from our hotel and the traffic flow closed at certain times, so we had to get in and get out. BUT, many reviews report that you must go here. So, if the highway is wide open then definitely enjoy your time!


KAUAI COFFEE COMPANY

Another pleasant surprise. Many friends recommended this. It is FREE and self-guided, plus free samples of their coffee! They also have a coffee shop/window where you can order treats and coffee drinks. Again, just a beautiful backdrop




DINING TIMES ALERT

Our lunches and dinners were sometimes 1.5-2 hours

I updated this on 05.01.22. after we got back from Big Island. Both on Big Island and on Kauai our lunches and dinners took quite some time - I first thought it was Kauai was just opening up from lockdown in 2021, but this also happened on Big Island. Just a heads up as you want to plan accordingly. On rare occasions could you get in/out of a restaurant in 1-hour.


RESTAURANTS

SOUTH PART OF THE ISLAND

Little Fish Coffee - So good that we went back during our trip. The fruit on the yogurt bowls was so fresh, I couldn't get enough! They also have a great menu to choose from with signature coffees: Mexican Mocha Latte, Honey Nutmeg Latte, Chai, Midnight Marauder (espresso, tahitian vanilla syrup & sweetened condensed milk), Matcha Latte, Activated Charcoal Latte, Golden Milk Latte and so many more. They also have teas, smoothies, bagels, bagel sandwiches, pastries and salads. Read my detailed review here

Anake's Juice Bar - They have instagram-worthy bowls, but it was just ok. Again, it was highly recommended to me and had we came here before Little Fish, maybe I would have liked it more. The fruit was frozen and so cold that it was just not as good. They are INSIDE of the supermarket. They are known for their acai bowls, juices and smoothies. They also have energy shots available.

Brennecke's Beach Bar - This place came highly recommend by several friends and it did not disappoint. Food was fresh and delicious! Our recommendations: Mango Pina Colada, Ahi Tacos & Crab legs! I still think of their Mango Pina Colada (i was REAL Mango flavor, not fake mango "flavor")

Koloa Fish Market - this poke place came HIGHLY recommend by a patient of mine and we didn't love it. Mostly the staff was rather rude. We stood to eat our food on their deck (as there are countertops) and then were told we weren't allowed to eat on site, which is fine, but there were no signs and being from out of town, we had to struggle to find a spot to eat our raw fish. And in the end, the food was just ok.

Kenji Burger - This place was highly recommended by my patient that was part of a Facebook Group that posted about this place a lot and they were featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It was good and the service was fantastic, but not so good that we made a second stop on our trip. Their menu includes: Truffle Burger, Veggie Burger, Chicken Katsu Sandwich, Kenji Burger (teriyaki, ponzu aioli, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, tomato & arugula), Misoyaki Fish Sandwich, Salads, Sushi Burritos & Bowls (loco moco, chicken katsu, misoyaki fish, and poke). There are 2 locations on the island

Merriman's - YOU NEED TO GO HERE. Our absolutely favorite dinner of the entire stay. I found them because they were featured on Food Network and it ended up being our favorite dinner. They staff was SO attentive (my water glass was never empty), clean bathrooms and absolutely delicious food. We ordered: Merriman's Mai Tais, Truffle Fries, Fresh Catch Special (Ono), Lamb Chop and Lilikoi Mousse and they were all delicious! For my full review check it out here. Pictures are to the right: Lamb Chop, Fresh Catch Special (Ono), Truffle Fries and Lilikoi Mousse


EAST PART OF THE ISLAND

Java Kai - Bouj Dude wanted to return here, but we never got to. There is limited seating inside and outside. They have your typical coffee drinks plus: Maui Mocha (coconut and chocolate), Thai Coffee, Mac Nut Latte, Matcha Latte, Chai Latte, Golden Milk Latte. Plus they have smoothies, acai bowls, avocado toast, bagels and cream cheese, breakfast sandwiches, breakfast burritos, tropical waffles and Croi-Sean-Wich. They also have lunch options, but we did not try these

Genki Sushi - We just HAPPENED upon this place and are already planning to go back on Big Island. For us, from the mainland, it is a great treat! It's conveyer belt sushi but on a boat that you order from an ipad at your spot. If you have kids, I highly recommend stopping here, plus the food was delicious. Items they have: edamame, baked mussels, agedashi tofu, tempura, gyoza, chicken karaage, assorted nigiri, gunkan & inari, sushi rolls and even sushi bowls.

JO2 - my detailed review is here. Their menu sounded AMAZING, so this was quite a disappointment. The food was disappointing, we were seated outside by the entrance (with reservations), I was covered by mosquito bites and service was horribly slow. Some of their dishes include: scallop ravioli, lamb dumplings, prawn and roasted Chinese duck lumpia, ono ceviche, seared Hokkaido scallops, lemongrass sesame crusted mahi mahi, Tempura lobster tail ramen, Seared Hunan style rack of lamb, Seared ono with shrimp risotto and more

Poke Nachos & Ahi+Avocado Poke from Kalapki Joe's
Poke Nachos & Ahi+Avocado Poke from Kalapki Joe's

Kalapaki Joe's - we just happened on them as they were close enough to where we were coming and where we had to meet for our helicopter tour. Both the husband and I LOVED our food, we had: Nobu Poke Nachos and the Ahi+Avocado Poke.

Sam's Ocean View - another place we just stumbled upon. When we got to Kauai is when we realized restaurants were booking 2 nights out, so this was one that looked good and still had reservations available! The views are GORGEOUS (make sure you ask for a spot by the window) and the food and service was exceptional! Dishes include: Wagyu Beef Slider Trio, Crispy Cauliflower, Smoked Salmon, Seared Ahi Steak with Sesame Ginger Glaze, Brick Roasted Boneless Half Chicken, Wagyu Steak Chimichurri, Shrimp Primavera and more. We also enjoyed their Coconut Mai Tais were delicious and served in a coconut cup, plus many more fun cocktails. The disadvantage of this place is the parking - we parked across the street and crossed our fingers we wouldn't get towed, but there weren't many other options after that.


NORTH PART OF THE ISLAND

Trilogy Coffee - A cute little shop with outdoor seating. The biggest draw here was for Bouj Dude's boujee options with Lion Power Potion (made with Lion's mane mushrooms). They have all sorts of superfood coffees/drinks: Mushroom Milk, Turmeric Coconut Chai, Highlove Superfood Steamer, Witch's Brew (made of Ashwagandha spice blend), and Matcha Latte. They have delicious sounding pastries, a good selection of loose-leaf teas and regular coffee. Admittedly, for me, the coffee and pastry was nothing to write home about

Kilauea Fish Market - Yummy! This was an absolutely pleasant surprise. Admittedly, there were issues with our order with the food taking longer than normal, so we were offered a container of poke to say sorry! The fish was so fresh and delicious. I chose the fresh catch plate (Ono) and the dipping sauces that came with it were delicious, my mouth is STILL watering!

Bar Acuda - I'm still so sad we didn't make it here! This was HIGHLY recommend by my cousin and is QUITE popular. Reserve ASAP. This is why we couldn't get in there, plus the highway ended up being closed. Their tapas include: Lamb, Fish, Cucumber Salad, Pizzaetta Piquillo Pepper and Sweet Onion Sofrito, Steamed Clams, Papas Ajo, Banderillas Filet mignon skewers, Albondigas Hanalei Bison Ranch bison, Chocolate Pot de Creme with toasted coconut meringue, Hibiscus & Mango sorbet, Lilikoi Cheesecake and more!


BEACHES

For details on hikes, beaches, etc. I love to use hawaii-guide.com as they always give a comprehensive overview of each spot.


SOUTH PART OF THE ISLAND

Brennecke's Beach - Great views here. We didn't try the swimming here, but had a nice relaxing afternoon. There are picnic tables, restrooms and restaurants nearby - which was great to grab some shaved ice by the beach! There is both sand and grass here. There are some shady areas and some not shady areas. Plenty of people brought their own tents, chairs, etc to enjoy the scenery



NORTH PART OF THE ISLAND

Anini Beach - We stopped here twice! I loved the convenience of several picnic tables, restrooms (again no soap in the restrooms), shade and spots for sunbathing. We snorkeled here and saw some fish. The waters were definitely calm here. This is a fantastic spot to bring food and hangout for the day, but beware the CHICKENS man! We caught some pecking at the Ziploc bag I had full of our snacks

Hanalei Beach Park - We had so much fun here, we never took photos lol. Great place for families and parties with plenty of grass and sand spots to sit, with public restrooms and even a sand volleyball court. We did snorkel here, but the waves were pretty rough that it kicked my butt and almost took my bikini off! Depending on where you park, you can also drive by homes that are several millions of dollars!


Resort Pass allows you to book a day pass at participating resorts! You can book daybeds, cabanas or even at their spa! It's a great way to experience more luxurious resorts without actually paying the price of staying there! Participating resorts in Kauai are: Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort, Kauai Beach Resort & Spa, Royal Sonesta Kauai Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa


A MAP OF PLACES

I love using maps when planning my trips in order to see which places would be within walking distance, etc. See our map of places we went here (always easiest to view the map on the desktop)




Comment if you have tried any of the places listed above, or anything you think we should add!

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