As summer temperatures start to roll in, I've been reminiscing about one of the most amazing experiences from #summer2017 that I want to share in a series of posts. Although the #baladeblog and The Balade Factory focus on solo travel for females, it's always good to squeeze in some family time while on the road - and that's just what we did. It was a #familyvacay of epic proportions filled with #aloha to the one and only #HawaiianIslands! After writing this post, I'm sure I'll be in the mood to plan another trip for #summer2018. I may (or may not) already have a tracker setup on #GoogleFlights...
Because Hawai'i sees the most visitor arrivals in the month of July, the #baladeblog plans to supply you with tips and suggestions for visiting the islands over the month of June. Today's focus is on #Kauai, also known as #TheGardenIsle or #TheGardenIsland. Before I became very familiar with our nation's 50th state, I primarily envisioned pristine beaches, pools that seem to extend right out to the Pacific Ocean, palms and flowers, as well as endless #maitai cocktails with those little umbrellas sticking out as an ornamental, tropical touch. While Kauai is a great destination for beach goers and includes all of my dream-like scenarios, snorkeling, surfing, scuba, and many other water sports and activities, it stands out because of its natural beauty - it is called #TheGardenIsland for a reason. Here are my Top 3 land-based activities for checking out the #fauna and #flora of Kauai that don't require you to be a pro hiker or avid adventurist to enjoy all the island has to offer - oh, and this list will be good for those who have #kiddos in tow as well. Here's a shot of #thefam in #Poipu.
Back to my recommendations for land-based activities on the island. I've included some snapshots so that you can get a really good idea of just how relaxed - but adventurous - these activities can be. Here they are!
#1 Waimea Canyon Drive
Must-haves for this activity
Car or van rental
Cash for roadside stands
Camera, camera, camera, #GoPro, camera, etc.
Binoculars (I regretted not having any!)
Sunscreen and sun protection
Several hours of your time
Portable potty seat if you have small children
Snacks and/or picnic lunch and drinks
Facts from the Waimea Canyon State Park's official site:
Nicknamed #GrandCanyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is a large canyon, about ten miles long and up to 3,600 feet deep.
Formed by erosion from the Waimea River, the canyon boasts a colorful array of red, brown and green hues which are complimented by waterfalls and frequent rainbows.
Challenging hiking and hunting trails wind through the canyon.
Two lookouts, the Puu ka Pele and Puu hinahina, have parking and provide breathtaking views.
My Suggestions and Itinerary
Load up the car with all of the supplies mentioned above, and spend the day exploring the west-end of Kauai. One of the beauties of this island is that there is no road that goes completely around the island (this limits major tourist activity), so be aware when you head out that this is an in-and-out visit. In other words, don't plan on making it a stop on your way to somewhere else on the other side of the canyon for the day. The entire visit will take several hours, so leave out early for this one.
Your main activities will be just driving and/or walking around enjoying picturesque views - be sure to check out my slideshow below to get an idea - it's breathtaking. Chances are you'll also be doing a helicopter tour of the island, and I highly suggest the #WaimeaCanyon excursion as a complement so that you can really get a first-hand experience with the unbelievable vistas - it all looks fake, even in real life. I honestly cannot put into words how beautiful and diverse the canyon is.
Obviously you'll make it through the canyon more quickly if you are without kiddos - we had four in tow. Either way, be sure to grab some cash so that you can snack on all of the traditional delicacies and fruits being sold by vendors at some of the stop-off points. There's nothing more exciting to me than a good #localmarket or #roadsidestand to make you feel like you are really experiencing a new place, ya know?
If you can hold out for a meal until you are ready to leave the park, I recommend the Kōkeʻe Lodge that is just inside the perimeter of the park. The #kokeelodgerestaurant is open from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. all year round - yes, 365 days a year, 7 days per week. Not only will they serve up a refreshing #libation, they offer some great meals that will stick to your bones after - or before - a day of exploring the canyon, for example, a #locomoco: local grassfed Makaweli beef patty, bone broth mushroom and onion gravy and a scoop of rice, topped with a sunny egg. The #locomoco became my four-year-old nephew's new favorite meal during our trip - he literally ate it every day! They also have a small gift shop with some authentic souvenirs, and of course - plenty of #heihei (chickens) to feed and watch.
Side note: If you have never been to #Kauai, the local, feral chickens will become your constant sidekicks and after a while, just blend right into the backdrop of your memories. They are EVERYWHERE in the canyon and provide nonstop entertainment for adults and kids alike. Some of them are pretty tame - or bold, not sure - and are not shy about looking for snacks inside your car (yes, inside your car!) when you turn your head to take in another spectacular view. If you do have snacks or food with you, just make sure it's stored in bags or a cooler.
#2 Horseback Riding and/or Fern Grotto
Option 1, Basic Info: Do you love animals and nature? If so, then don't miss out on a trail ride while you are on the island. We went to Silver Falls Ranch, but there are other options. The thing I loved about Silver Falls is that they offer rides for anyone and everyone. My kids rode at the stable while the rest of us went on a two-hour trail ride. I have done horseback riding in the past, but don't ride regularly. IMPORTANT: If you are not used to being in the saddle frequently, your hips and upper legs can become really sore really fast. Don't overdo it and ruin the rest of your perfect day on the island. If you want a pleasant and awe-inspiring ride, stick with one of the shorter trail ride options. We chose a trail ride that stops off at Silver Creek falls for a picnic style meal and swimming; the staff brought my kiddos out to the site from the stables which was a really nice touch. In addition to the horses, there are more #heihei and other critters roaming around the ranch, too!
Wear jeans and a hat
Non-negotiable: protective clothing and/or lots of sunscreen
Bug repellent would be a good idea
Everyone wears a helmet, so no high ponytails for ladies
If you stop off at Silver Creek Falls, bring a swimsuit, towel, and water shoes
#GoPro segments of your ride, you will need to be hands-free (well, hands on your horse's reins) during the trip and paying attention
Option 2, Basic Info: Ok, so technically the stop off at Silver Falls involves water, and so does the #WailuaRiver... but the activities are primarily on land and do not require a trip to the beach in any way, so they are included on my list today :) The next suggestion for a land-water combo activity is Smith's Fern Grotto Tours of the Wailua River and #FernGrotto. The aspect that I enjoyed most about this activity is the tour operators themselves; they are part of a multi-generational tradition of leading tours on the river. The boat ride to the grotto is sooooo pleasant: you get to hear about the history of the river, the tour company, the heydeys of #ElvisPresley and the filming of #BlueHawaii, etc. They perform all of your Hawaiian musical favorites with live music during the ride as well. The traditional #hula dances that were demonstrated were excellent, and they'll even get you involved in some hula lessons during your quick trip up and down the river. The dock is very nice and accessible, and there is a bathhouse (also with easy access) as well. Once you arrive to the Fern Grotto, you will learn all about the ancient traditions and history; I don't want to #spoil it for you, but the family will have another cultural surprise for you at the grotto! Oh, and the grotto itself is like a magical-fairy-tropical paradise, so serene. I have no major suggestions - this is a fun, informative, and easy excursion that everyone will appreciate. There are several river tours so check your directions to this location well in advance.
#3 Lu'au Time!
Everyone is #leid upon entering (i.e. everyone gets a traditional welcome with flower leis for ladies and shells for guys) - this immediately set the mood for a perfect lu'au!
The estate is HUGE and has a small market set up behind the mansion and luau facilities; I loved visit all of the local vendors and bought many of my souvenirs while on the property.
#endlesscocktails need I say more?
This particular plantation offers a train ride through the property; if you are going with kiddos I would say this is an add-on you won't regret. I *might* have enjoyed this just as much or more than the actual luau. It's about 40 minutes and will take you all around the 150 acre plantation.
The food, of course. I tried #poi for the first time!
The theatrical aspect of the lu'au and learning about the culture are reasons enough to go. What can you expect? talented hula dancers, fire knife dancing, fire poi-ball exhibition, and traditionalTahitian music, and more!
Not gonna lie, my four-year-old nephew had a minor breakdown (or several) and my nine-year-old fell asleep on a rock while we were there #lifewithkids. If you are coming from the east coast (our case), there will be a significant time difference. So, plan the lu'au later on in your visit if you have kids in tow so that they will be better adjust to Kauai time, especially if you are attending evening festivities. Come to think of it, this is probably why I enjoyed the train ride so much - everyone was awake and content! Our family picture below (provided by the plantation) was taken as soon as we got there, thankfully, and everyone is all smiles! #lessonlearned for next time around - thank goodness for those cocktails, right?
Check the weekly schedule and hit the Lihue local farmers' market next to the K-Mart for your shopping. The locals are very willing to let you try all of the fruits and give you suggestions for how to prepare the different fruits and products they sell. I promise, you will never shop for produce in a more idyllic setting, even if there is a K-Mart next door.
This post was written with lots of fond memories and the #spiritofaloha. I hope you have enjoyed exploring options for land-based activities on the Garden Island, Kauai. Comment with questions or other suggestions that you think should make the cut! #Mahalo
Belle Balade et Bon Voyage.
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