Magical Kauai.

Kauai is magical.

Sharp, lush mountains rise up from the sea to heights of over 5,000 feet. Flowers grow like weeds– hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids. There is vibrant color everywhere- in the sky, on the hillsides, in the ocean, on the many birds. Yes, it rains often  (it’s home to one of the wettest spots on the planet), but that’s why it’s so unbelievably gorgeous. I love the local quirks of Hawaii- the random local radio, Spam in multiple flavors, chickens literally everywhere. I’ve visited Oahu twice, Maui once, the Big Island once, and this was my second visit to Kauai. It’s definitely my favorite island, particularly the north end. It’s laid back and bohemian, with stunning beaches, yummy restaurants, and the Kalalau trailhead that leads you into the majestic Na Pali coast.

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This trip was a mixture of adventure, family time, personal healing, and relaxation for all of us. As if sensing the rough start to the year we’ve had, the island welcomed us back. When we left, I was reluctant… but refreshed.

We stayed in a two-bedroom condo at Hanalei Bay Resort. The location in Princeville was ideal for us, and the view from our lanais was stunning! Happy roosters crowed throughout the day, with hens and chicks picking away at the grass. We spent time at the pool, with a mai tai happy hour one evening and tasty eats from a local food truck another night. My inner beachcomber was in heaven, picking through all sorts of seaside treasures at multiple beaches. We were even treated to a rainbow.

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We visited the Dolphin Fish Market and John grilled an incredible opah dinner (using this marinade!). Having a condo with a full kitchen was perfect; we made smoothies and tasty dinners and many cocktails. We hiked through dense foliage to get to the river that feeds into Hanalei Bay.

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We enjoyed the mandatory luau experience; Luau Kalamaku has a fantastic theatrical show and we got our money’s worth from the buffet and bar. We sipped local coffee at the Kauai coffee plantation, shopped for souvenirs, attempted to snorkel, played Frisbee on the resort lawn, and took in a few incredible sunsets.

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Matt, John and I shared a special day hiking the 4-mile round trip trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach on the Na Pali coast. The trail was crowded and treacherous at times, but the beauty of this part of the world is indescribable.

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As a special treat, we were together as a family on Easter. Mom started our day with traditional deviled eggs (with bacon!) and we ended our vacation with a family dinner at CJ’s in Princeville. It’s not easy to get to and from Kauai; the overnight flight home paired with the four-hour time change is particularly brutal. I watched the sun rise from the plane and the lush green Kauai mountains were replaced with the snowy peaks of Utah. Coming home after time away makes you appreciate it more- especially with a crooked-eared dog waiting eagerly for your return.

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There were a couple of minor disappointments here and there on this trip, like a Na Pali coast catamaran cruise that was canceled due to high winds, not a single wild piglet sighting, and my serious lack of a suntan. But nothing compares to time with family, especially somewhere fabulous. These images speak for themselves: Kauai is simply beautiful, and it holds a special place in my heart.

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Trip Information:

We stayed mostly on the north side of the island in Hanalei and Princeville. It’s quieter and rains more often than the “dry” side of the island. We didn’t get to do everything we wanted on this trip- restaurants, activities, beaches- but it means I can’t wait to go back!

Where we stayed:

Hanalei Bay Resort in Princeville

The resort is in the midst of rebuilding their restaurant, bar, fitness center, and lobby (completion estimated this summer). Staying in a room without a kitchen would have been challenging and expensive because you’d need to eat out for every meal.

The pool area is beautiful. The staff was beyond kind. The grounds are well-established and well-kept. The concierge is very helpful in planning and booking activities for you. The hotel is known for its tennis courts, if that’s your thing. The path to the beach (shared with the St. Regis Resort) is a lovely walk, and if you don’t feel like making the trek back up the hill, there’s a phone you can pick up and ask for a golf cart ride! Be sure to pocket a few bucks for a tip.

Where we ate:

Hanalei Wake Up Café– The limited breakfast menu had typical café food (try the Portuguese sausage). Pick up a delicious giant macadamia nut cinnamon roll!

Kalypso– This bar/restaurant only does breakfast on weekends. My Huevos Rancheros included mahi-mahi and was spectacular!

Tropical Taco– Big fish tacos (grilled or fried) with beans, tomato, lettuce, cheese, and homemade salsa. BYOBeer from the liquor store next door.

CJ’s– A steak and seafood spot we visited twice. The shrimp are monstrous- my dad loved the macadamia coconut version.

St. Regis Resort– John and I had brunch at the resort with friends who were staying there. While pricey, the buffet was extensive and beautiful. The bar and patio are also gorgeous, perfect for a sunset happy hour even if you’re not staying there.

Fish Market behind Dolphin Restaurant- Beautiful fresh local fish. Expect it to be crowded and not cheap, but worth it. They were out of Ono so we brought home Opah to grill. YUM. Pick up some fresh poke!

Beaches we visited (when we weren’t at the resort’s):

Ke’e Beach– At the very end of the road. Parking is always an issue and the beach gets crowded. At low tide, there is good snorkeling. On both trips to Kauai, there was a lazy seal sunbathing amidst the crowd. The Kalalau trailhead starts here.

Anini Beach– We checked out this beach during the wrong time for snorkeling, but friends have guaranteed sea turtle sightings. There is a large park along the beach with grills for picnics. On Easter, this was obviously a locals’ favorite spot.

Hanalei Bay Pier– We saw beginner surfing lessons and more experienced surfers further out in the sea. Eat at Pat’s Taqueria food truck (owned by an old friend). The views of the Na Pali peaks are incredible and the beach is long, with the river feeding into the sea at one end. The river seems popular with kayakers and paddle-boarders.

Helpful info: The Foodland in Princeville is well-stocked and has multiple kinds of delicious poke in the deli. Sign up for the Foodland discount card thing- the savings are significant!

Got the travel bug? Take a peek at more of my adventures HERE!


  1. Oh man, I want to visit Hawaii SO badly!! Your photos were wonderful…so it was almost like I was there with you ;). Also, how lucky are you to be married to such a good cook?! Matt can grill a good steak and that is IT!

    1. I know, I feel very lucky to have a hubby who loves to cook! You guys really need to visit Hawaii someday. I suggest in late March or early April when Bozeman’s wintertime just won’t leave…

  2. Can we join your family ;). Looks like you have such amazing times with each other. Your parents look so young and happy. Your pictures are torturing Kimo and I- not the Spam part- yuk! Pabst Blue Ribbon brought back fond memories for Kimo. Stunning pictures.

  3. Wow, Kauai looks absolutely stunning! Like something out of a postcard. It’s hard to believe it’s part of a U.S. state. Your pictures really captured the essence of the place! Also, that sign with the tallies of the people who’ve been killed from the currents— bahaha what a scare tactic! I bet it works.

    I love that your parents and brother were there too. There’s something so special about taking family vacations as an adult.

  4. What gorgeous sights, Amber! I’m so glad you had the chance to revisit Kauai and have such fun with your family. The Hawaiian islands are simply breakthtaking and can be both relaxing and healing. I’m sure you and I will both be back there again someday. 🙂

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