Hawaii has long been on my bucket list and I am ashamed to say with all the places we have traveled, we have never made it to Hawaii. Friends and family have extolled its beauty and adventure to us, but every time we look at going to Hawaii, we always find another location that is either more exotic or cheaper. I guess there is a reason that, growing up, I always thought only the richest kids out there went to Hawaii!
As a nature lover and landscape photographer, Kauai is the island that holds the most appeal to me, but I can also see why someone wouldn’t want to visit Hawaii without at least some time in Oahu. Since I can’t share my own experiences, I sought the help of Daniela Carrera, who combined an awesome trip to Kauai with some time in Oahu. Daniela shares all of her favorite spots from both islands with some great tips for everyone and some even better pictures.
Aloha! My name is Daniela and I am from Ecuador in South America, and this is Patrick! My boyfriend.
I’ve only lived in the US for a few months and I am sure that there are a lot of beautiful places to visit, but Hawaii caught my eye a few years ago before I started traveling. Patrick and I have birthdays a week apart, so we were looking for a place to celebrate. Hawaii was the perfect place. Also, it was a great way for me to recharge after a long and intense service dog training school that I did back in my new home, North Carolina.
Hawaii has incredible views, a lot of things to, remarkable hikes and of course great surf!
We started in Kauai, the “Garden Island,” very well known for the breathtaking Na’pali Coast, a 6,175 acre Hawaiian state park along the northwest side of Kauaʻi, and the oldest inhabited Hawaiian island.
As soon as we arrived we could sense that it was as intimate and adventurous as we imagined. If you are craving adventures and hikes without the huge crowds of tourists on Oahu, then this is the right island for you!
My Highlights of Kauai
Kauai’s North Shore
My first experience was Queens Bath. It is a large natural tide pool located outside of Princeville. It’s an incredible phenomenon and a beautiful place. The hike going down was very muddy, so we got a little taste of how dirty we were going to be for the next few days. Personally, I don’t mind it a bit, but I do like to be prepared with some dry clothes and towels waiting for me in the car.
We had read that the rain in the North and West sides of Kauai comes and goes so we were came prepared for it. We carried raincoats, snacks, water, sunscreen and bug spray in our backpacks that first morning. Queens Bath was just a mile walk and hike down so it was a great start for us walking a long distance in the jungle with some slippery rocks. Take your time and plan to spend a few hours there, both for the hike and for swimming in the water in Queens Bath.
IT’S A GREAT SPOT TO STOP IF YOU FEEL LIKE RELAXING IN PARADISE. The long stretches of beach and beautiful mountain views make Hanalei Bay an easy favorite. When the weather is good, you’ll find surfers at every skill level here.
Right now (July 2018) you cannot get on Tunnels Beach or Kalalau trails. They are both located on the north east side of Kauai. Most of that area flooded in March of 2018 so the roads and trails are destroyed, and still being rebuilt. Be sure to do some research and talk to the state and public parks if you are thinking of heading there just to be sure. Often times, there’s not a lot of information on the web. I found it was best to call tour group websites that work in those areas and ask them about the status of trails, parks and roads. You don’t want to waste your time in paradise driving to a park just to find it is still closed.
We took a four hour boat tour along 16 miles of ancient Hawaii. Gigantic green valleys and sea life decorate the environment and make the ride very exciting. This coastline full of soaring green, jagged cliffs lined with white sand beaches is a sight that many choose to see on a helicopter tour but it’s best explored by ocean raft where you can zip in and out of sea caves and feel the ocean spray on your face. You can take a helicopter or a kayak tour from the south as well. The tour with Holo holo Charters was a great experience.
VAN CAMPING IN PRIVATE PARKS
This was the perfect combination of comfy and adventure. We rented a 1989 Volkswagen camper van from Kauai Camper Rentals, and we are so glad we did.
We watched the sunrise and sunset at Anahola beach, drove through the West Coast up into the mountains to camp in Camp Sloggett: a beautiful, peaceful campsite, and explored the whole island in a comfortable camper van. We enjoyed the cooler weather up in the mountains while we were camping at the beautiful Camp Sloggett, and the trails in Koke’e State Park which go down into the Napali Coast and are a must too!
I am not an experienced hiker,but I had a few good warmups a few days before these big hikes with some small cliff hikes on the east side of the Island. The views are breathtaking and you get to climb some very cool cliffs at the end of the trails all aver the Napali coast! We recommend the Awa’Awapuhi trail.
Kauai is a round(ish) volcanic island about 100 miles northwest of Oahu. It is the oldest of the main islands in the Hawaiian archipelago, formed about six million years ago. Its interior is comprised of mountainous peaks, two of which are over 5,000 feet high. These can claim the title of being some of the wettest places on earth. In the center, a collapsed volcano forms the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” with Waimea Canyon (more than 3000 feet deep). There are areas to drive to the canyon and see some hiking experience and the best view on the area! I joined it with a couple of Maui Brew. Also super recommended if you are a beer lover!
We did a great Kayak tour to get to the falls. You kayak about 5 miles, and then hike about 2 miles in order to get to a magical waterfall, often called Secret Falls, where you can take a dip in the pool, and eat lunch.
Your guide will tell you all about the plants, the views, and the history while you hike. You will be sure to love it.
We spent the last few days in Kauai relaxing in some of the south shore beaches. There’s a lot of good restaurants, places to rent surfboards and relax!
This was not on the plans and it got a little bit tricky because there’s so many things to do in Oahu and the island is very spread out. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the North Shore from a local point of view which was awesome!
A long beach that is very touristic. It is great if you like cliff jumping, but you should take your precautions if this is what you are looking for. The cliff is a 15 foot jump into deep water and it’s very fun!
A 3 mile hike with a classic Hawaiian waterfall. It’s very safe to jump too!
The Sunset Pillbox is situated on the North Shore across from the world famous Banzai Pipeline. As the name suggests, it is the perfect spot to watch the sunset.
MERMAID CAVE AND KAENA POINT
The Southwest of Oahu has some desert beaches bordered by turquoise water. Mermaid Cave has a cavernous setting with holes of varying sizes half-submerged in water. The calming and enchanting ambiance is magically transported, making it a favorite destination among adventurers with an imagination.
You can find more of Daniela’s awesome adventures and work training service dogs on Instagram. Also, be sure to join in on the conversation, ask question and explore more travel and photography on our Facebook group.