Wednesday, August 1, 2012

where should a couple of Aussies go in HAWAII?

Dear ESB,

FH and I are getting married in Sept in Sydney - great, no problems there. We weren't planning on having a honeymoon due to work commitments, blah blah.

Now good friends of ours are getting married in Hawaii (Kauai) in March and we thought we might go and make it our honeymoon too. Only problem is that I have no idea about where is good to go in Hawaii! I have tried looking online but I have had bad experiences with booking online... the photos seem to lie a lot.

Do you or your readers have any recommendations? We will be going for about 10 days and will spend 4 days on Kauai (at the Outrigger Waipouli beach) for the wedding - after that we need a plan. Not keen on Waikiki or anywhere too touristy - we are beach bums and want something super chilled out and relaxed. Hawaii looks like an awesome place with beautiful scenery and I don't want to ruin it by ending up somewhere built up, in a giant hotel.

Thanks so much in advance!


I enlisted Heather of One Love Photo to help me with this one. Heather's partner Jon is from Hawaii, so they spend a lot of time (and shoot a lot of weddings!) there.

Here's what Heather had to say:

My advice would be to stay on Kauai the whole time and head North to Hanalei right after the wedding.

A perfect day in Hanalei would be; drive to the pier in Hanalei Bay and rent two paddle boards or kayaks. Go for a paddle up the river from the rental place (get a half day rental). Once you get done with your paddle eat some tacos at Pete's Taco truck in the parking lot (best tacos ever). Eat your tacos on the pier with your feet dangling over the edge. Then head over to the bay for a swim. Then drive up to the end of the road to watch the sunset at Ke'e Beach park. 

Have dinner back in Hanalei at Neide's Salsa & Samba in the back of Hanalei Center. Get the kalua pork chimichanga then walk across the street for some people watching, music and a super stiff Mai Tai at Tahiti Nui.


I would recommend renting a condo through VRBO (vacation rental by owner) or Craigslist for a full week while in Hawaii. You will get the best rate if you do a full week. We have scored some great deals through both websites. The last time we visited Kauai we got a two bedroom, two bath fully furnished condo with kitchen, Lanai and full ocean view in Princeville for $125.00 per night! The key is to book your room as last minute as possible to get the cheapest rates. Princeville is a a golf community on the Northshore. Tons of condos, very developed and a little weird but it has great rates and the island beauty is a short 5-10 minute drive right outside of "condoland."

Kauai Food

Kintaro -- On the east side, in Wailua, right after you cross the river going toward the north shore from the airport on your right. The best sushi I have ever had, hands down. Get a Hanalei Roll and have a sake drop. Gets really busy, so you might want to make a reservation.

Postcards -- In Hanalei, on the left right when you first get into town. It is small and lovely and the food is really good. Always lots of hippies in the kitchen ;)

The Hanalei Gourmet -- Go on fish taco night -- they are the best! The Gourmet also has great drinks and live music.

Tahiti Nui -- This is the most classic, local-style, shady-business bar in Hanalei -- it's awesome. Karaoke, cheap(er) drinks, great people watching.

Best Beaches

Ke'e Beach -- The very end of the road, on the north shore. Great snorkeling. This is also where the Na Pali coast begins. If you like to hike, take the trail to Hanakapiai (a couple of miles.) Amazing views! The trail ends in Kalalau Valley, kind of a gnarly hike but you will get amazing pictures!

Tunnels -- This is before you get to Ke'e. Gets really busy, but if you go down the beach in either direction you can usually find your own spot away from people. Really great snorkeling and diving.

Hanalei Bay -- In Hanalei. Sandy, nice, mellow surf (except in winter) great for kayaking or just swimming/walking, etc.

All time Best!

If you're planning to do anything active, I would rent kayaks or Stand Up Paddle Boards and go down the Wailua River on the East side or the Hanalei River. So beautiful!!!

Hit a Farmers market or two. Make sure that one of them is the Tuesday afternoon market in Waipa (just outside of Hanalei when you are heading to the end of the road). It is the best. Everyone lines up right before it opens at 2pm and then when they open it up everyone rushes the stands to get their goods.

Cocktails at the Princeville Hotel -- swanky and spectacular -- get drinks in the lobby at sunset and feel like a rock star.

Other fun stuff to see....

Art Walk in Hanapepe

Waimea Canyon -- Can't miss this, Grand Canyon Hawaii style, eat lunch after your drive up to the viewpoint not before. Small windy roads!

Glass Beach -- AWESOME if you like beach-combing. Do the canyon and glass beach earlier in the week while staying at the wedding resort (less driving).

Thanks, Heather! NOW WE ALL WANT A MAI TAI.

Images by One Love Photo


  1. It's Australian for Trip Planning.

    1. As an Aussie who received countless travel tip tweets from esb last year, I agree!

  2. I was just there last January and second everything Heather says. Rent a car and you can get anywhere on the island. We went surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, hiked the ridge, took a guided kayak trip to a hike to a swim in a waterfall (so worth the money to have the guides). Try to cook as much of your own food as possible because it is expensive to go out (even groceries are expensive!). The only place we went to twice:
    Hamura Saimin was cheap, divey and delicious!

  3. My husband honeymooned on Kauai for two weeks. It was glorious. I can assure you that the advice to stay on that island the whole time is spot on. You will be in heaven!

    I second all of Heather's recommendations- especially to book your accommodations via We did this and got a little cottage all to ourselves with a kitchen (eating out EVERY MEAL gets tiring and expensive after a while. We like to cook- especially with all the fun "exotic" ingredients you can get at the farmer's markets.) and a big front porch looking out over the ocean. We watched surfers doing their thing every night as the sun went down. Also, it was WAY cheaper than staying in a hotel that whole time. And more private/relaxing.

    We rented a car (splurged on a Jeep Wrangler. SO MUCH FUN!). It was a great decision. Sometimes it's raining in the North or East and you'll want to hop in the car and head down to the dry sunny side of the island for the day.

    Over on the West Side is the incredible canyon, which you need a 4wd vehicle to get to. The view from up there is worth the trip, and there are hiking trails all over that take you along ridge-lines and give you incredible birds-eye views of the NaPali.

    Polihale beach is on the West Side as well. It's HUGE, private (I mean like you can skinny dip. There's rarely anyone else there.) and right on the edge of the NaPali cliffs, so the setting is just spectacular. The water is rougher there, so swim with caution. The beach has a mystical energy about it. It's said that the first people to settle the Hawaiian Islands landed on that beach, so it's a very sacred spot.

    The Kalalau Trail is 11 miles of awesome views, secluded beaches, bamboo groves, guava trees (we ate ripe guavas along the trail) and other awesomeness that ends with an enormous waterfall straight out of Jurassic Park. If you're packing hiking shoes and feel like an adventure, hike this trail. It's not easy hiking but not overly difficult either. And every part of it is beautiful, so even if you turn back early you'll get something out of it.

    Lastly, the other splurge we afforded ourselves while we were there was a sailing trip with Captain Andy's (on the West Side). He took us out on one of their huge sailboats and we got to snorkel with wild sea turtles and dolphins way out in the open ocean! They served lunch and drinks on the boat and we sailed around all day. It was so much fun, I highly recommend it.

    You really can't go wrong on Kauai, it's just awesome. Even if all you do is eat tacos and lay at the beach, it's a winner (track down one of those taco trucks that zoom around the island: incredible tacos and fresh fruit smoothies!)

  4. mmm.
    Missing Hawaii pretty hard right now.

    Tahiti Nui has apparently "blown up" since The Descendents, just FYI. You should still go, though.

    Don't leave Hawaii without getting a musubi (cheap rice/seaweed snack that you can grab at any gas station/convenience store/grocery store - get a teri chicken one if you can).

  5. I have never had much desire to go to Hawaii, but this post has changed my mind.

  6. I grew up on O'ahu and honeymooned on the Big Island this year, which was fabulous. So if you're interested in island hopping, I highly recommend it. We spent three nights at this awesome VRBO rental (Hale Ohai). It's way out in the boonies of a former lava flow. Outdoor showers and heated volcanic springs nearby.

    Also, if you'd like the O'ahu experience without the Waikiki part, you should totally stay on the North Shore. Waimea Bay is my favorite place in the world.

  7. We stayed here on our recent Kauai honeymoon and it was GREAT. Really friendly owners, tons of privacy, and really clean and modern accommodations at $175/night, right across the road from Anini Beach.

  8. yep. my thoughts as read the post. STAY ON KAUAI!

    if you are into hiking AT ALL check out the napali coast!!!!!!

    1. (napali coast/The Kalalau Trail same thing as tonia suggested)

  9. Even though it's crazy expensive (or at least was for us) I can't recommend enough doing one of the helicopter flights around Kauai - it's the definition of breathtaking.

  10. I also recommend to look for places. I've been to Kauai twice. The food is expensive and not especially good, so I recommend getting a place with a kitchen and cooking some meals. You must hike the NaPali Coast, and you must go ALL THE WAY to the waterfall. Please be ready for a long day of hiking though and wear good shoes, bring lots of water, and start early! Also, Wainiha Bay is my favorite beach spot on the North Shore.

    I also recommend leaving the North Shore occasionally. A lot of the other parts of Kauai have some great stuff to offer. Our favorite beach on the East Shore is Keālia Beach. The Pono Market in Kapaa has the best poke you'll ever have! We went almost every day! And Waimea Canyon is something to see for sure! The drive to Waimea Canyon is long but beautiful! And you can stop in Poipu on the way.

  11. I recommend 'Secret Beach'- (and find a spot all the way at the left end, near the lava rock...the waves come up and over, forming a fun little pool below the rocks) Polihale is also great, especially when you want lots of sun. We were there in October 2010 and saw only 2 other people in an entire day at that beach. Both of those beaches (Secret & Polihale) require a short (10-minute) walk or hike to get to, but totally worth it.

    1. Secret Beach isn't as secret anymore. I don't think it's worth the walk unless you bring food/water as it's not really an in and out kind of place.

    2. I whole-heartedly second secret beach. It's true it isn't so secret anymore, but we didn't discover it until our last day and we wished we had spent more time there. It's my favorite beach in Hawaii so far, and I live on Oahu.

  12. Tunnels is an amazing beach for snorkeling! And Ke'e beach too! I recommend buying sushi and poke from grocery stores, they are actually fresh and pretty deliciuos!

  13. My parents go to Kauaii every year and I was lucky enough to go this past winter. These suggestions are all excellent. I'd like to add one. There is a restaurant at the Waipuli Beach Resort called "Oasis on the Beach" and it's all local, all pretty freaking amazing food - I ate there several times. The Yelp reviews seem to be hot and cold, but we tended to chat up the bartenders and wait staff to see what they thought the best dish that week was and everything was delicious.

  14. Been to Kauai before, and am going again for my honeymoon next year. I absolutely co-sign on Tahiti Nui, Glass Beach and Waimea Canyon. But I'm probably more excited about stopping at Duane's Ono-Char Burger and the Koloa Fish Market again. Both are hole-in-the-wall kinda joints so take your food to go and head to some scenic spot to eat. Just watch out for all the chickens and roosters trying to steal your food!

  15. Absolutely stay on Kauai the whole time! We've been there twice and we're hoarding our frequent flier miles until we can get there again! I second the comment to check out Captain Andy's. Splurge and do a tour of the Napali coast. You will never see anything like it in your life.

    Tunnels beach has amazing snorkeling, and if you're into that I'd also recommend Lawai beach on the south side.

    I also highly recommend 22 North near Lihue. We ate their twice on our last visit. Delicious food, amazing service, beautiful atmosphere and so much better than the over-hyped Beach House.

  16. meh i say big island, thats just me.

  17. We honeymooned on the big island. Not so touristy! :)

    Rented a jeep to go offroading. Try and find Green Sand Beach.

    Stayed at this bed and breakfast. Cost US $110/night because we stayed for a week or so and brought our own breakfast. :)

    Visited Volcano National Park, drove around the entire island, just chilling....
    so nice!

  18. If you have the means at all, island hopping is the way to go. All the different islands have very different personalities. I live on Oahu and have only been to Kauai so far, but we have a trip to Maui booked for December and are planning a trip to Big Island very soon.

    If you come to Oahu at all, stay far far away from Waikiki. North Shore is nice and quiet with some great beaches, but pretty country (few grocery stores/restaurants/bars, everything closes super early). My favorite part of the island is the Kailua/Kaneohe area. You can get a vacation rental for under $100/night, there are beautiful beaches right there, and you still have the conveniences of plenty of restaurants and grocery stores.

    That being said, Kauai is probably the most laid-back as far as I've experienced/heard. As previously mentioned, food on Kauai isn't that great. Of the places we went (which were well-researched and all supposed to be really good), we only liked Kintaro's and Red Salt (fancy-schmancy anniversary dinner place).

    Waimea canyon and the Na Pali coast are a must do. We took a whole day boat charter that went along the Na Pali coast and then over to the channel between Ni'ihau and Lehua Rock, and it was one of our favorite things. We saw tons of dolphins, whales and turtles (whales are only there in the winter/spring though).

    If you want to do something a little more adventurous, I would recommend ziplining with Kauai Backcountry Adventures. It's a little touristy, but it was a great experience. You zipline down a valley and then have lunch and swim in a stream.