There are definitely two types of travelers out there: those who love having every single day planned out and arranged with a wide list of must-sees and to-dos as to not miss a single thing, and those who enjoy a much slower-paced, laid-back schedule with not much on the agenda. I am 100% the first kind, and my husband is the second.
Our last big trip together was to Europe, where he spoiled me with 12 full days filled to the brim with activities and agendas. He was a trooper, too. So this time, I promised to give him a much more laid-back vacation, with little to do on the itinerary next to our big fat number one priority: RELAX. And we did just that.
In my completely uneducated opinion (given that this trip was my first and only time visiting Hawaii), I believe Kauai is the perfect place to do just this, and not feel the pressures of missing out on any “ultimate to-do list.” Although I wanted so badly to book that helicopter ride and sunset sailing excursion, I kept to my promise, and found an itinerary that allowed for my adventure-seeking spirit to actually enjoy a slow-paced vacation on the beautiful Island of Kauai.
I hope this itinerary helps provide a rough guide for you to find that balance, too! Fill the empty spaces in between my recommendations with whatever makes your vacation YOU! Kauai is an absolutely incredible place, filled with so much beauty, culture, and romance! I will forever be enchanted by this Garden Island of paradise.
| Pickup your car rental
Renting a car is a must when traveling to Kauai. It’s the only way to really enjoy the Island at your own pace, and make for a stress-free trip. We used the TURO app which was unbelievably easy. Our jeep was waiting for us in the parking lot of the airport, and all of the car check-in happens through the app on your phone, making the process literally seamless.
| Grab lunch at Duke’s just minutes away from the airport
Duke’s is the perfect way to say aloha to Kauai and start your trip! We could not get over the views that accompanied our meal, making it the perfect first dining experience on the island.
| Check-in to your hotel
We stayed at the Princeville Resort on the North Shore, and oh. my. goodness. If there is one recommendation you take away from this entire post, LET IT BE THIS. This resort was the most romantic resort I have ever stayed at, and it lived up to the hype. Given that it is a 5-star resort, it was on the pricier side, but because we did not have too many excursions planned, we were able to splurge on this.
p.s. read my post on travel tips for traveling on a budget here, to read more about why I believe it is super important to always splurge on at least one thing per trip.
p.p.s. you can also book through Booking.Com using this link here to save $20 on your first booking!
| Relax & settle in with room service & a movie
Because our first day was filled with lots of long traveling, we were exhausted once we finally checked-in. So, we watched the sunset from our room balcony, took a bath, and enjoyed room service while watching a movie. It was a great way to relax and get some rest before our week ahead.
| Enjoy the breakfast buffet at the Makana Terrace
The Makana Terrace is a restaurant inside the Princeville Resort, but is open to the public. Utilize the hotel’s complimentary valet and enjoy 3 hours of the most incredible breakfast buffet you will ever experience, hands down. I’m not exaggerating – it was so good, we went back three times. At $42/person, the buffet is a little steep, but it is SO worth it. With choices that included an omelette station, coconut pancakes, bacon, fresh fish, charcuterie board spreads, fresh fruit, oatmeal bar, a wide variety of pastries and breads, fresh-squeezed juices, and kombucha on tap, you can’t go wrong with this incredible dining experience. The cherry on top? You get to eat your breakfast while enjoying stunning views of the Hanalei Bay from the terrace. You won’t ever want to leave.
| Spend a few hours at the pool
The Princeville Resort pool is also open to the public, and with it’s direct access to a private beach, it makes for the perfect location to snag a lounge chair and spend some time under the sun. Be sure to take a good book with you (or if you are my husband, bring your Nintendo Switch – LOL), and spend some uninterrupted time relaxing. We took advantage of the poolside service and ordered some drinks, before taking a dip in the pool. Talk about the perfect afternoon!
| Take a walk on the beach
After we felt like we had spent enough time at the pool, we packed up and wandered the grounds a bit. Because our hotel had direct access to the beach, we didn’t have to go very far to enjoy some quiet time by the water. If your hotel does not have direct access to the beach, take a quick drive to Hanalei Bay or Poipu Beach and enjoy feeling the sand between your toes!
| Make reservations for dinner at Happy Talk Lounge
This was one of my favorite meals that we enjoyed in Kauai. The atmosphere at Happy Talk Lounge was so laid back and romantic – it felt like the true Hawaiian experience. With unparalleled views and incredible food (get the coconut shrimp, trust me!), this place is a must for your itinerary!
note: this restaurant is located in the Hanalei Bay Resort, and offers complimentary valet.
| Treat yourself to ice cream at Lappert’s in the Princeville village
Lappert’s is Kauai’s famous ice cream parlor, with locations scattered all across the island. They have a handful of unique flavors to choose from (I got Macadamia Nut and it was to die for)! Such a great way to end your night in Princeville.
We decided to carve out one day out of our week long trip to drive around and explore the entire island. This is another reason why I believe it is so crucial to have a rental car. We agreed to do it at our own pace, enjoying as much as we could within a full day – and to our surprise, we were able to hit every single one of my “must-sees” before dinner!
note: The list of stops below is in order if your starting point is in Princeville.
| Kilauea Lighthouse
This stop was actually a last minute addition to our list, and I am SO glad we made it. The views of the rugged coast stretching out to the cliff’s edge where the lighthouse stood were breathtaking. There is a trail you can use to walk to the base of the lighthouse, too!
| Wailua Falls
Probably one of the most beautiful things we saw in Kauai was this waterfall. I had never seen one like this in person, so it was definitely something special. Looks like something straight out of Jurassic Park! I am pretty sure you can find a way to hike to the bottom, but we aren’t avid hikers and opted out.
| Stop for lunch at Bubba’s Burgers in Poipu
There are a few different Bubba’s on the island, but this one is located in a cute outdoor shopping district, which we wanted to take advantage of. The burger joint is small and very unique, with a specialty burger at the top of their list. It’s a popular spot, so be prepared to wait in line for a bit!
| Head into Waimea Canyon State Park
Our time spent driving through the canyon was probably my favorite takeaway from the trip. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before (and far surpasses the Grand Canyon). There are tons of lookout spots to stop and park at, so we picked a few along the way. Definitely be sure to stop at the Waimea Canyon State Park main lookout stop. You pay a small parking fee here (good for all stops you make in the park), and walk up to the lookout spot where you will experience breathtaking views like this:
Next, be sure to stop at the Waimea Canyon Trail Trailhead. This was a much quieter stop, with views closer to the inside of the canyon!
| Make it all the way up to the Kalalau Lookout
This is another stop in the Waimea Canyon State Park, but all the way at the very top, almost to where you can’t go any further (the Napali Coast starts here, and there is no access beyond the end of the road – except to hike it of course!) Here, you can score incredible views of the Napali Coast. Note: it was completely covered in fog when we got there, but it cleared SO fast, so hold out if you can’t see anything at first – it’s worth the wait!
| Head back in time for a sunset dinner at the Makana Terrace
Probably one of the most romantic meals I have ever had in my entire life was here at the Makana Terrace for dinner. We made 7 PM reservations so we could watch the sunset from our table, and it was breathtaking. I wish I could have stayed in that moment forever. It was so quiet and peaceful, and the food was to die for. We savored every second of it and stayed until after dark, listening to the waves crash on the shore below. Highly recommend making time for this! It is so special!
| Spend the morning at the pool
Because we aimed for a slower-paced trip, we spent lots of time here, relaxing. You can’t go wrong with a drink, good book, and a dip in the pool. Slow down and enjoy a good part of your day here – you won’t regret it!
| Go for a swim in the ocean (even if it’s raining!)
James and I are not huge beach people (shocking, I know), but you can’t go to Hawaii and not swim in the ocean at least once, right? While we originally planned to go snorkeling, we decided instead to just go for a swim in the RAIN. Yes, the pouring rain. It was so romantic and fun – we practically had the whole beach to ourselves because everyone had left to escape the rain.
| Head to Hanalei for shopping
Hanalei is such a cute and fun little town to explore while in Kauai. There are tons of shops, food trucks, and shaved ice shacks – you really could spend a whole day here.
| Get Sushi at The Dolphin restaurant
The sushi here is AMAZING. Accompanied by great drinks, and sunset views, you can’t go wrong dining here!
| Watch the sunset from Hanalei Bay beach
There are a ton of different spots you can find to walk onto the beach in Hanalei. We pulled off down one of the side streets, and hoped out just in time to catch the sun setting beyond the horizon. Such a sweet way to spend our last full evening in Kauai!
| Enjoy a slow breakfast
For our last day in Kauai, we decided to have a slow and lazy morning with breakfast at our hotel again while watching the clouds move over the coast one last time!
| Grab shaved ice at JoJo’s in Hanalei
If you’re staying in Princeville, it is a great idea to head back to Hanalei (it’s only 10 minutes away) and enjoy some time here again. If not, you can grab shaved ice at another one of the many JoJo’s locations on the island. Be sure to get one of their specials that includes ice cream – it’s definitely the way to go!!
| Drive to Tunnels Beach
If you have some time to kill before your flight leaves, be sure to check out Tunnels Beach. The stretch of beach leading up to this spot has some of the clearest, and bluest water you will ever see! We stopped our car along the road somewhere to hop out and enjoy some last minute time walking on the beach.
| Catch flight home
Mahalo, Kauai! Until next time.