Every December I look forward to returning to Hawaii to kick off the holiday season. Over the last few years, we’ve split our time between two or three islands. This year, we decided to stay on Kauai for the entire week. Kauai is one of the most untouched islands in Hawaii. It’s largely covered by a tropical rainforest, and it’s full of majestic waterfalls and dramatic cliffs where movies like Jurassic Park and King Kong were filmed. It’s a laid back piece of paradise that should be on your radar if you’re looking for a vacation that’s a perfect balance between adventure and relaxation.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa is a special property. This is our fourth time staying at this hotel because it feels like an authentic Hawaiian experience. It’s an open-concept resort along the beach, so you feel connected to nature wherever you are on the property. There’s a lazy river, pools with water slides, and a gigantic salt water lagoon right next to the ocean (where you can usually find me with a coconut vodka cocktail). The Anara Spa is beautiful and newly renovated where you can get a signature Lomi Lomi Hawaiian massage (ask for Crystal or Rachael - they’re the best)! The restaurants are some of the best on the island. Tidepools is a romantic, floating restaurant, surrounded by a koi pond, and Stevenson’s Library has some of the freshest, most interesting sushi combinations imaginable. My mouth is still watering thinking about those meals!
Kauai is an ideal island for adventuring. Over the years we have made some amazing local friends (shout out to Amy and Kristal), who on this trip brought us hiking down a cliff to swim in Wailua Falls. We even swam, climbed and hiked to get behind the waterfall, which was one of the most magical experiences. Another must-see is the Na Pali Coast. This year, we ventured out with Captain Andy’s and rafted along the entire coast. We were even able to pull the raft into some caves to see hidden waterfalls. It’s definitely more of a bumpy ride, but one so worth doing because you get close and personal with nature in ways that larger boats don’t allow. At one point we even had hundreds of dolphins circling our raft!
We love staying on the south side of the island, but it’s also worth taking a trip to see the north side. You’ll find lots of food trucks on your drive so be sure to stop at a few and enjoy the local flavors of the island. We had a delicious coconut-crusted Mahi and taro sweet potato fries from the Fresh Bite food truck and the one next to it. Once you’re fueled up from the food, there are beautiful beaches to explore. Anini Beach is a quiet area with warm water and soft, gold sand. We also checked out Secret Beach which felt like a private, special slice of heaven. Towering cliffs are the backdrop of this beach, and it’s surrounded by sections of lava rock. It’s called Secret Beach because it’s not the easiest to get to. No public road leads to this beach so you either have to hike to it, or go down a few unmarked, unpaved roads. The views and warm waters are so worth the adventure!
It’s hard to not feel the spirit of Aloha when in Kauai. From the delicious local flavors, to the warm and welcoming nature of the people who live there, the island fully embraces you and makes you never want to leave. You get in a routine when you’re in Hawaii, one that makes you feel at home. One of my favorite daily traditions was every morning we would get kombucha from the Kauai Juice Company. The kombucha is made with all local ingredients, like dragon fruit and lilikoi - so flavorful! I always cherish our memories from the island, and it couldn’t bring me more joy to start off the holidays in one of the specialist places in the world.