Hawaii: Part 2 – Kauai
After a few days in Maui, it was time to escape to our other favorite island, Kauai. Kauai is one of the most secluded islands of Hawaii and is nicknamed “The Garden Isle,” due to the untouched tropical rainforest making up most of the land. This is the location where Jurassic Park was filmed so you can imagine how lush and green this island is. Dramatic cliffs, hidden waterfalls, and overgrown trees fill the (sometimes unfinished) streets of Kauai creating the feeling of being lost in nature – something refreshing coming from the concrete jungle of New York City.We checked into one of my all-time favorite hotels in the world: The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. The moment you walk into this hotel, a picture-perfect view of palm trees and ocean greets you. Most of this hotel is built with open courtyards as the outdoor concept of the resort makes their guests always feel connected to the nature surrounding them. The hotel's pools are exquisite. A lazy river takes you from the top of the hotel towards the ocean, with waterfall hideouts along the way. A salt water lagoon built in front of the ocean was a perfect spot for relaxing while staying cool in the sun, and a giant water slide built near the lazy river’s exit was a perfect way to add some adventure to the pool days. This resort also has two of my favorite restaurants: Tidepools, which is built surrounded by a Koi pond, and Stevenson’s Sushi, a unique sushi spot with local flavor combinations only Hawaii can deliver.We arrived late in the afternoon to Kauai, so I planned for a relaxing day at the spa to kick off the second leg of our trip. After an 80-minute Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, we instantly felt relaxed and ready for more adventure. On our last trip to Hawaii, we were most excited to see turtles in their natural habitat on the beach. We were sad to have missed them, but on the first full day of our Kauai adventures, we ventured out to Poipu Beach and spotted them right away! On the other end of the beach, a Hawaiian monk seal was sleeping. Hawaii is so protective of their native animals that they don’t allow you to get too close to them, which is something we gladly respected. We spent the day driving along the coast of Kauai and exploring areas of the land a bit off the beaten bath and found gems like Anini Beach, an unpopulated strip of paradise where trees meet sand.The next day we went on a kayaking and hiking expedition to Uluwehi Falls, also known as The Secret Falls. Without a guide, I am not sure how anyone would find this waterfall – that is how secluded and deep in the mountains it is. The journey began with a two-mile kayak ride, followed by a one-mile hike – but this wasn’t any ordinary hike. We hiked through stone rivers and muddy, wet mountain ledges all while wearing no shoes. The course was so slippery that shoes were actually harder to hike in. It was easily one of the hardest hikes of my life, but the payoff was so rewarding: a gushing waterfall 100 feet in height, in the middle of complete isolation. We jumped in the water (freezing cold, so half my body made it in this one), and then had lunch on a rock while looking at the falls, dipping our feet into the fresh circulating water. It was such a special experience not only because of where we were, but because my husband and I conquered a pretty intense hike to get there.We refueled on the way back with acai bowls from Anake’s Juice Bar and with our biggest addiction of the entire trip: kombucha from Kauai Juice Co. This company has three locations in Kauai and we found every single one. They sell both kombucha on tap and bottled, and as big fans and believers in probiotics, we had to try every single flavor we possibly could. Whether we started our day, ended our day, or a combination of both, the staff at the Kauai Juice Co. got to know us very well!The final day of our trip we decided to take advantage of the amenities at our hotel, floating around the salt water lagoon and hiking along the beach. We watched a beautiful Hawaiian dancer perform while a local singer played guitar and belted out Christmas songs while the sun set along the ocean. I have to admit – I became very emotional leaving Hawaii. The people at the hotel become family, the pride we had conquering (sometimes scary) adventures that take you completely out of your comfort zone, and meeting locals and hearing their personal stories throughout the trip all are things that will never leave me. When I travel, I crave new experiences. I crave immersing myself in the local culture. I crave learning something I didn’t know before arriving. Hawaii provides all of this, and most importantly, the sacred and harmonious spirit of the islands remind you of what is really important in life. Hawaii encourages a culture of unity, of inclusion and of love.Until we meet again, Hawaii.