Get Away: Kauai
I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Kauai. It was the first island in Hawaii I ever visited, the first place I swam with sea turtles, oh, and I got engaged there. The island itself is beyond gorgeous with towering ocean cliffs, lush rainforests, and pristine beaches. It's populated, but still charmingly rustic. There's so much to see and do, we barely scratched the surface when we first visited. I have a list of things I want to do again, along with an even longer list of things I want to do for the first time.
See...The Napali Coast. The towering oceanside cliffs on Kauai's coast will look familiar to many as they're featured in Jurrasic park. The best way to view these monstrous beauties is by boat, where they'll not only take you around the coast but also to hidden caves and prime snorkeling spots. I've heard friendly dolphins frequently like to tag along and say hi. Boat tours are easy to find although they can get cancelled (as ours was) due to choppy water.
Eat...Pancakes at Kountry Kitchen (no relation to the Kardashians despite the K fetish) in Kapaa. The macnut pancakes are divine, especially topped with coconut syrup, while the Loco Moco is hearty and savory. Best breakfast on the island? Absolutely.
Explore...Queen's Bath. Despite the oddly suburban country club entrance, this gem is actually quite hidden and well worth the exploration. You make your way down a mud path surrounded by sweet smelling guava trees until you reach the coast. Make a left and traverse over the lava flats until you come to the most gorgeous natural swimming pool. Once you pick your jaw up off the floor, take a dip. Note: Check the tides as high tide makes it impossible to access and don't ignore the signs warning you about dangerous currents and waves - they're not joking.
Drive...in a 4x4 with the top down. The best thing we did was rent a jeep with a removable roof. We crisscrossed the island finding hidden gems: tree-lined roads, desert canyons, and so much more. One of our favorite things to do was drive along the coast and look for parked cars, then follow the rough trails until we found the hidden, and often quite deserted, beaches.
Stay...in a rented beachside house. When we were in Kauai we stayed at the lovely Koa Kea boutique hotel in Poipu. It was a great place and I loved our stay there, but the area is crowded and more touristy. When I go back, I'm renting a beachside house in the north shore around Hanalei, where it still has a small town, tropical island feel.