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Our honeymoon experience that took us to Maui for a week and on to Kauai for the second week. Our chock-full adventure includes seeing the popular sites, doing some fun snorkeling and hiking, and taking part in some exciting and relaxing excursions (helicoptor ride, luau, sunset sail, bike down a volcano, etc.). My go list will describe in detail all of our activities as well as rate our accomodations and restaurants. I will also try to give you some advice that we picked up along the way!
Flew direct to Kahului airport in Maui from Chicago (about a 9 hour flight) on United. Rented a mid size from Hertz which was fine. Make sure you test your car and get a feel for its controls. We pulled away and stopped at a Kmart nearby to pick up some things when we noticed the key's battery was dead (couldn't lock the car). Had to go back and get a new one which was just a bit of a time waster.
If you are staying at a condo, I suggest what we did. We stopped at Kmart near the airport and picked up essentials (bottled water, light snacks, soda, beer, etc.) so we would have some things in the fridge. Kahului (where the airport is located) is situated on the north shore in the center. It is a 30-45 minute drive to Lahaina (west shore) and 20 minutes to Kihei (first major area along south shore). Temps in April were steady 82 F. to 65 F with 15 mph winds daily. Storms came and went quickly.
Stayed at the Maui Kai Condo room #408 and booked thru v r b o . c o m. Payed roughly $180/night but if you stay 7 nights, they waive the maid fee ($100). The location was magnificent. About 45 minute drive from airport. Location is actually 7 miles north of Lahaina between Kaanapali and Honokowai.
Couldn't be closer to the ocean without building on water. All rooms are oceanfront. This particular room is a corner unit facing west and north and quite quiet. You have a great view of Moloakai and Lanai islands. We saw numerous whales off in the distance frolicking right from our lanai (enclosed balcony). Should've brought binoculars!
The unit is in need of some updating. Is it bad? No. Is it great? No. Very middle of the road. If you plan on staying at the condo and not leaving very much, this is probably not your place. If you're like us and just used it to sleep, rest, and shower, this place would do you just fine. The place is a corner unit with an enclosed lanai (balcony). Nice to have your breakfast and coffee there while looking out at the ocean and beach below you. Unit as a whole is large, probably 800 sq. feet or so.
You have a large bedroom wih a comfy, king bed (actually 2 fulls pushed together) with plenty of closet space. Kitchen is small but comes with everything you need (utensils, plates, cups, coffee maker, knives, spices, etc.). One round dining table for 4. One couch, 2 wicker chairs and coffee tables in living room. On lanai is a small couch with pullout bed and small table with 2 plastic chairs (lawn type). The decor of the place is from the 70's - 80 's. The couch on the lanai was torn in several spots. Wallpaper seams in living room is very noticeable. I also would have re-arranged the living room furniture as the couch is parallel with the tv (infront of the two wicker chairs) and would much rather lie on the couch with my new wife than sit separately in 2 chairs watching tv. TV has all the major channels and has VCR/DVD available. Also note, the condo lobby has DVD's to rent for $5 each. Shower pressure and temp is very good but there are cracks in the plastic shower stall wall. Bath sink needs an update. Vanity storage in very old condition. Central AC did the trick but was a bit loud in bedroom. Plenty of towels available and the condo provides snokel gear and coolers, etc. for your use which is quite handy.
Maui Kai condo is adjacent to Kaanapali Beach resort and we crashed their grounds a few times. They use pink towels (which Maui Kai provides) so bring those towels with you when you sit at the pool. The bar is cash ready so you can get drinks there. They share a small beach with Maui Kai but not worth going into the water here (much better locations elsewhere). Maui Kai is also conveniently close to a strip mall that has a supermarket, subway sandwiches, coffee shops, etc.
The complex has their own pool but we didn't bother checking it out as we just crashed the resort next door (very easy to walk over). They also have gas bbq grills to use if you want to use them (I was tempted to but decided i didn't want to cook.
Our first dinner in Maui! Kobe is known for their knife-wielding chefs that cook in front of you. Kind of like Beni Hana if you are familiar. We were famished and didn't have a reservation so we sat at the sushi bar. Pretty good stuff. I especially liked their marbled tuna. We have sushi often and their dishes were quite good. Keep in mind costs in Hawaii are much more than the mainland. Our tab, and i eat alot, including 4 drinks and tip was $99 for the 2 of us. They do have a coupon if you have dinner but not at the sushi bar. They also have other dishes other than seafood. Recommend.
Right across the main road from the condo in the strip mall. Very good coffee. Very good breakfast too. Try their omelettes. Service is a bit slow but maybe it's par for island service (universally relaxed). Very convenient location. Cool ambiance. Recommend for a quick cup of java or full breakfast (typical breakfast is about $12 a person).
Our first day after arriving and we are excited to start our Road to Hana! A little nervous as it is supposed to be the world's most winding road.
Starting in Kaanapali, we drove to Kahului and on to Paia where we stopped for breakfast. Pretty straight shot so far. We used a blue guide book (you can find them everywhere) and they give you very detailed tidbits on where to stop and to see what (i.e. stop at mile marker 5 and follow the trail and you'll see these waterfalls, etc.). There are some errors in the book so don't follow it to a T.
We stopped numerous times, saw plenty of waterfalls, black sand beaches, and a red sand beach in Hana.
Very windy road indeed. Pretty but a long day. Recommend if you are the exploring type. Bring plenty of snacks or drinks. There are some fruit stands along the way that sell plenty of banana bread and snacks along the way.
Cute, friendly place to eat. In Paia on the north shore of Maui on the Road to Hana. Had very good sandwiches for breakfast. Show movies in the evening. Recommend if you are on the north shore.
Along the Road to Hana is the Botanical Garden. I think it was $10 each. Very pretty gardens. You get to get some nice vantage points of the coast. A place to rest too.
On our way back from the road to Hana, we stopped in Paia again, this time for dinner. Tiki torches lit the way in. They had a mahi mahi special of the day which i ordered while my lovely wife ordered the king crab legs. My dish was $24 and hers $28. Good fruity drinks with umbrellas on top. Total bill around $85. Very good stuff and I would recommend for dinner. Open air seating or inside. Open air, there were some mosquitos and flies.
It rained on day 3 so we decided to go to the Maui Ocean Center in Maalaea which is between Lahaina and Kihie on the south coast. $27 a person. Expensive but good activity if it rains. You get to see all the cool fish, pet a sea turtle, pet and hold starfish and sea cucumbers, and you walk in a tunnel under the sharks, fish, and sting rays. Good if you encounter bad weather or if you have kids. Pass if you don't have any bad weather days.
So, followed some advice and booked the Old Lahaina Luau a month in advance online. It's $93 per person which is buffet dinner, all you can drink, and entertainment. Worth every penny!
If you select sitting on the floor (traditional), you'll be seated in front of the entertainment but you'll be less comfortable. We opted for table seating which was much more comfortable but a bit further from the stage.
They gave us very pretty, real purple leis and a mai tai as we entered. We were escorted to our table and explained how the event would proceed. We had several fruity drinks that were awesome and the bartenders are very friendly. Plenty of picture taking opportunities. They unearthed the pig in front of the crowd and explained the history and methods of the luau. The selection at the buffet was awesome. There were about 15 items ranging from salad and bread to ahi to poi, steak, chicken, and pig of course. Entertainment was very good too. My wife thought it was so romantic so extra points there! Event is about 3-4 hours or so. Totally recommend!
Town where the Ocean Center is located. Decided to check out their beach which is 3 miles long. Not too many people here but not the prettiest either. Behind you is some factory spewing smoke. But in front of you is the ocean and reef.
Located on the ground level with cafe style tables available, Beach Bums was a relaxed place for a bite to eat with a nice view of Maalaea Harbor. By Day 4, and our diets heavily seafood oriented, we both decided to order burgers. And boy were they good! We also sampled some of the local Kona beers (like the porter and India Pale Ale a lot). Service was friendly and very relaxed. Some locals were hanging out there. Good spot for relaxed lunch.
A fisherman rushed into the restaurant with a huge Mahi Mahi that he probably just caught and went right into the kitchen! Doesn't get much fresher than that!
Tab was $60 or so.
After lunch in Maalaea, we headed to Lahaina. There is a lot of shopping to do here as we walked around town. Front Street is their main thoroughfare. We stopped in a few places to take advantage of their happy hours (usually 3-6 pm). Good place to walk around. Lotsa energy.
Very good deals during happy hour (3-6 pm). I think we had 4 huge fruity drinks for $6 each! Recommend!
Day 5 begins! An alternative to the Road to Hana is the drive along the northwest coast of Maui. Very pretty views. Very windy, cliffside roads similar to Road to Hana. Ends in Kahului. Fun drive and definitely not as long as the road to Hana. We stopped along the way to do some hiking to look for a Blowhole but we couldn't find it. Fun hiking along the way though! And very windy along the cliffs!
Continuing our drive after completing Kahekili Highway is a small park in the valley near the airport and Kahului. Easy parking and free. You can walk through the small park and take some cool pictures of the fog and the mountains from the valley floor. Quick attraction and worth doing if you have an hour to spare.
Ok, supposedly the best restaurant in all of Maui by some. Located on the north shore of Maui in Paia just east of downtown Paia. Free valet service. That's the only thing that is a deal. Very romantic atmosphere but a bit loud. Right on the beach but at night it's too dark to see the ocean. No beach dining, all white table cloth inside in an open air environment.
If this is the best restaurant, they have definitely priced their menus accordingly. Drinks are $17 a piece. Appetizers are $24-$35. We ordered the seared Ahi and it was indeed the best seared ahi i have ever had in my life. Is it worth $30? I don't know. But it was damn good! Our dinner plates cost $46 and $54 each. Basically we spent $200. She loved her meal. I was happy but not overwhelmed. We both thought the world of the appetizer seared ahi. $200, i don't know if i can justify it.
One of the things I was really looking forward to doing while in Hawaii. Haleakala Volcano is extinct on Maui and you are driven to the top to take a look around the national park. On Day 6, we were able to see as far as the Big Island above the clouds. This company is based in Paia.
We opted for the sunrise tour and bike ride. You have to get to their place by 3:15 AM. They give you your helmet, rain poncho, backpack, lock, etc. They load your bike on the van and you all pile in. After instructions, they drive you to the top with some brief pauses to tell you a bit about the history of the town and volcano. Once at the top (about a 90 minute drive up), you will watch the sun rise above the clouds. Very cool. You can also see alot of cool things like craters, valleys, etc. There is a wind barrier that shields you a bit from the strong winds. After the sunrise and looking around, they drive you down a bit to the ranger station and let you start your ride. It's about 38 miles long, all downhill. This ride was very fun and can be fast unless you ride the brake all the way down. Not too many vehicles on the road which is nice. Cost was $70 a person. I recommend this company because it was relaxed, you can ride at your own pace (not in a convoy which confines your freedom), was a better deal than the other companies, and they provided everything you would need. Plus, you could take your time riding down as long as you returned the bike before they closed (4PM). I recommend this company.
You also have the option of just biking down the volcano without the sunrise tour which is cheaper but to me, not as the full experience. They have various times for rides only.
After the bike ride, we went back to the condo for a nap (since we were up since 2 am. Kaanapali Beach is next door to the Maui Kai condo so we laid out for a bit. Small beach but quiet and peaceful. We used Kaanapali Beach Resort's grounds which was nice (I don't think they can determine who are guests or not as long as you have pink towels).
We were still exhausted from the bike ride and lounging on the beach so we decided to order takeout. We decided on takeout Chinese. Good little place with plenty of seating but i took it home. We actually ordered from the restaurant in Honokowai as it was closer than Lahaina. It's nice to have options. Good food and relatively cheap. Appetizer and 2 entrees, $35.
So after a week in Maui, we were off for Kauai. Unfortunately, with the loss of Aloha airlines, there are no direct flighs from Maui to Kauai anymore. We flew Hawaiian airlines which stopped in Honolulu before continuing to Kauai. 30 minute flight each. Landed in Lihue where the airport is located on the east coast of Kauai. Rented a convertible from Alamo (Chrysler Sebring) which i recommend. Very nice to have the top down!
From the start, Kauai had a much different feel than Maui. Maui is very nice, but Kauai was beautiful. Maui, to us, felt like it was already getting built up too much. Kauai, still seemed very lush and pristine. If I had to pick one island, I would choose Kauai without hesitation.
Stayed at this condo complex in Poipu on the south shore. Only a 20 minute drive from the airport. We were in unit 315. We paid about $150 a night or so.
The condo was very large with a full size kitchen, 1.5 bath, large living room and bedroom. Balcony overlooked the Prince Kuhio park and you can see the ocean through a few palm trees. Bed is a true King with great sheets (kinda velvety feel). They provided all you would need including collapsable cooler, beach chairs, one snorkel gear, pleny of plush towels, lotsa closet space, coffee maker, knives and utensils, and salt/pepper. TV was fine with all your major channels with VHS/DVD available. Nicely furnished and everything in good, clean condition.
There is a strong breeze from the balcony which helps cool the condo if your sliding door is open. However, if you close it while you're gone, it does get warm. There is no AC. They do have some fans though. We didn't like the idea of having the sliding doors open while we slept because the neighboring balcony can look in easily.
So, other than no AC, great place. They could use an elevator though. We were on the third floor and lugging suitcases up and down is kinda a pain. Pretty koi pond in front. They have a decent pool and some bbq grills. Their parking lot is busy but they have a parking garage in the back. Coast is across the street. Beach House Restaurant also across the street as is a small beach. Plenty of people snorkeling there, which we did as well, but be careful. The current took us a bit and we ended up on rocks because we couldn't swim against the current.
Overall, liked the condo. Was good value and good location. 20 minutes to Lihue, 45 minutes to Waimea, 60 minutes to Princeville (north shore), 90 minutes to Haena (northwest).
Our first dinner in Kauai. After seeing it on our way to the condo from the airport in Koloa, we decided to go there for diinner. Kinda like a bayou atmosphere. They had a good special of king crab legs ($28) which she ordered and i had the combo of mahi, ono, and ahi for $24. Good stuff and it came with sides. Service relaxed. Recommend for a no frills dinner experience. Tab was about $85.
The blue review book we were using suggested this place for breakfast. Kinda a greasy spoon place. Good and hearty but probably really bad for your cholesterol and your overall health. Several breakfast options had gravy included. Good but bad for you. Kid friendly. Tab about $30.
Convenient stop if you are driving along the south coast.
On Day 2 after breakfast at Camp House, we continued west just past Hanapepe and stopped at this park and beach. Very under rated! Beautiful beach, not crowded at all, restrooms, etc. Highly recommend for a quiet spot to catch some rays and relax.
After leaving Salt pond beach, we decided we wanted to get our snorkel gear at the condo. We then set off for Poipu Beach, about 5 minutes from the condo. Very pretty beach too! Very good snorkeling too! Surprised how large the fish are near the shore. Saw mostly unicornfish, some parrotfish, a puffer, and others i don't know the name of. A little more crowded but great beach.
Across from Poipu Beach is this restaurant on the second floor. Open air and great view of the beach from the tables. We had lunch here and happy hour from 3-5 pm. Great spot after a day of fun in the sun!
Day 3 and we are heading toward Haena on the northwest coast of Kauai to do some hiking. The blue book recommended a breakfast place called Dani's in Lihue. Popular with the locals, this is a basic breakfast place. Good and cheap but the portions are rather small. Bottomless coffee because they give you a pot for the table. Tab $25 for 2. Ok but you can do better.
Trying to burn some calories with all the fruity drinks we've had, we decided on doing some hiking. This trail is one of Kauai's most popular. After breakfast at Dani's, we drove to Haena which was about an hour. Parking is very, very hard to come by. We got there around noon and we parked on the shoulder of the road like everyone else. Word of advice, get there before 10 am not only for parking, but also because the hike is hard and the heat/humidity is tough!
So, we started our hike at noon. I packed sandwiches and several bottles of water for us in my backpack. Most people hike the first 2 miles to Hanakapiai beach and back (4 miles total), which is what we did. Very tough hike. Fun but hot/humid and tough. The beach is pretty and very fierce waves. You can't stay on the beach, the water constantly crashes there. You have to sit on the rocks or under the trees which is fine. We relaxed here for an hour before hiking back.
Hike is about 90 minutes there and 60 minutes back. Great views of the Napali coast. Totally recommend if you like hiking. Bring lotsa water and food. The trail is 11 miles long. If you want to pursue the next attraction past the beach, there are some wonderfall waterfalls 2 more miles away. That means you have to hike back, a total of 8 miles though. Keep in mind your abilities and supplies.
After an exhausting hike, we were ready to head towards home with a stop for dinner. Along the way is a well regarded sushi japanese restaurant called Kintaro's. Place is packed. We had excellent sushi. I especially liked the maguro (tuna) and the unagi-don (teriyaki eel on rice). Very, very good. Very good portions too. They were very generous with the sushi grade fish. Mix in some japanese beers and it was a great dinner. No view though. Traditional japanese restaurant. Tab was $100. Recommend.
After talking to a resident at Salt Pond Beach, he recommended the Grind Cafe for coffee and a meal. So, on Day 4, we decided to go there for breakfast. Great recommendation! Very good omelettes! Choice of egg whites too for the wife! I got a farmer's skillet and it was great. Tab was $27 for 2. Highly recommend!
A resident we met on the plane recommended Holo Holo charter in Elele at Port Allen for boat tours. Good recommendation. We were on a catamaran and it was a 4 hour sail. We toured the Na Pali coast, stopped anytime the captain saw a whale, was given as many drinks you wanted, and heavy hor douerves for dinner. Good experience. Too cloudy for the sunset though. Thorough, professional, and fun. A bit long but that's what it takes to get to the Na Pali coast. Waters are a bit rough in the afternoon. Waters are typically more calm in the morning but you can't see a sunset in the morning!
So we had a flier for shrimp out of a truck. Sounded weird but enticing. We love shrimp so we were going for it. The flier says they are found along a certain road near our condo. We looked and looked but could not find it. We decided to go back to the condo to find an alternative for brunch when there was the truck, parked next to our condo! They offer 3 choices, all with 10 good size shrimp with rice and slaw. Very very good! $12 a plate. They were reviewed in a san fran article (according to the couple in front of us in line) and that's how they heard about it. Recommend if you can find the truck!
Drove up to Waimea Canyon after our shrimp brunch. Takes about 2 hours to reach the top from Poipu. Gorgeous views of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific". Several hiking trails are available. We were done hiking since the Kalalau Trail earlier in our trip. Recommend.
After the canyon, we headed toward home. For dinner, we chose Duke's in Nawiliwili just south of Lihue. 2 story restaurant that is connected to the Marriott. Right in front of a great beach. I think it is called Kalapaki Beach. Now, Duke's looks like a very fancy place from the outside. Fancy meaning expensive. We were surprised how nice it was inside and it was such a good deal!
If you want dinner, make reservations and make sure you are upstairs. All entrees include the huge salad bar. She had a Huli Huli chicken entree ($18) and I had the prime rib ($27). It also came with sides. Awesome meal. Unbelievable portions on the prime rib. I can eat a lot, and i was only able to eat half. They have musicians walking around playing music at tables too. Including drinks and tip, $78. Highly highly recommend. Possibly the best deal on Kauai.
Day 6 and we wanted to head to the north shore again. On the way, we wanted lunch and we read in our blue review book of the Beach Hut next to Duke's. Small burger joint that specializes in buffalo burgers. Tasted like beef but supposedly leaner and just as good. $8 a burger and you can pay extra for the 1/2 pounder which is what I got for $9. Yummy.
Upon reading the blue review book, there was a gem of a place on the north shore between Princeville and Hanalei called the Queen's Bath. It is a pool carved out of the lava rocks naturally on the coast that you can swim in. During the winter, the waves can be dangerous and wash you out to sea. But when we went in april, it was awesome. Some strong waves but made the swimming in the pool fun! About 10 feet deep in spots but you can stand on boulders and keep your head above water. A short hike (5 minutes) from the road. Located in a residential area behind a resort.
Definitely worth trying if you are in the area! Some people were jumping off the rocks into the pool! Located off the main highway where there is a police station trailer. The street sign is kinda worn away.
After swimming in the Queen's bath, we headed toward home but we needed a quick drink. We stopped at Cococuts, a nice restaurant, to catch their happy hour. We had a fruity drink. Supposedly one of the better restaurants on Kauai without a view! We just had drinks but the bartender was very personable.
A resident said that Tunnels Beach or Makua Beach near Haena in the northwest of Kauai has the best snorkeling. Indeed, this was a great spot for Day 7. Easy current and there is a lot of large fish about. Sea turtles have been seen swimming about often. Highly recommend. Parking is a premium so you might have to go to Haena Park and walk a half mile.
Located in Kapaa on the north shore, this unassuming restaurant is surprisingly awesome! We went here after snorkeling at Tunnels and had lunch here. Every seat is an oceanfront view because they have stadium seating. They offer very good bbq entrees. I got the sampler plate which was pulled pork, brisket, and something else yummy. She had fish and chips which were good also. They also offer pitchers of beer or small or large glasses. I loved this place! Recommend!
Our last dinner and my wife's birthday. I had to pick a great romantic restaurant. I picked Tidepools and was not disappointed. Located in the Hyatt hotel in Poipu, which is a beautiful hotel, the restaurant is built on top of a huge koi pond.
We ordered the Pupu platter which had awesome crab cakes, 2 tasty wraps, and seared ahi. Unbelievably good. $30 for the appetizer. She had the grilled peppered ahi and i had the opah topped with crab and lobster meat. Hers was much better. We ordered a bottle of their cheapest white wine ($40). Total tab including tip was $190. Very good food, great atmosphere. A great place for a special meal. We recommend.
Our last day in Kauai and we wanted to see all of Kauai, from the air. Recommended as one of the best, we booked Jack Harter. Located next to the airport in Lihue, you have a couple of tour options. One, you can be in a closed helicoptor with 6 passengers and large windows. Or two, you can be in a doorless helicoptor with 4 passengers. We opted for the doorless.
Windy and you get some rain on you but you get better views (you can look straight down out of the helicoptor). They give you a great tour and history lesson of Kauai's sights. Loved the Na Pali coast as we flew into the valleys and hovered over certain areas. Cost was $250 a person. Recommend.