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kauai and the big island

December 1, 2017

View from Grand Hyatt, Kauai

Aloha! We just got back from an awesome family trip and friends have been asking for information so I am putting it all here.

It all started with a phone call from Hilton honors offering us a great deal on the big island for 5 nights, 6 days. After I paid a small fee to upgrade to a 2 bedroom condo, I knew this trip was going to happen! Since we were traveling all that way, I decided we should also visit Kauai and am so glad we did.

Starting with Kauai- we flew Denver to Honolulu, then quick flight to Lihue. I rented a car which was key on this island. We decided to stay on the south end as the weather is supposed to be more consistent. We had a room at the Grand Hyatt and fortunately booked a family rate as we had to book two rooms for my family of 5. It basically gives you a break on the second room – (not a huge one, but helpful!) I use a travel agent to give us perks like free breakfast, free appetizers and room upgrade if available. Free breakfast is KEY here. We had a buffet at Tidepools and even though it was free, I tipped everyday and it would have been about $140 every morning. The Grand Hyatt is BIG. We had our fitness trackers and it was 500 steps from parking to our room! Great exercise. The lagoon area is under construction which is a bummer so hopefully that wraps up soon! Pros: great location, loved the trail to Shipwreck rock- go at sunrise!, awesome workout room, Seaview Terrace is stunning- we saw whales while sitting on the terrace. Friendly staff, and on the ocean. Cons: no room wow factor other than the view (we had two Deluxe oceanfront rooms, adjoining), the pool was freezing, like ice cold. They have a lazy river, but you have to pay to rent your tube??

What we did on Kauai: this island overwhelmed me at first! There is sooooo much to do! We spent one day around our hotel and went to the beach right by the Sheraton and Brenneckes. This was a great lunch spot to grab hot dogs for the kids and deli sandwiches for Tom and me. (located downstairs) This beach is a little rocky, however, so be prepared. Luke split his knee open on a rock when the surf came in. Not the best start to our day! We brought snorkel gear before we left and this would be a KEY purchase if you like to snorkel. I bought 2 sets of these but should have bought 3! They were a great for the kids but they don’t have flippers which I would add. Any tour we took, they gave us flippers but nice to have for yourself when you go to beaches on your own. At 5, Brooke didn’t wear the snorkel mask, but just her swimming goggles and flippers and did awesome!


sunscreen (much cheaper to bring), Snorkel sets, water shoes for everyone


Blue Ocean Adventures of Na Pali Coast

We booked a tour with Blue Ocean Adventure Tours – I had followed them on instagram for a year and couldn’t wait! We were supposed to go up the Na Pali coast but the swells were too large and we ended up going south instead. It was BEAUTIFUL. Keep in mind you are on a 25’ Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RIB). RIBs are commonly used by Navy Seals and Coast Guard Rescue. So, it’s a rougher ride than a catamaran. Because of Brooke’s age, they gave her a seat in the back and she was not on the side like the boys were. It was very fast and wet but I liked how we were so close to the water and could jump in quickly when we stopped! There were some bigger boats that we much higher and more of a spectator option. Snorkeling was beautiful. Will brought his GoPro and has beautiful footage of swimming right beside turtles and fish. While Tom and Will were snorkeling, a pod of dolphins swam through and they both had 5 dolphins swim directly below them! Tom said that it was one of the most incredible experiences he has ever had. Our guide said that experience happens only once or twice a year! The ride there was smooth and then the wind changed and was very choppy on the way home- Tom’s back hurt the next day- fyi! I would go with them again up the Na Pali Coast in a heartbeat. If this sounds too crazy, Captain Andy’s was highly referred – especially their sunset cruise!


We had some awesome places we enjoyed eating-

The Fresh Shave– this is an awesome food truck with delicious shaved ice – we went more than once! Beside this truck was a great find- Roots in Culture– OH my- the fresh catch over soba noodles and the brussel sprouts were soooooo good! We truly wolfed their food down!  – here is a list of other awesome ones!


Mai Tai’s at Keoki’s Paradise


So yea, that would be one slice of HULA PIE!

Eating with kids can be hard on a trip, but we loved Keiko’s Paradise by our hotel. We went twice for the happy hour 3-5, great pork sandwiches, fish and chips and of course, HULA PIE. Their mai tais were amazing as well and less at happy hour! Another awesome spot was the Beach House-  you can reserve this on open table. Pictures aren’t enough. One of the most beautiful settings of a restaurant in the world. We went for lunch as we didn’t think the kids would appreciate a $40 dinner meal. It was AWESOME! Right by the restaurant is a beach area where we watched the sunset on our own one night. It’s a straight shot. We also stopped at Kalalea Juice Bar on the way to Hanalei and it was so good. We LOVE acai bowls and tried their original and the King Kong and gobbled them up. If it weren’t so far from our hotel, we would have gone everyday.  If you love acai bowls too- read this article as I now realized there was a great spot RIGHT BY US. We never made it to Duke’s but it’s same owners at Keiko’s and wish we had! In Hanalei, we had to stop at Tahiti Nui– as a Mai Tai lover, I had torn out a small article on the best mai tai in the islands and this was the spot! We came at happy hour and the server told me they probably had already served 60 in the last hour. It’s a small spot and the kids loved their pizza. The movie The Descendants was filmed here as you will see Georgie on their website! (Brooke was sad it wasn’t the other Disney movie Descendants!) We also went to The Dolphin Market and the boys bought fresh sushi rolls from the back market (not to be confused with the side restaurant) – we ate them outside in the misting rain (North Side has much more moisture) and then the boys said “Can we go get another?” It was so fresh, we did it all over again!   Final thought- Lappert’s Ice Cream– YUM!!


Waimea Canyon

We loved driving up Waimea Canyon– we downloaded the app- Shaka Guide– was definitely worth $5- the guy is a little cheesy but it made us all laugh and I reco driving all the way to the end- that view is worth it.


View of Hanalei

Driving to Hanalei was STUNNING. The trees, the water, the small roads- it’s still so undeveloped- just can’t say it enough that Kauai is unreal! I follow Kasey Buick on insta and she lives on the north end and wrote a great list years ago of her favorite spots- it’s no longer on her blog but here it is 1. and 2. screenshot on pinterest!

I think I covered Kauai! Let’s move to the Big Island!

This is totally opposite of Kauai- I felt like I was on a planet with all the rock from the volcano! Again, it’s amazing how you drive a one way highway. Not busy, no real traffic what we experienced- just easy!


Boys paddle boarding at the Hilton, fake waterfall!

We had booked a Hilton Grand Vacation- so we were in Kingsland – in Building 25 which was brand new. We had a great condo with 2 bedrooms. It was all nicely done. The only missing part was we were not on the main Hilton property so you are a bit removed. The first day we parked at the resort (one mile drive) and went to the lagoon area and rented a paddle board. The kids were swimming and paddling right beside large sea turtles. It was great! We had lunch by the lagoon and could see the ocean. After we decided to try Lava Lava Beach Club – which is a super great place right on the water. It was a beautiful scene and I ordered the catch of the day- I definitely had the best dish at the table! The other dishes were average but liked the live music and beach location.


View from our pool at Kingsland


Lava Lava Beach Club

The other days we spent exploring the beaches around Waikoloa. We rented boogie boards at Hapuna State Park, and also visited Beach 69 and Beach Holoholokai .

Hapuna was definitely a favorite- we went back twice- not rocky, kids were in the water all day. $10 rentals of boards from the snack shop for the day.


Mauna Lani hotel- can you see why we stayed after lunch?

We went to lunch at Mauna Lani hotel which was close to us and had a great beach! We walked in like we were staying there and had a good lunch. After, Brooke asked to swim at the pool and we decided to do it! After 2 hours, I was approached poolside by a nice woman who asked for our room number. Our gig was up (I think our hilton towels may have given us away!) She told us we were fine to stay but couldn’t return the next day. This completely embarrassed our oldest child! Oh well- it was fun!

Places we ate: We ate at our condo as we had a full kitchen for all breakfasts and some dinners- other times we tried:

Sansei Sushi– we went between 5:30- 6 to get 25 percent off our bill. Was a good meal.

Juice 101– wish we hadn’t found this on our last day. We had a great acai bowl, and a kids smoothie here. YUM! Service was slow, but nice.

Kohala Burger and Taco– people raved about it but we had under cooked food. Maybe they had an off day?


Endless Summer Adventures- so awesome


Endless Summer Adventures, Hawaii

The best experience we had was through Endless Summer Charters– Capt Bryan and Chris were fun and we had the boat to ourselves for 4 hours. We snorkeled a beautiful area and saw tons of dolphins. We would book with him again next trip!


See those turtles?

On our last day, we headed to Lava Lava Beach Club again because their beach area is known to be where turtles sun themselves. It was true! Easy to spot and easy to swim with them. Unfortunately, Will went to snorkel and stepped on a sharp coral and cut his foot – which is why I would suggest water shoes again for all!

We had many suggestions of great places from friends – and we didn’t head to Volcanoes National Park as there wasn’t active lava flowing to see and it was a long drive. At this point in the vacation, we just wanted to relax and not spend a day in the car. I’m sure there are some very cool places we missed and hope to see on another visit!  Hope this is helpful to all of you who may be traveling there- you lucky ducks!

Special shout out to many friends who gave us tips on these islands- Jim, Misha, Jill, Kim and Courtney Regan!












One Comment leave one →
  1. Diana Morrow permalink
    December 1, 2017 11:46 am

    Suzanne -Thanks for the amazing blog on your trip!! I always save the links so I can refer back to them for our family or other friends.

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