On our honeymoon, Gary and I talked a little bit more in depth about our goals each year. We both decided that we wanted to make traveling a priority. Since we both share a passion for traveling, I thought that I’d start sharing tips along the way and after our travels to help you out if you choose to travel to some of the same places.
Choosing the destination
After we decided on Hawaii, we needed to figure out which island(s) we wanted to go to and explore. I began researching each island to find out more information about the atmosphere, available activities, and tourist density. This website was really helpful in deciphering which island we wanted to visit – I highly recommend it as a resource. Since we were going on our honeymoon, we wanted less hustle and bustle and more relaxation, so we decided to go to Kauai. There are no skyscrapers in Kauai – only small surf towns, lush jungles, gorgeous beaches, and unbelievable sunsets.
When to go
In my opinion, we visited Hawaii at the perfect time. We were there in early May and the weather was beautiful. It wasn’t too hot the majority of the time we were there – some days it was low 80’s and high 60’s at night – perfect. Another aspect to consider is high and low season. We were there in low season, so there weren’t many tourists and most of the beaches weren’t crowded at all.
Budgeting & Saving Money
Gary and I are huge budgeters when it comes to traveling. We had several costs to consider, so we worked on a budget for a month before we went to Hawaii. For us, it’s really important to stick as close as we can to our budget, but sometimes things don’t always work out the way we think, so we make sure to have a buffer or move costs around.
We recommend going to Walmart for all your groceries as you’ll save so much money. We made the mistake of going to the local grocery stores and spent a little too much – they have to import everything using local agreements (instead of national distribution deals), so their prices are higher. Since we stayed in a condo, we had the option of cooking our meals and decided that we’d only eat out one meal a day. This decision helped us financially because Hawaii’s food, though delicious, is very expensive.
Another way to save money is by booking activities through your hotel or condo. We received discounts on all four of the activities we pre-booked on the island through our condo management company.
Getting there and back
As everyone knows, Hawaii is far away (exactly 2,390 miles from the California coast) and some may think it’s quite daunting to actually get there. Though expensive to fly, there are ways to get to Hawaii fairly inexpensively. We chose to pay a little bit more so our travel time was less (15 hours vs. 25 hours). Gary and I bought two one-way tickets. Flying to Kauai, we caught flights with Alaska Airlines (ATL –> SEA –> LIH) for under $725 (~$362 per person). Flying to Los Angeles from Kauai (LIH –> HNL –> LAX), we utilized Hawaiian airlines to secure flights right around the $665 dollar mark (~$332 per person). Finally, we flew back home from Los Angeles (LAX –> ATL) for $240 (~$120 per person) with American Airlines. Overall, our flights cost us right around $1,630 in total, which ended up around $300 cheaper than buying round trip tickets from Atlanta to Kauai. The lesson here? If you want to have some extra vacation cash, make sure you explore all viable flight combinations and alternatives when purchasing plane tickets.
Where to stay
Gary and I originally wanted to stay at a hotel but quickly found that staying at a hotel was way out of our price range ($259/night at the Marriott with a garden view). I was tired of looking for somewhere to stay, so I gave Gary the task of finding our accommodations. Thank goodness I did because he found Suite Paradise and we decided to stay in a beautiful condo right off the ocean front at a much more affordable price. The condo was perfect for us because we bought groceries and cooked as much as we could – this strategy saved us a lot of money when compared to simply going out for every meal.
Kauai is a big island and there are so many activities to do and beaches to visit. With that said, you’ll definitely need to rent a car. Because we are still under 25 and can’t rent a car without multiple fees (sometimes $50 per day), we decided to go with Turo. We rented a little Prius from a very sweet couple for the 15 nights we were on the island. Believe it or not, the decision to utilize Turo saved us over $500 during our stay!! Even if you’re over 25, Turo serves as an extremely viable and effective alternative to the traditional rental car companies you’re familiar with (Avis, Enterprise, etc.).
How to plan your days
When we visit a new destination, I always research the area first. Hawaii was no different, so in addition to researching online, I also bought this book to help me. I swear by Lonely Planet’s books – I think they are so informational and helpful in trip planning. I began reading a few months before we went and made a list of must-sees. I always do this because I don’t want to get to the new destination and be completely overwhelmed with what to do, eat, and see. I don’t like to plan our entire trip, but I do like to keep in mind a few options of what we can do. As I mentioned earlier, Gary and I pre-booked four activities before we actually arrived on the island, so we came into the trip with a loosely formed agenda already in place. Once we were on the island, we kept in mind what we had already booked and went day-by-day, deciding what we wanted to do along the way.
What to pack
If you’re visiting Kauai, I recommend taking plenty of bikinis, shorts, sandals, tank tops, and dresses. Gary and I didn’t go out to any fancy dinners because we wanted to spend as much time as we could on the beach, so we brought mostly casual clothes. If you’d like to read more about what clothes to pack, read this post. You’ll also need a GoPro and a camera. Kauai is so beautiful, so you’ll definitely want to take tons of pictures and videos while you’re there.
Where to eat
As I mentioned before, Gary and I didn’t eat at any super nice restaurants and opted for the hole-in-the-wall places. (I should preface this by saying that neither of us liked the traditional Hawaiian food as it was too sweet for our tastes, so we didn’t eat more authentic Hawaiian food other than what we ate at the luau). If you’re in Kauai, we recommend a few different places:
–Kukuiula Market for acai bowls
–Da Crack for Mexican food
–The Fresh Shave for shaved ice
–Kauai Food Truck for a quick lunch
–Kauai Ramen for their gyoza
–Puka Dog for their Hawaiian hot dogs
–Koloa Mill Ice Cream & Coffee for their ice cream
–Kauai Bakery for their malasadas
–Pizzetta when you need a pizza
–Bubba Burgers for their chili cheese fries
–Tortilla Republic for their brunch
–SushiGirl Kauai for fresh sushi
–Ally’s Cocina for the best Venezuelan food
–Makai Sushi for fresh (made in front of your face) sushi
–Keoki’s Paradise for a nice lunch or dinner
–The Garden Isle Grille for a nice dinner
–La Spezia for their breakfast
–Mema Thai Chinese Cuisine for the best coconut curry
What you should do and see
Gary and I recommend a few activities and things you should see:
–Waimea Canyon Drive: this drive will take three to four hours, depending on how many lookouts you stop at. We recommend getting up and going early in the morning as it’s less crowded and less hot. You will see waterfalls, the lush Napali Coast, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” and a few chickens along the way. Make sure you take snacks!
–Surf Lessons: I learned how to surf when I was young growing up in Florida, but never tried it again once my family moved to Alabama. I always wanted to try it as an adult and Gary had never tried it before, so we decided to take Surf Lessons one morning with Kauai Surf School and had a great time. I recommend going in the morning as it’s not too hot outside and the beach isn’t crowded with onlookers in case you wipe out!
–ATV Tour: Gary and I heard about the ATV tours on the island and knew we had to book a tour. We went with Kipu Ranch Adventures and loved every minute of it! You will see where they filmed several movies such as Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones. It was so fun!
–Napali Coast Tour: One of the activities I wanted to do was see the Napali Coast from the water. We booked a Napali Coast Tour, which was my favorite activity. We spent a few hours out on the water and were able to see the cliffs of the Napali Coast as well as spots where a few movies were filmed. It was so beautiful – there are no words to describe it! I highly recommend a tour (by boat or helicopter) if you’re on the island.
–Snorkel: we rented snorkel gear from our condo and it was one of the best decisions we made. Gary had never snorkeled before, so once we received the snorkeling gear, we (mostly Gary) practiced in the pool for a few hours on the day before our drive to Hanalei. Once in Hanalei, we walked over to Tunnels Beach with its crystal clear water and snorkeled for a while. This beach is home to a beautiful, expansive reef where there is so much underwater life to see!
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