Looking for (not so) big adventures on Kauai
April 26, 2014 3:42 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are going to Kauai for vacation in May, we're spending the first two days South of Lihue on our own, and then meeting up with a big bunch of family in Princeville for a whole week. As two late twenties, gay, slightly geeky, not super hardcore outdoorsy types, what should we absolutely not miss during our trip?

I looked back through older questions on vacations to Kauai, but I'm not sure how up to date they are. I'm also a little bit curious about the LGBT scene/ experience on the island. If you've had a great or terrible experience on the island as a gay couple I'd like to hear about that too, just so we can prepare our expectations a bit.

Things we are planning on doing so far:
-The Art Night in Hanapepe
-The gourmet Farmer's market in Kukui`ula
-The tube ride in the plantation
-The Hindu Monastary walking tour

Things we love, no matter where we are:
-Cheesy Tourist adventures
-Places for interesting photography (probably not too hard to find on Kauai!)
-Live music
-Fun fruity drinks
-Great food

Where else should we go? What else should we do? Is there anywhere truly amazing we need to go to eat? Help make this trip the best it can be for us :)
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum to Travel & Transportation around Kauai, HI (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Koloa Rum company is just outside Lihue and they do a really fun tasting. You can also tour the Kauai Coffee farm. The Shrimp Station restaurant is very good.
posted by entropyiswinning at 4:39 PM on April 26, 2014

Best answer: Make sure to see Tunnels beach on the North Shore. Go snorkeling there. It should be perfect conditions when you're there. Note that the correct snorkeling spot at Tunnels is right where the beach starts to make a right turn, way down (1/2 mile?) from the parking lot. Most people snorkel in the wrong spot.

Definitely stop and see Waimea Canyon. There are several great overlooks. Make sure to go all the way to the end of the road in Koke'e State Park. If it's cloudy when you're up there, WAIT. It generally will clear up and the view is unreal. Be sure to see Wailua and Opaekaa falls.

The helicopter ride over Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast is once in a lifetime and worth every penny you'll pay. Photos are better in the afternoon, though it's also more likely to be cloudy.

I *really* like Verde's (New Mexican) as well as the Coconut Cup smoothie bar (smoothies made with REAL fruit. Amazing) in Kapaa. I like JoJos in Waimea for shave ice. Brick Oven Pizza in Kalaheo is tasty.

Take a boat ride along the Na Pali coast starting in the North shore. The morning boat rides are less rough, so I'd recommend that. (This is not particularly adventurous, unless seasickness is a huge problem for you. You do snorkel at the end.)

I can't imagine you'll have a problem being gay in Kauai. Kauai is filled with liberal hippies. If you do have any problems, it's more likely intolerant visitors than locals.

This is mostly outdoorsy, but I didn't recommend any hiking at all. It's all driving, viewpoints and a couple of rides. That's what in Kauai!

Have fun!
posted by cnc at 4:47 PM on April 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

There used to be a lady who made and sold Portugese doughnuts (can't recall the right name) outside the Wal-Mart in Lihue. Great place to buy orchids but probably not able to bring them back, to CA at least.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:23 PM on April 26, 2014

Best answer: Marlene the Malasada Lady! She's now in front of K-Mart, 4303 Nawiliwili Road, Lihue.
posted by kinetic at 5:38 PM on April 26, 2014

I love the macadamia nut pancakes with guava jam at Tip Top Cafe in Lihue. Total hole in the wall. Seriously good.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:35 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding a boat ride up the Na Pali coast. Waimea canyon awesome. If you are feeling a bit venturous contact Kayak Kauai, lots of fun trips to take. A bit tiring though. If you get a chance, sunset in Hanalei Bay is awfully hard to beat.
posted by jcworth at 8:23 PM on April 26, 2014

Go see my cousin perform with his comedy troupe! InsPirates
posted by Jazz Hands at 9:32 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Recommended for food:
Koloa Fish Market
Pono Market, Kapaa
Caffe Coco, Kapaa - also has live music
I also second the recommendation for Verde. It's really good.

I see you're not staying near Kapaa but you might pass through a number of times, so… consider making it a meal stop. I know you mention not being outdoorsy, but if you have any interest at all in snorkeling, I recommend Poipu Beach park as a place that you can easily just wander into with a bit of rented equipment (even just goggles!) and look around underwater and see beautiful fishes. It's a safe, family style beach, not a more intimidating/wild one.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:20 PM on April 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A not so big adventure we loved was visiting the Makauwahi Cave Reserve. It's only staffed on Sundays but if you're going to be in that area, for example visiting Poipu Beach, it's an interesting geological location and a very easy walk.
posted by girlhacker at 10:56 PM on April 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I found the Kalalau Trail to be spectacularly scenic and it is one of my favorite memories of my visit to Kauai.

Hiking the entire trail is a major undertaking and requires permits to go past Hanakoa Beach, but assuming you are reasonably fit you can get a sense of the trails' flavor (and some amazing scenic views) by hiking only the first section to Hanakapi'ai Beach. If you're more ambitious you can go to Hanakoa (6 miles in, 6 miles out) but round trip to Hanakapi'ai would be a sufficient hike for a casual hiker and it is a really, truly amazing place.


My other hiking experience on Kauai I wouldn't wish on anyone, but it was my own damn fault and you can at least learn from my mistake. I visited Waimea Canyon State Park (quite beautiful) with insufficient info (I'd had a hiking book with details on the area trails but had lost it earlier in my trip) and without the essentials for a hike (specifically: without plenty of drinking water.) I am much more experienced with elevation changes now, but at the time lived in a very flat part of the country and had never spent much time in terrain as steep as the canyon. I walked one of the trails from the canyon rim down to the river and had a very nice descent, during which I drank all the water I had brought with me. When I turned around to climb back out the several thousand feet I had descended, I realized I had made a mistake but not how grave it was. To make a long story short, I eventually stumbled out of the canyon exhausted, and severely, dangerously dehydrated. If you are not used to steep terrain or hiking in a hot climate, bring much more water than you think you are going to need -- you can always pour it out if you are mistaken.

Oh, and don't let me scare you away from visiting Waimea Canyon, just be smarter about it than I was if you set out to hike into the canyon. And have a fabulous trip.
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:29 AM on April 27, 2014

My husband and I - confirmed couch potatoes, went to Kauai for the first time in January and loved it. We split our time between Hanalei and Kapa’a.
Some recommends (I know, a little food centric):
Kauai Ono outdoor dinner
Tahiti Nui
The Hanalei Saturday Farmer’s Market was definitely worth a visit
The lighthouse at Kilauea is a nice walk and we saw some whale action

Seconding Pono Market, especially the sesame poke
Hee Fat Shave Ice (!)
Coco Palms Walking Tour
Thirding Verde

IMHO, I felt Kauai was quite laid back and liberal in temperament (at least from a tourist perspective). Hanalei has a history of hippy character, as witnessed in the documentary Taylor Camp.

Also, a great parody which was fun to watch after we came home was the South Park episode that includes Coco Palms.

We made a point of ordering Mai Tais where ever we went, there was no shortage of fun fruity drinks to be had. Sitting on a lanai and sharing a cocktail was actually my favorite activity. For the record we did our share of walking on beaches and even rode bikes. You will no doubt have a great time!
posted by dchunks at 9:37 AM on April 27, 2014

Best answer: My family and I have spent several weeks in Kauai over the past few years, always staying in Hanalei-- we absolutely love that town. Based on what you've said about yourselves, here's what I'd say is not to be missed:

Ke'e Beach-- at the end of the road on the North Shore, really beautiful. You can also do the first bit of the Napali Coast trail hike (it's no joke, but even I was able to do half a mile or so, and I'm no hiker).

Bar Acuda in Hanalei is a great tapas spot for dinner run by a chef who used to have a couple restaurants in San Francisco.

Kilauea Fish Market is great for lunch-- they do some nice salads and plates, and you can pick up something to cook for dinner, too.

The Hindu Monastery is very cool-- do make sure you call ahead to get on the scheduled tour, which allows you to visit the temple they're building rather than just look from afar. I think they do the tour once a week.

Helicopter ride around the island is expensive, but so, so cool.

I'd recommend renting snorkel gear for the week-- just throw it in the trunk and you'll have it when you want it.

Have a great time!
posted by hwickline at 12:32 PM on April 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all for the answers! I'm at least three times as excited to go now that we have specific things to look forward to!!!
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 4:13 PM on April 30, 2014

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