For people who love to travel, there’s definitely a strong motivation to constantly visit new places you’ve never been to. But sometimes, you experience a place that you fall so hard for, you leave and it draws you right back.
On my 26th birthday, I did my first solo trip to Kauai during a time when I had just moved to San Francisco and was learning the unexpected beauty of traveling on my own. I fell hard and fast for the island, and was completely swept away by the spirit of aloha.
When the trip was over, I knew I had to come back for twice as long and with a more ambitious agenda to see more of this Jurassic Neverland.
Fast forward a year, and my wild dreams for another Kauai trip had now evolved into corralling a group of six new friends flying in, a Google Doc stacked with ideas and logistics, and one main goal: get stoked out of our minds for ten days.
When everyone arrived, I laid down the first order of business: jump into the ocean and order a round of Mai Tais–a classic first move I highly recommend. I didn’t know how this trip was going to go, but I was ready for anything to happen.
For the entire trip, we packed everything into a classy Toyota Sienna minivan (which we promptly named the Swagger Wagon) and drove around blasting music and Kevin James stand-up comedy to waterfalls, hikes, beaches, and camp spots. Although the Swagger Wagon got gnarly to say the least, it was our faithful adventure steed all over Kauai.
And as cliche as this might sound, we became more and more like family each day. Clothes (sometimes underwear) were always drying on the dashboard, many meals were group projects we cooked together, and life became a free flowing wave of conversations and unlocking the insane beauty of an island together.
Photos and words by Michelle Park @trainsandplanes
Here are some Kauai travel recommendations from Michelle!
- Ha Coffee Bar for amazing coffee and acai bowls (Lihue).
- Costco: If you’re like me, you love cooking with your friends on trips and thankfully there is a number of main grocery stores on the island including Costco in Lihue to do grocery runs or if you need some cheap gas for your Swagger Wagon.
- Poke at Big Save Market. Order all the poke you can fit in your arms and walk to the beach to eat while watching the sunset.
- Ship Wreck’s Beach (cliff jumping, surfing, and sunsets)
- Turtle Cove: Dive with Garden Isle Divers for a phenomenal diving experience under the guidance of knowledgeable, passionate, and fun guides. This was my first time diving, and I can’t imagine a better company to spend the day diving with at such a great price point.
- Polihale Beach State Park, one of my favorite campsites on the planet. You drive out for a couple hours to the end of the Napali Coast and at night, the Milky Way Galaxy is a magnificent, painted ceiling above you. Out there, the only other source of light apart from the stars is your campfire. *Beach camping isn’t always regulated but it’s best to get a permit beforehand online. There is potable water, fire pits, and bathrooms.
- Kalepa Ridge Hike, an easy hike to get some mind blowing views above the Napali Coast.
- Amazing, healthy eats and coffee at Java Kai
- Kauai Juice Co. for a huge selection of trendy juice, nitro coffee, and other healthy elixers.
- Ke’e Beach Hike: The beginning portion of the Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach. This hike is a perfect way to experience the epicness of the Napali Coast. We ended our hike around sunset, and hung our hammocks to watch the sun go down on Ke’e Beach.
- Queen’s Bath
- Tiki Iniki: Casual late night eats and drinks like the Zombie Bowl (a punch bowl of rum set on fire)