Dream Come True: Kauai with My Kids (10 and 13) $3/night Camping, Swimming with Sea Turtles ...

I'd had "Hawaii" on my vision board for  couple of years and when I found (and bought!) this gorgeous Angel Christmas ornament at the local Thrift store I had a ripple of excitement go through my bones as I caught a glimpse of the thought that was casually passing through my head, "This is the year we go to Hawaii." 

Our Christmas tree is generally mainly made up of 3 categories of decorations;  1. things the kids have made, 2. art a friend has made and 3. souvenirs/mementos of memorable things we've done or places we've gone to in the past - we add one or two souvenirs or mementos every year and it's grown into a bit of a walk-down-memory-lane tree. So, buying something to put on the tree was kind of breaking tradition ... it made me curious ...

 The Angel seemed to have an abundant, dreams-can-come-true, Hawaiian ocean feel about her and although i didn't actively start planning anything, I did find I would sometimes look at her and nod ...  Hawaii hey? ... nice ... hmmm ... I  wonder  how  that's  gonna  happen  ... 

The Angel seemed to have an abundant, dreams-can-come-true, Hawaiian ocean feel about her and although i didn't actively start planning anything, I did find I would sometimes look at her and nod ... Hawaii hey? ... nice ... hmmm ... I wonder how that's gonna happen ... 

It wasn't until April when the possibility of a trip to Hawaii started to reveal itself  - some friends had just camped on a beach in Kauai for $3/night (!), turns out that I had enough air miles to get the 3 of us there for just over $600 CAD all in and one thing led to another pretty quick for our May trip to become a reality! (-:

Here's the low down on our learnings ...

Flights

West jet offers seasonal service to and from Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii (LIH) starting Oct 29, 2017 and ending Apr 28, 2018 - if you go outside of these times you are going through LAX (Los Angelos) with another airline. 

Car Rental - new to us!

  • Car rental is at the airport - a 5 minute shuttle takes you right there.
  • "Just make sure you don't get any sand or suntan lotion on the seats or you'll have to pay an extra cleaning fee" was what we were told by the rental car place as we were given the keys. "Just?!" lol "We're camping in Hawaii!" Anyway, next time we will bring a couple old sheets to put on the seats.
  • Do factor in the time to head to a carwash place before you are returning the car - returning the car was actually a super quick and easy process. Dishwashing liquid and elbow grease got the suntan lotion out! There's a carwash near the airport that is part of a gas station (Hokulei Chevron). The other one is self-serve car wash and you just need to make sure you've got lot of coins (Sudz).
  • Promise me you won't spend (waste) much time figuring out the best car rental place online, reading reviews, etc.(!) ... like I did!  Figure out size you need and go with your gut. (-: We went through the Costco site since we have a card but priceline.com and expedia.ca are good too.

First Night Hotel

•    There are lots of hotels - we stayed at the Garden Island Inn Hotel – 3445 – Wilcox Road, Lihue - (808) 245-7227. It was 5 minutes from the airport which was fab. Excellent service, clean, joyful. Generous staff – you can borrow towels, boogies boards, snorkels, etc. for the whole day even if you're checking out before noon. Our favourite boogie board beach was in front of the Marriott hotel which is a 5 minute walk from Garden Island Inn. Hotel wasn't inexpensive ($193 USD for 3 persons) but we arrived in after 9 pm so camping that first night was out and as we booked last minute there weren't a lot of options. I would recommend checking out airbnb for places to stay too but generally we found with airbnb in Kauai there weren't many places where you could stay just one night. Go with Garden Island if you’re cool with that price – great place!

•    The local hostel was $38 USD/night so the best deal for sure for an inside accommodation - you need to book in advance for this and they do have a couple private rooms.    

Camping

•    The camping office is right by the post office - 4444-Rice Street, Mo’ikeha Building, Suite 105. Phone: (808) 241-4463 – open 8:15 am to 4:00 pm Monday to Friday. Children under 18 years old are free ... I was expecting to pay $3 per person (my kids are 10 and 13) and just couldn't believe when they gave me the total for the 8 days accommodation ... $24. (-: www.kauai.gov for more info.

•    Weekly Campground Closures - each campground closes for 1-2 days per week for cleaning. Website and permit office has all the details.

•    Anini Beach Campground was where we stayed mostly (loved it!) – fyi it’s closed on Tuesdays. This is a great campground for families as there is a massive reef there so no big waves hit the beach. Drinking water, flush toilets, sinks by campsites to wash dishes, cold outside showers. (-: This is where we swam with the big leather back turtles. I would highly recommend renting a paddle board for a couple days if you have kids as you can paddle around together over the reef and watch the turtles swim below very easily (or jump in with them). The paddle board allows you to easily glide over the reef that sometimes is very close to the surface. You can also go to the dock in the day use area at Anini beach and snorkel and swim easily from there  - you will see the turtles if you're just a little bit patient - there are many who live in that reef area - get those eagle eyes out and watch for their head to pop up for a breath and then go join them. (-: So magical !   

  • Wild chickens and roosters are everywhere – they were no trouble at all. They are up early (!) but this was ok for us – we went to sleep early anyway and were able to fall back asleep. We brought earplugs for night time!
  • Haena Beach Park Campground - this one is at the end of the North End of the Island where the spectacular Napali Coast Trail begins. Wow! This is the best beach for finding amazing shells and a great place to camp while you explore the Napali coast trail for some day hiking. Haena Park is open on Tuesday – closed Wednesdays.

Beaches

 •    Lydgate Park - a must for families with young children. You can picnic, play at the massive wooden play-structure, swim, snorkel - they have walled off an area where the water is pretty shallow but swimmable and you can see so many beautiful fish. Kids will love this !

•    Hanalei Bay - has lifeguard - excellent for boogie boarding. 

  • Po'ipu Beach Park (south) - in May it is calmer in the south so snorkelling is good here. We saw a big leatherback and a couple of endangered Monk seals! Salt Pond is a family friendly beach in the south too.

•    The hot tip we found out to figure out where the best safest beaches to go that day were  was to go to one of the beaches with a lifeguard and ask them. The lifeguards are amazing and know the conditions on all the beaches and where it's best to go for boogie boarding, snorkelling, etc. There are signs for riptides, etc. on the beaches. We learned that when there is a little red flag on the signs you best stay away. http://www.kauai.com/kauai-surf-report is where you can go on the net to get the current reports.

Hikes - go early if you can ...

  • Napali Coast Trail - a must see. What many families do is hike into the first beach (4 km or so). You don't need a Napali State Park Permit if you don't go past the first beach or waterfall and it is a pretty easy hike. If you head down to the beach and walk to the right along the sand you will find a pretty cool huge cave - it was safe for us to explore and find some much appreciated shade in the day we went. From the beach there is a trail up to an AMAZING waterfall and swimming hole. A highlight of our trip for sure. It's only 4 km return to the Falls and you are crossing the river and climbing over rocks and roots a bunch - the youngest child I saw on that trail was around 6 years old. It took me and my 13 years old around 2 hours - give yourself 3 or even 4 hours if you like waterfalls as there's a big area up by the waterfall that you can hang out at. Hot tip: Bring plenty of water and snacks and big hats as it is in the open mainly and if the Sun is out as it often is you will appreciate having enough water.
  • Waimea Canyon - Whole circuit of hiking trails there and there is both camping and cabins to rent. If you drive to the end of the Kauai's main road you will get to a pretty spectacular lookout - if you can be there before 8 am you will get the best views - after that it is luck of the draw as the clouds can roll over the view.

Other Outings/Tips We Heard About But Didn't Get Around To … Yet !

•    Renting bikes and biking along the coast from Kapaa

•    Haena - Botanical Garden

 * Massage from Anahola Massage or Wild Soul Wellness

•    North Country Farms on North shore

•    Outfitters Kauai - ziplines, SUP - www.outfitterskauai.com, Wailu River Kayak Tours www.aliikayaks.com

•    Go to Kauai in Feb-Mar-April – Whales come to the waters for birthing! xo  November is a great month to go for good weather. May was warm and less rain so great for camping.

  • Kauai Coffee Company – 870 - Halewili Rd, Kalaheo. Free coffee tastings and walking tour.  If you love coffee you have to go here – it’s a coffee plantation and apparently home to some of the best coffee in the world!

Favorite Eats

  • Tiki Tacos - 1 Taco is $8 USD and is massive. I ordered an organic lamb salad there that was A-MAZING. The burritos were a hit with the kids too.
  • Grocery Store - back cooler sections of stores where prepared food items were a favourite place to grab a healthy snack or part of a meal. For example we would buy the Hawaiian "poke" (raw marinated fish/meat) and add it to some rice we cooked and add some vegetables on the side for a tasty dinner. We also bought eggs and oats and could cook these all up - easy peasy on our little stove. Hanalei grocery store was our favourite. Organic veg and fruit, etc. at good prices.
  • Papayas Health Food Store - great by weight salad bar and above bar smoothies! As an ND I had access to anything I could possibly need homeopathically which came in handy when the kids got a sunburn that started to bubble and turn into vesicles )-: Urtica urens 30 CH is a homeopathic that can speed healing of burns - wow ... gave it to the kids before bed and the next morning no vesicles at all - great one for a travel first aid kit.
  • Kalapaki Beach Hut - near Garden Island Hotel and the great Marriott Hotel boogie board beach. Smoothies, wraps, burgers, taro chips - great prices, tasty!
  • Kauai Pasta
  • Snow cone Hanalei - I don't generally go for these I felt more like I was buying an experience than anything else ... they take the snow cone thing to the next level in Hanalei Bay let's just say!
  • Farmer Markets - there's one everyday of the week in different locations - Kealia Farms is open 3 pm - 6 pm Monday and Friday. Hanalei Market is a nice Saturday am one - 9:30 - noon.

 Favourite Things We Brought or Bought ...

  • Ukulele - you can get lessons there at the Community Center or buy a Ukulele in Hanalei. Hawaii is Ukulele World Headquarters so if you're feeling the pull, this is your chance to get strummin'.
  • Cooler (used this as one of our luggage and packed it full)
  • Big hats
  • Whisperlite stove (from MEC)  you can fill it up with a can of white gas from the ABC store there
  • Rashguards - long sleeve swim shirt - it gets hot and whatever you can do to prevent a burn the better
  • Steal-of-a-deal Dried Organic Mango and Macadamian nuts from Costco (near Lihue airport - just use google maps)
  • Sarongs - again we got ours at the Costco there - the nights can be hot so this sarong doubled as our bed sheet some nights.

NOTE: You can rent (or buy!) anything you might need in Kauai - from tents, to stoves, to boogie boards, to snorkel gear. With the airline baggage charges these days this is something to consider. Check to see about what travel perks your credit card has for you if you buy your flight with it - we got our first checked bag bag free and could bring our guitar and ukulele too.

Recommended guide books: Kauai Revealed (App), Ultimate Guide Book.

PS - we fell in love with the tiny shells with the spiral design at Haena Beach Park Campground ... you can walk for hours exploring that beach for shells. Well, weren't we surprised on our return back home that on the hem of our Angel's skirt were these very shells we fell in love with on Haena Beach ...  0-: felt like we had somehow come full circle  ...  (-:

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Eyes and hearts open mamas to where life's magical pulse wants to carry YOU ... Safe and happy travels! xo

On one of our last days in Kauai, I sat on the beach and casually recorded most of these discoveries onto my I-phone voice message for you mamas who like to take in info this way .... you can download it below.