The following review is in partnership with the owners of Hele Hale & a courtesy stay. All opinions and views are my own.
For those of you considering a tropical getaway now or in the future, I have the perfect venue: Kauai. I had been to Honolulu as a child, but even that is a distant memory. I was incredibly excited when this opportunity presented itself – who doesn’t want a chance to visit Hawaii and tour around? This was my first time ever using Airbnb and I must say, it has made me a full believer! I’ll take you through how to stay at an Airbnb location, how we traveled, and some fun local things we did throughout our stay.
Kauai Fun Facts
I’ll just start off by talking about the chickens, because they’re literally the first thing you see landing on the Kauai runway. There are chickens EVERYWHERE in Kauai! No matter if you’re on the North Shore, South Shore, etc., you’re never alone. Personally I found it incredibly humorous, and the locals seem to make a joke of it constantly. The reason there are SO many free-roaming chickens across the island is the lack of a natural predator. All the other Hawaiian islands have mongoose – mongeese? mongooses? .. you get the point, but Kauai doesn’t! Isn’t that interesting? I even bought a souvenir magnet of a Kauaii rooster that now sits on my fridge – it’s hilarious!
Kauai is the oldest of all the Hawaiian islands, which is why it’s so incredibly lush and jungle-like. The volcanic activity that originally created the island has been dormant for far longer than the other islands, allowing the plant life to blossom and create the dreamy landscape. Another fun fact, only about 5% of the plant life on Kauai is native to the island. All the other plants were introduced over time by various populations. Pretty neat huh?
How to Travel
Since we’re located in Dallas, we flew from DFW airport to LAX in Los Angeles and then from LAX to Kauai’s Lihue airport. We tend to fly American Airlines (hub in Dallas) quite often, and chose to fly them on this trip – all wonderful flights without any events. Once we made it to Lihue, we rented a car for the duration of our stay. Since the majority of the island is unaccessible, the roads skirt the perimeter of the island. We planned loads of activities throughout our stay but were initially mislead when mapping out the distances. What seemed like only 30 miles took about an hour or more to get to because of the roads (they’re only one lane each side). Also – be prepared for traffic through town that doesn’t seem to make sense, especially during the day. We tacked on an extra thirty minutes or more to our driving time because of the traffic. That all being said, renting a car was the best choice, I can’t imagine constantly taking cabs or Uber/Lyft for any of those distances.
How to Prepare for Airbnb Lodgings
If you haven’t stayed at an Airbnb before, you’re probably wondering what you need to pack or what you might need. Hele Hale (the name of the house) was incredibly well stocked with just about everything we needed apart from groceries and toiletries. They had plenty of towels, kitchen ware and utensils, beach bags, umbrellas, bug spray and sunscreen, Wi-Fi, a washer & dryer (detergent included), bottled water, a coffee bar, and cable TV. The only thing we had to buy were any groceries we wanted. I loved having the option of cooking if we wanted to! There are two different grocery stores on your way from the airport to the house as well as several local farm stands, a farmer’s market during the week, and convenience stores. We bought fruit, some light snacks, breakfast items, and other items like coffee creamer, juice, etc.
The house itself was gorgeous and very up to date. It sleeps up to eight people, has four separate bedrooms, and two and a half baths. I think an important note is the house has no air conditioning. Keep this in mind when traveling to Hawaii in general, most places do not. The weather is moderately warm during the day and cooler at night, so open windows are the norm. The breeze is enough to keep the house cool – I was somewhat worried it was going to be too hot but I was very comfortable! We slept on a cal king bed in the master bedroom, and now I’m fully convinced I need one in the new house. SO MUCH ROOM! Did I mention the views? This house sits next to a golf course with exquisite mountain views and is just down the road from the beach. I fondly loved reading on the extensive porch, listening to brief rain showers or just watching the chickens peck around.
The most fantastic part of Kauai is the plethora of outdoor activities! Whether you’re into zip-lining, atv treks, kayaking, boat or helicopter tours, hiking, you name it – it’s there. You all hardly see me doing anything “outdoorsy” but alas, I’m here to prove I can do it all. Airbnb actually had tons of local recommendations for activities, all of which were local businesses – always support local!
Another tip to keep in mind – be wary when booking activities through TripAdvisor. We had booked an ATV excursion through them and ended up not being able to go on the actual excursion. We booked the excursion and suddenly realized we needed to change the date. Charlie immediately changed it (literally within five minutes of the first booking) but TripAdvisor never made not of the changed date. The locals who host the excursion called us on the first booking date and asked why we were absent. We called TripAdvisor and finally figured out they never made them aware of the updated itinerary. Luckily we were refunded but we were super disappointed. So point of the story – be sure the actual local host confirms your schedule!
This was probably my favorite experience mainly because it was something I never could have imagined myself doing. Robin, the owner/host of the beekeeping experience, shared with us her incredible story and took us on a tour of the hives. You are provided suits, hoods, and gloves to go and see the hives and meet the bees. We actually saw the queen in one hive, so cool! Meeting the drones, worker bees, and seeing honey in its purest form was definitely amazing – the way nature works to make something so tasty always blows my mind. The honey (we got to taste it) was freaking phenomenal, unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The bees in Hawaii have such an abundance of flowers to visit, whereas bees in the states generally only have a handful of the same flowers within their flying radius (roughly 1.5 miles or so). A humogous thank you to Robin and her assistant for such an incredible experience! (another post dedicated to beekeeping will be coming!)
Na Pali Coast Tour
This was SUCH an amazing tour of the Kauai coast. I’m dedicating another post to this adventure to talk about how I beat sea sickness (!!!) but we’ll briefly discuss it here. We booked a catamaran tour through Holo Holo boat tours and I cannot brag on them enough! Captain Glen and the crew (Ahren and Jake) were probably the best crew we could have asked for. Glen was hilarious and exceptionally skilled at navigating the waters while Jake and Ahren were amazingly personable and superman-like in damage control for anyone who got sick. We had such a great time – but like I said, read more about it here.
We kayaked via Airbnb on the river with Scott and Sally through the Hule’ia National Wildlife Refuge. I was a little nervous about kayaking for two reasons: 1) the kayak tipping over and 2) getting tired or sore from paddling BUT these kayaks were amazing! They were incredibly stable and they had foot paddles so no intense arm/upper body work out, whew!
Waimei Canyon aka the “Grand Canyon” of Hawaii was absolutely breathtaking! Waimea Canyon State Park is the largest canyon found in the Pacific and is about 10 miles long and stretches at a mile wide and measures more than 3,500 feet deep.We drove about two hours from our home to the canyon – and it was worth every minute of the trip! The views were stunning! We drove up to the main point for sight-seeing, but didn’t get the chance to hike around as much as we would have liked. The waterfalls scattered throughout the canyon were also so beautiful and a precious reminder of nature’s rare beauty!
Luau Kilohana – Kilohana Plantation Luau
What kind of trip to Hawaii is it without venturing to a luau? I particularly enjoyed this show because of the story told through the performance. The luau is located at the historic Kilohana Plantation just outside of Lihue. Before the show, guests have the option of enjoying a train ride through the plantation and browsing through the island arts & crafts setups scattered on the plantation. Many, many guests were swarming over the traditional imu ceremony, where the kalua roast pig is unearthed from the underground oven. After dinner, the Polynesian show starts that pays tribute to the story of how ancient navigators ventured across the South Pacific to find the island of Kauai and other Hawaiian islands. I LOVED the fire dancers – the skill was outstanding!
Allerton & McBryde National Botanical Gardens
Okay – for all you nature lovers or even Jurassic Park lovers – this is totally your jam. The botanical gardens are split into two separate tours: Allerton and McBryde. Allerton is a self-guided experience whereas the McBryde side is on a bus. We wanted to walk around so we chose Allerton with multiple trail experiences. SO many films were shot are these gardens, including Jurassic Park, parts of Avatar, and Pirates of the Caribbean (On Stranger Tides). The gardens were once inhabited by former Queen Emma. We walked various trails including the spice trail. Did you know cinnamon grew on trees? I never knew that! Now I want to plant one in my backyard! A future post coming to you on our visit (with lots more pictures)! Isn’t this wild orchid just breathtaking? Orchids are my favorite flower! One tip of advice – be sure to pack bug spray and plenty of water. The humidity alone is enough to parch anyone but the mosquitoes on this island are no joke! Consider the amount of rain we previously mentioned and the warm weather – prime mosquito territory! Take your bug spray with you everywhere to ward off those pesky critters!
Sugarloaf Pineapple Farm
Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit the pineapple farm – their only tour days (Thursdays) was the day we were leaving. I did want to put it in this post, however, for everyone to consider when visiting the island. You can tour the farm, try various pineapple flavored foods, and even ship some pineapples home! We were super bummed to miss out!
Where to Eat
Kauai was filled with local eats and a surprising number of food trucks! One night we ventured to Bar Acuda in Hanalei, a tapas restaurant with local ingredients and mouth-watering dishes. I don’t think I could pick a favorite dish, but their charcuterie with grilled grapes and cheese was rather memorable. There has been a lot of flooding in Hanalei and the surrounding area – but I was happy to see business as normal and a recovering landscape! Did you know Kauai is the wettest place on earth? They get over 450 inches of rain per year! That completely explains the rain showers occurring nearly every day!
*For the record – I made Charlie pose like this for a picture, isn’t he handsome?
We also frequented local shave ice stands – and yes, it’s shave ice, not shaved ice. Funny eh? Nothing about the dessert, however, was funny. It was freaking delicious! My favorite was the Tege Tege stand in Kapa’a. I got the key lime cheesecake flavor with scoop of vanilla ice cream on the bottom – heaven yall. pure heaven. I NEED this to come to Dallas!
Kauai Juice Co.
I’m all for a local juice company, although Charlie hasn’t quite jumped on that bandwagon just yet. The best part? Kauai Juice Co is associated with Robin from the beekeeping venture! I ordered a strawberry milk I believe it was? And it was DELISH! Again – love supporting local small businesses, and finding a refreshing juice never hurts, especially in the Kauai humidity!
Have you been convinced to visit Kauai? What about testing out an Airbnb? Hele Hale (as of right now) goes for $389 a night and compares nicely to any of the local resorts which can cost upwards of $400. I adored our stay and loved not being around tons of people. It was completely the little mental escape I didn’t know I needed! A huge thank you to John and Jenn for our fabulous stay at Hele Hale!