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Kauai Island’s Best Kept Secrets by Heidi…

Kauai Island

My name is Heidi Siefkas, a writer, storyteller, and adventurer currently living in Kauai.

I moved to the Garden Isle at the end of 2013 after calling South Florida my home for nearly ten years.

Kauai can best be described in these five words: lush, mystical, dynamic, island, paradise

Women should consider visiting Kauai because of its inspirational beauty for relaxation, active adventure, self-discovery, yoga, writing, and art.  Plus nature’s surprises are around each corner with waterfalls, canyons, and secluded beaches.

Don’t forget your camera. Kauai island will make everyone a good photographer…

Kauai Island

How do you get to Kauai Island?

  1. Flights come directly from the US to Lihue typically out of Los Angeles, Seattle, or Phoenix. However, you can fly to Honolulu from just about any major US or international city. It’s a 45-minute flight to Lihue, Kauai.

  2. Cruises come to Kauai’s port, Nawiliwili Harbor, in Lihue; however, they stay for 1 day or maximum 1.5 days, which isn’t enough to fully experience Kauai.

Kauai Island

What’s the best way to get around Kauai Island?

The best way to get around Kauai is by renting a car. Although the island is small, roughly 25 miles by 30 miles, the public transportation is rather slow and bicycle riding is dangerous with little to no shoulder. It is an easy island to navigate as there aren’t many roads and traffic is minimal, except at rush hour (8-9am and 3-5pm). You must take a drive around the island to see the beautiful North Shore at Hanalei Bay as well as explore the South Side and go up the Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

My suggestion is to do the North Shore in one to two days, while doing the same with the South Side.

With that said, the only way to see the entire island, waterfalls, Napali Coast, Waimea Canyon, secluded beaches, and even whales is via helicopter. There are many 50-minute flights that take you where roads do not go. Bar none, it’s the best tour to do on Kauai. Who wouldn’t love to see waterfalls from Jurassic Park, the Napali Coast, the changing palate of colors of Waimea Canyon, beautiful beaches, and Mount Waialeale all in one flight!

What’s the best time to visit Kauai Island?

You can visit anytime of year. It’s really that kind of island. If you want the mildest temperatures, aim for April to June or September through November. However, if you are coming for exploration of the Napali Coast via catamaran, kayak, or zodiac, I would suggest the summer months, May through September, when the seas are the calmest.

Kauai Island

What are the areas of Kauai Island?

North Shore is the greenest with lush mountains, great hiking trails, and taro fields. The towns that are worth exploring on the North Shore are Hanalei and Kilauea. My favorite activities on the North shore are paddle boarding or kayaking the Hanalei River, watching the surfers on Hanalei Beach, or hiking the Hanakapiai Trail from Ke’e Beach.

The East Side is beautiful with more influx of art with nature. The towns here are Kapa’a and Wailua. On the first Saturday of the month, Kapa’a hosts an Art Walk bringing local artists, musicians, and food trucks together. I would highly suggest taking a walk or renting a bike along the 4.5-mile stretch of Kapa’a bike trail called, Ke Ha Hele Makalae

The largest city on Kauai, Lihue, is on the Southeast Side. It hosts the airport, port, and a wonderful bay called Kalipaki. This is where the island gets its shopping done and where most work. One of the best waterfalls is located near Lihue called Wailua Falls. Kauai’s South Side is best known for its tourist resort Poipu. This is the sunniest side of the island. Don’t miss the sunset in Poipu or Spouting Horn!

The West Side of the island is dry. The attractions and towns on the West Side of importance are Waimea Canyon, Hanapepe, and Port Allen. Everyone must visit Waimea Canyon and its various spectacular lookouts. A visit isn’t complete without going up Canyon Road to view the Kalalau Lookout and the Napali Coast. There are outstanding hiking trails throughout the Canyon. My suggestion for a half-day hike is Awaawapuhi, which is around seven miles with a gorgeous overlook at the turn around point. Most visitors enjoy a stop on Friday night in Hanapepe for Art Night where the town lights up with live music, street vendors, food trucks, and art galleries open late. Also, Port Allen is the port of most of the sailing vessels and catamaran that tour the Napali Coast. If you come during calm season, May through September, they go out every day. It’s a must do while in Kauai.

What should women pack for their time in Kauai?

Bring athletic gear in layers, hiking shoes or boots, sundress, swimsuit, and flip-flops. The dress code of the island is casual. You can go almost anywhere in a sundress and flip-flops. However, when you go hiking or exploring, be prepared as the trails are tricky, slippery, and the red dirt will stain your clothes.

I would stay away from bringing white shoes, shorts, or shirts.

Kauai Island

What is the most common misconception about Kauai?

Although Kauai is a tourist destination, it is not nearly as developed as Maui or Oahu.

The total population on Kauai is 65,000. It has a small town feel with tremendous amount of beauty.  There is traffic, but nothing like Honolulu or a typical mainland city like Seattle, Boston, or Miami. It is an adventure lover’s paradise. Most of its treasures can’t be see by car. You must hike, kayak, sail, or fly to see its breathtaking Napali Coasts, hundreds of wondrous waterfalls, and Waimea Canyon.

Is there a gender divide in Kauai?

Kauai and its Hawaiian culture is a macho culture on a small island, thus everyone knows one another.

For the most part, the men aren’t too forward with women, especially non-locals. You will witness many demonstrations of masculinity whether from big trucks to hunting.

For those that have traveled to Latin cultures, Kauai’s machismo is nowhere near as in your face with catcalls or other gestures.

Are there any culture shocks women should expect in Kauai?

The pace of life is just different. The highest speed limit on the island is 50mph. Running errands takes time. No one is in a rush on Kauai. Don’t fight it. Go with the flow! Live Aloha!

What are three things every woman must do in Kauai?

Take a helicopter flight, tour the Napali coast via kayak, catamaran, or zodiac, and hike Waimea Canyon.

Kauai Island

What’s the most over-rated thing to do in Kauai?

I think the most overrated thing to do in Kauai is go to a luau. The dance performance and music are ok, but the food it not anything to write home about.

What’s the most traditional meal that every woman should try in Kauai?

Plate lunch with Kalua pork, macaroni salad, and rice. This is slow-cooked pork, fall of the bone, and moist. The macaroni salad is rich with a generous supply of mayonnaise and little surprises from pieces of purple taro to pineapple. You can get the best plate lunches at the local food trucks.

My absolutely favorites for plate lunch are The Green Pig in Kealia across from the beach and Hanalei Taro and Juice Company up in Hanalei.

What’s your favorite restaurant AND bar in Kauai?

My favorite bar on the North Side is Bar acuda. The mixologist drinks are delicious ranging from eclectic flavors such as ginger, cucumber, and mint to a good dry martini. Pair a cocktail or wine with the great tapa menu, including braised pork, roasted beets, olives, and varied antipasto dishes.

My favorite bar and restaurant in Lihue is the Feral Pig. They serve a great Feral Burger, made from a combo of both beef and Kalua Pork; plus, they serve Lihue’s local brews from Kauai Beer Company. My two favorites are Lihue Lager and Black Limo.

Where’s the best photo opportunity in Kauai?

Kalalau Lookout near mile marker 18 on the Canyon Road in Waimea Canyon.

Kauai Island

Where’s the best place to go shopping and what’s the best gift or souvenir to buy?

All the real shopping opportunities for essentials are in Lihue (Costco, Wal-Mart, Kmart); however, for the best artistic souvenirs, I would suggest Hanapepe Art Night on Fridays or the Kapa’a Art Walk.  Plus, there are numerous souvenir shops and galleries in Lihue, Hanalei, Kapa’a, and Poipu for those looking to shop any day of the week.

What’s the best outdoor activity in Kauai?

Hiking is the way to get in touch with the Garden Isle’s beauty. My favorite trails are Awaawapuhi in Waimea Canyon and Hanakapiai on the North Shore. Each requires good footwear as well as dry conditions.

What’s the best indoor activity in Kauai?

The best indoor activity in Kauai would be trying Kauai Beer Company’s local beers on Rice Street in Lihue. They are open various days during the week, but the best is Thursday evenings when they have two local food trucks to serve grinds for its patrons.

Kauai Island

What do you do to get off the tourist trail?

Go camping in Koke’e State Park. This is on the Canyon Road in Waimea Canyon. There are tent spots as well as cabins that are perfect for a couple, groups of girlfriends, or families. This allows you to experience Waimea Canyon over a couple days instead of driving up and down all in one day.

What other advice or tips can you give women considering visiting Kauai?

There isn’t a big single culture here.

The nightlife is done by ten o’clock. Come to Kauai to be with nature, slow down, write, meditate, and/or get active. If you are looking for clubs, go to Miami.

If you are looking for stunning photographs of the Napali Coast and Waimea Canyon, some epic hikes, and beautiful beach time, come to Kauai.

Any other thoughts or advice for our women readers?

I have yet to live in or visit a more beautiful place. It really doesn’t get better than this. On a personal note, it has proven to be the perfect setting for finishing my inspirational memoir, When All Balls Drop.

What did you think about this city guide?

Join the discussion and leave your comments, tips, and personal experiences in the comments below.

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Heidi is an author and blogger originally from a hobby farm in smalltown Wisconsin. With an insatiable thirst for adventure and storytelling, she believes that every occasion in life can be classified as a good time or a good story. Heidi currently calls many places home, including Kauai, South Florida, and the Midwest. Connect with Heidi and her stories at www.heidisiefkas.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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